Romance of Mystery

Romance of Mystery

0 comment Wednesday, April 23, 2014 |

Once upon a time there was a terrible, scum-infested place called New Jersey. It was not the type of place you would find princesses or charming knights. Nah way. The ladies who walked the streets at night were anything but royalty and the men were no better. They even had bad pizza.
But probably one of the worst of the bunch was a guy who went by the name of Ace Mahoney. Ace was what your grandmother would call a no-good hood, but really he wasn�t all that bad. Except when you got him angry. Ace was just like any other gangster; he liked gambling, and stealing, and skirt chasing, and even a beating or two tickled his fancy. But it was Ace�s temper that earned him a reputation in all the dives and bars in town.
Ace kept a deck of cards with him, always. He called them his lucky cards and he would always shuffle through them when he was thinking real hard. Usually when you saw Ace take out his deck of cards it meant something bad was gonna happen real soon. If he turned up a jack of spades, then that meant that he was gonna knife some poor sap right in the back. If it was a queen of hearts that came up in his palm, then he would have his way with whichever flea-bitten floozy he happened to eye first. But if he turned up the ace (oh, if he turned up the ace!) then there was no telling what Mahoney would do at that point. Ace�s two buddies, Lou Stevens and Stretch Collins, had even heaved up their lunches during the job Mahoney had them do the last he time he flashed the ace.
Ace was actually with Lou and Stretch that afternoon, the day they robbed Campbell�s diamond store. It had been a clean operation for the most part, but at the very last minute old man Campbell had pulled the police arm, and then Ace was forced to blow Campbell�s head off right then and there. Lou and Stretch hadn�t liked that (there were little bits of brain that splattered on their new coats) but they agreed that it had to be done considering the circumstances. They sped through the streets in their rickety old car, and soon the coppers were onto their scent, their sirens hollering through the morning fog.
There was some shooting, a lot of hollering from Ace out the driver�s window, and a ton of crying from Lou when a bullet caught him in his right arm. Stretch started shouting at Lou to quit his whining, and then Ace was screaming at the both of them to shut their traps as he was shooting at the cops that roared behind them like angry bloodhounds. Ace was able to swing right pass the boobs in blue and they were scot free, just like that.
"Where are we goin�, Ace?" Lou whimpered.
"Quit ya blubbering, ya baby!" Ace snarled.
"Where are ya headed, Ace?" Stretch asked from the back seat.
"You two girls don�t worry your pretty little heads over it. I know a place. Out on an island. It�s a fort. Nobody goes there, place is a dump. We can lie low there for awhile, wait for the cops to lose our trace. Then it�s smooth sailing from there."
" Smooth sailing?" cried Lou. "I just got slugged, the cops are on to us for carrying a trunk full of hot diamonds and blowing some old man to Kingdom Come, and we�re headed to some God forsaken fort in the middle of the Atlantic� you�re telling me that�s smooth sailing?!"
Ace gripped Lou by his sweaty, fat cheeks. "You were just shot in the arm, ya bum! It�s nuthin� a little love and care won�t fix. Now you�re gonna shut your ugly little lips or I�ll find a way to shut them for you!" Ace patted the pocket in his vest where he kept his deck of cards to get his point across. Lou swallowed the rock in his throat and even Stretch shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"That�s what I thought, boys," Ace breathed. "That�s what I thought."
"I can�t see a damn thing in this fog!" Ace hit the steering wheel in disgust.
"Turn the headlights on, Ace," Lou suggested weakly from the corner of the passenger seat.
"They are on, ya nitwit!" Stretch said. "Doesn�t do us any good, it�s thick as clam chowder out there!"
The fog had gotten bad. It was just a white wall of smoke and you couldn�t see your own hand in front of your face even if it had a traffic light strapped to it. "We�re close to the fort now," Ace said. "We just made it onto the bridge."
Stretch pushed his bony face forward on his veiny neck. "I hope this place is as safe as you say it is, Ace. Otherwise we are going to be royally f--- JESUS, LOOK OUT!"
The car swerved madly across the planks of the bridge as the headlights picked up the form of a hulking shadow standing in the thick mist. The tires rolled and slipped as they veered out of the way. They missed the figure by mere feet, but the car ended up smacking the bridge�s iron supports with a healthy crash. Lou started screaming about his arm and Stretch began cursing at the tear in his new vest while the temperature under Ace�s collar reached a cool 250 degrees.
"Shut up, shut up, shut up, the both of yous!" Ace roared. Lou and Stretch were still grumbling but their volume was considerably lower when Ace snatched the revolver from his pants and slammed the car door on his way out. His two buddies quickly followed suit, readying their weapons with less skill.
The dark figure that the gangsters had gone out of their way to miss was still standing in the exact spot it had been before, as if the entire ordeal had unshaken it. Ace had thought it was a trick of the fog before, but as he got closer he could see the man was a good seven feet tall, a great colossal thing that had a chest the size of a locomotive and fists that looked like the hams that hung in Marty�s butcher shop. The brute wore a sheepskin vest over his ripped, worn shirt and a cabbie�s hat rested on top of his square head, covering the eyes completely and only letting his hooked nose show like the beak of some eagle. The fog seemed to pour outta the guy�s huge nostrils and over his crossed, steely arms, curling around his face as if he was some kinda dragon sitting ever so smugly in its smoggy cave.
"Hey pal!" Ace called, his voice cracking just a little bit around the edges. "Ya mind telling me what business you have standin� in the middle of the God damn bridge like some statue?" He pulled the safety back on his gun for added effect.
"You nearly killed us back there, ya loony!" Stretch shrieked. He stood a good eight feet away from the brute as he waved his revolver in the air.
Lou didn�t say anything, his knees shaking like jello in an earthquake as his face grew yellow with fear and sickness. "Jesus�" he squeaked.
The brute stood completely still before his head moved about on that granite neck of his, his unseen eyes taking in the three sharply dressed men that stood in front of him.
"They call me The Troll." The voice was thunder, sending small vibrations through the wooden planks. "I watch over the bridge. I hold down the fort."
Ace�s white teeth flashed as his lips curled up in a sneer. "The Troll, huh? That�s cute, that�s really cute. Hey, ya hear that, boys? We gotta bridge troll on our hands! Ain�t dat sumthin!"
Weak laughter came from Ace�s two cohorts but was carried away by the mist and lost forever. Ace�s chuckles were loud and sharp though as he tucked the gun back into his pants pocket.
"Okay, wise guy, okay. Whaddaya want, huh? You want some money? We got money, plenty of money, ain�t dat right, boys? We�ll just give ya a little toll fare and then you can be off on your away to steal as many children and eat as many villagers as you want."
The Troll didn�t laugh. "No money," he growled.
Ace shifted his weight, his fingers tapping impatiently. "Okay, no money, no problem. Well then what exactly do ya want? Huh, big guy? Because I�m kind of in the middle of something and you just so happen to be in the middle of that something!"
"What?" asked Stretch.
"Shut up!" hollered Ace.
The Troll spoke. "Sorry, can�t let you cross the bridge."
"And why exactly is that?" Ace asked, boiling point just about reached.
"I protect it from hoodlums." The Troll pointed a sausage finger. "Like yous."
The tea kettle underneath Ace�s hat was singing like a banshee and his fingers itched to hold that cool deck of cards in his vest pocket. But then the Troll leaned forward, the voice like cannon fire in Ace�s ear. "Are ya gonna do sumthin about it, tough guy?"
