Romance of Mystery

Romance of Mystery

0 comment Monday, June 2, 2014 |
Directed by George King
Written by A. R. Rawlinson and Ronald Fayre, Based on the play by Brooke Warren
Starring Tod Slaughter, Marjorie Taylor, John Warwick, Aubrey Mallalieu, Robert Adair, Margaret Yarde, and Wallace Evennett
"Oh, yes. I shall be there. Punctually."
The foggy, cobblestoned streets of 19th century Paris are the setting for our film, which we see as the thrilling opening musical number reels our ocular orbs in. There�s a bit of exposition in the scrolling text about a dreaded killer that has been haunting the city called Le Loup� The Wolf! But then there�s a more personal statement that shows up at the end that got the thick sludge in my twisted veins pumping harder: "This melodrama of the old school� dear to the hearts of those who unashamedly enjoy either a shudder or a laugh at the heights of villainy." Gadzooks! This film is speaking my language already! With bated breath and sweaty palms, I journey on.
Young bank clark Lucien Cortier (John Warwick) is just finishing up the books at the offices of M. Brisson�s bank when a horrifying howl ruptures the night air. Realizing it is the call of Le Loup, he rushes down the hall and finds the night watchman Pierre, stabbed in the back and stammering of a face he had seen at the window shortly before he dies. Not only was Pierre killed but it seems that a hefty stash of funds was stolen from the bank! The policeman heading the investigation, Inspector Gouffert (Robert Adair), suspects that the murder was an inside job and that Lucien is the culprit. Seeking to clear his name and simultaneously win the hand of his beloved Cecile de Brisson (Marjorie Taylor), Lucien pleads her father (Aubrey Mallalieu) to allow him to discover the true criminal.
Come on now! Two syllables... rhymes with "Da Soup"...
In order to reestablish public trust in his bank after the theft, Brisson enlists the aid of aristocrat Chevalier Lucio del Gardo (Tod Slaughter). Upon his grand entrance, the chevalier shows what a charming personality he has by soaking Cecile�s hand in wet kisses and being a general ass to Lucien at the same time. Lucio consults with Brisson on the recent string of killings; Le Loup has struck six times within the last two months and has the entire city gripped in a mad panic. But Lucio tells the banker that he is definitely interested in entrusting a portion of his gold to the bank� on one condition.
Since Lucio�s generosity knows no bounds, he kindly asks the old man if he can make some moves on his daughter, to which Brisson hesitantly concedes. del Gardo attempts to hypnotize the woman with the majestic power of his goatee, but the lass won�t be swayed from her devotion to Lucien. Admitting defeat, the chevalier swings in for the kiss (which undoubtedly has a massive amount of tongue involved) and chuckles evilly as he plots bad things a-plenty.
In the dingy laboratory of Professor LeBlanc (Wallace Evennett), whom everyone in town refers to as "The Mad Professor," Lucien watches in amazement as the kooky scientist uses the power of harnessed electricity to briefly revive a dead bunny. LeBlanc says he shall use his experiments to extract the identity of Le Loup by manipulating his machines on the killer�s next victim, the electricity animating the dead tissue long enough to give some intelligible response. At last the true potential of electricity is finally being fully realized in the realms of mad science! Take that, Edison!
And with just the right application of electrical energy, this gas station burrito might be fit for human consumption!
Meanwhile the chevalier has got some chores to take care of, namely heading into a smoke-filled tavern called The Blind Rat in the grubbiest side of town. Amidst much prostitute fondling and stereotypically French dance numbers, del Gardo consorts with the sinister house mother La Pinan (Margaret Yarde) and his two cutthroat underlings. Instead of taking up their usual task of snatching pretty, young virgins for Lucio to steal away to his cave of horrors, their assignment is to break into the bank and place a wrapped package into Lucien�s compartment. If they so much as peek into its contents, the chevalier promises to gut their sickly bodies open fish market-style. What none of them realize is that a few fateful drops of wax from a burning candle on the table has struck the seal on Lucio�s ring and left an identical imprint on the paper! PLOT POINT! PLOT POINT!
