Thursday, October 31, 2013 Halloween Treat: Mr. Show - "Monster Parties"

If you've ever spent far too much time compiling a Halloween playlist, you'll get a kick out of this sketch from the third season of Mr. Show.

Halloween Treat: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

As all Hammer aficionados know, Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter was a late-game attempt to create a new franchise for the financially ailing studio.  The film was not as successful - artistically or financially - as had been hoped, and so despite the potential of the character no sequels ever materialized. 

At least not on the screen. The official studio's official fan magazine, House of Hammer, featured the good Captain in an original serialized adventure.  I've compiled the strip in Comic Book Reader format and included HoH's adaptation of the original film for good measure.  To add it to your trick-or-treat bag, simply right click on the link below:

Laurie Johnson - Captain Kronos Theme

Halloween Trick: Nightmare Fuel

Have a safe and fun holiday!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 Halloween Countdown: El Santo!

He is the king of the luchadors! He is the national hero of Mexico and a pop icon worldwide! He is a complicated man, and no one understands him bu- no, wait that's someone else. He is El Santo, and if judged by longevity and sheer diversity of opponents, he might be the greatest monster hunter of them all!

Rodolfo Guzm├ín began his wrestling career in the mid-thirties but it wasn't until he adopted the El Santo persona in 1942 that his career began to take off.  Originally working as a rudo, Santo's growing popularity led him to make a face turn and he worked as a technico for the rest of his career.

In 1952, Santo became the first superhero luchador when he received his own comic strip.  A B&W mix of fumetti-like photographs and line art, the series was published thrice-weekly and, according to some reports, was selling half a million copies per issue!  This was where the wrestler's career began as a teratonomist and he would do battle in these pages for over thirty years, fighting monsters, gangsters, and whatever else the strip's writers could dream up.

Knowing a good thing when the saw it, Mexican moviemakers invited Santo to bring his superhero persona to the silver screen.  He turned down the offer as he was not confident in the project and felt a cinematic flop could do serious damage to his career.  Santo would not star in his own motion picture until 1958, after the luchadaor genre was an established success.

Though he was late to the party, Santo hit the ground running and never looked back.  (Mixed metaphors are perfectly acceptable when talking about someone as awesome as El Santo.)  He would appear in a whopping 52 films; the only other actor I know of that has played the same character in as many films is the legendary Kwan Tak-hing.  

The Santo films would play across all manner of genres, from horror to comedy, and feature the hero confronting everything from serial killers to cattle rustlers. However, it's El Santo's battles against the forces of darkness that we most remember.  Werewolves, vampire women, Mexican mummies, La Llorona, Frankenstein's daughter, and even Dracula himself - Santo has suplexed 'em all!

The Santo films reflected their times.  In the Batmania 60's, no attempt was made to give Santo a backstory or personality other than that of a 24-hour crimefighter/pro westler.  He would often race straight from match to crime scene in full costume, leaping out of his convertible to deliver forearm smashes to vampires, aliens, and enemy spies.   By the 70's neo-realism had taken root; Santo would usually be seen in street clothes (albeit masked) and was as likely to battle drug dealers as he was monsters.

I recently picked up a couple of UK DVDs of Santo films not available in English-friendly versions here in the States. 1963's Santo in the Wax Museum is a classic typical of era; Santo is a mysterious force for good popping in and out of the film as needed, leaving the young romantic leads to drive most of the story.  1972's Santo vs Las Lobas is a different animal (hah!) entirely. This version of  Santo much more human and is capabable of fear and despair in a way that would have been unthinkable even five years earlier.  If Wax Museum is an attempt to invoke the feel of a Universal horror, Las Lobas is squarely in the downbeat mode of Al Adamson and other early Seventies drive-in fare.

Both discs were released by Yume Pictures in an attempt to cash in on the Nacho Libre mania that never materialized, and sadly the third release in the series was canceled. I was pretty lucky to score the out-of-print DVDs for cheap and would recommend them to any fans of the genre.

Today's treat is a English-subtitled version of Santo vs. Las Lobas, ripped from my DVD, hosted in several chunks on YouTube, and subject to the usual complicated access issues.  The first part is embedded below.  Enjoy!


Dammit!  I had a full slate this weekend and knew I couldn't reliably get to a keyboard, so I wrote up and pre-published a bunch of Countdown posts in advance.  Well, Blogger must have hiccuped (or, far more likely, I done screwed up), because nothing got posted.

I know that you, dear Imaginary Reader, really look forward to the Halloween Countdown each year - dare I say that it gives your unexistence meaning? - and I can only offer my heartfelt apologies and the promise of a full refund of the purchase price of this blog.  Look for that check in the mail!

Monday, October 28, 2013 Halloween Countdown: Shaun of the Dead Soundtrack

Still recovering from a busy weekend, so let's keep this short and to the point.

Today's treat is in honor of Simon Pegg; actor, comedian, tireless advocate for the slow zombie, and the second-best thing about the Star Trek reboot after Karl Urban's DeForest Kelley impersonation.  He deserves all of your love and most of your money. Go out and support The World's End in the medium of your choice, other than the illegal download.

