0 comment Sunday, May 4, 2014 | admin
My, my, is it September already, children? Time sure does fly, as the saying goes. But I do not mourn the passing of the summer. Quite the contrary, I am pumped for the fall season to begin as soon as possible. The air is already starting to cool down here and the wind has begun to pick up, its chilled breath bringing back memories of autumns past. And when my mind waxes all-nostalgic-like, I think back to afternoons spent with Grandfather Creepy.
Grandfather Creepy is the man whom you all can blame partly for my current obsession with all things... well, creepy. It was in his dusty hearse that we patrolled the streets of the innocent village, eagerly pillaging any paperback book store we came across and stopping in the local diner for a healthy heaping of burgers and fries. His guiding influence took me on the path to discover new names in horror that I had yet to come across in my burgeoning genre-loving days. We also delighted in staying up at all hours of the night, watching old and familiar faces like Karloff and Price with shared admiration.
So when I approached my grandfather in the crumbling abbey that he calls home with the proposition to share a Demented Dialogues session with him, he nearly stirred straight out of his coffin, startling the bats that had been napping in his hair in the process. What follows is a transcription of the exchange that took place by the flickering glow of a candle in the windswept eastern tower of the castle. It was great digging into the twisted mind that was responsible for influencing my own warped brain. I hope that you'll enjoy our little chat just as much. So stick around, kiddies. Tuck your cloaks tightly (but not too tightly!) under those slavering jaws of yours and prepare yourselves for this morbid morsel I've concocted for you that truly is from beyond depraved...
*The above photo was the closest one we could dig up that depicts Grandfather Creepy's actual features. All the ace photographers that we sent to his home either suffered fatal heart attacks or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Q: We�ll start with a pretty general question to get things going. In your own words, what is it about horror that continually draws and attracts people despite its morbid content?
The morbidity itself is the attraction. Society as a whole lives by the laws and moral codes of the land (heh heh, don�t we?) Watching graphic episodes of hanging, skewering, beheading etc, allow the viewer to visit those areas where law abiding folks don�t go.
Q: Now that we�ve got you warmed up, let�s move on to our first topic: film. What were some of the very first fright flicks that you saw and what impact did they have on you?
The 1930�s Universal classics were my introduction to the genre. From enjoying the best (Dracula, Frankenstein), I was drawn into the weekly ritual of the late night Saturday night horror show on television, and I watched them all, good and bad.
Q: If you had to pick, who (or what!) would be your favorite film monster of all time from the Golden Age of Horror (1920s-1950s)?
Bela Lugosi�s Dracula!
Q: If you would please, summarize for us how you believe Universal Studios contributed and impacted the horror film genre.
It appears to me that Universal was the only major American studio to produce horror movies, during the 1920�s to 1950�s. Universal started the ball rolling by generating a fan base that eventually caught the attention of other studios. Without Universal�s brave expedition into horror movies, the culture may have been restricted to books and radio for decades longer.
Q: Were there any notable movies outside of the Universal Horror circle that you remember fondly?
The theaters were loaded with fine movies in many genres: adventure; comedy; romance; animated cartoon features; westerns and of course, the long list of war pictures that bloomed during WW2. One of my favorites from the late 30�s was "It Happened One Night" with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
Q: Speaking of Universal, let�s discuss one of the hot topics concerning two of their leading actors. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Do you prefer one over the other? What is it about each of them that attracts you to their work?
A long, in depth study of both of these fine actors would fail to produce an absolute answer to this one! A response can only be made based upon personal preference, and by that basis, I must choose Bela Lugosi as my favorite. Having responded in favor of Lugosi, I must immediately provide my admiration for Boris Karloff, a quiet spoken gentleman in real life who brought the very best in professionalism to every role he played, even to his narration of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas!" Admittedly, other roles played by Lugosi did not match his performance as Dracula, but to me, his rendition of the Master was enough to weight my ballot for him.
Q: Some horror fans of today may look back at these older films and shrug them off as being hokey and cheesy. In your belief, is this part of their charm? Why do you think we should appreciate these movies?
When I am watching an old favorite, I don�t dwell on the technical properties at all. I let myself be entertained by the film, even if the music is scratchy, the film grainy, actor�s movements slightly exaggerated, and hardly any movement of the camera during a scene. I don't consider those very small imperfections to measure against my enjoyment of the work.
Q: What are some of your favorite horror films from the modern era (1960s-present)?
