Saturday, October 31, 2009

A nice little creepy film perfect for tonight courtesy of Richard Gordon – Devil Doll

Day 31

Happy halloween!

Well, the end of the month has been marked by getting a cold – which has knocked me for a loop – and additional stress at work. I have to say I've enjoyed my blogging experiment even though I did miss a few days. Considering my works schedule I didn't think I did too badly.

I was going to post my interviews with Geroge Romero and Larry Cohen but after an hour going through my clippings I just couldn't find either. Damn. I hope I have those interviews on cassette instead of reel to reel. I'll check that box next.

I did find some stories from the 1970s and '80s that might be of interest and will be featured here on this blog in the future.

My wife and I are preparing for an evening of hiding as we no longer hand out candy in our 'hood due to the fact that people over the age of 21 come out to beg for treats. So we hole up in the den and keep all of the lights in the rest of the house off. Generally we have no problems.

I've got a stack of recent horror films to watch. I think I'll start on them now.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 30

Bill Gaines, the publisher of MAD and the fabled EC comics was a pretty nice guy to me. I interviewed him twice while I was in college and each time this multi-millionaire eccentric took time to answer questions. Later when I was at the "Westfield Evening News" I spoke to him again about the movie fiasco of "Up the Academy."

I was never a big fan of the the EC horror stuff that I saw in reprints, but loved the science fiction and, of course, MAD. I had the goal of writing for MAD and, taking the advice of "Writers Digest," I wrote a parody piece in the style of a MAD regular.

I told Gaines what I had done and he sat me down with Jerry DeFuccio who read it. Silence. For five minutes. The longest five minutes of my life to that date. He looked up to me and said "This is funny, but ..." he explained I needed to bring my own style to the magazine.

I published the interview in my fanzine and Gaines wrote me a nice note. So here is interview as it appeared in my 'zine in 1974. The artwork is done by Mike Moyle, a fellow member of the UMass Science Fiction Society and artist.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 28

My list of favorites

Everyone has a list of favorites songs, baseball players, books, scrapbooking stores (Kim are you still reading this?) and movies. When people ask me what is my favorite single film of all time, I don't have an answer. How could I narrow down thousand of choices to just one movie?

But in the spirit of this blogging effort, here goes some of my favorite horror films. Now these are movies I have watched and will continue to watch repeatedly. These are films I will pass down to my nephew Douglas. These are movies that I want played in the background of my memorial service. Hell, they could be my memorial service – "Mike's last words were 'Enjoy the show.'"

Bride of Frankenstein
and Son of Frankenstein
The Black Room
The Black Cat
The Raven
The Island of Lost Souls
King Kong
The Most Dangerous Game
White Zombie
Supernatural (hard to see, but worth it)
Murders in the Zoo
The Cat People
The Body Snatchers
The Wolf Man
The Monster and the Girl
The Mummy's Hands
Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein
Captive Wild Woman (yes in the same list as Bride of Frankenstein – I make no sense!)
Haunted Stranger
Fiend without a Face
The Cat and the Canary (Dick Gordon's version)
Horror of Dracula
Taste the Blood of Dracula
Brides of Dracula
Kiss of the Vampire
The Revenge of Frankenstein
Frankenstein Must be Destroyed
Scream of Fear
The Tingler
13 Ghosts
Homicidal ( so sick, so twisted)
The Doctor Phibes movies
The Raven (1963)
The Comedy of Terrors (much better than The Raven)
The Masque of the Red Death
Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-law (just the birth scene at the beginning is worth watching)
The Evil Dead Trilogy
Shaun of the Dead
Dog Soldiers
Blair Witch Project
The Kingdom ( yeah it's a TV show, but I saw it in a movie theater)
Mr. Vampire
Encounters of a Spooky Kind
Planet Terror (but not Deathproof)
Not on DVD yet, but I'm buying it: Zombieland

As you can tell, I'm not much into gore. I don't mind some moistness, but I've never been a gorehound. I like the roller coaster ride of a good horror film and the battle between good and evil.

I appreciate "Night of the Living Dead," but I can't say it is a favorite. It is a good film, though. I've never sat through the first "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie although I watched all of the second. As I recall, it made little sense. Italian zombie or cannibal movies are not my thing. I don't understand their appeal. I don't like the latest rash of torture porn movies. I don't want to understand how they could be entertaining to people – "Yup, I love that scene where they melted her eyeball" is a phrase I heard at Rock and Shock.

Call me a wuss or worse. I don't care. I know what I like. I'm sure I've missed some titles.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 27

Drive in memories I never had

When I was first in love with horror films, I naturally wanted to see them. The difficulty was, until I could drive, getting my parents to take me to some triple feature was out of the question.

They had taken us to drive-ins when my brother and I were kids. The routine included taking a bath, getting into our pjs and having the back seat of the car – probably the 1955 Buick that was as big as a studio apartment – made up as bed. I distinctly rember my father wanting to cut out of George Pal's production of "Tom Thumb" as soon as he thought we were asleep.

I wasn't, just yet and heard him.

In high school I was so fascinated by these drive-in films, I actually started a scrapbook of ads and other clippings. I would look at some of these ads and wonder "just what the hell is is movie, anyway?"

The odd little low budget things looked so, well, exotic: "The Vengeance of She" with a buxom blonde snapping a whip; "War of the Gargantuas" – just what were those monsters anyway?; "Green Slime" with the dumbest looking monster ever; and "Guess what happend to Count Dracula?" with co-feature "Phantom Fiend."

Would I ever see any of these?

I did go see the second "Dark Shadows" movie at a drive-in to please my younger brother but I know we didn't stay out all night.

Being a farm boy and having to get up and do things precluded enjoying the dawn to dusk show.

