Saturday, December 19, 2009 Uruguay vs. Giant Mecha

Who wins? The film's creator! From the BBC:
YouTube video leads to Hollywood contract

Thursday, 17 December 2009

A producer from Uruguay who uploaded a short film to YouTube in November 2009 has been offered a $30m (£18.6m) contract to make a Hollywood film.

The movie will be sponsored by director Sam Raimi, whose credits include the Spiderman and Evil Dead films.

Fede Alvarez's short film "Ataque de Panico!" (Panic Attack!) featured giant robots invading and destroying Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.

It is 4 mins 48 seconds long and was made on a budget of $300 (£186).

So far it has had more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

"I uploaded (Panic Attack!) on a Thursday and on Monday my inbox was totally full of e-mails from Hollywood studios," he told the BBC's Latin American service BBC Mundo.

"It was amazing, we were all shocked."

The movie Mr Alvarez has been asked to produce is a sci-fi film to be shot in Uruguay and Argentina. He says he intends to start from scratch and develop a new story for the project.

"If some director from some country can achieve this just uploading a video to YouTube, it obviously means that anyone could do it," he added.

YouTube recently revealed the most watched videos of 2009. Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle topped the chart with more than 120 million views worldwide of her debut on the show.

Friday, December 18, 2009 R.I.P. Dan O'Bannon

1946 - 2009

Yesterday we lost someone you've probably never heard of, but whose creations you've known and loved for over twenty years.

Dan O'Bannon created and wrote the first screenplay for Alien. He essentially invented the fast zombie in his Return of the Living Dead. The comic story he did with legendary artist Mobius, "The Long Tomorrow", is widely acknowledged as one of the first cyberpunk works and was a primary inspiration for the look of the film, Blade Runner. He wrote Total Recall, Blue Thunder, Screamers, and Lifeforce. The creepiest segment of the Heavy Metal movie, "B-17", was taken from his original art and story. He even did special effects work on the first Star Wars film.

O'Bannon was an unheralded giant who contributed greatly to geek culture. Next time you hear a zombie calling for brains, think of ol' Dan.

O'Bannon in John Carpenter's Dark Star

Thursday, December 17, 2009 Beware the Kung Fu Monkeys!

From the web's most trusted news source, Ananova:
Kung fu monkeys turn tables on trainer

A Chinese man who trained monkeys martial arts to entertain shoppers was shocked when they turned the tables on him.

Lo Wung's taekwondo monkeys have become a regular feature outside a shopping centre in Enshi, Hubei province, where they were trained to show off their martial arts skills on each other.

But one quick-thinking monkey saw his chance when Lo slipped - and caught him with a perfect flying kung fu kick to the head. The rest then joined in the affray.

Hu Luang, 32, who caught the incident on camera, said: "I saw one punch him in the eye - he grabbed another by the ear and it responded by grabbing his nose.

"They were leaping and jumping all over the place - it was better than a Bruce Lee film."

At one point the monkey trainer grabbed a staff to hit the monkeys, only to find himself facing a stick-brandishing monkey that cracked him over the head.

Lo only managed to get the monkeys under control by tangling them up in the rope that had been used to stop them running off.

No, I don't believe it, either. But I really really want to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 Iron Man 2 Trailer

While it lasts, here's the trailer for Iron Man 2.

Not 100% sold on Russian-Whiplash-who-turns-into-Crimson-Dynamo, and I'm a bit worried that they're squeezing too much into one movie ala Spider-Man 3 (in addition to Whiplash/Crimson Dynamo, the Black Widow and War Machine are also introduced). But man, that last bit at the end of the trailer is sweet!

Thursday, December 10, 2009 Frazetta vs. Frazetta

I mentioned Frank Frazetta a few posts back, and today he makes the news. From KOMO News via
Artist's son swipes $20 million in paintings, police say

Story Published: Dec 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM PST

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man used a backhoe to break into a museum owned by his father - the pioneering fantasy artist Frank Frazetta - in an attempt to steal 90 paintings valued at $20 million, police said Thursday.

State police charged Alfonso Frank Frazetta, 52, of Marshalls Creek, with theft, burglary and trespass after they say he was caught loading the artwork into his trailer and SUV.

The elder Frazetta, 81, is renowned for his work on characters including Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan and Vampirella. He was in Florida at the time of the theft.

His son's motive may stem from a family feud over the master illustrator's assets, according to a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still early in the investigation.

Frazetta was arraigned and sent to the Monroe County jail. Bail was set at $500,000. Officials didn't know whether he had a lawyer yet.

Police said that Frazetta and another man used the backhoe to enter the Frazetta Art Museum in the Pocono Mountains region on Wednesday afternoon, tripping a burglar alarm.

A trooper who responded said Frazetta claimed he had been instructed by his father "to enter the museum by any means necessary to move all the paintings to a storage facility," according a police affidavit.

The elder Frazetta told police that his son did not have permission to enter the museum or to remove any artwork. Frank Frazetta's attorney, Gerard Geiger, said the stolen paintings were insured for $20 million, according to court documents.

Geiger did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.

Police say charges are pending against a second suspect.

My first thought: "Wow, there's a Frazetta museum?"

My second thought: "Is it a bunch of customized vans parked close together?"

It's located in the Poconos, so you can honeymoon at the same resort your great-aunt Gladys did and see The Death Dealer in all its original glory! I understand the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce is hoping to stay competitive by establishing a Boris Vallejo-themed bed & breakfast.

And this story confirms my long-held belief that the backhoe is not a proper tool for the gentleman thief.

Saturday, December 5, 2009 Fooey

I was really looking forward to going to the show tonight. But first all my friends bailed on me and then the movie itself did.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was really looking forward to catching [REC] 2 at the Portage Theater. However, when I tried to order my ticket on-line this morning, I learned that movie had been pulled from the triple feature and replaced with Black Christmas. Needless to say, I am greatly disappointed.

I'm also peeved at the event's organizers. They make no mention that tonight's line-up has changed anywhere on the sites they're using to promote the screening. They simply edited all their ads and blog entries to reflect the new program. I was lucky I noticed the difference.

