I Ain’t Got No Body

the-body-snatcher2

I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

It was tough way back when, learning the doctoring business. You wanted to learn what makes us tick, but, well, it was a little tough cutting apart live folks to see the clockwork mechanism. Most didn’t take too kindly to that, complaining loudly. So, what was a young pre-M.D. to do?

Dead bodies, that was the answer. If you got them fresh enough, and had permission from everyone – authorities, family members – you were good to go. Sometimes, however, demand was greater than supply. Enter two enterprising gravediggers back in Scotland in 1828 – Burke and Hare. These enterprising lads saw a ripe business opportunity, so they went from grave digging to grave robbing to keep up with the demand. Soon, demand out-stripped supply again, so the two entrepreneurs went straight to the source and started whacking folks.

The movie that Wendy and I watched the other night, The Body Snatcher (1945), takes up a few years after Burke and Hare had their spree. Based on the short story of the same title by Robert Louis Stevenson, this is an engrossing little film, perfect for a pre-Halloween watch. At first, I wasn’t enthused about watching it as I thought there wouldn’t be enough horror in it to satisfy me, that it would mostly be mystery/police procedural; but as soon as we started watching it, we were hooked. No supernatural stuff, but the tension and suspense were there.

It’s mainly from the perspective of a young, would-be doctor, a good man, a likeable man (Donald Fettes), played perfectly by Russell Wade, a mostly B-movie actor, but a very capable B actor who, after WWII, went into business for himself. Shame, too. I really liked him.

Donald is learning the sawbones trade from Dr. MacFarlane (Henry Daniell), a doctor who spends all his time teaching, very little doctoring. Daniell plays MacFarlane as upper-crust, arrogant, and a bit sad, as we soon learn that he’s dealing with the devil, played oh-so wonderfully evil and malicious by Boris Karloff. Okay, Karloff’s character, Cabman John Gray, isn’t truly the devil, though he may as well be, as he has a choke-hold on MacFarlane’s soul.

Everyone does a terrific job in this film, Mr. Karloff in particular. The way he smiles at MacFarlane at times is just a thing of dark beauty – a smile that looks on the surface so warm and friendly yet carries such oil and ooze that my skin crawled.

This is a story of want, greed, desire, and what any of us would do to get what we want. It’s a tale of conflict, and we as the viewers feel the ol’ hangman’s noose tighten around our necks, and we squirm in our seats as we watch the spider engulfing the fly and the young fly-to-be. The direction is skillful by the immensely talented Robert Wise, who brought to the screen such classics as West Side Story (1961), The Haunting (1963), and The Andromeda Strain (1971). Someone else could have taken this story and it would’ve just laid flat, no feeling or suspense at all. But this master director put us in each of our major players’ shoes.

It’s a fictional story that takes its cue from the real events of Burke and Hare as MacFarlane and Gray began their business relationship when both were young men and MacFarlane served as Dr. Knox’s student and assistant. Dr. Knox was the real doctor involved in the Burke/Hare incidents. Gray began supplying bodies, for pay, for the young Dr. MacFarlane, and now, the soon-to-be Dr. Fettes finds himself in the same position MacFarlane had been years earlier. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Worse, actually. A Jedi hopeful. But would be become Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker?

Further complicating matters is the case of a young paralyzed girl. Her mother has sought the help of Dr. MacFarlane as he is the one person who can perform an operation that could help the girl walk again. MacFarlane refuses for a variety of reasons. Fettes keeps pushing him to perform the operation.

Almost forgot to mention. Mr. Karloff’s old acting partner has a small role, too – Bela Lugosi, who plays Dr. MacFarlane’s assistant, Joseph. No hunchbacked sneering underling here, the Joseph character is a minor one, but important for several reasons.

Edith Atwater played Dr. MacFarlane’s wife (and there’s a great sub-plot to watch there) with a beautiful Scottish accent. She brought a certain intensity to the role. Ms. Atwater was a talented actress on TV and the Big Screen, but never quite got that big break. I thought she fit her part perfectly here.

This is an excellent film. And it gets back to one of my favorite questions. Is it a horror movie? There are no ghoulies or goblins. But there are some downright feelings of horror. Once again, I come back to my position that some of the best movies are without genre. This is a character study, a drama of the highest order. Some classify it as horror, and that’s fine. But horror or not, this is a must-see. You won’t be disappointed.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Enter the Darkness, If You Dare…

200px-Haunted-house

Enter if you dare….

