It’s a Gem of a Theater

Gem theater IMG_1379

And, so, here I sit after a few days of not writing, trying to get warmed up for working on my novel. Munching a few salt & vinegar potato chips, and noodling on the keyboard. This is a movie-themed post, but I’ll wander around a bit before getting into things.

Gonna talk about Svengoolie’s movie on Saturday night, Night Monster (1942), but first a quick side trip to Cairo, Illinois, the southernmost town in Illinois, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. Once, it was a powerful river town, with wide streets and beautiful old houses. We drove down one street and saw the remains of a classic old movie theater, the Gem. Located at 224 Eighth Street, it opened for business in 1910 and closed for good in 1978. It held 907 seats, according to the site.

My wife and I stopped by and took some pictures of this old beauty yesterday. I felt the power it once had. Even now, it still radiated cinematic juice. The marquee still intact, I expected to go in and watch a movie.


Now, on to Night Monster. What a wonderful mess this was. Starring Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill (they got top billing, with Bela’s name the larger of the two), although Bela had a relatively unimportant role as the butler, Rolf. Wendy and I decided he was wasted in this role, merely there as a diversion and to play the properly aloof man-servant. Why they didn’t use his power we couldn’t understand. The movie poster even shows Bela in the foreground, but he’s not major.

Night Monster

It was a mess, but a delightful mess. One of the classic “old dark house” flicks, we get things rolling at the home of Kurt Ingston (played cantankerously well by Ralph Morgan, brother of Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz), where we see a colorful cast of characters. The housekeeper, Sarah Judd (Doris Lloyd, who eventually would play in The Sound of Music as Baroness Ebberfeld), is busily scrubbing a blood-stained carpet when one of our other cast of crazies walks up and says something about that being a job for the maid.

And the maid is on her way out, permanently, as she has “seen too much” in this lunatic house. The maid, Milly Carson (played spunkily by Janet Shaw. Wendy and I decided she would’ve made a good Lois Lane), who was one of our favorite characters, has decided to check out of crazy hotel.

What follows is a revolving door of characters coming and going, most of whom were clearly defined (obvious hero, red herrings, borderline comic relief), and for all us “old dark house” watchers it was a treat to see this crazy quilt of characters parading through. And for anyone who hasn’t seen this type of film, it will also be fun to see who and what will happen next.

Basically, a wealthy old man who’s disabled assembles the three doctors at his mansion. He blames Moe, Larry, and Curly for putting him in his present state, but promises them they will see something new in the way of a medical marvel. Our three doctors are Dr. King (Lionel Atwill, Ivan Igor in Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)), Dr. Timmons (Frank Reicher), and Dr. Phipps (Francis Pierlot). One of our three keeps going on with something about glands, which provides the eye-rolling comedy. There’s the old man’s crazy/non-crazy sister, Margaret Ingston (Fay Helm), a mystery writer/hero named Dick Baldwin (Don Porter, Gidget’s Dad), a lecherous chauffeur/assistant named Laurie who (Leif Erickson, who was in a TV series called The High Chaparral), a mystic named Agor Singh (Nils Asther), the love interest psychologist Dr. Lynn Harper (Irene Hervey), and a crusty old constable (Robert Homans). Others come and go, but these are our major players.

There’s a series of murders happening, everyone’s strangled, and there’s always a small pool of blood on the floor, but not from the victims. The mystic is teaching old man Ingston how to heal his body by sheer will power, but so far he’s still disabled. We’ve got our batch of suspects, people are still droppin’, so…who dun it? You’ll just have to watch and see. This is a fun little murderous romp in an old mansion, and a little different spin for Universal.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Would Word Fusion be Called Wusion?


Back to some word play, I am. This time it’s the media’s fault. If I hadn’t seen the word “glamping” on TV, you folks wouldn’t have to endure these musings:

’til next time…Adios.

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Some Strange Folks in Those Little Towns


I haven’t bought any non-DC comics for some time. Guess I’ve been in a rut as far as my comic book reading is concerned, but I have to read my Superman and Batman comics. Always have, always will. But I used to be a little more adventurous, so I decided the other day to venture out and try a different title. So, one Saturday, my usual day to see what goodies I have in folder number 2 at A Plus Comics, I picked up issues 1 and 3 of “Providence”. Something about the over art grabbed me. Thin lines outlining everything and muted colors. I think I’m hooked. Only thing is, now, I need to get issue 2. It’s the first non-DC comic I’ve been excited about in a while, written by Alan Moore, and art by Jacen Burrows.

Is it Providence, Rhode Island? Not sure. It’s set in the early 1900s, big city, United States. Deals with a young reporter/novelist who takes a trip up the coast to some strange fishing villages. Didn’t know what I was wading into, but once I discovered I was heading into H. P. Lovecraft country. Bits of hushed, secretive conversations our reported picks up. Residents whose skin is a sickly gray color or their mouths are unusually wide, and their eyes not right.