When I was in college, my girlfriend's father would have slit my throat or whipped me – he actually had a bullwhip – if I had brought her to a drive-in. She was very nice, but wasn't at all interested in horror films. I went to plenty of movies, but if they were horror, she didn't come.

And no drive-ins.

Well, now decades later I can enjoy these films on DVD. And guess what "Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?" from Something Weird Video. The only trouble is that stress and fatigue prevents me from staying up all night for that triple feature.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 26

Famous horror folk I've met

I've been very lucky as a horror film fan as I've been able to meet people over the years whose work I've admired.

Today with the whole autograph circuit at horror, nostalgia and pop culture events around the country, meeting the actors, actresses and other creators of horror and fantasy cinema is relatively easy: go the show and have a wad of cash for autographs.

It wasn't like this back in the day.

The first strictly horror cons that I can remember were two put on by James Warren in New York in the mid-1970s. I went to both and the first was pretty lame. Warren had promised appearances by people such as Vincent Price and Fay Way, but none turned up. Instead we had Forry Ackerman, makeup man Verne Langdon and producer and film buff Sam Sherman. Peter Lorre's daughter came to just check things out and Warren had a guest name tag slapped on her to beef up the star power.

The next year, though, Warren had Michael Carreras of Hammer Studios and Peter Cushing. The convention was presented at the Hotel Commodore, the august old train station hotel that was above Grand Central Station and I saw a familiar figure in the lobby. It was Peter Cushing. I mustered up my nerve and said, "Welcome to New York, Mr. Cushing."

He seemed genuinely pleased to be greeted and spoke with me a while asking me here I lived and how far I had come. Later he gave a great talk and signed autographs AT NO CHARGE for everyone who stood in line. He was a gentleman and a class act.

My friend Dick Gordon, who made "Island of Terror" starring Cushing, said Cushing had a personality similar to Boris Karloff's: a laid-back hard working gentleman.

My next encounter was in 1983 when Vincent Price came to UMass to perform a one-man show/lecture, "The Villain Still Pursues Me." May and I were comped as media with front row seats and the evening was amazing. Price later signed autographs for small group of people. I stood in line, but my wife, who is a little self conscious around most celebrities, declined to meet him.

The next day my fellow writer Stan Wiater and I participated in a press conference with Price. We asked most of the questions and I've yet to see a dime off my par tof the interview despite Stan having sold it to Fangoria and that it appeared in a book of his. I should probably post the interview just to establish my copyright!

Price was down-to-earth and frank. He was everything a fan such as myself would want him to be: funny and urbane. He was Vincent Price, dammit!

I was at some Fangoria Convention in New York, I think in the 1980s when I got to see Christopher Lee. He was speaking and taking questions from a large group of fans and I managed to ask him one myself. I was determined not to ask him the usual stuff about Hammer, so my question went along these lines: You've acted in a film directed by Billy Wilder and several by Jess Franco – can you talk about the way different directors work?

Lee actually looked happy at getting such a question but he gave a more diplomatic answer than what I have liked to have heard. I wanted some dirt!

I used to be a member of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy Fan Club. At one dinner, a member supplied the speaker and i was able to find out ahead of time so Steve Bissette could come with me.

The guest was the Cool Ghoul himself Zacherley one of the granddaddies of horror hosts. Zach gave a great talk including a delightfully tawdry anecdote about how he caught the crabs from wrestlers who had changed in the shared dressing room of WOR.

Perhaps the best "horror" event took place one night at the Cinefest in Syracuse, NY. In my 20 or so years of going to this orgy of old movies, my wife has only gone one, but at least she picked a good year. This year, not only was my friend Richard Gordon there ( producer of "Fiend Without a Face, "Haunted Strangler" and many other movies) but two of his directors were in attendance – Radley Metzger (who directed "the Cat and Canary") and Norman J. Warren ( who helmed "Inseminoid/Horror Planet").

The five of us went to dinner – Dick's brother Alex, another film producer, was stuck with another obligation – and we had a ball. The guys certainly made my wife feel at ease and the evening took on the air of a roast with the directors ganging up on Dick and Dick firing back. It was great.

Although I've bought autographs as well just to have a chance to say hello to someone, none of those experiences come close to matching to any of these.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 25

Our story so far: our blogger has tried his best to blog on horror-related topics every day this month. He's missed a few days, but yet he soldiers on.

Being a film and comics fan living in Granby, Massachusetts in the 1960s and '70s was not an easy life. Although my friends in high school didn't ridicule me for my interests – which were fairly exotic for that time and place – no one was on my wave-length.

The simple act of communicating with people with similar interests was probably the inspiration for "Inertron," which I started while I was in high school.

When I bought my first fanzines, "Gore Creatures" – now known as "Midnight Marquee" – and "Photon" I was thrilled. And in the depths of my ignorance, I thought, "i can do this too."

My dad was working as a teacher and he had bought a spirit duplicating printer – the standard quick printer for the 1960s to run off tests, etc. So I thought I'm a step ahead because I have a printer.

And my mom volunteered to type up the 'zine on her Hermes script typewriter. Later I would do a bunch of the typing as well. My parents were very supportive enough though they both wondered just why I had such odd interests.

My first issue featured a silk-screen cover – which I did myself with dad's help – and the spirit-duplicated interior pages produced in my junior year of high school. The trick, as I quickly learned, was the interior pages had to be quickly dry before I ran them through the machine again for the printing of the next page and some times that was a huge pain in the ass.

I soon started thinking about improving the production by investing in off-set printing and realized that making a fanzine was truly a labor of love – there was never a dime profit.

It didn't matter.

My first celebrity interview was with Buster Crabbe, a very gracious man. Pieces with William Gaines and James Pierce – star of "Tarzan and the Golden Lion, now on DVD – came later.

