Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
And it didn't look like there was going to be any this year. Like a great many of our neighbors, we've had a rough dozen months financially, and we made the tough decision early on that we would not be exchanging gifts this year. Sure, we set aside a bit of scratch for the neice and nephews, but that was about all we could afford.
Surprisingly, though, my in-laws decided to go the gift card route with us this year and insisted that we spend them on "fun" stuff, so my wife and I were able to choose our own gifts. (And buying online, we were able to get some real bargains.) I was able to get some books that had been on my wish list for a long time - The Eurospy Guide, the Al Williamson Flash Gordon collection in hardcover at half-price, the fourth volume collecting the Justice League/Justice Society crossovers... and a few DVD sets like the Superman movie serials (for $4 new!) and the three seasons of Mission: Impossible I was missing. (Not to mention the Warlord volume and Wolfhound disc reviewed below)
Brandi also got some discs (Lost Season 5 and latest Harry Potter flick on Blu-Ray) and a new digital camera.
Overall, we had a good celebration, spending Christmas eve and morning with my family, and, thankfully, even got to enjoy a bit of the more materialistic side of the holiday. For that, I hereby publicly state, for the record, that I have the coolest in-laws on the planet.
I hope everyone else had a great holiday as well, and got some neat stuff, too. :)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Well, this past week, I received some early holiday gift cards from my in-laws and, at their insistence, used them to acquire a couple more fantasy epics for my collection.
I always liked Mike Grell's Warlord comic book series from DC Comics, and have a fair number of issues from the middle of its long run. I also own a copy of its debut in the oddly-titled try-out series First Issue Special, and a handful of the earliest issues. But there are large gaps in my collection - especially during the book's initial years - so when I discovered that DC had collected the first 30 or so issues in one of its low-priced, B&W Showcase Presents volumes, I was thrilled.
I ordered the 500+ page book from Amazon and received it last Wednesday.
Great stuff. The Warlord is Colonel Travis Morgan of the United States Air Force, whose spy plane is shot down in 1969 over the Arctic during a reconnaissance mission over the Soviet Union. The plane descends through a "polar opening" and crashes into a jungle. Travis Morgan survives and finds himself in a primeval, savage world at the Earth's core. Yep, it's Burroughs' Pellucidar under a different name (Skartaris), and Morgan is immediately embroiled in a life of ERB-styled adventure.
First, he rescues a beautiful princess from a Tyrannosaur, then they're captured by slavers, then he's tossed into an arena as a gladiator, then he escapes and leads a rebellion, etc. etc.
It's familiar stuff, but Grell knows it, and has fun with it. The storytelling is relentless - the action moves at a breathless pace, doled out in compact, 17-page installments. The writing is a bit purple at times, but also self-aware and witty. The artwork is dynamic and detailed (at least until Vince Colletta takes over the inking chores about halfway through the volume) and Grell really lets his imagination have full reign, with a dizzying array of strange civilizations, bizarre creatures, plentiful cheescake (and beefcake) and frequent full-page and double-page action shots.
It's great fun and holds up really well as pure, old school comics entertainment. You can find the collection online for under $15 bucks, and it's one of the few bona fide bargains you're going to find in this day and age.
Also last week, I picked up the DVD of a movie I'd read about over on Ain't It Cool News almost a year ago, and had been eager to see ever since.
Wolfhound is a Russian sword & sorcery film, recently released on DVD by the Weinstein Company. While the story (based on a novel by Mariya Semyonova) borrows from numerous sources, director Nikolay Lebedev brings the tale to the screen with style and energy.
The story chronicles the adventures of an ex-slave-turned-warrior (Aleksandr Bukharov), who, like Conan in the 1981 film, is out to avenge the massacre of his clan and the murder of his parents by raiders. In fact, the first scene in the movie is a virtual remake of the opening of John Milius' Conan the Barbarian. But, fortunately, Wolfhound soon takes on a style and tone of its own, with an appealing hero, a solid fantasy plot, exciting (if a bit over-edited) swordplay, gorgeous photography, great, unobtrusive special effects, and a terrific climax. The performances are good, the music is suitably sweeping, and the production design is excellent.
