Saturday, February 19, 2011

Editorial February 2011 e-issue #20

By Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

If there's any one image that expresses the recent debacle witnessed on Ghost Adventures Valentine Day Special, it is the above image of Zak busting his arrogant ass on the black ice while pretending to pontificate upon love poetry for the spirit of a horny female ghost.
First of all, let me say this: I am a big fan of Ghost Adventures shown on The Travel Channel each Friday night for the last couple of years. And until a recent change in their promo department, we were happily receiving regular weekly updates on the show so we could post it here on the magazine/blog for the show's fans. So please understand that my criticisms that follow are meant with the best of intentions. I still consider Ghost Adventures to be the best of the glut of paranormal and cryptid reality shows which have cropped up over the last five or so years. There was such an influx of these shows that last year we felt compelled to collate all of the then current titles that were on air and give a mini-review for Black Glove readers, so you guys would know which ones were worth the time and effort. And as we slide firmly into 2011, there doesn't seem to be any end in sight in terms of the paranormal and cryptid reality shows on offer for fans of such fare. In fact, in anything, there look to be even more. Hell, even Animal Planet Channel has its own paranormal reality show with pets and how they interact with the supernatural.

But like I said, I've been a huge fan of Ghost Adventures since I first saw their excellent 2 hour documentary film on The Travel Channel a few years ago, in which they recorded in my opinion he best and most compelling video evidence to date. It was taken deep in the basement of the Goldfield Inn, Nevada:

Of course, I'm savvy enough to know that any evidence I see on television comes with the unspoken proviso that any such evidence could be deliberately tampered with to give an impression of something that didn't actually happen. But there's something damned creepy about that footage that hits me on an atavistic level which says it's for real.
But again you have to throw in that proviso these days because any ten year old with access to the right video tools can manufacture video 'evidence'. Ratings, baby, ratings. But I try to have a little faith that someone somewhere is giving me the real deal. It can't all be bullshit, can it?
Even after those damning YouTube videos of "The Ghost Hunters" so obviously doctoring and manufacturing evidence of spectral interaction (i.e., Grant's infamous string pulling stunt caught on camera):

But...I still want to believe in the supernatural.
Watching those videos always pisses me off because I used to really trust and believe in "The Ghost Hunters" guys, I believed in what they were all about, that they were the real thing. And maybe they were, maybe they even still are, for the most part; but those videos are so obviously faked that onced seen, they pretty much devastated any credibility those guys might have had with me.
And, yes, I'm well aware that there are an equal number of detractors online with videos claiming the same about the Ghost Adventures guys. But for me those videos still have too much ambiguity involved for me to make a definitive call of fake on the GA crew.
However, I will add with the recent Valentine Day Special my belief in the GA crew has taken a serious blow. The February 11th episode, which was supposed to serve as a Valentine themed show, and also as an introduction to a new love themed paranormal reality show on The Travel Channel called "Ghostly Lovers", which is without a doubt the WORST concept I've ever seen for such a show. Even worse than that ridiculous A & E Channel's "Paranormal State"--aka The Paranormal Mousketeer Club crapfest.

Listen up, Travel Channel!
Seriously, you're making a mockery of something that deserves serious treatment. Please don't play down to your lowest common denominator audience. Please stick to scientifically gathered evidence, using real scientific instruments, and not someone's goddamned feelings when they walk into a room. Keep it real. Don't try to find ways to 'spook it up' for the sake of ratings. There are still plenty of us our here who earnestly want to see something we can believe in. And the only way we're ever going to get close to real proof of the supernatural world beyond what we can see and touch is if we continue to gather real, scientific evidence...not fucking feelings and emotional histrionics from a bunch of obviously sociopathic misfits who dress in robes and still live in their parents' basements.
Now I know some of the Valentine Day themed show was an attempt to give us all a little tongue in cheek look at the boys at work, and that even they can take a joke at their own expense, and that they don't have to always be so serious. I get that. Fair enough. I saw the Talk Soup parody. Well played...
But most of the Valentine Show went from a playful poking at the self deprecating attitude to outright mockery of the science. By the show's end, it was nothing more than Zak trying to make a booty call on a lonely horny female ghost at The Longfellow's Wayside Inn in Sudbury, MA.

