Saturday, October 31, 2015

Things That Scare Me #13: Oral Storytelling


This is the print version of a post that appeared on Psychobabble in audio form as my one and only podcast five years ago today. It was part of my long dormant series Things that Scare Me, in which I evaluated whether or not I was justified in being terrified of the many, many things that terrified me when I was an overly terrified kid. Enjoy!

Things That Scare Me #13: Oral Storytelling

My experience with scary stories began when I was four or five years old. My sister was having a slumber party for her birthday and my prankster parents decided this would be a terrific opportunity to traumatize their kids and a gang of neighborhood kids. The evening began with everyone gathered in the living room and perched on their sleeping bags, the lights dimmed, and my mother hovering over us with an arsenal of classic ghost stories. The first one she read was based on an old Washington Irving story called “The Adventure of the German Student”. Irving’s tale is about a college boy who encounters a forlorn young woman in Paris during the French revolution. She wears a black ribbon around her neck, which she refuses to remove under any circumstances. The terrifying denouement of the story reveals her to be a victim of the guillotine who wears the ribbon to tether her severed head to her severed neck. This print story was later simplified for its oral version, re-titled and re-tinted and passed from person to person as “The Green Ribbon”. This was the version of the story my mother told at that slumber party.

The next story was less dependent on plot and more on the way it was told. It was a story called “The Golden Arm”, which tells of a man who marries a woman with a golden arm, an object he covets till the day she dies. At that point, he sneaks out into the night, digs up her body, and swipes it. Creeping home in the night, he begins hearing a ghostly voice calling “Who stole my golden arm?” The phrase is repeated over and over with mounting intensity until, finally, the storyteller grabs the nearest listener and screams “You did!” Everyone jumps and everyone pees.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 31


The Date: October 31
The Movie: Halloween (1978)

What Is It?: John Carpenter slaps a Bill Shatner mask on Tony Moran and shoves a kitchen knife in his hand and—voilà —a whole new horror genre is born. Horny teenagers will never be safe again.

Why Today?: No reason.

Friday, October 30, 2015

It's the Psychobabble Halloween Special!


With its rituals of begging for candy, playing dress up, and believing in the kinds of things you should stop believing in at age seven—Flying witches! Ghosts! Werewolves! Pumpkins!—Halloween is definitely a kids holiday. I admit that even as I get more into Halloween the older I get. That’s because adult children such as myself can indulge in a month-long orgy of horror movies with content way to axe-centric for Trick-or-Treating tykes. When it comes to feature films, the kids are mostly shut out despite a few seasonal kid-friendly flicks like Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and Mad Monster Party (am I dating myself with my references? Nah.). Kids generally need to turn to the small screen for their Halloween entertainment. Fortunately, there’s plenty of Halloween entertainment on TV to eliminate the dangers of playing outside in the late-October fresh air. At least there have been since the late 1970s when annually aired Halloween specials really became a thing on TV. Before that period, specials popped up pretty infrequently outside of spooky episodes of “Bewitched”  (“Trick or Treat”; “Twitch or Treat”) or “The Beverly Hillbillies” (“Trick or Treat”—are you sensing a lack of imagination here?). Other shows like “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Monkees” really blew it by airing episodes such as “Ghost a Go-Go” and “The Monstrous Monkee Mash” far removed from the holiday (and both series aired shows on October 31st during their runs, so the scheduling was extra stupid).

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 30


The Date: October 30

The Movie: Frankenstein (1931)

What Is It?: Now that you’ve watched the superior sequel, you can backtrack a bit and watch the original. Karloff's monster is a triumph of pathos. Seeing him reach out for the comforting warmth of sunlight and then his creator's affectionate touch, only to be coldly and ignorantly rejected, drops a lump in my throat every time. Jack Pierce's makeup work is the finest in cinema history. Colin Clive brings sweaty intensity to the title character and Dwight Frye is wicked as his sadistic assistant. This movie is a walking, talking Halloween decoration.