The next morning Brisson has got a minor case of the grumpy pants and calls Lucien into his office, indicating an anonymous letter he received accusing Lucien of being the criminal responsible behind the theft. Who saw that coming? Outraged but determined to prove his integrity, Lucien confidently walks his boss right up to his desk while all the other clarks act like a bunch of Nosy Nancys. But Lucien�s lower jaw drops like a load of potatoes when Brisson pulls out the package, which is filled with Mexican gold dollars� just like the ones that were stolen! Lucien whines about being innocent, but Brisson relieves him of his employment and tells him to hit the road and forget about Cecile, lest he be turned over to the police.
Just then del Gardo rolls up in a carriage with Cecile as his passenger and Lucien is able to throw a secret message her way while the chevalier discusses business with Brisson inside. Reading her lover�s urgent note, Cecile hightails it into the streets. After signing a document and using his official seal, del Gardo urges Brisson to toss that little punk Lucien into a jail cell when "news" of the clark�s treachery reaches his ears. Brisson, however, is preoccupied with something else� he can�t help but notice that the mark on the package paper matches the chevalier�s seal on the document. Audible gasp! del Gardo is quick on his feet and snatches the paper away, tossing the evidence into the roaring fireplace. The wicked chevalier silences Brisson�s protestations by saying that it is best he forget the entire affair� as he fiendishly puts it: "The fact that I have your daughter with me now should see to that!" My dark heart thumped in delight.
Well, one really good reason why you should marry me is because I said so, bitch!
That night Cecile�s maid Babette and her awesome mustache-endowed lover Pierre steal Lucien into the house so that the hero can consult with his beloved. He promises the worried damsel that he shall sort things out and restore the peace in their ooey gooey love life (note to self: never place "ooey gooey" next to "love life" ever again). Downstairs in the study, Brisson is muddling over that afternoon�s episode when (hang on, brothers and sisters!), a long-haired, snaggle-toothed face glowers menacingly at the old man from his window! Yes, it�s the dreaded Face himself! The tell-tale howl rings out, bringing Lucien to run onto the grounds in pursuit of the attacker. But it�s too late: the stabbed, stiffed remains of Brisson lie dormant in the study.
Lucio conveniently arrives and consoles young Cecile as she weeps over her father�s death. Asking to give his last respects, del Gardo just gives the cadaver a good kick and chuckles heartily over the fallen geezer. At this point I found myself laughing just as jovially; this guy is so ridiculously immoral that I just wanted to give him a huge hug! Lucien returns to spoil the delicious villainy, but that doesn�t stop the dogged del Gardo from pointing the finger at the young man again, noting Lucien�s suspicious absence during Brisson�s murder. Would you believe it? Toddy actually has a pretty good case against the hero!
Fed up with the aristocrat�s douchebaggery, Lucien gives the cad a good slap to the face and the next thing you know it�s going down. del Gardo tells Lucien to bring his game on, because these two mothas are gonna duel to settle their differences. Lucien accepts the chevalier�s date at the Luxembourg Gardens, comforting Cecile by telling her that cowards like del Gardo always talk a better game. Showing he has a little bit of badass in him, Lucien pulls out his heat when a hairy, twisted claw looms from behind a curtain, balancing a dagger that has Lucien�s face for a target. The bank clark blasts a whole through the assailant�s right hand and the would-be killer goes shrieking into the darkness before he can be apprehended.
Chuck E. Cheese wasn't always the kid-friendly place that it is.
The chevalier returns to The Blind Rat for more scheming of plunders and plots. del Gardo isn�t prepared to play fair and enlists the aid of his henchman to ensure that he walks into the duel bulletproof. The stage is set in the gardens for the defining moment, but just as Lucien turns about to deliver his shot he is struck down himself by a rock thrown from Lucio�s accomplices in the bushes. Snickering all the while, del Gardo gloats of his sexual prowess as Lucien is tied and gagged, the chevalier�s final order being to throw the squirming wretch into the river. Good thing Lucien also had eyes watching out for him, as Babette and cook Gaston fish their mistress� beau out of the water once the dirty dunces have left the scene.
A hunchback trying to pull his best Peter Lorre later arrives at Cecile�s front door with a message, telling the maiden (in an aggravatingly elusive manner) that Lucien has asked his beloved to meet him at The Blind Rat on a most important matter. Entering the decrepit tavern, Cecile is practically molested by the call girls as they ravage her body with their hands (and who can blame them� she�s wearing a FABULOUS fur-lined nightie!). La Pinan knowingly guides the unsuspecting Cecile up to a private apartment where she sees it is the treacherous chevalier who has actually summoned her! Well, I was surprised�
del Gardo tells Cecile that her lover fled in true pansy fashion from the duel and once again tries to ignite the romantic sparks in Cecile�s heart, but instead gets her frigid shoulder. Just as Lucio tries getting frisky (even locking the door as he chases Cecile down!), a mysterious figure enters The Blind Rat, claiming to be a notorious coiner recently escaped from prison and requesting Lucio�s company. The chevalier descends the stairs with an extreme case of blue balls, but he knows something fishy is up. Tearing off his guest�s false goatee, del Gardo reveals that it is Lucien in disguise, as the real criminal had been gunned down by police earlier that day. How inconvenient!
The chevalier�s slimy crew holds the hero in place as Inspector Gouffert and his fellow policemen arrive at the scene. The chevalier claims to have caught the dreaded Le Loup, but Lucien is convinced that del Gardo is not only the criminal responsible but that he�s also the attacker that he shot at on the night of Brisson�s murder. Daring del Gardo to remove the glove on his right hand to reveal the gunshot wound, the aristocrat at first declines but is urged by Gouffert to carry out the request. Slowly and oh so deliberately, the chevalier removes the black glove from his left hand. All clear. And then, finger by finger, he unveils the right hand and we see� nothing. His hand is free of any wound or scar. A crooked smile creasing his face, he smugly asks Lucien "Satisfied?"
Seeing that his plans have been foiled, Lucien pulls a Hail Mary pass and races up the stairs, holding a lantern threateningly and promising to burn the place to the ground if anyone tries to apprehend him. Lucio makes the first move and up The Blind Rat goes in flames, giving Lucien and Cecile just enough time to escape across the roof. The next day del Gardo is ranting and raving over Lucien in Gouffert�s office when Cecile shows up with a proposition. She says that Lucien will give himself up only if both the investigator and chevalier attend a demonstration at Professor LeBlanc�s home, a demonstration which will include the discovery of Le Loup�s identity with the help of the mad doctor�s electro-goobidygops! Realizing what he must do, del Gardo smiles slyly out at us, the audience, as he promises to be at the Mad Professor�s house alright. Mwahahaha!
See to it that the camera is working alright, the mule is pure bred, and the midget contortionists are free of diseases.
That night as rumbling thunder clouds war in the dark sky, LeBlanc is just finishing up dinner and a few last minute touches on the machines when� (dun dun dun!)� the hideous face appears at the window in a ghostly haze, drooling a dark ichor from its cracked lips. The professor has just a few seconds to grip his head melodramatically and stay in his spot long enough for del Gardo to appear, smiling mischievously as he advances on his victim from the cloak of the draperies. Raising his deadly dagger high, the chevalier sinks the blade into LeBlanc�s back, grinning even as the doc gives out a final "You!" before collapsing to the floor. My undergarments remained blown off for several weeks after watching that scene. It was THAT awesome.
But wait! Our dear professor isn�t gone just yet. With the last few remnants of life still clinging to him, LeBlanc scrawls a quick message on a note before giving his final death groan. Soon Lucien and Cecile discover the body, but after reading LeBlanc�s note Lucien is determined to carry on with the experiment. Bringing in the special guests, Lucien explains to the inspector that he will be conducting the demonstration despite the doc�s absence and del Gardo�s sarcastic quips.
Gesturing to the sheeted stiff on the lab table, Lucien says that the victim will write the true name of Le Loup on a note once the electricity has successfully manipulated its musculature. The professor was just able to write the first few letters of his murderer's name "L, U, C, I," to which del Gardo claims he was trying to spell "Lucien Courtier." Unfazed, the bank clark begins to work the weird science as the thunder growls in the air. Everyone stands tensely, watching for any signs of life in the still hand. Just when it looks like all is lost� THE HAND STIRS! In short, jerky movements the appendage grips the pencil and jaggedly writes down the identity of its killer. Grabbing the slip, Lucien proclaims that the identity of Le Loup is none other than the Chevalier Lucio del Gardo! Genuine astonishment!
On that dark and stormy Family Fun Night, the gang decided to make their game of Mad Libs a little more interesting.
