Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Amityville Horror: Severed Pig's Head

When I was a kid, a friend of mine told me that a severed pig's head would appear in the fireplace and terrorize members of the Lutz family.  The Lutzes were the first people to move into the Defeo's old house and it was their experiences in the home that have been the basis for all Amityville Horror books and films.  My childhood friend informed me that the pig's head would show up (always in the fireplace), then speak and issue warnings to anyone who happened to be listening while, concurrently, the house walls would ooze "slime".  Having done research for these posts, I've found the claims of my elementary school compadre to have been mangled and in disarray.  
The Lutzes stated that their youngest daughter, Missy, had an imaginary friend in the form of an enormous pig named Jodie who spoke only to her.  They also claimed to witness a pair of glowing red animal eyes staring at them through the windows and found enormous hoof prints outside the house that were unexplained.  The fireplace bit came from another assertation by the Lutzes that husband and wife saw a demon's head appear to them in the fireplace and that the burnt image lingered on the wall after the fire had died.  
I think my old chum may have also been combining some bits from another infamous New York-based "occult" incident, the "Son of Sam" murders carried out by knucklehead David Berkowitz.  Berkowitz believed a dog spoke to him and instructed him on how and who to kill during his crime spree.  Satanism was an excuse for many shitheads in the '70s and '80s to kill groups of people willy-nilly and with care-free abandon.

The Amityville Horror: The House

I've visited the Amityville Horror house twice in my lifetime.

The Amityville Horror: William Defeo Jr.

Well, here's the asshole that started it all.  Despite the mystery and shock of the murder of his entire family by his own hand, William Defeo Jr. is no, nor has he ever been, a supernatural assassin charged by Satan (despite his claiming to be so).  With the upswing in drug use by America's youth in the '60s & '70s and the cultural focus on the occult, particularly devil worship, DeFeo meant to shine a spotlight on himself through bloody carnage.  But, William Jr. was no messenger of the Devil, regardless of anything he or others believed.  In my opinion, he killed his family because he was jealous of his siblings and resentful towards his parents: nothing more.  Looking past the allure of weird folklore, a gripping ghost story, and the glitter of Hollywood movies is the real truth.  William DeFeo Jr. was and is an insecure nebbish who did something horrifically stupid that will never be forgotten.

Thank you, Mr. Toast

Phantom of the Paradise

The maimed and framed, beaten and mutilated Phantom of the Paradise as portrayed by William Finley. This 1974 film by Brian DePalma is not only a send-up of the Glam Rock era, but also a tribute to movies such as The Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Having bombed upon its initial release, it still managed to garner both Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. This movie has gone on to become a cult hit, with multiple IMAX revivals in the Nineties and a figure by Medicom Toys in the last ten. A fun film and worth checking out.

I reememburr . . doin' The TIIMEE WARRP!!

Richard O'Brien in his self-created role of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The greatest cult movie ever made, it began as a small film playing in a few theaters and then exploded into a worldwide hit. It has the distinction of having the longest run of any film ever released. 20th Century Fox has made it available to movie houses continually since its initial release in 1975.

Rubber Monster Masks!

. . and here's the original ad as it appeared in the pages of Forrest J. Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland.

Famous Monsters Vampire Girl

Rubber monster masks make everyone shudder in fright! My take on the famous Vampire Girl mask featured for years in the back pages of Warren horror mags. One of thirteen, these masks, made of "extra heavy latex rubber", ranged in price from $1.49 to a whopping $2.25! Other masks in this classic line-up include: Bandaged Head, Screaming Skull, Shock Monster, and The Ghoul. Just add .50 for postage & handling & send to:
Captain Company FM-97
P.O. Box 430
Murray Hill Station
New York, NY 10016
Wait! Don't bother! That company is long since deceased. . . or is it?