What I liked though was working with other fan writers: Kevin Shinnick, Joe Keppler, Jim Doherty, John Antosiewicz, Ed Learner, Steve Bashaw as well as artist Mike Moyle and especially Allan Koszowski.
My brother Patrick contributed art work as well.

I liked the feel that I was building something, making something. This was undoubtedly genetic as my dad was a second generation furniture-maker. I was supposed to be the third generation, but it didn't take.

I produced only six issues of my 'zine. The print run never went over 100 copies. It was a lot of work, but I loved every moment.

The hope was that other fanzines would mention your work. That was the marketing in the pre-Internet days. I managed to get a free classified ad in an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, which helped raise my circulation a bit.

By the time I was out of college, the crush of dealing with this next chapter of my life made producing a fanzine just impossible. I did a quick little newsletter and sent it out to my subscribers. I thought at the time I might be able to do something like that, but I couldn't.

(Yes, my artist friends that was my effort as a cartoonist as well!)

I look at copies of my 'zine and part of me winces. It was so crude and so naive. But then another part of me remembers just how much fun it was and how it played a key role in developing the person I am today.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 24

Here are reviews of two recent horror films released on DVD. If you've not seen "Zombieland" so far, go today! It's a funny, very human and occasionally scary film

Fear[s] of the Dark

This French animated feature bring to the screen several short films based on the work on some well known graphic artists and, largely, the film is capable of being truly eerie if not disturbing.

Its problem is one of structure. One of the stories, based on the work of French cartoonist Blutch, loses much of its impact by being broken up into chapters. The other short films are separated by an inane and pretentious bridging segment in which an animated shape arbitrarily changes form while a woman drones on about what frightens her.

The segments are quite well done with the look and animation style changing with the story. American artist Charles Burns contributes a creepy vignette concerning love, revenge and very large insects. Marie Caillous and Romain Slocombe's tale of Japanese ghosts is very disturbing as is the story of a child confronting an unknown beast by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky.

I really liked a story told in pantomime and in stark black and white of a man who breaks into an abandoned home to stay warm and enters a world he could not have expected. This work by Michel Pirus and Richard McGuire end the film on an artistic high note.

Animation fans who want something adult and involving should add this film to their Netflix list.

Blood: The Last Vampire

I always find it interesting when an animated property is adapted to live action and when live action films or television shows are made into cartoons, because seldom is the translation very successful.

This new action/horror film by director Chris Nahon is based on the successful anime series "Blood+." That animated series is a long and intricate story -- 50 episodes -- of a schoolgirl named Saya who has to awoken to the fact that she is really a very old vampire who develops into a hunter of demonic creatures for a secret organization.

Nahon and writer Chris Chow opt to provide viewers very little background and stage the movie around the climax of Saya facing the most powerful demon. The result is a stylish action film that plays out like a video game -- plenty of eye candy but with annoying holes in the story.

The action sequences staged by Cory Yuen -- one of the best stunt coordinators working today -- are pretty thrilling and Korean actress Gianna has the right degree of intensity for the lead role. I was happy to see the demons depicted on screen in old-fashioned stop motion animation, instead of computer animation. The process gives the monsters a weight and character often lacking in low budget CGI.

If you're looking for a mindless action film, "Blood: The Last Vampire" is not a bad choice. If you want to see an epic anime and more developed story, hunt down "Blood+."

© 2009 by G. Michael Dobbs

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 22 – It's my granddaughter's birthday!

I have seldom tried to interview someone in the autograph room at a convention because those folks are there to sell stuff, do a little meet and greet and keep that line moving. I couldn't help wanting to speak with John Landis, though, as he has made some of my favorite films and is one of the new generation of directors who came from an appreciation of film.

In the 1930s and '40s directors often came from the theater or they worked their way up through the ranks. However there are now many directors who started as fans. Spielberg, Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and John Landis are all "movie guys" and they have brought a new sensibility to film.

Landis came across exactly as I've seen him in other interviews: funny, opinionated and pragmatic. It was a treat speaking with him.

WORCESTER – In the celebrity autograph area of the annual Rock and Shock horror film convention, there is a collection of the usual suspects – actors who have made their mark in horror, science fiction and fantasy films.

Sid Haig, the character actor who has a new career thanks to “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” is in one corner and Malcolm McDowell, the star of many films including “A Clockwork Orange,” is busy greeting fans as well.

There is one person who seems out of place in this group, John Landis, a director whose films have earned hundreds of millions of dollars. The man who brought “Animal House, “The Blues Brothers,” “Trading Places” “An American Werewolf in London” and “Coming to America,” among many other films to the screen, just doesn’t seem to be in the same league with the guy who portrayed Jason in the last remake of “Friday the 13th.”

But Landis seemed to enjoy the interaction with fans and with his neighbor at the next table, Jason Mewes, best known for his appearances in Kevin Smith movies as “Jay.” Mewes had covered the paper blanketing the top of his table with graffiti and has left a message for Landis at his table that reminded the director he should cast Mewes in all of his movies.

Before anyone thinks that Landis, whose last theatrical releases were “Susan’s Plan” and “Blues Brothers 2000” in 1998 is some sort of has-been, it should be noted the director has been busy in the last several years with television work as well as making two acclaimed feature-length documentaries, “Slasher,” about a salesman who specializes in liquidating car inventories and “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.”

He also directed two installments in the popular “Masters of Horror” series on Showtime, experiences he said he enjoyed.

He is also going to begin shooting a new feature film based on the notorious Burke and Hare. When one fan asked him about the project, he replied in a loud, but friendly, voice, “It’s Burke and Hare. Look it up! Google it.”

