Sunday, November 22, 2020

MY MOTHER NEVER LET ME WATCH MONSTER MOVIES WHEN I WAS A KID


My mother never let me watch monster movies when I was a kid.
She was afraid I would have nightmares.




My mother -- a perfectly nice woman
My mother was a perfectly nice woman, but I always suspected that she was not so much afraid that I would have nightmares—waking up in a cold sweat and screaming out, “MOMMY! MOMMY!”—as she was determined to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep.


In any case (a case for a psychiatrist, most likely), I was not inculcated with a love of creature features in my formative years.

 

(I wonder if someone can be inculcated by an incubus? But I guess that’s off-topic.)


I never even saw the original Universal Pictures
Frankenstein, which ran often on television on Channel Nine’s Million Dollar Movie in Los Angeles. Every other kid in my school got to see Frankenstein. And Dracula and The Wolfman and all their sequels. Nope, my mommy wouldn’t let me see The Mummy. She somehow was convinced that I was an impressionable, delicate child. But the biggest impression I ever got was from my elementary school classmates who thought I was a weird little kid because I didn’t get to watch weird little films and join in on their playground conversations about how neat Godzilla was, or how cool The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms was.



And forget going to the movie theater to see The Blob when I was nine-years-old and just one year away from a double-digit age, surely the entrance into adolescence.







I didn’t see the Universal Frankenstein until well into my adult years. Indeed, if memory serves (and memory has been a pretty sloppy server of late), I think I saw Young Frankenstein before I saw Frankenstein.






Since then, of course, I’ve seen all the great Universal horror films—including Howard the Duck.




Frankenstein is my favorite because it’s so oddly beautiful in design. And because Boris Karloff was a better actor than Colin Clive. And Frankenstein’s monster is not really a monster, is he? I mean, he didn’t ask to be born—or rather, assembled and stitched together. He’s just looking for love in all the wrong places. I mean, a village in the Bavarian Alps? How many good bars could there be there? Of course, his “father” abandoned him, so why wouldn’t he be dysfunctional when it comes to love? On top of that, people are always stopping him and asking him to jump-start their cars. It’s the bolts in the neck you see…






Memory is serving up another course and has corrected me. I did get to see two monster movies when I was a kid. One by permission, and one by accident. Mother let me see
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.

(Of course, they didn’t, because Dr. Frankenstein was nowhere to be seen. The Invisible Man was nowhere to be seen either, but at least he was in the movie.)


Mother figured as it was a comedy and Abbott and Costello were so silly how could the film be frightening. But I fooled her. The film scared the shit out of me.


The other monster film was of a giant insect variety. But I did not know that when I saw listed in the TV Guide a film called The Beginning or the End, a film about the development of the atomic bomb in World War II to be shown on the late afternoon movie show. I asked mom if I could see it and she had no objections as WWII was a big factor in her life, and she thought the film would be educational. So she exited to the kitchen to start preparing dinner as I turned on the TV.



When the film came on it quickly became apparent that the TV Guide had made a mistake in their listing. The film beginning to air was not The Begining or the End about the making of the atomic bomb, but The Beginning of the End, about giant grasshoppers. The grasshopper growth spurt was caused by radiation, so there was that connection. But that didn’t impress my mother when she came out of the kitchen and saw the giant locusts rampaging downtown Chicago. I had seen so much of the movie already, though, that even she didn’t have the heart to make me turn it off. But she told me if I had a nightmare I was on my own. I don’t remember if I had a nightmare or not, but ever since then, I’ve been adamant about not eating chocolate-covered grasshoppers, firmly believing that two wrongs just simply do not make a right. 



So, given all this, what inspired me to write my latest novel, Creature Feature: A Horrid Comedy?


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Well, it came from a simple question that occurred to me after a night of debauchery in a seraglio.







That’s not true, of course, I just like typing those words. The truth is, I was probably in the shower. Alone, I hasten to add rather sadly. I find many good ideas come to one during a nice hot shower. But when you are in there alone, what the hell else are you supposed to do?