I love Halloween. I think these days I like it better than Christmas. I mean, Christmas is fun, too, with the decorations and music; but for pure “burying yourself in the part” (bad pun intended), it’s hard to beat Halloween. Seems to me, though, it’s become more of an adult holiday nowadays, but that’s an article for another time. I wonder if it’s because all of us Boomers have the resources to seriously get into the Halloween spirit, and we’re the ones who have such strong, clear memories of waiting ‘til after dark, then terrorizing our neighborhoods with our Tricks or Treats.

My band of Scoobies the other night went to one of several local haunted houses and had an absolute blast. My wife and I have sought out various haunted trails/houses/old hospitals/forests over the last several years, and this is an area that’s just gone insane. One of Lexington’s haunted trails is set up so you can nail zombies with paintballs.

Friday evening we sojourned via a two-car caravan to Wicked World Scaregrounds in Lexington, Kentucky, a terrifically decorated conglomeration of three haunted worlds. Can’t really call them just a haunted house these days as you might walk through woods, barns, or the Dark Regions of Mordor.

We arrived at our destination, shy of the Witching Hour, and made our way with other brave souls to the waiting station as death metal cranked and we all danced, trance-style. This was No Mercy Hospital and we all waited for our various transplants.

A zombified (or just plain dead – hard to tell anymore) nurse escorted us in to the small theater where we sat and watched a short, introductory film informing us of the horrors that awaited us. This was a new twist, sort of a pre-op, I suppose.

Once properly oriented our nurse opened the curtains for us and we dared enter a world of darkness, first taking a “ride” on the hellevator that deposited us to another “floor”. For the next several minutes we wandered frightful halls as ghoulish doctors, nurses, and orderlies jumped out at us, banged on the walls, flew about by wire-line, and sent showers of electrical sparks everyplace. Every so often we’d get to a black-as-the-pit area or have to watch our footing as we headed either uphill or downhill. One of the best sections was where cold air blew on us seemingly from all sides as we made our way through an air bladder that closed in on us. Keep pushing forward is my advice to those who are fearful.

And just keep telling yourself, “It’s only a movie…” Oh, and don’t get separated from your group. I’ve heard rumors that some are still in there, wandering the black-hearted halls, and every once in a while you’ll hear a faint “Help me…”

Have a wonderfully dark and frightening time.

Check out their web site if you dare: http://www.wickedworldscaregrounds.com/

‘til next time… Adios.

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Seamless and Transparent

tech_snafu

Okay, just so ya know, this post will reek of satire and sarcasm. And so, all this technology is simply amazing. I work in the world of tech and have been in the tech world one way or another for at least 40 years.

So, the place I work (which shall remain nameless, Mr. Phelps) is moving. Physically moving. From one building to another. As in across town moving. Now, our target dates for the move are for two days next week. And it’s supposed to be seamless and transparent.

Okay, for folks not in the tech field, those two words, ‘seamless’ and ‘transparent’, are supposed to be comfort-inducing words to let us know that everything will go off without a hitch, with no problems, and that all will be well.

For us folks in the tech field, those words mean ‘Oh s**t’!

So, we’re moving all this stuff to the new building – computers, phones, etc. And just a few days out from M-Day, they’re replacing our phones. In our current location. And they’re performing massive software updates. In our current location. And conducting business-as-usual. And planning potlucks. And get-togethers.

All about me are the sounds of chaos. Apparently, the people in charge have not been in a major move before or they wouldn’t be making these changes right before the move. Ah, but no matter. I’ve moved plenty of times. I will sit in the center of the disaster, calmly drinking my coffee, watching the calamity, and…Hey, who took my coffee cup?!

‘til next time… Adios.

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Zombie Nazis on Ice

robot-hitler

Sharks, tornadoes, dinosaurs, zombies. Is there anything the Asylum Group won’t make a mockbuster about? Well, one they shouldn’t have made, all except for the last third or fourth of the movie (more on that later), is their Nazi/Zombie combo titled Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012). Now, few folks love a Nazi/Zombie mashup better than I, but this one, well…they miss the mark by a farfegnugen.

Jake Busey’s in this beast (Gary’s son, there is no doubt), playing a scientist-researcher type, and he almost passes himself off as normal. Oh, what am I saying? There’s no one normal in this movie. It’s from the Asylum Group, so normal caught the last train hours ago. But where they gave us the madly hysterical Sharknados Uno and Dos (the second one being an absolute riot, even funnier than the first), with so many tips o’ th’ hat I got whiplash, and really quick shark-chompin’ scenes (so quick they’re in the category of cartoon violence), here with Return of the Living Dead Nazis they’re pushing into the Torture Porn arena. Lots of grizzly surgical scenes with skin getting ripped off and nasty cutting sequences.