Now, we all know that I'm not hard to please when it comes to sword & sorcery films. Heck, I can recite from memory the plots of all the Deathstalker films, and think watching Hawk the Slayer for the fiftieth time is a great way to waste a Sunday afternoon. But Wolfhound is a genuinely good movie that treads some familiar ground beneath its mud-encrusted boots, but does so in a satisfying and compelling way with a number of cool touches. It does slow down just a bit in the middle, but picks up nicely in the third act.
Seriously, what other movie has a barbarian hero with a bat for a pet?
The Weinstein Company/Genius Products DVD is a bare bones affair with no extra features whatsoever. It does present the movies in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, with both English (badly dubbed) and Russian audio options. I recommend watching it in Russian with the English subtitles.
Highly recommended for fantasy fans.
Friday, December 18, 2009
MacDonnell's okay, but he's no Ralph Byrd!
Here's the whole show:
Thursday, December 17, 2009
In an industry that seems to rate it's heroines less on how badass they are and more on how little they wear, Femme Noir is a welcome breath of fresh air. She's a lady who'll kick your ass five ways from Sunday, can shoot blazing, twin-pistol death with the likes of the Shadow or the Spider, and doesn't have to dress like the Phantom Lady to battle evil.Thanks, Stacy!
Oh - and since this is my shameless self-promotion blog (see, it says it right up there in the header): It's not too late to treat the mystery or comics fan on your Christmas list to a copy of the Femme Noir trade paperback! It's still available from Amazon and In-Stock Trades, among other dealers.
And, as I've mentioned before, my friends in marketing keep telling me that nothing helps sell books these days more than positive reviews at Amazon. If you've read and enjoyed the book already, I'd appreciate it if you took a moment to post a short review on the Femme Noir product page.
As for those of you who have already done so, please know that you have my gratitude.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Since "geek"/gaming humor seemed (and continues) to be the most popular genre for humor webcomics, I thought I'd write a strip about my high school days in the early 80's and what passed for geek culture back then. The original Dungeons & Dragons and other classic RPGs, TRS-80 computers, Atari 2600 game consoles, cable TV, and whatever science fiction and fantasy fiction I remembered being particularly popular at the time among my peer group.
I called it "Old School Geek" - shortened here to "Old School" before I saw that awful Will Farrell movie - and asked my friend Chuck Bordell, an artist I'd worked with in the past, to draw it. It was actually based on a comic strip I had drawn back when I was in my 20s for the amusement of my old high school buddies, and like that strip, used my former classmates as the main characters. The goofball above with the curly hair, sideburns and glasses is a caricature of yours truly, circa 1982.
I'm pretty sure we only produced two finished strips, and this is the only one I can find. I decided that this kind of writing wasn't really my forte, and felt that the jokes (if you can call them that) were too "inside."
Anyway, I stumbled across this tonight and thought it would be interesting to post it here. Click on the image for a more readable size.
It's called Cheap Thrills, and it's a one-stop archive for any and all reviews I have written of classic cliffhanger movie serials on DVD. The items there are all recycled from my DVD Late Show column (and, in some cases, blog posts you've already read here), so it's not essential reading for anyone. But - if you're interested in old serials on DVD and want to easily read one fan's opinion of some of the titles available... well, you'll find them here.
Now, I said above that I won't be writing anything new for the blog, and that's true. But, I do still have some old reviews in my files that I'm polishing up and will post on the site eventually, and any new articles I write of discs I receive in the future will also be posted there as well as in my column. For the time being, though, it's strictly a dedicated archive.
So... check it out if you want. :)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I've been going through a period of self-examination and trying to take some positive action toward improving my - and my family's - situation. Persistent health and financial problems (which go hand-in-hand) have had me down for too long - years! - and I'm hopeful that some of the steps I've recently taken will help me turn things around.
I'm working on more Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Midnight scripts for Moonstone, and have signed on to contribute further prose stories to the company's line of pulp anthologies. I also expect the Femme Noir webcomics collection and new Gravedigger graphic novel to see print in the new year. Other projects are also continuing to creep along, and I'll let you know once I have a firmer idea of their publication date.
Unfortunately, I've fallen off track a bit with my DVD Late Show column for Forces of Geek, and am working hard to get that back on schedule. I've got a lot of discs to review, and writing the column is something I really enjoy doing.
This winter I'm working out of a different room, having moved my office a few months ago. This one is warmer (with the space heater, anyway) and has a door I can close, so hopefully it will be a more conducive atmosphere to work and write in.