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

One of Chaney's most powerful performances was in 1923's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. His portrayal of the misshapen Quasimodo is his best known work, next to The Phantom of the Opera. A historical piece with minor horror elements, it is definitely worth seeing. If you do, make sure it's accompanied by music. I had owned a copy with no soundtrack at all. No matter how good a silent film is, they are tough to sit through when completely devoid of sound.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh

""Even though your heart is breaking: laugh, clown, laugh.". Lon Chaney as Tito in the 1928 silent classic, Laugh, Clown, Laugh. A story which involves a complex love triangle, it had two endings filmed; one happy, one sad. The upbeat ending and other scenes have been lost to time, but the film exists with much of its content intact.

A Blind Bargain

One of Chaney's lost films is 1922's A Blind Bargain in which he plays two roles. One, that of Dr. Lamb, a twisted New York physician, and the other as the doctor's bestial servant (pictured above). In the film, Lamb makes a pact with a desperate young writer who has an ailing mother. The doctor agrees to cure the elderly woman and get her son's work published on one condition. After the operation and book's publication, the young man must submit himself to Lamb's bizarre genetic experiments. This plot line has been used countless times throughout fiction in the twentieth century, but this was the first filmed example of it.
Missing films become "lost" usually due to carelessness or accident. In the case of
A Blind Bargain, the only known print was destroyed in a studio fire in the late Sixties. That blaze also destroyed the most sought-after (and notoriously missing) movie in Hollywood history: 1927's London After Midnight. Also starring Chaney, it is considered the first American Vampire movie.

Man of a Thousand Faces

Lon Chaney, the first great Horror film star and a pioneer in the use of film-related make-ups. Known as "The Man of a Thousand Faces", Chaney created his own appliances for his films and kept their origins a closely guarded secret. His speciality was bizarre and gruesome characters, so much so that a popular joke about him was often told during his fame. If someone saw a spider and went to step on it, another person in the room would call out, "Don't kill it, it may be Lon Chaney!". One of the few silent film stars to still be known today, the bulk of Chaney's movies had no audio. The advent of sound in pictures spelt out the doom of many actors and actresses in Hollywood. They may have looked good, but they didn't sound good. But, Chaney was also a great vocal mimic, and in his one "talkie" he showed he would have had continued success in film. That one picture was a remake of an earlier film of his, The Unholy Three (I recommend seeing it). If he had lived, Chaney would've had a long career (movies, radio, television, cartoons), but this was ended when he died of cancer in 1930.

13th Century Werewolf

Drawing based on a depiction of a werewolf featured in a beastiary manuscript from the thirteenth century. More drawings and "fun facts" about werewolves can be found in my February blog postings of this year.

Beware the sign of the Pentagram

A symbol of the Devil - - to be avoided at all costs. This drawing based on an old woodcut featured in the World Book encyclopedia.

Woodland Spook

A ghost, or spectre, haunting the local woods. I've never seen a ghost but I certainly don't think we have all the answers on what happens after you die. Some of my friends have seen occurrences that they can't explain. Others have participated in contacting or recording "supernatural activity". There are numerous spots on Long Island that are reputed to be haunted. Raynham Hall in Oyster Bay is supposedly inhabited by the ghost of a young women from Revolutionary days. The true life inspiration for the movie Poltergeist happened out east and the Home Depot parking lot in East Northport, at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Larkfield road, has an actual cemetery at its center. Apparently that whole area (including Home Depot, Walgreens, Modell's, and Old Navy) is resting upon a much larger burial ground. Two of my friends who were members of a "ghost hunters" group have audio and video recordings of unexplained events that occurred there.

Watch Out!

There's nothing so unnerving as walking through the woods at night and seeing a pair of glowing eyes staring back at you. . .

Witch's Familar

Dennison Witch

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mr. Hyde (1920)

The great John Barrymore as Mr. Hyde in the silent 1920 version. Though without sound, this version is equal to the 1932 adaption for horror and shock. Barrymore's performance is powerful. Truly grotesque make-up magnifies that performance as Hyde becomes increasingly repulsive with each appearance. Watch for the scene where he doffs his hat as he leaves the opium den. Some silent films have lost their punch over time, but this picture can still terrify at 90 years of age. The murder of Sir George Carew towards the movie's end is especially chilling.