Ace licked the sweat on his lips at this remark and, craning his head around, muttered "Hey Lou. Please convince the nice man that our business is of a rather urgent nature." Ace strolled back across the bridge and gripped Lou by the sleeve before giving him a good kick in the pants. Lou�s chubby face stared at Ace in pure terror, his little bug eyes bulging out of their sockets.
"Ace! I can�t--"
"You will and you�ll stop your complaining!" Ace roared.
Lou shuffled over as he slowly as he could to the Troll, his heart tap dancing against his ribcage as he stood looking up at the bridge guardian.
"Hey there listen, buddy. We don�t want any kinda trouble. I gots a bad arm, ya see. We just need to get over this bridge so I can get some medical attention. That�s not much to ask for, is it? Just one small favor for one honest man."
A little smile was seen on the Troll�s thick, purple lips. "Nah, I spose it ain�t." He placed one of those baseball mitts he had for hands on the shoulder of Lou�s left arm, the one without the bullet. "Trouble is, though, I know you�re not a honest man. But I think I can help ease that pain in your right arm there."
A sound not unlike the ripping of wet rags then met Ace and Stretch�s ears, and before they could even blink they saw that the Troll had Lou�s left arm gripped in his fist, cept that the arm was free of its former attachment to Lou�s body. It took a few seconds for it to dawn on Lou, but in the next instant he was screaming as the blood bubbled in his throat and spurted from the torn meat that had previously been his left shoulder. He stumbled around, looking like a clownish puppet as his wounded right arm waved crazily in the air.
"Oh here, lemme get dat for you," the Troll boomed. Another rip and Lou was just some armless stump of a man doing a jig of insane agony on the bridge planks. Ace and Stretch�s legs had become cemented to the ground, their hands lying limp at their sides and their mouths as wide as the Jersey Turnpike as they stood there in dumb terror at the scene unfolding all gory like in front of them.
Lou was on his knees now, crying and wailing all at once. "Let�s give da boy a hand for tryin!" the Troll laughed. Taking Lou�s bloodied arms by the ends of the shoulder bones, the Troll swept his own massive arms back and brought them forward, Lou�s own dismembered hands colliding against his weeping face and causing his head to explode in a mass of sticky blood and slimy brain juice. A scene for discussion at your mother�s dinner table it was not.
The mutilated hunk of torso collapsed onto the bridge and the Troll tossed Lou�s arms up and over into the water, chuckling darkly as he brushed the squashed eyeball hanging by his upper lip into his mouth with his fire hose tongue. "So," the Troll asked through clenched teeth "which one-a yous bums is next?"
Now we all know Ace had some brass balls on him; he never ran away from a fight at the first sign of trouble. Stretch, on the other hand, was raised no fool. That�s why Ace felt a sudden tug that relieved him of his coat. Still partly stunned by the flesh and blood show that had played before him, Ace whirled around and saw Stretch hightailing it back to the car, keys dangling from his hand. The realization had only smacked Ace upside the head when he saw the headlights flash on and heard the engine cough to life.
"Stretch! You no-good, dirty, sunnuvabitch!" Ace began running madly towards the car, his speed based partly in fear of the Troll and partly in the desire to ring the skinny bastard�s neck. But just as Ace was gaining on the car as it pulled out in reverse, a gigantic rumbling in the bridge planks caused him to lose his footing and he was knocked to the ground altogether as the Troll�s titanic form brushed past him. The titan strolled over to the car completely casual, never breaking a sweat as he finally reached it with each continent-sized stride he made.
Swinging behind the automobile, the Troll wrapped his iron arms around the backside in a tremendous bear hug, slowly but surely crunching the car�s frame upon itself. Stretch was still trying with every ounce of desperation to back the car up, but it was right when he caught sight of the roof caving in the rearview mirror that he realized his goose was cooked and ready for dinner. Stretch tried busting through the front doors to escape his Model-T coffin but the Troll smashed them in with a swing of both of his fists, pinning Stretch in a space the size of a cupboard.
Ace watched as his partner, the guy he wanted to strangle seconds earlier, was compacted like a sardine into the car. Crunch, crunch, crunch. The Troll worked, and bent, and crushed, and smushed the thing until it was difficult to tell that it had once been a car. The last thing Ace saw of Stretch was his screaming, sweating face as it pressed madly against the windshield glass, but then that too was lost in a mess of twisted metal and warped flesh. A few streaks of blood slithered along a headlight before the bulb was finally extinguished and lost in the mist.
The Troll walked back over to Ace, his shadow covering the gangster like a blanket. Ace�s lips might as well have been sewn together with thread; for the first time in his entire life he was completely silent.
"What are you?" The dry, little sound that finally came out of Ace�s throat was a bug of a voice.
The Troll stood there, his invisible eyes shooting hot beams from under his hat�s brim and his hands dripping wet with blood and oil. "I told you. I�m the Troll. I guard the bridge. I hold down the fort."
A few seconds passed before Ace�s swift hand snatched the gun from his back pocket. He pressed the muzzle against the brute�s mountain-chest and gave the trigger a good squeeze. The gun gave a kick and a faint whiff of burnt powder wafted up from the bullet hole.
The Troll paid no mind to it. There was a small hole in his shirt and Ace saw the empty circle the bullet had bore into the Troll�s chest, saw the black blood leak out of the wound and patter onto the guy�s boots.
"Tsk tsk," grunted the Troll. He pinched the gun out of Ace�s hand with two fingers and tossed the thing aside. "I thought you knew better than ta try sumthin like dat, Ace." Using the same two fingers, the Troll plucked the deck of cards out of the gangster�s pocket and began sifting through them.
"Let�s play a little game of luck, huh, Ace? You like cards don�t ya? Let�s see�" He held the deck out to Ace. "Pick one won�t ya?"
Ace could barely lift up his arm and draw a card from the deck, but he slowly eased one out facedown anyway.
"My turn." The Troll plucked one out and held it against his chest. "Let�s see which one you have foist."
Wearily, Ace turned his card up. It was the king of hearts. "Not bad, Ace. Not bad. Now it�s my turn. Well, whaddaya know! I got an ace. That�s your lucky card right, Mahoney? The ace? Heh, that�s pretty funny you getting� the king of hearts. You know why that�s funny, Ace? Do ya?"
If Ace weren�t so sick with grief, he probably would�ve been more responsive when he felt the cement fist of the Troll tear through his chest and grip his still beating heart between his fingers. The Troll drew Ace�s shaking head close, his whisper like a raging storm wind.
"It�s because you ain�t got no heart, pal!"
The crushing fingers pressed on the heart and in a matter of seconds it was nothing but a shriveled, juiceless husk. Ace coughed up blood then, the red staining his clenched teeth as he growled and yelled as death finally came over him. His body finally stopped kicking and the Troll slid his hand out, the corpse crumpling beneath him like a used glove. His other hand still held the ace and, giving it one last look, flicked it from his fingers and let it drift down onto the dead gangster. Soon the mist came in and everything was quiet again.
And that�s the story, so they tell me. What do ya think? What�s that? You callin� me a liar? I tell ya it really happened! Fine, fine, say whatever ya like. Just finish up your damn drink and get the hell out of here. What�s that? A moral? You want a moral for your story? Okay, I got ya moral right here, buddy: stay the fuck away from bridge trolls.