For the uninformed, Burke and Hare were grave robbers who supplied medical students in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century with corpses. When there weren’t fresh dead bodies available, they made their own.

After consenting to an interview with Reminder Publications between signings for fans, Landis said the film is being produced at the venerable Ealing Studios in Great Britain and will star Simon Peg and David Tennant. He said the film would be “a romantic comedy with all 16 murders intact.”

Speaking with Landis is like getting a crash course in the realities of the film industry. When I ask about his ability to move a project forward because of his track record, he interrupted with “a track record means nothing.”

“But your films have made millions of dollars,” I said.

“It doesn’t mean anything. You’re being rational,” Landis said with a smile.

“So Hollywood isn’t rational,” I said.

“It never was,” Landis replied. “The movie business has changed like newspapers and television because everything is now corporate. It’s corporate in a way that’s truly bizarre. If you look at the product coming out of Hollywood in the last two years you’ll see it’s made for the lowest common denominator. It’s depressing.”

Landis began his directing career in 1973 with “Schlock,” a low budget horror comedy. With the advent of digital technology, Landis believes the production of films is easier today, but the distribution side of the business is in “chaos.”
“The platforms are changing, but it will all settle down,” he said.

With changes in corporate ownership in Hollywood, how difficult is it for established directors to receive a deal?

“It’s very difficult for everybody, for everybody,” he said. “Stephen Spielberg, Tony Scott Michael Mann, Robert Zemeckis [can get deals]. There are very few people the studios will hire. They’d much rather hire hacks. They’d much rather hire people with no opinions.”

Landis disputed the importance of having a good script as the basis for a good movie.

“Here’s what I tell people. It gets me in trouble. It’s not the story. People misunderstand that. A good story is a good story. It’s like jokes – it’s not the joke, it’s how the joke is told. The best example I can think of are westerns or samurai movies where there’ll be 25 movies with the exact same story, but in the hands of John Ford or Kurosawa or Preston Sturgis or Robert Aldrich – so many directors do it differently. It’s a fascinating thing. It something the studios, the conventional management, doesn’t understand. It’s not about high concept. It’s only about execution.”

And the budget of a film plays less of a role than most people think.

“The idea that budget affects the filmmaking process comes out of ignorance. You often hear critics say they spent too much, they spent too little. They don’t know what it cost. The truth is the cost of a film has nothing to do with the quality of the film,” Landis asserted.

“The cost of a film has nothing to do with the quality of a film just like genre has nothing to do with the quality of a film. I’ve made huge moves and I’ve made little moves. I‘ve made big budget movies and low budget movies and the director’s job is exactly the same – put the camera there and you guys do this,” he added.

Just like actors, Landis has been typecast as a director of comedies.

“Producers are much more comfortable offering me comedies because I’ve made a lot of money with comedies than with other genres. I mean, I love westerns, musicals. I love everything. It’s easier for me to get the money for a comedy than it would be for a serious drama,” he said.

Landis added that there are “many” projects he has in the back of his mind.

One of those he is currently trying to launch is a movie on the life of publisher William M. Gaines, the man who is best known for bringing MAD magazine into the world.

Since he has worked with both fiction and documentary films, does Landis have a preference?

“I’m a filmmaker. I like making movies. I don’t care what they are,” he said.

He learned from “The Slasher” that pre-conceived ideas about a documentary subject could be easily changed due to the reality a director is shooting.

“In some ways the documentary is more experimental,” he said.

He said he enjoys appearing at horror film conventions such as this one, although this is only his fourth or fifth time. He believes it’s a way for performers to make some additional money from their work, since studios make so much, and he enjoys meeting the fans.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 21

Our story so far:our blogger is attempting to post everyday in October about horror films. He's missed two days due to fatugue and schedule. He is a bad blogger.

Why I'm showing my nephew Williams Castle films for Halloween:

1. They won't get me in trouble with his mother. There aren't any objectionable images or hanky panky (granted I'm not showing him "Homicidal" just yet – he's only 10.)

2. They have some nice little shocks.

3. They have a sense of winking at the audience. The Castle films don't take themselves seriously.

4. They have gimmicks. In today's value-added world with no attention span audiences, they seem almost contemporary.

5. He'll get to see his first Vincent Price film. Soon enough he'll graduate to Peter Cushing and Boris Karloff.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 19
Back from Rock and Shock

We had a great time even though Mark was probably the only one to make money, thanks to his fine skills as an artist. He was creating caricatures of people as zombies and literally drew all day Saturday and Sunday. He had barely time to walk around.

While some of my DVDs sold, I still carried home quite a number of them – so guess what EVERYONE is getting for Christmas?!

So here is the first posting from the show with some random pics:

There were a surprising number of crafts at the show including this cool skill themed quilt.

Marty was selling his Western Mass. horror DVD and the preview from "Angel's Blade" caught many people's eyes.

I wanted this model very badly, but not badly enough to shell out the dough.

At the next booth over: buuuuuuuzzzzzzzzz buuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzz all Saturday.

Fine art from

More to come tomorrow.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 16

A short post for today as I'm preparing with my friends to head over to Rock and Shock. I'll will be Tweeting through the show, so you can read those posts here and on my Facebook page.

And I'll be posting photos and video later on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 15

A shameless come-on

See a real live movie producer! Witness an actual artist draw right before your eyes! Buy something from an author who will only have ONE copy of his book on animation, but plenty of other stuff!

It's only at Rock and Shock 2009! Presented in amazing Get-cool-stuff-and-meet cool-people-scope!

Okay, the Rock and Shock 2009 show is just hours away now and Mark, Marty and I will be in booth 52 listed under Inkwell Productions.

Although we all hope to turn a buck or two in our favor, we also just want to embrace our horror geekiness and hope some of you would like to as well.