Anyway, the simple question was—where do really weird ideas come from? (besides a hot shower). I mean, monsters, and creatures of the night, and blood-suckers, and really angry giant lizards and or gorilla-like stompers of not-yet-paid-for cars, and big fat humungous insects that look down on people and say, “Gee, they look just like little bugs”? Not to mention demons from hell and zombies. So I won’t mention them. Especially zombies. I hate zombies. Zombies got no reason to live!

 

To answer that question without leaning on dark psychology, and to find an answer that might lead to some laughs, I wrote Creature Feature: A Horrid Comedy.  Why a comedy? Well, with all the real monsters today in our real lives, monsters microscopic, monsters climatic, and monsters political, don’t you think we deserve a few laughs?



Watch some strange guy read the opening of Creature Feature: A Horrid Comedy.


You will find my creatures of the most unimaginable horror (although, of course, I imagined them) on fine Amazons worldwide.


Amazon ebook https://tinyurl.com/y4zxh6kf

Amazon UK ebook https://tinyurl.com/y9zrg8xq

Amazon Australia ebook  https://tinyurl.com/y6h56ozs

Amazon Canada ebook  https://tinyurl.com/y3zcqjh9

Amazon paperback https://tinyurl.com/y6gqyea7



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

STEPHEN D. SULLIVAN AND THE HORROR OF IT ALL!!!!

 

I welcome into my blog today, that fine fellow of fright, that good guy of the gruesome, that charming chap of creepy creatures, Mr. Stephen D. Sullivan! 




Stephen—or, as I like to call him, Steve—has over sixty published titles to his name and has helped create more comics and games than he can either list or remember.

Steve's a Scribe award-winner for “Best Novel Adaptation, 2016” for his Manos: The Hands of Fate

He is also one of the Monster Kids on Monster Kid Radio.


And to all appearances, Steve is a normal and nice person living with his wife in a small town in Wisconsin. 




YEAH, RIGHT!


Do normal and nice people write books like his latest?




The monsters aren’t only in the museum!

Despite a lifetime of traveling with their father to collect strange artifacts, twins Topaz and Opal Cushing have never fully believed in monsters or the supernatural. Oh, sure, they share an eerie psychic connection, and their tarot card readings often come true, but… Werewolves? Vampires? Living mummies? None of those could be real. Those legends are just for rubes. Right?

Since the girls’ father has been away, though, strange things have been happening in the family’s little exhibit—and in the waxworks studio that shares their dilapidated Victorian mansion on the outskirts of London. Now, the twins’ dreams of a fun, romantic summer season are turning into a nightmare, and the monsters are running...



Do normal, nice guys who live in a small town in Wisconsin write stories like that? 


Stories destined to chill, thrill, and invade your nightmares with terror and with...with...oh, it's almost too horrible to say...with Entertainment!




Cushing? Cushing? Where have I heard that name before? 


Give me a moment, I'm sure I'll get it before my memory completely peters out. And when I get it, I'll be sure to hammer it down before I forget it again.





Well! Mr. Sullivan has a lot to answer for!


So let's put some questions to him.


In your young childhood, where did the monsters reside -- under your bed or in your closet?


Well, I was in the top bunk, so the only monster under the bed was my little brother.  Closets didn’t much scare me, either—though maybe a bit of the dark corners could have been creepy, I suppose.  Weirdly, as a very young child, I became convinced that there were spirits lurking in the plumbing under the toilet.  The water held them down.  So when I flushed, I would have to run out of the room before they could escape and get me.  Is that weird?


(Yes, Steve, yes that is weird.)


You have a great love for classic monster movies, both the American Universal films of the 1930s and 40s and the British Hammer films of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Do you remember the first of these classic films you saw and was it a Universal or Hammer film?


I’m sure that I must have seen a Universal film first, but it’s so long ago, I can’t really remember what it was.  I knew the Universal monsters from their Aurora model kits, and my brother and I had a set of 8x10 glossies of the monsters.  I got to see the whole cycle when WCVB (Channel 5) in Boston started doing their Horror Classics double feature on Saturday nights, but I must have seen something before then.  (Because WCVB went on air in 1972, when I was 12.)  The first Aurora kit I saw was certainly The Creature, who remains my fave.  I probably saw that when I was five.  It might have been the first Universal film I saw, too, but I just can’t be sure.  I feel like they’ve been with me my whole life.  The Hammer films I didn’t see until later when CBS started showing them late night—just in time for my teenage years.  (Thank you, Hammer!)