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0 comment Tuesday, April 22, 2014 |
Directed by David MacDonald
Written by H. F. Maltby, Based on the novel by Charles Reade
Starring Tod Slaughter, Jack Livesey, Marjorie Taylor, Ian Colin, D. J. Williams, Roy Russell, and Laurence Hanray
"No time like the present!"
A book is opened, revealing a brief biography of its author, Charles Reade, a man who had suffered the cruelties and dehumanization of the British insane asylums and lived to tell the tale. Already we can tell we�re in for some quality family viewing and dive into our story belly-first. A slow organ dirge echoes throughout the courtyard of the local church as the parishioners exit their Sunday sermon. Stepping into the warm morning glow is the dark-spirited John Meadows (Tod Slaughter playing yet another squire!).
Although Meadows� mustache is of a truly holy character, his advances on Susan Merton (Marjorie Taylor) are spurned, as she is in love with the handsome but penniless farmer George Fielding (Ian Colin). But of course there�s one thing standing in the couple�s way, and that�s Susan mutton-chopped, rock-faced father Farmer Merton (D. J. Williams, who it appears was never given the privilege of a first name for any of his roles). Daddy wants the boy to have money and status before he weds his daughter, and to this end the rich Meadows seeks to ruin George by any possible means.
Once upon a time there lived a man who no one really cared about.
Running into his adventurous friend and town ruffian Tom Robinson (Jack Livesey), George reveals that he is journeying to the hot continent of Australia to seek his fortune and finally claim Susan as his own. The local deputy later arrives at Squire Meadows� home to report a case of poaching on his grounds, perpetrated by that rascal Robinson. But Meadows comes up with a better idea, namely erasing Robinson�s name on the warrant of arrest and replacing it with Fielding�s, helped all the better by the wad of bank notes that Meadows eagerly presses into the hands of the deputies.
Not just satisfied with dragging George�s name through the gutter, Meadows consults with his shady and vulture-like lawyer Crawley (Laurence Hanray) and plans to play the hero with the Merton family. When Crawley arrives at the farm and tells Merton that he must pay his rent money early or hit the road, Meadows proudly steps in and pays the five hundred pounds, thus indebting Merton to the swine.
Meadows pulls on the charm once more when the greased deputies arrive to arrest George, just as he�s saying goodbye to his lady love. Good thing Robinson is there to take the rightful blame from his friend for the poaching charge, thus resulting in him being sentenced to two years in the dark and dank walls of Meadows� dismal asylum for the criminal and the insane. A few months later two visiting justices arrive at the establishment for an inspection, and it is here Meadows� true twisted and depraved nature is finally revealed in its full glory. He tends over the haunted faces of the inmates, snickering at the misery of who he calls "his children." Each inmate is pretty much bullied by guards and Meadows alike to give satisfactory reports to the justices, although these two cads could really care less about the filthy specimens they�re presented with.
Our once cock-sure hero Robinson enters, and he�s just as broken as everyone else: he shakes uncontrollably, sweats feverishly, and probably has a full load of bowel evacuation in his pants. Robinson desperately tries to explain the countless tortures the inmates suffer through in the asylum to the apathetic justices, some highlights including the Dreaded Black Hole of No Return, the Fiery Lashes of the Cat O�Nine Tails, the Dismal Diet of Bread and Water, the Muscle-Snapping Machinations of the Cranky Crank, and the Putrid Programming of Jersey Shore in the Waiting Room of Terror!
The justices aren�t impressed with Robinson�s colorful descriptions and call in the next patient, which is the young Matthew Josephs (Johnny Singer, the put-upon Toby from Sweeney Todd!). The boy says all he did was steal some bread for his starving mother, but who wants to hear that crap? He�s duly dragged away squeaking and screaming for 1800 rotations at the Crank and Meadows goes to relax with a kinky session with the Cat.
Well, that ends geography for today. Now let me give you a little lesson on chemistry...
The town reverend Mr. Eden (Roy Russell) takes a tour of the asylum and gets to hear of the delights that take place at the swinging country club, including the guards shooting down escapees, a lunch menu that contains the dubiously-named dish of "skilly," and a horrid hospital where the patients typically prefer to be back in their cells than on a stretcher. Eden gets more enthused reports from Meadows himself, who delightfully recounts all the broken souls who have left the eternal, dark horrors of the Black Hole. But he can�t spend his whole day chatting about cheery matters, he�s got damsels to steal. Heading to the postmaster�s office, Meadows gently requests (re: threatens with death) that the man intercept all of George�s letters from Australia so that young Susan can think that her lover has forgotten her. Oh Toddy, you have such a way with the ladies!
Back at the asylum, Meadows delights in watching little Matthew pass out from his trials at the Crank and immediately orders that the boy be taken to the spa for a little R & R. But Meadows� idea of relaxation includes tying the boy up in a wall-mounted straitjacket and leaving him screaming for mercy in his cell. Robinson manages to break out of his prison with a stolen key and releases Matthew from his constricting confines. Meadows and his posse of sadists soon intervene and Robinson is placed into the Black Hole for his rebellion. Eden is disgusted with Meadows� acts but the good squire huffs and puffs and blows the reverend�s house down, reminding the holy man that he is the God in charge of this world. Eden is then left with the dying Matthew, whom he gently prays over before the boy exits the mortal realm.
Robinson is going cuckoo for Coco Puffs in his obsidian hell, but the pure-hearted Eden is there to give him the warm fuzzies in his time of need. It�s a pretty cool moment, technically speaking, as a beam of light creates the shape of a crucifix over Robinson�s head in the darkness as Eden kneels, head bowed, on the other side of the split screen. Meadows is gloating over his success in intercepting George�s letters, but begins sweating when he reads in the latest message that George has acquired the equivalent of seven thousand pounds in gold dust and is determined to make Susan his bride upon his return to England. Jiminy Crickets! And just when everything was going so great for everyone too!
So what�s a nefarious squire to do but tempt his equally slimy partner in crime Crawley to head into the heart of town and start spreading some dirty rumors about Georgie Boy? All�s fair in love and war! Meadows of course acts completely innocent and shocked by the "news" from Farmer Merton that George has indeed collected big bucks, but has decided to run off with some hot young thang instead of asking for Susan�s hand. So now with that dope out of the way, Merton prompts the debonair, caterpillar-faced Meadows to hit that. And hit that he shall. Bwahahaha!
Starring Tod Slaughter as the Monopoly Man.