The modern films are not hampered by the strict censorship as were films of the 30�s and 40�s. In the earlier films, there was no letter rating system, the censors simply cut any offensive (in their eyes) material out completely. This has allowed the horror movies to become so much more graphic. I am not a huge fan of most of the slash and chain saw movies, but I did thoroughly enjoy the entire "Halloween" series, and Nicholson�s version of "The Shining" is one of my favorites. I cannot leave this question without recognizing Alfred Hitchcock�s "Psycho" and "The Birds."
Q: We all know that there are horror films out there that are completely terrible in every aspect, but for some reason we can�t help but love them. What are some of your so-bad-they�re-good movies?
I am going to assume that you are asking about bad as in content, rather than in technique. In that category I would nominate "Night of the Living Dead" and it�s sequel "Dawn of the Dead." There is precious little good that can be said about legions of "living" dead folks who eat human flesh, flowing through the movie in seemingly unstoppable waves. It is gory enough for the most seasoned horror maven when the live folks start getting chunks of flesh ripped from their bodies by the zombies, but when retaliation starts and the walking corpses are getting slashed, bashed and/or crushed, the screen really becomes grisly. Sooo� even though these films are highly gaggable, I love to watch them!
Q: Although not strictly limited to this, today�s films seem to be mainly geared toward the teenage crowd and amp up the violence and sexual content within them. What are your thoughts on this? Do you believe that horror films have always been like this in some form or another?
I wouldn�t say so. There was virtually no sexual contact or even overtures in the original Universal pictures. The censors would not allow any kissing, neck biting, or rising out of coffins in the films, so it is a given that they would go ballistic if they discovered some good old he-ing and she-ing. Sex has been around in books for quite some time. The magazines started talking about it around the 60�s, and started publishing nudity in photos in the 70�s. If I recall correctly, movies followed the magazines by a year or two. The violence and sexual content in contemporary movies can be a very good thing if brought along as part of the script, and not just thrown in with no apparent purpose.
Q: On to our next topic: horror in literature. What are some of the books and short stories you remember reading as a young monster boy?
We had a grade school teacher who (bless her soul) would read Edgar Allan Poe stories aloud to the class. I have always felt that those readings were what steered me towards horror stories. I also consider myself very fortunate to have been around when EC Comics made their debut, and we could purchase every new issue at the local drug store magazine rack, until the brand was outlawed!
Q: Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft are usually looked upon as two of the earliest masters of the genre. Like Lugosi and Karloff, do you have a keener fondness for one over the other? What are the strengths of both writers?
I have to say that I am more impressed with Poe, only because I am more familiar with Poe. I must admit that I have a lot of Lovecraft to read yet, and I have that chore on my "to do" list, my "bucket" list and my "just shut up and do it" list!
Q: When it comes to horror in modern fiction, the name the public generally thinks of is Stephen King. What are your thoughts on this macabre scribe? Has his writing improved, declined, or stayed consistent over the years in your opinion? Why do you suppose he is revered so much?
Anyone who has consistently read King must realize what a creative genius he is. King does not write down to us, he writes as one of us. His dialogue fits his characters perfectly and keeps the reader turning pages for more. I feel that "Carrie" was one of his better stories, so I will opine that his writing has stayed consistent over the years. I must say here that some of his stories are not as good as others, but on the whole, I rush to buy any new King effort as soon as it is released.
Q: Outside of King, who are some of your other favorite practitioners in fearsome fiction? Any recommendations?
John Saul and Dean R. Koontz. If Stephen King had not come along, Dean Koontz would have been the current king of macabre.
Q: One of the mediums that seems to be forgotten in today�s horror world is the thrilling radio programs of yesteryear. What was the experience like hearing these lurid terror tales when they were first broadcast?
I must admit that I did not have a wide exposure to the radio horror shows. They typically aired just about the nightly bed time, and were not loud enough to carry to the bedroom. The greatest impression I have of those times is that wonderful squeaking door that welcomed listeners to the "Inner Sanctum!" That sound, and the short verbal intro was enough to unleash mind pictures of moldy old buildings peopled by dark fiends of every sort.
Q: Sound effects and suggestion were commonly used in these audio dramas. Do you feel that the images projected by your imagination while listening to these programs surpassed what you could see on the silver screen?
I believe that personal imagination provides a more vivid picture of the story than what is presented on the screen. A motion picture shows us what a director wishes us to see. Imagination allows us to create a scene built from personal observation and memories. I was much younger when the horror programs were aired on radio, and my life�s experiences were much more limited when compared to my stock of memories with which I can fuel my imagination today. I can safely say that I enjoy the present day tapes of old horror shows more at this time than I would have in the past.