Why Today?: Today is Frankenstein Day.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 29


The Date: October 29

The Movie: The Black Cat (1934)

What Is It?: The single greatest showdown between Karloff and Lugosi throws Poe out the window and drags in some serious sadism and art deco architecture.

Why Today?: Today is National Cat Day. But don’t tell Lugosi’s Dr. Vitus Werdegast… he has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats…

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 28


The Date: October 28

The Movie: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

What Is It?: The rare sequel that’s better than the original; the rare movie that’s better than almost every other movie; the most fun you’ll ever have watching monsters, murderers, and homunculi. Bride is also the very,very rare Universalmonster movie in which the people are as much fun to watch as the monsters. Everything that comes out of Ernest Thesiger's mouth is spun gold.

Why Today?: On this day in 1902, Bride Elsa Lanchester was born.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: 'Haunted Horror: Pre-Code Comics So Good, They’re Scary!'


After a relatively disappointing second volume, Craig Yoe’s Haunted Horror series more than gets back on track with volume three. Gathering obscure stories from largely forgotten horror comics, Haunted Horror: Pre-Code Comics So Good, They’re Scary! does this both by aping the undisputed greatest of horror comics and by hacking out its own unique path. “Fate of Alberto” from Tales of Horror features a bulge-eyed ringer for The Old Witch. Harvested from Horror from the Tomb, and introduced by a host called The Graveyard Keeper, “The Bone Man” is a gruesomely ironic tale worthy of Bill Gaines. Even more on point is the similarly ironic thing-from-the-grave story “Flame Thrower!” from Mysterious Adventures, which features running commentary from a Crypt Keeper clone who refers to us readers as “kiddies” and welcomes us into “The Haunt of Horror”! Perhaps the artwork of such tales isn’t quite up to Jack Davis or Graham Ingels standards, but the writing is good enough to keep you from yelling “rip off!” and IDW’s organic presentation makes these pieces feel more authentic than the digitally bastardized comics Dark Horse is currently peddling in its E.C. Archives series.

There’s a lot of true originality in volume three too, as Vince Napoli’s etched-in-black artwork for “Almost Human” (Beware) is quite unlike anything in E.C.’s archives. In “The Nameless Terror of Twin Dunes”, Bill Fraccio keeps unleashing weird intruders that have nothing to do with the plot through the pages, and it makes a story that is already genuinely creepy even more unsettling. “Death’s Beggar” (Strange Stories from Another World) exploits a wonderfully Halloweeny atmosphere, and “The Uninvited” (Beware) is just straight up bizarre. There’s also a refreshing clawful of sci-fi horror stories that contrast the stock witches, ghouls, and walking corpses nicely. Its sometimes comfortably traditional, sometimes wildly outlandish tales may make Pre-Code Comics So Good, They’re Scary! the best Haunted Horror collection yet. Get it on Amazon.com here:

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 27


The Date: October 27
The Movie: C.H.U.D. (1984)
What Is It?: Despite its punch-line reputation C.H.U.D. is actually a pretty serious, even dry, monster movie about nuclear mutants with a fairly sympathetic attitude toward New York’s homeless population. The C.H.U.D.s look ridiculous, but they have very little screen time. Daniel Stern is good as a homeless guy bent on stopping the C.H.U.D.s from chudding the shit out of Manhattan. 
Why Today?: On this day in 1904, the first NYC subway line opens.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Psychobabble’s Perfect Horror Rock Box Set Recipe!