We're rapidly closing in on the end of the year. And, frankly, I can't say that I'm going to miss 2009 when it's gone. I'm hoping that as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, I can finally shake off some of the things that have been holding me back (both internal and external) and start making some serious progress toward accomplishing some long-held goals. Like writing that novel, for instance, or actually making a reasonable living again.
It's really tough to be - and then stay - positive these days, and it's not something I've got much experience with. But... I'm trying.
Thanks for being there, guys and gals. It helps.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Well, it looks like The Asylum's low budget version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars is getting closer to release. They've just posted the trailer on their site and YouTube. Interestingly, they're trying to tie it into James Cameron's upcoming megabudget opus Avatar.
I'm not going to go into everything that's wrong about this project creatively - clearly, there's a lot wrong with it - but I am curious to see how this challenge to the ERB Estate's interpretation of "public domain" plays out.
It's nothing personal on my part - I've nothing against ERB Inc. and both understand and sympathize with their desire to keep a tight grip on all of Burroughs' creations - but I do believe that they have been willfully misinterpreting the legal definition of "public domain" in order to maintain their hold over said creations, and unjustly using threats of litigation to prevent anyone from challenging them.
Part of the original intent of allowing works to fall into the public domain in the first place was to allow future creators to create new, derivative works from PD material (Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being probably the most obvious, recent example of this, along with Spielberg's War of the Worlds, and the many, many Sherlock Holmes and Dracula pastiches over the years), while the ERB folks have been insisting that the PD status of Burroughs' early works mean only that the works themselves can be freely reprinted, while derivative works (such as films or graphic novels) are not allowed. I believe that the law does allow such derivative works... and apparently, so does The Asylum's lawyers.
I'm very curious to see if this movie actually gets released and what happens if it does.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Having recently made available the five Lex Barker Tarzan titles, the Warner Archives online store is now offering all six Gordon Scott Tarzan films on burn-to-order DVDs.
These are not available in retail stores nor sites like Amazon, are a bit pricey and feature no extras, but at least they're in their proper aspect ratios (I can't wait to see Tarzan's Greatest Adventure and Tarzan the Magnificent in widescreen!). As with the Lex Barker titles, they go for $19.99 a pop, though you can buy them in a set for a better price (roughly $10 each). Here's the link.
Man, I really wish I had some money!!! There are now nearly two dozen titles offered through the Warners Archive program that I'm dying to get! Aside from the eleven Tarzan films, there's Gene Roddenberry's 70s sci-fi pilots Genesis 2 and Planet Earth, Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, Captain Sindbad, The Bermuda Depths, Captain Nemo & the Underwater City, and the pilot film for The Man from Atlantis.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Unfortunately, the source material used for the transfer was dark and murky, with considerable print damage, so the visual presentation was pretty disappointing. Also, VCI included clunky animated menu screens that were not very interesting, extremely long, and could not be skipped.... and thus, frustrating & annoying.
Well, the company has revisited the title and just sent me a review copy of the new release. It's a quantum improvement over the previous edition, both in presentation and in supplemental features.
The story has 1939 aviator Buck Rogers (Crabbe) and his young pal Buddy (Jackie Moran) crewing an airship that is held aloft by an experimental gas. There's an accident and the blimp crashes into a snow-covered peak, where it - as well as Buck & Buddy - lies undiscovered for 500 years. Fortunately, the experimental gas keeps the two adventurers in a state of suspended animation, and when they're revived, they join the freedom-loving inhabitants of a hidden city in a rebellion against the tyrannical dictatorship of uber-racketeer Killer Kane (Anthony Warde). Aerial dogfights, trips to Saturn, and the requisite fistfights provide plenty of thrills over the ensuing twelve cliffhanging chapters.
Produced between the second and third of Universal's hugely popular and financially successful Flash Gordon chapterplays, the studio had high hopes for their new production. After all, Buck had predated Flash in the funny pages, and Crabbe had proven twice over his ability to overthrow interplanetary despots. But Buck Rogers, while profitable, didn't quite hit the stratospheric heights of the Flash serials, so plans for a sequel were scrapped, and Crabbe went on to star in a third Gordon adventure.
Still, Buck Rogers is one of Universal's best serials, with high production values, good direction (by Forde Beebe and Saul Goodkind), fast, exciting action, and a slightly more adult storyline. The special effects and stuntwork are extremely well executed, and the overall quality of the serial is top-notch. It's too bad that it often gets overshadowed by the Flash Gordon serials, because Buck has a lot of entertainment to offer.