So no Spanish zombies for me tonight. Guess I'll just get drunk watching Svengoolie instead.

Thursday, December 3, 2009 A Gentleman of Virginia and a Super-Club for Teens

In which I natter on about the things I read as a child like a senile old man waiting for the nurse to bring him dinner. Where's my Salisbury steak? Are you my granddaughter?


Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series was one of the joys of my childhood. I came to the books in an odd way. I was making my weekly comics purchases at the local Walgreen's one day when the cashier asked me if I read Marvel's Warlord of Mars. She said she really didn't like comics, but something about that series really grabbed her and she couldn't get enough of it. It was an odd thing for a thirty-something woman to confess to an eleven-year-old stranger, and she seemed pretty reluctant to do so. I guess she didn't have anyone else to talk to about it; geek culture had none of its current cachet in the 70's, even post-Star Wars, and suburban housewives of the time hadn't a lot of outlets for discussing such things. Obviously, her comments stuck with me. I figured if someone like that as a fan, there had to be something to this John Carter fellow.

The comics didn't take my fancy at the time, but when I received a gift membership in the Science Fiction Book Club a short while later, I decided to go with a Barsoom book as one of my picks. It was an omnibus of Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, with interior illustrations and a terrific cover painting by Frank Frazetta.

The grand sweep of the action, the exotic setting, the bizarre monsters and beautiful women and dashing heroes - needless to say, I was hooked. I soon ordered another SFBC two-fer, Thuvia, Maid of Mars and Chessmen of Mars, and began haunting the local used book stores in pursuit of more in the series. A short while later, Del Rey started reprinting the books with evocative Michael Whelan covers that, rather blasphemously, my brother and I found more stirring than even Frazetta's covers.

The Dungeons & Dragons craze was booming at the time, and even Sears was stocking RPG's and wargames. It was there that my brother and I discovered SPI's John Carter, Warlord of Mars game. We had to have it. We told our mom it was the only thing we wanted for Christmas. However, she was newly-divorced and struggling to support the three of us. We were looking at a pretty rough Christmas as it was, and there was just no way she could afford to spend $25 on a game. I'm pretty sure we took the news well - we were well aware of how bad things were at the time - but it was still a crushing disappointment.

Thus, it was a wonderful surprise that Christmas morning to find out that "Santa Claus" had left the game for us under the tree! We poured over the maps of Barsoom, studied the pamphlets describing the fauna and famous personages of Mars, organized the little chits representing the various heroes and monsters and compared their stats - I don't think we ever played a full game, but good Lord, did we spend hours enjoying the damned thing. I will never forger the generosity of the aunt who bought the game for us, and I treasured that game until it was devoured by squirrels. Yes, that's right. Squirrels ate one of my most cherished childhood mementos. My life is weird. I found another copy on eBay, but it's not the same. My blood enmity with Sciurus carolinensis continues to this day.

A film version of A Princess of Mars has been in the works for quite some time. Like with other adaptations of properties I'm fond of, I'm taking a "meh" attitude to it so as not to get my hopes too high. This way I won't be crushed if it turns out bad, and I'll be pleasantly surprised if it turns out good.

I've not been paying much attention to the film's development. I do know that Robert Rodriguez was attached at one point, and I think he would have done an excellent job. Jon Favreau was also slated to direct for a while; at the time, I was unsure of his ability to handle a fantasy adventure like Princess, but he has since gone on to kick all of our asses with Iron Man. Currently, the project is in the hands of the writer and director of WALL-E and Finding Nemo. He has some strong credits, but this will be his first live-action effort. It could go either way, especially with Disney involved, so I'm still sticking with the "meh" approach. Yet I know I will be seeing this film on its opening weekend, provided I'm still alive by then.

But of course, the claim-jumpers at The Asylum have beaten Disney and everyone else to the punch. The first Barsoom novel is in the public domain, which is all the guys who brought you Transmorphers, Snakes on a Train, and The Day the Earth Stopped needed to know. Witness:

Okay, let's leave aside the dubious Avatar tie-in, and the fact that the green Martians have terracotta mistakes for heads. But did you see who's playing red-skinned, raven-tressed Dejah Thoris, warrior princess of Helium? A shrieking middle-aged blonde.

I understand The Asylum would want (what passes for) names (at their pay rates) in the cast, but Traci Lords is just all wrong for the part. Nothing against her personally, and Cthulhu knows I find women my age attractive. It's just that she simply isn't Dejah Thoris. Don't they film these things in Eastern Europe? They couldn't find a dark-haired young beauty out there willing to work extraordinarily cheap? After all, a thick accent wouldn't be too inappropriate for the role. And then if they still felt they needed to plump up the marquee, they could have cast Tars Tarkas with someone like, oh, I don't know, Lance Henriksen or that big dude from Stargate.

I know it may seem like a silly point to get hung up over when there is so much wrongness displayed in the trailer. But I grew up with crappy sword & sorcery films, and my tolerance for bad cinema is the stuff of legends. As long as The Asylum tried to get the spirit of the books right, it wouldn't have mattered to me how gawdawful the end result would be. Heck, rename Lords' character, make her an Earthwoman transported to Barsoom with John Carter, and I would have been cool with the whole thing. But as it stands...

I would have at least rented a bad version of A Princess of Mars, maybe even might have bought the thing when it hit the five buck bin at WalMart. But A Soccer Mom of Mars? Pass.


my very first Legion story
In a post yesterday, I mentioned my fondness for the Legion of Super-Heroes. It reminded me that I had recently lucked across volumes 11 and 12 of the Legion of Super-Heroes Archives at a Half-Price Books. I felt a bit guilty about buying them, but I've wanted these collections for a long time, and between markdowns and coupons I ended up paying only a third of MSRP.

When I settled down to read them, any regrets I may have had over the purchase instantly dissipated. The first story in volume 11 was the very first Legion comic I ever read. Rediscovering it triggered a flood of memories; of making my own flight ring out of construction paper, drawing Legion Cruisers on the backs of paper gliders, and long discussions with my younger brother as to who was the coolest Legionnaire.