That's why we hope to see you there. If you're someone one of of us knows, that great. If you're someone who reads this blog and lives within driving distance, then here is an extra little bonus.

Come up to me and say, "Dude, I read your blog, man" in your best Jeffrey Lebowski voice and you will receive a small free gift. Nothing spectacular, but a little added value.

So come to the DCU Center in Worcester Friday night or Saturday and Sunday and witness the madness that is the finest horror film/heavy metal in Western and Central Massachusetts. What the heck – all of Massachusetts and Connecticut, too. Well, saying that I should include the rest of New England.

©2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 14

Boy am I tired. I don't sleep very well. I tend to think about work a lot and will often write leads to stories while trying to fall asleep.

We just got back from taking our granddaughter to dinner and speaking with our daughter. We were told that we couldn't adopt her – based on how she entered this country – when she was our foster daughter and frankly that hasn't stopped us from having a parent/daughter relationship with her.

When she came to live with us at age 15 after living in years in refugee camps, we soon discovered the great cultural gap that separated one Baby Boomer American, one Baby Boomer Scots woman and one Vietnamese teenager.

A few things helped. She loved, for reasons that were never really clear, "Married With Children." She seriously dug Al and Peg, despite the fact the humor was based a foreign culture.

Through her we became introduced to Hong Kong movies which certainly changed my film appreciation.

Best of all, she loved horror films.

My wife had a night job along with her day gig and when she went off to work, Chau and I would watch horror movies. She would sit next to me on the couch and have a blanket, which she drew up close to her eyes. it was there to protect her.

We watched "Aliens" and "Predator" back to back and she had such a bad dream she shattered the jade bracelet she wore. I was blamed for that.

She watched the first "Evil Dead" movie ( that was probably a bad move on my part) and one of the "Basketcase" sequels that earned me a bit of scorn from my better half.

We still talk about making a movie date to see something scary as she still likes horror films, but with a baby and a teenager in the house her time is limited.

I do think back to those times going through a video store with her, picking something that clearly filled her with a delicious dread and hurrying home to watch it with her trusty blanket.

Too bad my eldest granddaughter doesn't like horror movies.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 13

A reminder: Our blogger is attempting to post every day in October something about horror in films and popular culture.

What do you do when you get the story wrong? You work to get the story right.

Back in the mid 1990s when I co-owned and edited "Animato! The Animation Fan's Magazine," I wrote about Fleischer Studio alumni Joe Oriolo who made a name for himself in the 1960s when he secured the rights to Felix the Cat and produced the popular cartoon series for television. He also made a series that I watched as a kid and pretty much hated, "The Mighty Hercules."

I can still sing part of the Hercules theme song from memory though.

By the way, the Oriolo family still has the rights to Felix.

When I interviewed him in the 1970s, Joe pretty much took credit for the creation of the most enduring "horror" figure in animation, Casper the Friendly Ghost. He mentioned writer Seymour Reit, but only as a collaborator.

Well, Reit was the creator of Casper and he brought the error to my attention. I interviewed him in New York over lunch at a very nice restaurant and he insisted on picking up the tab. He was a charming guy who was amazingly philosophical about having sold off his rights to the character for only $200. I was happy to write a follow-up story.

Click on the two photos and read his story. It's a cautionary tale about creators and their creations.

And here's a Casper short – co-driected by my friend Myron Waldman.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 12

Bela, Bela, Bela

Of all the classic horror stars, Bela Lugosi still fascinates people in ways that mystifies me. There was one documentary I saw about him that concluded with the "fact" that Bela's movie memorabilia sold for more higher prices that items from films featuring Boris Karloff – therefore concluding that Bela's legacy is greater than Karloff's.

Perhaps Bela's stuff does cost more and I suppose a cruise through eBay might bolster this claim, but that doesn't mean he was a better actor or appeared in superior movies.

Lugosi was a trained actor and a veteran of the stage but, in my opinion, he never seemed to really be able to communicate in English as effectively as other immigrant actors of his time, such as Peter Lorre, for instance. Looking at his career choices he seemed dead set at being the leading man, unlike Karloff who sought supporting roles in non-horror films through his career.

At his best, Lugosi seemed to truly inhabit his characters with a gusto that other screen monsters seldom mustered. Many actors attempted to give their villains some elements of sympathy or characteristics that made them more three-dimensional.

Not Bela. His guys were bad and twisted to the bone.

I think his fans didn't want three dimensions. They wanted some very foreign guy whose voice and manners hinted at sinister things they dare not imagine.

While "Dracula," the film role that both made him and broke him all at the same time, is a must-see for any serious horror fan, I think "White Zombie" may be his best starring role while his Ygor in "Son of Frankenstein" was his best character role.

"White Zombie," was a independent production made by the Halpern brothers in 1932. Lugosi is "Murder Legendre" the zombie master on a Caribbean island who is asked by a man who falls in love with a pretty young thing (played by silent film star Madge Bellamy) to turn her into a zombie so she would only love him.

Even for 1932, the film has a creaky look and feel to it, which actually seems to work in its favor. It seems to be more of a fairy tale than a horror film in some regards.

The zombies themselves are not the brain-eating ghouls we all know and love, but shambling robots used as free labor on the sugar plantations.

Here's a re-issue trailer for the film.

If you want to buy the very best DVD of this public domain film go to the Roan Group site and buy their version.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 11

Here are some Karloff stills from my collection. What I liked about Karloff (and Price and Cushing) is they were actors who could be the lead in a film or take on a character role with equal grace.

Karloff was essentially a character actor before he hit it big with "Frankenstein" in 1931. Although he was busy through the 1920s, he was always a supporting player who drove a trucks between jobs to support himself. He was in his forties when fame and success came to him.