Jesus! What a joke!
The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth with not only the Ghost Adventures crew, but with the whole paranormal/cryptid reality show circuit. I mean, if you guys can't be bothered to take it seriously, then why should I be expected to do so?
Travel Channel, please take this advice. I strongly suggest that you do NOT seek entertain the moronic types with shows like "Ghostly Lovers" and thereby throw away any and all credibility you've garnered so far by providing intelligent paranormal reality entertainment, which has made an effort to gather compelling and fairly indisputable logged evidentual proof of a supernatural world beyond our own. Stick with the seekers of truth and don't play up to the sensationalism seeking assholes out there who will move onto the flavor of the month when their pea-brains tire of trying to wrap around the vast concepts of life after death. Please don't go the route of "Most Haunted" again, which became nothing more than a transparent staged comedy, filled with egos and stupidity. Please keep Ghost Adventures mostly serious in the future, keep it honest, keep it as scientific as possible while keeping it entertaining. A little humor is fine, and those guys have found a good balance of such in their interplay between one another, but much more and it will risk becoming nothing more than the Three Stooges with IR Meters and black t-shirts.
Right now, you still have the best paranormal reality show on the air, despite Zak's penchant for allowing his ego a little too much free reign. Just keep on target and don't destroy this good thing for the sake of keeping the idiots agog.
Oh, and one last word of advice: Tell Zak to keep it in his fucking pants! No one gives a crap if he fucks a ghost or not. That's not what the show should be about.
(P.S.---If you're a fan of the show and agree with my sentiments in regards of the recent Valentine Day themed episode, please send thast clear message to the show's producers at The Travel Channel).

--Nickolas Cook
The Black Glove Magazine

Staff Profiles

Nickolas Cook (editor-in-chief)
Publishing Credits: Nickolas has had dozens of short stories and non-fiction reviews and articles published in print and electronic formats. He has been the fiction moderator for for over four years. To date, his two published novels, THE BLACK BEAST OF ALGERNON WOOD (Dailey Swan Publishing), BALEFUL EYE (currently in pre-production with new publisher) and ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND 2nd Edition with Sourcebooks 2011, all of which have received several positive reviews and he’s been said to display a true craftsmanship missing in much of modern horror. His first short story collection, 'ROUND MIDNIGHT AND OTHER TALES OF LOST SOULS was recently released from Damnation Books.. He also has two new releases forthcoming: PAINT IT BLACK (early 2011 from Dailey Swan Press).

Personal Info: Nickolas lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three wonderful Chinese Pugs, who are worse than little children…the dogs, not the wife.
Visit me at my official website, THE HORROR JAZZ AND BLUES REVUE
He also has a very active Facebook page
Or email him at

Steven M. Duarte (Co-Editor)
Personal Info: I have always been interested in horror culture from a very young age. I enjoy all aspects of the genre from movies, video games, books to music. I have a soft spot for foreign horror films most notably Italian made ones. I especially enjoy zombie horror films and have made it my mission to try and view any and all movies involving zombies.
Favorite films: Day of the Dead, Suspiria, Zombi, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, and Deep Red, just to name a few.
I primarily listen to heavy metal but enjoy all different types of music. I have been a diehard Slipknot fan since the start and continue to be a supporter of the group. I also enjoy listening to horror soundtracks especially by the Italian group Goblin.

Shaun Anderson has spent many years researching and writing about different aspects of horror culture and entertainment. This interest led him to a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Film Studies, with the ever present spectre of a possible doctorate in the future shadowing his current movements. His major film interests include the Italian giallo, British horror (especially the productions of Hammer and Amicus), Asian horror, Cult film and European exploitation. His film reviews can be located on his own regularly updated blog The Celluloid Highway.

Bill Breedlove: In addition to his short fiction collection Most Curious, his work has appeared in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, RedEye, InSider, The Fortune News, Restaurants & Institutions, Encyclopedia of Actuarial Science, and Playboy Online. His stories can also be found in the books Tales of Forbidden Passion, Strange Creatures, Tails from the Pet Shop, Book of Dead Things, Cthulhu and the Coeds and Blood and Donuts.
In 2006, Bill founded the small press Dark Arts Books with co-publisher John Everson. The mission of Dark Arts Books is to create affordable trade paperback collections featuring multiple stories by four authors each. We publish sampler anthologies of some of the finest writers in modern horror. Dark Arts Books’ titles include: Candy in the Dumpster, Waiting for October, Sins of the Sirens, Like a Chinese Tattoo, Mighty Unclean and When The Night Comes Down.
In 2009, LIKE A CHINESE TATTOO was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Best Anthology.
Bill’s horror film screenplay Last of the True Believers won a competition sponsored by DAILY VARIETY where the prize was a trip to the Cannes Film Festival to meet with Hollywood producers and executives.