Mr. Hyde (1932)

One of the best filmed versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde was released in 1932. The title roles were played by actor Frederick March. March won the Academy award for Best Actor for his portrayal, the first (and one of the few) for a horror movie. One downside of taking the role was the often painful application of the Mr. Hyde make-up. After filming was completed, March spent an extended stay at a hospital, as the facial distorting appliances he wore almost permanently disfigured him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

King of the Vampires

I had definitely planned to do more vampire-related postings on this project. Perhaps the 2011 version will be more fully realized. I finally appreciated Lugosi's performance in Dracula this year. I bought a copy of the late Ninties reissue of the film (which has now become the standard) back in January. It has an all new soundtrack written by Philip Glass and performed by the Kronos Quartet; the music is sombre and frightening. Dwight Frye's demented performance as Renfield is another reason to see the film; a classic that made the entire film genre of Horror possible in America.
In terms of the direction our society is currently moving in, there are many people "feeding" off of others. So, vampires and Dracula in particular, have begun to appeal to me. That's one of the purposes of the horror film: to help us deal with the negative and menacing.

Vincent Price in The Bat

Price took over the mantle of "Master of Horror" with the passing of Boris Karloff, but he had been playing such roles for many years before-hand. Both men are featured in Roger Corman's horror-comedy The Raven, which is worth checking out. This drawing is based on Price's appearance in The Bat, where he played opposite Agnes Moorehead (later featured on the TV show, Bewitched). The film was a remake of the silent movie, The Bat Whispers, which Bob Kane and Bill Finger cited as a strong influence on their character, Batman . . .

Lon Chaney Jr. & The Full Moon

The younger Chaney who left his mark on marquees and in the hearts and minds of countless fans. Based on a photo from one of his many outings as the crazed lycanthrope. . .

The Reptile

A 1966 film concerning strange goings-on in a small english village where a beautiful girl is turned into a killer snake-woman. Hey, I don't write this shit, I just draw it . .

Kenner's Bionic Bigfoot

Made at the height of The Six Million Dollar Man's popularity, this large toy was based on the Sasquatch robot featured in the Lee Major's television program. Played by Andre the Giant and, I believe later, Ted Cassidy (Lurch from The Addams Family), this action figure proved to be popular more than once. A few years after its initial release, the figure was modified with a new sculpt and sold as a Chewbacca toy.

Milton Bradley's Bigfoot

An integral playing piece to a 1977 Bigfoot boardgame, this drawing of a Sasquatch toy is a little more hostile-looking than it's inspiration . .

Mezco Bigfoot

Released in 2003 after a delay of two or three years, Mezco Toy's Bigfoot figure was well-sculpted. Part of a three figure set (originally four; The Loch Ness Monster wasn't released) which was entitled Cryptozoology, these toys lacked the larger scale of Mezco's vinyl figures. A larger, vinyl version probably would have made a bigger impact with collectors and the general public as well. . .

Batson's Burn Scar & Wound Effect

Yes folks, don't pay those other brands of scar and damaged tissue make-ups any mind. When you think "scarred-for-life", there's only one brand you should remember: Batson's! Yes, Batson's! No other brand gives you the comfort and security you'll feel when displaying faux disfigurement. Mmmmm, for THE FINEST in Burn Scar & Wound effects, it's Batson's!! And now, back to our program . .

Leaf's Vampire Bubble Gum

Ah! It's that time of year again! Time to put on your masks, wear your fangs, and go out and cause some property damage! Yes, can't you just see it? Toilet paper hanging from the trees! The neighbor's car riddled with eggs! Your mailbox filled with shaving cream! Huh? Wha? What year is it?
Anyway, now's the time of year to pop down to your local supermarket, and don't forget to bring those pennies! 'Cause Leaf's Vampire Bubble Gum is back! Oooo, Vampire Bubble Gum! So red. So bloody. So nocturnal . . and only a penny. A penny?!??