But del Gardo isn�t one to be taken so easily! Whipping out a gun, the chevalier deliriously confirms that he is the killer, only to see that it was Gaston under the sheet and not the extinct remains of LeBlanc! How do you like that� Lucien didn�t even no how the damn machine worked and he still outsmarted the villain! No matter, del Gardo gives off a shot and jumps out the window into the river, swimming all the way back to his mansion. Laughing maniacally, del Gardo runs into his house and, through a secret passageway hidden behind a moving portrait (!), descends into the subterranean dungeon below.
And what should we find there other than the Face himself, locked away in a cage. Turns out the deformed creature is del Gardo�s foster brother who was entrusted to the chevalier�s care when the thing�s mother had died. The group of heroes break into the basement just as Lucio is preparing to push the cage through an opening in the wall into the cold river below. Distracted for just too long, del Gardo is gripped by the hairy hand of his brother and the two go tumbling down to their freezing, watery graves. Now with the city of Paris safe from the menace of Le Loup, the lovers embrace to see another sunrise.
So for those of you who weren�t able to tell from my review, I LOVE this movie! Dare I say it, it is perhaps the best Slaughter feature I watched during the entire marathon. It simply has everything that made all of his other movies so great, and more. Yes, and MORE! Even with Sweeney Todd under his belt, The Face at the Window is probably Toddy�s most horror-tastic film to come from his distinguished resume. Let�s take a look at some of the great things that are at work here in this most wonderful tale of melodrama and madmen.
For one, I think it�s safe to say that Chevalier Lucio del Gardo is hands down my favorite Tod Slaughter villain. Yes, say what you will about the unbridled insanity of his infamous killer barber (and believe me, I adore Sweeney too), but del Gardo has a real class to him and it allows Slaughter to put his acting magic to full use. The chevalier is charismatic and quite grand, and Slaughter gives him that perfect balance of high society righteousness and black-hearted villainy.
I made a similar comparison to his Squire Corder from Murder in the Red Barn, but Tod has perfected the rudimentary formula from that film and made it into an honest-to-God art here. Just the way he carries himself about in that cloak, whether he�s stalking a victim or making a pretentious entrance, it�s nothing short of calculated perfection. Slaughter is at his most ruthless, cunning, sadistic, and menacing best here. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
I'll give ya a blowjob for a nice grilled cheese sandwich.
The Face at the Window has a lot of great horror aesthetics working in its favor as well. From the mad machinations of the sanity-questionable professor and the potential for living deadites to start walking around to the murderous Le Loup (if only he was an actual werewolf� then we would�ve REALLY been cooking!) and the tempestuous, gloomy atmosphere, this is the film that is the most similar in tone to those great chillers and thrillers that were being put out by Universal and other Hollywood studios across the Atlantic at the time. These touches give the story a really wonderful, Gothic feel, spicing up the melodrama/penny dreadful formula that became stale in other Slaughter installments with a dose of good old fashioned terror and nightmarish images.
Along these same lines, The Face at the Window is the most cinematically complete of all the Slaughter films, in my opinion. Even in the other vehicles that were helmed by George King (this film�s director), Slaughter�s movies had a tendency of creaking just a little too loudly; the movies seemed more like filmed stage plays (in the bad way) than actual cinematic experiences. Here, though, you never doubt for a second that what you�re watching is a fully composed film, as strange as that may sound.
The editing is smooth and graceful, save for the moments (especially in the finale) where quick cuts are effectively used to heighten tension. There�s always a constant undercurrent of action in each scene, whether subtle or explicit, where you�re never left feeling as if nothing is happening. It�s a quick and efficient operation, enhanced only by some fabulous set pieces such as The Blind Rat tavern and a rousing score that plays throughout the film at a regular pace (instead of just at the very end like most of Slaughter�s other films).
With all of these things going for it, The Face at the Window is a ridiculously fun and fast paced installment in the annals of Slaughter villainy. Its plot elements will sate the appetite of any hungry horror fan and the marvelous performance given by the man himself remains unparalleled. Catch this glorious piece of classic horror gold before it�s too late. Before� no� the Face� the FACE!
There's no business like show business, eh, Wolfie?