Because you will be spending that karmic coin on this, the official soundtrack to Shaun of the Dead, instead.  It's wayyyy out of print and commanding ridiculous prices wherever fools congregate to be parted from their money. Which is a shame as the music and sound clips are perfect background noise for your Halloween activities.

Sunday, October 27, 2013 Halloween Countdown: Father Sandor

It's Sunday, so let's get ecclesiastical!  Today's monster hunter is the unfortunate Father Sandor, who started his career as a last-minute replacement for Professor Van Helsing and ended it playing second fiddle in his own comic strip.

When shooting began on Dracula: Prince of Darkness - featuring the return of Christopher Lee as the Count - Peter Cushing was not available to reprise his role as Professor Van Helsing due to the illness of his wife, Helen.  The filmmakers wisely chose not to recast Van Helsing or replace the character with a pale imitation.

Instead, they created a new character who was the polar opposite of the good professor in everything but his dedication to fighting evil. As portrayed by the great Andrew Keir (easily the best of the cinema Quatermasses), Father Sandor is blunt rather than reserved, a man of faith rather than science, a rugged outdoorsman rather than a scholar.  The boisterous, gun-toting monk is the kind of priest who teaches the local youth to box - and gives them a cuff upside the head when they misbehave.  In short, he's a hoot.

Sadly, Prince of Darkness was the only film appearance of Father Sandor.  I would have loved to have seen him return and can only dream of an on-screen team-up of Sandor and Cushing's Van Helsing.  I guess the makers of The House of Hammer magazine felt the same way, for after adapting Dracula: Prince of Darkness in comic form, they gave the cleric his own strip.  Father Shandor battles demons and the spiritual descendants of the Puritan zealots from Twins of Evil in an trio of tales illustrated by comics legend John Bolton.

As House of Hammer wound down, Shandor moved over to Warrior magazine and gained an new on-going adversary, the demoness Jaramsheela.   Unfortunately, writer Steve Moore appears to have become increasingly more interested in the villain (it couldn't have helped that the comic version of Shandor lacked Keir's gruff charm) and at times she pushed the good Father out of his own strip.  In fact, when the ongoing storyline was finally resolved years later (in one of Atomeka Press' A1 anthologies), Jaramsheela was the title character and poor Father Shandor turns up in a mere three panels.  

Today's treat is a collection of all of Father Shandor's graphic adventures.  If you do not have Comic Book Reader or a similar program that can handle the cbz format, simply renamed the downloaded files to .zip extension and extract the images.

Saturday, October 26, 2013 Halloween Countdown: Fang Ten

It's Halloween Party Weekend, so today's treat is a collection of ghoulish garage rock and sinister surf music - FANG TEN!

In no particular order (cuz you're gonna shuffle that shiz anyway):
  • Billy Taylor & the Tear Drops - Wombie Zombie
  • the Bomboras - A Fistful of Terror
  • Ronnie Cook - Goo Goo Muck
  • Curtis & the Creepers - The Thing
  • the Deadly Ones - It's Monster Surfing Time
  • Richard Delvy - The Green Slime
  • the Invaders - Cat's Eyes
  • Kenny & the Fiends - House on Haunted Hill
  • Steve King - Satan is Her Name
  • Larry & the Blue Notes - The Night of the Phantom
  • Los Monstruos - Hey Monstruo
  • Los Sleepers - Zombie
  • the Meteors - Corpse Grinder
  • the Nomads - Where the Wolf Bane Blooms
  • the Pandoras - Haunted Beach Party
  • Roky Erickson & the Aliens - I Think of Demons
  • Round Robin - I'm the Wolfman
  • Southern Culture on the Skids - Werewolf
  • the Stems - She's a Monster
  • the Swanks - Ghost Train

Simply click on the link below, agree to some license you haven't read, and enjoy!

Friday, October 25, 2013 Halloween Countdown: Professor Van Helsing

Thanks to a gajillion adaptations of Bram Stoker's seminal novel, Professor Van Helsing is almost as well-known as his undead adversary.  Of all the portrayals of the good doctor, however, one towers above the rest.  The great Peter Cushing gave us a Van Helsing who was an academic with the soul of a swashbuckler.  Who could forget the mad dash across the table in Horror of Dracula, or the leap onto the burning windmill in Brides of Dracula?  Even a lesser film like Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires features a 63-year-old Cushing hurtling himself backwards into a campfire!  This Van Helsing ws the first "action scientist" I encountered and immediately became a lifelong hero of mine.

As a big fan of kung fu movies, I've always had a fondness for the aforementioned Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires .  Yeah, the involvement of Dracula is nonsensical and contrived, and the fight choreography is pretty weak sauce. But I love it, undead warts and all.

In the days before home video, studios would often release LP tie-ins of classic or cult films.  These, along with condensed Super 8 prints, were the only way for fans to enjoy their favorite movies in-between sporadic television airings.  Warner Brothers released a record version of Golden Vampires with narration by Peter Cushing himself.  The LP is a collector's item today; a recording was included as an extra on the Anchor Bay DVD of the film, but it, too, is long out of print.  While the movie has been recently reissued by another company, the new disc does not feature any extras at all.

