Friday, October 22, 2021


The Dark Fiction series follow-up to Raffaele Pezzella/Eighth Tower Publishings' The Black Stone: Stories to Conjure Lovecraftian Summonings (see March '21 post) has just sprung from the crypt. 

The Beyond: Stories Inspired by the Lucio Fulci Death Trilogy pays homage to the celebrated Italian director's "Doors of Death" saga, which includes City of the Living Dead (aka The Gates of Hell), The Beyond (aka Seven Doors of Death) and House by the Cemetery

The 319-page anthology contains stories by Glynn Owen Barras, Andrew Coulthard, Richard Alan Scott, Sarah Walker, J. Edwin Buja, David Agranoff, Anthony Trevino, John Chadwick, David Voyles, Nora Peevey and B.E. Dantalion. 

My tale, "Summer Urges", also graces the edition, which crawls from the eerie events of City of the Dead/Gates of Hell, a film I viewed in 1983 at the Quakerbridge Mall Cinema in Lawrenceville, NJ. Little did I realize at the time that I would someday contribute a spinoff to the odious odyssey. Ah, destiny; and thank you for carving it, Mr. Pezzella!

Fulci's "death trilogy" is stylish and nightmarish, charged with relentless, paranormal intensity. The same can be said of Dark Fiction #2's contents, which continue the macabre maestro's legacy in a most heartfelt (and heart-pounding) way. 

Order a copy of The Beyond: Stories Inspired by the Lucio Fulci Death Trilogy in either hardcover or paperback at

And don't forget, Eighth Tower Records' Fulci music tribute (see Sept '21 post) is still available. The CD can be combined with the paperback to create one cool, ghoulish order:

No matter which way you go, you're in for some chillin' Fulci vibes!



Thursday, October 21, 2021

I saw Dune's 2nd Remake (Part 1)...

Frank Herbert's Dune has graced celluloid before, twice actually, with the first, David Lynch's legendary but polarizing vision, having surfaced in various edits. The second adaptation proved a popular, John Harrison-helmed, SyFy miniseries that begat a popular, Harrison/Greg Yaitanes-helmed sequel. Prior, proposed attempts by Franklin J. Schaffner and Alejandro Jodorowsky have become legendary, to the point that their unfilmed constructions have made indelible, what-if marks among Herbert's sect.

One could argue against retelling the extraterrestrial Lawrence of Arabia yet again, but when it comes to transferals-to-film, one can't keep a good book down. (Consider The War of the WorldsTreasure Island, Jekyll/HydeFrankenstein, Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Moby Dick, Beauty and the Beast and Hamlet, to cite but a few.) This third Dune won't be the last. Count on that, and I'm not referencing the promised Part 2, either, but remakes yet to be born. And yes, you read me right: Dune '21 is but half the novel, with another cinematic installment teetering on the horizon with an undisclosed release date.  

When push comes to shove, and no matter the risky content split, one must accept the fact that another savored mythology has been rehashed: a dreamy, exotic thing based on other dreamy, exotic things that have sprung from applauded literature. Fans of Herbert's work won't turn away from it, even if they should choose to admonish it. 

But how does director Denis (Blade Runner 2049) Villeneuve's Part 1 hold up? His screenplay, co-penned with Jon Sapihts and Eric Roth, is well paced. From that, Dune draws one in as would any silken, theatrical narrative. Its Parnassian visuals, Greig Fraser's cativating cinematography and Han Zimmer's metaphysical score also embolden the package.

The plot, of course, is known to the point of arguable fault (whether severed or in whole), so I won't restate the capitalist-driven strand here. I'll simply share the obligatory, who's-who, character/cast roster: Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides; Oscar Issac as Leto Atreides; Rebecca Fergusen as Lady Jessica; Jason Mamoa as Duncan Idaho; Josh Brolin as Gurney Hallek; Javier Bardem as Stilgar; Dave Bautista as Glassu Rabban; Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Liet-Kynes; Zendaya as Chani; Charlotte Rambling as Gaius Helen Mohiam; Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh; David Dastmachian as Peter de Vries; and Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, "the floating fat man". (Alas, there's no Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in this segment, which to me is like leaving Little John or Friar Tuck out of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, but then they're obviously saving him for Part 2, right? I'd choose Justin Beiber for the role. The little-girl demographic would drive ticket sales through the Arrakis roof!) 