He lives in Chicago with his wife and Maestro the Dog and Sophie the Pigeon.

Nick Cato published the influential cult-film fanzine, STINK, from 1981-1991. His short fiction has been published in several genre anthologies, including Deathgrip: Exit Laughing (2006 Hellbound Books), Southern Fried Weirdness Vol. 1 (2007 SFW Press), Strange Stories of Sand and Sea (2008 Fine Tooth Press) Bits of the Dead (2008 Coscom Entertainment), and most recently in Houdini Gut Punch (2010 Library of the Living Dead Press) and has been featured in magazines such as Dark Recesses and Wicked Karnival. DON OF THE DEAD, Nick’s debut novel, was released by Coscom Entertainment in July, 2009. Nick will be part of the highly-anticipated Dark Scribe Press film book, BUTCHER KNIVES AND BODY COUNTS. You can contact him through his blog:
Been checking the blog out---some very cool stuff there.

MyMiserys (aka Kim Cook)
Personal Info: Kim lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, Nickolas Cook, and a pack of Pugs. She met Nick in 1997 in an old AOL Horror chat room and they married a year later on Halloween 1998. She has had a passion for horror novels since the tender age of 12, when she read The Exorcist (before it was made into a movie). Her favorite author, other than Nick, is Stephen King, and she truly considers herself his “Number One Fan”. She has been reading and collecting King’s books since “Carrie” was first published. When she is not reading, Kim bakes …and bakes and bakes. You can see pictures of her wonderful cakes on her MySpace page and Facebook. Each month Kim asks a featured author “13 Questions” so Black Glove readers can get to know a little about the person behind the books.
Guilty pleasure? MeatLoaf...the man...not the entrée.
URL: MySpace

Carey M Copeland has worked in television, radio and film. He has been a special effects artist on several film and TV productions, through The Joe Blasco Makeup Academy of Orlando Florida. Having worked at Sally Industries (now Sally Corp) , he helped design dark ride exhibits around the world, including the E.T. ride at Universal Studios Florida. Carey has been a lifelong horror fan and knew after seeing a rerun of “NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD” that he wanted to make monsters for a living. Carey says, “I love the creativity of the movies from 1930’s to 1990’s. It seems that with the creation of more affordable computers, the solid effects artist has become almost extinct. When you see a movie now, it’s almost all CGI, with practically no hands-on sculpting and molding. ”

Lisa Morton is a screenwriter and the author of four non-fiction books, including THE CINEMA OF TSUI HARK. She is a three-time winner of the Bram Stoker award, a recipient of the Black Quill Award, and has published over three dozen works of short fiction. Her first novel, THE CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES, has received rave reviews since its release in early 2010 (by Gray Friar Press), and her newest novella, THE SAMHANACH, is a Halloween treat from Bad Moon Books. She lives online at

Karen L. Newman lives in Kentucky where she's an active member of "Horror Writers Association" and edits "Illumen" and "Cosmic Crime Stories". She edited the online magazine, "Afterburn SF" for over four years before the market closed. Over three hundred of her short stories and poems have been published both online and in print in places such as "Dark Tales of Terror", "Dead Worlds: Undead Stories", and "The Pedestal Magazine". Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), ChemICKals (SMASHWORDS, 2010), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009). She blogs for the Apex Book Company. Her poetry collections include EEKU (Sam’s Dot, 2005), and Toward Absolute Zero (Sam’s Dot, 2009), which can be purchased online at or
She won the 2005 Kentucky Mary Jane Barnes Award and two of her poems received honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. She's been nominated for a Rhysling Award, James B. Baker Award, and twice nominated for a Dwarf Star Award.
Please visit her online at:
Contact Info: and leave out NOSPAM when contacting
Fav Movies: SAW, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Brian Sammons has been writing reviews for years for such places as the magazines Cemetery Dance, Dark Wisdom, Shock Totem, and The Unspeakable Oath. His reviews have also appeared on many websites like The Black Seal, Bloody-Disgusting, and Horror World. Wanting to give other critics the chance to ravage his work for a change, Brian has also penned a few short stories that have appeared in such anthologies as Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, and Monstrous. Some of the magazines where you can find his twisted tales are Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, and Dark Animus. For more about this guy whose neighbors describe as “such nice, quiet man” go here:

Jason Shayer
Publishing Credits:“The Ranch” – Necrotic Tissue #6
“No Man’s Land” – Dead Science Anthology (Coscom Entertainment)
“The Toll” – Hideous Evermore Anthology (Shadowcity Press)
Personal Info: Jason Shayer's 12-year-old mind frame has given more than a few people a reason to raise an eyebrow, most often his wife. When he’s not writing or reading, he’s teaching his three year old daughter and three week old son the finer points of zombie lore.
Contact info:

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review:The Northwoods Chronicles: A Novel in Stories (2011)

Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

I’ve never read anything by Elizabeth Engstrom before, but I’m sure glad I have now. The Northwoods Chronicles: A Novel in Stories is a stark study of human flaws and struggles told in twenty-one short stories featuring the various citizens of Vargas County. The backdrop for these tales is the supernatural disappearances of the county’s children, reaching back generations. How the people relate to these strange abductions and to each other is the meat of the novel.

