Friday, October 24, 2014

Flask of Eyes Update #5

"Flask of Eyes" is fast approaching its November release from Damnation Books, and so I'm offering a couple more visual grabbers to mount your anticipation. 

The below "Classics Illustrated Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is used in an alternate-future segment in the tale. 

Also, in the very same scene, Jack Finney's thought-provoking literary classic, "(Invasion of) the Body Snatchers" is referenced.

What are the insidious implications? What does it all mean? You'll soon understand when once you read..."Flask of Eyes"!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Flask of Eyes Update #4

As my big "Flask of Eyes" release date approaches from Damnation Books, I thought I'd offer a couple interim teasers. As such, below you'll find two posters: Jack Arnold's "Monster on the Campus" (1958) and H.G. Lewis' "Blood Feast" (1963). 

The "Monster on the Campus" artwork is actually displayed in the lead character's dingy apartment. It also links to a startling, physical change that strikes him (hint, hint).

The "Blood Feast" poster isn't referenced in the story, but the actual film is, in fact, featured in one of the tale's surreal scenes.

Anyway, hope these ghastly selections wet your appetite for my novel, and rest assured, "Flask" is most definitely coming soon to a literary source near you!!!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monster Team-up Reflection #20: The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters

With the success of "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (and the duo's monster ventures that followed), it was only a matter of time that the beloved Bowery Boys indulged in similar shenanigans. Then again, the boys had previously touched comedic, spooky turf (case in point, "Ghost Chasers", "Spook Busters" and two others co-starring Bela Lugosi: "Ghosts on the Loose" and "Spooks Run Wild"), but "The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters" (1954) comes closest to matching Bud and Lou's monster-fueled formula.

In truth, director Edward Bernds' film (which he scripted with Elwood Ulman), is another "impressions of" blend, with no actual famous, trademarked monsters appearing, but there's an honorable ensemble of eclectic entities nonetheless to churn the same sort of humorous chills. 

The plot, like "Abbott and Costello Meet Frank", deals with a brain transplant prospect. In this instance, it's foolish ol' Huntz Hall, as Sach, who becomes the object of such desires, as the boys, led by Leo Gorcey, as Slip Mahoney, visit a creepy, old home, in hopes that the occupants might sell it. (The boys wish to utilize it as a much needed lot where their neighborhood kids can play without causing damage to surrounding property.)

However, it turns out that the family inhabitants, the Gravesends, are, indeed, a most peculiar bunch, much in the "You Can't Take it With You" vein, and in that regard, forerunners to television's "Addams Family" and "the Munsters", though with an insidious bent. 

Derek, played by the great character actor, John Dehner, desires Sach's brain for his pet gorilla, Cosmos. His equally wacky brother, Anton, played with relish by Lloyd Corrigan, wants the poor sap's organ for his robot, Gorog. 

The females are just as auspiciously weird, with their sister, Amelia, played by Ellen (Grandma Walton) Corby, seeking flesh to feed to her facially attributed, man-eating plant, and their otherwise fetching niece, Francine, played by Laura Mason, an apparent vampire, who adds further to the silly thrills.

The main scene-grabber, next to flexible-face Hall, is Paul Wexler, who plays the Lurch-like butler, Grissom. He even turns into a hairy Hyde in one effective scene, followed by Hall enduring the same, bestial process later down the line.

The need to implant Sach's brain into either gorilla or robot is perplexing at best, but as in "Abbot and Costello Meets Frank", the crazy concept sure helps pile on the laughs. Oh, by the way, gorilla and robot do face off in the final reel: not the most raucous match ever captured, but amusingly staged all the same. 

Indeed, this stands as one of the boys' best. Yep, the kids will love it; adults, too, especially around the Halloween. It's only a little more than an hour long, so is conveniently designed to thwart any otherwise dull evening with a fast dose of spooky, family cheer. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I saw Dracula's Genesis...