So, Jake plays Dr. Adrian Reistad (wonder which side of the fence he’ll play on with that name… Herr Reistad…), and he and his research team are messing around in Antarctica when, oopsie, they’re captured by a batch of decaying Nazi zombies (or zombie Nazis) who use their body parts, skin included (don’t those crazy Nazis know the skin’s the worst part? Not good for you.) to patchwork-quilt their ugly selves. That’s pretty much it – lots of surgery scenes, screaming, and running.

Then we get Robot Hitler. Y’know, if they’d cranked things up at the beginning with Mein Robot, it would’ve been a lot better to make fun of. Robot Hitler was a hoot! We have Adolf’s head in a glass dome, like those antique clocks your Aunt Louise had, and it sits atop this Erector Set robot body. Before too long he’s helming a giant underground UFO which melts its way up through the Antarctic ice to create a Fourth Reich. But, you know, we can’t let the bad guy win, so…

Besides Jake, there’s Dominique Swain as Dr. Paige Morgan. Dominique is appearing soon in Sharkansas Women’s Prison Massacre (2014), where she plays Honey. Traci Lords will also appear. Hopefully, we’ll get sharks.

Joseph J. Lawson directed Underground Nazis. Mostly, Joseph works as a visual effects supervisor, on movies such as the first and second Sharknados, Airplane vs Volcano, and Asteroid vs. Earth. This apparently was his first time directing Nazis. Maybe he should stick with sharks.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Use the Farce, Luke

Zarth Who

That’s Zarth, not Darth.

Starcrash. Even saying the title brings a smile to my face. No, I take that back. It brings out full-out laughter from me. Following the stellar success (forgot to give everyone a bad pun alert – more will come) of Star Wars, a plethora of galactic and inter-galactic SW knock-offs, clones, duplicates, and replicates blasted our way faster than the Millennium Falcon.

Okay, I feel better now. Got that out of my system now. Or, maybe not.

Back to the topic. When’s the last time you saw Marjoe Gortner in a film? Well, here’s your chance. For many of us Boomers, Marjoe Gortner is a wild-eyed film experience. There are few other experiences to compare it to. For those of us who watched movies through the 70’s and 80’s, at one point or another we ran into Marjoe. And watching him in Starcrash was a treat. We saw Starcrash with the sound all the way down while listening to a good variety of music that every so often seemed to sync up with the film. Seemed better that way as pesky things like dialogue couldn’t get in the way of our viewing pleasure.

Crash was a combo Italian/USA flick. And one thing about most of the Italian sci-fi and sci-fi/horror flicks from back then is their love of the primary colors. We’d have little red dancing lights, and multi-hued laser blasts, and an actual blue light saber-like weapon wielded by none other than Marjoe in the sort-of Luke Skywalker role. Except with, perhaps, more manic expressions at times. Well, all except for Luke’s uber-dynamic scene right after he gets his hand cut off by his dad near the end of The Empire Strikes Back. That “Noooooo! It can’t be true!” scream, with his face getting all twisty, is just all Shatner-ish from The Wrath of Khan (Khaaaaannnnn!). So, Marjoe didn’t go all Shatner, but he sure looked like he wanted to talk to someone about his lord and master Cthulhu. Anyway, Marjoe played this character named Akton (Akron, as in Ohio? I don’t know.), and David Hasselhoff played Prince Simon. And, since this was the 70’s, both had killer perm jobs. I mean, their hair didn’t move. They’d take direct laser blasts to the noggin, and nothin’.

So, we have Han Solo, uh… no, wait, I mean Stella Star (Caroline Munro), who’s this smuggler, and she teams up with this robot/android character who looks like a Cylon, except his (its?) head is really big and looks like a bucket. Stella occasionally runs around in her underwear. But it’s okay, as she wears one of those cheap plastic see-through raincoats over her underwear so she won’t get cold. But there’s this one scene where Stella and her bucket-headed friend lay down in a field to make snow angels. Well, actually, there wasn’t snow when they first laid down, but then it started snowing, and then they went to sleep, and all we kept thinking was that they were re-enacting the poppies sequence from The Wizard of Oz.

