Wait, was that the Antidote I Drank, or….?

The Ghost

Wendy and I just got finished watching another Barbara Steele spooker called The Ghost, after watching Nightmare Castle just two nights ago. This one is on a 4-disc compilation titled Horror: Do Not Watch Alone from TGG Direct. Ghost is on the same disc that Nightmare Castle is on and suffers some of the same issues, namely tracking issues. The images are a tad grainy, too, all of which makes me think these were burned from a tape copy at some point. Audio’s still good, which is surprising.
I thought we’d do like we usually do, which is to watch a movie over a several night period at supper, but Ghost hooked us. We both love these Gothic creepfests, and this one delivered. Got to say, we’re late-comers to the Barbara Steele camp, but the more we watch the better we like her. She ranges smoothly from seducer to victim to just plain whacked-out.

First released on March 30th, 1963, it didn’t make it to the U.S. Until February 18th, 1965, in Dallas, TX. Titled The Ghost for American audiences, the original titles were Lo spettro, Lo spettro de Dr. Hitchcock, or The Spectre. Seems that ol’ Dr. Hitchcock just won’t stay buried as this one apparently picks up from 1962’s The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock.

Similar to Nightmare Castle, we have the old dark house setting (or castle), thunder and lightning, creepy housekeeper, and a deadly love triangle. Although, in Castle, it was more of a quintangle. Oh, yeah, and there’s bad love in the greenhouse in both movies. That should be one more guideline for characters in horror flicks, right up there with, “Don’t go off by yourself” – if you’re gonna mess around, stay out of greenhouses.

Ol’ Doc Hitchcock is a-knock knock knockin’ at heaven’s door, although for the doc it’s probably not heaven’s door he’s really knockin’ at. Ghost is the sequel to 1962’s The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock. I’ve not seen that one, but from what little I read, the bad doctor loves playing with dead things, and has a history of dancing around that border country of the black arts and black science. At the beginning of Ghost, Doc Hitch is wheelchair-bound and getting regular injections from young Dr. Charles Livingstone (Peter Baldwin, who’s done more directing in his career than acting) to hopefully cure him from the paralysis that grips him. Unfortunately for Dr. H, young Dr. Livingstone and Dr. H’s wife, Margaret (Barbara Steele) are messing around and Mrs. H wants Dr. Livingstone, I presume, to up Dr. H’s meds so Dr. H will kick off, leaving Dr. H’s fortune behind.

Unfortunately for Dr. Livingstone and Margaret, Dr. H has a lot of experience playing around with that border country between life and death (the whole undead/mostly dead/not dead yet thing), and he’s tougher to bump off than Rasputin.

What follows is a good deal of red herrings as we, along with our players, try to figure out who’s dead, who’s alive, and who wants to off and/or double-cross who. Ghost has a good creep factor, and with the extra mysteries, it makes for a fun Gothic viewing.

Director Riccardo Freda (he also goes by Richard Hamton or Richard Hampton) worked with Barbara Steele on this project and the prequel, The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, although Doc Hitch went from Dr. Bernard Hitchcock in the first one to Dr. John Hitchcock in Ghost. To make things even more confusing, John Hitchcock was played by Elio Jotta, also known as Leonard G. Elliot; Robert Flemyng (also known as Robert Flemyng) played Bernard Hitchcock. Wonder if he was something like Dr. Who?

‘til next time… Adios.

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Don’t Get in the Bathtub, Doctor!

nightmare-castle

We get things rolling immediately with this old dark house spooker — an argument between husband and wife in his laboratory, and the housekeeper lurking nearby. Gotta say, though, they could’ve done a better job with the housekeeper’s makeup. It looks like they coated her face with Plaster of Paris.

Nightmare Castle offers something for everyone — laboratories, a love triangle (or quintangle?), betrayal, immortality, revenge, electricity, torture, storms, an old dark castle, vengeful spirits, and Barbara Steele!