(It's Mon-El, of course. He's got all of Superman's powers with a better costume and a hot blue-skinned girlfriend. I had a rude awakening a few months back when I realized I may have been subconsciously patterning my hairstyle after his for almost thirty years. And let's not mention the puffy-sleeved red shirt I affected for a while in the 80's.)

For someone encountering these stories for the first time, they'd probably seem juvenile and painfully dated. The only saving grace may be the dynamic Mike Grell artwork, and even then there's those awful costumes he designed for the likes of Tyroc and Cosmic Boy. Writing on the LSH wouldn't approach modern standards until Paul Levitz came aboard and began laying the groundwork for his later, legendary run on the title. However, the LSH Archives series appears to have ended with volume 12, leaving the Levitz stories uncollected. Which sucks, because I'd love to have the EarthWar saga he did with Jim Sherman in some form other than my deteriorating old pamphlets.

I can't really recommend them to anyone else, but these comics will always hold a special place in my heart. They may be crap, but they're my crap and I love 'em. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to install an Interlac font on my laptop.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 SuperVision

I've never followed Smallville. The initial "Dawson's Creek with superpowers" concept didn't exactly bowl me over, and nothing I've heard or seen about the series since has grabbed me, either. I don't mind that the show has it's own take on the DC Universe, but that take simply lacks appeal for me. However, I did watch the episode featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes, if just for the novelty of seeing live-action versions of some childhood favorites. And I'm being drawn back again by the upcoming two-parter featuring the Justice Society.

I've long loved the JSA. It's probably due in part to my fondness for the 30's and 40's, the era in which the Justice Society originated. They got to ride on running boards, wear fedoras, and slug Nazis - how cool is that? And I prefer "mystery men" types to heroes with limitless powers. I think that good guys who aren't invulnerable and who can't solve their problems with a wave of their hands are more interesting and more heroic than their bullet-proof brethren. And though the JSA has members who pretty much define "omnipotent", most of the team are regular joes like the Atom and the Sandman. Finally, the relative obscurity of the characters and the whole Earth-1/Earth-2 arcana surely appealed to my geek nature.

So as a fan, my interest was piqued when I heard about the upcoming JSA appearance on Smallville. Then this week, Entertainment Weekly had some promo pics of the episode:

Now, I should be geekgasming over the sight of a live-action Doctor Fate. Instead, I can't help but feel that the costumes may look kind of ridiculous in the context of the show. Again, I'm not a fan, but from what I've seen, Smallville aims for a more realistic (ha!) depiction of superheroes. Compare the JSA shots to the Smallville versions of the Legion and Justice League:

Very streetwear, more X-Men biker gear than comic book spandex, nothing that screams "superhero". So it's a little jarring to see Hawkman, Dr. Fate, and Stargirl in such traditional, four-color togs. It may be that Smallville is starting to fully embrace its comic book roots, but their JSA bucks the trend established by the show, and I'm a bit worried they might come off looking silly as a result. Hell, check out this still of Hawkman. I know, right?

I worry because I want the audience to embrace these characters. I want this episode to be a hit. I want the possibility of another show featuring the likes of Wildcat or Hourman or Starman or the current, way-cool Mr. Terrific. I don't care if it requires a more modern take on their costumes or personas. That's what adaptations are for - if you want something exactly like the source material, go read the source material.

Anyway, the trailer for the episode has me a lot more excited than the stills do. The classic round table! Green Lantern! That group portrait! The Sandman! Woot!


While I'm on the topic of superheroic television, I just finished watching the first episode of Misfits, a new British show about urban yoof who gain paranormal powers while performing court-appointed community service. So far, the young characters are realistically drawn, which means they are almost unbearable and nigh unintelligible. The mix of powers displayed so far is interesting and has plenty of dramatic potential, and with only six episodes to a series I'm pretty confident the plot won't be slowly dog-paddling in circles like any given season of Heroes. Well worth a download, though you'll pine for subtitles.

Pishtaco Update

Peru suspends cop behind gang of 'human fat sellers'

01 Dec 2009 20:16:56 GMT

Source: Reuters

* Top investigator put on leave for misleading public
* He said up to 60 people murdered and their fat extracted

By Terry Wade

LIMA, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Peru suspended its top organized crime investigator on Tuesday after he misled the country by saying he had caught a gang of serial killers who acted out an ancient Andean legend and sold their victims' fat.

Eusebio Felix was put on leave from his job for telling Peruvians last month that four suspected murderers apprehended by police were "Pishtacos" -- the legendary killers who roam the Andes mountains extracting fat from travelers.

In the legend, the Pishtacos strung-up the torsos of their victims above candles and heated them to collect fat.

Police initially said the gang murdered up to 60 victims and exported their fat for thousands of dollars a liter to Italian cosmetics makers. In the end, there may have been only one victim.

When they announced their big find, police held a news conference and displayed what they said was human fat stored in an empty bottle of Inca Kola, the electric-yellow soft drink popular in the Andes.

They also showed a video of police pulling body parts from a shallow grave at a house in the mountainous region of Huanuco.

But on Tuesday, after weeks of doubts about the case, police in Lima, the capital, said the investigation had been botched.

General Miguel Hidalgo, the head of Peru's police, said he was embarrassed.

"This affects the image and respectability of the police," he said.

Police in Huanuco, who complain they were excluded from the inquiry, said there was only one murder victim and that he was linked to the cocaine trade.

They believe the four alleged killers, who are still in custody, may have bottled his fat to intimidate their rivals in an area rife with drug trafficking and violence.

Police have been harshly criticized.

Anthropologists said investigators foolishly believed the Pishtacos legend when searching for a motive for the murder, and then played on people's fears by turning the legend into reality.

"It seems a myth that has been in Peruvian culture for a long time was used to explain a very strange crime," said Juan Rivera of the Catholic University in Lima.

Politicians blamed the police for scaring away tourists.

"This has been a ruse of bad taste," said Jorge Espinoza, president of the region of Huanuco.

Doctors said it would be pointless to kill people to harvest their fat when it could be easily collected from plastic surgery clinics that perform tummy tucks.

"We wouldn't throw out hundreds of liters of human fat if it were worth $15,000 a liter," said Julio Castro of Peru's board of medicine. Others said fat spoils too quickly to be useful.