Engstrom writes in an easy, flowing style, a simplicity that enhances the simplicity of her characters. The stories are set in the chronological order that they occurred. It helps to read the book in as few a sittings as possible because it’s easy to lose track of people that appeared toward the beginning and then are suddenly mentioned again later with no reintroduction. These characters seem to pop off the page. Most are relatable. Those that aren’t serve to highlight those that are.

These stories are very dark, almost to the point of depression without teetering over the edge. Murder abounds in addition to the disappearances. The emphasis of choice is a common thread throughout. People can leave Vargas County anytime they want. Those who choose to stay live with the consequences of losing people, even though they make a good living. These characters are an eclectic bunch: a preacher and his wife, various business owners, an old man, a recluse, a student, and a computer genius, to name a few. This large cast of characters reminds me of Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology. Here the citizens aren’t dead, but deal with death. However, hope is offered toward the beginning with “Pearce and Regina” and at the end with “Sister Ruth”.

I think the ending of the book leaves too many unanswered questions and loose ends, for my taste. Maybe Engstrom’s planning to write another novel with these characters. A lot of references are inferred, including the ending - for example, the result of Sadie Katherine’s decision. The novel is thought-provoking. You can reread the book and take something new from it each time, a phenomenon uncommon for a lot of dark novels currently being published.

The Northwoods Chronicles: A Novel in Stories is a great read that should appeal to a lot of people, particularly those who don’t generally read horror. I recommend picking this one up.

--Karen Newman

TIME CAPSULES classic book reviews by Bill Lindblad


"It is the tale, not he who tells it." This quote is central to the Stephen King novella The Breathing Method, and while I have no way of knowing it's possible that the giant of contemporary horror was smiling when he wrote that line. After all, in addition to his famous titles King was then publishing under the name of Richard Bachman... and proving with Bachman's successively larger print runs and popular notice that it was King's storytelling and not merely a lucky book and a movie industry publicity push that brought him success.
That's not the only example of a successful author writing under a pseudonym, though. Dean Koontz wrote under a slew of them. Graham Masterton sold stories as an alter ego, as did Ramsey Campbell, Richard Laymon, Ray Garton, Charles L. Grant and even Richard Matheson.
Back in the pulp era, the practice was even more common than it is today. That's because editors were often desperate for stories to fill their magazines but there were only a few handfuls of dependable writers from whom they could get a publishable story on short notice. Because the editors and publishers knew that readers liked the idea of a variety of authors in a given magazine, pseudonym were developed. Using fake names, a magazine could be written almost entirely by one author while the table of contents would display otherwise. Of course, sometimes an author - particularly a talented one - would produce exemplary work under their pseudonym.
William Irish was just such a writer. He produced crime fiction which showed, even from his first stories, a remarkable facility with language and an eye toward scrambling the conventions of the format. That is because William Irish never existed. He was a construct of veteran noir and crime writer Cornell Woolrich, whose fiction had already garnered significant acclaim and praise.
Bluebeard's Seventh Wife is a 1952 paperback collection that contains six tales by William Irish, five from the thirties pulps and one new story. Surprisingly, the one clunker of the group was the new story, which played with the norms of the mystery story but was obvious in its intended mystery. The other five stories, while somewhat straightforward as a thirty page character-driven story is likely to be, are engaging and enjoyable. They're also not quite as dark as the man's novel-length works, and would be a great introduction for readers who think Jim Thomspon is a little too over the top.
Four stars out of five