Halloween is bearing down on us like a werewolf-powered steamroller, and that means many of you are planning to take the festivities to the psycho level by tossing your own holiday soiree.  You’ve bought your assortment of rums to make the perfect zombie cocktails and gathered all the bits and pieces for your costume (this year you are dressing as Fin Fang Foom and planning to marry the first person who can identify who you’re supposed to be). You’ve hung up all your cardboard Beistel decorations and patted yourself on the back for your unparalleled cleverness for deciding to serve ladyfingers. All that’s left is selecting the right music to set the horrific mood. Now if you could only remember where you left those scratched up copies of “Monster Mash” and “Purple People Eater”… 
You.
STOP RIGHT THERE! You are officially on notice for your lack of seasonal imagination (well, aside from the whole Fin Fang Foom thing. That’s actually pretty original). Don’t worry, though, because Psychobabble has enough imagination for you and all your guests, and I have selected 90 party-stoking tunes that may also inspire your guests to crack open each other’s skulls and feast on the brains inside (which should also save you from having to serve those ladyfingers). Whether you’ve invited a bunch of mohawked punks, calculator-toting prog rockers, pot-reeking hippies, greased up rockers, zoot-suited jazzbos, sharp-as-knives mods, hip soulsters, ironically inclined alterna-rockers, or the coolest kids eating mud pies on your local playground, there is sure to be more than a couple of songs to please your guests in Psychobabble’s Perfect Horror Rock Box Set Recipe!
As is always the case with these posts, Psychobabble demands—no… screams in your face while waving a poorly sharpened axe—that you burn each of the following lists of songs onto actual CDs. You cannot put imaginary MP3s into a box, and a box set has a box. This box will preferably be casket-shaped. As you will notice, each disc is divided by theme: Monsters on Disc One, Ghosts & Devils on Disc Two, Psycho Killers on Disc Three, and Fear, Nightmares, & Death on Disc Four. No artist has been repeated, which means only one track each from such devoted horror rockers as The Damned and The Misfits. I also don’t want to hear any shit from you Alice Cooper fans. I’m not in the mood and I’m still waving that axe.
So without any further jive, get digging through your bins and ready to start burning some discs. 
INGREDIENTS
This is normally the place where I’d tell you all the albums you’d need to make the following discs. That does not make much sense in this case since we’re making a various artists box set. I’ll just leave it up to you to hunt down all the necessary discs. You’re not actually going to make this box set anyway.
DIRECTIONS
Disc One: Monsters

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 26


The Date: October 26

The Movie: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943)

What Is It?: The first monster meeting matches Lugosi’s monster against Chaney’s Wolf Man and the stitches and fur fly. A dry run for  Universal's more expansive monster rallies to follow. Too bad they didn't let Lugosi's monster speak though.

Why Today?: Today is Howl at the Moon Day.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 25


The Date: October 25

The Movie: A Bucket of Blood (1959)

What Is It?: Roger Corman’s classic horror-comedy finds wannabe beatnik Dick Miller going to deadly lengths to create his critic-pleasing art pieces. I wonder if Charles B. Griffith spent a week reading EC Comics before penning this mini-classic.

Why Today?: Today is Artist’s Day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 24


The Date: October 24

The Movie: Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

What Is It?: A strange carnival comes to town, and top-hatted carny Jonathan Price grants wishes for steep prices. Jack Clayton’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel is rich in nostalgia and autumnal atmosphere, and it doesn’t skimp on the terror just because it’s aimed at youngsters. This will really get to you if you have a thing about spiders.

Why Today?: This is the day the carnival comes to town in the novel.

Friday, October 23, 2015

8 Flaws in Universal's Great 8 Monster Movies


From the twenties through the fifties, Universal Studios completely defined horror cinema, bringing iconic literary characters and the exclusive creations of all their Dr. Frankensteins on staff to life. Modern audiences may have trouble relating to these “slow,” black & white films created some eighty or seventy years ago, but they will surely be as familiar with the glowering visages of Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and the Wolf Man as they are with the mugs of Santa Claus or Jesus. For us fans who do not dismiss the best and most enduring of Universal's monster movies—Phantom of the Opera, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and Creature from the Black Lagoon— these are films that defy criticism. Yet each film does have at least one noteworthy flaw. At the risk of ruining your enjoyment of the Gill Man's underwater frolics or the Phantom's floor show, let's take off our fan caps for a second and put on our critical thinking ones instead, because we're about to whine about 8 Flaws in Universal's Great 8 Monster Movies