Q: Going along with the subject of old time radio, did you ever read any of the pulp magazines that radio programs usually drew inspiration from?
When I was growing up in the tail end of radio�s hey day, my literary interests was purely in comic books along with an occasional hardcover "ghost story" book from the library. I didn�t discover pulp magazines until much later in life. I found that I enjoy pulp fiction for the same reason I enjoy radio; it leaves me room to activate my imagination in forming a picture of what is happening.
Q: If you could have your own horror/mystery radio show, what would you name it, what would your host introduction be, and what type of material would you feature?
This is an entirely new line of thought for me, and it is a highly attractive premise! I would love to adapt horror and haunting works of contemporary writers to radio programs. These stories would run the gamut from grave robbing and mortuary misconduct to homes pestered by demons or poltergeists. Each tale would be introduced by the admitting attendant at the hugely intimidating insane asylum, who would have a threatening stature with a very soft, refined voice (possibly Nick Nolte?). The name of the show might be "Ward 13."
Q: Horror seems to be everywhere you look these days, even on television. What do you remember as being some of the first horror programs you saw that debuted on the idiot box?
Two programs that come to mind are "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." They were both excellent shows that I made a real effort to be by the TV set when it was time for them to show.
Q: Do you have any mind-scarring, eerie episodes that you can recall?
I consider myself a pretty level headed person, and I would say that I am more "thrilled" by a horror movie, than "frightened" by one. There is one instance, however, where a scene gave me the willies for quite some time. It was the bathtub drowning scene in the Simone Signoret movie "Les Diaboliques." For a long time, that pale, dead face would float into my range of vision during quiet moments!
Q: We are controlling your television set. There is nothing you can do. Any last words?
Let the party begin! I know without a doubt that I will be regally entertained until "control of my television is returned."
Q: Do you think there are any advantages that horror stories on television have over horror films at the theater?
Only the apparent advantage of being in the comfort of your own home. In my mind, comparing TV horror with movie horror is like comparing vampires to mummies. TV horror anthologies are richer in overall content, as from necessity they must provide a new production for each show, on a very strict and demanding time line. Because of the sheer number of smaller productions, TV provides a more varied total experience. Movies, on the other hand, although working on a self imposed time schedule, do have the luxury of much more time to attend to details in the one production.
Q: Now on to a subject you�re very familiar with: the EC Comics of the 1950s. You read the originals as a boy did you not?
This question caused me to really sift back through the memory bank. As I recall, EC Comics were not available at the local drug store in my home town where I usually purchased my comics. I would spend considerable vacation time at my liberal Grandmother�s home, and this is where I would find the EC Comics, on newsstands in Springfield, Massachusetts. I think my Grandmother bought issues that became available while I wasn�t staying there, and had them waiting for me on my next visit. I believe this magazine only ran for 2 or 3 years, then was taken off the market. The only reason that reached my young ears was that it was too "gory." Back in those days, we didn�t know about "graphic."
Q: Did you ever read any of the horror comics from the other publishing companies? Were any of them as good as EC�s titles? How was EC alike or different from them?
The only other comic that came close to horror was the "Golden Classics" that presented their adaptations of stories from Poe, Stevenson and that direction. As far as toe curling, hair straightening horror, I can�t recall any competition.
Q: Black humor was prevalent in EC titles such as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault Of Horror. Did you enjoy this or was it a distraction from the spooky stories?
The black humor was an essential element in EC stories. I think without this treatment, the tales would have appeared to be sadistic and overly gruesome. The touch of humor tempered the stories into an experience that horror lovers could enjoy. The horrible, yet humorous introductions by The Old Witch and The Cryptkeeper took the edge off any nightmarish quality of the yarn and invited the reader to have a good time working through the story.
Q: EC had a line of extremely talented artists working for them during the company�s short lifespan. Do you have any particular favorites or ones that stick out in your mind?
I wouldn�t single out any of the artists as being my favorite. They all had wonderful talent, although I would be very reluctant to ask any of them what, or who, they used for models!
Q: Are there any single stories that you can gleefully recall as having tickled your depraved fancy?
One story stands out, a tale about a funeral director who takes pleasure in taking liberties with his clients when preparing them for burial. In one case, the subject was a large woman on whom the mortician discovered pimples, apparently from an over active sweet tooth. The nefarious embalmer decided to cater to her habit by replacing her brain with a very fancy birthday style cake. Of course, he was the only person who knew about this after he replaced the crown of her skull. The story ends with the mortician strapped to his embalming table with his former clients coming out of the shadows with knives, axes, machetes, corkscrews and other implements, ready to send him off, as nicely as he has done to others in the past.