Barbara Steele plays the wife in question, Muriel Arrowsmith, and Paul Muller is her experimenting husband, Dr. Stephen Arrowsmith. She has the money and he has the laboratory. Seems that she’s in love with the stable-hand and Stephen’s in love with Muriel’s money. Of course, there’s Solange (Helga Line), the housekeeper, who we suspect Stephen is messing around with on the side. Dr. A plots to whack the two lovers, removing their hearts, and using Muriel’s blood to return Solange’s youth. Conveniently, Muriel has a sister, Jenny, who looks just like Muriel (who is dead now but oh-so-restless). Dr. A plans to marry Jenny, then off her for the money.

Like I said, Nightmare has it all. Wonderfully derivative at times, we have a touch of Gaslight, a little Tell-Tale Heart, and a Frankenstein tribute, all thrown in to this entertaining Italian Gothic fright-fest. It’s very much Poe-esque as well.

Surprisingly the story flows well and keeps moving, even with all the horror elements in the mix. And that’s considering that the version we watched at our Classic Horror Film Club last night (thank you, Heather, and staff at the Tates Creek Library) is possibly a cut-down, re-edited version. I’d prefer watching it with subtitles as sometimes the dialogue didn’t quite work at times. It was obvious this is also a copy of a VHS version as there were a couple of tracking problems, and we watched it on a DVD. I’d like to see if I could find an original version (or as close to original as possible).

The director, Mario Caiano, has taken on several names over his career. For Nightmare he’s listed as Allen Grunewald (with the two little dots over the ‘u’), but he’s also gone by William Hawkins, Edoardo Re, Fred Wilson, and Manfred Riegert). One of his claims to fame is that he directed the first Italian western, Il segno del coyote (no Clint Eastwood in here), set in California, and sounding very Zorro-ish, as the other title is The Sign of the Coyote, about an avenging masked character called the Coyote.

Barbara Steele started out in a minor, uncredited role in Houseboat (1958), then quickly moved on to more powerful roles, her breakout being in the dual roles of Katia Vajda and Princess Asa Vajda, in the Italian horror classic, Black Sunday (1960). Over the years, Ms. Steele has played several dual roles in films such as The Long Hair of Death (1964), An Angel for Satan (1966), and the reprise of Dark Shadows on television in 1991. Her dual roles in Nightmare are excellent as she melts from the darkly sinister Muriel to her innocent and meek sister, Jenny.

Husband Dr. Arrowsmith, played slickly evil by Paul Muller, is a pleasure to watch. I would love to hear the actor’s voice in the non-dubbed version, though, as each word oozes out so deliciously conniving. Mr. Muller (Paul Miller in Nightmare) has had a long career acting, beginning in 1948 and continuing until 2004. Born in 1923, he’s still alive, with 241 roles to his credit. Most impressive, Mr. Muller.

Almost forgot to mention the musical score was done by Ennio Morricone, famous for so many Italian Westerns (among others), with 527 musical compositions for film to his credit.  So far.  He’s still working, folks!  Now that’s truly outstanding!

If you like old black-and-white Gothic scarefests, don’t miss this one. Though it’s been called a “… sadistic movie”, I disagree. The scenes of torture are mostly off-camera, more implied than anything else. I can turn on network TV at any point and see a whole lot worse, I guarantee you.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Faster than a Speeding Lawyer…

Sheldon Flash

Guess I’d better brush up on my legal terms, as I just checked out the upcoming lineup of this fall’s TV shows and there are more cop/lawyer/judge shows than you can shake a gavel at. We’ve got judges who are good on the bench, bad off the bench (Bad Judge) – yeah, shows about people who are terrific professionally but terrible personally have never been done before; an immortal medical examiner who, every time he’s killed, returns from his dirt nap naked (Forever) – another immortal cop/detective? Yeah, once again; Gracepoint is a cop drama with murder, media circus, and Nick Nolte – I might watch it to see what kind of shape Nick’s in these days; Intruders — a former L. A. cop looking to hang up his six-shooter but gets pulled back in with murder, secret societies, immortality (again immortality?), and assassins – shades of the Da Vinci Code; NCIS: New Orleans – is there a city they haven’t hit yet? Well, at least there’ll be the music in the background; Scorpion – nerds solving the world’s problems – who’ll play Sheldon? – Big Bang Theory takes on the world; Stalker, about the LAPD stalking, well… stalkers – ‘nuff said; and How to Get Away With Murder, about a tough law professor – anyone see The Paper Chase?