Robinson is finally released from prison and goes out to celebrate by calling up on his favorite tavern in town. Unfortunately no one, from the barkeep to the town drunks, want anything to do with him because of his prison sentence. For POACHING. These people have insanely high standards for a place that probably sees the likes of chicken-raping, baby-eating, seal murderers, but that poaching Robinson takes the top spot on the list of the human race�s social abortions. Just before he�s kicked out on his hindquarters before he can even take one sip of ale, Robinson overhears the vicious stories of George�s betrayal and knows something dirty is up, especially when he gets the news that Meadows will now be making Susan his lady in white.
Crawley relays the message to Meadows that George has arrived at South Hampton and will be riding into town in a few days, so the squire resolves to snare the fool in a trap before he can make good on his plan. Robinson meets his pal at a tavern out in the country (where the staff is significantly less hostile) and the two celebrate George�s success with some much deserved frothy glasses of beer. Just as the barkeep is giving the two a tour around the place, Meadows quietly slinks in, looking like a more robust version of Lamont Cranston, and pours a sleeping tonic in the bar glasses! Oh, the villainy!
Not wanting to miss out on the show, Meadows hides in a nearby closet to watch his plan unfold. Robinson is wary of the situation, possibly noticing how the door at the other end of the room is open with Meadows� gleaming smile beaming back at him from inside. So the wily rogue feigns sleep as George genuinely hugs the table top face-first. Meadows then comes guffawing out and snatches up George�s money. Robinson wakes George up and the two are soon speeding along after the thieving fiend. Back in the city, Meadows is determined to burn the stash of cash in the fire so there�s no trace of evidence, but the greedy Crawley pleads the squire to give him the money, which he does. And Robinson sees the entire thing from a window. Dammit, Toddy! You never listen to the sniveling accomplice! That�s in Flat Foots 101.
Right as the wedding ceremony is about to begin, George rides in heroically, but alas, his purse only contains moths and two tickets to a Justin Bieber concert. Meadows tut-tuts the little moron and accuses him of being a scoundrel for leaving Susan for Miss New Booty. But here comes Robinson, holding the squealing Crawley by the knickers, who then sells Meadows out on relaying the stolen money to him.
Just about pissed beyond belief over the mess things have become, Meadows pulls out his trusty pistol and prepares to give everyone at the ceremony new plumbing. But wait! The good Reverend Eden arrives just in time and powerfully asks "Will you add murder to your list of crimes?" Flashing a crucifix, Eden causes Meadows to drop his heat and subsequently descend into a fit of mad giggles as his mind unhinges. The squire is then sentenced to his own asylum and his exercise in reformation begins with a rousing session at the Crank. After all, it�s never too late to mend�
Oh, Mr. Slaughter. Candles, promises of vicious torture? I have chills!
As interesting as the parts of this film are as examined by themselves, the whole that is It�s Never Too Late To Mend was a slight disappointment during the marathon of Slaughter films. I�d hate to use the word boring to describe it, but I honestly did find myself a tad underwhelmed by the whole thing and I think I might have checked the time on more than one occasion. It seems to lack the fire and power (blood and thunder, if you will) of Tod�s other films. The recurrent plot themes seems especially stagnant here for some reason, and in general Tod didn�t seem to get as much meaty material here.
The best moment where his villainy shined was his caped lurking in the tavern, along with the delightful scene of Meadows taunting his inmates and sinisterly cuing them to be on their behavior during the interrogation scene. Other than that, the greatest redeeming factor that Slaughter has going for him is the gargantuan facial hair that dresses his upper lip. It�s a really jaw-dropping mustache and one wonders how strong Meadows� jaw must be to be keep that thing lifted. It gives Slaughter a gentle, almost grandfatherly appearance, which nicely downplays his true sadistic nature.
Speaking of sadism, I was also a little let down by the tortures that were at play in the asylum. Perhaps it was just a case of extreme expectations, but the entire time I felt myself wringing my hands in anticipation for a scene where Meadows would whip a hapless soul strung up on a rack, screams intermingled with Slaughter�s throaty chuckles. Alas, that beautiful moment never came to pass and the sooner all of you forget my admittance of wanting to see a flogging, the better. There are some nice nasty touches to be sure, such as Meadows grandly dusting off his leg after little Josephs passes out on him, but what was actually manifested on screen didn�t quite match the horrors that I was hoping to be fulfilled. That may not be fair to the film, but I�d be a liar if I said that the low boiling brutality didn�t quite thrill me.
Most of the players are rather stiff, with the exception of Jack Livesey as daredevil Robinson and Laurence Hanray as the dirty ying to Slaughter�s diabolical yang. The character of Robinson in particular is kind of a nice revelation, as most of the male heroes in Slaughter films are brave, for sure, but none of them are as full of themselves as Tom Robinson. Livesey gives his character a great swagger to his walk and keeps a nearly-perpetual smug smile on his face. It�s nice for a change to see a charming lead with enough cajones to stand up to Tod Slaughter and utterly convince you that he�d be willing to tussle with the fiend on any given day of the week. One badass against another. I like it.
The climax especially was quite anemic. Slaughter pulled his usual trick of busting out the big guns, but other than that this scene moved about as fast as molasses in an igloo. The characters are just holed up in that single room, talking to each other and staring intently at one another. Not one fist flies and the place is unfortunately never consumed in flames. And who is the dude that breaks the whole thing up? The reverend! Are you kidding me? I felt like I had just watched the equivalent of a fight in gym class starting and ending just as quickly once the elderly coach showed up to intervene.
There was also a rather heavy-handed Catholic tone to the whole thing, with Meadows bowing down under the might of Eden�s cross. It seemed like the filmmakers were attempting to promote this idea of evil submitting to the power of Good (re: the church) and the whole thing just left a sour taste in my mouth. If Meadows had been as truly evil as he was portrayed, he would�ve shot Eden�s entire hand off and then stabbed him in the throat with his own crucifix. You know, just to give it a good sacrilegious kick.
Don�t let this criticism get you blue though. In all honesty, It�s Never Too Late To Mend isn�t the worst film you will ever see, but there�s a reason why this title doesn�t come up too often when one discusses Slaughter cinema. My instinct would be to say that this one is for Slaughter and melodrama completists only, but maybe it�s the Christmas season that makes me want to concede and say that it has enough positive qualities going for it to warrant at least one watch from the casual viewer. Go for the brutal torture, stay for the mustache.
Laugh and the world laughs with you!