Here's a clip from "Smart Money" in 1931 with Karloff the character actor in a scene with Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

"The Public Defender" was a 1931 crime drama with Karloff playing the role of "the Professor." There's Boris on the far left of the scene. If you want to see Karloff in one of his best supporting roles from the early 1930s, check out "Five Star Final," one of my favorite newspaper dramas, the next time it's on TCM.

Although director John Ford became primarily known as a Western director, he was in the 1920s and 1930s simply a director with experience in a variety of dramas. "The Lost Patrol" (1934) was a good one with Boris as Sanders, a British soldier, who under the stress of being lost in the desert. allows his religious fanaticism to take hold of his common sense. That's Victor McLaglen and Wallace Ford with Karloff.

"The Raven" (1963) isn't as funny a horror comedy as "The Comedy of Terrors." It's pretty silly, but it does give viewers the chance of seeing Karloff with Price and Peter Lorre sending themselves up a bit.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 10

Our story so far: our hero is attempting to blog about horror related subjects each day of the month of October, but he has already missed Day 8 (see reasons below). He hopes the readers forgive his human frailty.

I'm a Karloff guy.

In horror film circles many people form a relationship with a horror star. It's like liking blondes or brunettes, the Yankees or the Red Sox.

For me I love Boris Karloff. Next up in my affections comes an even match between Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are also enjoyable, but these three are my top preferences. I will watch them in almost anything.

And yes, I also like the oiliness of Lionel Atwill and the clumsy ham-fisted charm of Lon Chaney Jr.

I know that Karloff was the first horror actor I came to know and I appreciated the fact at an early age that I could enjoy him in a number of other films. Lee and Lugosi were both typecast because of their look (Lee) and accent (Lugosi).

Now nothing gets horror geeks more riled up than a Karloff fan inferring in some way that Boris was the better actor than Bela.

The first time I met my friend Richard Gordon and his late brother Alex – gentlemen, film producers and horror fans – a ex-buddy of mine and a Lugosi fan tried to corner them with the "who was better" question. Both men knew Lugosi personally and Richard produced two films with Karloff and was a friend.

I remember Alex – a supreme diplomat – crafting a conciliatory answer. I was embarrassed by the question – gawd, what a fan boy!

The Gordon Brothers always had nice things to say about both men and both were quite annoyed with the depiction of Lugosi in Tim Burton's film "Ed Wood." Lugosi was always an old world gentlemen who would have never called Karloff a "cocksucker," they insisted. I have no reason to doubt them.

The fact that Richard maintained that Karloff was apparently a down-to-earth guy with a work ethic that that literally kept him busy to his death justified my fan devotion to him. A working class horror star, indeed!

I'll post some rare Karloff images this week and to start with here's one with Boris in drag. My wife's reaction: that's pretty scary!

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, October 09, 2009

Day 9

Yes, I missed yesterday, I failed my own challenge. The horror!

My professional life is a series of deadlines and today's will be quite crushing. I caved in and didn't blog yesterday after writing all day in preparation for today.

Don't worry. I'll make it up to folks, SOMEHOW. The burden of providing free content to the world!

In the meantime, the following is why I like horror movies. In fact it's why I like movies in general. Besides the appeal of an artistic medium that combines the aesthetics of other mediums to create a vibrant kind of story-telling, I like movies because they are not real.

Except of course for documentaries. But I like those swell also.

No, movies give me a respite from crap like this:

"America celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage of discovery by hosting an enormous world’s fair on the shores of Lake Michigan. This “World’s Columbian Exposition” featured statues of the great explorer, replicas of his three ships, and commemorative stamps and coins. Because Columbus Day was a patriotic holiday--it marked the opening chapter in American history--the newly written Pledge of Allegiance was first recited in schools on October 12, 1892.

"Nowadays, however, an embarrassed, guilty silence descends on the nation each Columbus Day. We’ve been taught that Columbus opened the way for rapacious European settlers to unleash a stream of horrors on a virgin continent: slavery, racism, warfare, epidemic, and the cruel oppression of Indians. This modern view of Columbus represents an unjust attack upon both our country and the civilization that made it possible. Western civilization did not originate slavery, racism, warfare, or disease--but with America as its exemplar, that civilization created the antidotes.

How? By means of a set of core ideas that set Western civilization apart from all others: reason and individualism. Throughout history, prior to the birth of Western civilization in ancient Greece, the world seemed impervious to human understanding. People believed that animistic spirits or capricious deities had supernatural powers to cure diseases, grow crops, and guide the hunter’s arrow toward his prey. To get the attention of these inscrutable spirits, people resorted to prayer, ritual, taboo, and human sacrifice, relying always on the mystic insights of shamans and priests.

"This pervasive mysticism had practical consequences: festering disease, perpetual poverty, and a desperate quest for survival that made offensive warfare against human beings seem as natural as hunting animals. Such was the plight of America’s Indians before 1492--and such was Europe’s own plight, once the civilizations of Greece and Rome had given way to the mysticism of Christianity and the barbarian tribes. It was Western philosophers, scientists, statesmen, and businessmen who liberated mankind from mysticism’s grip. Once scientists revealed a world of natural laws open to human understanding, medical research soon penetrated the mysteries of disease and epidemic, allowing us to look back with pity upon American Indians and other historical victims of diseases now preventable and curable.

"On a much wider scale, the Industrial Revolution employed science, technology, and engineering to create material goods in profusion, so that even people of average ability could become affluent by historical standards. By demonstrating how wealth can be created in abundance rather than stolen by armed force, America and the West supplied a moral alternative to the bloody tribal warfare of past eras. Western civilization’s stress on the value of reason led inexorably to its distinctive individualism. Western thinkers were first to declare that every individual, no matter what his skin color or ancestry, is fully human, possessed of reason and free will--a being of self-made character who deserves to be judged accordingly, not as a member of a racial or tribal collective.