We’ve got a couple of CIA-themed shows – State of Affairs and Madam Secretary.

Let’s not leave out the Rom Coms. There’s A to Z, about Andrew and Zelda. Get it; The Affair, about, aw, you guessed it. Affairs; Manhattan Love Story – “… awkward first date and subsequent budding romance.” – according to TV Guide – oh well; Marry Me, about a couple who, for whatever reason, keep goofing up the marriage proposal – hey, I don’t make this stuff up, folks – this is gonna be a series?

Gotta have at least one zombie show. This one’s called Z Nation – most of the world’s all zombified now, save for our small, ragtag band of survivors, and they’re taking the one unaffected person coast to coast. Absolutely nothing can go wrong… go wrong… go wrong…

And for us superhero junkies, we have Gotham. We’re winding the clock back further in this latest origin story about the guy in the bat suit, and the beginnings of Commissioner Gordon, The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, etc. There’s also an updated version of The Flash, a new show about the Scarlet Speedster. We even have TV’s first Flash, from 1990 and 1991 (John Wesley Shipp) as the new Barry Allen’s dad. I’m hopeful about these two, but the jury’s still out. Looks like I won’t have any trouble getting a jury, though. I’ll just grab ‘em from one of the cop/lawyer shows.

‘til next time… Adios.

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I Don’t Care if the Power’s Out, Where the Hell is My Coffee?

No Coffee

And so it begins. I get to work this morning, walk up to the back of the building and see four folks hanging around the back door. I notice they’re not smoking. Usually we have a couple of smokers out back, but no smokers this time.
“Waitin’ on the bus?” I sarcastically asked the group.
“No power,” several of them responded.
“Hmm,” I thought, “looks like this’ll be an interesting morning.”
Never slowed down by little things like power outages, I figured I’d go inside, dark-adapt a little, have a look-see. Wasn’t sure if my badge would work to let me in, but there were a couple of ladies inside who opened the door.
So I went in.
Yep, I thought. Dark in here.
It wasn’t pitch black, as there was a bit of ambient light from a distant window or two or the occasional fluorescent light that still happened to work. Ah, you know, old distillery, no telling what the circuit layout looks like.
Made my way to my cube, felt around a minute as I set my stuff down where I wouldn’t trip over it. Found my chair, the desk, hung up my hat.
First order of business after an hour commute — pee.
Made my way to the bathroom. Really dark in there, but I felt around, found the urinal. Sound was right, so I was hitting it okay. Washed my hands, headed back to the cube.
Saw Buck, one of my coworkers down the aisle from me. Said the coffee-maker worked. Various gods be praised! Well, I wasn’t sure how everything would transpire, but at least I’d have the black stuff. That one area, where the coffee-maker and microwave resided, still had juice. Like I said, old building. I would soon discover tiny oases of light or power scattered about through the darkness.
Fired up some coffee, then figured I’d see what I could do about some personal light. Had my iPhone, so I downloaded one of the free flashlight apps, which worked beautifully, but I knew I’d need to be conservative with it as it would probably suck the battery dry.
Coffee good. Got flashlight, so I was home-free. Had a working outlet or two at Java the Hut (our name for the coffee, microwave, snack area) so I could charge the phone and laptop, so I was set.
Now comes the fun part.
Someone said Conference Room A had lights and people were setting up there.
My first mistake.
I listened to them, grabbed the essentials (coffee, laptop, in that order), headed that way.
Only one person in there so far, and she said there were only lights, no power, which meant that after a couple of hours or so the laptop would be a brick.
So I headed back to my cube, essentials in hand.
Then someone says for folks to set up in Conference Room A and that power should be restored within a couple of hours.
I sighed and heaved everything back to Conference Room A, with a limited lifespan laptop.
Cranked up the laptop, couldn’t get connected to the network. Here’s where the media part comes in. Media, of course, reduced to its original verbal form.
Immediately following this I heard (as everything was oral at this point, and had been all morning long) that some folks were going to the State Office Building. I had also heard some were going to yet another state gov’t. Building.
Forgot to mention that earlier, Unknown Person in Charge told someone to head home and telecommute as it wasn’t safe to bang around in a dark building. She said she would send (or had sent, I don’t remember which now) our division director an email suggesting that. Was she able to send an email? I don’t know.
So we had at least four scenarios:
Some people staying at their cubes
Some heading to one state building
Some heading to another state building
Still others heading home to telecommute
Were there others that just said hell with it and went fishing?

