The House of Mystery 227, 1974 “The Carriage Man!”

After being a Marvel Zombie for many moons, I really cranked up buying DC comics over the last few years. Focusing mostly on horror (and the absurd), the 100page issues are where the bargains live! These books are fantastic and are packed full of comic book goodness. With eight stories, this 100 page book brings it with the heat of a demon, or maybe the hair of the werewolf, or…well, you get it.

This issue has a great list of creators that includes- Michael Fleisher, Nestor Redondo, Joe Orlando, Sergio Aragonés, Don Glut, Joe Maneely, Paul Levitz, Alfredo Alcala, and more! Each story has it’s own unique flavor because of the myriad of creators in this one. It also contains one of the best clown stories ever (definitely not as good as “Night of the Laughing Clown” by Steve Gerber though)! Definitely seek out these 100page books, especially the horror titles!

 

 

 

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DC Special 12, 1971 “The Viking Prince”

Some people buy books for the writer, artist, characters, or all three. There even times (like this one), where I’ll buy a comic just for the cover artist not even knowing what the interior story or art looks like. When you see a cover by the legendary Joe Kubert, pick it up. Even if the interior content is mediocre, you’ll be in possession of a thing of beauty. The war comics occupy most of my personal Kubert comics, but when I saw this particular cover at a good price, it was a no-brainer.

If you get the chance to buy this book, don’t pass up it up. The interiors are a wealth of gorgeous artwork from Joe Kubert and Russ Heath! The Viking Prince stories are written by Robert Kanigher, Bill Finger, and Bob Haney (Kanigher also wrote a ton of war comics, Finger needs no introduction because he’s the true creator of Batman, and “Zaney” Bob Haney wrote some insane Batman stories). The back up stories were written by these gentlemen as well as Ed Herron. A better collection of Viking Prince, and related stories cannot be found in a single issue! These artists have given us all a gift with this book.

 

Classics Illustrated: The War of The Worlds (1954)

After seeing a post in a FB group a while back, I started to wonder- which is my oldest comic? Well, it took some investigating, but I can now say that it’s this issue of Classics Illustrated that is my oldest comic book (1954). It’s not in the greatest shape, but I’m pretty sure I only paid a buck or two for it at a local show. The film is of course iconic, but when I saw this comics, it called to me.

Honestly, I’m not familiar with the creators of this adaptation at all but after doing some research, I’ve found that the artist (cover and interiors) Lou Cameron is nothing short of a superstar. As far as the writer of this adaptation, I found absolutely nothing about Harry G. Miller. Not sure if that’s because he’s just been forgotten or his work load was minimal. Either way, he did a fine job on this one.

 

 

EC Comics – The Vault of Horror 4 (1990, Gladstone)

To say that EC comics was the fore-bearer of just about everything in horror comics that came after them, would not be too hyperbolic.  Back in 1949/1950, Bill Gaines decided to take the company in a new direction. That direction was horror, crime, suspense, etc. All new material with an edge to it that had never been seen before in comics. EC blazed a trail that made it possible for any other publisher to push boundaries like never before seen in the industry. Not only that, the content was amazing. They just didn’t go for blood and guts with no substance, they had good stories, and excellent artwork by some of the greatest horror artist (and artists in general) of all time. “Ghastly” Graham Ingals, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Reed Crandall, Jack Kamen, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, John Severin, Basil Wolverton, and more!

In this reprint, we see two issues chocked full of horror goodness. Vault of Horror 23, 1952, and Haunt of Fear 13, 1952. In both issues not only do you get the iconic horror hosts that helped make EC famous, but the pages are full of stories that will blow your mind when taken in the context of the year they were produced. Think about it, The Adventures of Superman, Ozzie and Harriet, and Roy Rogers were on television that year, so just imagine comic books featuring strong, mature content. It was a huge risk, but also ended up being a huge success and put EC comics into orbit.

 

DC Archive Editions: World’s Finest Comics vol. 3

Thanks to a discount store (Ollie’s Bargain Outlet), I grabbed several great trade paperbacks of DC comics’ greatest characters! My library is very much dominated by Marvel Comics (the first 20+ years of reading/collecting I was a marvel Zombie for the most part), so any time I get the chance to grab some DC material from the Bronze Age (or earlier), I waste no time!