VCI's new 2-disc "70th Anniversary Edition" DVD appears to have been culled from either the original negative or a pristine 35mm fine grain print, because, unlike the earlier edition, this one looks gorgeous. The full-frame, B&W transfer is near-perfect with good contrast and sharp detail. The mono audio is clear and relatively free of hiss. It's a terrific presentation.
The supplemental material is pretty solid, too. There's a still gallery, a brief documentary on the history of the Buck Rogers character, two episodes of the Buck Rogers radio show, a videotaped presentation of the Buck Rogers panel at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con, and a Buster Crabbe featurette that sets a series of stills and clips to an audio recording of Crabbe speaking to a college audience during the 70s. It rambles a bit, but is fascinating. The coolest bonus feature though, is a 1935 short, Buck Rogers & The Tiger Men of Mars. This ten minute, live-action film was produced by the makers of the comic strip and screened at the 1935 World's Fair. It's amateurish in the extreme, but is a fascinating historical curio as the very first filmed BR adventure, and is a welcome extra.
I'm a huge fan of this serial. Crabbe is as dashing, athletic and heroic as ever, and the pace is relentless. The effects and cliffhangers (although this serial has one of the most blatant "cheats" I've ever seen!) are delightful. If you've never seen it and have any interest at all in classic space opera, you should definitely check it out. If you own the previous VCI disc, you may want to sell, trade or throw it away and upgrade to the new edition. It's that much better.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
One of these is my pal Rick Burchett, who's not only a great friend, but a fantastic artist and collaborator. So, for this week's Wednesday Cover, I've selected another one of his fine covers for the 2000 DC/Vertigo miniseries Pulp Fantastic.
(By the way - this is my 70th Wednesday Cover post!)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
While I am extremely excited to know that Tales Of The Gold Monkey will be coming to DVD next year, I can't help but wonder if we'll ever get 1982's other Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired television series on disc someday. I'm talking about Bring 'Em Back Alive, of course, CBS' entry in the faux Indiana Jones sweepstakes, and a show that, for my money, was just as entertaining as Tales.
The tone of the shows were slightly different - while both programs traded in pulp adventure, Tales was more character-driven, like most Donald Bellasario productions. Bring 'Em Back Alive was more like old Republic adventure serials, with exciting stunts, a likable, two-fisted swashbuckling lead, and action-packed stories. Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, Tron) played a highly-fictionalized version of real-life big game trapper Frank Buck, and the show was set in 1939 Singapore. It was fun stuff, with crocodiles, Nazis, tigers, spies, monkeys with guns (okay, one monkey with a gun) and a crimeboss/spymaster who was a dead ringer for George Zucco!
I actually have bootleg copies of both shows - they look like hell, of course - and while I think that Tales was probably a slightly better show overall, Bring 'Em Back Alive was/is damned enjoyable, too. Neither show lasted more than a season, which is a shame, and I may be wrong, but I think that for at least part of that season they aired opposite each other in some sort of numbskull network counter-programming that assured that both would fail.
I'm often accused of glorifying crap, or having poor taste in my entertainment choices, but I love adventure stories, and such tales are in short supply these days in print, movies and on TV. I would be a very happy guy if I could I have both shows, in high-quality DVDs, on my shelves to enjoy whenever I needed a little escape....
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Golgo 13 is the ultimate assassin, an expert marksman who never fails to complete his mission, no matter how well-protected the target. He is a freelancer of apparent Eurasian heritage, who can speak 13 languages and is a master of "several of the more lethal Oriental martial arts." The main interest and enjoyment in this manga series is in seeing how he sets up and – uh, executes – his executions. Well, that and Saito's (or his studios') expressive manga cartooning.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Here's the news item.
Joe Staton and I hope to have a new volume out in 2010 collecting the original Femme Noir webcomics, and it would help considerably if we could drum up some additional sales for the Dark City Diaries trade paperback.
I don't know how much good such reviews will actually do, but it can't hurt, and with the market the way it is these days, creators have to try everything they can to create awareness of their projects... and depend on their friends to help spread the word.