At this point I made an executive decision, grabbed my stuff, and told a group of folks I was heading home to finish the rest of the day. The group of folks were intently discussing matters. I wonder if their discussion could somehow magically turn the juice back on. But I didn’t stick around to find out, as I was heading down the road to grab breakfast then make my way back home.
We’ve had emergency drills, tons of them, for fire, tornadoes, all manner of emergencies. But here we have a simple loss of power, not what I consider an emergency at all (unless someone needs it for life-support), and there was just a laughable amount of chaos and indecision.
What the hell happened?
‘til next time… Adios.

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Live from the Meeting Zone

Meeting

Just read a bit of science fiction online. Or perhaps it’s fantasy.

Definition of a ‘meeting’ from businessdictionary.com. Y’know, I figured that a site with the word ‘business’ in it would have some semblance of reality, but… Oh yeah, I think I know the root of the problem. It’s because the word ‘business’ is in the site name. That’s exactly the problem.

At any rate, I looked up the definition of ‘meeting’ on this site and here’s what it has — Formal or informal deliberative assembly of individuals called to debate certain issues and problems, and to take decisions.

Now, after finished snorting my coffee out my nose, and caught my breath, the first question came to mind. The definition talks about a meeting being a place where we can debate issues and problems. Okay, stop laughing, you guys. What if the problem we need to debate is the fact the meeting keeps getting cancelled?

Had two times that happened today. All because, apparently, everyone can’t play in the same sandbox without first having to whack someone else on the head with his or her little plastic shovel. All this started me down that rabbit hole of….

What if I made a movie about a meeting? Hmm….

You’ve been invited to a meeting you have no prior knowledge of, by a manager you never heard of, concerning a non-existent project, and you get to the room where it’s supposed to be held. Room #13. The lights are off. You’re the only one there. And…. there’s no coffee and no donuts. Noooo! You’ve just entered… The Meeting Zone. Possible titles: Night of the Living Meetings, Curse of the Meetings, The Meetings that Time Forgot, The Meeting that Never Was.

I just had another thought (it happens occasionally). I think meetings would go better if you took a monkey. Or send the monkey in your place. I know, I know, animal cruelty, but hey! They have to see they’re not the only ones in captivity.

Here’s a fun meeting activity I’m going to try next time I go to a meeting that’s actually held (that’s called fantasy). At some random point, perhaps when things are at their most hectic and confusing, I’ll bang my fist on the table and shout, “What I want to know is, who’s going to handle the Colossus Project? The deadline’s approaching, you know.” Then, I’ll gather all my stuff, jump up, and run for the door, mumbling, “Man, I’m already late for that one.”

‘til next time… Adios.