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0 comment Sunday, June 1, 2014 |

We join our cursed hero Andrew Bennett as he and his two human cohorts Deborah Dancer, the beautiful blonde, and Dmitri Mishkin, the grizzled man of the world, trek across the California coast in order to find Mary, the evil Queen of Blood. Mary was once a human, but one bite from the immortal Andrew transformed the woman into a heartless succubus who now seeks to destroy the entire human race through the help of her undead slaves that make up the order of the Blood Red Moon. Only a few panels into House of Mystery #297�s cover story "Zen Flesh! Zen Bones!" (the fifth installment of the "I� Vampire!" series written by J. M. DeMatteis) and already the tale smells of high-flying adventure saga!
Making their way through the hot August night and invasive brambles, the trio comes upon the abandoned yet still splendorous remains of a temple of the ineffable Tao. Andrew recalls a book that they had gained possession of in a previous story that named several groups and organizations that were under Mary�s employ, using them to spread her dark influence throughout innocent society.* Angered at the prospect of Mary corrupting something as sacred as a Tao temple (apparently Andrew takes his meditations very seriously), Andrew kicks the door in and the group goes in to investigate.
*Apparently one such group was a collection of white supremacists working under the name of the American Freedom Party. The bloodsucking undead and the KKK� does anyone else see a blaxploitation classic in the making here?!
Bitch, please.
The silence inside is suddenly broken by the mournful tunes of a guitar emanating from a back room. Taking a peek inside, they spot a young man plucking his dulcet strings (don�t get fresh now!) and weeping over his fate. Seeing Bennett sets the hippie off on an angered rant that just ends up with him getting a slap to the face for being a whiny rotter. Deborah calms the whippersnapper down and the Tao urchin, named Billy Kessler, narrates his tale of woe. Having journeyed to the land of the Orient for a little self-improvement, the golden-locked misfit was aided by the good Master Shoju (who told Billy "I shall Shoju the way to the path of righteousness.")
Billy helped the good sensei by moving his headquarters to America, only for the little old wizard to turn on him in a fangy reign of savagery. The poor Shoju had been turned into one of the walking dead by that diabolical Mary, who then took the master and some of his apprentices further up the coast to build a Lair of DOOOM to serve as their bloodthirsty stronghold. But Shoju didn�t leave before giving Billy a good nip on the neck, thus reversing a decade�s worth of practicing passive aggression.
So what�s a group led by a renegade member of the undead to do but head straight for that deathtrap down the road? They crawl and somersault across the fortress thanks to Andrew�s amazing Olympic abilities and the next thing you know the slavering canines are exposed and we�re treated to an all-out vampire/ martial arts showdown!
Wow, Billy sure is flexible.
The panels don�t necessarily explode with sweaty, bloody-knuckled, rotting skin action, but it�s an enjoyable enough fight scene that creates a nice, dynamic climax for the tale (Michael Bay fans: sorry, no random explosions or noisy robots). But just as the heroes are giving the toothy monks a few stakes to the chest, Andrew begins questioning his surroundings when the red-eyed Billy urges Bennett to deliver the final blow to the fallen Shoju.
Sensing the treachery that�s been thrown over his eyes like a velvet cape, Andrew turns on the sniveling Billy and instead buries the spike into the hippie�s heart with a good blow from the mallet. The traitor crumbles to dust, and a thankful Master Shoju reveals that it was Billy who was under Mary�s palm all along. Turns out Shoju and his disciples are indeed night-walkers, but they are of the placid and serene variety (think of Count von Count, only if he was as deadly with his fists as he is with numbers). Shoju had prayed that the good-hearted Bennett would make the right decision and the vampires resolve to finally crack down Queen Mary�s cult once and for all.
This being my first journey into the pages of one of DC Comics� horror staples, House of Mystery, I must say that I randomly chose a great place to start. How can you argue against an escapade containing both creatures of the night and fists of fury? "Zen Flesh! Zen Bones!" brings to mind films like the cult classic Mr. Vampire, minus all the slapstick comedy.
I have a weak spot for monster-ccentric adventure epics, and a good number of the horror anthology series from the 70�s had at least one dark character (or in the case of the later issues of Warren�s Eerie, a whole magazine�s worth) that was forced to face against their fellow companions in darkness, usually ending in an electrifying battle that had our horrific hero/heroine coming out on top and trudging wearily to next month�s issue.
Mmmm, destroy Nosferatu you must!
This story, like the other episodes of the serial, was illustrated by comics legend Tom Sutton, and there�s some great artistic work on display here. I particularly loved the single close-up shot of Master Shoju on the last page. The detail that Sutton instills in Shoju�s wrinkly visage conveys a nice sense of worldly wisdom. I also liked the moment where Andrew realizes that Mary has been behind the temple�s destruction� we just see the eyes of his face light up a livid scarlet, but it�s enough to get the point across that this guy is pissed.
Fans of vampires will be pleased, martial arts aficionados might be confused, and those looking for a good read after their Zen session should probably search elsewhere. I suggest flipping through this one by applying lethal karate chops to the pages (or your computer screen if you�re a digital reader� it�s probably more fun that way anyhow). Well, go on now. Don�t force me to Shoju the error of your ways! Alright, I promise to stop those terrible puns.
But I�ve been known to lie.
Um, hell yeah!