Thanks. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Legend Of The Seeker is pretty standard fantasy stuff: a young man (Craig Horner, who looks a bit like the unholy love child of Scott Baio and Nathan Fillion) discovers that he is "The Seeker," a legendary hero who has been chosen by fate to kill an evil tyrant and save the world. He is assisted in his quest by a lovely "Confessor" (Bridget Regan), a sort of priestess with magic powers, and a wise old sorcerer (Australian character actor Bruce Spence of The Road Warrior). Along the way to fulfilling his destiny, the Seeker and his companions help the helpless, protect the innocent and fight lots and lots of the villain’s lackeys.
Like I said, standard stuff. But it’s very well done. Produced by Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi and shot in New Zealand by the same crew that made Hercules and Xena, Seeker boasts great sets and costumes, breathtaking scenery, skillful stunt fighting and superior CGI special effects.
ABC Studios’ five-disc set comes in a standard-sized case and features all 22 episodes of the first season in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Supplemental material includes deleted scenes, audio commentaries on selected episodes, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the show, and a featurette on author Terry Goodkind.
Legend Of The Seeker is a very good fantasy series, especially once you get past the first couple of episodes. The characters are well-drawn, the stories are entertaining and involving, and the production values are top notch. If you’re a fan of the genre, I strongly recommend checking it out.
Well, back in September at the BangPop convention, I was able to pick up four of the issues. I loved them! The Santos art was unique and beautiful, and Glut's scripts were clever and contained a lot more continuity than was typical of Gold Key titles. This issue, #17, is actually a fairly witty parody of Shakespeare's Macbeth (those three young women on the cover are witches, as it happens) - but it's also a very solid sword and sorcery adventure. The cover painting is also by Santos.
I wish I could afford to track down and buy the remaining issues, but our financial situation just won't allow it. Maybe someday....
What was great about these stores was the vast selection of obscure exploitation crap that crammed the shelves. Oversized boxes with some of the most astoundingly lurid art you can imagine. Titles and images that, to this day, are permanently seared into my aging gray matter.
I love DVD, and am thrilled both by the quality of the format and its relative affordability, but even with all the weird stuff on disc, there's so much more that was issued only on tape - and is all but forgotten today.
Fortunately, someone's archiving the best of those sleazy and garish box covers online. I stumbled across this page earlier this evening, and it was a genuine blast from my personal past. I can't begin to tell you how many of these tapes I rented - or simply picked up off the shelf and examined before deciding against laying out my cash.
If you're even remotely nostalgic for the VHS era of the 80s and early 90s, you should really check it out.
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Stuff like Star Wars, Space: 1999, the original Battlestar Galactica, Space Academy, Jason Of Star Command, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century, and The Planet Of The Apes were hugely important to me as a kid, and while I have written about some of that here at Atomic Pulp, I discovered with my Spy-Fi Channel blog that sometimes it's preferable to have a special place to write about a single subject.
So, in any case, if you're interested in that kind of material, I hope you'll check it out.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Frazetta painted at least two more illustrations for use in the promotion of the series, which suggests that maybe someone at ABC knew what they were doing!
By the way... I've started another new blog.....
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Aside from the movies I wrote about previously - Infestation, Happy Birthday To Me, Horror Express, Terror Train, Trick 'r Treat and the George Romero Living Dead cycle, we also managed to squeeze in a bunch of old Universal horror classics. Specifically, Ghost of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.
And last week, I was able to trade in a few unwanted discs at Bull Moose Music and acquire a few more movies for the marathon: the long-awaited Night of The Creeps DVD, the new Warner Brothers Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics set, and the last two Paramount Friday the 13th films.
Night of The Creeps was a joy. I love the movie. For my money, it's one of the best of the 80s. The new DVD is crystal sharp, presented widescreen and restores writer/director Fred Dekker's original ending. The bonus features a great, too.
The 2-disc Karloff/Lugosi set includes four movies I'd never seen before: The Walking Dead, Frankenstein 1970, You'll Find Out and Zombies on Broadway. The title of the set is a bit of a misnomer -only the first two are legitimately "horror" films - and only The Walking Dead is a genuine "classic," while Frankenstein 1970 is a fifties exploitation schlocker (good commentary track, though). The other two are comedies - You'll Find Out is a vehicle for now-nearly-forgotten bandleader Kay Keyser that spoofs mystery thrillers. It's pretty fun, though the one-time-on-screen teaming of Karloff, Lugosi and Peter Lorre is its most memorable feature. Zombies on Broadway features the justifiably forgotten comedy team of Wally Brown and Alan Carney in a rather tired spook comedy. As usual in these things, Lugosi is the flick's bright spot, but he doesn't have nearly enough screen time.