Q: Did you ever have any aspirations to go into the comics industry at any point in time after reading these horror rags?
I can�t say that I did. I was satisfied often just by going to the EC feast for another huge helping (with all the trimmings!).
Q: Controversy later surrounded horror comics due to their gruesome content and were blamed for causing juvenile delinquency. Having lived during that actual time, what was experiencing that like? Have your feelings changed over the years?
I was very disappointed when the publication of EC was terminated. I considered EC Comics as entertainment then, as I still do now. I read and watched many Superman episodes, yet never attempted to jump from a high building and fly. Reading EC stories never compelled me to rob graves or dismember neighbors. These are entertainments, folks!
Pheew that was a lot of ground we covered. Now on to some fun (and deeply probing) questions.
Q: Have you ever spent a night in a haunted graveyard or a decrepit castle in the mountains?
Not as such. I have spent sunny afternoons in some decrepit cemeteries, and I have had some experiences with haunted places.
Q: Your tales of having to fight off dinosaurs and Indian tribes on your way to school as a child are very well-known amongst your clan. As having also worked on the railroad for many years, have you encountered any tall tales, legends, or folk tales of the darker variety during your time there?
By its nature, the railroad can be a very dangerous place to work, and it was even more so as we look back in time. From horrible wrecks and other tragic events, there are a great number of haunted spots on the properties. For almost a year, at a point where my train had to wait for another train, in the wee early hours, our crew was bothered by a very playful spook. From talking with other crews that worked in the area, we found that over 40 men had had some kind of experience with this ghost.
Q: How is the body snatching business working out for you?
Not very well! The laboratories that formerly purchased product from me are getting their stolen bodies much cheaper from China! The county is delaying the issue of my business license renewal. They claim my business is a mining operation!
Q: Using mathematical formulas, solve the following problem: if Dracula is on a train headed west traveling at 100 mph and the Wolf Man is on a train headed east at 120 mph, at approximately what time would Frankenstein�s monster and King Kong need to duke it out in order to destroy each train at the same time?
Train A (X) 100 divided by Pi squared + Train B (X) 120 plus 50 states, over the square root of the speed of light (X) 4+867-3/5 = xzb(X)l4hours,27 minutes and 36 seconds, which comes to 8 PM, the start of prime time!
Q: According to the rumor-mongering magazines that I voraciously read while I�m in the bathroom, you have a film that is in the planning and development stages. Can you give us a little sneak peek into it story- and casting-wise?
I am a little concerned that word of this project has leaked out. The employee beatings will have to continue until the leaking is stopped. The working title is "The Phantom Of The Kitchen." There is an evil tenor that lives in the caverns deep below a kitchen. One fateful evening, just at the end of dinner service, the evil tenor captures the beautiful soprano chef�s apprentice and carries her to the caverns. The evil tenor constantly wears a George Bush mask, and one day as he is playing the organ and singing, the soprano sneaks up behind him and tears off the mask to reveal��.Cary Grant! The only lukewarm commitment we have so far is we may have Cyndi Lauper to play the soprano. Just off the wire!! We might have the Harlem Globe Trotters to play the waiters!
Q: How much wood can a woodchuck chuck?
There is a companion question that has been making the rounds of the continental papers. How much would Natalie Wood upchuck if Natalie Wood would up chuck? A woodchuck would chuck a chuck wagon full of wood, if he could. Natalie Wood would up chuck 5 pounds into a 3 pound bag. That is called a blivet in the business.
Q: Those same rumor-mags I told you about inform me that you�re friends with the Hunchback of Notre Dame himself. How is he doing these days and can I get an autograph?
Quasimodo is a great success at a constipation clinic in Bayonne, New Jersey. He scares the crap out of people! I�ll have him wash his hands and send you an autographed photo of himself. He signs them with a piece of bell rope dipped in victim�s blood.
Q: Do you have any last words for our readers regarding the horror genre or other related insanity?
The most fitting closing that I can think of comes from a macabre tombstone that I saw somewhere... "Rest In Pieces."
And off goes Grandfather Creepy, eager as a beaver to get to the Halloween sale at Michael's in time before all the vultures show up! I'd like to thank his Creepiness for all his time in conducting another rousing episode of Demented Dialogues. If you're interested in taking part in a future installment of DD, be sure to email me at joemonster24 [at] yahoo [dot] com. And until next time, may your hearts keep the horror alive.