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0 comment Saturday, May 31, 2014 |

Good evening, monstrous maniacs.
Tonight I have something special in store for you. Instead of reviewing some movie or a dusty ol' book, I thought that I would invite you to kick back, turn up the radio, and allow the tunes of Rue Morgue Magazine's first album to lull you into a deep and deeply disturbed sleep. You've heard right. Rue Morgue, a magazine that is fast in becoming my favorite genre-based periodical ever, has compiled a gathering of some of the sickest and most talented minds in the horror music department to rock out some songs that are guaranteed to get your hearts beating and your big toes tapping.
This album really is a treat and a definite labor of love from all the creative minds that worked behind it. These songs will crawl into the dank recesses of your gray matter and cause you to rock your head at completely inappropriate times to beats that only you can hear. At times I become disheartened by the availability of horror-themed bands and groups, so to have a weighty compilation composed of nothing BUT terror fanatics of the musical persuasion is a great gift to horror fans everywhere.
And did I mention that this gift is FREE?! That's right, completely open for the taking. You can download it (along with the great artwork that adorns the album) HERE at the Rue Morgue Magazine site. But hurry! This opportunity only lasts till the end of July. Get your copy before the zombie apocalypse breaks out!
Without going on for too long and spoiling anything, I do have some shout outs to make for some of my own personal favorites from the album:

This awesomely-named group gets the ball rolling with an ode to Rue Morgue's weekly music broadcasts headed by DJ Tomb Dragomir. Sarah Blackwood's pure vocals sail beautifully over the demonic chants of her band mates. Something you can definitely thrash your body to in Exorcist-like fashion.

There are a few bands on here that I haven't had the pleasure of encountering, Cauldron being one of them. Here they deliver an anthem-like tune set to a fantastic and infectious guitar riff with groovy, growling lines by the lead singer.