Not really essentials (except maybe The Walking Dead), but for a Karloff & Lugosi nut, it's great to have them.
As to the last two Friday flix - Parts 7 and 8 - one was fun, the other boring. Part 7 (The New Blood) pitted the unstoppable Jason Vorhees against a telekinetic teenage girl (the director cheerfully admits to ripping off Carrie) in an entertaining sequel with a bit of energy and a slight twist to the formula. Part 8, though (Jason Takes Manhattan) was a tired, boring mess, with an even more nonsensical than usual script, no imagination, and a plodding pace. So, anyway, now I have the entire series, which is, I admit, a decidedly dubious achievement.
That pretty much covers the month of scary movie viewing. Mixed in there were a few Netflix rentals - some fun Mystery Science Theater episodes, the remake of My Bloody Valentine (which was pretty decent, actually), Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell (disappointing), and 1981's twisted crapfest, The Pit.
Both my wife and I love Halloween - and scary movies, 'natch - and while we're going through some rough times, it was nice to escape every evening into the shadowy alternate reality of those movies. Make-believe can be a great refuge, you know?
Saturday, October 31, 2009
So, have a great holiday, and if you're looking for the perfect flick to catch after all the little masked extortionists have scattered back to wherever they were spawned, I highly recommend Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat, just recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray after being shelved by Warner Brothers for almost two years because they were scared to release it to theaters in competition against those inexplicably popular Saw films.
It's great fun, though. An old-fashioned horror anthology that borrows the non-linear storytelling structure of, say, Pulp Fiction, with four or five interconnected little tales of terror. Good performances, creepy stories, and a real understanding of Halloween. Highly recommended!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The storyline is pretty standard fantasy fare, but the cast is good, the stunts and swordplay skillful, and the special effects superior. It's a fun show.
Watching the season with my wife over the last couple of weeks also prompted me to hit my sword & sorcery bookshelf and delve into some of the paperbacks I've bought over the last couple of years that I hadn't yet read. Among these was the second "Prester John" novel by Norvell Page (author of The Spider pulps), Sons Of The Bear God.
It was great, and a solid follow up to the other Prester John novel, Flame Winds. The only problem I had with it - and it sure wasn't any fault of the story or Page's writing - was that I had just recently read Roy Thomas and John Buscema's adaptation of the same story, where they turned it into a Conan adventure for Marvel Comics' Conan The Barbarian series back in the early Eighties (and reprinted by Dark Horse Comics in Volume 17 of their Chronicles of Conan collections).
Right now, I'm zipping through Lin Carter's Thongor And the Dragon City, the second (revised) book in the Thongor of Lemuria cycle. I've said before that I'm a big fan of Carter and believe him to be an underrated author; his predilection for pastiche has hurt his reputation, but I can't fault the guy for writing what he loved.
After I finish this one, I'll probably read through the rest of the Thongor books I have while I'm still in a fantasy fiction mood. It makes for a pleasant - if temporary - respite and escape from the seemingly overwhelming real-world problems that my wife and I are tryuing to deal with lately.
But then, that's why they call it "escapist literature," right?
(And the beautiful Jeff Jones cover paintings are appealing, too.)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The clip features sword & sorcery vet Kevin Sorbo (Hercules The Legendary Journeys, Kull The Conqueror) and can be found here.
There's also a new official website up for the production. Here's the Link.
Obviously Pyun was Googling for blog references to his film, and found this blog. This makes him the second fantasy film director to post comments here, after Mark Atkins of Merlin & The War of The Dragons/DragonQuest. Man, this internet thing is pretty amazing.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Born October 20, 1882, as Béla Blasko in Lugoj, Romania, the handsome actor gained screen immortality as Dracula in the 1931 Universal film of the same name. Although his career had more than its share of peaks and valleys (or, perhaps more accurately, "peaks and chasms"), Lugosi's filmography is an embarrasment of riches for the dedicated horror movie fan.
Regardless of the quality of the production, Lugosi nearly always delivered a memorable performance, and, in potboilers like Bowery at Midnight, The Invisible Ghost, Voodoo Man, Scared to Death, The Corpse Vanishes or Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster, it is often only Lugosi's presence that makes them watchable at all.