You are a fan of the great Peter Cushing, especially his Hammer films. Now, as you know, I am not too familiar with these films, so as October is Peter Cushing month on TCM, recommend your three favorite Cushing/Hammer films for me to DVR.


Wow, that’s a tough ask!  Clearly Dracula/Horror of Dracula (US title) needs to be there, because of his Van Helsing.  Van Helsing is also in Brides of Dracula, which is a great film but has no Dracula, so maybe I should go for something different for your second film…  His Baron Frankenstein is also iconic, and the first in the series is an obvious choice, but I’ll go for Frankenstein Created Woman, which is an unexpected twist on the story, and I really like it.  My friend Joshua Kennedy would surely recommend The Gorgon (his fave film), while others might say The Mummy, but I think maybe for my last recommendation I’ll go with one of the Karnstein films.  I was about to say Twins of Evil in which Cushing is a complete bastard, but then I remembered he’s also in The Vampire Lovers, which is my favorite in that trilogy.  Cushing’s part isn’t as large in that film, but it is, in my opinion, the sexiest of the Hammer films.  For non-horror Hammer with Cushing, a sure bet is Cash on Demand.  But really, Cushing was so good that you can’t go wrong with any of his films.


In a battle between the Universal Frankenstein’s monster and the Hammer Frankenstein’s monster who would win?


I think Universal’s monster, clearly.  I don’t buy Igor’s talk of the monster being as “strong as 100 men,” but he clearly is super-powerful.  The Hammer monster is tough, but even one bullet can put him out of commission.  I think Universal’s monster has 3 or more bullets in him at the start of Son of Frankenstein, but charge him up and he’s ready to go with no problems, bullets in the chest and all.


Though I should point out that in real life, probably none of the Universal actors would have stood a chance against Christopher Lee (Hammer’s monster), who was in some branch of Special Forces that was so secret that his work is still classified.  Though maybe if Lon Chaney, Jr, got in the first punch…!


When did the idea for Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors dawn on you? Although I understand it may have been in the cold sweats of the night. 


A lot of the ideas for Dr. Cushing have been swimming around in the back of my mind for ages, but the desire to give them shape and form them into a coherent story came from conversations with Monster Kid friends.  Universal had announced their upcoming Dark Universe film project, and a lot of us were worried that they might screw it up.  (They pretty much did, though I enjoyed the films.)  That got me thinking that somebody—me—should write the kind of old-style monster rally that all of the people I know wanted.  Sure, I couldn’t put it up on the screen (though if you want to option it, call me!), but being a novelist, I could write it so that people could view that amazing monster rally story in their own imaginations.


You have twins, Topaz and Opal Cushing, as your protagonists. Can you describe them for me? 


As you said, they’re twin sisters, but fraternal; Topaz is the “light” sister, blonde and always seeing the best in people, Opal is the “dark” sister, brunette and more worldly.  They’re very similar in a lot of ways, because they’ve been raised by their eccentric father, Dr. Cushing, and he’s brought them up to be hunters of rare artifacts and curators for his growing museum of the weird, while he’s away on expeditions.  So, they have an odd combination of being responsible for the family business, and also growing up largely unsupervised.  That makes them free spirits compared to other eighteen-year-olds, and a bit odd, too.  They also have a psychic bond, and they’re good at fortune-telling using Tarot cards.  And naturally, they’re also at that age where young men and romance are becoming an issue.  They love their dad and are pretty happy being on their own while he’s away, despite the family finances always being precarious.


Which is more important in Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors -- horror or humor?


There’s some humor in the Dr. Cushing novel—and certainly, black humor throughout—but in the end, it's really a classic horror story, with elements of adventure mixed in.  It’s very much in the tradition of the classic Universal and Hammer monster films.


Which of the great monsters from these films would you want to have dinner with—assuming you are not the dinner itself?