Ahh, psychobilly! Just the stuff to get my hips shaking and give me a powerful yearning to croon into a microphone. The Independents give a head-boppin' good time that always manages to put a wicked grin on my face everytime I hear it.
No, it's not a rip-off of that song by those other fellers. Harley Poe's song sounds like a drunken jig performed by a group of pessimistic survivors during the complete obliteration of the planet as we know it. As downbeat as that may sound, the band makes the Apocalypse sound like a rootin-tootin good time! Woohoo!

This slow dirge sounds like a mix of tearful doo-wop and "Kids" by MGMT. Weird combination? But it works! And effectively so. Between the lead singer's soulful, choked voice and the chant of children screaming "My body's a zombie for you!", it actually makes for a rather sweet and heartfelt track amidst of den of debauchery. Don't be surprised if those pupils get a little wet.

Totally loony and kooky in every way. The chorus sounds like it's made up of rejected cast members from "The Muppet Show" and there's a line referring to a dancing chicken. It's very easy for me to picture a music video of this song featuring psychedelic whirlpools and angry, evil sock puppets.

The minute I heard these boys were debuting a new song on this CD, it became all the reason I needed to download the entire thing. Curtis Rx and Erik X are back in all their keyboarding, spooky glory. And what better than to sing about body snatching. Catchy and delightfully morbid as they always are, this is the bloody icing on my horror shortcake. You can see my review for their debut album HERE.

Even with the addition of the flawless Creature Feature, I think I have to say that this is my favorite track from the album. I had never heard of Damn Laser Vampires (great name!) before, but after this I'm determined to seek out more of their material. Ironically this is the hardest one for me to explain my admiration for. It's got a great rocking electric guitar, the lead singer has a deep, wavering and completely intoxicating voice, and it all blends together to sound like some twisted tune that I envision accompanying a zombie surfer as he glides through a blood-red wave. Yeah, I'm as confused by that as you are.
These are just a few of the absolutely fantastic songs that make up this album. This should not be missed by any horror fan whatsoever. One can only wish that Rue Morgue will make this a regular, ongoing project and give these deadicated bands the exposure they need. In the meantime, the rest of the world can plug in their dread-phones and dig this sumptuous spookshow like a six foot grave.