So there's no legendary monster prowling the Andes, and I can't get rich selling my saddlebags.

I'm making a very sad face right now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 (Very) Odds and Ends

Had a long holiday weekend with limited internet access. Not much is going on, anyway, but a few topics have come up worth blathering about but not deserving of their own entries.


Last Friday, Wired's Danger Room ran a bit on a zombie-awareness version of Army Knowledge Online, the US Army's intranet service. I've no idea of what kind of info is available on the site, as access is limited to AKO accounts. Still, it's heartening to see Our Boys preparing themselves for the Inevitable Zombie Apocalypse, even if the whole thing is officially a spoof. Wink-wink.


Speaking of zombies (and I do, ad nauseam), I stumbled across this charming bit of garden sculpture:Manufactured by something called Design Tuscano and sold via friggin' Skymall, of all places, it's proof of just how far the walking dead have permeated the mainstream.

I haven't heard of Design Tuscano before this. They seem to mix geek appeal with more mainstream tat, offering cast iron chimeras and pricey reproductions of Waterhouse paintings in addition to cutsey angels and Maurin Quina tin signs. They're a bit like an upscale version of that tacky Noble Collection whose catalogs plague my mailbox.

Their zombie sculpture isn't the only garden oddity Skymall is offering. A quick look shows some more Tuscano stuff, a Bigfoot statue (three times more expensive than the Archie McPhee version and probably three times nicer), and some alien gnome snatchers. The last one is the only item I'd consider owning, but only if I had a garden gnome and, of course, a garden. I do really like saying "gnome snatchers", though. Maybe I should form a band.


Hey, everyone knows that Twilight is pure, soul-sucking evil. It's either undead propaganda intended to sway our youth into accepting vampiric overlords, or it's some seriously messed-up broad convincing young girls that it's not twoo wuv unless he's a domineering stalker seeking total control of your life and you're willing to risk death to be with him. But it has given us some good things, hasn't it? Like sparkly marital aids and cougars battling tweens and these images:

Oh God, what I wouldn't give to see that last one become reality...


Finally, a buddy of mine has been forwarding me interesting news items from India. This one in particular took my fancy:
India targets 'Mr Pee' ahead of Commonwealth Games

NEW DELHI — In an effort to improve New Delhi's image before the Commonwealth Games next year, the Indian capital is to launch a publicity campaign to stop people urinating in the street.

"Don't be su su kumar" ("Don't be Mister Pee") goes one of the catchy slogans for billboards that will be displayed at city intersections, reported the city's Midday newspaper.

"We have prepared 600 signboards with messages related to cleanliness. These will be displayed to educate people," Delhi Mayor Kanwar Sain told the paper.

Some 8,000 athletes and 100,000 spectators are expected in New Delhi for the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games next year.

The mayor said the drive would also target the habit of spitting in public and the city's many litterbugs.

Lessons in etiquette are already being imparted to the city's auto-rickshaw drivers, who have been criticised for their fast, dangerous driving and for over-charging foreigners.

Yeah, good luck with that. Public urination was epidemic everywhere I went in India except the temples. The cab drivers especially would pee anywhere, right in front of you. They'd pull over, pull it out, and let fly no matter how many women or children were walking by.

The littering, however, was worse. Everyone would toss paper cups, empty cigarette packages, food wrappers, and anything else wherever they went. No one picked up after themselves, and no one showed any consideration for the environment. This attitude carried over to the trainees we had here as well; the area set aside for their smoke breaks was covered with butts despite the conveniently-placed ashtrays, and pop cans were left everywhere. Maybe the caste system has most people believing that cleaning up their own mess is beneath them. Or maybe they're just all jerks.

As far as over-charging foreigners go, I tell first-timers to always settle upon a destination and a fare before you get in the cab. Don't hire any of the cabbies who badger you with offers of sight-seeing or shopping trips as you walk down the street; "sight-seeing" is driving all over the city to ring up an exorbitant fare, and the shopping is at places that kick back money to the driver. And be sure to have the hotel pick you up when you arrive at the airport, either by shuttle bus or private car. It's when you're most vulnerable to unscrupulous drivers, and they know it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009 Bohemian Rhapsody

I usually don't do the viral video thing, but this is too damn good not to share. YouTube via RPG.NET:

Monday, November 23, 2009 What You Want

From checking over my RapidShare account, I see that the following are the five most popular files I've shared on this blog:
5) The Brother Voodoo comics and Pontypool audio drama tie with 16 downloads apiece.

4) Marvel's Dracula Lives magazine, or at least issues 1 to 5, with 21 downloads.

3) The film version of No Blade of Grass has 27 complete downloads.

2) The Warren Companion has 31 complete downloads

1) And they're all left in the dust by the soundtrack for Dawn of the Dead, which has a whopping 111 downloads as of this post.

So what does this tell us?
3) The Sanctum doesn't get a lot of traffic.

2) You guys really like Goblin.

1) I really like structured lists.

Random Image: Cigarettes and Chicken

From the endlessly fascinating
Black and WTF

(May contain boobies)

Sunday, November 22, 2009 The House that Dripped Frankenstein

Had a pretty good time at the classic horror triple bill at the Portage Theater last night, despite coming in a bit late for the first feature and deciding not to stick around for Dr. Cyclops.

First up was Evil of Frankenstein. I don't think it was my first Hammer, but I'm pretty sure it was the first of their Frankenstein films I ever saw. The scene where the Baron and his assistant discover the monster frozen in the ice brought back a flood of memories. I haven't seen it since that first time as a wee geek, so between nostalgia and the thrill of a "new" Hammer film, I was grinning for the length of the picture.

I said in a previous post that Evil is considered a lesser Hammer film, and it is. Hammer struck a distribution deal with Universal for this picture, and as a result were allowed to incorporate Jack Pierce's iconic monster make-up into the design for their own creature. But the spirit of Universal seems to have taken over the whole film, what with the frozen creature and pitchfork-wielding mob and evil hypnotist and exploding castle and what-not. Peter Cushing's Baron isn't even the baddie this time, and his characteristic amoral streak is almost buried beneath his avuncular affection for his assistant and a few emo moments.