With Halloween around the corner, it's the perfect time to pay tribute to the legendary actor by watching one or more of his remarkable performances. May I humbly suggest White Zombie (1932), The Black Cat (1934), The Raven (1935), Son of Frankenstein (1939), The Return of the Vampire (1944), or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)?
• We started, of course, with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead. I don't know how many times I've viewed this, but it still has the capacity to truly creep me out. The stark, black & white photography, the old-fashioned stock musical score... it all works. My DVD is the out-of-print Elite Entertainment "Millennium Edition," released in 2002. Beautiful, rock-solid, crystal sharp transfer.
• The next night was 1978's Dawn Of The Dead. Not as creepy, but the film manages to sustain this air of despair that's palpable. Few movies are as bleak. We watched the "Extended Cut" from Anchor Bay's, massive, 4-disc, 2007 "Ultimate Edition." This one has a few more scenes expanding on the characterization of the survivors, but seems to be missing a few brief bits that I remember from the theatrical version. I'll watch that one next year.
• Day Of The Dead is, for reasons I can't quite explain, my personal favorite of the original trilogy. I wouldn't go so far as to call it the best movie, but I just like it best. The zombie effects are the finest (and most gruesome) that Tom Savini ever did, I like the cast and characters, and find the scenario particularly tense. The conflict between the characters under extreme pressure is marvelously portrayed - this one always puts me a bit on edge. We watched the Anchor Bay "Divimax" edition from '03. The transfer on this one is gorgeous, and much improved over the earlier DVD release.
• Next, we watched George's 2005 return to the genre, Land Of The Dead. A lot of fans don't like this one, and I have a few minor problems with it myself, but for what it is - which is Romero's "action" film - it's not bad. It has some great bits, the cast is good (especially Asia Argento and the big Samoan guy), and it moves fast. We've got the unrated DVD from Universal.
• The multitude of fans that don't like Land are outnumbered by the ones that outright hate Diary Of The Dead - but Brandi and I aren't among them. We actually like it. The Blair Witch-influenced, subjective "camcorder" conceit is handled pretty well, I think, and gives the zombie attacks a certain extra punch. Admittedly, this is the most annoying bunch of characters to yet appear in a Romero film - this is the only one focusing on modern horror's requisite cast of irritating young dolts - but that just makes it more fun when they get chomped. The DVD from the Weinstein Company is fine, with some decent features.
• As Romero's next zombie flick hasn't been released yet, we moved on to the 1990 remake of Night Of The living Dead, written by Romero and directed by Tom Savini. This is one of the rare remakes that is actually good - extremely respectful of the original, but with some new twists and surprises. I'm not sure it would have turned out as well if George hadn't been involved, though. The decade-old 1999 Columbia DVD holds up well with a beautiful transfer.
• Last night, we watched Zack Snyder's 2004 remake of Dawn Of The Dead. Another decent remake, with a clever script by James Gunn that takes the basic premise but spins a completely different story from the original. This one features "fast zombies" and some great action sequences. Since I generally distrust remakes, I probably would never have bought it back when it came out, but I read an interview somewhere where George praised it. I don't think it's as memorable or thoughtful as the original, but it's pretty good.
• Tonight, we'll be watching Dan O'Bannon's Return Of The Living Dead from 1985, and tomorrow, it'll be Edgar Wright's Shaun Of The Dead from '04.
After that, I plan on spinning all four installments of Don Coscarelli's Phantasm series - since Universal finally released part 2 on DVD....
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Speaking of Captain Midnight, artist Rich Clark and I will be contributing CM adventures to Moonstone's upcoming Airfighters series, where the good Captain will be joining new versions of such Golden Age aviation heroes as Airboy, The Black Angel, The Iron Ace and Sky Wolf. You can see Rich's Captain Midnight in the upper left-hand corner of the Airfighters promo art above. (Click on it for a larger view.)
This is in addition to the forthcoming Captain Midnight one-shot comic and prose anthology.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I was a huge fan of his "Toby Peters" mysteries, the tongue-in-cheek adventures, set in the 1940s, of a schlubby Hollywood private eye whose cases always involved big-name cinema celebrities. From the first, Bullet For A Star (which involved the P.I. with Errol Flynn and Humphrey Bogart), I enjoyed the series both for its eccentric cast of recurring characters and its author's obvious love for Hollywood's Golden Age. My favorites include Never Cross A Vampire with Bela Lugosi, Buried Caesars with Dashiell Hammett, and You Bet Your Life, in which Peters must help out the Marx Brothers. All of them are fun, though.