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0 comment Monday, April 21, 2014 |

Yes, my pretties, it's that time again! Time for another creepy correspondence with other obsessed chroniclers of the horror genre! I hope you've got your plastic fangs at the ready, because this juicy little morsel is sure to get your black hearts thumping and your bloody mouth slobbering!
Our ghoulish guest for the day is one Will Errickson, a man about town who enjoys his literature the way he enjoys his women... reanimated, multi-tentacled, and with many, many pointy teeth.* He is a purveyor of those molding terrors of the fleshy paperback persuasion that line the shelves of the most arcane and forbidden of bookstores. Yes, Will is a lover of terror literature, and through his blog seeks to inform the masses on all the quiet shudders and slithering abominations that lie there within.
Too Much Horror Fiction was one of the very first blogs I ardently followed and I continue to gush over it to this day. Will's passion and biblio-sleuthing abilities are enough to make any Lovecraftian or Jamesian antiquarian blush in shame. So it was with great excitement that I received Will's request to go through a session of Demented Dialogues which I most graciously accepted! Be sure to read this interview as you would an ancient tome of the damned, the crackling pages making the sounds of the shadows' whispers...
*Joe Monster did not bother to check the validity of this statement.
Q: Yes, we have to suffer through the prerequisite question that I put everyone through. As a fan, lover, and chronicler of horror, what would you say is the attracting force behind the genre? Why do so many people like it even at its creepiest and grossest?
The old answers are still the best: people have always loved the sensation of fear. The love of the creepy gross-out factor is also like teenage rebellion, antisocial but social at the same time. Mainstream hit movies like Silence of the Lambs, Alien, Scream or Psycho show that virtually everyone loves that frisson of terror, if only a little bit. I just like it a lot. And honestly I don�t really get scared by horror; I just love the aesthetics of it, plus the humanizing factor of violence and how we cope with it.
Q: What was it that first attracted you to horror? Did you instantly realize that it was going to be a lifelong love of yours?
As far back as I can remember, it was there, that love, whether it was Jaws or King Kong or dinosaurs or the old Universal movie monsters when I was 4, 5, 6 years old. Then as a teenager in the �80s, movies like Re-Animator, Evil Dead II and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, hit hard, as well as reading King, Lovecraft, and Barker: that all cemented my passion for the genre. Plus I loved its outsider status; very metal, very punk, of course.