The Phantom of the Opera

Our first flaw is the most fundamental one on this list. You’ve got a movie called The Phantom of the Opera. You do not have sound. See the problem? Carl Laemmle could have selected any piece of public domain horror literature under the sun. Why choose one in which sound plays such an integral role before the advent of sound cinema? So there are scenes of singing without song, elaborate orchestral performances with only whatever melody the pit organist could pump out. We need to hear Christine’s lovely voice, and this flaw was not one unrecognized in its time. In fact, as soon as sound started invading film in the late twenties, Universal schemed to reissue its flagship horror with the sound the film always demanded. In lieu of original director Rupert Julian (or Lon Chaney, depending on which making-of account you want to believe), new directors Ernst Laemmle and Frank McCormick began shooting replacement footage for half the movie, which enjoyed a successful opening in 1930. Unfortunately, only the soundtrack remains, and a proper reissue of the sound Phantom of the Opera is not currently available. It’s a testament to the original film’s elaborate design and Chaney’s still-terrifying performance as Erik the Phantom that a seemingly major flaw does not really seem that bad when watching a silent film about opera. No sound remake has ever bettered it.

Dracula

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 23


The Date: October 23

The Movie: The Mole People (1956)

What Is It?: No one who hasn't been licking hallucinogenic toads is going to rank The Mole People alongside Frankenstein or Dracula, but it's still a wild little B-level Universal monster flick. It starts off as a nifty adventure picture before taking a sharp detour into weirdsville, which is populated by mutant Mole Men and an Egyptian cult of albinos dressed like Santa's helpers. The introductory monologue by an English professor from the University of South California is as fascinating and ridiculous as the rest of The Mole People

Why Today?: Today is Mole Day.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: 'Kate: Inside the Rainbow' by John Carder Bush


Unlike a lot of solo artists, Kate Bush never really had to go it alone because she always had a very strong and involved support system in her family. Her brother, John Carder Bush, was a particularly powerful presence, both writing and reciting the rap in her awesome “Jig of Life” and shooting the photos that appear on her album covers, promote her work, and most fascinating of all, catch her at her most disarming moments. Much of the latter surely appeared in Cathy, an anthology of images of Kate Bush before her unusually early fame. Her brother is now following up on that volume with Kate: Inside the Rainbow, which captures the artist in her star years (though a few choice shots of his subject as a girl are thrown in to stoke the interest of anyone who hasn’t looked at volume one). Some of pop’s most iconic photo sessions are present between this book’s pages, but it’s the ones that reveal the woman within the star that are the most captivating. Seeing Kate Bush without makeup or big hair, grinning naturally, rubbing her eyes, and cuddling with two huge dogs makes me wish that such a disarming shot appeared on the cover of Hounds of Love. While Bush has a penchant for mugging like a mime on stage and in videos, we see her dropping her jaw for a very candid, utterly natural, and completely disarming "Ha!" on page 40. Bush’s more glamorous and staged shots are in here too, and let’s not dance around the plain truth that she is a gorgeous woman and looks great in these pictures as well. But it’s the ones that didn’t appear on LP sleeves or press releases that make this book really worth owning.

John Carder Bush’s text is pretty great too, as he reveals his poetic gifts without coming off as a pretentious jackass. His biography of his sister is not as extensive as others, but it does come with an insider’s invaluable insight, and his description of his work methods will interest fellow photographers. Amazingly, Carder Bush doesn’t consider himself a professional photographer, even though his work has been used in ways that would make most pros immolate with envy.

My only knock against Inside the Rainbow is that it’s a lovely, big book with big pages, and too often the images are shrunk down in the middle of huge frames of useless whiteness. I realize that this is a pretty standard design decision, but what’s the point of having this book’s impressive size and Carder Bush’s impressive images if you aren’t going to take full advantage of both? Photo books as nice as this one deserve a new standard.