Monster Inside the Box

There it sits, the MYSTERIOUS BLACK METAL BOX - - quiet, sinister and waiting. You throw the switch to "ON". Immediately there is a terrific grinding of power as THE BOX starts jumping as if it contained a hidden MONSTER. Then the lid slowly rises . . . and from inside THE BOX emerges a frightening, eerie GREEN HAND. The GREEN HAND grabs the switch, pushes it to "OFF" and quickly disappears back into THE BOX. The lid slams shut - - and all is silent again! Once seen, this is never forgotten. The most haunting, maddening object you've ever witnessed!! Buy one now!

Oozing Orb

Imagineering's Oozing Orb! A realistic eyeball that drips blood! A real horror shocker for all you budding Quasimodos! A terrifying, awful effect. Put this blood oozing eye over your own and scare everyone in sight. Easy to apply. You wear it like a monocle. And it has a small hole in the center so you can see out. The effect is so terrible, no one will want to see in! Wear one and be awful! Wear two and be absolutely hideous!! Wear three . . . Three??? Create a stomach turning monster-from-Mars. Wear two over your eyes. Stick one on your forehead. Bad enough? Then turn out the light! They glow! Blah! Ugh! You might even try four! Hideous, non-toxic Oozing Orb! . . from Imagineering! (Text courtesy of Warren Publishing Company).

Squeaking Freak Teeth

What's that sound?? It's a funny, squeaking sound! Great Caesar's Ghost, it's Squeaking Freak Teeth from Imagineering! Yes, Squeaking Freak Teeth. Just in time for all you ghouls and goblins to scare-up a good ol' fright this Halloween. Want to spook the neighborhood? Get Squeaking Freak Teeth! Break it off with your significant other? Get Squeaking Freak Teeth!! Give your dentist a coronary? Get Squeaking Freak Teeth!!! Yes, you'll be a whistling nightmare this All Hallows Eve with Squeaking Freak Teeth!!!! - - from Imagineering!

The Creature Walks Among Us

The third, and currently, final entry in the Creature from the Black Lagoon series was 1956's The Creature Walks Among Us. In this thrill-a-rama, the Creature is mortally wounded and, in order to save his life, scientists surgically alter him to become a land mammal. Disaster ensues as the Gillman runs amok, desperately trying to return to the sea that spawned him. There has been talk over the past thirty years in Hollywood about doing a remake or an entire new series of Creature films. It would be a solid move as the "Creech" is one of Universal's most popular monsters. And now, a few words from our sponsors . .

Outer Limits Alien

The Sixties had some of the best television programs ever made. The fact that people still watch shows from this far-off era is proof of that. In addition, original and new merchandising based on Sixties TV continues to be collectible, even in these lousy economic times. One of these great shows was the original Outer Limits, created by Leslie Stevens and Joseph Stefano (the latter being the screenwriter of Psycho). Though many of its story lines had Cold War overtones, this program is still frightening and unnervingly suspenseful. If you haven't seen it, I recommend watching it, or even buying it, on DVD.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Journey Into Unknown Worlds #21

Here's a better study: it's from a panel of the tale, "The Most Hated Man in the World". Featured in issue 21 of Journey Into Unknown Worlds, the story was delineated by Joe Sinnott, best known as an inker for Marvel Comics. A solid draftsman, Sinnott always shined, especially when working with fellow comics legends Jack Kirby and John Byrne during their runs on Fantastic Four. "The Most Hated Man in the World" is a story of alien invasion and in this scene, the attacking "little green men" have just detonated some of America's mightiest weapons before they could be launched . .

R. I. P. Oscar Gamble