The Pit and the Pendulum: You Need Vincent Price Each October

pitpendulum3

Happy October! I’m resurrecting horror movie articles from my old blog and revamping them. This article is reworked from a 2013 post.

Although Peter Cushing is my favorite horror movie actor—because Peter Cushing is my favorite actor, period—I bow to the popular wisdom that no performer better fits Halloween season thaN Mr. Vincent Price, whose elegance of evil combined with the reassurance of an old friend is the right flavor of fun n’ fright that marks the best of October.

When I first wrote about The Pit and the Pendulum, it was for the release of the first Vincent Price Blu-ray set. We’ve since had a second one, making it easier to indulge in the glories of Price during Halloween.

Continue reading “The Pit and the Pendulum: You Need Vincent Price Each October”

My First Perilous Worlds Articles Are Live

wallup.net

My first three articles for Perilous Worlds, the new publishing imprint and website, are now live. Presenting, for your enjoyment:

Hammer Country Concludes

4b995923e7f69e42f18609d7277c9770
John Carson in The Plague of the Zombies

The end of another October crammed with articles about horror films from Britain’s great beast of the genre, Hammer Film Productions. Like last year, I did a Hammer horror-post-a week for Black Gate. This month’s selections:

As I did last October, I mixed up the periods and the qualities of the movies and saved the best for the last slot: The Plague of the Zombies is underseen for such a great film in this horror subgenre. Thankfully, there’s a North American Blu-ray coming from Shout! Factory in January. Two of the films are from Terence Fisher, Hammer’s great horror practitioner, but The Phantom of the Opera and The Man Who Could Cheat Death are among his weakest. Apologies for that, Terence, but I did two of your best last year. Hands of the Ripper is, hands down, (sorry) my favorite of Hammer’s 1970s output. I think I’ve watched it every October since I bought the Blu-ray.

I’m not sure yet if I’ll do Hammer October again next year. I still haven’t run out of titles, but I may do the Hammer Frankenstein movies as an article series once I finish my John Carpenter retrospective, and that will more than fill up the Hammer bill for the year.

The Listener and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood

algernon-henry-blackwood

As we close in on the end of the Great Month of October, it would be remiss of me not to pay further homage to my favorite author of the weird tale, Algernon Blackwood. He has made possible a good deal of my fiction, such as my Gothic horror story “The Shredded Tapestry.” That piece wouldn’t exist without two of his John Silence stories, “Ancient Sorceries” and “Secret Worship.”

Earlier this month, I looked at Blackwood’s fourth collection of stories, The Lost Valley. Today, I’m rolling back a few years. Blackwood’s second original collection of (mostly) supernatural tales, The Listener and Others, was published in 1907, following the success of The Empty House and Other Stories the previous year. The Listener is best known for the novella “The Willows,” often cited as Blackwood’s masterpiece. The collection also contains a first-rate non-supernatural suspense story and a running theme about characters suffering from the oppression of the everyday and longing to escape from it into Nature (always with a capital “N”)—a theme as close to Blackwood’s heart as anything in his life. The often nameless protagonists are trapped in a modern psychical emptiness that feels surprisingly like the early twenty-first century rather than the early twentieth.

Continue reading “The Listener and Other Stories by Algernon Blackwood”

The Black Cat ‘34 Is the Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For

black-cat-1934

I teased you with the movie version of The Black Cat that you weren’t looking for, the 1941 semi-comedy and barely entertaining one from Universal. But no teasing this time. Universal’s 1934 movie The Black Cat is a stone-cold, brutal classic of early horror cinema—and it features the first and best pairing of legends Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.

The first Universal horror cycle had already used Poe for material with a loose adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1932, which starred Bela Lugosi as a mad doctor with a killer ape. Director Robert Florey, who was originally slated to helm Frankenstein (along with Lugosi as the monster), give Murders in the Rue Morgue plenty of expressionist visual flair, but it’s only a tiny scratch compared what Austrian director Edgar G. Ulmer pulls off in The Black Cat.  

The screenplay for The Black Cat takes even less material from its Poe-source than Murders in the Rue Morgue. As in “pretty much nothing at all.” Aside from the occasional appearances of a black feline to justify the title, the movie has no connection to Poe’s 1934 short story about a man who murders his wife in a fit of madness and has his crime revealed through a possibly supernatural house cat. But if the Poe’s story doesn’t show up on screen, plenty of Poe’s themes—necrophilia, torture, burial alive, revenge—certainly do. It contains much more Poe than many films that adapt his material more directly.

Continue reading “The Black Cat ‘34 Is the Black Cat Movie You’re Looking For”