Get Kate: Inside the Rainbow on Amazon.co.uk here:

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 22


The Date: October 22

The Movie: Repulsion (1965)

What Is It?: Sexual repression drives Catherine Deneuve nuts when her sister/roommate leaves her home alone for the weekend. Blood is shed. Arms reach from walls that spontaneously crack. Rabbits go uneaten. Disturbing visuals with a chaotic jazzy score.

Why Today?: On this day in 1943, Catherine Denueve was born. It’s also Nut Day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: 'Mulholland Dr.' on Blu-ray


Getting into “Twin Peaks” in the nineties hipped me to the idea that television could be cinematic, experimental, genuinely scary, and uncomfortably challenging. I tried to sate my yen for such shows with things like “Northern Exposure” and “The X-Files”, but nothing came close to recapturing that air of dreamy creepiness and creeping dreaminess unique to “Twin Peaks”. So when I read that David Lynch would finally be returning to the little screen with a new show called “Mulholland Dr.” for ABC in 1999, I was thrilled. Unfortunately, after seeing Lynch’s pilot, the confounded ninnies at the network passed on it in favor of contemporary classics like “Oh, Grow Up” and “Odd Man Out”. Though heartbroken, Lynch has never been a guy who allows a good idea to go to waste. He reclaimed his 90-minute pilot, shot a new ending for it, and released it theatrically in 2001, thus cobbling together the best feature film of a decade that had barely begun.

(Spoilers Ahead, so you may want to skip to the next bolded heading.)

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 21


The Date: October 21

The Movie: Alligator (1980)

What Is It?: Who’d imagine John Sayles was once the go-to guy for goofy Jaws cash-ins? Like Sayles’s Piranha, Alligator is a witty little satire about an aquatic nightmare. This one is a tyrannosaurus-sized gator named Ramón. I made sure to catch this whenever it ran on TV in the early ‘80s. It’s still a fun way to spend 87 minutes.

Why Today?: Today is Reptile Awareness Day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Review: 'Scream and Scream Again' Blu-ray


It’s probably normal to spend the majority of Scream and Scream Again wondering if Gordon Hessler and his crew committed a botch-job of massive proportions or made a conscious stab at abstract art. Hessler’s track record doesn’t make figuring this out any easier since he directed his share of good pictures (The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) and exploitative trash heaps (Cry of the Banshee). Scream and Scream Again falls somewhere in between those poles, and in this case, it’s probably wisest just to go with the flow and take in its sundry oddities without thinking about any of it too deeply. Half the picture is a political thriller in which a member of some sort of Nazi-esque military organization keeps pinching people to death. The other half finds a bloodsucking serial murderer/rapist terrorizing a London nightspot called The Busted Pot. Why any swinging hippie would attend a joint with a name like that is anyone’s guess. It’s like naming a brothel “The Crab Trap.” Oops! Sorry. I promise not to think so much anymore.

The two disparate plots basically come together in the end, but the film works best as a random scattering of weird bits and pieces. A jogger collapses and wakes in hospital to discover his limbs keep disappearing (in an impressive feat of esoteric referencing, “The X-Files” would parody this bit decades later). The Amen Corner caterwaul the title tune as a bunch of hipsters gyrate to the music (groovy fact: key sixties producer Shel Talmy is credited as musical director of the movie!). There are references to Frankenstein and vampire movies, and the three biggest horror stars of the day all make appearances, though Vincent Price and Christopher Lee play important yet fleeting roles and Peter Cushing barely puts in a cameo. Nevertheless, some critics are uncomfortable classifying Scream and Scream Again as a true horror movie, and it plays with sci-fi and political thriller conventions too (maybe the spy-movie soundtrack music is the filmmaker’s attempt to nudge us into taking the film as the latter). Really, though, Scream and Scream Again is really just one kind of movie: cuckoo.

Twilight Time’s new blu-ray edition of Scream and Scream Again is beset by near constant scratches and speckles, but the extras are a nice bunch. There’s a 23-minute featurette on Hessler’s films for AIP and it makes a pretty good case that the feature presentation is actually better than it seems (I'm not buying the praise for Cry of the Banshee, though. Blecch), a 9-minute interview with Uta Levka, who plays a super nurse in the movie (she’s very forthright on her feelings about Lee and Price), and a feature commentary with Tim Sullivan and David Del Valle. Get the blu-ray on Twilight Time’s official site here.