Which is not to say the movie isn't fun, because it's a blast. Cushing has some pretty good one-liners, and even gets in a bit of derring-do here and there. And while the creature make-up is pretty crappy, it's still cool to see what is basically the Karloff Frankenstein lumbering about with Cushing's mad doctor. Come on - would a Universal/Hammer mashup sound bad to any kid who grew up watching old monster movies on TV?

The House That Dripped Blood was cute. You could see the twists coming a mile away - heck, they even wave to you as they come trundling near - but there is one genuinely creepy moment during the first tale. And what a cast! Cushing again, Christopher Lee, Denholm Elliot, Ingrid Pitt, Joss "Diplomatic Immunity" Ackland, and Jon Pertwee gurning to his heart's content. Still, I expected a bit more, from screenwriter Robert Bloch if not from Amicus. House is not something I feel the need to rush out and buy on DVD, but I'm certainly glad I saw it.

The lobby of the Portage was filled with vendor tables, apparently a fixture of these monthly mini-fests. There were some interesting items on offer, but given my financial situation I didn't want to poke around too much.

The only downside to the event was the fact that the films were projected from DVD. It's understandable - the screenings are organized by one fan as a labor of love - but a bit disappointing. The picture was a little soft and the colors were quite muted. Still, it was probably the best digital projection I've yet seen, particularly given such a large screen.

The theater itself was pretty impressive, a huge domed auditorium with staggered row seating. While it obviously has seen better days, I hadn't been so impressed with a movie venue since my first time at London's Coronet Cinema. You can check out pictures at the Portage's web page.

There's another triple horror bill on December 5th. It's sponsored by a different group so I'm hoping for a film screening instead of another digital projection. A few friends have expressed interest in attending with me this time, as we're ally pretty excited about [REC] 2, so my second excusion to the Portage should be even more fun than the first.

Saturday, November 21, 2009 Costumed Propaganda, Wave 2

Cover of Captain America #1 (volume 4). John Cassaday's covers for this series, which debuted shortly after 9/11, routinely evoked WWII propaganda art.

Cobraganda from Chris' Invincible Super-Blog

Another piece via Abduzeedo, this one by Raúl Vega.
It's an obvious riff on the Nova cover from yesterday's post.
(Which is only fair, since the Nova Corps is Marvel's swipe homage to the GLC.)

Entry to Something Awful's Supervillain Motivational Poster thread, attributed to BoldFrankensteinMir

Paul Sizer's re-imaginings of two obscure Golden Age heroes, created for a weekly meme at Warren Ellis' Whitechapel forum. Sizer's Black Angel illo is certainly the stronger of the pair, but his Flamingo is just too awesome not to share. I love the design of that holster!

Friday, November 20, 2009 Beware the Pishtaco!

From the BBC (with video at the link):
'Fat for cosmetics' murder suspects arrested in Peru

Some of the suspects were carrying bottles of fat when arrested

10:18 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

Four people have been arrested in Peru on suspicion of killing dozens of people in order to sell their fat and tissue for cosmetic uses in Europe.

The gang allegedly targeted people on remote roads, luring them with fake job offers before killing them and extracting their fat.

The liquidised product fetched $15,000 (£9,000) a litre and police suspect it was sold on to companies in Europe.

At least five other suspects, including two Italian nationals, remain at large.

Police said the gang could be behind the disappearances of up to 60 people in Peru's Huanuco and Pasco regions.

One of those arrested told police the ringleader had been killing people for their fat for more than three decades.

The gang has been referred to as the Pishtacos, after an ancient Peruvian legend of killers who attack people on lonely roads and murder them for their fat.

At a news conference in the capital, police showed reporters two bottles containing human body fat and images of one of the alleged victims.

One of the alleged killings is reported to have taken place in mid-September, with the person's body tissue removed for sale.

Cmdr Angel Toledo told Reuters news agency some of the suspects had "declared and stated how they murdered people with the aim being to extract their fat in rudimentary labs and sell it".

Police said they suspect the fat was sold to cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies in Europe, but have not confirmed any such connection.

Human fat is used in modern cosmetic procedures but in most cases it is the patient's own fat that is used and under strict legal guidelines.

Medical authorities have expressed scepticism about a black market for human fat, partly because of the wide availability of fat for use in surgical procedures.

Gen Felix Burga, head of Peru's police criminal division, said there were indications that "an international network trafficking human fat" was operating from Peru.

The first person was arrested earlier this month in a bus station in Lima, carrying a shipment of the fat.

The Associated Press news agency quoted Col Jorge Mejia as saying one of the suspects had described to police in detail how the victims were killed and their fat removed.

The suspect said the fat was then sold to intermediaries in Lima and that the gang's leader, Hilario Cudena, had been carrying out such murders for decades, AP reported.

The alleged buyers of the fat are also being hunted by police.

Color me flabbergasted. Pishtacos are real!

Urban legends about organ thieves are rife not only in Central and South America, but throughout the world. We've all heard the one about the bathtub full of ice and the missing kidney, haven't we? But tales of people being killed for their body fat is an almost uniquely Peruvian phenomenon, the sole province of a creature known as the pishtaco.

From Catharine R. Stimpson's forward to Cholas and Pishtacos by Mary Weismantel:
The pishtaco is a fantasy figure, a bogeyman. A Peruvian friend tells me that the adults would warn her that the "pishtaco" would get her is she did not behave... The pishtaco is nearly always a vampirelike white man, who roams the countryside and plunders the fat from Indian bodies, disemboweling and dismembering and raping the Indians as he does so... The exact representation of the pishtaco has varied over time. Its origin may have been the practice of colonizing Spanish soldiers who took Indian fat to help heal their wounds. In the eighteenth century, the pishtaco appeared as a priest with a knife, and then evolved into a man on horseback or in a powerful car. During the economic crisis of the 1980s, when rural residents immigrated to urban centers, the pishtaco reappeared as the sacojos, white medical technicians in dark suits who steal and dismember children.
Pishtacos appear as very large men, always tall and often stout. Their eyes are light and their skin is pale and covered with hair. They sport heavy beards, and almost always wear long overcoats to conceal the guns and long knives they inevitably have on them. Successful pishtacos wear leather clothes made from the skins of their victims. They can also be identified by their strange devices - automobiles, cameras, tape recorders, and the like.