On the one hand, I haven’t strayed too far off the comic book path, as I’m already familiar with Lovecraft and love to read his work. But it is different in some ways from my other comic reading, although Batman is darker now. Lots of tie-ins to secret societies and a dark Gotham past. Two differences are immediately noticeable in “Providence”: No onomatopoeic sounds like or , and no huge action. Just a careful nudging of the tension, making me look behind me as I’m reading.

I had no idea when I first started reading “Providence” that it had a Lovecraftian spin, but as I followed our young reporter up the coast, the names of people and places had that old uncomfortable, claustrophobic feel—names like Saint Joad’s and Athol. And the villagers were distinctly odd. There were hints of ancient rites and buildings that predated even the native Americans who had once lived there.

My only problem, and really it’s my problem, not with the writing, is that at the end of each story, there are two or three pages, “handwritten” pages from our reporter’s journal. It’s a personal thing, but I come to my comic books to read quickly. If I want to read a Lovecraft story, I’ll read a story. But, as I said, that’s my issue.

Other than that one minor complaint, I love my new find, and I want to read more. It’s fun to see the weird characters I’ve read in H. P.’s books come to life. Maybe this will do his stories justice. Has to be better than most of the movie attempts.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Say it Ain’t So, Yogi


We lost a great wordslinger yesterday. He was also a terrific catcher for the New York Yankees from 1946 to 1965. But I always remember him for his “Yogi-isms.” Yogi Berra is gone, leaving us on September 22nd. He is sorely missed. Here is the full post:

’til next time…Adios.

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Something Dark this Way Comes


It’s getting grayer and darker in Gotham, and that’s a good thing. For us, the viewers, at least.

********* SPOILER ALERT—Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen last night’s episode ***********

We’re seeing new alliances form as we leave behind the world of ordinary gangsters and head toward the old familiar Gotham we fear and love. And everyone’s getting darker, including Jim Gordon. Gotham’s trying to pull him under, and he’s so caught up in being a cop his vision’s clouded. But Gotham has that effect on everyone there. Gotham is a character in and of itself, it seems. Alive, with a black heart.

Not sure I can get everything out in sequential order, so I’ll just have to let it fly.

Bruce Wayne and Alfred, at last season’s end, discovered a remote control hidden in a book in the library (for some reason, I wanted add, “…Professor Plum, with the candlestick…” I think it’s gonna be one of those kind of writing days where I’m all over the place.) And guess what? Yep, we wrapped things up with them pressing the button and, in true gothic fashion, like a scene from an old Poe/Corman/Price film, we hear a heavy grinding as the fireplace slides back to reveal steps leading down…Dun Dun DUN! Cue “Dance of the Knights” by Prokofiev.

Now, with this season’s opener, they’re standing in front of a heavy metal door with a keypad lock, Bruce pounding away at the door. That was the only thing that puzzled me slightly. Bruce hadn’t shown much anger yet in the series, but now, discovering that his father had secrets, and apparently some BIG secrets, he’s furious. I thought it a bit strange at first that he would be banging on the door, instead of calmly trying to deduce the keypad combination. But perhaps we needed to see that he could get angry. That there’s this rage inside him, the rage that could fuel who and what he will eventually become. Or maybe I’m just overthinking.

But Bruce wants in that room, his father’s fortress of solitude (yeah, I said it. Sorry.), and he’s not going to mess around with any keypad. Nope. He gets Alfred to help him build a bomb to blow the door to smithereens. We’re seeing more grit and determination come out now in Bruce. When he’s initially getting frustrated with the keypad, he picks up a hammer, yells, “Screw it!” and smashes the keypad. Once he and Alfred are inside the Inner Sanctum of his father’s office, we’ve entered a new realm. Figuratively and literally, Bruce has descended into the cave (not technically the Bat Cave…yet.), marking the start of the hero’s quest.

Once we’re in this new world, we see a desk, a dusty computer monitor, and the classic envelope propped up on the computer keyboard with Bruce’s name on it. Uh huh. Here we go.

Bruce has learned three lessons, at least, so far. Summed up and paraphrased, they would be:

“Even good men have secrets.”
“Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty in order to work for the greater good.”
And, directly from his father’s letter to Bruce: “You can have happiness, or you can have truth. But not both.” Bruce’s father wants him to go for happiness. Which do you think he’ll choose? After all, Bruce looks up from the letter and says something about a “…true calling.” Hello, Batman.

More later. I’m getting long-winded here.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Please Stop Changing My Werds


Spel-czech…duz it help or hert?

Just a few musings on the auto-correct feature. Rebel against the tyrant!