Q: Were there any occasions, in either reading a book or watching a film, that you were positive that you were going to need a change of pants?
TV commercials for movies like The Shining or Bigfoot stuff really scared me. Later, books like the original Dracula and some early Stephen King got me good. I read Dracula in 8th grade study hall and the scene where he climbs down the castle wall head-first completely freaked me out. It was so wrong it gave me chills in the middle of a sunny classroom filled with classmates at 11 a.m.

Q: If you could be any character from horror literature or cinema, who would it be and why?
Boone from Nightbreed, based on Clive Barker�s short novel "Cabal." The monster as hero! As it said on the book�s dustjacket, "Finally, the Night has found its hero." Or maybe Johnny Depp in The Ninth Gate, trailing old antique occult books only to discover the Devil is Emmanuelle Seigner.

Q: Your blog is unique in that it focuses solely on horror literature. Do you like the reading experience more than the viewing experience?
Well, you never have to worry about bad FX in books. Even if it�s bad writing you can still imagine it something amazing in your head. But I couldn�t say I seriously prefer one experience over the other. I�m a bibliophile as much as a cineaste. He said, consulting his thesaurus.
Q: In your opinion, is what you imagine in your mind while reading a book more frightening than what any filmmaker can depict on screen?
Usually yes, but "frightening" is subjective; a filmmaker doesn�t need millions of dollars to make a scary movie, as I�m no Blair Witch hater. Of course I�d love to see Del Toro pull off At the Mountains of Madness, but it still probably won�t be as astonishingly full of dread as what I see when I read the book. Preferably to Iron Maiden�s song "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son."

Q: What are some of the better book-to-film adaptations that you�ve seen?
Rosemary�s Baby is still the most faithful adaptation I�ve ever seen, horror or not. David Cronenberg always does a great job, as in Crash, Naked Lunch, (two non-horror books every horror fiction fan should read) and The Dead Zone. I did like Dagon, too. The BBC version of Dracula from 1977, Count Dracula, is often regarded as the best adaptation of Stoker�s novel. The image in my blog header is from that film. And I think the people who wrote the Karloff Frankenstein movies were brilliant in taking away the monster�s ability to speak. How about book-to-song adaptation? The Ramones did a pretty amazing job with "Pet Sematary."

Q: Your blog hones in on horror literature released during the 60�s through the 90�s. Is there any particular reason for this?
That�s the golden age of paperback horror, there was the most outrageous cover art, and the authors were putting out cool books at a fast clip. Obviously I have an inordinate fondness for it. I read so much of that stuff as a teenager, and it�s been fun revisiting those books, and finding new stuff I missed the first time around. Everybody else who blogs about vintage paperbacks covers crime/pulp fiction or erotica or romance or science fiction. Gilligan at Retrospace wondered in a post why no one covered vintage horror fiction, and that was what set me off. It was a niche waiting to be filled. I�ve even had a couple authors find my blog and comment on it, which is pretty cool.

Q: What elements make for the "perfect" cover of a horror novel?
Don�t be too obvious; try to have something to do with the story itself. I love the paperback �Salem�s Lot and Lansdale�s Drive-In covers. The UK covers for Barker�s books are usually stellar. The old Gothic stuff, dark ladies in flowing nightgowns, Barbara Steele-style, are great too. Nothing Photoshopped, creepy kids are a horrible cliché now, no author�s name in foil-stamped lettering, no eyes staring over a forest or a lake, or vampires in high heels, which is all you see these days. It�s all so over-determined and unimaginative. Blech.

Q: Based solely on the quality of frightening output, what decade would you say had the best to offer in horror fiction?
From 1975 or so until 1985 or so, you had King at his peak, lesser-known writers like Karl Edward Wagner and Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub was putting out big novels, Barker was just starting out. The short story anthologies and magazines were incredibly prominent too. After the Dell/Abyss line folded in about 1993, I really lost interest in new horror fiction.

Q: Do you have a favorite subgenre within horror fiction?
I love novels/stories that deal with horror writers, or professors or literary types, like in most of Lovecraft�s stories; sort of self-referential horror, as in Lieber�s Our Lady of Darkness. Thomas Ligotti does it, and it�s in some of TED Klein�s stuff. There�s a novel called The City of Dreadful Night by Lee Siegel that�s a meta-novel about a professor who goes to India to study vampire lore. Michael Chabon�s mainstream novel Wonder Boys touches on this too, right in the very first paragraphs. Bill Denbrough from King�s It is probably the most obvious character of that type, though honestly I�m not a big fan of that book. He said, looking around furtively.

Q: There are some that argue that horror fiction is at its strongest in the short form. Do you agree or disagree?
Usually I agree but one of the most popular novels of the 20th century is without a doubt King�s The Stand; the exception that proves the rule. The sequence in which Larry Underwood tries to navigate the Lincoln Tunnel� 28 Days Later copped that completely. But you don�t need fully-drawn characters in horror; you just need fully-drawn horror. The reader/viewer will fill in the rest. Short stories can build to a single crescendo of horror but a novel has to sustain that, and that can be difficult.

Q: Do you typically enjoy it more when a book is out-and-out horror or when it�s a little bit more ambiguous in its classification?
I love an unapologetically full-on horror novel like Song of Kali by Dan Simmons or Live Girls by Ray Garton, but I�m a pretty big reader so I like horror that isn�t horror too. Lots of J.G. Ballard�s fiction could be classified as horror, as well as writers like Georges Bataille and the poet Charles Baudelaire. The House Next Door, by mainstream Southern fiction author Anne Rivers Siddons, is fantastic. As horror critic Douglas E. Winter put it, horror is not a genre, it�s an emotion; and it�s an emotion in everyone from Melville to Hemingway, Borges to Dostoevsky, Patricia Highsmith to Daphne Du Maurier. Horror isn�t just Jason and Freddy and the latest vampire romance at a Walmart checkout; horror can be found everywhere.