Pishtacos are voracious in their appetites for food (human flesh in particular), drink (especially milk), and sex (they are notorious rapists). They will occasionally let female victims live to give birth to little pishtacquitos, who then accompany their father on his travels.

Pistacos are nocturnal hunters, wandering the lonely trails on horseback or in their cars, searching for victims. When a good prospect is located, the pishtaco puts them to sleep through the use of mesmerism, technology, or magic powders made from the genitals of their prey. The pishtaco then drags the unfortunate Indian back to its lair, traditionally a secret cave, where they are hung upside-down before their throat is slit and their precious fatty tissue drained out.

Some pishtacos are able to drain fat from a distance using a special device. Needles connected to the machine are inserted into an unconscious victim's buttocks and used to attune the device to that particular person. When the pishtaco has finished, the process has left no mark on the subject, who is invariably unaware that anything unusual has occured. However, a terrible fate is in store for them. Over the following days, the Indian's life force is drained away, causing them to weaken and slowly die.

The reasons why the pishtacos needs human fat have changed over the years. Anglo priests were said to use the fat to cast their church bells. White engineers required it to run their machinery. Sorcerers needed it for black magic, echoing Old World superstitions of witches using the fat of unbaptized children to enchant their flying broomsticks. And there were always tales of foreigners simply devouring the fat and washing it down with the victim's blood. Most recently, as evidenced by the article above, it has been established that human fat is needed to produce cosmetics and perform plastic surgery for wealthy Anglos. Whatever the stuff was actually used for, demand for it was so great that in the 80's and 90's, the Peruvian government attempted to erase its national debt by sending agents into the hills to "harvest" fat to sell to America - at least, that was the rumor.

Dealing with a pishtaco is pretty straightforward. The best course of action is to avoid traveling at night, especially alone. If approached by a pishtaco, do not let it come close enough to make eye contact or blow sleeping powder in your face. Never let it take your picture or record your voice, and always refuse its offers of money or other gifts. These creatures can be easily driven off by strength of numbers, especially if confronted during the day. After all, despite their size and uncanny habits they remain essentially human, and they can be killed like anyone else.

I first learned about the pishtaco some years ago, and it immediately became one of my favorite obscure bogies (in my defense, I wasn't aware of all that rapin' at the time). Clearly, the pishtaco has its roots in an exaggerated stereotype of the Anglo male - big, hairy, hungry, and horny. All of the pishtaco's traits and behaviors can be traced to the "odd" habits still exhibited by visitors to the Andes. Unfortunately, this has led to persecution and even violence against foreigners in rural areas of the country.

The pishtaco has made few incursions into American pop culture, at least as far as I've noticed; a couple of short stories here and there, an entry in a supplement for Eden Studios' terrific All Flesh Must Be Eaten RPG, and I think an appearance as a "monster of the week" for some TV show or other (though I can't recall which offhand). But now they're likely to crash right into the mainstream after inspiring some grisly real-life murders.

I have to assume that these dimwits bought into the legends and believed that there was a lucrative market for human fat, only to get busted a short while after setting up shop. I can't imagine they'd have been able to run a profitable endeavor for over thirty years, as suggested in the article. At best, I can see a sort of mini tulip mania, where various Peruvian ne'er-do-wells bought and sold the greasy stuff amongst themselves, confident that someday one of them would be able to leverage it to an outsider and become set for life. I guess we'll find out for sure if and when the rumored buyers are apprehended.

In a way, I kind of hope the experts are wrong and there actually is a high demand for human fat. All my financial woes would be over!



Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes (Mary Weismantel, University Of Chicago Press, 2001)

The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends (Jan Harold Brunvand, Norton, 1994)

Atlas of the Walking Dead (Graeme Davis, Eden Studios, 2003): The source of the image above.


"Organ Theft Narratives" (Veronique Campion-Vincent, Western Folklore, Winter 1997): The article is available on-line here.

Costumed Propaganda, Wave 1

Cover to Nova #22 by Juan Doe.

Dave Perillo for the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society's Watchmen tribute.
Dave's deviantART gallery is keen!

Fan art by Heartattackjack via Abduzeedo.
Needs a question mark.

Cover to Avengers: the Initiative #28 by Matteo de Longis.
I'd like to have included some DC covers, but I couldn't come up with any.

Piece by Paul Rogers for Pixar's The Incredibles.
Included in his on-line portfolio of "proletariat" posters.

Ryan Harris' way-cool contribution to March Modok Madness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 Things I Found Looking For Something Else #8

Star Wars-themed hoodies from Ecko.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 Manatee Spooks Retiree

From WTSP, Tampa, Florida:
Mysterious sea creature spotted in Madeira Beach canal

Madeira Beach, Florida -- Russ Sittloh says a mysterious serpent-like creature that's at least 20 feet long has been swimming in the canal behind his Madeira Beach home and he wants to find out what it is.

"The head will come up and then it will disappear and then the next thing you know, you'll see a couple rolls behind it," Sittloh said.

Sittloh has named the creature "Normandy Nessie" after the road he lives on. The 78-year-old retired engineer has also set up a camera to capture video of the creature and so far he's recorded "Normandy Nessie" six times.

Photo Gallery: Sittloh's images of Normandy Nessie

"When I first saw it (in April) I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was so unreal."

But Sittloh is not the only person who claims to have seen a mysterious serpent-like creature swimming around Madeira Beach. Bill Van Aken and his wife, Maria, say they have both seen it.

"I didn't see the tail come out of the water like Russ did, but I could see the wake that it was leaving. It had to be at least 15-feet or longer," Bill Van Aken said.

After watching some of the videos Sittloh has recorded, a biologist with Florida Fish and Wildlife says the creature in question appears to be a manatee.

"Like I said, the rate of speed and the size looks indicative of a large adult manatee taking a break and going back down," Andy Garrett with FWC said.

But Sittloh insists it's not a manatee. "I've swam with manatees, I've swam with sharks, I've swam with sea snakes, there is no way it's a manatee."