I also enjoyed and collected his "Lew Fonesca" series (even if they were often depressing), and his two Rockford Files original novels. He was a film historian (his book on John Huston has been on my shelf for decades) and even worked on movies like Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America.
I met Kaminsky briefly about a decade ago at the Private Eye Writers of America convention in St. Louis. At the time, he'd stopped writing the Peters novels, and assured me that he was finished with the series. Fortunately, it turned out that he was wrong, and a few years later, another book in the series hit the shelves and was followed by several more.
I really enjoyed his work. The Peters books were among those that really got me into private eye fiction in my early 20s, and remain among my favorites. It saddens me that there won't be any more.
Rest in peace, Mister Kaminsky.
Monday, October 05, 2009
Obviously, we were in the mood for some lighter entertainment.
Tonight, we watched a themed double feature of 1973's Horror Express, starring horror legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and 1980's Terror Train, starring 70s scream queen supreme, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Horror Express is an old favorite with Cushing & Lee as rival scientists trapped on the Trans-Siberian Express with a powerful alien entity that can possess people's bodies. Shot in Spain on a low budget with an International cast, Horror Express is a genuinely chilling, claustrophobic little genre gem.
My DVD of Horror Express is the old "Euroshock Collection" edition from Image Entertainment, which is out of print. The movie is in public domain, so a number of versions are available, but this one has the best picture and sound of any I've seen.
Terror Train was one of Curtis' "slasher" film follow-ups to Halloween, and tells of a bunch of college kids renting an old steam train for a New Year's Eve party. Too bad for them that there's a killer on board with a grudge. Not the best of its sub-genre, but far from the worst. The claustrophobic train setting works to its advantage in keeping the viewer on edge, and veteran character actor Ben Johnson helps bring a little dignity to the proceedings.
The Fox DVD includes both full-frame (which I haven't looked at) and widescreen presentations and the theatrical trailer.
Tomorrow night? Maybe Zombies.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Again, I'll be writing a full review for my DVD Late Show column, but I have to say that I liked it better than I expected. Competently helmed by journeyman director J. Lee Thomspson, whose credits include everything from the original Cape Fear and The Guns of Navarone to Battle For The Planet of the Apes and Death Wish 4, and starring Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Sue Anderson (in an ill-fated bid for feature film stardom), HBTM is a fairly effective little thriller that may not have much splattering of blood, but does have a moderately clever script that managed to keep me guessing until the end.
The "kills" are imaginative, though clearly trimmed to minimize gore, and the cast acquits themselves well. Hollywood icon Glenn Ford even shows up in a supporting role, bringing a little class and gravitas to the low budget Canadian production.
It's not a great movie, but it's an entertaining enough couple hours of formula fun.
Friday, October 02, 2009
Along with the Living Dead miniseries, the volume will also contain the Kolchak Tales: The Frankenstein Agenda, by David Michelinie and Don Hudson. That's the wraparound cover above, by artist Woodrow Hinton.
Here's the official info:
Kolchak the Night Stalker: Monsters Among Us
Written by David Michelinie, Christopher Mills
Art by : Don Hudson, Tim Hamilton
Cover: Woodrow J. Hinton III
188pgs, 7” x 10”, $18.95
10 digit: 1-933076-59-3
13 digit: 978-1-933076-59-1
TV’s premiere paranormal investigator returns!
“Mills' purple prose narration evokes Darren McGavin's voice and gives the book the verisimilitude necessary to contrast the premise as well as serve as a catalyst for comedy.” -comicbulletin.com
Two, two, TWO titanic and terrifying tales, collecting the Kolchak "Frankenstein Agenda" and "Night Stalker of the Living Dead" miniseries!
The farmlands don't always hold peace and quiet, as these two complementing Kolchak tales illustrate with an eerie clarity. In one town, Kolchak stumbles across a hulking mutation of a man-gone-wrong, and becomes as wanted by the U.S. Army as the creature they are stalking! And in yet another small town, there is a secret behind the silent, endless acres of corn... a secret that is turning townsfolk into decaying, walking dead! Kolchak had best use his... BRAAAAINS... if he's going to get out of this one!
It's already available for pre-order at Amazon.