’til next time…Adios.

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Into Space With the Robinsons

TV Guide

Well, somewhere around here I have some Lost in Space trading cards that I’ve kept ever since I was a kid. You folks from my generation know what I’m talking about. Bubble gum cards. Mostly you got some cool baseball cards (which usually met their end clothes-pinned to our bicycle spokes so we could make that cool motor sound. But there were also trading cards for some of our favorite shows.

Like Lost in Space.

By the way, today, September 15th, is the 50th anniversary of our voyage into outer space with the Robinson family. Yup, on this date back in 1965, gazillions of us kids tuned in to watch our voyagers get lost. Dead in the middle of the 1960s, when everything was about space (I was nine in ’64 when I had my folks take me to the Marine recruiting office so I could talk with the Marines about how I could be an astronaut like John Glenn.), we were heading for the stars in the Jupiter II. Not only that, but it was a whole family.

I remember watching and thinking, “Man, I could be like Will Robinson.” I mean, all families get lost on vacations, but this family was out there wandering and wondering among all that star stuff. How cool was that?

When it first came on, I think I missed a good part of the first episode (My folks and I were traveling, but not into space, dang it!), but after that I never missed an episode that I recall. Every Wednesday night you knew where to find me. Right there with Will, Dr. Smith, the Robot, Penny, Judy, Major West, Professor Robinson (I just knew him as Will’s Dad), and Maureen Robinson (I just knew her as Will’s Mom), just eating up all the laser blasts, and crash landings, and weird aliens. I only had one problem, and that cropped up in January of ’66. Here’s why:


Yup, Batman came on the same time on Wednesday as Lost in Space. My two favorite shows in the whole wide world, on at the same time. But, my kid-like ingenuity figured out how to handle this little crisis. Batman was on for half an hour on Wednesday night, then they finished with Batman and Robin getting out of the scrape-of-the-week on Thursday night. So, all I had to do was give the ol’ dial a quick turn back-and-forth that first half hour on Wednesday and I could watch both shows at watch. Ha! Who needs high-tech?

Well, it’s 50 years later, and I still love Lost in Space. Even “The Great Vegetable Rebellion” episode. Yeah, it’s out there. Go seek it out. It’s a riot.

Oh, and for all you folks who still want to see it, it’s on MeTV on Saturday nights at midnight. I just wish they’d put it on a little earlier.

’til next time…Adios.

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Monsters, and Zombies, and Freaks, Oh My


Before the monsters arrive

Today, three friends of mine and I returned to the world of the fantastical. ScareFest is back in town, and thanks to Patti Starr and her husband Chuck, we get to benefit from her hard work.

Held at Rupp Arena, here is a magical and wondrous place of critters and creatures from all across the science fiction, horror, and fantasy spectrum. Need a wolf pendant or elf ears? Got ’em. Skull earrings? Yup. A little something for the ghost hunter in your family? Gotcha covered.


On the surface, ScareFest has booths for foot massages, T-shirts of your favorite movie and TV monsters, or photo ops with terrific monster movie actors. But it’s more than that. As one costumed teenage girl said, “This makes me very happy.” It’s a place for all of us who grew up sneaking downstairs at 2 in the morning to watch the original King Kong to fly our monster flags. Bring out that old Vader costume and wear it proudly. If you hear any comments at all, it’ll be compliments. I was wearing my Plan 9 From Outer Space T-shirt when a father and son walked up to me and said, “Wow! Cool T-shirt. Can I take a photo of my son standing beside you?” “Sure,” I said. Both father and son had Ed Wood T-shirts on.

Just a few of the things I loved about today:

I got to talk with Pat Priest (Marilyn Munster) from The Munsters. We talked about watching some of the old TV shows and how much fun The Munsters was to film.


I also talked to Sara Karloff (Boris’s daughter) and Victoria Price (Vincent’s daughter). They had such wonderful memories of their fathers. All three ladies were so kind and gracious.


Also got to hear George (Night of the Living Dead) Romero talk about film-making in general.

And, I got to wear a boa constrictor around my neck. So, I wore an actual boa.


‘Course, I also had my hand eaten by a giant critter.


Just a regular Saturday.

Want to know more? Go here:

’til next time…Adios.

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But I Love Those Words


Ah, yes, the editing process. Sometimes a root canal is preferable, other times you actually see improvement. What’s it like to actually get in there slug it out with your inner critic? Here’s a brief look, in progress:

’til next time…Adios.

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Whatever Happened to Edmund Jackstein?


Edmund Jackstein, an 18th century novelist who published exactly one book in his life, vanished mysteriously in the winter of 1883, in Vermont. Here is what little we know of his time. There are other scattered bits of information, but most are speculative:

’til next time…Adios.

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