Friday, January 28, 2011

Rest in Peace, Mr. Callas

Via the extra fine blog:

Freemasons, Magic Carpets, Paddling Machines and Marching Band Uniforms.

Ah...Freemasonry...the rituals, the secret handshakes, the cryptic symbols, the rumors of ties to the occult/the Illuminati/Fred Flintstone - this secretiveness and mystery, this supposed veiled evil makes quite a tasty dish for creative conspiracy theorists to feast upon and then throw up all over the place. These folks would like to have us believe the Freemasons control everything from the world's financial system to your cable service.

Your phone mysteriously ringing only once at 3:00am. The sudden popularity of Miller High Life Beer amongst aging hipsters in the Midwest region of the US. The long lines at grocery stores. The weird smell coming from your great-grandma's chest of drawers. The Freemasons could be behind it all.

Regardless of your opinion of the Freemasons, these amazing scans from The 1930 DeMoulin Bros. & Co. Fraternal Supply Catalog No. 439 Burlesque and Side Degree Specialties; Paraphenalia and Costumes reveal to us that the lodge meetings of old in which new members were "lightly hazed" must have been a total hoot!



Imagine the "to do list" for a typical meeting!

1. Plan world domination via control of the US Dollar
2. Set up the Tunnel of Trouble, The Trick Camera and The Surprise Chair.
3. Learn the script that accompanies the introduction of The Wireless Trick Phone.

The Freemasons of the olden days must not have had much free time.

DeMoulin Bros. & Co. is still in business! Even though I'm mildly tickled at the image of a gaggle of Freemasons cavorting about dressed as Pagan - Fire Worshippers, they no longer stock the grotesque and offensive Race Costumes.

Nowadays it's all marching band uniforms and tuxedos for the Brothers DeMoulin.

It also seems that they also no longer stock anything that is rigged to explode.

Dig the whole 1930 catalog!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Milk From the Glass Teat is Sour Today

When the airwaves were cleared of analog TV transmissions on Friday June 12, 2009, my family decided to not get the converter box for our ancient TV. We chose the implants instead.

After a short surgery performed by silent, shadowy, grim government men in black suits, my daughter can now instantly recall the date and time of day she saw a commercial for Baby Poops-A-Lot. We now know the name of the wonderful song currently being ruined by a company who sells cars and/or fast food. It flashes in front of our orbs in the air not unlike the floating, colorful balls one sees after looking at a flash bulb. It used to remind us of the birth of our first child. Now the image of luxury car is stamped forever upon our memory banks...

But seriously, I've not watched more than a few hours of TV in two years.

With that being said, I'm probably not the most reliable source for opinions on the state of TV programs of the here and right now. I get all my info from my co-workers (they love watching obese folks lose weight) and from listening to fragments of conversation (many about "that piece-of-shit-rich-bitch-whore" Bristol Palin's dancing techniques) while waiting for the barista to whip up my heavily-caffeine-infused chocolate drink thing at the coffeehouse.

Despite my ignorance, I'm going to make a statement and let it loose here so it can run all over the internets:

There are no longer TV moments like this anymore.

Dig the composer here



Bootlegs of the complete Thriller TV series (recorded from when it aired on the Mystery Cable Channel) have been floating about the Internet for some time now, but the good folks at Image Entertainment have finally brought it out on DVD all official and spruced up for the modern TV viewer.

Three Hundred Channels of vibrating-yowsa-wowsa-bling-blang-hooey to choose from on your boob tube still can't compare to having unlimited access to the wondrous mug and warm lisp of Boris Karloff.

It's just my uninformed opinion.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Words for Cold Days

And finally, for those like me who take the seasons as they come, there are voyages in books. When the house grows too small and the shadows too real and the clock in the hallway talks death to itself. When the oven is merely hot and the sheets merely stiff and and the clock in the hallway talks death to itself. When the floorboards creak and the furnace pops and the eaves sigh and the windows are too blind...and the clock in the hallway talks death to itself.

From Charles L. Grant's Nightmare Seasons published by Tor Books in 1982.