Q: Hot button! Stephen King: overrated?
It�s funny to me how King�s reputation today seems to rest more on his Dark Tower series than his horror fiction. I haven�t read a new King work since 1989 (although I liked On Writing and his son�s short stories), a couple short stories here and there but I wasn�t overly impressed. However his early novels are in my DNA now and his influence on the field is inestimable. I find it hard to be objective about writers like King, or Harlan Ellison or Clive Barker or Lovecraft, because they are so personal to me. Those guys are in my head and in my heart.

Q: Who are some of the less-than-famous writers you�ve stumbled upon that deserve more attention than they get?
I don�t read current horror but �80s and early �90s writers like Thomas Ligotti, Kathe Koja, and Thomas Tessier are still favorites and I don�t think modern readers would be disappointed with them. I�m glad Joe Lansdale has been getting more and more popular over the years, and most of his stuff is back in print today, although mostly he works in crime fiction today.

Q: Have any horror fiction pet peeves?
Overly happy endings, terrible covers by artists who never read the book (although that�s probably the publisher�s fault), horror that seeks to comfort people by killing off the monster, fonts that are too large (you wouldn�t believe how often I see that), writers who try too hard to sound cool or edgy, or ones who sound too stodgy. And anything with a Twilight Zone twist at the end.
Q: At times it appears that horror books contain more grisly and horrific elements than some of the "extreme" films that are currently released. Why do you think books can get away with this? Does this brutal content necessarily make for a better reading experience?
There�s no MPAA rating system for books. Reading American Psycho in 1991 is still one of the more disturbing reading experiences I�ve ever had but it was leavened with black humor. Honestly, horror isn�t even the most brutal genre going; James Ellroy�s L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia are some of the darkest books I�ve ever read. Every horror fan should read those. But if the writer can depict awful violence with skill and oddly, good taste, then I�m all for it and yes, that makes for a better reading experience.

Q: In a similar vein, horror authors tend to think outside the box, coming up with new, fresh, and terrifying ideas that serve as reminders that the genre still has massive amounts of potential. Do you think filmmakers are less willing to take these kinds of chances? Would that explain why horror films based on books are only made when the source novel has proven to be at least somewhat successful?
Movies cost too much money to be truly innovative. I don�t think horror filmmakers have utilized the literature enough. Although I just heard Koja�s The Cipher is being adapted into a movie, 20 years after publication.

Q: Let�s be honest. Horror still has its haters. Do you think the general public will ever fully accept the genre or is it simply one of those things that weren�t meant to be?
In a way I myself hate horror because it often is reduced to lowest common denominator junk. But when it works, as in Bride of Frankenstein, At the Mountains of Madness, Pet Sematary, The Birds, or Haunting of Hill House, it has an illicit power and strange beauty no other genre can touch. Elsa Lanchester as the Bride is as graceful and feline and alluring and mysterious as Audrey Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman, and I mean it.

Okay, now it�s time to get funky. And by funky I mean I�m going to ask you some really weird questions.
Q: Has there ever been a book so terrible that you couldn�t finish it?
No, a bad book almost begs me to finish it, or at least skim through it, but a lot of books cause me a vast indifference, which is worse in its way. Still the worst book that I�ve skimmed just because it boggled my mind in its terribleness was R.L. Stine�s 1995 novel, Superstitious. I couldn�t believe that an adult man could try to pass that off as "writing."

Q: Horror film aficionados typically have a list of movies that are so-bad-they�re good. Have you ever encountered that type of thing in any of the fiction you�ve read?
A lot of the splatterpunk fiction has dated poorly, mainly because the writers were trying to be so au courant and blasé and bad-ass about extreme violence and making a "statement." But there�s an energy and courage there you can�t deny. I�m enjoying rereading those books but it�s not fair to say they�re so bad they�re good. Bad writing is just bad writing and I take no real pleasure in that.
Q: While we�re on the subject, got any cinematic guilty pleasures as well?
My girlfriend, who was a great help in this interview, says I have a fetish for movies, and things in general, that I hate. I refuse to feel guilty about loving horror, so my guilty pleasures are elsewhere. The worst movie I�ve seen is Smokey and the Bandit III. But I will watch it every time it�s on and lately HBO has been playing it a lot. That is some cringe-inducing shit. Most bad horror movies are just difficult and boring to sit through.

Q: As far as you can remember, what was the worst/most embarrassing Halloween of your life?
I�ve missed a few Halloweens because I was too lazy to dress up, missed a few parties I heard about later, even one at an old house of mine where a Bettie Page got a spanking by a priest in front of the entire party. Also, one year I dressed up as K-Fed. Oh, yeah, and another year within recent memory I dressed up as Dracula, fake fangs and fancy cape, and felt like the dorkiest dude at the bar. Don�t believe True Blood or Anne Rice, fangs just give you a doofy smile all the time and you don�t feel hot or sexy at all.

Q: You�ve lost your tickets to the Adrienne Barbeau Vs. Jamie Lee Curtis Cage Match! What do you do, bro?
Something like this really happened to me in 1989: my friends and I had tickets to see the Ramones in Philly but the club wouldn�t let us in because we were underage. We were hanging out looking despondent when these guys came out of a pizza shop and told us to go around back and bang on the fire exit. Sure enough, it worked; somebody opened the door without the alarm going off. A well-known locals trick, apparently. But we�d scalped the tickets before we got in so we actually made money! So I would just try that again.

Q: If I could strand you in the snowy wastelands of the Arctic (and don�t think I can�t), what would be the one horror novel/collection that you would request to bring with you?
Something I could read over and over again, horror but with a real human element; let�s say King�s Different Seasons, or Barker�s Imajica.