Quick aside here. Also around the same time Crash came out, all characters in Star Wars-like rip-offs were required to have variations on the names Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Chewie, Princess Leia, and Han Solo. Which is why, in an insane number of media we ended up with characters named Lone Star, Sally Starslammer, Princess Orgasma, Yogurt, Ooby-Dooby Kenoobi, Chewbacca, and every other combination.

Another quick aside. Caroline Munro. This nearly-nude lass busted out in several films I watched in my pre- and post-pubescent years, including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and At the Earth’s Core. Some of the characters she’s played over the years had names such as Dia, Evil Priestess, and Mystic Mary, so Stella Star isn’t a huge leap.

For a while we thought Christopher Plummer could’ve gotten away with saying he never fully appeared in the movie, but he slipped up, and there he was, all non-holographic and everything. Mr. Plummer played the Emperor of the Galaxy, and here’s one of the places where they got really creative with making it not at all like Star Wars. They made the Emperor a good guy and not a bad guy. Huh? How about that? Not only that, but you wanna know what they named the Big Bad Ugly in Crash? Zarth Arn. No, that doesn’t make me think of that other guy at all. What was his name? Garth Raider or something.

There were several things to love about this movie, none of which had anything to do with quality, but that sure didn’t stop us from enjoying it in a Mystery Science Theaters kind of way. Besides all the pretty flashing lights, we had spaceships made from Dixie cups, buttons, cans of talcum powder, and all manner of random household items. There were some interior shots of dishwashers, and, you know that opening sequence of the original Star Wars where the pointy triangle-shaped spaceship flies past the camera, doing that vanishing-point perspective thing? Well, they got really good at that shot in Crash, as they used it a lot. A whole lot. No, make that a whole, whole lot.

Starcrash (or The Adventures of Stella Star or Star Battle Encounters or its original Italian title, Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione) warped onto screens all over the world with an initial release date of 12/21/1978 in West Germany. Italy would have to wait until January, 1979.

The director, Luigi Cozzi (although he went by Lewis Coates quite a bit) also brought us Hercules (1983), The Adventures of Hercules II (1985), both starring Lou “The Hulk” Ferrigno, and 1989’s Paganini Horror. I may have to check out the Paganini Horror.

If you’re really wanting to dose yourself out on some other good ol’ Star Wars mimicry, check out Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Hardware Wars (1978), or Star Odyssey (1979). Not sure about availability of any of these, but good luck, and may the farce be with you.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Central City Days, Gotham Nights

I’m finally excited about a couple of new shows on the tube (yeah, I still call it the tube – can’t help it). Gotham and The Flash. And I like them for different reasons.

First off, I was a superhero kid. My three faves from way back when, starting in the early 60’s, were Batman, Superman, and The Flash, in no particular order. And I still read Batman and Superman comics. Not so keen on The Flash as I don’t care for the new artwork.

Anyway, with Gotham and The Flash, yeah, I pretty much have to be in front of the TV, watching, when they come on. I time-shift them, too, so I can re-watch them. Now, last night I hadn’t planned on watching The Flash. I was taping the show and planned on watching it tonight or tomorrow. I sat at my desk downstairs to write, uhhh… okay, I was going to play one of my video games. So, I’m all set up to play and The Flash started up. Nope, had to plop down and watch it live. And the only other show I do that with is Gotham. Once upon a time I was hooked on a brilliantly well-done animated superhero show called Young Justice, but the TV gods said, “Nope, you’re not watching it anymore,” and away it went.

Watched the 4th episode of Gotham Monday night. They’re doing a good job of spending a little time for development on each of the major players, although we didn’t have Selina Kyle the other night. Getting some good development on Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin) and his psychopathic rise to power. Had a couple of Bruce Wayne/Alfred scenes, showing Bruce’s growing obsession with tracking down the baddies. No tech yet, it’s back to good ol’ poring over files and photos, doing actual detective work (DC – Detective Comics. Remember?) My main complaint with the Bruce and Alfred and occasionally Jim Gordon scenes is they always take place in that one crowded room with the fireplace. Aren’t there any other rooms in this huge, rambling mansion? We’ve had a couple of scenes of the front of the place, but that’s about it. I want to see more of the estate.

The Facebook group I discuss Gotham with (gotta say, that’s a lot of fun – hi, folks!) and I aren’t taken with the Barbara Kean (eventually, Batgirl) character. She’s not really working for me. But one of my favorite characters is Alfred. This edgier Alfred, I’m guessing, will eventually train Bruce some, but they’re not really taking us in that direction yet.