Universal Studios has relaunched one of the great supernatural villains, apparently as an initial reboot for a new crossover monster universe, picking up (more or less) where Stephen Sommer's "Van Helsing" left off. Whether such a monster rally actually comes to be is yet to be seen, but as an otherwise solo effort, Gary Shore's "Dracula Untold" is a fine prequel, detailing Vlad Tepes' descent into monsterdom. 

As scripted by Matt Sazmia and Burk Sharpless, "Untold" is obviously derived from Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula", the film's prelude precisely, and expanded accordingly.

On this basis, Dracula, portrayed by Luke "The Hobbit" Evans, doesn't necessarily start off bad. If anything, like the real-life Tepes/Drac, his intent is solely to protect his people from the invading Turks, lead by the merciless Mehmed, played by Dominic Cooper of "First Avenger" and "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" fame. One surely can't blame Vlad for taking the fight to the enemy, but as with his historical counterpart, the fictional Count takes matters radically too far. Indeed, as Nietzsche so aptly put it, if one looks into the abyss long enough, the abyss will look back, or in this particular instance, if one emulates evil to ward off evil, one will mirror the evil one combats. Arguable, yes, but a notion many do embrace, as this film effectively reflects. 

Philosophy aside, it's only when Drac sells his soul, so to speak, by aligning himself with the legendary fiend, Caligula (Charles "Phantom of the Opera" Dance), that he transforms not only mentally, but physically. It's then through some sweeping CGI'd effects that the film adapts its otherworldly charm: so apt for the title character and his Transylvania backdrop.

Surrounding characters pacify the story's tensions, but none is more supportive than his spouse, Mirena (Sarah Gadon), who acts as a surrogate to Winona Ryder's pre-Mina in the Coppola film. Her presence allows Evans to grant his character that tormented, Gary Oldman-inspired charm, making him often oddly empathetic. In essence, though he selflessly risks his virtue to become something vile to save his people; he fails to realize (despite a promise that he may return to normal if he doesn't taste blood within three days), he's irreversibly destined to become more ruthless than his Turk adversary. 

Visually, "Drac Untold" is jammed with impressive, sprawling backdrops and "300"-ish battles. These attributes additionally give the movie a borderline Sommers "Mummy" feel, though sans the camp. The bat sequences, in particular, are very well done, as are Drac's physical changes. To empower the effects, Evans does an excellent job of invoking a Jekyll/Hyde variance as he phases from stalwart leader to parasitic man-bat.

Dance is equally effective: a hideous counterpart to the generally dashing Vlad: his face ghostly pale, his eyes gleaming of sadistic delight. Even more than Evan's monstrous version of Drac, Dance's Caligula gives "Untold" its horror core, bringing to mind the beastly "Nosferatu" blood-suckers of past. 

It should also be noted that, though "Untold'"s epic extravagance can't help but entertain, for those foolishly craving a new parlor-room rendering (or who were quick to reject NBC's now defunct steampunk version), it might be wise to wait for a sequel, or if that doesn't come about, another remake of the actual Stoker novel. On the other hand, just revisit one of the existing film adaptations to experience something more traditional.

Nonetheless, traditionalists shouldn't disservice themselves by scorning "Untold". In the inexhaustible string of Drac/vampire entries, it deserves an honorable place as a bold variation on the horror legend, presented as an extended, dark-magical prequel: a story only previously touched upon in other films, but never before adequately explored. That certainly doesn't make the film utterly unique, but its zest to be different (and yet respectful to its source) is admirable. Those who particularly hold Stoker's creation near and dear to their hearts should surely find cause to embrace this version: another illustrious chapter in the famous monster's ever enduring legacy. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Flash reborn, SHIELD returns...

Comic-book heroes have gallantly returned to television this fall (also see "Gotham" post, Sept '14) with one rendered in a new incarnation and the other valiantly carrying on.

