Pumpkin Cinema: The Best Movies for Halloween

pumpkincinemaGiven the innocuous title and a cover to nearly match, I assumed Nathaniel Tolle’s PUMPKIN CINEMA: THE BEST MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN would not only have nothing to offer a well-seasoned horror vet, but be an outright embarrassment as well. Those fears were wholly unfounded; this Schiffer Publishing release oozes credibility like its titular gourd does its own guts if left on the porch, exposed to the elements, well into November.

Beyond that cursory, first-impression glance, I had good reason to worry. In his introduction, Tolle lays out his criteria for selecting the 100-plus films he chose for review; among them, “It cannot be mean-spirited or cruel.” Somehow, this self-imposed rule doesn’t defang the contents at all; turn four pages from there and the X-rated ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA slaps you in the face (with what exactly, I leave to your imagination).

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Deal

acesleevebullets broads blackmail and bombsCards are a central point of these three entries. Actually all three books make up a series from the prolific James Hadley Chase. Mainly tyne whole car motif deals with having an upper hand. Or worse a joker in the deck that pops up. So lets settle in for the adventures of Helga Rolfe.

AN ACE UP MY SLEEVE (1971) by James Hadley Chase

Helga Rolfe is the central figure in this story. That has more double crosses in its short length then most series have in their whole run. The book starts out innocently enough. We find Helga in Europe on one of her yearly trips for her husband. A crippled buisnessmen who controls an empire. She is there to meet up with their investment banker. And maybe find someone to help her pass her time.

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Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII

younghenryRobert Hutchinson attempts to showcase the early life of Henry VIII in YOUNG HENRY: THE RISE OF HENRY VIII, a concise biography of Henry’s beginnings coupled with scholarly appurtenances such as a chronology, a detailed catalogue of historical personages, extensive notes, a thorough bibliography and a useful index.

In fact, it might be useful for newcomers to the history to read the chronology and the dramatis personae first, just to wrap your head around the timeframe and the interested parties. This is not a complete biography of Henry VIII; instead, it concentrates on the years from his birth (hence there is much information on his father, Henry VII) up to the end of 1533, when Anne Boleyn has her first child.

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6 New Film Books for Fall

bloodedwoodCult cinephiles know Ed Wood also applied his unique stamp of “talent” to two-bit porn mags in the 1960s and ’70s, via short stories; however, the fiction’s scarcity kept fans’ knowledge from extending into experience. That all changes with OR Books’ release of THE BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: THE COLLECTED STORIES OF EDWARD D. WOOD, JR., a paperback whose exacting design, pulp illustrations and overall packaging belie the quality of the PLAN 9 madman’s prose. Never subtle, the guy sure loved his ellipses, exclamation marks and “shock” endings, all evident in these 33 tales, more expertly curated than offerings like “The Whorehouse Horror” and “Breasts of the Chicken” have a right to be. Cheap, dirty and often deviant sex fuels much of the riotous contents, with horror being the primary genre in which Wood banged these things out, and they can be read almost as quickly as they were birthed; one can assume there were no second drafts. After all, at the time of their printing, the stories likely were read (if at all) during masturbators’ refractory periods. You can read them whenever you wish — I won’t judge — but please, just pull the string.

daydeadTo trot out and paraphrase the cliché, you don’t have to be a fan of the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD trilogy’s third leg in order to enjoy Lee Karr’s THE MAKING OF GEORGE A. ROMERO’S DAY OF THE DEAD, but it sure helps. Published by the UK-based Plexus, the full-color trade paperback overcomes a self-congratulatory preface with a detailed account of how the 1985 soldiers-vs.-zombies epic was made: with more butcher scraps than millions. While Karr was not present during the two-month shoot, one wouldn’t know it judging by the wealth of info the day-by-day diary contains, running the gamut from bone-dry minutia to juicy gossip. Much of the latter is devoted to effects legend Tom Savini’s unbridled penile antics; his libido is surpassed only by his ego. Speaking of effects, Greg Nicotero lends further credibility with a foreword, and no spread goes by without some sort of photo or illustration. Personally, I find DAWN OF THE DEAD to be the far superior sequel, but Karr’s love lay with this DAY instead. If yours does, too, tear into it sooner than later.

megarevengeMaybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to write a book about movies in which the whole point is characters seeking vengeance, shouldn’t you be able to spell “vengeance”? Sometimes Danny Marianino does, but many others times he doesn’t, and the whole of THE MEGA BOOK OF REVENGE FILMS — VOLUME 1: THE BIG PAYBACK is so every-page-riddled with typos, run-on sentences and other egregious errors that it’s obvious he didn’t select “Check Spelling” on his self-published manuscript. What the man — I can’t quite bring myself to label him a “critic” — lacks in panache, he makes up for in passion, running through a seemingly random selection of payback pictures with a fanboy verve so true and strong, one practically can hear Chris Farley sheepishly end each capsule review with “That was awesome!” As much as I knock THE MEGA BOOK for its rusted coat of grammar and questionable taste (“retarded” is an oft-repeated adjective), I still enjoyed reading it and will buy 2016’s promised VOLUME 2.

creaturechroniclesLikely because it aims — and succeeds — to be the definitive, end-all-be-all account on its subject, THE CREATURE CHRONICLES: EXPLORING THE BLACK LAGOON TRILOGY has been given the deluxe treatment from McFarland & Company: a full-fledged, sleeved hardback with glossy, spot-color pages. As if you couldn’t tell by now, Tom Weaver — with co-authors David Schecter and Steve Kronenberg — dives into documenting the history of Universal’s 1954 classic CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and its two sequels with everything there is to know about the Gill Man. Skip the synopses and instead marvel at such finds as the list of proposed titles for the first film, audience comment-card reactions from its sneak preview, photos of the costume that thankfully didn’t make it to the screen, and more. The authors even spend time detailing every abortive attempt at a remake, the brief life of a BLACK LAGOON fanzine (courtesy David J. Schow) and flicks spawned in CREATURE’s wake (OCTAMAN, anyone?). The downside to McFarland’s spruced-up edition is the price tag, but tried-and-true Monster Kids may not mind, given the sheer depth of the writing team’s result.

zombiesonfilmZOMBIES ON FILM: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF UNDEAD CINEMA also strives for authoritative status — it’s right there in the subtitle — but falls short of that. Part of that is because there are too many other great books on this well-worn subject (Glenn Kay’s ZOMBIE MOVIES: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE, in particular), but the bigger, better reason is just the structure of the publisher, Universe: It makes coffee-table books, and Ozzy Inguanzo has constructed a damn fine coffee-table book that just happens to center on movies full of rotting flesh, exposed brains and spilled intestines. That’s not a dismissal of Inguanzo as a writer, either; he’s a fine host to time-machine readers through Hollywood’s long fascination with these invaders from the grave, touching on all the usual suspects (Romero, Raimi, et al) and then some, without quite digging as deep as previous volumes have so well, especially in the realms of the cult and obscure. ZOMBIES ON FILM is at its strongest when it casts its dangling eye on the fare of foreign shores and the ’80s’ VHS floodgates. No matter where the journey takes you, however, the visuals — heavy on posters and photos reprinted large and in full-color — are the oversized tome’s real selling point.

fangoriacoverFinally, the least likely subject for an art book might be the blood-splattered covers of FANGORIA magazine — you know, the ones that repulsed your mother so much, she refused to buy it for you at the grocery store. And yet, just in time for the horror pub’s 35-year anniversary, Cemetery Dance unleashes FANGORIA: COVER TO COVER, a terrific volume that reproduces every issue’s purposely garish cover, obviously in chronological order and wonderfully granting each a full page. (So what if it’s already out of date?) The book is as much as a history of post-1979 film horror as it is of FANGO itself, regrettable cover choices and all — not to mention the occasional typographical use of Comic Sans. Its former editor Anthony Timpone contributes notes for each issue, which are almost as entertaining as Bruce Campbell’s foreword. FANGO’s iconic filmstrip adorns so many of the issues, it’s a tad sad to see it retired. Another trend you’ll notice: select titles vying for cover space for three consecutive issues, even if it’s just a two-word teaser. You’d have to be mad to read every word of every cover here … and that would be I. —Rod Lott

Buy them at Amazon.