Wow! Check out the new restoration of "The Monkees" Coming on Blu-ray Next Year

All of the details of Rhino's upcoming Blu-ray edition of "The Monkees" have yet to be released (I'm still holding onto my hope that it will include alternate music tracks for episodes that had different songs in reruns), but the band's official YouTube page recently posted a video showing off the restoration of the series. Wisely, the Powers That Be chose to show off their restoration of the episode that looked most awful in its unrestored incarnation: "The Monkees in Paris". Is this even the same show?

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 20


The Date: October 20

The Movie: The Blair Witch Project (1999)

What Is It?: The movie that sparked the found-footage horror craze is either the scariest movie ever made or the biggest con in the world. I believe the former. The very legitimately frightened cast ooze all that fear onto the screen, and there are several unbearably terrifying scare scenes. But even shots as mundane as a bunch of sticks dangling from trees and a guy standing in a corner are absolutely terrifying.

Why Today?: On this day in 1994, the three film students began the trip from which they’d never return. Only their footage remains.

Correction: Due to a sloppy screw up on my part, I entered the wrong film for yesterday's installment of 366 Days at the Drive-In. So that film has been changed and yesterday's incorrect movie is piggybacking on today's selection:

The Date: October 20

The Movie: Dracula (1931)

What Is It?: Don’t listen to the critics—this is the greatest vampire movie ever made, and every subsequent Dracula movie is inadequate because it doesn’t star Bela Lugosi. And let's not forget Dwight Frye, who nearly heists the film with his crazed yet human portrayal of Renfield. No wonder so many Dracula adaptations did away with the character...who could follow Frye? Lugosi's iconic performance probably would have caused filmmakers to do away with Dracula too if the dude's name wasn't the title of the movie.

Why Today?: On this day in 1882, Bela Lugosi is born.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review: 'Hulaland: The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music'


On its way to becoming Five-0 in 1959, Hawaii became a huge part of fifties Americana as continentals jetted down to the islands to soak in the sun and culture. Consequently, tikis, leis, and hula dancers are as unmistakably fifties as Thunderbirds, sock hops, carhops, Marilyn, and Elvis. Rockbeat Records’ new box set Hulaland: The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music makes its primary mission encapsulating the pacific retro-kitsch of the U.S.’s love affair with its most recent state. Ukuleles, peddle steel and slack-tuned guitars, clattering drums, and goofy pidgen Polynesian catchphrases are all over the music on the set’s four discs. However, as its title suggests, Hulaland is not just a bunch of songs with “Aloha” in the title—it is an attempt to create a fully formed world, and it does so by appealing to the other senses west, east, and south of the ears. Feel the wicker-like texture of the oversized book in which the CDs are nestled. See the pages and pages of gorgeous artwork inside that book: album covers, comic strips, and best of all, delightfully illustrated sheet music covers for tunes with names like “Yaaka Hula Hickey Dula” and “Oh, How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo”. James Austin’s witty liner notes are perfectly in synch with the fragrant mood the entire set is driving toward.

Of course, Hulaland is primarily a collection of music, and the song selections tune in to the balmy mood as marvelously as everything else does. Disc One and Disc Two not only show how Hawaiian culture took over continental jazz, C&W, pop, blues, and R&R in the forties, fifties, and sixties, but they also contain samples of the advertisements, cartoons, radio shows, and TV themes (yes, “Hawaiian Eye” and “Hawaii Five-0” are here) that jumped on the grass-skirted bandwagon. The music on these discs is eclectic, eccentric, and consistently wonderful, and it comes from an assortment of strange bedfellows such as Louis Armstrong, Ethel Merman, The Ventures, Slim Whitman, Gracie Allen, Santo & Johnny, and Betty Boop.