Sittloh says it's possible the creature could be an anaconda but he says "Normandy Nessie" has a tail fin that's not consistent with snakes.

You can find Sittloh's videos by going to and searching for "Normandy Nessie."

Sittloh adds he's seen at least two of the sea creatures and he's concerned they could be dangerous.

The photos are just as compelling and definitive as you'd imagine.

If it is real, what the hell's the idea of giving American jobs to foreign monsters? Okay, Champ is probably too expensive (especially after his shout-out in a recent episode of Venture Bros.), but what about Tahoe Tessie or Florida's own Tarpie? Outsourcing is getting way out of hand!

Your Kung Fu is No Good

WARNING: There's an image at the end of this post that may be too intense for some of you sissies. From the Seattle Times via
Would-be ninja impaled by metal fence

Posted by Sara Jean Green
November 17, 2009 at 7:39 AM

This never would've happened to Bruce Lee.

Seattle police say an intoxicated 25-year-old man, who told officers he believed he was a ninja, was impaled on a metal spike Monday night after a failed attempt to jump a 5-foot fence.

Around 11:15 p.m., officers responded to the 600 block of Seventh Avenue after a 41-year-old man called police to say he had been assaulted, said police spokeswoman Renee Witt. Officers arrived and found the impaled would-be ninja, Witt said.

It turns out the older man, who was heavily intoxicated, tried to go into a sports bar in the 600 block of King Street, Witt said. The younger man, who isn't a bar employee, barred the man from going inside-- and an argument between the two men escalated into a fight.

At one point, the men chased each other in the street, she said.

In an attempt to get away, the younger man "thought he'd basically be able to jump over this fence, and he didn't quite make it," Witt said.

As a police account of the incident notes, "Clearly he was overconfident in his abilities."

That's when the older man called police to say he'd been assaulted.

As police arrived to search for a suspect, one officer heard the 25-year-old's screams and found him stuck on the fence with the metal spike jutting out from his buttock, Witt said. The man was bleeding profusely.

He was taken to Harborview Medical Center, she said. Questioned at the hospital, the man told police he believed he was a ninja.

Since the two men "were in the middle of the street, chasing each other around," Witt said officers determined neither man would be arrested on suspicion of assault.

The one time I was trapped in a cemetery after dark, I had a real hard time making the jump off the mausoleum roof and over the fence to freedom. I kept visualizing getting impaled on the wrought-iron spikes. Years later, I came across this picture in the Fortean Times:

Yeah, that could have been me.

Getting in the buttocks is bad, getting in the face is worse, but a nude bather in the UK may have had it worse of all. Yes, the story is exactly what you think it is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 Dinner Knives, Part the Second

From yesterday's Daily Herald:
Elgin cops: Machete-wielding robber stole tacos

By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 11/16/2009 4:59 PM

A machete-wielding man on Sunday robbed a man in Elgin of his taco dinner, police said.

The victim was walking back to his vehicle near Villa and Fulton streets at about 10:04 p.m. after buying 16 tacos for $41 when a man in a black ski mask and yellow hoodie came running out from a vacant building in the 800 block of Villa with a machete.

"He was walking back (to his vehicle) with his tacos. A guy came out with a machete and took his tacos," said Elgin Deputy Chief Jeff Swoboda.

The victim was not injured in the incident, Swoboda said.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man about 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-9 who left in a 1990s light green Chrysler or Plymouth, police said.

16 tacos for $41? The man was robbed well before the dude in the ski mask showed up. Even if it were four taco dinners, he's still paying too much - the best places I know charge much less than $10 for a complete taco dinner, and I know where to get some damn good tacos.

Now I want a taco.

If this gentleman asks for your tacos, just hand them over.

Monday, November 16, 2009 Dinner Knives, Part One

From the BBC:
'Body sold' to Russia kebab shop

Police in Russia have arrested three homeless men suspected of killing a man, eating part of the body and selling other parts to a kebab shop.

The men were held in the city of Perm, some 1,400km (870 miles) east of Moscow, local investigators said.

Their statement said that the suspects had targeted the 25-year-old victim out of "personal hostility".

It was not clear when the incident occurred. The men - who have not been named - have been charged with murder.

The investigators said on Friday that the body of the man had been found in a forested area near a public transport stop in Perm.

They said the three men attacked their victim with knives and a hammer.

"After carrying out the attack, the corpse was dismembered. Part of it was eaten and part was also sold to a kebab and pie kiosk," their statement said.

It was not immediately clear if any customers had been served.

And now with a comment on today's headline is Evil Fozzie Bear:

"Thank you thank you thank you! Hey - I ran into a Russian buddy today and he seemed really down. "What's eating you?" I asked. He said, "Everyone!" Ha! Yeah, yeah, so I said, "Well, there has to be some silver lining." And he said, "Well, no matter how mad my friends were at me, they never doubted my good taste!" Get it? Good taste! Ahhh! Fun-nee! I guess if you're hungry in Russia and you don't want a keBob, you can have a keLarry or a keDoug instead! In Soviet Russia, kebab shop eats you! Wakka-wakka-wakka!"

Saturday, November 14, 2009 Zombie Outbreak at the Portage Theater

So last night I was bored out of my mind and was looking for something to do. I was checking on-line to see if there were any cool midnight shows this weekend, and came across this:

The idea of a zombie film festival is mighty tempting. However, I've little interest in zero-budget amateur horror films at this point. I don't have a lot of time left on this earth, and there are plenty of other movies I want to experience before I subject myself to yet another work by a guy with a camcorder and a lifetime subscription to Fangoria.

That said, the festival organizers have made some pretty interesting selections. The centerpiece of the festival is Pathogen, a zombie movie written and directed by a twelve-year-old girl, and Zombie Girl: the Movie, a documentary about the making of Pathogen. Also screening is Colin, which is already notorious for it's incredibly low budget (around $70 US) and has earned some good buzz for its take on the genre, a zombie apocalypse from the point-of-view of one of the undead. If I was keen on checking out some amateur horror flicks, these would be them.