Samuel M. Key is a doll. Literally, it's a doll - a small monkey doll (Sam the Monkey) that acts as a good luck charm for Charles de Lint and usually hangs onto the side of his guitar case. de Lint chose the pseudonym because of his novel Mulengro, which dealt with darker themes than his typical work. While remaining a character-driven urban fantasy - de Lint's most familiar style - it included more violence and negativity than his typical work, and it disturbed some of his fans, who felt they were lured into the dark places by a typically friendly guide.
The Samuel M. Key name was a way to sidestep that. While making no effort to hide his identity (the books were all listed as copyright Charles de Lint) they enabled him to publish novels that dealt with human evil in a way that respected the story and characters yet also warn his more trepidatious readers away. This was the first of three such novels, written in 1990.
In this case, with central figures to the story being a runaway who is skinned alive so her death noises can be recorded; a beaten and raped woman trying to escape her possessive ex-husband; and a variety of police, most of whom are portrayed as noble (with one corrupt exception) it is not designed to be a happy novel. The creature on the loose is a monster driven by revenge, not justice, and the book serves nicely as an illustration between the two. It is not de Lint's most complex work; his efforts to show just how terrible the fury is and his desire to build and maintain tension both work but undermine the complexity of the storyline. On all other levels the book works beautifully. This is exactly the sort of novel from which many teens would benefit, and it treads the line between adventure-driven novel for adults and philosophically challenging novel for young adults. Not for most young teens or children, excellent for everyone else.
Four stars out of five.

THE COOK by Harry Kressing

Sometimes an author doesn't want to be found. Kressing is a pseudonym, but to this day it's uncertain who is behind the name. The most likely candidate is UK crime writer Nicolas Freeling, with John Fowles considered a possibility as well. Three things are certain. The author is British, the author knows food service, and the author is surprisingly good.
The 1965 story follows the exploits of a top-quality chef as he slowly subverts a well-to-do family in the British countryside. He eliminates the other members of the domestic staff and exerts ever more influence on the family by playing to their weaknesses... pride, curiosity, feelings of insecurity. His is a brilliance to rival that of Professor Moriarty, Hannibal Lecter and other famous villains, but despite his proficiency with a knife, he rarely needs to resort to violence (in fact, there is only one violent scene in the book, and it involves little blood and no death.) Instead he manipulates people and events, always increasing his position and influence.
This is a horror novel, and a parable. It is engrossing, easily enjoyed by the casual reader and yet has depth for the critic. For example, it is a point of contention for any thoughtful reader as to whether the title character is meant to be the Devil; his activities and successes are almost supernatural in their effect but are never beyond what any thoughtful and highly skilled man could do.
It's a book which could be easily dismissed either as an attempt at foodie fiction or an attempt to cash in on the horror craze of the 1980s. In reality it predates both of those trends and does it in a spectacular way.
Five stars out of five.

--Bill Lindblad

Movie vs. Book: When the Wind Blows

Director: Jimmy T. Murakami
Cast: John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft

In the 80s there were a ton of nuclear war movies, and they all seemed to fall into two categories: the Day After, where they focused on the destruction and the big booms, and the Grave of the Fireflies that focused more on people’s reactions more than the actual war. When the Wind Blows falls into the second category.

Where Fireflies focused on the aftermath through the eyes of children, When the Wind Blows (another animated feature) follows an elderly couple in the moments before and the days after a bomb is dropped on England. They are like any other happily but long wed couple that often bicker and often irritate but deeply and truly adore each other. Almost half of the movie takes place before the bomb goes off. They spend their time preparing for the upcoming war, trying to follow the directions in a pamphlet the man got from the government. Figuring they’ve survived World War 2, the couple believe the nuclear bomb will be little more than a nuisance. They go about their business cleaning, calling their grown son, with a thought here and there toward preparing their little shelter in the cellar. Then the inevitable happens, and the second half is dedicated to their reaction to the devastation left to their little country home and eventually the devastation of their health.

I’m not sure how much credit I can give director Jimmy Murakami, considering how much was taken directly from the graphic novel. The simplistic design of the characters is exactly how they looked on the page, and it is so painfully effective. It reminds you of an innocent children’s book and they ever-optimistic attitude of the couple only intensify that. That eventual destruction of the innocents is heartbreaking. Where I can give Murakami credit is the first half. He expanded the set-up beyond what Briggs did with the graphic novel, making you feel like you know the couple and subtly sucking your emotions in. The reason the movie and its ending work is because, within that hour twenty minutes, you’ve come to adore the characters so much that the ending you can see coming a mile away still hits you deeply. I was somewhat surprised at how well Murakami worked with the quiet affection of the couple, considering two movies he made before this were Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids of the Deep.