Dracula would likely be the most interesting conversationalist—or Imhotep, the mummy, but obviously being around either of them would be super dangerous.  The Creature and the Wolfman are my favorites, but I can’t imagine sitting down at a table with either one.  Even Larry Talbot, the Wolfman’s human form, might be a little hard to take, with his death wish and all.  I’m assuming Van Helsing doesn’t count as a monster.  So, I guess I’d have to say Carmilla Karnstein, because she’d have all that accumulated vampire wisdom, plus, being played by Ingrid Pitt, she’s incredible to look at, and since she really only bites girls, I’d probably be fairly safe.


I understand that Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors is the first of a proposed series of books. When can we expect the next one?


I’m hoping to do at least three Dr. Cushing books, maybe as many as five or six, but I have a number of other projects that need to be done before I start the next one—assuming someone doesn’t throw a pile of money at me to start Dr. Cushing’s Caravan of Horrors right away.  I have two Frost Harrow novels nearly ready for publication, and I’m also working on a Waldemar Daninsky novel, based on the werewolf films of Paul Naschy.  I’m very excited about that.


But I hope to get the Cushing family back into the mix shortly, and maybe start working on the next novel sometime in 2021.  If that’s too long a wait, though, I always release a new Dr. Cushing story at Christmas time—and there are a bunch of them up on my site for free right now.


Thank you, Steve! 




Dr. Cushing's Chamber of Horrors can be purchased from these fine online stores in both digital and paper editions.


Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/y4wjflsh

Barnes&Noble: https://tinyurl.com/y235ejq3

Books-a-Million: https://tinyurl.com/y3kk4qzd

Indiebound: https://tinyurl.com/yyftpkxe

========

If you would like a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card 



AND a copy of Dr. Cushing's Chamber of Horrors in your choice of an ebook or a print copy click HERE.

OR COPY THIS LINK   http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c04240/

========


You can check out the whole of Steve's writer's existence at his website at www.stephendsullivan.com


And look for him on Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, and Ghoulgram.


(Although for that last one you need a special password only given to the undead!)



Chills to all!





Wednesday, September 16, 2020

READ THE FIRST CHAPTER OF MY NEW NOVEL—CREATURE FEATURE: A HORRID COMEDY

 






1
THE BEGINNING

In 1962 the United States of America and, indeed, the whole world, faced an existential threat to our very existence! Yes, yes, I know, that’s redundancy in the extreme, but this threat, this danger not only to our lives but to our very way of life, was so imminent, so gut-wrenching, so horrifying, so unthinkable, that surely I can be excused a little alarmist redundancy, not to mention the exclamation mark.

Those of you who were alive at the time, or those of you who know your history, or those of you with even just a vague memory of a hint of a rumor, will immediately think I am writing about the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of that year when President John F. Kennedy, through disciplined and calm wisdom, saved our bacon bits—or tempeh tidbits, depending on your dietary requirements. Not that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev didn’t find a spark of humanity within his bald Communist cranium and contribute to our bullet dodging, but Kennedy was the hero in our books. You may well be thinking that this boiling pot of Cold War stew is what I’m writing about. But you would be wrong.

I’m writing about something you and historians and even podcast pundits have never heard about, something that was far more existentially existential to our continued existence than a mundane nuclear holocaust. And you have

never heard about it because those who survived the calamity-that-almost- was entered into a conspiracy of silence. No—let me rewrite that, ‘conspiracy’ is too jaundiced a word. They entered into a pact of silence for fear of causing mass hysteria, and worldwide panic, and general consternation, and rampant indigestion.

But now is the time to finally reveal the truth so long hidden from you. And now is the time to speak of the hero and heroine (if I may not be too politically incorrect in using the feminine) who in the summer of ‘62 not only saved our bacon—but the whole damn pork enchilada. And only I can do that because only I know the whole story.

And as it is a story of black and white, put on your black and white specs and take a good look as we...