So far we’ve had a couple of throw-away crazies in the last two episodes, each with their own way of whacking the Gotham citizenry. Mainly these two or so nut jobs are just there to give Harv (Detective Bullock) and Gordon cases to work on and to show the darker side of Gotham. The real stories happen in the background with the slow, steady development of Penguin and Cat (Catwoman, eventually). Then, there’s Jada Pinkett Smith as crime boss Fish Mooney. Man, she is, as I described her the other night, pure delicious evil. Problem for Fish is, however, her boss, Falcone, is even more evil than she is.

Now, The Flash is a different show from Gotham. For one thing, Barry Allen (the Flash) isn’t Bruce Wayne, nor should he be. He’s a straight-up guy, no dark side to him. He operates mostly in the daylight. Batman is at his best at night.

The main draw for me, so far, with The Flash, is the guy who plays him – Grant Gustin. I haven’t seen his work before, but I really like the guy and the way he’s portraying Barry/Flash. He’s completely likeable. Plus, the actor who plays his father, John Wesley Shipp, played The Flash in the 1990/1991 series. It’s a little hard for me to realize it’s been 24 years since that version of The Flash was on TV. I mean, I still have my videotaped copies from back then. Jeez. Anyway, I loved the show back then and I love it now. And they’re playing it smart as far as the creation of supervillains.

One of the problems for all of us uber-geeks has always been, okay, we’ve got this one super man/woman/boy/girl who takes care of this one city. Where do all the supervillains come from? Well, they borrowed an idea from the TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Smallville. To give Buffy a vampire of the week they explained it with the location of the town where she lived. It was situated over or near Hellmouth, a portal or something that kept popping out demons, vampires, and all manner of other things going bump in the night. Then, in Smallville, it was in the path of a bunch of “meteor rocks” (what we know as kryptonite) that rained down right about the time Clark’s spaceship crash-landed. And, wouldn’t you know it, those rocks spewed out radiation that randomly turned some of the Smallvillians into super-duper freakazoids.

That being said, what they’ve done with The Flash is explain the origin of Barry’s super-speed with a particle accelerator explosion that created the lightning bolt that nailed him. That same particle accelerator incident randomly clobbered other folks in his city, and we’ve already been introduced to two of the sub-atomic particle-generated evildoers.

If you’re into superhero shows at all, these two are well worth your while. I just hope the all-high-muckety-muck powers-that-be decide to leave them on the air.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Quite an Overbite You’ve Got There

horror-of-the-blood-monsters

Weird, wild, and wonderful. The three W’s. Wendy and I just finished watching a whacked-out Italian science fiction/horror film from 1970 called Horror of the Blood Monsters. This is right during the peak of the drive-in movie trasharama era. Joe Bob Briggs would love it. In fact, I might’ve seen it at one time or another at the drive-in. If I saw it back then I most likely filtered it with beer.

It had everything we love in this style of flick. Editing bloops and bleeps, bad acting, space ships, an orgasmatron, vampires, dinosaurs, cave people, crab people, flying bat/monkey whatevers, and bright, bright colors. Oh, and John Carradine. It had John Carradine.

Let’s see, we start things rolling with night-time shots on Earth and people getting bitten by a variety of vampires. Victims and vamps were played by the producer and his friends. Then we’re flying off into space in a model rocket powered by a Bic lighter. The ship has a problem and lands on a planet where the atmosphere changes from green to blue to yellow to red. If it’s red, bad stuff happens. Our intrepid crew climb out on what looks like a hardware store extension ladder in search of stuff to fix the ship. They meet two tribes of cave dwellers — one with normal teeth, the other with these really kitschy Spencer’s Gifts vampire teeth. The good tribe, the ones with normal teeth, know where the crew can get some fire water to get their ship going again. Meanwhile, John Carradine is back on the ship having absolutely the mildest coronary attack ever.

One of our space dudes falls in love with a cave girl. She wears a designer swim suit and loves him too, but he dies because he’s breathing the poisonous air, so that never went anywhere. One half the crew make it back to the ship where John Carradine is all better now. They take off and John Carradine says some pithy words of wisdom as they fly home.

The End.

Al Adamson, the director/producer of this fine mess, thrived from ‘61 to ‘83 cranking out drive-in fare such as this. A couple of his other titles are Psycho a Go-Go (1965) and Brain of Blood (1971).

Sue McNair wrote this beast. She went on to head up a Fortune 500 company. No, just kidding. After she wrote her one and only screenplay, I have no idea what she did.

Jennifer Bishop, the swim suit-wearing cave woman, followed up this movie with Bigfoot (1970).

‘til next time… Adios.

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