A team up book starring two of the greatest heroes ever in comics (maybe the best ever?) during an era that saw comic books under fire from the U.S. government (the misguided buffoons) gave us some of the most ludicrous stories ever. These stories are still very high in entertainment value, and are incredibly well drawn. Aliens are the big threat throughout this beautiful hardcover but also crooks, magicians, a Bat-Jester, Bat-Mite, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and more! Credits include- Curt Swan, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, Jerry Coleman, Sheldon Moldoff, and Stan Kaye.

 

 

Cinema Sunday: Top Ten Hammer Films!

Lets cut to the chase, I’m a Hammer studios addict, and that being said, we all know they’re the greatest studio to produce horror films that ever was, is, and will be. With stars like Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Veronica Carlson, then adding great character actors like Michael Ripper, Oliver Reed, Andrew Keir, Andre Morell, etc., and under the direction of Terence Fisher, John Gilling, Anthony Hinds, and Jimmy Sangster, their films have no competition (overall in the broad sense).

Obviously an argument could be made for Universal, but I tend to look at it as Universal being the foundation and Hammer being the house. Yes, you do need a solid foundation but no one looking to be a home owner is excited about stone and mortar. When is the last time a party-goer entered a house and complimented the owner on the cinder blocks? Important, yes. The best part, I think not.

So, with all that being said, here are my top ten Hammer Studio films! Keep in mind, just straight up horror films here for the most part! Enjoy!

 

10. Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969)

  • This film isn’t perfect by any means, and the rape scene is absolutely ludicrous (Dr. Frankenstein would never commit that act). But when there is action a-plenty, gruesome murders, and one scene of dialogue in particular that sums up the good doctor perfectly. Cushing is on top of his game for sure in this film, as usual. Oh, and the gorgeous (and most beautiful Hammer girl in my humble opinion) Veronica Carlson is in this film.

9. The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)

  • A Hammer film about a Yeti? Yes! This black and white gem is nothing short of incredible. It’s not because a Yeti invades an encampment and starts tearing people’s limbs off, then beating them over the head with them (although that would be cool), it’s because the film builds tension and the suspense is great. Think John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982). Yes, in that film there are plenty of gruesome moments, but its the suspense he builds that makes the film outstanding.

8. The Reptile (1966)

  • 1966 was a great year for Hammer studios. Five films and four of them were very solid films. This one in particular is a favorite of mine because of Jacqueline Pearce. She portrays a young woman who is seemingly kept prisoner by her own father. We later find out why he’s so overbearing. Her performance is quite good along with a larger than usual role for Hammer stalwart, Michael Ripper. Anytime he gets more screen time, the film is better for it! Good sets and atmosphere in this flick.

7. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

  • Not wanting to be typecast, Christopher Lee bowed out of playing Dracula after Hammer’s first film starring the count (more on that one later). The franchise did suffer without him briefly, but he returned to the role that put him on the map a few years later in this film. With no dialogue (Lee has his version why and so does Jimmy Sangster (the writer) about why), Lee manages to be extremely menacing and cements himself as the best Dracula ever.

6. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

  • In this movie, André Morell shows us just how good he can be in a horror film. Not only is he the “hero,” but also a concerned, loving father, a friend, a smartypants, and a gentleman, all at once. throw in another appearance by the lovely Jacqueline Pearce, along with Diane Clare, John Carson (a great lout in this one!), and once again, Michael Ripper! Great atmospherics, music (James Bernard), and sets in this one.

5. The Gorgon (1964)

  • This one is based on a classic Greek myth of old and stars Cushing, Lee, Shelley, and had Terence Fisher directing, and John Gilling writing. The gang’s all here for this one, and it really does put on quite a show. An insane asylum, a corrupt town hiding a secret, Cushing in more of a heel role with Lee more of the hero along with a fine performance by Richard Pasco. This is a film that can be watched every so often and never get tiresome. Another film with a noteworthy musical score as well as excellent sets.

4. (Horror of) Dracula (1958)

  • The first Dracula film by Hammer, and it’s still probably the best Cushing/Lee team up of all time. Cushing is an excellent Dr. Van Helsing, and Lee was born to wear the fangs and hiss at audiences with blood dripping from his lips. Michael Gough is also on top of his game here with George Woodbridge in a small role as he had in multiple Hammer films. Never miss an opportunity to see this film.

3. The Mummy (1959)

  • Hammer really went away from the original 1932 film (Boris Karloff), borrowing elements from other films and adding in their own ingredients, and mixing it all together. This film is definitely in Peter Cushing’s top five performances of all time. He really commands the scenes and shows why he, along with Lee are the faces of Hammer films. Very good sets, and the action scenes are tremendous.

2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

  • Another film with the dual threat of Cushing and Lee, we also get André Morell as well! In this adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous novel, we see Cushing (Sherlock Homes) and André Morell (Dr. Watson), play off of each other wonderfully. Throw in a solid performance by Christopher Lee, an incredible score by James Bernard, all under the watchful eye of director Terence Fisher, and you get one of Hammer’s best films no matter what genre you compare it to!

And the number one film is…

 

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

  • In this first horror film collaboration between Cushing and Lee, you can see the teamwork and power these two have together. Cushing is perfect for his role as the morally ambiguous doctor, as is Lee in his depiction of the unfortunate creature. Good performances by Robert Urquhart, Hazel Court, and Valerie Gaunt, add to the great gift this film truly is for film addicts. The beginning of the film, the flashback that dovetails around right back to the beginning/end is marvelous in every sense that a film can be. This is the one that started it all (the great horror run for Hammer)!

Honorable mention for films that didn’t quite make the cut (pardon the pun)!

Brides of Dracula (1961)

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)

The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)

 

 

Cinema Sunday: The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

Title: The Flesh and the Fiends (Mania- U.S. title)

Distributor: Regal Film Distributors

Writers: John Gilling (and Leon Griffiths)

Director: John Gilling

Producers: Robert S. Baker, Monty Berman

Starring: Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasance, George Rose

Released: February 1960 (U.K.)

MPAA: UR

 

 

By the time the year 1960 rolled around, Peter Cushing was blooming into a horror film star. He’d already launched Hammer Studios into the atmosphere (along with others like Christopher Lee), with films such as Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), and The Mummy (1959). As if his incredible presence wasn’t enough, we get a very young Donald Pleasance (Circus of Horrors– 1960, Halloween– 1978, Escape from New York– 1981) as one of the main players as well!

Based off of a true story (Burke and Hare), this film is considered a horror film but is more like a noir film with other elements, like mystery, crime, etc. Let’s get on with the synopsis!

 

 

The film begins with some grave-robbers in a cemetery. They’re digging up a corpse, but for what purpose, we do not know. The scene then switches to a street in Edinburgh, and the Academy of Dr. Knox (the year 1828). We see a beautiful young lady, Martha Knox,  (June Laverick) the niece of Dr. Knox, as she’s exiting a coach. She knocks on the door, and is greeted by Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell (Dermot Walsh). They exchange pleasantries, and he explains that he didn’t recognize her at first because she’s been gone for three years (she’s matured a lot apparently).

 

Inside the classroom, Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing) is teaching a room full of students hoping to become doctors themselves one day. He jokes with them, but also tries to impress upon them the importance of striving to push forward and break down barriers. He gets a standing ovation, then exits the hall. He’s pursued by one student in particular, a young man named Chris Jackson (John Cairney). He wants some input about how he can get better and graduate, something he believes he would’ve done by now. Dr. Knox tells him that he can get some extra tutoring but must pay for it by helping out around the school to earn extra money.

 

Afterward, Dr. Knox comes into the living room (apparently the school is attached to his home), and i surprised by his niece. Before they can get the conversation going, Chris comes in and tells Dr. Knox that some gentlemen are around back with a “stiff.” Knox chides him for using such terms, and then heads back to inspect the corpse. He pays the men for it, then sends them on their way.

Later that evening, the men are at a local pub (The Merry Duke) getting drunk and tell about how Dr. Knox pays well for cadavers. Two other men that are on hard times financially overhear this. Both William Burke (George Rose), and William Hare (Donald Pleasance) realize this is a way to make a quick buck, so they begin digging up fresh corpses for the good doctor to use at his school. Burke and Hare are an unscrupulous lot, and after a short spell, the fresh corpse market dries up. The two then resort to murder, and their reign of terror haunts the back alleys of Edinburgh.

 

Meanwhile, the good doctor to be, Chris, finds himself a girlfriend. The only problem is that Mary Patterson (Billie Whitelaw) is a rather seedy type herself, and eventually breaks his heart. She just cannot turn away from her promiscuity and drinking, no matter how much Chris seems to love and care for her. As this is going on, Burke and Hare manage even to murder a poor, local boy, Daft Jamie (Melvyn Hayes), but as they do, a witness sees the deed going on, and informs the authorities.

 

Will Burke and Hare pay for their crimes? And what fate will befall Dr. Knox for his role in this murderous scheme? You must watch to find out the surprise ending to this film!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

This story is a good one, and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the better. Another fact is that the film being in black and white is for the best as well. As usual, Cushing delivers a rock-solid performance, and his fans expect nothing less. His ability to lift inferior scripts, casts, etc., to greater heights. Not that he needs to necessarily in this film, but the cast isn’t over the top great. There is one other outstanding performance, and that is the one portrayed by Donald Pleasance. He really turns on the creep factor, and is a very evil person in this film. Billie Whitelaw is also quite good in her role, if not slightly outrageous.

The sets, costumes, and music (Stanley Black), are all splendid. There are a couple of surprises in this one, and they’ll not be spoiled in this review, so no worries. The director, John Gilling, is most known for his work with Hammer Studios, as is Cushing, of course, but this film was actually put out by a smaller production company (Triad Productions). But don’t let that fool you, the film is a winner, and more than worth your time! This company had a few good films including one of my favorite sci-fi/horror films, The Trollenberg Terror!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

Haunted Horror- A trip into Pre-code madness!

For all those that wonder in amazement over the horror comics they see today, do yourself a favor if you already haven’t. Go back in time (thanks to IDW and Yoe Books), before the CCA (Comics Code Authority) was instituted, and revel in the brilliant, thought-provoking, and outright envelope pushing work that was done in the era before that foolish code was created.

Kudos must be given to the creators of this incredible work, but also to Craig Yoe, for putting this all together, and reminding us all of those great times. Getting this material back in front of comic book buyers in this day through a big publisher like IDW is something to be lauded.

The stories are various in their subject matter, but the resounding theme was horror, straight up. Zombies, murderers, radioactive insects, vampires, werewolves, etc. These wild comic books were carefully hidden under the beds of kids everywhere back in the 1950’s, in hopes that mom wouldn’t find them and throw them away. Don’t let that fool you though, they’re still pretty edgy even in this era. Do yourself a favor, grab these issues before they get too expensive, because we all know how expensive the original comics are from this age!

 

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Cinema Sunday: It Came from Outer Space (1953)

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Title: It Came from Outer Space

Distributor: Universal-International

Writer: Harry Essex (novel by Ray Bradbury, and perhaps the screenplay as well)

Director: Jack Arnold

Producer: William Alland

Starring: Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Charles Drake, Russell Johnson, Joe Sawyer

Released: May 1953

MPAA: Approved

 

 

After a long winter hiatus, I wanted to return to my roots and review a film from the classic sci-fi (B-movie) genre! Along with classic horror, this category is near and dear to my heart, for reasons that would take forever to explain. Suffice to say they both are treasures from my youth that I still hold close, and got me through some adverse times.

One thing that makes B-movies from the 1950s and 1960s so good, was the “tough guy” lead actors. Perhaps none more so than Richard Carlson. A real life bad apple, serving in the United States Navy as a pilot, Carlson brought his fearlessness to the big screen (and small screen). A cigarette smoking, fist fighting, ladies man who had a very short list of peers in those categories (probably only John Agar), Carlson epitomized everything about that far gone era of films.

In this film however, Carlson is more of the reasonable man, than throwing punches every five minutes. Yes there is some action on his part, but he’s mostly the voice of reason that doesn’t use violence. OK, let’s get on with the show!

 

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The film begins with a spaceship crashing to Earth, on the outskirts of a small, middle-American town. A voice tells us that a little about the town, and the scenery there. We see inside the voice’s home, and as John Putnam (Richard Carlson), and his girlfriend, Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush) are sharing a quiet moment together, they head outside to stargaze. Putnam has a huge telescope, and he peeks through it, hoping to see something. Ass the two are about to start making out, they see a meteorite (or so the think)rocketing towards the nearby desert. It smashes into the Earth, and Putnam, being an amateur astronomer gets riled up about it.