...enter deep into a dark swamp thick with bald cypress trees standing on their cypress knees as murky and mucky water flows around and all the cormorants and whooping cranes and anhingas have run, flown, or darted away; all the ducks have ducked underwater, and even the bald eagles and various hawks have lit out for safer territory as monumental hand-to-hand combat between a good- looking, well-muscled, male human hero in khaki clothes and an ugly, giant, two-legged lizardman of some exceptional martial skill, disturbs the usual peace of the swamp. A high-pitched scream is heard as a gorgeous blonde with perfect makeup and a blouse missing some buttons, fears for the life of the male human she may or may not have had carnal relations with and, not incidentally, her own life as well while clinging to the knee of a bald cypress tree. Finally, the male human hero gets the upper hand and manages to push the lizardman into a shallow part of the swamp with strange gases hovering close to the water’s surface. From his belt, the hero grabs a flare gun and does not hesitate to send a flare straight into the water, right between the lizardman’s legs. Hellfire explodes all around the lizardman. It is a fire that one knows is red and yellow with white- hot heat, but here it is only illuminated shades of gray. The lizardman, confused by the searing heat and pain lets out an unearthly howl as he slowly cooks to death. The good-looking, well-muscled, male human hero in khaki grabs the gorgeous blonde with perfect makeup and a blouse missing some buttons, and holds her tight as three-dimensionally looking letters in two dimensions fly up from nowhere and smack against the screen spelling out ATTACK OF THE LIZARDMAN and THE END and MADE IN HOLLYWOOD U.S.A.

The broadcast of this early 1950s horror flick being over, the small studio at Chicago’s WAGO-TV station bustled and burst with color (colorful set, colorful language from frustrated technicians) as they switched to live to finish this episode of Vivacia’s House of Horrors. The beautiful Vivacia herself—pale of face framed by long raven’s wing (what else?) black hair and wearing a slinky and slick ebony satin dress with a plunging neckline (or décolletage if we want to bring a little lift to the thought)—lounged sensually on her huge, round bed with blood-red silk sheets (the producer had gotten the idea from Chicago native Hugh Hefner). She looked directly into camera number one and held up what looked exactly like a barbecued lizard on a stick and said in her deep, silky voice, “Oooooooo—lizard flambe!” With a ravenous, anticipatory smile, Vivacia parted her lips, brought the lizard flambe to her mouth, and took a generous bite full of sexual subtext. She chewed, savored, swallowed, then said, “I love it!”

A snort and a whimper came from her side as a little hunchback man with a twisted face bounced on the bed next to her. “Would you like a little bite, Grossie?”

Grossie, snorting and panting, made it clear that he would, and so Vivacia let him slobber onto the reptilian delicacy, licking it like a popsicle, as she said, “Well, it’s time for me to close up the House of Horrors for the summer, turn out the lights, and scream to my heart’s content. But do tune in tomorrow for our first ever rerun of that masterpiece of waterfowl fright, Devil Ducks from Downunder. It’s Australian, mate!”

The red light on the camera dimmed, and the director—somewhat dim himself—shouted, “All right everybody, another classic in the can.”

Vivacia relaxed as Grossie collapsed into her décolletage while snorting out his signature snort. “Arthur! Please!” Vivacia said as she pushed Grossie out of her cleavage and flat (sort of) onto his costume's cotton-filled humpback.

Vivacia shimmied herself off the round bed just as her agent, who was ironically named Al Hart, came up and handed her a cup of coffee, which she took with gratitude and downed with alacrity.

“Baby, sweetie, that was great! I still have chills running up and down my spine.”

Vivacia looked at her agent, a genial man who was never seen wearing anything but a three-piece gray suit draped over his skinny frame, and, one inferred, lifts in his shoes, as well as a gray fedora to keep Chicago’s wind from sweeping across his bald pate. “How is that possible, Al?” Vivacia asked in her deep, silky voice. “I didn’t know you had a spine.”

“Are you kidding, kiddo? It’s steel, I tell ya, steel.”

Vivacia handed her now empty coffee cup back to Al and left the studio floor to walk down a corridor to her dressing room. “Yeah, yeah, sure.”

Al, who actually did not have an office in metropolitan Chicago, but rather in a nearby suburb in a room over the garage of his “ancestral home,” quickly put down the cup and reached into his inside coat pocket and withdrew with pride a folded document and hurried to follow the mistress of the night.

“Well, maybe this will prove it to ya, baby. I got your new contract right here. And I got you a great deal. Three years, no ifs, ands, or buts. A 2.3% raise over those three years. And your dressing room repainted.”