Q: What is with your unhealthy Jaws obsession?
My girlfriend said it�s a healthy obsession! It�s a nightmare thing, of course, shark attacks and all that, but come on, that is one incredibly well-made film, easily one of the greatest of all time. Of. All. Time. And while it�s an adventure movie too, at its base it is about the most primal of human fears: that we are not special, that we are not made by a god that cares for us; no, we are only meat to be eaten by other creatures and nothing besides. I find that empowering and humbling all at once.

Q: Have you ever considered writing fiction yourself?
I have, and have done so, but I think I mentioned in a post that I was a better reader than writer. I�m not a bad writer; I just can�t finish a story. Unless somebody out there is interested in a screenplay based on Gilles de Rais.
Q: It�s the end of the movie and Haley Joel has just told you that you�ve been dead this entire time. Have any words for our viewers?
I guess no one who ever saw that movie watched an episode of the Twilight Zone. Although it fooled me because I first saw just the middle of it on cable and thought the wife was really dead, so when I watched it all the way through I was concentrating on that.

Q: The chef has informed you that the stripper was accidentally baked into the cake. Do you keep eating?
But of course! But watch out for silicone.
Q: The climax of King Kong vs. Godzilla kind of upset me. What should I do to ease my depression?
Watch the 1933 original.
Q: Was it these same emotional issues that drove me to actually pay to see The Ring 2 in theaters?
Well, look, watching Naomi Watts explains a lot. I�ll give you a pass.

Q: If you had ONE chance to shout ONE sentence to ONE horror personality, what would all those ONE�s be?
To Clive Barker: "Please get back to writing epic horror/fantastique novels that only you can do!"

Q: What the hell ARE you talking about, Willis?
Arnold Jackson, master of rhetoric. I think of that as a Zen koan.
Q: Do you have any last words for our readers regarding the horror genre or other related insanity?
There�s too much good stuff out there to waste time with the bad. He said, turning on Smokey and the Bandit III again. Just kidding. I love horror and I love introducing people to stuff they might�ve missed, or reintroducing them to stuff they�d long forgotten about. That�s the main point of my blog, I think, for me and for anyone reading it.

More wonderful words from another avid fan! Let's all thank Will for spending his time with us and filling us all in on the awesome world of horror fiction. Be sure to stop by his site; any fan of horror and literature will be introduced to a darkly fantastic world that they may have never known before. Be sure to tell Will that I sent ya! If you would like to participate in an episode of Demented Dialogues, be sure to email me at joemonster25 [AT] yahoo [dot] com. And as always, stay depraved.

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0 comment Sunday, April 20, 2014 |

We take you now to that beloved star of stage and screen Tod Slaughter, as he answers the questions of the public in his weekly column "Dear Toddy" from The Barnstormer Weekly. In today's feature, Tod is besmirched with the problems and anxieties that come with the holiday season and answers all inquires in his trademark style of wit, charm, and unrestrained evil.
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Dear Toddy,
I have a big problem. It's almost Christmas and there's this boy in my classroom who keeps telling me that Santa Claus isn't real. He says he's made up, a big fat lie. I tried asking my mom bout it but she says the boy was just saying that since he's jealous. I don't even know what that means. What should I do about the mean boy? Is there a Santa Claus? Can you help me Mr. Toddy?
Thank you for writing, my dear child. I think I can help with your problem. First of all, you must handle that mischievous boy in your classroom post haste. It sounds like his tongue wags too much... might I suggest cutting it out with a razor? No? Fine, then. I always found that breaking the spine is quite effective. It's quick, efficient, and painless. Well, it would be for you anyway. Heh heh. Now allow me to address the second part of your question: no, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus! Santa is a lie, just like everything else your mother has ever told you. Including how pretty you are. If you want a complete stranger to break into your house in the middle of the night, then just call me up!
Merry Christmas,
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Dear Toddy,
First I'd like to say that I love your work (big fan!). I knew you were the only man that could help me. I was recently made the head of the party planning committee at the office where I work. Trouble is, I have no idea what to put on the e-mail invitations. I want to just call it "Office Christmas Party," but HR's giving me a lot of crap because Ben in accounting celebrates Hanukkah and the guy in the mailroom made up his own holiday called Sleeping Monk Day. And how am I supposed to decorate? What's your take on all this, sir?
-Cubicle Drone
Cubicle Drone,
I appreciate you being a fan of my work. So am I! As to your inquiry, good taste be damned! If you want to really have a party, put a nice dash of arsenic in the punch bowl to lighten those stiffs up! Make sure that you invite a high member of society to the festival too. That way you could massacre them in front of everybody and laugh over their lifeless body as you rob them of their personal belongings. And if you're feeling extra naughty, carry your boss's wife away kicking and screaming for a little "kiss" underneath the mistletoe. This way, you won't be offending those few people at work. Stick to this plan and EVERYONE will feel violated!
Happy planning,
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Dear Toddy,
I live in Indiana and at the moment we're being raped by a monstrous snowstorm. There are piles of snow six feet high closing us in on all sides and the wind is enough to blow the Statue of Liberty's gown right off! I can't stand this freezing slush and thought I'd turn to you for some suggestions to help my winter blues. Thanks!
-Frosty Hater
Frosty Hater,
Don't curse your predicament so hastily, my friend! The snow does have its advantages, especially when it's very... deep. There's much useful spade work to be had there. You could bury at least three bodies in a healthy-sized drift if you wished (and who wouldn't?). And all the wonderful blues, and blacks, and purples that the corpses' skin turns never fails to get me into the holiday spirit! If it's the bitter cold that's got you down, might I suggest a stop at Mrs. Lovatt's pie shop on the corner of Fleet Street? Nothing should cheer you more than a helping of one of her delicious meat pies while you sit next to her roaring furnace. Her baked goodies come out flesh from the oven. Mwahahaha!
Stay warm,
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That's all the time we have for today. Until Toddy's return after the New Year, The Barnstormer Weekly would like to wish their readers the most wicked of holidays. May your hearts be filled with blood and thunder, and your homes with murder and mayhem. Thank you and good night.

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