The Flash, aka Barry Allen, actually bolted his way onto television in the early '90s, on the heels of the Tim Burton Batman craze, with John Wesley Shipp in the title role, offering a darker ambiance than what generally graced its DC counterpart. (Incidentally, Shipp portrays Allen's father in this new version.)

CW's take stars Grant Gustin in the title role. It's also an offshoot of "Arrow" ("Green Arrow", damn it, to those of us who are traditionalists). As with the '90s version (and his comic-book '50s re-establishment), Allen is accidentally transformed via extraordinary scientific means, but unlike the original show, where a Soviet outfit was refurbished to streamline the Flash's flights, Gustin's is a high-tech, prototype firefighter outfit.  All the same, his amazing quickness is, indeed, a breath of fresh air in a time where slow-poke indifference (and the perplexing exaltation of getting nothing done) has become a bizarre pastime. Allen truly wants to move on matters, right wrongs, save the day and hot damn--damn fast!

Above all, as with the prior television incarnation, this new Flash is lots of fun. As long as the plots dare to expand beyond just a few select, Central City locales (and hopefully give us some colorful villains, preferably lifted straight from DC's tried-and true mythology), it's bound to gain and sustain a loyal viewership. (The ending of the initial episode also insinuates some time-travel--oh, boy!)

On the returning side, Marvel's "Agents of SHIELD" re-enters ABC, commencing its much anticipated second season. Clark Gregg is once more in tip-top form as the mysteriously resurrected Agent Phil Coulson, as is his entire, intrepid band, even if the threat of some being revealed as HYDRA pawns remains an unsettling constant. 

To wet our appetites, the opening episode treated us to an appearance by fan-favorite Lucy Lawless, and ongoing episodes will include Adrianne Palicki, whose "Wonder Woman" pilot was unjustly squashed by accursed NBC, seemingly for being too right wing. Nonetheless, it makes one wonder who else will eventually appear: perhaps another Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) resurgence or two?

Though some claim "SHIELD'"s first season started unevenly, it certainly became required viewing by Spring '14, when its plots corresponded with the wildly successful "Winter Soldier." In fact, Season 2 opens with a cool WWII flashback featuring Cap's pals. (Heck, I'd go for a series just based on them!)

Right now, SHIELD's agents are in full swing furtively fighting the dreaded HYDRA, but it also seems likely to offer plots insinuating "Avengers 2", and if it extends to a third season (as it most likely will), "Cap 3". These prelude connections alone should ensure avid watching, keeping the series fully stationed in its current hit mode.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Collectible Time #10: Diamond Select Gill-men

Just got my Diamond Select new, 7" sculpt Gill-man. As rendered by Jean St. Jean, this sure is a dandy. It sports 16 points of articulation and in addition to its jaw-dropping design, sports an amazing paint job. The base is also quite satisfying, embellishing the figure, not distracting from it. 

This release is actually a follow-up to Diamond's earlier 7"x 7" "Creature from the Black Lagoon" diorama, which features Rudy Garcia's sculpt of the famous monster, along with his curvaceous take on Kay Lawrence (the iconic Julie Adams). Jean St. Jean actually supplied the sandy base in that instance. This one's also a winner, as you can clearly see, and still available through a number of sources, though at a higher price than when originally offered. (Glad I got mine when I did; actually, it was a Christmas present from my folks.)

Nonetheless, either release is well worth pursuing. These are high quality representations and amazingly affordable compared to other, often less impressive, though quite pricey, Gill-man pieces. If you're inclined to start a Gill-man collection, or simply want to add to an existing one, Diamond's products are a wise way to go!

PS: Keeping in the swing of Diamond Gill-men, I shamelessly plunged forth and ordered the 7" Uncle Gilbert from "The Munsters" classic episode, "Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights". You may recall the clever ending when the Gill-man makes a heartfelt cameo; below is the grand representation of that modified appearance, also sculpted by Jean St. Jean!