In the revisionist scheme of things, there are other wee nuances that come and go with this venturesome, giant-worm warm-up, and that will happen with any retelling, but I suppose the ravagers-raping-the-spice-laden-land implication remains in the forefront and could be taken as an allegory for current immigration abuses (which really comes down to translocating imperialism, you know), but the allusion is more a matter of accidental timing and something that could (should) fall to the wayside with the second half. (Dune's "petroleum-warring" allusion, though, will probably continue to penetrate, if one so chooses to acknowledge it.) The point is, Herbert's saga (with  books and movies combined) can mean whatever one wishes. In other words, Dune isn't precisely parabolic in the manner of Planet of the Apes or Star Trek

I don't mean any disrespect in stating that, for  there's nothing wrong with a saga being no more than an exciting exploit. Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan stories are a string of such examples, and for the enjoyment they bring, they deliver the goods without a hitch. Herbert's novels and their '21 half-incarnation pluck Burrough's strings, though with a Jack Kennedy surrogate leading the loquacious, neo-Camelot pageantry. 

If its aesthetic exposition earns majority approval, the new Dune could result in a thriving, theatrical franchise. In this regard, it could become, as its advance supporters have been fast to blab, the next Lord of the Rings, but then the distinguished John Carter deserved that eminent niche, and we all know how that turned out. Guess we'll just have to see what the ol' cha-ching determines in this arenaceous instance. Yeah, I believe Part 2 will be greenlit, but will it be enough to spread fanatical cheer or a lackluster, exclusive-streaming premiere? As the petulant Prince of Denmark so proclaimed, "Ay, there's the rub."

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Collection Recommendation: Mr. Lobo's Cinema Insomnia (War of the Robots)

Mr. Lobo's Cinema Insomnia (through Alpha DVD/ presents another Italiano, sci-fi spectacular: War of the Robots

This '78 exploit is an idiosyncratic, fan favorite of the most "misunderstood" sort, featuring Antonio Sabato Sr as courageous Captain John Boyd and yummy Yanti Somer as his appealing subordinate, Julie.

War of the Robots is, in fact, the second in a quartet of such spaghetti, space wonders, directed by Alfonzo Brescia, who gave the world the comparably misunderstood Cosmos: War of the Planets (see Sept post).  

The plot orbits around Professor Carr (Jacques Herlin), a super-geneticist and Lois (Malisa Longo), his super-able assistant (and Boyd's presumed gal), who are "kidnapped" by golden-crowned androids for what can at best be called an ambiguous cause. Boyd and his brave crew blast forth to retrieve the erudite captives, but not before engaging suspicious aboriginals and ray-gunning/light-sabering skirmishes. The story slides in an anesthetizing manner, which achieves a blatant, Star Wars-wannabe beat. 

Mr. Lobo fuels this cosmic clash with his jeering but cordial observations, robotic buffers and mocked-up, 70s conspiracy-theory insertions. Truly, this way-out package should not be evaded: an essential edition for any ever expanding Cinema Insomnia collection. 

Order Mr. Lobo's Cinema Insomnia: War of the Robots at



An Alternate Reality: I saw Injustice...

DC/WB's newest, animated endeavor, Injustice, is based on the top-selling, Gods Among Us video games and Tom (Suicide Squad) Taylor's prequel, comic-book saga, even though these sources have thus far eluded me. 

I found Injustice entertaining enough, perhaps because I had no choice but to enter it cold. However, I can only go so far liking stories that turn heroes into villains for the sake of instilling some clever contrast. (Even The Boys rattles me on occasion for all its flippant self-assurance.) Anyhow, it bothers me when good guys go rogue, no matter the melodramatic spin, and seeing Superman and Wonder Woman turn Zod/Ursa-like (even per understandable, if not logical, prompts) was surreal in a nightmarish way. (Heck, The Flashpoint Paradox proves problematic in the same way for me, even though I hold it in high regard.)

I also have trouble when heroes who've been depicted as friends betray one another or slug it out due to philosophical differences. Sure, I found Batman v Superman digestible (Captain America: Civil War, too), but as a rule of thumb, ironic, "good-vs-good" clashes (whether by DC or Marvel) are plagued, or perhaps anointed depending on my mindset, by great ambivalence. Injustice contains many such tug-of-war clashes, to the point that it was hard for me to decide which side was the better (or lesser) of the conflicting coin: a disturbing sensation, and still I watched with bated breath.  