Monday, January 10, 2011

31 Reasons to be Fearful

Every day is Halloween for the Murk family! It does not have to be October for the little Murks to gather about the electric heater to hear ancient tales read from yellowed copies of Weird Tales. Even on the hottest days of summer, the kids plop themselves on the floor around the hi-fi to hear Boris Karloff tell the tale of the headless horseman or we fire up the old cassette player to hear Arch Oboler present another perfect nightmare in his LIGHTS OUT radio show. We dig those old, musty horror films, too. Here are 31 reasons to be fearful. You can save them for the 31 days of October or pretend that these dark cold nights of January are good enough for terror!
Image hosted by

1. The Black Cat (1934) Director Edgar G. Ulmer could create art out of a cupcake, a whistle and $1.50. In this film, he pastes together Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, shadow-drenched, minimal sets and a story line that is more Crowley based than Poe. A dark, gauzy masterpiece of dread.

2. Mad Love (1935) Peter Lorre's first American role was a shocker. He greets Americans for the first time obsessed with a woman who does not love him. The lengths he goes to win her are not typical wooing devices. There are images here that will haunt you for years. Lorre's very laugh will get under your skin. Willies abound in this creep-fest. The film also features the extremely lovely Francis Drake. She appeared in this film and the Karloff/Lugosi sci-fi film, The Invisible Ray. She went off and married someone with royal ties not long after rubbing elbows with these icons. Marrying a wealthy, royal dude spelled retirement for her. There is something about her eyes that makes my heart pitter AND patter...

3. Strangler of the Swamp (1946) One of the finer low budget films produced by the "poverty row" studios in the late 1940s. It is the usual tale of a man hanged for a crime he did not commit. He comes back to seek revenge on those who held the rope. The key word is atmosphere. If you enjoy murky, fog-filled suspense this one will please you!

4. Body Snatcher (1945) Anytime I'm ever asked what my favorite horror films this film is always the answer. You get Boris Karloff's FINEST performance, Val Lewton's creative touch and the steady hand of director Robert Wise. This is a layered film. On the surface it is a film about grave-robbing. Below the dirt and corpses this is a movie about the rich and poor, the somewhat sinister doings of early medical research and, above all, greed. The ending is simply horrifying.

5. The Black Room (1935) Another grand performance by Boris Karloff. Here he plays twin brothers-one evil, one good. You can probably imagine the results. This film is only an hour long. You can spend an hour fretting over your life or you can spend the time watching this little, Gothic gem.

6. The Vampire Bat (1933) Another low budget horror film that deserves your time and effort. Lionel Atwill, Faye Wray and Dwight Frye are here to make this an easy ride of a story that flirts with a little dash of science fiction. Atwill seems to really relish playing bad folks. He is always fun to watch. Then there is Dwight Frye...more than just a character in an Alice Cooper tune. Here he is in the celluloid flesh being a tad off his rocker.

7. Daughter of Dracula (1936) The screen's first lesbian (or at least bisexual) vampire? Maybe. A sad tale of a romance that can never be. Yes. Discover this minor classic tonight.

8. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) If you have not seen this film then go grab a copy at your local video store or library. All the things they (those high-falutin' folks who study film) are true. This is a giddy black comedy wrapped in Gothic horror clothing.

9. Face Behind the Mask (1941) Here is Peter Lorre (Mr. Lorre is so damn under-rated as an actor) in one of his greatest roles. In this obscure film, he plays a new American who can't seem to achieve the American Dream. His face is horribly disfigured in a fire just when he was ready to begin to climb up that mythical ladder of success. He slowly drifts into a life of crime becoming quite the successful crime lord. He wears a lifeless mask to hide his scarred face. The mask symbolizes a lot of things about America then and now. You can discuss this topic after tracking down this elusive film. It straddles a line between horror and film noir. It is cozy in both realms. It also has a very downbeat ending which is rare for a film of this vintage. It took at least forty more years for movie audiences to get somewhat comfortable with a film that does not end on a rosy note. Robert Florey helmed this can google his name and find out more about this fellows, often stifled, visionary ideas.

10. Bad Ronald (1975) A made for TV film that begins like an after school special about a lad who is teased because he is just a little different. It quickly turns ugly when this lad accidentally murders a child. His caring mother walls him up in a room of the house to hide him from the cops and a nosy neighbor. She dies and the house goes up for sale...Ronald is still there hiding. This one deserves a DVD release. It will give you some creeps.