The movie is not without flaws, mainly the fact you can see where the story will go long before it heads there. That, in a major way, is the fault of the genre. Post-nuclear movies are not made with happy endings in mind, especially in the eighties. They were meant to scare you into despising nuclear war. Most people aren’t exactly thrilled at the thought of the bomb and those who are probably won’t be watching these movies in the first place to get that message. And the characters sometimes behave in rather unrealistic ways in order to accentuate their naiveté. I can see the reason for doing this, but when you have characters whose relationship is so realistic, anything that feels unnatural is exaggerated.

You will not gain anything new by watching When the Wind Blows. But as long as you know that going into it, you’re free to savor the sometimes sweet and terribly heartbreaking little flick. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m predisposed to enjoy an animated feature, especially one not made to sell toys to children. But even without that factor, this movie is a true winner if you’re looking for a sad and slightly frightening film.



WHEN THE WIND BLOWS by Raymond Briggs
This book was produced in 1982, at the height of the cold war. It introduces you to an elderly couple, allows you insight into their respective personalities, and then drops a nuclear bomb on them.
Not that you ever actually see the bomb. And "see" is the right term here, because the book is completely illustrated in what has become the contemporary graphic novel format. The reader never sees the bomb, never sees any other people besides the couple, and only through the effects of the dropped nuke do we get to see things fall apart for the lovable yet ignorant pair.
It was produced as an anti-war book, and I can imagine it might have been very effective as such. Personally, I merely found it a sad fantasy with its feet firmly grounded in horror. That, I believe, should be - and is - enough to strongly recommend it.
It is dated by its own politics, which is depressing because the story is still timely. Even if the cold war isn't raging, the possibility of a nuclear attack still lingers in most countries throughout the world. When taken as the story of an elderly couple dying prematurely due to radiation sickness, it's at its best. The attempts at humor mostly fall flat, such as bringing up the notion of Mutual Assured Destruction after the bombs have dropped... even though that policy, if correct, would have prevented any bombs from being launched. Big laughter ensues from the audience.
The humor felt to me as if it were either targeting the perceived ignorance of average people or heavy-handed attempts to criticize the British government for suggesting that anyone try to prepare for a possible bomb strike instead of admitting that all Britishers were done for if disarmament didn't happen. The first seems petty, the second was demonstrably wrong. And that results in a book which is visually pretty and interesting if read in a historical context, but which only really works best as science fiction - the horror of an alternate history where a truly unlikely but terrible event has taken place.
Four stars out of five.

--Bill Lindblad

Fresh Blood: New Releases In the World of Horror

Drive Angry 3D
Release date: Feb 28, 2011
Starring: Nickolas Cage
So Nick Cage plays pretty much the same guy he’s played in the past movies he’s been in since 2005. This time he plays a hell spawn criminal who comes back from the dead to avenge his daughter’s death. O yeah and it’s in 3D if anyone cared.

Release date: Feb 25, 2011
Starring: Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jeffrey DeMunn,
Julianne Moore stars in this supernatural thriller that follows a psychiatrist who finds out that one of her patients who has multiple personality disorder is displaying traits of individuals who were previously murdered. She must find out what to do in order to stay alive.

I Saw The Devil
Release date: March 4, 2011
Starring: Lee Byung-hun, Choi Min-Sik
This one has me really excited as it stars two of my favorite Asian actors. The film has been gaining momentum recently and has been given some positive early reviews. The trailer has an Oldboy feel to it so we shall see if it can deliver.

Black Death
Release date: March 11, 2011
Starring: Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Carice van Houten, John Lynch, Tim McInnerny
This medieval tale tells the story of the plague and its vicious path through Europe. Talks of a village run by a necromancer that is immune to the plague leads the church to send a knight to investigate.

Battle: Los Angeles
Release date: March 11, 2011
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodríguez, Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo, Michael Peña
Big budget alien invasion films are back with this new summer blockbuster. My only hope is they extensively use Rage Against the Machine’s album The Battle of Los Angeles as the primary soundtrack to the film.

Red Riding Hood
Release date: March 11, 2011
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Julie Christie, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas
Not sure how this one will turn out, my thoughts are it probably should have been directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp starring as the big bad wolf…. Any thoughts?

--Steven M. Duarte

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

Zombiethon (1986)
Director(s): various
Cast: various

Review written by Steven M Duarte

Ever wanted to just see the good parts of some shitty zombie films from the 70’s and 80’s? Well look no further as Zombiethon contains just that along with some original filmed footage just for this compilation piece. Zombiethon is basically a film that shows various pieces of film from older zombie titles from around the world. While majority of the films are bad we do get a pretty long segment of sequences from the always awesome Lucio Fulci’s Zombi. The infamous zombie vs shark scene and splinter in eye scenes are highlighted. A couple of the films whose scenes are included are The Invisible Dead, Oasis of the Zombies, Zombie Lake and Astro-Zombies.

The original footage filmed for the compilation either ends up being funny or just falls flat. Much like the films highlighted the footage usually involves a hot looking female being pursued by a zombie. One scene to take particular note of was a movie theater full of zombies watching the zombie clips. This will create some laughs as the projectionist is a zombie who has trouble with the film clips.

With the exception of The Invisible Dead I had seen all the previous movies highlighted but it was a treat to get to see the best parts of the film without having to sit through the entire film all over again. Again the exception to this rule would be Zombi which I can sit through numerous viewings. The run time of the compilation is only 74 minutes but considering that it is a compilation piece it’s about right for how long it is.

Final Thoughts:

I’m a self proclaimed zombie freak so in the realm of horror I’m pretty much drawn to anything zombie. Seeing as I had previously seen a majority of the films highlighted there wasn’t really anything new brought to my plate. What I did enjoy was the campy zombie inserts that served as filler between the different movies. Zombies can be funny and this is a good example of it done right. This compilation would also be great to show to friends who wouldn’t normally sit through an older foreign zombie film. Just for the sake of seeing the best parts of the movie.

3 1/2 OUT OF 5 STARS
--Steven M. Duarte


Director: Rolfe Kanefsky
Cast: Bonnie Bowers, John Carhart III and Craig Peck

review written by Brian M. Sammons

Hey, remember SCREAM? Remember how everyone loved that it was so self-referential and aware of all the old tropes of horror movies? Yeah that was great and refreshing and ah…this movie did it first. Those really cool horrorheads already know this and now, so do you (just in case you didn’t already). So it gets points for being firsties for self-aware horror, but is it any good? Well come on, we’re off for a weekend in the woods, and don’t worry, “There’s nothing out there…”

The story begins, as it does with many of these movies, with a bunch of high school kids going off to a house in the woods for a little partying, sex, and overall fun. Too bad for them that a little, green alien thing that kind of looks like a bigmouthed frog with two tentacle-like arms is running around those very same woods. This little ugly bugly loves eating the guys and doing implied naughty things (although it’s never shown) with the ladies and it has its glowing green eyes firmly set on the parting teens.

Lucky for the kids (ok the obvious twenty-somethings pretending to be teens) they have Mike, a guy that’s seen every horror movie on video and knows all the warning signs when he sees them. What’s not so lucky for the partiers is that none of them believe Mike’s paranoid ravings until it’s too late. So you get the old standbys of people wandering off in the woods alone for some nookie getting bumped off by the alien with the munchies. Eventually a few of the friends do get hip to the idea that they are getting bumped off and then it’s movie nerd Mike leading the way in the final battle.

Ok, so the story is none too original, but that’s part of its charm and all part of the joke. It’s supposed to be clichéd and the fact that the teens are so obvious trapped in a horror movie to Mike, yet his friends can’t see it, is one of the best jokes in this surprisingly effective comedy. This movie runs the comedic gauntlet from silly jokes, to dirty jokes, to in-jokes for horrorheads, to slapstick and pratfalls, even some forth wall breaking nods and winks. No, not all of the jokes are winners, and some miss the mark by more than a mile, but more hit it than not and that can’t be said by a lot of comedies and rest assured, that is what THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE fully is. If you are expecting a horror movie, you may be disappointed. However if you want a funny and fun flick with some nice nudity, some ok gore effects, and has the added bonus of being first to do something, then you’ll dig this flick. I sure did.

That said, the new two disc, 20th anniversary DVD from Troma is sort of a mixed bag. Now it’s great that this movie is available at all on DVD, however the picture quality is pretty damn bad. There are tons of pops, cracks, scratches, grain, jumps, and in one scene I kid you not, even a wild hair on the screen. Maybe there is just no better print of this movie in existence, but really, could no effort have been put into making this movie look even the slightest bit better? But again, it’s just kind of cool that this
overlooked gem is on disc at all.

As for extras, there are quite a few, and quite a few more that oddly have nothing to do with THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE. There are two introductions to the movie, one by writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky and another by Troma mastermind Lloyd Kaufman. There are two audio commentaries, one from ten years ago with the director and some of the actors and the other with just director Kanefsky, newly recorded for this DVD. Rolfe Kanefsky also does a pretty lengthy interview where he discusses the film and even shows off the original muppet-looking alien creature. There are the usual trailers, stills and a short behind the scenes stuff all about this movie, but then there are a bunch of extras that have nothing to do with TNOT. Kanefsky’s first short film is included, although it’s not really noteworthy, but another short called “Mood Boobs” with the always amazing Tiffany Shepis is very good and funny. There is also a behind the scenes making of for the “Boobs” short. So yeah, that’s a bit odd to have all that on this disc, but it was enjoyable.