"And thanks to John Locke and the Founding Fathers, individuals were recognized as possessing individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness – rights that made slavery indefensible and led to its eradication, at the cost of a civil war. These are the facts we are no longer taught –and the measure of that educational failure is the disdain with which Columbus’s holiday is regarded in the country that owes its existence to his courage. It is time to take back Columbus Day, as an occasion to publicly rejoice, not in the bloodshed that occurred before Columbus’s arrival and after, but in our commitment to the life-serving values of Western civilization: reason and individualism. We do so by honoring the great explorer who opened the way for that civilization to flourish in the New World.
# # #
"Thomas A. Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Mr. Bowden is a former lawyer and law school instructor who practiced for twenty years in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of 'Atlas Shrugged' and 'The Fountainhead.'"

Yes, Dracula and company seem to pale next to these folks.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Day Seven

October is the month of horror films and I receive a boatload of them in the mail yesterday and today for review.

The packages included a great William castle collection with eight features and a documentary on Castle. We're babysitting our 10 year-old nephew later this month and I smell a Castle double feature. He's already seen "13 Ghosts" and loved it. He looked through the ghost viewer and didn't chicken out!Brings a tear to my glass eye!

I think "The Tingler" will make an appearance and maybe it will get loose!

I'm a sucker for ballyhoo and carnival show business values and Castle was the best at this kind of winking at the audience.

I also received the Belgian film "Left Bank" which has been compared to "Let the Right One In." Also in the package from MPI was "Fears in the Dark," an animated horror anthology film I want to see and a pretty grim looking film called "Sauna."

I'm starting a watch-a-thon on Monday. There's room on the couch. Give me a call!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Day 6

Let's all go! Keene, NH isn't that far away!

"Brides of Dracula" is one of my favorite Hammer films with Peter Cushing in fine form.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Day 5
A couple of reviews

Our story so far: In honor of Halloween, your humble blogger is going to write about horror films, etc. each and every day of the month.

Caution: Mike reviews one very nasty little movie and one quite good one.

“The Objective” has one of the best trailers I’ve seen of any recent movie and I’m happy to report this film from writer and director Daniel Myrick, the co-creator of “The Blair Witch Project,” lives up to the hype.

Set in November 2001 in Afghanistan, A CIA operative leads a group of Special Forces soldiers into the mountains to supposedly find a Muslim cleric whose support would be valuable to win the hearts and minds of the non-Taliban citizens of the country.

That, of course, is not the real deal. Actually the agent is pursuing a phenomenon he heard about when he was training Afghans to fight the Soviets. This force is an unstoppable weapon.

There are some familiar themes here. The group of soldiers being picked off by unseen foes harkens all the way back to John Ford’s “The Lost Patrol” and continued more recently in a film such as “Southern Comfort.” Myrick makes it work though.

To say much about the film would be a disservice to viewers. It is an extremely solid, adult film that delves into the same territory as “Blair Witch” in that people in a natural environment are facing something quite unnatural.

There are some good thrills, but unlike “Blair Witch” which pretty much scared me as no film had done so since I was a kid, “The Objective” filled me with an uneasiness and dread – a different reaction but an effective one.

This is definitely a film to see. It’s on DVD, so what are you waiting for?


Here comes the nasty part; Kim avert your eyes.

I received a copy of “Dead Girl” and I had little idea what I was getting into. I hadn’t read any buzz about it other than the pitch from the publicist that promised a horror film that was more about a rite of passage of two teenage friends and the testing of their friendship as two high school outsiders.

The word “poignant” was actually used to describe this movie.

After watching the film, I wondered how the hell I was going to write about it in the weeklies I edit. These are family newspapers and how do I describe a movie in which two high school losers discover the naked body of a what appears to be a dead woman in the basement of a closed hospital. Except she’s not dead exactly, but is a flesh eating zombie. And one of the boys decides that since she isn’t really alive it would be okay to have sex with her. Repeatedly. And to sell this privilege to other losers.

Poignant indeed.

Boy howdy this necrophilia movie sure reflects a rite of passage that most of us men will recognize from our mis-spent youth.

Apparently someone lost the will to actually sell this movie for what it is. As it stands it is an amazingly nasty zombie movie – not so by effects or visuals but by idea. I’m sure that would have appealed to a certain audience.

Apparently, according to the “making of” feature, everyone wants to talk about the friendship and teen angst angle. I suspect someone might be just a little guilty about making a movie in which teenagers violate a dead body – even though that dead body wants to eat them – and not in a good way.

Cue Beavis and Butthead giggle here; "He said eat me."

If mean-spirited zombie movies are your cup of tea, grab some “Dead Girl.” If not, like me, watch something better.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Otto Kruger and Gloria Holden in a movie I've yet to see, "Dracula's Daughter."

Day 4

So many movies, so little time. The problem a film fans now face is how to divide your time. When I was a kid in high school your options were to watch whatever was on television or go to the movies. Today, we can go to theaters, watch movies on cable, watch movies on pay per view, watch movies on DVD and watch movies on the computer.

When I was in college I knew a guy who kept a list (on him no less) of every horror, science fiction and fantasy movie he had seen. he was a clerk at a bookstore in Chicopee and he'd quiz me about what films I had managed to see in the pre-cable, pre-home video days of the early 1970s.

Needless to say, I frequently failed.

With all of that increased access today, you can still miss a lot of movies. I know I do. I didn't see "Slither" until recently because I didn't want to go the theater by myself. Movie-going isn't a solitary activity for me and I don't feel like exposing my wife to films she wouldn't enjoy.

