Thursday, December 19, 2013

Michael F. Housel's Wonderful, Magical, Literary Elixirs!

Michael F. Housel's Wonderful, Magical, Literary Elixirs...

Many years ago, when I was but a young, na├»ve lad, I penned a string of cryptic short stories in the fantasy, psychodrama vein, in an anthology entitled "Michael F. Housel's Wonderful, Magical, Literary Elixirs!". I thought the stories were pretty swell at the time, though others, not understanding my eclectic disposition, tended to differ with that lofty opinion. However, a select few eccentrics, who by chance stumbled upon the entry, were at least open-minded enough to fancy the yarns, but I guess with the grand passing of time, none of these various likes or dislikes are of significant consquence now.
The important thing is that “Michael F. Housel’s Wonderful, Magical, Literary Elixirs!” was born, presented with a prologue/epilogue and little intros, as well excellent illustrations by my pal, Steve Goodrich.

The anthology’s wraparound dealt with me, Brother Mike, a wanderer of dreams, who finds himself in an Old West locale, to present his stories, “literary elixirs” as they are so conveniently labeled, for the sake of appealing to the “bitter, hopeless and depressed”. Brother Mike trusts that these oddly geared tales will make those he encounters feel more at ease with their doleful existences.

In the original volume, Brother Mike distributes his tales from a magical, horseless wagon: not quite steampunk, but nonetheless atmospherically capturing that particular flavor. For added effect, he sports a stove-pipe hat, in homage to Cliff Robertson’s character in Rod Serling’s popular “Twilight Zone” entry, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”. (In other general respects, I have often perceived Brother Mike as a sort of poor man’s “Dr. Who”. )

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I have included a little picture of Steve's “Elixirs” cover below. As you can see, the booklet was patterned after the types one might find in the Old West, which make brief appearances in such modern , cinematic Westerns as “Unforgiven” and “Tombstone”.  (Incidentally, the title scroll was somewhat inspired by the text on "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of War of the Worlds" album cover, which Steve evolved into an infinity-sign insinuation, which then became distinctive to my would-be series.)

(It should also be noted: one of the stories in the original “Elixirs”,  “The Tormented”, was adapted as a “reading” by yours truly for the audio-zine, “Tales from the Grave”! My good friend, Brett Turner, also adapted another story entitled, "Cold to Kill", as a short, experimental film back in the late eighties!)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Frankenstein Meets Wolf Man Influence

A few friends of mine caught the ME TV SF line-up this past Saturday night. Svengoolie presented "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" and naturally with my upcoming Damnation Books release of "Flask of Eyes", I was asked if this particular horror classic was an influence on my own monster team-up.

In truth, it was most influential, for as a foundation piece for monster team-ups, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" is the granddaddy of them all. Of course, “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” also led to "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula", which as multiple-monster groupings even more so influenced my own multiple-monster excursion. Oh, and let's not forget "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein": a comical entry in the Universal franchise, but just as significant in its expansion of classic creepy characters and therefore, another indisputable influence on my book.

I think, though, that Paul Naschy's derivation of the latter trio probably hits closest to home for "Flask": that being "Assignment Terror" (aka, "Dracula vs Frankenstein", though not to be confused with Al Adamson and Sam Sherman's team-up of the same name.) "Assignment Terror" makes use of iconic monsters, but none are precisely those of previous, popular lore, but rather impressions of such.

In much the same vein, "Flask" takes the influential qualities of film and literary creatures and blends them into a parallel-universe set-up. It implies that our favorite, famous monsters are, in fact, derived from iconic imprints, which in the case of "Flask" stems from a co-existing Halloween-inspired dimension. (The concept is rather what Clive Barker insinuates in "Great and Secret Show".)

Nonetheless, for the sake of a renowned character overlap, it still all goes back to "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man". That movie set the standard, and "Flask" is most defintely one of its many roundabout offsprings.


Here are some staples you all should already know like the back of your hand, but for those not up to snuff, I offer a brief rundown of four of the most inspiring, influential horror team-up flicks ever made (and all courtesy of Universal Studios)!!!
1) "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" (1943), with the title sometimes broken into two words (in tune with the first film): A sequel to both "The Wolf Man" and "Ghost of Frankenstein" (each starring Lon Chaney Jr. in the leads), though more expansively linked to the former and also penned by Curt Siodmak. Larry Talbot is unintentionally resurrected by grave robbers, once the full moon falls upon his face, and he is then off with kind-hearted, gypsy Maleva to seek Dr. Frankenstein for a cure. Frankenstein (and offspring from "Son of" and "Ghost of") are nowhere in sight, but preserved in ice is none other than the Monster (Bela Lugosi, who originally turned down the role in '31). Larry and the Monster get along quite well, but in the end, when Larry goes lycanthropic, the creatures adapt an intense dislike for each other.
2) "House of Frankenstein" (1944): the granddaddy of monster rally pictures, featuring the Monster, Wolfman, Dracula, a hunchback and mad scientist. Karloff gets to play off Glenn Strange, who now portrays the imposing, man-made giant. The first half with Dracula (John Carradine) pretty much stands alone, with Karloff and J. Carrol Naish carrying on into the Frankenstein/Wolfman portion. Memorable, quicksand ending. Loads of fun--unforgettable for its energy and condensed zeal.
3) "House of Dracula" (1945): direct sequel to the prior, with carryovers in cast and emphasizing Dracula and the Wolfman, leaving the Monster relegated primarily to a background role. Both Drac and Talbot seek a doctor for a cure to their ailments, with Talbot being sincere in his request and Drac quite the contrary. The good doctor is infected by Drac's blood, during an ill-fated transfusion and turns dangerously Hyde-like. More somber than its predecessor, but every bit as fun and engaging.

4) "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948): the all-time great, monster comedy, to which all others (including even "Young Frankenstein" and "Mad Monster Party") are inevitably compared. The comedy duo is in top form, going up against Dracula (Lugosi, reprising his role for the first time on film since the Browning classic), Monster and Wolfman (with a neat vocal cameo by Vincent Price as the Invisible Man). Sleek and breezy; it also set the standard for other Abbott and Costello monster follow-ups, which successfully carried on through the '50s). An indisputable masterpiece.

Friday, November 15, 2013

I saw Thor...

I saw the latest Thor movie, fancied it quite a lot, despite what the snobbish critics had to say. The new Captain America trailer looks rousing, as well. I think "Winter Soldier" will be another satisfying entry in the Marvel movie series.

Real curious about this new Batman outfit in the upcoming "World's Finest" film. The speculative buzz on it is very stirring, indeed!

PS: (1/28/14) Just wanted to inject a few additional comments onto my Thor post, which was basically initiated on the basis of initiating my blog center. My words at the time were sadly sparse, but I just wished to add that, upon recently revisiting "The Dark World", I found the film even more enjoyable than during the first outing.

Tom Hiddleston's Loki is, indeed most fascinating, fluctuating among villain, brotherly friend and something enigmatically between the extremes. In the end, it's still hard to say where the character precisely stands, and for that, the Thor sequel becomes all the better textured, while throwing Loki back to his mischievous, mythological roots.

All in all, "Dark World" is fun just for the sake of such, even throwing in an ample amount of comedy, which doesn't ever puncture or hinder the plot. Check out the sequel if you haven't already. It'll be time well worth spent, and undoubtedly a nice warm-up to "Winter Soldier".