Vivacia continued down the corridor, shouting back, “Al, I told you, no way!” And when she spotted the nineteen-year-old “associated producer” of Vivacia’s House of Horrors down the corridor just about to dash into editorial, she shouted forward, “GEORGE!

At the deep-voiced, silky, yet pointed command of the vampire woman, George stopped midway through the editorial door. Vivacia came up to him and held the “lizard-on-a-stick” with the generous bite out of it right in front of his fuzzy face. “What the hell did you fashion this ‘lizard’ out of?”

“Ah...” George’s eyes darted right, then darted left, then up, possibly in supplication to a supernatural being for protection, then down in avoidance as his mouth formed a feeble smile and he barely articulated, “Lizard.”

Youuuu bastard,” Vivacia said with a chill in her voice and revenge on her mind.

“Gotta go!” George dashed into editorial and quickly closed the door.

Vivacia began down the corridor again. “If my mind weren’t already made up, that would have done it!”

Al quickly followed. “Listen, please, this is a great deal! It’s the highpoint of my career!”

Vivacia stopped, turned, burned a look into Al’s pinpoint eyes, and said, “Al, getting a second client would be the highpoint of your career.”

Vivacia and Al came to the dressing room of one KATHY ANDERSON (as it said on the door) and entered. Vivacia immediately went behind an ornate but faded dressing screen that once resided in Chicago’s once-great Studebaker Theater, and Al plopped himself onto a worn and patched couch of no known style.

“Kathy, please, please, don’t do this to yourself. You turn down a deal like this and the word goes out—and I hate to put it in these terms, but it’s a cruel business—the B.I.T.C.H. is dif-i-cult. You’ll never work in this town again.”

Vivacia’s deep and silky voice countered from behind the screen, “Oh, don’t give me that, Al. This isn’t network prime time TV. This is a cheap local station, late-night, creature feature show, for Christ’s sake. And I’m sick and tired of being a sex goddess for geeks!” she exclaimed as she tossed her black dress over the top of the screen. It landed on Al’s lap. “And who cares about Chicago anyway? There’s a reason why they call it ‘The Second City.’ I’m a well-trained actor, Al. I studied at the Actor’s Studio. In New York, Al! You know, the First City! I should be plying my craft on Broadway. I should be doing plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, even this new guy, Albee.”

“Broadway’s dying, baby!”

Vivacia’s deep and silky voice, laced with venom, came as a curse from behind the dressing screen. “Al, don’t ever say that again! Broadway will never die!”

Al was unrelenting. “TV’s killing it, kiddo!”

“Oh, Al, please...” Vivacia had vanished. Somebody else was suddenly pleading, in a voice neither deep nor silky. Out from behind the screen came Kathy Anderson. In truth more scamp than vamp, an all-American blonde girl of leading cheers and making homes and occupying the day and night dreams of countless young American males who didn’t deserve her. Except, of course, Kathy wanted more.

“You have to understand,” she finished, standing in a warm light wearing a simple nice skirt and a white blouse and holding Vivacia’s black wig at her side like a large dead rat, “I am going crazy playing Vivacia. I was meant to be Ophelia. Joan of Arc. Hedda Gabler. Not a vampire woman who eats lizards on a stick!” Kathy gestured broadly with the wig in hand, like a nightmare pom-pom from hell.

“But—”

“It’s all settled. First thing tomorrow I’m taking off. I’m going to stop and see my parents for a couple of weeks so you can send my last check there. Then it’s New York! The stage or die!” Kathy grabbed a framed photo of her parents from her dressing table and her oversize purse, stuffing the wig into it.

“Ah...,” Al said.

“Hey! I paid for this wig. Remember? It wasn’t part of the last deal you got me!”

“No, I just thought you would want the dress too,” Al Hart said offering up the dress from his lap.

“Oh, yeah! I paid for that too!”

Kathy snatched the dress from Al’s hand then marched to the door, turned back to face Al with a bright smile, and a cheerful “Bye!” accented by a little wave of her hand. Then she turned and left, canceling this episode of her life. 

==============================================================

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