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0 comment Friday, May 30, 2014 |
Well this little comic is pretty honest about what it has to offer, isn't it? After reading the entire thing, I'm happy to report that my residence remains uncontaminated by any pesky poltergeists (but what are these voices in my head? Hahahahahaha! *Twitch*). Today's four-color horror is brought to you by Fawcett, the same comic company that gave the world Captain Marvel, champion of the great wizard Shazam (no relation to the equally magical ShamWow). And take a look at that knockout zombie cover. Mmmmmm. Please allow the ghoulish Doctor Death to guide you through the insanity and terror that haunts this magazine...
Justin Westrum spares no time with fancy monologues or necessary exposition before he poisons the glass of his friend and business partner Mack Wilson. As the agonizing throes of death enthrall him, Mack swears to Justin that he will hold Justin to his toast of accompanying him in death and beyond by "keeping an eye on him." Justin finds out just how literal ol' Mack's words were when he notices how one of the chap's eyes refuses to close even in death. Even after dumping the corpse in the nearby lake, Justin is haunted by the wide and ever staring pupil of death! He begins seeing the organ everywhere he goes, from the food he eats to the flowers that adorn Mack's grave. Meeting Mack's reanimated cadaver in the cemetery one night, Justin is told by his murdered buddy that he will continue to be tormented until his spirit is completely broken. It will be then that Mack will come calling for Justin's soul and escort him into the land of the dead as his BFF. Can Justin deny his ultimate fate or will he finally succumb to the maddening presence of the Constant Eye...?
Wow, what a doozy! This story has obvious roots in Edgar Allan Poe's immortal "The Tell-Tale Heart" (the Vulture Eye!) with the nefarious protagonist being haunted by the guilt of his crime. Don't expect to find high class literature when you dig into this one though. It's pretty goofy through and through. The character of Justin is the inspiration for some funny lines: "You're not eyes! You're fireflies!" But most bizarre of all is the rejuvenated remains of Mack. After swearing that he will follow Justin wherever he goes, Mack pops up time and again in a variety of guises. Policeman, cab driver... chick at a costume party? And again as a curvy woman posing rather seductively on a street corner? If you think I'm crazy, check out this passage from Justin's first meeting with Brought-Back Mack: "The empty socket in Mack Wilson's head was a circle of temptation for Justin. It drew him like a magnet. He suffered a burning desire to peer within its darkness, to penetrate its mystery!" You tell me what's going on here, folks.
Warren Travers is the typical disbelieving jerk who is coaxed by his fiancee Anna into attending a seance held by the mysterious Count Drasni in his gloomy mansion outside of town. Warren soon finds himself on the wrong end of the spiritual connection when the ghostly essence of his soul leaves his body. His excitement is short lived when he is suddenly assaulted by the Seven Dwarves of the Damned. They're actually the despairing and wicked souls of deceased murderers and suicides. Same thing. Anyway, Grumpy is intent on taking over Warren's body so he can sport a neat looking flesh suit. The troll succeeds and Warren is left in limbo, constantly teased by the other spirits while they play their Ghostly Games and forced to watch his own body be an ass to Anna. But Warren isn't going down without a fight. He tactfully plans to make Anna aware of his peril and alarm Drasni of the situation before the goblin inhabiting his body can complete the machine that will bring back the souls of the dead to wreak havoc on the Earth...!
That one was a mouthful. Surprisingly it really isn't all that bad. Out of all the horror comic stories I've read (from the more unknown magazines, that is) this one seems to have a bit of originality to it. The climax in the laboratory actually manages to build some suspense and excitement as well. Who knew? Shivering spooks make for a fun read, even though some of the ghosts look like rejects from a failed Disney project. Heebie jeebies!
Jasper Kafacho is just enjoying a conversation with the wax figurines in his carnival tent when beefy Fleece Barton decides to bust the tea party up. The sleazy barker is unsatisfied with Kafacho's inability to pull in any money with his grotesque art pieces. Demanding that the blind little curator leave for the umpteenth time, Barton is set off by the hunchback's stubborn refusal and ends up strangling the creep. Realizing his crime, Barton decides to hide the body within the mirrored depths of the "Crazy House." It's a good idea until Barton finds that he's gotten himself hopelessly lost. A few turns later and he comes face-to-face with Casper! No, it's just Jasper and he is pissed. The zombie drags the whimpering Barton to a supernatural courtroom where the wax figures serve as jury and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is the high judge. It is here that Barton will meet his final judgment and face the hell of melting wax and the hangman's noose! Kinky...
A pretty standard story to cap the issue. I have to admit, when I first read the story I instantly rolled my eyes when I heard the first mentioniong of wax figures. "Oh geez," I thought. "Another story with a wax museum setting?" It's true that many, many tales of horror use this atmosphere to illicit chills from the reader/viewer. It takes a lot of ingenuity from the artists involved to make their story unique and stand out from the rest. This particular tale does a rather admirable job at making it memorable. It really kicks into gear after Barton is confronted by Jasper in the funhouse. Then things take a surreal turn (for the better) when Barton is brought into the "courtroom." Nightmare proportions and imagery abounds in these panels. The judge's stand looms menacingly over Barton and the setting includes such weird elements as barren trees, rotted pillars, and a random volcano. It all culminates very nicely in deliciously hot climax. Yowza!
Awhahaha! Haunted, indeed! This issue seems to provide more chuckles than thrills, but that's fine by me! The stories and art are really nothing to write home about, but you could always do much worse. If you're running low on comic selections for your next descent into depravity, you wouldn't do yourself any harm by checking out this dusty ditty. Or maybe you would. There's some fun in that too! Dohohohohoho!

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