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Hold on, Let Me Tune My Armpit

Armpit Fart

Speaking of media, I was thinking about the last time I did an armpit fart, or heard anyone producing one. Then I became curious as to whether or not this gift could take one into the musical profession. And, as music is simply a form of media, there we go.

So, I started digging and found there’s a lot happening as far as musically-inclined armpit farters.

And not just armpit farters. But we’ll get into that in a couple of minutes.

First off, I thought I’d look up armpit fart in various dictionaries to see how ‘up’ they are on musical terminology. And, before we go there, let’s look at the motivation for making music with our bodies. If we ever go all post-Armageddon and we don’t have electricity for our musical devices, then we need some way to make music, soooo…..

Well, Merriam-Webster was a disappointment. They don’t recognize armpit fart. Nor the American Heritage dictionary. Oxford and Cambridge don’t either. Aha! Dictionary.com does. And good ol’ Wiktionary defines it as — A simulation of the sound of flatulence made by creating a pocket of air between the armpit of a partially raised arm and the hand, and then swiftly closing this pocket by bringing the arm close to the torso.

Now, as far as the music. Check out this fellow. Clearly, he belongs on World’s Got Talent — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlXux_B5HGQ

Then we have mouth percussion, the sounds we discovered as kids where we thumped our mouths with our hands, producing all kinds of really cool drum-like and popping sounds. Here’s a guy who’s taken it up a notch — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYvKE0Wfqp8

Now I consider it cheating a bit as the next folks use an actual instrument, it’s still an amazing talent. The world of nose flutes — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj6G0vSrv8c

Next we get into whole body percussion, using your entire body as an instrument. These folks have it.

One day I can see an entire orchestra using all the styles.  Just something different for a musical Wednesday.

‘til next time… Adios.

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Was that a Flying Cow?

tornad4

How many times can you say “Everybody okay?” in a movie?

If it’s Into the Storm, apparently there’s no limit, as just about every disaster scene has at least one of our strong characters asking it, even and especially
when, no, everyone’s not okay.

This latest bad-weather-themed disaster flick plays like an amped-up Twister (1996), but with better special effects. The tornado sequences are good, and one of the improvements is that they don’t growl. But it’s still a disaster film, so it has to follow the standard disaster movie format.

Let’s see…. We’ve got our widowed father who’s the principal of the high school where his two teenage sons go. Yup. Oh, and he’s a good dad but a little too preoccupied with his job.

There’s the driven and hard-driving storm-chaser, Pete (Matt Walsh), who’s a bit of a jerk, but he’s “… Put his whole life into… “ building the ultimate storm-chasing tank called Titus. Check.

Got the young, attractive PhD. who argues with Pete because Pete goes on instinct and she goes with the data. So we have that little battle going on. And she hasn’t seen her 5-year-old daughter for 3 months because she’s been on the road, chasing. Got it.

Back to the two teenage sons of the principal. Both are good kids, but the one is president of the Video Club and is supposed to interview people for their high school graduation (which is held outside, which is directly in the path of the batch of tornadoes that “… Has never happened before…”), but he’s gone off to help his high school crush get video footage of a hazardous waste site, which is also in the path of the monster twisters… Uh huh.

And it wouldn’t be complete without some comic relief in the form of a couple of fun-lovin’, beer-drinkin’ good ol’ boys who tag along with the chasers. Yeehaa!

Okay, I think we’ve got ourselves a disaster movie.

It’s shot in that docudrama, found footage method. That in itself becomes funny as nearly everyone has an i-something-or-other or a recording device, and they’re all recording each other recording each other.

What I always love about these is mapping out beforehand who’s gonna check out and who’s not. After watching enough of these things you pretty well know after the first few intros. Best thing about these flicks is the special effects work. They even gave a nod to their predecessor, Twister, by having a quick shot of a giant plastic cow that was blown off a building.

Thought they were gonna give Sharknado a nod, but I reckon not.

Catch it at a matinee. Don’t pay full price, but watch it Big Screen as it’s a hoot.

‘til next time… Adios.

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