Disc Three focuses on authentic Hawaiian music of the twenties and thirties, and interestingly enough, these pieces are much closer to typical American jazz and C&W than the mass of the first two discs. Still, this is another terrific selection of music even if it lacks the zany variety of the previous tracks. Disc four is even narrower in its focus, with eighteen newly produced numbers by musician and artist Robert Armstrong (the cartoonist behind Mickey Rat). These pieces are pleasant and polished, and there are several definite stand-outs (Elaine Hoffman and Ken and Bob’s “Pidgen English Hula”, Janet Klein and the Parlor Boys’ “Yiddish Hula Boy”, The Parlor Boys’ “Honolulu Stomp”, Ken and Bob’s acoustic cover of “Walk Don’t Run”, The Coconut Trio’s “In a Little Hula Heaven”), but the lack of variation of tempos and arrangements, and the fact that there are only eight different artists present, makes disc four the least enchanting one. However, there is so much to enchant on those other discs and inside the book that this is a non-issue. Overall, Hulaland is a perfectly conceived box set and a place I plan to revisit many, many, many times in the sunshine-baked days and moonlight-bathed nights to come. Aloha!

Get Hulaland: The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music on Amazon.com here:

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 19


The Date: October 19

The Movie: Bride of the Monster (1955)

What Is It?: Janet Lawton (Loretta King) investigates reports of monster-related deaths only to find herself strapped to mad-doctor Bela Lugosi’s operating table. There’s much hulking around by the hulking Tor Johnson, a stock footage octopus, the endlessly screaming victims of an immobile prop octopus, and boobish police investigators, plus all the bad acting, dialogue, props, sets, editing, continuity, stunt work, and cinematography that was Ed Wood’s hallmark. However, there is an unmissable charm in all this and genius surrealism in Wood’s syntax-challenged dialogue.

Why Today?: On this day in 1903, Tor Johnson is born. Since tomorrow is Bela Lugosi's birthday, I wonder if the guys celebrated together in 1955.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

David Lynch Memoir Coming in 2017

With Showtime's new season of "Twin Peaks" likely not arriving until 2017, that year is shaping up to be a big one for David Lynch and his followers. The director recently released a statement through UK publisher Canongate (and quoted in an article on the Guardian.com) that he will releasing his memoir Life and Work in two years. According to the statement, the purpose of his book is to clear up misinformation (or in Lynch's words, "bullshit") about the two things in his book's title. Co-writing will be journalist Kristine McKenna, and the duo are also drawing on additional interviews with ninety of Lynch's friends, family members, and co-workers.

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 18


The Date: October 18

The Movie: Young Frankenstein (1974)

What Is It?: Mel Brooks chops up Universal’s Frankenstein films of the thirties and forties, stitches them back together again, and zaps one of the all-time great horror-comedies to life. He also shocks some real humanity into the film by way of the monster. Peter Boyle's performance is funny but also rather poignant, especially when he gains the power of speech and makes a lovely speech to the throng of torch-wielding villagers.

Why Today?: The monstrous Peter Boyle was born this day in 1935.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Review: Small Faces' 'The Decca Years 1966-1967'


Small Faces’ Decca catalogue has been reissued and reissued and reissued, but that situation seemed like it had come to an end in 2012 with the release of double-disc deluxe editions of the band’s two official Decca albums remastered on CD from the original master tapes for the first time. Not so. Three years later, Decca and Universal are bringing out Small Faces and From the Beginning and their numerous bonus tracks yet again as part of a five-disc box set called The Decca Years 1966-1967.

Just to save the faithful some time, I will be up front about the question on all of your modishly mop-topped minds: these masters of Small Faces and From the Beginning, as well as all their bonus tracks, sound identical to the 2012 ones to my ears. Yes, they still sound fabulous… if a bit loud, though Rob Caiger assures us in his liner notes that the loudness is all due to the band’s tendency to crank it up in the studio and not remastering engineer Nick Robbins’s heavy hand. However, if you’re happy with your 2012 CDs and aren’t overly desirous of cool packaging and a few recently unearthed radio sessions, then this might not be the box set for you. If you never dropped your pence on those previous deluxe editions, and you want to grab all of Small Faces electrifying Decca recordings in one sweet package, then The Decca Years 1966-1967 is the ideal way to do it.