The still above is from my collection and it's a movie I've yet to see. I've not seen the film Vincent Price really enjoyed doing – "Dragonwyck" – either (although that one I do have in a collection of 20th Century Fox horror films). My to-be-viewed- shelf has way too many DVDs waiting for my eyeballs and a number of them are horror.

Unfortunately, "Dracula's Daughter" is not among them.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Day 3

Perhaps the rarest horror autograph in my collection

Film archivist and historian Scott MacQueen was a friend for many years and he wrote a definitive look at the various versions of the "Phantom of ther Opera" that was never published in its final form as a book. Parts of it did see print as a two part story in "American Cinematographer."

During the course of his research he was able to find and interview Mary Philbin, Lon Chaney's leading lady in the film. Although Philbin was a pretty prominent actress in the 1920s, she retired from films in the early 1930s and had been forgotten by Hollywood.

Scott did find her in the late 1980s and although she didn't provide many new insights into the film's production, it was impressive to an actress who had played such a pivotal role in a classic film.

He was kind enough to ask her for an autograph for me.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Day 2: A favorite bad movie

Man, if there's a concept less scary than a slowly shambling mummy then it's a slowly shambling possessed demonic tree!

And that's the reason I love the goofiness of "From Hell it Came," a spectacularly cheesy 1957 Milner Brothers production, which is now available on DVD through Amazon and the Warner Brothers Archive Collection

Tobonga the tree monster itself, crafted by the amazing Paul Blaisdell – the man whose low budget monster populated films from American International Pictures in the late 1950s – is a great monster. Here's a guy who was asked to make a tree monster which could walk and he pulled it off with style.

Here's a favorite image from the film as the heroine attempts to figure out what animates the tree monster. I love the use of stethoscope, which poses the question of whether or not tree monsters have a heart?

Below is a rare image Bissette and I found in the crates of odd stills we used to go through at Cinefest in Syracuse. The scene is from the film "Arson for Hire" and the star of the film, Steve Brodie, is one the ground taking care of Jason Thomas. Look who's hanging around witnessing the slam bang action?

The plot from from Imdb: "Johnny Broderick, arson squad investigator, and his assistant, Ben Howard, investigate a warehouse fire and find evidence of arson. Lawyer William Yarbo is behind the series of incendiary fires that have been plaguing the city. Keely Harris, an actress, inherited the warehouse from her father. Yabro calls on her and says that he and her father had heavily insured the building and planned to burn it and collect, and also tells her she must accept half of the insurance money or he will see that she is blamed for the arson. "Pop" Bergen, the father of Marily Bergen, is the torch man hired by Yarbo, and he perishes in one of the conflagrations. Yarbo learns that Keely is cooperating with Broderick and he enters the movie studio where she is working, determined to kill her. Written by Les Adams"

I wonder where that costume went. Perhaps one day it will turn up at a tag sale or on eBay!

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Day 1

So I thought I would issue myself a little blogging challenge and post something horror related every day during the month of October.

I came to horror films rather late in life – junior high school. As a kid my earliest horror film memory is watching the Ray Harryhausen film “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” on television and I liked it.

But I didn’t like my next encounter much.

My dad was stationed at Maxfield Field in Montgomery, Alabama in 1962. I was in the third grade. There was a movie theater close by with kiddie shows on Saturday. My parents would drop my brother and I off and I remember seeing cowboy movies and a Hercules epic of some sort.

Amazingly, this theater was running the first “Batman” serial 20 years after is release and I was enthralled. It stunned me that Batman had been made into a movie.

Well, one day, my parents dropped us off and my brother and I paid our admission and went into the auditorium. The first show hadn’t stopped as yet and the film was the inane “Journey to the Seventh Planet.” The plot revolved around astronauts seeing loved ones as they explored the planet and it turns out it’s simply mind games played by a giant brain living in a cave with a huge eyeball in the middle of its, well, brain.

We walked into a scene in which the brain monster dominated the screen. I was petrified with fear. Taking my brother’s hand I walked out. I tried calling my folks but they were shopping. We waited outside the theater for two hours.

I caught hell for this decision and didn’t see another movie in a theater until 1965.

After that whenever anything vaguely horrific came on television, I freaked out.

All of this came to a head of sorts when I was in junior high. I liked movies. I watched a lot of them from 1965 to 1967 when we were stationed on Okinawa. Kadena Air Force Base had two theaters and Fort Buckner, the big Army installation, had a huge theater. Movies would play at Buckner first and then go to the Kadena theaters. I watched some films twice that way.

The only “horror” film during this time was “The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.” To this day it astounds me my parents brought me to that thing. Sorry Mom! Sorry Dad!

So jump ahead a few years to 1967-68 and I was a fetal film fan by junior high school in Granby, Mass. I suppose since horror was a forbidden fruit that I gravitated toward that.

We had three TV stations in those pre-cable days and old movies were still a staple for local programmers in those days. I started watching whatever I could and was interested that a guy like Boris Karloff appeared in non-horror films. This revelation got me watching other types of movies and my interest grew.

I read “Horror!” by Drake Douglas and Carlos Claren’s “An Illustrated History of the Horror Film.” I bought “Famous Monsters of Filmland,” Castle of Frankenstein” and “Larry Ivie’s Monsters and Heroes” as often as I could afford them or find them.
Being a film/comics geek in those days was hard, frequently solitary, work.

I began publishing “Inertron,” a fanzine, in my junior year of high school.

I have to say my interest in writing came directly from my wanting to communicate about these films I saw with other fans.

The first celebrity I interviewed was Buster Crabbe and the piece ran in my ‘zine.

I was down a path I’m still on today.

By the way, I’ve since seen the movie with the giant brain, thanks to my friend Steve Bissette. It’s truly lame. Boy, was I a dumb kid.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs