Wednesday, 25 September 2013

THE BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965)


Sometimes you are in the mood for a movie that's arty, classy and Italian... And other times you just want something like The Bloody Pit of Horror which is only one of the above!

Yes, it's demented Italian exploitation time again! And The Bloody Pit of Horror AKA The Scarlet Executioner and Some Virgins for the Hangman (!) is packed with that kind of absolute nonsense done with demented panache that only Italians can muster. The plot, such as it is, is very simple - a group of models and photographers rock up to a castle for a shoot. There's nobody home, and they do what anyone would do in the same situation - so they break in. However there is somebody home - former actor Travis, who oddly doesn't call the police instantly.

Or perhaps not so oddly. For the castle was once the home of a maniac called the Crimson Executioner who was tried and  ironically executed for murder and torture. But guess what? The Crimson Executioner - imagine the Phantom in red and with his shirt off - walks again! And one by one our merry band of dopey photographers and airhead models are bumped off in a variety of amusing (and usually medieval) ways.



Now on one hand, this movie could be seen as both a proto-slasher and a vintage slice of torture porn. Indeed back in the day, this movie was refused a certificate in the UK due to it heavily featuring scantily-clad lovelies being tortured by a leering maniac in pantomime fetish gear...

...Or possibly just because it was rubbish! ...

Anyhow, the thing is, while The Bloody Pit of Horror does indeed feature all of the above, this isn't some Swinging '60s version of Saw. Yes, there is torture but it's not particularly graphic. And more importantly when the whole production has a script that sounds like its been cannibalised from a Scooby Doo episode - yes, folks it's not hard to guess the identity of the Crimson Executioner - and is executed in the same colourful way as the Adam West Batman series, any gruesomeness is quickly negated by the glorious camp of the movie.



And most camp of all is the Crimson Executioner himself, played with a demented glee by Mickey Hargitay, who easily could have been a foe for West and Ward. I mean, one victim is killed in a gigantic spider web, completely with arrow booby traps and a slowly advancing mechanical poisonous spider! Even better, at one point he pauses in his murder spree to deliver an arch bit of evil villain monologing while lustily watching himself in a mirror oiling up his pecs!

Yes, folks this movie is camper than a field of tents! It's horrible daft and daftly horrible, and stratospherically over the top. The script is clumsy, the acting atrocious and the story line ridiculous, so obviously, I loved it! It's absolutely brilliant for all the right wrong reasons! Highly recommended!




Tuesday, 24 September 2013

HYPNOBOBS 127 - It Was A Dark And Stormy Night..


Oooh looky! A surprise bonus episode! Mr Jim Moon delves, hopefully amusingly, into the anals, I mean, annals of the Bulwer-Lytton Prize...

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  It Was A Dark And Stormy Night..

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS


Sunday, 22 September 2013

HYPNOBOBS 126 - The Secret Origins of The X Files Part 2



In this second part of our investigations of the origins of The X Files, Mr Jim Moon delves into the archives of the Great Library of Dreams to present four pieces of archive radio on the UFO phenomena.

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - The Secret Origins of The X Files Part 2

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS



Saturday, 21 September 2013

REPTILICUS (1961)



What's this? A Danish kaiju movie? And featuring the *ahem* wonderful kind of puppet special effects as last seen in The Giant Claw?



"Put that phone down lady, there's a giant puppet gobbing at you!"


Friday, 20 September 2013

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE #6 - Megaforce (1982)


Here comes the judge! Here comes the judge!

Hello and welcome to our 6th case, which sees Brandi Jackola from the InsideOutCast try and defend the 1982 action movie Megaforce. Judge Chris Johnson and legal eagles Mr Jim Moon and Elton McManus of Shonky Lab weigh up the evidence. Warning: may contain sky blue headbands!

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE #06

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE on  iTUNES


NICEVILLE by Carsten Stroud



Niceville is a quiet American town, big enough not to be poor, but not yet large enough to have all those big city problems. So then, there's something of a stir when Rainey Teague vanishes on his way home from school. However, as some folks have discovered, people have a habit of disappearing in Niceville. And furthermore, many of the inhabitants don't exactly live up the town's name...





Saturday, 14 September 2013

THE PACT (2012)


I must admit I came to this movie having no great hopes for The Pact - it had a generic name and an even more generic poster featuring a cliched spooky face pushing through a wall, and knew next to nothing about it. However I was in the mood for a spot of horror and so decided to give it a whirl.

But I'm very glad I did, for The Pact is a superior haunted house thriller movie. There's some great spooky action and an intriguing mystery, and both are well supported by great performances. Caity Lotz is excellent as our heroine who discovers her recent deceased mother has been harboring dark secrets, and Casper Van Diem is brilliant as the grizzled detective investigating disappearances linked to the family. The cinematography is excellent too - both the film looks gorgeous and delivers some memorable imagery and set-pieces. These lush visuals are paired with a very well executed soundtrack, with the music adding to the atmosphere but never overly intruding. In many ways you could say The Pact is a chiller for the Drive generation.


However I would stress that this is a horror/thriller and that while we have plenty of chills, some viewers may be left a little cold when it movies into more down to earth thriller/suspense territory in the last act. Now if you enjoy movies that similarly meld together ghost and crime stories such as Stir of Echoes (1999) and The Changeling (1980), you'll find The Pact a marvelous addition to that subgenre. Now that's not to say that the movie in any way loses steam in the second half, just that is segues from more supernatural chills into tense thriller suspense. However if you're looking for a more pure horror experience, this shift may leave you feeling the first half of the movie was more effective when it was more of a ghost story.

Overall though The Pact is a great little movie, smart where so many are dumb, and beautifully crafted where so many others are thrown together. If you're looking for a movie that delivers chills and intrigue, The Pact is just the ticket.




Friday, 13 September 2013

LITTLE DEATHS (2013)


Mr Jim Moon takes a look at a new British anthology horror movie that explores sex and death...

Monday, 9 September 2013

HYPNOBOBS 125 - The Secret Origins of the X Files Part 1


Twenty years ago, on the 10th of September 1993, a new TV show aired that would become a cult phenomena and a SF legend. That show was The X Files, and in this special anniversary episode Mr Jim Moon explores the various inspirations for Chris Carter's iconic TV series, tracing  the influence of Kolchak The Night Stalker, The Avengers and Twin Peaks.


DIRECT DOWNLOAD - The Secret Origins of the X Files Part 1

HYPNOBOBS HOME DOMAIN - Full archive, RSS feed and other useful links

HYPNOBOBS on iTunes

HYPNOBOBS on STITCHER



   HYPNOBOBS is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.


CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS


Sunday, 8 September 2013

HIGHWAY TO MARS - The Illustrated Man


The Illustrated Man is a widely celebrated collection of short stories by the legendary Ray Bradbury. In Part One of this podcast series, Stefan Sawynok outlines the tales that make up this seminal  SF anthology.

HIGHWAY TO MARS - The Illustrated Man Part One

DIRECT DOWNLOAD




In Part Two Stefan is joined by Odile Thomas (of Sending A Wave) and Mr Jim Moon to discuss the best stories in this classic collection, and also talk about the 1969 film adaptation starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

HIGHWAY TO MARS - The Illustrated Man Part Two

DIRECT DOWNLOAD






Saturday, 7 September 2013

WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE #05 - Revenge of the Sith and the Star Wars prequels



Here comes the judge! Here comes the judge!

Mr Lee Medcalf of the Black Dog Podcast enters the clown court to defend Revenge of the Sith and its prequel brethren. His lordship Chris Johnson once again calls in his crack team of legal eagles - Pete Kelk of Shonky Lab and Mr Jim Moon - to pass judgement on this notorious band of cinematic outlaws!


WITLESS FOR THE DEFENCE 05

or

iTunes - Witless for the Defence




Wednesday, 4 September 2013

HORROR WE? HOW'S BAYOU?


Rewind to the early '70s, a time when hair was long, music funky and the width of bell-bottoms still expanding. However in the optimistic first years of this new decade, a plague fell upon the land. No, not the swarms of earnest singer-songwriters clogging up the record shops, something far worse! For now the swamplands and bayous of America were becoming distinctly unsafe, with sightings of foetid, unwholesome shaggy creatures proliferating rapidly! And no, this wasn't just scruffy hippies getting back to nature, this was a  plague of bog-monsters! 

Well, at least that was the impression you got if you were reading the horror comics back then. Seriously though, there must have been something in the air - other than the scent of thai sticks that is - for out of the blue, swamp critters were THE thing in horror titles in the early '70s. And over the years, there's been much debate about how this started and which came first, and hence I'm donning my best Roy Raymond outfit, and paddling down the time stream to the murky glades of the bayous to dredge up the muck-encrusted truth!

Apparently appearing last on the scene at the beginning of 1974, was a hideous beast with his own title - Marvel's own entry into the mossy monster menagerie, The Man-Thing!


Now Man-Thing had originally been a human scientist, Ted Sallis, who was working to recreate the legendary Super-Soldier serum - the lost formula that had transformed puny Steve Richards into Captain America. However a terrorist group were after Sallis's research, and having discovered his secret lab in the heart of the Everglades, the scientist is injured and only just escapes the nefarious villains. He injects himself with the only sample of his version of the serum to help combat his wounds but unfortunately while fleeing the scene crashes his car into the swamp. And hence the world believes Sallis is dead and gone. However the effects of the serum, coupled with mystic forces in the swamp do actually save him... But also transforming him into a mute unthinking mass of moss and slime - the Man-Thing.

Man-Thing is a somewhat unusual character, as he operates on pure instinct - he literally has no intellect whatsoever.  And aside from now being almost indestructible in his vegetable form, he has a curious other ability - all those who know fear burn at his touch. The 1974 Man-Thing comic was helmed by the legendary Steve Gerber, who took the character through a host of wild adventures, having him fight monsters worse than himself but also encountering all manner of high strangeness such wizards and bizarre incursions from other dimensions. 

It was a classic run of issues, with Gerber crafting highly atmospheric and memorable tales. However over the years many have thought that Man-Thing is merely a Marvel knock-off of another horror character,. For their arch rivals DC have a muck-monster of their own. And thanks to a spell of being scripted by the legendary Alan Moore, this bog-beast is somewhat more famous than his Marvel-ous counterpart. We are talking of course about Swamp Thing.


Created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, Swamp Thing launched in November 1972. And like Marvel's bog-beast, this moss-covered monstrosity was once a man too. The first issue told of how scientist Alec Holland was working in a secret lab hidden in the Louisiana swamps on a bio-restorative formula when weirdly enough some nefarious villains attempt to steal his research. Caught in an explosion from a bomb planted by these unscrupulous folks, a burning Holland plunges into the filthy waters of the swamp, and is believed to have perished. But thanks to the formula and, as later we'd discover, mystic forces, he too rises again, becoming Swamp Thing. However unlike Sallis, Holland retained his intelligence and would later learn he was been resurrected as a plant elemental who serves as Nature's guardian.

Now all of this sounds suspiciously similar to Ted Sallis's sorry tale I'm sure you'll agree. So then, was Swampy the original muck monster? Well, no, for this is an area of comics history with roots as tangled as a banyan tree! You see, before the 1974 solo title, Man-Thing had been appearing in the pages of another comic, and an anthology title, Adventure Into Fear!


Appearing in Issue #10 - a month BEFORE Swamp Thing #1 hit the stands - Man-Thing had surfaced in a ten page tale written by Gerry Conway. Man-Thing proved to be very popular with readers and became a regular feature, with Gerber taking over scripting duties for his second appearance. Furthermore as his popularity grew, so did the size of his strip, eventually expanding to take up most of the book which naturally lead to securing his own title by 1974. 

So then, that makes Man-Thing the original haunter of the  swamps? Well, no -  for like Man-Thing, the Swamp Thing has previously surfaced in a DC anthology title before getting his own comic. Yes, this pair have parallel origins both ON and OFF the page. For in Jine 1971, in Issue #92 of House of Secrets, Wein and Wrightson had told a tale called 'Swamp Thing'.


Now this little tale has marked differences to the later comic - it's set at the turn of the century, rather than in the present day, and rather than being plunged into the swamps thanks to industrial espionage, our tragic hero - here named Alex Olsen - is the victim of a jealous rival. However this twisted Gothic tale proved to be such a hit that DC were soon asking Wein and Wrightson to develop a contemporary, more heroic version of the character to star in his own book. And many years later, in 1980s during the celebrated Alan Moore years, it would be revealed that every age has had its own Swamp Thing, reprinting the House of Secrets tale as the first hint that Alec Holland wasn't the first monster to walk the swamps.

However a month before Alex Olsen became a muck-encrusted mockery of a man, Marvel had published Savage Tales #1 in May 1971. Now this wasn't a technically a comic and didn't even bear the Marvel name - and for good reason.


 Back in the 1950's there had been a huge moral panic over comic books which had resulted in the formation of the Comics Code Authority which laid down rules as to what comics could and couldn't show and vetted every issue. And aside for from generally toning down the violence and sex in comics, the Comics Code largely made horror titles untenable with strictures outlawing the likes of vampires, werewolves and ghouls outright. Now publishers were free not to sign up to this, but a book without the Comics Code seal (as can be seen in the upper right corner of all the covers above)  wouldn't get picked up by distributors.

However by the end of the '60s the Code was been revised and was becoming more flexible, allowing Marvel and DC the freedom to publish horror titles once again. However there were still limits on what could be shown, and to get around this an independent publisher Warren exploited a loop hole in the rules. For if your comic was printed in the larger magazine format and the strips were in black and white, then technically it was no longer a comicbook as defined by the Code and therefore outside its jurisdiction.

And so Warren launched Creepy and Eerie as horror magazines, and the more adult content proved to be a hit with readers. And other publishers such as Skywald and Stanley Publications were also soon releasing similar horror comic magazines such as Nightmare and Ghoul Tales. Hence Marvel formed Curtis Magazines to launch its own range of Code-free comics, with Savage Tales being the second attempt to break into this new market. The lead strip in Savage Tales was a Conan story but it also contained a tale scripted by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway entitled 'The Origin of the Man-Thing'.


And despite being cancelled after just one issue, there were plans for Man-Thing to be a regular feature in the new magazine. Indeed a second story had even been scripted, and woulod eventually see print a year or so later in Astonishing Tales #12 in June 1972. However interestingly this time the hulking swamp monster was written by Gerry Conway's room-mate, one Len Wein... Yes, the same Len Wein who created Swamp Thing!

Now then it would appear, if we are judging by cover dates alone, that it's DC ripping of Marvel. However thanks to the complexities of comics production and the fuzzy memories of all involved, no one - not even Gerry Conway and Len Wein - are certain who invented what first. And at the time, there was no legal action brought - however that wasn't down the vagaries of memory, or a lack of evidence over which of the pair first mooted the concepts, or even the fact that despite having kissing cousin origins the Swamp Thing and Man-Thing books took their characters in different directions.

No, the real reason that there was no litigation can be found in a Skywald magazine. For in the second issue of Psycho - which appeared  in March 1971 before either House of Secrets or Savage Tales - another muck monster reared it's ugly head!


Meet Jim Roberts... Jim was a handsome fella until his cropduster crashed into a vat of experimental chemicals and  at a secret military base and the combinations of fire, nerve gas and pesticides transformed him into a monster! And as the Heap, a sentient mass of earth-matter, he would enjoy many adventures in the pages of Skywald's magazine, and even made a short-lived foray into regular four colour comics in late 1971 with his own solo title.


However this character, written by Charles McNaughton and drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, actually predated both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing not by mere months but by whole decades! For this was but a rebooted version of the Heap, who had had a long life in comics, first appearing in Air Fighters Comics #3 way back in December 1942!

Air Fighters Comics was an anthology title starring the young flying ace Airboy  and featuring other aviator heroes in back-up strips. One such character was Skywolf and a tale in Vol. 1 #3 brought the world the first incarnation of the Heap. Here's his origin -

The transformed Baron Emmelman proved to be a big hit with readers and soon returned, eventually getting his own strip in Airboy Comics Vol. 3, #9  in October 1946. The Heap's adventures would run until 1953, ironically outlasting his parent character Skywolf. Over the years, we'd learn that his transformation was aided by mystic forces - the powers of the earth goddess Ceres - and his look would change; morphing from a white shaggy creature, through dull grays and browns to green and gaining a root-like nose.

And this is the real reason why Marvel weren't suing DC over the similarities between Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. As Roy Thomas recalled in 2002 when Stan Lee first came up with the seed idea for Man-Thing - "The creature itself sounds a lot like the Heap, but neither of us mentioned that character at the time..." And with good reason I suspect - for much like Man-Thing, the Heap was semi-mindless and the two creatures are startlingly, if not litigiously, similar looking! Here's the mature design of the Heap - judge for yourselves...


...It's the carroty nose that does it, isn't it! But equally clearly, looking at his origin Swamp Thing owes a debt to the Heap too.

And there we perhaps have an explanation of not one, not two, but three muck monsters stalking the pages of the horror comics of the early '70s. As the Comics Code relaxed, it was only natural that creators were looking back to the past, and just as many companies resurrected classic terrors such as Dracula and Frankenstein in the pages of their comics, and titles in the vein of the old EC shockers returned to the newsstands, it was perhaps inevitable that attention would turn to one of the great monster characters born in the Golden Age of comics.

Unbeknownst to the writers and artists at the time, with the Heap they had created a new archetypal monster and the success of the '70s swamp critters which homaged it, form a vital part of horror comics history with a long and lasting legacy.

However the Heap itself, despite being the original muck monster of the comics world, was actually owed a heavy debt to an earlier work. In the fable SF pulp magazine Unknown, tin August 1940, legendary writer Theodore Sturgeon published a tale entitled 'It!' which told of a mossy plant monster that turns out to be a transformed man. And this story hailed as one of the best ever printed in Unknown is the great grandfather of all the swamp monsters we've discussed here.

Interestingly Sturgeon's seminal tale was adapted from comics by Marvel in Supernatural Thrillers #1 in 1972 by Roy Thomas and Tony Isabella. And apparently launching an It! series following on from the adaptation was discussed, but highly ironically, ultimately the idea was discarded as it was thought the character was too similar to Man-Thing...



BONUS MATERIAL!

The excellent Jesse Willis of the SFFaudio Podcast has just alerted to the fact that Sturgeon's tale and brood of bog-beasts also inspired a radio play from CBS Radio Mystery Theatre - The Creature from the Swamp in March 1974.





Tuesday, 3 September 2013

LA CASA MUDA (THE SILENT HOUSE)


Made for $6000 and shot over just four days with a single handheld camera, this Uruguayan production is a stylish little film, far above the usual sort of movie produced in such microbudget conditions. To begin with, rather than the usual found footage antics you'd expect from a single camera/short shoot set-up instead we have a surprisingly well-crafted horror tale. And while the camera work may be informal, it very rarely lapses into irritating shakycam antics.

Instead the camera follows our young heroine as she and her father visit an old house in order to conduct repairs. However where the movie does borrow very effectively from the found footage genre is that the story plays out in real time and is constructed to appear as one continuous shot. Of course, it wasn't actually filmed in one take and but it did provide the movie with a great USP and get it some much needed attention. But it's a wonderfully crafted illusion and one that serves the movie well, making its action very immersive, immediate and intimate.

Now the movie quickly got a reputation as being very scary, and as is the case for any film that is hailed as 'properly frightening', equally swiftly there was no end of following counter reviews that proclaimed it 'boring' and 'rubbish'. Now it is true that a large amount of the movie is just a girl wandering about in a deserted house and if you're looking for buckets of blood, jiggling breasts, explosions or keyboard playing cats, then you will be in for a disappointment. However if you are looking for subtle chills and bags of atmosphere, The Silent House may just be the ticket.



And there is a storyline here too, hinging upon the two central mysteries The Silent House presents - firstly what is going on here, and secondly why is it happening. Now the first two thirds while we are exploring these questions, the movie is going great guns. It's very creepy and highly intriguing, with the one-shot conceit being used to create some very atmospheric and dynamic story-telling.

However where the film unravels for some, is when we start to get the answers to the questions. And I must confess the reveals did someplace take me by surprise, but not necessarily in the best way. Now once I got my head around what was happening, I could appreciate the direction they were taking the storyline in, but I can also understand it's here where the movie loses some folks.

Now while I could go with what we'll just call the narrative shift, and indeed appreciated it more on reflection after the movie was over, I would say that whether you go with it or not, most viewers will probably find the first half of The Silent House stronger than the second.

However I would also point out that it not a huge dip in quality here, and it is in part just down to that age-old bugbear that when you set up a mystery, you nearly always lose some of the suspense when you reveal the answers. And that's certainly the case here, with most of the film tapping into our fears of the unknown. And regardless of how you feel about the film's resolution, the whole thing is still beautifully and imaginatively realised.

Overall I really enjoyed The Silent House and would say it just narrowly misses being a truly great fright flick. However as fear is so subjective, your mileage will most definitely vary. But certainly lovers of atmosphere and quiet chills should certain give this one a go.