The final film playing tonight is Return of the Living Dead, one of my all-time faves. It just blew us away when we first saw it on the big screen all those years ago. Not only were the zombies fast (a cinematic first, as the nipple-slicing, oatmeal-faced mutants of Nightmare City don't count), they were smart and damn near indestructible. To say they freaked us out is an understatement. To say that we found Linea Quigley's turn as Trash "intriguing" is an even bigger understatement. The film's wicked sense of humor, killer soundtrack, and punk rockers that actually looked like punks are the icing on a particularly delicious cake.

So it's a pretty cool line-up, and I appreciate the effort that the festival organizers are making to showcase underground films deserving of a wider audience. But I just can't sit through six hours of amateur horror films at my age. And I'm not comfortable spending that much time in a dark room with people made up as zombies.

The good news is that this has alerted me to some really exciting screenings coming to the Portage Theater. Next Saturday is a Hammer/Amicus double bill, and I am so there. I have never seen a Hammer film on the big screen before, and I am excited even if it is one of their lesser efforts (The Evil of Frankenstein). And on December 5th, the Portage is showing [REC] 2 along with Night of the Creeps and The Blair Witch Project. I thought the first [REC] was terrific and I'm looking forward to the sequel. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I haven't seen the other two films despite their cult status, so they're a pretty big bonus. Now if only I can cajole someone into going with me...

Friday, November 13, 2009 Spider-Man Arrested!

From the Daily Bugle - er, the LA Times:
Hollywood Spider-Man impersonator caught in legal web

By Andrew Blankstein
November 12, 2009

A Spider-Man impersonator was arrested on outstanding criminal warrants Wednesday after an incident in which he allegedly slugged a man near the Hollywood & Highland complex, police said.

It was not immediately clear what led to the altercation, which was reported about 12:30 p.m. in the 6800 block of Hollywood Boulevard. But it's the latest in a string of incidents involving movie characters and celebrity look-alikes who vie for space -- and attention -- along the tourist-filled corridor that includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Christopher Loomis, 39, was being held on outstanding misdemeanor warrants in lieu of $5,500 bail, police said.

The incident began when Los Angeles Police Department patrol officers received a radio call reporting battery by a man in a Spider-Man costume. When they arrived, they encountered four people dressed as the web-slinging crusader.

"They stopped one, it wasn't him," said LAPD Lt. Beverly Lewis. "They stopped the second, and it was the suspect."

The victim, who said he had been hit on the face and arms, refused to press charges against the costumed impersonator. But Lewis said that when they discovered the warrants, Loomis was booked. She said it appeared that the suspect and victim knew each other.

Costumed impersonators portraying the likes of Elvis, Superman, SpongeBob SquarePants and others have worked on Hollywood Boulevard for years. They collect tips from tourists by posing for pictures or performing in front of the theater.

But sometimes the fun has turned violent. Tourists have complained that some costumed characters become abusive when the tourists refuse to pay them to pose for pictures. There have also been brawls. Two years ago, authorities convened a "superhero summit" designed to reduce tensions among the performers.

The meeting was prompted in part by an incident in which LAPD officers arrested a "Star Wars" street performer in his furry brown Chewbacca costume for allegedly head-butting a tour guide who complained about the impersonator's treatment of Japanese tourists.

In other incidents, actors dressed as the superhero Mr. Incredible, Elmo the Muppet and the dark-hooded character from the movie "Scream" were arrested for aggressive begging. A man dressed as the horror film character Freddy Krueger was also taken into custody for allegedly stabbing someone, although no charges were filed.

"Typical Hollywood; it's always something different," said Lewis, an officer at the LAPD's Hollywood station. As she spoke, Loomis, still wearing his Spider-Man outfit, sat nearby, handcuffed to a bench.

Ways this story could have been improved:
  1. If the the other guy involved in the incident had been dressed as Wolverine. And had gotten his ass kicked.
  2. If both parties involved in the scuffle had actual superpowers
  3. If the Spider-Man in question had been this guy:

And now I'm picturing Johnny LaRue in the costume, and the whole thing as an episode of Street Beef gone horribly wrong (in other words, a typical episode of Street Beef).

Sunday, November 1, 2009 The Day After

It's time to relax! Hope everyone had fun this weekend!

Saturday, October 31, 2009 Halloween Treats: Black Sabbath

One last post tonight before I'm off to a friend's party. I still have to do some finishing touches on my costume - the third one I'm wearing this season - before I go.

Black Sabbath is a classic 1963 horror film helmed by famed director Mario Bava and hosted by the legendary Boris Karloff. It's comprised of three tales; "The Telephone", a proto-giallo featuring a stalker terrorizing a call girl, "The Drop of Water", a creepy little ghost story, and "The Wurdalak", about a vampire plaguing a family in old Russia. All three are spooky and atmospheric, great viewing for a windy October night. And yes, it is where Ozzy and friends got the name from.

The copy I've linked to is the version released by American International in the US. It's dubbed for all of you subtitle haters out there, and the sequence of stories is different from the original Italian version. It's hosted on Hulu, so watch while you still can for free.

But first, a cartoon before the main feature!

Doctor Vincent - er, Stephen Strange

Since this year's Countdown had a bit of a Vincent Price theme, I thought I'd share some images that had been sitting on my hard drive for a couple of years. These are character sketches prepared by Marcos Martin for his work on Doctor Strange: The Oath . The miniseries was written by Brian K. Vaughn, author of Runaways, Pride of Baghdad, Ex Machina, and Y: the Last Man. While I wouldn't rate it as high as Vaughn's other works, The Oath is still a darn good read and worth picking up if you are a Dr. Strange fan.

As you can see, Martin has very clearly modeled Strange's likeness on that of Vincent Price. Some have speculated that Price's role in Roger Corman's The Raven was a major inspiration for Dikto and Lee when they created the good doctor back in 1963. Whether or not that's true, I think these images show that the spooky yet avuncular Price would have been perfectly cast as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Like every other Marvel property this side of Forbush Man, Doctor Strange is under development as a major motion picture. I really can't think of any contemporary actor I'd like to see play Strange. I guess I don't watch enough television. Let's just hope the producers don't go the Twilight route and hire some infant from the CW to play the part.