To hoist to the perplexity, the story's rifts include cherished, all-American favorites riding the unorthodox edge, not only Superman and Wonder Woman, but such analogous icons as Batman, Nightwing, Robin (Damian Wayne), Catwoman, Aquaman, Hawkman, Cyborg, Supergirl, Jonathan (Pa) Kent, Starman, Shazam, (Captain Marvel), Captain Atom, Plastic Man, Mr. Terrific (Michael Holt), Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), et al. There's also Amazo, a mechanical menace who gives Superman IV's Nuclear Man a mega run for his destructive money, but his manifestation stews from a peculiar, protective plan, congruent with the story's character upheaval. 

For what it's worth, Batman stays pretty much in sync with his somber side, but even so, he's embroiled in a kind of distrusting contention (as he presses to topple the Man of Steel) that runs against his attentive grain, making his inclusion awkward in the story's later phases (in the pacifist-cusp vein), and I don't like the Dark Knight awkward, even if Anson (The Inhumans) Mount (who was once a contender for a live-action Caped Crusader) grants him an adjuring voice. 

The Joker, on the other hand, is Injustice's counterpoising rescuer for the time he lasts, mainly because he doesn't flinch from his old, sadistic self, and how he leads Kal-El to cause Lois Lane's demise is but par for his sick course. (Beforehand, the Clown Prince of Crime dispatches shocking attacks on Jimmy Olsen, the Flash and all of Metropolis.) Because of the villain's carryover craziness, I was more at ease with him than any other character (though Harley Quinn, Ra's al Ghul and Mirror Master also ride a restful road), but why should I be okay not rooting against Bruce Wayne's pinnacle arch nemesis, especially when he takes his impulses to the apex of offense? Evil is evil, right? (I suppose that's Superman and Wonder Woman's point.) 

In the film's indubitable favor, Matt Peters' direction and Ernie Altbacker's script do speed the reformist procession along in such a way that its harshest parts don't sting for very long (and Nightwing's transcendental, Deadman alteration and Plastic Man's impertinent observations nearly blunt the subsequent mourning), but once the imposing ugliness is etched, it's impossible to erase, despite the plot inserting a shaky reconciliation. (Incidentally, the movie's Superman-v-Superman moment is the misadventure's staggering turn, but its attempt to set the Kryptonian's stance straight falls short of Superman III's dueling irony and inference.) 

I felt obligated to add Injustice to my disc library. I'm not ashamed to place it alongside other such offbeat, DC revisions. I take it for the indignant thing that it is, and though it often rocked me to the moral core, I'm bound to revisit it: a grim confession that screams contradictory but sincere volumes.   

Monday, October 18, 2021


Hip, hip, hurrah! It's time for another Mark Allen Vann compilation of wonderment, as served through the innovative Xepico Press. Vann's latest is called Saturn's Child and Other Tales.

Vann's eclectic volume begins with its titular lady, the gorgeous Princess Xian Xenn (commemorated by Douglas Klauba's scintillating cover), who phases into Earth, circa the 70s, landing in Las Vegas where she quarrels with bad bikers and all the consequential trouble that such brings. Through her bawdy battles, she seeks an audience with (and assistance from) the sandy realm's beloved King, an entertainer of iconic caliber. 

Along with Xian Xenn's exciting, fish-out-of-water escapade, Vann treats his readers to the gritty plight of Marshal Payne, a no-nonsense lawman and his clash with the nasty Yancy boys and a revenge-prone, spectral shaman; Richard Solles' John Carter-esque jaunt across the weird and beautiful land of Lianaxa; the monstrous mishaps of USS Indianapolis survivor, Colt Kendricks, who deters death by sharks only to face the horrors of a lizard-infested island; the exuberant hi-jinks of a mechanical Kal-El (and the elderly couple who adopt him) in a nutty mix of The Iron Giant and The Day the Earth Stood Still; the terrifying trail of Jana Dhark, a former Justice Squadron member who enters the Deadzone, where Richard Matheson-type vampires hold a teenager captive; and last but not least, the clammy case of paranormal negotiator, Richard Mordane (aka Geist), who lives in a world where spirits mingle with the fleshly. (For what it's worth, I do believe the latter would make a splendid television show, but then all of Vann's tales hold that special potential.)

As each yarn proves, Vann is a remarkable raconteur, who weaves inspiring worlds that are aimed to please fans of his prior, acclaimed anthologies, Eight Against the Darkness and The Fateful Eight

As with the aforementioned winners, Saturn's Child and Other Tales should be a launching pad for sequel volumes galore, and I do trust and pray that the accomplished Vann will deliver them. 

Order the sensational Saturn's Child and Other Tales at