Adventure into Fear 23, 1974 “Alone Against Arcturus!”

One of the easiest things to do is spotlight a comic book with a great creative team. This comic is very easy because the team consists of two of the best from the Bronze Age. Throw in an insane vampire, lost in some bizarre world he doesn’t understand, and voilà, awesomeness! So we see the man called Morbius, as he’s hazy about where he is and what’s going on. He comes upon two lovers, and the shenanigans ensue.

The title known as Adventures into Fear (only Fear in the indicia), was a reprint book in the beginnings but after the ninth issue, it switched to new horror material (featuring Man-Thing). After the nineteenth issue, Morbius, the Living Vampire took over! The man who wrote/plotted most of the stories (Man-Thing included) in Fear, was none other than Steve Gerber. Gerber really shined during his tenure at Marvel comics, and it’s a shame things ended the way they did, but at least we have the great comics we do! Art by P. Craig Russell (pencils) and Vince Colletta (inks), colors by George Roussos, and letters by Tom Orzechowski. The art in this one is fantastic, and really shows how the vampire is in different moods. Cover by Gil Kane and Tom Palmer! There is also a neat little reprint in the back of the book as well that features art by Gene Colan!

 

 

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Fear 20, 1973 “Morbius the Living Vampire!”

The title “Fear,” was one that started out as a reprint vehicle for the giant monsters of the Atlas Age Comics. These stories featured work from some giants of the industry- Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Russ Heath, Gene Colan, and more. The book eventually morphed into one that contained all new material, starting with issue ten, and the Man-Thing, the book took a turn. We now saw new material, and material with an edge that had previously been unseen in the title (and most mainstream comics). In this story, Morbius is in the midst of a blood-lust, and attacks a woman. He then recounts his last few adventures (against the X-Men and a solo story), then meets two holy men. He seems to be calmed by their presence, but we soon find out why, and that one of these two men is not quite what he seems!

He doesn’t get much credit, but Mike Friedrich (writer) has made a few very nice contributions to the comic book industry over the years, and deserves a high-five for them!  I’m not sure, but this has to be one of the first works of Paul Gulacy (pencils) in the biz. He’s one of those guys that’s done a wide variety of work on both sides of the street. Jack Abel (inks) is a name I know from his contributions on Tomb of Dracula. He was active in the 1950’s and didn’t let up until the 1990’s. Marvel staples Tom Orzechowski (letters) and George Roussos (colors) are two more reasons that most of what Marvel published during the Bronze Age was incredibly consistent (plus Roy Thomas – editor). King of the covers, Gil Kane (pencils), and his oft collaborator, Frank Giacoia (inks), bring this fabulous cover to life!

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Night Stalker (Kolchak) 1972

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Title: The Night Stalker

Distributor: ABC Television

Writer: Richard Matheson (novel by Jeff Rice)

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey

Producer: Dan Curtis

Starring: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Elisha Cook Jr.

Released: January 1972

MPAA: NR (estimated PG)

 

 

Alright, time for another made-for-TV movie! It has been a little while since I’d done one of these, but trust me, this one deserve the attention! Yeah, at first glance most people are going to be all like…”hey, there’s Ralphie ‘s dad from A Christmas Story!”  And although it is true, this character (Kolchak) is nothing like that portrayal. With one notable bad performance (which I’ll get to later), this film was one that garnered much attention at the time, and actually was rated extremely high. The horror genre was in full swing in other media by now as well (comic books, movies, etc.), so this was perfect timing by the studio. OK, enough of the small talk, here comes the vampire action!

 

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The film begins with a woman, who works at a casino in Las Vegas, heading home after a long, evening shift. A voice narrating (Darren McGaven), tells us about her and the situation in that city. She heads down an alleyway, and gets jumped by someone with an extreme amount of strength. She’s found the following day by a garbage man. The scene then switches to a hospital operating room, where three surgeons are baffled at the blood loss of the victim.

 

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We next see reporter Karl Kolchak (Darren McGaven), as he heads toward Las Vegas. He comes back to work early from vacation at the behest of his boss. At the office, managing editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), barks at Kolchak, and tells him to head out and find something juicy about the murder. Kolchak heads to the hospital where a certain doctor gives him some tips every once in a while. The doctor tells him that there wasn’t anything about the murder that was suspicious except massive blood loss.

 

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Kolchak then heads to the casino where the girl worked, and talks to one of her girlfriends, Gail Foster (Carol Lynley – image above), and she doesn’t really give anything he can use. We do however find out that Gail is Kolchak’s girlfriend. Just three days later, and we get another murder. This time, a girl is found in a desert area off of a freeway. The puzzling thing is that there are no footprints near the body, and that her throat has an injury to it. No blood is found by the victim. There are signs of a struggle nearby, but none near the corpse. The sheriff (Claude Akins) isn’t having any of Kolchak’s nonsense either.

Another couple of days, and another murder of a young woman. Same evidence or lack thereof is present, so Kolchak turns to a friend in the FBI, Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker). He asks him to use his resources to look into the murders. Kolchak gets a phone call and his friend at the hospital tells him that a different hospital was recently robbed of several containers of blood. Later that day, there’s a press conference held at city hall. The coroner tells the onlookers that the girls were bitten on the throat, and blood was pumped out of their bodies. He also tells them that human saliva was found on the wounds as well. The sheriff gets angry and yells at Kolchak when he asks the coroner about the possibility that a man tried to drink the girl’s blood for some unknown reason.

 

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After the meeting, the sleazy mayor has a little meeting with Kolchak and basically warns him off of creating speculation about the crimes. Kolchak takes a story to Vincenzo, and he balls him out over it and threatens him as the mayor did earlier. As Kolchak is back at his place, he and Gail talk about the case. He gets a phone call about another murder, but this time there was a witness. The woman describes the killer and his car. Things quickly escalate after this, and Kolchak and the police are ready for action. He then gets one of his other contacts to do some digging for him, and the switchboard operator is more than happy to do it after he bribes her with chocolates (yes, really).

 

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After a composite drawing of the killer, the police are ready to act on any kind of call. We next see the killer (not his face), stalk a young woman. He approaches her outside by her car, but suddenly, she opens the back door, and a huge dog jumps out of the car, and onto the killer. He easily thrashes the dog, and then the girl goes missing. Kolchak has it out with Vincenzo about the suppression of the news because of the police and politicians. Vincenzo tells him they don’t want to create a panic, so that’s why it’s being kept quiet. They eventually track down where the killer bought the car, but not much comes from that situation.

The next evening, Gail attempts to get Kolchak to buy into the killer being a real vampire. He isn’t having it, and before you know it, he’s out the door after hearing about another robbery at a hospital. We now get to see the killer, and what he can do. He manhandles two orderlies, and throws a third out of a two-story window. Before the killer can get away, the police arrive, and we see the killer absorb a multitude of shots from the police at close range…and he keeps going!

 

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Is this killer just some kook wearing a bullet proof vest? Or is he the real deal? Can Kolchak survive a confrontation with this supernatural killer? You must see this one to find out!

 

OK, here are my thoughts:

For anyone that hasn’t seen this flick or the television show, you’re really missing out. There was another T.V. movie a couple of years later as well, but this one is really the best. Darren McGaven gives a fantastic performance, and really elevates this small screen production. Having guys like Richard Matheson (writer – screenplay) and Dan Curtis (producer) behind the scenes doesn’t hurt either, but he really sets the tone for this film. Even Carol Lynley (The Poseidon Adventure) was pretty convincing in her role as Kolchak’s girlfriend (except for the fact that he looks old enough to be her dad).

The soundtrack is pretty jazzy, and the overall production quality is solid. The special effects were few but definitely noteworthy, especially the scene where the dude was thrown out of the second-story window. The vampire wasn’t very menacing as far as the make-up, but he’s a pretty big dude, and that was enough to make him sort of scary. Plus they relied on atmosphere in most of his scenes, so there’s that too.

Definitely give this one a watch, as you’ll be impressed by McGaven’s work! The supporting cast also gives this one a helping hand (Carol Lynley is gorgeous!) for the most part (other than the overacting by the editor in the film).

 

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Click here for the trailer!

 

Cinema Sunday: Kiss of the Vampire (1963)

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Title: Kiss of the Vampire (Kiss of Evil)

Distributor: Hammer Studios/Universal Pictures

Writer: John Elder (Anthony Hinds)

Director: Don Sharp

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Clifford Evans, Noel Willman, Edward De Souza, Jennifer Daniel

Released: September 1963

MPAA: UR

It’s that time again! Time for me to spotlight another flick, and for you to enjoy! This film has a different vibe than most Hammer horror films, and that may be due to the fact that the big “stars” are not present at all. We do see three familiar faces, but not ones that were in more than a couple of Hammer films. It’s definitely worth the occasional viewing though, and that’s why I’m going to review it today! There were some unused ideas taken from other movies and added to this one, and once you hear about them, it helps make more sense of things at the end. Alright, let us get to the film!

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The movie starts out with a funeral at a small village somewhere in Europe. The villagers are shocked when a certain man shows up. The creepy looking guy, Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans) walks over the grave, shovel in hand, and plunges it into the casket! We hear a shriek come from it, and then see blood spurting out of the cracks. At first, the villagers don’t seem shocked, that is until the blood comes out. The camera then slowly goes into the casket, and we see the recognizable teeth of a vampire. Cue opening credits…

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We next see a man looking through a telescope, as a motorcar chugs down the road. It runs out of petrol, and they are stranded. The man, Gerald (Edward De Souza), and his new wife, Marianne (Jennifer Daniel), realize they’re in some trouble, but Gerald has no alternative but to hike to the nearest town in hopes of finding some fuel (back then very few towns had it). As Marianne waits, she notices the castle in the hills. The man with the telescope notices her beauty, and we get a bad feeling about her chances for survival. The wind blows a tree over, and she runs away. She eventually comes face to face with Professor Zimmer, who scares the bejesus out of her. He tells her to go back to her car, but she instead runs to find Gerald.

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The two eventually wind up in town, and at a hotel. The caretakers are very odd, but are accommodating nonetheless. As they settle in, and the nigh falls, a carriage arrives at the hotel to deliver a letter. Gerald and Marianne are shocked to find out that the letter is for them, and from a local man who lives in the castle. He invites them to dinner, and the hotel owner encourages them to go, because the food will be excellent, and the “Herr doctor” is a very interesting man. The carriage arrives, and they go to the castle, and are greeted by Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman). He then introdeuces his two children to Gerald and Marianne. Both are slightly odd, but Carl (Barry Warren), is the most strange of the two. His daughter, Sabena (Jacquie Wallis), watches them, and you can see the devil in her eyes.

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There’s a girl at the residence as well, but she stays hidden. She eventually makes her way to the closest graveyard, and urges one of the inhabitants to come out. She’s interrupted by Professor Zimmer, but before he can do anything to stop her permanently, she bites him on the wrist, and both flee. After dinner, Carl plays the piano for the guests, and Marianne seems to be getting hypnotized by the music. Carl stares at her, sort of like a predator, and Gerald notices this phenomenon. Back at Professor Zimmer’s room (he has a room somewhere in the bowels of the hotel), he lights his wrist on fire to cleanse the wound, and stop the disease before it can overtake him. Back at the castle, Marianne is about to fall into a trance, but Gerald steps in and snaps her out of it. They leave, and Dr. Ravna and his children plot to take them, by force if necessary.

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As they return to the hotel for the evening, we see Professor Zimmer at the bar, drowning his sorrows in booze. As Gerald and Marianne head to their room, they hear someone crying, and investigate. They see the hotel owners wife, as she’s in one of the rooms, sobbing while looking at some memorabilia. They don’t quite understand, and retreat to their room for the night. The next morning they’re invited to breakfast with the hotel owners. After some chatter and food, they go back to the room where they saw the woman crying, They find a picture of a beautiful girl, the daughter, (assuming) of the owners. Gerald hears someone downstairs, and he confronts Professor Zimmer. He’s told to get out of the town before there’s trouble, but Gerald doesn’t understand. Carl and Sabena show up, and invite them to a party at their home. Professor Zimmer tells Carl and Sabena that they’d better be off because the thick clouds are moving away and the sun is coming out. They flee as if their lives depended on it, and again, Gerald and Marianne don’t know what to think.

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The night of the party arrives, and a house full of guests puts Gerald and Marianne at ease. Of course, they’re greeted by Carl and Sabena, and see that all the guests are wearing masks. Some beautiful, some ugly, but everyone’s identity is concealed for the time being. Gerald and Marianne get separated, and Carl, under the guise of Gerald, lures her upstairs, and locks her in a room. She quickly notices someone is resting in a bed. She sees that it’s Dr. Ravna, and he has blood seeping out from the corners of his mouth. Meanwhile, Sabena is getting Gerald drunk, and he eventually passes out. When he wakes, he’s tossed out of the house, and treated as if they didn’t even know him or ever heard of his wife!

Will Gerald ever see Marianne again? Can the mysterious Professor Zimmer help him in his fight against the hordes of vampires infesting this little village? Check out this flick to find out!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

This film was supposedly going to be the third installment of the Dracula franchise, after “Brides” that continued in the same vein. It became a thing of its own, and in 1966, when Christopher Lee returned to the role of Dracula, did the franchise keep any continuity. Although this film didn’t keep in-line with the others, it did offer some solid performances by Edward De Souza, and Noel Willman. Not to be outdone, is Clifford Evans, and although he doesn’t have many speaking parts, he does add an air of creepiness to the film. He doesn’t even come close to Cushing as Van Helsing, but he does add to the quirky nature of the film. There’s a scene where Zimmer educates Gerald on evil, and vampires specifically, that is quite good.

The rest of the film is standard Hammer fair, in that you get incredible costumes, makeup, and sets. You might well recognize the home of Dr. Ravna, as the same as the one Noel Willman uses as his residence in “The Reptile,” another great off-beat Hammer film. The music score isn’t terribly great, but in the end, it doesn’t detract either. The final scene of this film is very wild, and was allegedly supposed to be the ending of “Brides of Dracula” but peter Cushing talked the crew out of using it, citing that it doesn’t go along with the beliefs of Van Helsing. I suppose he was right, and things worked out for the best, even though looking back, the ending of “Brides” is a little absurd as well.

If you find yourself able to get a view of this one, don’t hesitate. Not only for the reasons I already mentioned, but also for the beautiful ladies (like Isobel Black! – image below) that adorn the film!

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Click here for the trailer!