Today's treat is an MP3 file of the Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires album, featuring the music of James Bernard and narration by Peter Cushing.  It was taken from my own copy of the AB disc, so there.  You can either stream the file through the embedded player below, or figure out a clever way of downloading from the host site.

I own this magnificent poster.  Suck it, universe!

Thursday, October 24, 2013 Halloween Countdown: Section V

Today's Occult Detectives are the heroes of the cult classic television series, Ultraviolet.

Officially the "Complaints Investigation Branch" of the London Metropolitan Police Force, the CIB is actually a joint operation with the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith - otherwise known as the Inquisition.  Despite this connection (and the fact that the squad is headed by a priest), the CIB make a strenuous effort to keept the metaphysical at arm's length.  The word "vampire" is never uttered; the enemy is referred to as "Code 5's", "leeches", or the "infected".  Like Carnacki, the agents of Section V confront the supernatural equipped with the latest technology, employing concentrated garlic gas, carbon-tipped bullets, and gun cameras in their forays against the undead.

But the Code 5's remain stolidly supernatural.  No effort is put forth to come up with a convoluted scientific explanation as to why they don't show up in mirrors or are able to reconstitute themselves (and their wardrobe) after being reduced to a fine powder.  But despite their traditional characteristics, the vampires on Ultraviolet have a unique feel thanks to their creepy hivemind qualities.

The acting on Ultraviolet is top notch, with Idris Elba being an especial stand-out.  It was my first exposure to him and I quickly became a fan - especially after an incredibly tense warehouse scene, probably the most memorable moment in the series.

There were only six episodes of Ultraviolet and the series ends on, if not an outright cliffhanger, a teasing note.  Interviews with show creator Joe Ahearne indicate that he never intended for the show to continue, but personally I would love to see him revisit the property to type up a few loose ends.

The entire run of Ultraviolet are available for free viewing on Hulu.  Whether you're looking for seasonal viewing or inspiration for a campaign of Night's Black Agents, the show is definitely worth sitting through a couple of on-line commercials.

  • Code 5's do not show in mirrors, photographs or videos. Their voices cannot be recorded or transmitted by phone. Image and sound can only be detected face to face.
  • They are immortal. They cannot be killed, only reduced to ashes (neutralized).
  • They can be neutralized by exposure to sunlight or by introducing carbon into the chest cavity (projectile, probe or explosive). Resulting immolation releases enough energy to start fires. 
  • Code 5 ashes can be regenerated and must be kept secure. 
  • They can be repelled by ultraviolet light (the radiation in sunlight) or by allicin (the chemical in garlic). 
  • They can shield themselves from ultraviolet light with tinted glass. 
  • They can be affected by polluted blood. 
  • There may also be an aversion to religious symbols. This may be psychological. The effect of religious symbols on Code 5's is unproven. 
  • When they feed, the host wound heals over in minutes and can only be detected in ultraviolet light. The bite can be treated with lasers. The skin around the wound is burnt away leaving a small scar. 
  •  If untreated, a human becomes suggestible and develops aversion to sunlight.
  •  When drained to death, a human becomes a Code 5.   No-one is forcibly recruited. They only take those who want to go. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 Occult Detectives: Carnacki the Ghost-Finder

Today's subject is one of the most enduring Occult Detectives, William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder.

Thomas Carnacki was a true detective.  Unlike other occult investigators, he would systematically eliminate every possible mundane explanation before exploring a supernatural solution to a case.  And while Dr. Hessilius may have been the first to enlist the scientific method in the battle against the supernatural, Carnacki was the first to incorporate technology.  In addition to the hoary tomes and rites used by other ghostbusters, Carnacki employed then-modern tools such as photography and electricity (the "nanotech" of his age).  His most famous device was the electric pentacle, a souped-up version of the traditional occult symbol that was proper steampunk.

It's this techno angle that's led Carnacki to enjoy a mild resurgence in recent years, but it's the stories themselves that are key to the character's longevity.  Hodgson is one of the key figures in horror literature, and his Carnacki stories are imaginative and tense.  While the lead character is rather sketchily drawn, the fact that Carnacki is fallible and often overcome by fear himself help make him a ghostbreaker readers can identify with.

Despite the character's influence - and public domain status - there have been almost no attempts to bring Carnacki to the screen.  The sole exception is an episode of the classic ITV series, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, that adapts Hodgson's "The Horse of the Invisible".  Donald Pleasence plays Carnacki as a boffin, an engineer rather than a scholar, who consults ancient texts and historical records as if they were instruction manuals. It's a great portrayal and I wish Pleasence had gone on to a Carnacki series. 

"The Horse of the Invisible" is available on DVD as part of the first Rivals of Sherlock Holmes collection.  (The whole series is well worth your time.)  And the episode is also available on YouTube, at least for now.  Watch it while you can!