 

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We the viewers get to see that it was no meteorite, but a space ship that crashed. As the smoke clears, we see a terrifying looking alien pop out of a door on the ship! It searches the nearby area, leaving a trail of slime behind it as it scares off the desert animals. The following day, John, Ellen, and a chopper pilot (Dave Willock) investigate. John heads down inside the crater to get a closer look, and when he does, he’s shocked to see an alien space craft! He approaches the open door, but it slams shut, causing some loose rocks to slide down over the craft. John manages to crawl out unscathed, but Ellen and Pete don’t believe him.

 

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As they’re trying to figure things out, Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake) shows up with his deputy, and of course they laugh at Putnam, saying he’s nuts. Of course Ellen and Pete can’t verify the story since they didn’t go down to see it themselves. As they’re driving home, one of the creatures is standing right in the middle of the highway! It forces them off of the road, causing them to almost smash into a rock. As John gets out to investigate, the creature is in the brush, watching him.

The following day, the news media has found out about the “meteorite” crash, and is going crazy. Scientists, the military, and even the sheriff and his men are there lurking around. They continue to make fun of John, and even harass Ellen. The sheriff also tries to warn off John about being with Ellen (as he worked for her father and told him he’d look out for her after his death). John tells the sheriff that Ellen does what she wants, and that he isn’t telling her to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

 

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On their way home, John and Ellen run into a couple of friends that work for the utilities company. One of them, George (Russell Johnson) tells them that everything has been calm as far as they’ve seen. He and Frank (Joe Sawyer) let John listen to some strange noises over the phone lines, but they can’t figure out what is causing it.

Over the next few days, townspeople, begin to disappear for a day or so, only to return in a dazed state like they’ve been hypnotized. They seem to have an ulterior motive for everything they do, and that eventually gets the skeptical sheriff to wonder what is going on. John eventually searches the desert area by the crater, and finds an old abandoned mine. He tries to enter but is confronted by one of the aliens. The alien tells him they mean no harm but recruited the townspeople to help repair their ship, so they can return to the cosmos. Putnam believes the creature, but will the sheriff?

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

One of the earliest films about this subject (you did already have The Thing from Another World, and The Day the Earth Stood Still at this point, plus some other notables), the angle of aliens that were not evil is something you really need to consider. That was not the norm and quite frankly still isn’t. We have Ray Bradbury to thank for that, and from some reading I’ve done, the man credited as screenwriter pretty much just took what Bradbury wrote and made extremely minor changes. We all know Bradbury is a beast at writing scary, weird stories, but he should get the credit for this one.

Most of the films from this era don’t have very notable music but Herman Stein did a good job on this one. Very threatening, and melodramatic when needed. Clifford Stine was on top of his game with the cinematography as well, especially in the scenes with the aliens.

Carlson is his usual awesome self. He’s a very strong presence in every film he’s been the lead in, and that is a fact. Barbara Rush is quite good as well. She does a fantastic job as John’s girlfriend, a concerned citizen, trying to balance being a school teacher and that usual form of reasoning versus her feelings for John and his beliefs and so on. It doesn’t hurt that she’s a very beautiful woman either (image below), as she’s basically the only woman in the entire film!

 

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Don’t hesitate, look this one up and give it a viewing. Set aside a rainy afternoon and check out this classic! You won’t be disappointed!

 

Click here for the trailer!

 

 

 

Batman Family 4, 1976 “Dangerous Doings for the Dynamite Duo!”

I recently declared in a group on social media that I read the greatest Batman comic of all time, and could now die a happy man. Some thought I was joking…I wasn’t…not one bit. Yeah, I know The Dark Knight, Birth of the Demon, The Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, etc., etc. all get the critical praise, and rightly so, but my tastes are a little different (and I have read most of those stories). Batman meeting Fatman cannot be topped. A cover showing Robin getting the stuffing knocked out of him by a faux Santa Claus is pretty cool as well! The other stories in the book are good stuff and Elongated Man has always been one of my favorite ancillary characters in the DC universe. The Batgirl/Robin story is solid, but the real gem is the ludicrousness of the Batman/Fatman story. It is awesome.

When you see the glorious cover by Ernie Chan (pencils and inks), and Tatjana Wood (Colors), you know how awesome this book is going to be!  The interior pages hold more delight, as Elliot S. Maggin, Pablo Marcos, Vince Colletta, Bob Rozakis, José DelboBill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff, Carmine Infantino, Joe Giella, and more!

 

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