The Best American Comics 2014

bestamercomics14New blood lifts THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2014 above the previous year’s edition as the annual anthology welcomes Bill Kartalopoulos as series editor.

Now in its ninth volume, the reliable fall treat couldn’t have found a better guest editor to usher in the Kartalopoulos years than Scott McCloud; both men shake things up in a good way. For one, the selections are gathered in loose themes (examples: “Strange Adventures” and “Oh, Crap — Webcomics!”), which helps the contents flow better than ever.

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Perfidia

perfidiaPERFIDIA is the first title in James Ellroy’s revisiting of the characters from his “L.A. Quartet” (THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BIG NOWHERE, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, and WHITE JAZZ) at the start of World War II. Since the original four novels covered the period from 1946 to 1958, the characters here are younger and pursuing the careers they’ve accomplished when the Quartet begins.
 
Long-time Ellroy readers will also notice a slight refinement of the prose style Ellroy picked up toward the conclusion of the Quartet and carried through the three nationally-focused novels now known as his “Underworld USA Trilogy” (AMERICAN TABLOID, THE COLD SIX THOUSAND and BLOOD’S A ROVER).

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Brokedown Palace

journeyundergrbullets broads blackmail and bombsThis column could easily have a new title of Swords, Sandals, Sorcerers and Spelunking. We travel the world of reading this time in a definite fantasy world. Be it just under the earth’s crust. A far away land and even a far off world that is ruled by swords. To start things off will keep it local. And by local an entrance through a volcano.

JOURNEY TO THE UNDERGROUND WORLD (1979) – Lin Carter

I’ve never read any Lin Carter in my sic fi loving youth. No reason why mind you. Was always intrigued, just never did. Now this book falls into the Lost World genre. You know a group of explorers come face to face with dinosaurs and cavemen who are living under the Earth’s crust. That sums up this book.

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A Drop of Chinese Blood

dropchineseJames Church’s fifth Inspector O novel, A DROP OF CHINESE BLOOD, introduces a new character, Major Bing of the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Bing is the nephew of Inspector O, and the two live together in the small town of Yanji, a gateway town to people who go back and forth across the border between China and North Korea.

Bing’s bosses want him to keep track of one Madame Fang, a beautiful and apparently most dangerous individual. When she shows up on his doorstep and asks to speak to Inspector O, Bing knows this is going to start a world of trouble. And it does. Because she then goes missing and O doesn’t want to share any of the details with his nephew.

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Burning Paradise

burningparadiseThe theme of science fiction author Robert Charles Wilson’s BURNING PARADISE, now out in paperback, is how extraterrestrials influence the lives of humans over a long period of time. It’s similar to the theme that powered his excellent SPIN trilogy (starting with the title novel and in the two continuing entries, AXIS and VORTEX). But where the aliens made their presence sudden and unmistakable in SPIN, here their appearance is so subtle and enduring that most of humanity is unaware of it.

The story takes place in 2014, but in a world much different from ours. There has been a hundred years of peace since the Great Armistice of 1914. There was no Great Depression, no World War II. Social unrest is rare and prosperity has increased over the world.

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Blood Line

bloodlineA young man goes missing in London. He was a stellar employee, seemed well-liked by everyone and was about to get married. His girlfriend thinks he may have just run off to escape, while the boy’s father is unconvinced. Detective Chief Inspector Anna Travis is leaning toward the girlfriend’s story.

She can’t seem to get concerned about the boy’s disappearance and wants a real case. That is, until through dogged police work, they discover that the girlfriend has ordered new carpet for her apartment and was seen buying industrial-sized bottles of bleach at a supermarket. Hmmm …

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