11. Frankenstein (1931) Hey, It's FRANKENSTEIN! The world would be a boring place without this classic lurking in the shadows of film vaults.

12. Mark of the Vampire (1935) Tod Browning did a lot to change the playing field of horror. He gave us Dracula, Freaks and all those obsessive Lon Chaney silents that revel in crime, doomed love, twisted limbs and a little amputation. He made everything a little darker for everyone. Here is one of his flicks that folks don't talk about in bars anymore. Take a gander and raise a glass of beer to Mr. Browning. He would appreciate it!

13. Walking Dead (1936) A moody tale of revenge starring Boris Karloff as the dead man who plays a sad piano. It begins a bit loopy, but once Boris is revived from his short death things get very creepy. This one is directed by the fellow who gave the world Casablanca, Michael Curtiz. Ultimately a horror film but there are small daubings of grand melancholy amidst the terror...

14. Horror of Dracula (1958) Christopher Lee was my childhood vampire. He played the count as an animal that not only lusted for blood, but also, of all things, sex. Apologies to Mr Lugosi, but Mr. Lee was THE Dracula! You also have the always dapper and cool, Peter Cushing, as Dracula's nemesis, Van Helsing. The ending of this film has stuck in my cranium since childhood. I would re-create the counts death by sunlight to the horror of family and friends. Hammer Studios really made a lot of young boys realize something very important about the world...Cleavage is a wonderful thing.

15. Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Hammer Studios again with Lee (the monster) and Cushing (the doctor). Hammer gives us all the eyeballs and disassembled body parts in all their gory glory. The classic era of horror only hinted at how the creature came to be. Lee's monster is a lurching horrid nightmare whose wardrobe prefigures all the groovy, tight goth garb of the 1980's. Did I mention the amazing cleavage in Hammer Horror films?

Image hosted by

16. Comedy of Terrors (1964) Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone all star in this (usually panned) horror comedy. It really is Vincent Price and Peter Lorre who steal the show here. Price is an unstoppable force of Ham and Cheese. The script is by Richard Matheson (a Twilight Zone writer) and the director is Jacques Tourneur, a director whose horror and film noir flicks changed the way an audience viewed shadows. His black and white films are a feast of darkness. Horror critics pan this film voicing the wide-spread opinion that Tourneur seems to be asleep at the wheel here. Forget that and enjoy how Lorre and Price drum up business for their funeral home operation in ghastly, wacky ways.

17. Masque of Red Death (1964) Someone once said that Roger Corman is NOT a good director - he is a good business man. He cuts corners and saves as much cash as possible, so all of his films made a profit. That may not be the case with this gloomy film based on the famous story by Ed Poe. This is nearly an art film. Sit back and dig what Corman does with colors in this dark, poetic film.

18. Son of Frankenstein (1939) This was Karloff's last go around as the monster in this WAY under-rated entry in Universal Studios endless Monster Mash. This film is important simply for Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the deformed Igor. He survived a hanging (an angry mob was involved of course) and he talks Basil Rathbone into reviving the monster. Igor wants the creature to carry out some devious deeds of revenge. Lionel Atwill is here too as a nosey cop with a wooden arm. The armless cop was parodied to great effect in Young Frankenstein. This film also features the creepiest staircase in the horror genre.

19. Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1978) If you have never sampled the horrifying world of Brazilian film-maker Coffin Joe then here is the film to get you started. It is essentially a "greatest hits" of scenes from his earlier horror films all bound together by some ridiculous plot that I have never paid much attention to. There are images here that will make you think you are on some fancy new drug. A drug that starts hallucinations that never end. Dig the soundtrack,too - All reverbed screams of torture!

20. Susperia (1977) This is not really a film with maggots falling from the ceiling of an all girls school it is a soundtrack with maggots falling from the ceiling of an all girls school. The group Goblin has been dubbed "Hell's Prog Group" and you can hear why in this - The loudest horror film of all time! It is also a nice intro to the films of director Dario Argento. Start here and move forward or backward in his career...It's a wild ride either way.

21. Boys of the City (1940) My love of the Bowery Boys has kept me out of serious film discussions all my life. I prefer Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey to any dour sourpuss that Ingmar Bergman has presented the world. This is one of their killer-loose-in-an-old-dark-house films. I think it's grand. It has some REAL moments of terror and a cool graveyard set. Sometime that's all you need.

22. Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) The greatest horror comedy EVER made! Roman Polanski's masterpiece. The film features an unbelievably beautiful Sharon Tate, a gay vampire and the screen's first Jewish Vampire. It's perfect! It even inspired the Bad Brains to name a song after it. If the world's first African-American hardcore band name checked it then it has gotta be good. Right?

23. Creeping Flesh (1973) This is a film that scared the bejesus out of me as a child. Do you have any idea how hard it is to clean bejesus out of a carpet? It is tough. It is also tough to describe this convuluted horror film. It features the welcome acting chops of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. It is a little bit Lovecraft and a little bit Rock and Roll. It is all just plain odd. Check this one out.

24. Black Sunday (1960) You may have read about the grand vision and talent of Italian director Mario Bava in your local paper. You may have not. If you take a chance on this beautifully shot vampire flick you will want to know more about him. You also may fall under the spell of Barbara Steele. This one is like a street sign glowing in the darkness on a street called Italian Horror Film. You MUST see it before you travel any farther down that blood-soaked road.

25. The Old Dark House (1932) Director James Whale gave us Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and this truly subversive entry in the horror genre. You will never ever be able to look at a potato again without thinking of this film and the learing, loony menace that is actor Ernest Thesiger. He was GREAT in the Bride of Frankenstein, but here he is having a ball raising his eyebrows and making every line sound like a music box in the bottom of an open grave. Karloff stumbles about as a deformed butler with molestation on his mind. You may have to watch this one twice to get why there is a bearded woman in a bed upstairs and why a pyromaniac family member is running about. Are you intrigued?

26. The Haunting (1963) The original. Just a door that breathes a little and some scary sounds make up this classic...This does not sound like much, I know. Watch it in a dark room. You have been warned! Kudos to director Robert Wise for helming this understated fright film. A few more kudos to Shirley Jackson for writing the novel (The Haunting of Hill House) that this film is based on. Take both to bed with you this weekend!

27. The Innocents (1961) This one is based on Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw.I never liked Henry James. He could spend twenty pages describing a mantelpiece...This film is a whole other story. This gets to the point quickly. It would make a grand double feature with The Haunting. This has been called THE greatest film about ghosts ever made. It is damn good. There is something about the sound effects in this film that really gets to me. I hope it get to you, too.

28. Countess Dracula (1971) This is not the greatest of flicks in Hammer Studios respected series of horror films, but I think the late, great Ingrid Pitt is THE sexiest vampire in screen history. It is just wonderful to see her slink about the screen and bathe in blood to keep her self young.

29. House of Horrors (1946) The writer Barry Gifford in his definitive book on film noir (The Devil Thumbs a Ride) wrote the last word on this disturbed little low-budget gem that Universal Studios belched out in the late forties. I advise you to seek that book out and read up on this limping, gibbering, festering film.

Rondo Hatton--> Image hosted by

and -Martin Kosleck-> Image hosted by

are two names that you will remember after seeing this nearly forgotten film. You will try to forget them, but you will not be able to get them out of your mind.

30. I Walked with a Zombie (1943) The director is Jacques Tourneur. The producer is Val Lewton. The film is pure celluloid horror poetry.

31. Dead Men Walk (1943) There is no way I would do a 31 horror film list and not mention a film that features George Zucco (playing a vampire and not the usual mad scientist) up to his devilish hi-jinx. It will not change your life, but it's a treat because it also features the always interesting Dwight Frye along for his final horror film role before he went to a way too early grave. Zucco spent his final years in a mental home. Oops...sorry for the real life info there, but you know how it goes...truth being scarier than fiction and all that...

There you are - 31 reasons to be filled with unknowable terror tonight, the next night or the next Halloween season. These reviews are mere flyspecks on the bloated, corpse that is the horror genre. Do more research, read some books, wander in graveyards, buy a VCR (not everything is available on DVD, hipster) and hope that everything will be OK...because this is only the beginning - the tunnel at the end of the light, the worm in the apple, the severed hand on the merry-go-round, the face in the window, the spook in the pantry, the ghostly apparition in your toolshed, the odd voice on the phone in the middle of the darkest night, the...uh...just watch a scary movie why don't ya!