Augmenting Small Faces and From the Beginning, which are both on their own discs, is a disc of all the bonus tracks from the 2012 deluxe discs (the only deletions are eight fake stereo tracks, the absence of which won’t exactly cause purists to weep), a Greatest Hits disc that collects essential tracks from the two albums with all the single A and B sides missing from them (this box’s tendency to repeat tracks is one notable flaw… the original versions of “Sha La La La Lee” and “What’Cha Gonna Do About It” each appear three times!), and a disc of BBC sessions. Perhaps it was the discovery of four tracks recorded for the “Joe Loss Pop Show” that were not included on 2000’s The BBC Sessions that justified this box set, but these are the roughest sounding recordings on the set (on the up side, they include the groovy instrumental “Comin’ Home Baby” unavailable in any version elsewhere on The Decca Years).

Unlike Rhino’s recent Faces box set, which sounds great but suffers from chintzy packaging, all attention to detail has been paid to Mac, Kenney, and Plonk’s early work. The Decca Years arrives in a high quality, though not-oversized, box with four over-sized, full-color postcards you’d be a dope to post. Each disc is housed in a mini-LP sleeve about the quality of the ones in the Faces box. There’s a great 74-page booklet full of color photos, essays, and profiles of each band member, their two Decca records, and their biggest hit songs for the label. So despite redundancy issues that may prevent you from wanting to spin the whole thing in one sitting, The Decca Years 1966-1967 is still a fab re-packaging of some of the best hard soul and rock & roll of the sixties… and if there’s one thing a bunch of mods should appreciate, it’s a slick package.

Get The Decca Years 1966-1967 on Amazon.com here:

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 17


The Date: October 17
The Movie: Candyman (1992)
What Is It?: Themes of slavery and modern-day urban poverty give Bernard Rose and Clive Barker’s urban-legend depth. Tony Todd’s performance as the charming yet deadly title character makes it memorable. He's too human to qualify as a monster and too well developed to qualify as a slasher. A truly unique horror picture. Notice how many scares take place in broad daylight.
Why Today?: This day is known as Sweetest Day in the Midwest.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Monsterology: Dolls


In this ongoing feature on Psychobabble, we’ve been looking at the history of Horror’s archetypal monsters.
 Before kids have the social skills to make human friends, they often find companionship in little blobs of cotton or plastic. A child clutching a doll, pretending to nurse the toy while he or she is still gnawing on a pacifier, is a familiar—and adorable— sight. Thanks to the ways storytellers love to twist signifiers of innocence, images of dolls gnawing on children have become pretty common too.

Sorry. That was just too easy a transition to pass up. In truth there aren't a ton of images of dolls gnawing on kids. More often the doll will settle for a good, sharp kitchen knife. Or maybe its limbs will grow to monstrously ropey proportions so it can drag the tyke under his own bed and start strangling the lad. And maybe dolls menacing kids isn't even the most common way these playthings menace. If we were to do an official tally (we aren't going to), we'd probably discover that dolls most often pick on adults. Sometimes the dolls in question are really protecting the little ones from grown ups who would do the youngsters in question harm. In that way, these killer dolls are still doing the jobs of all dolls: helping children deal with a very difficult world.

The idea of a beloved doll coming to life has been a literary staple for centuries. In his 1986 essay “A Few Small Corrections to a Commonly Held Image,” Walter Scherf wrote of an old fairy tale in which a doll comes to life and starts shitting gold. When a prince pisses on the doll, the doll grabs the prince's ass. Just to be clear, Scherf notes that this is a children's story. More typical are tales such as Paddington Bear and Winnie the Pooh, in which cute (if neurotic) teddy bears come to life.
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