THERE’S NOTHING OUT THERE is a very fun film that I really enjoyed. If you’re a horror fan then consider it mandatory. Not only is there a ton of humor in it just for us, it really is part of Horror History 101. So be one of the cool kids and get this new DVD today. You’ll be happy you did.

--Brian M. Sammons

Bill Breedlove's Horror Column #2: TOP TEN WTF? MOMENTS FROM NIGHT GALLERY

by Bill Breedlove

Time has not been kind to NIGHT GALLERY. Then again, no one has really been kind to NIGHT GALLERY. People dissed it back when it was original, Stephen King dissed it pretty good in DANSE MACARBE, heck, even Rod Serling dissed it, and he created it, hosted it and wrote a bunch of the episodes! If famous for anything at this point, it is for its pilot being recognized as containing Steven Spielberg’s directorial debut (in a completely ridiculous episode starring a hammy Joan Crawford as a really mean rich lady who gets a “highly experimental” eye surgery to restore her sight. Of course, since she is such an unpleasant person, the EXACT moment she removes her bandages, there is the most convenient Complete-and-Total-Solar-Eclipse since A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT, and, well, it’s not pretty.).

In fact, the Spielberg episode is not really memorable at all, and is crushed like a grape by the episode entitled “The Cemetery” which features Roddy McDowall as a hip, swinging ladies man (!) who is stifled in his endeavors for a life of leisure by his crotchety old uncle, on whom poor Roddy is financially dependent. He lives in crotchety old uncle’s stuffy mansion, right down the road from the derelict graveyard, and his crotchety old uncle’s butler (Ossie Davis!) pretty much doesn’t dust anything except for the really creepy painting of the crotchety old uncle’s mansion and aforementioned graveyard. Well, if you said crotchety old uncle makes the transition from mansion to graveyard fairly quickly, you’d be correct. Roddy doesn’t get much chance to indulge in his inheritance, though, as the creepy painting begins to change, first showing the earth being moved from a fresh grave (guess who’s freshly-dug grave???) and then a dark figure climbing up out of the grave and gradually—each time Roddy encounters the painting—moving inexorably closer to the house. Only marginally ruined by a ill-advised “double-twist” ending, this is a pretty freaky thing to be on prime time TV, especially in 1969.
(If that premise—a picture subtly changing as a menacing figure advances slowly but surely—it’s probably not because you were thinking of M.R. James’ great story “The Mezzotint,” but rather one of the several Stephen King riffs on this theme—both “The Sun Dog” (haunted Polaroid!) and, even more similarly, “The Road Virus Heads North.” Hmmm, and after writing unkindly about NIGHT GALLERY to boot! Shame on you, Stephen King!!!)
Anyway, the point of all that bothersome “by way of background” is to reiterate that NIGHT GALLERY rarely gets any good press, especially compared to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which is constantly being lauded. (Although, to his credit, Mr. King does point out some of the shortcomings of the vaunted TZ in his commentary in DANSE MACABRE). Now, don’t get me wrong—I am not bashing THE TWILIGHT ZONE (at least not in any great detail). The comparisons between TZ and NG are not entirely fair, and, I think to a large extent influenced by casting rose-colored (or, more accurately, B&W-tinted) glasses on THE TWILIGHT ZONE because it was from that “golden age” of TV. Although both series had Rod Serling scripts and Rod Serling intros (perhaps the greatest “narrator” voice ever), it still is like comparing apples and oranges.
THE TWILIGT ZONE was more social commentary coated in “fantastical” tropes and NIGHT GALLERY was pretty much horror with occasional social commentary thrown in (usually in Rod Serling-penned episodes). Of course, TV was a different animal in the 1970s than it was in the 1950s and early 60s. But, the comparison-contrast is another argument for another time. Here’s what’s really important:
NIGHT GALLERY scared the everlovin’ shit out of me.
Certainly, not every episode, not even close. But now, even to this day, just hearing that theme music while watching an episode on Hulu, still has an almost Pavlovian effect on me—I’m back being a scared little kid in his Chicago Bear footie pajamas, staying up late to watch the show on late night reruns. (I don’t think I actually recall ever watching an episode of NIGHT GALLERY on it’s initial run—it’s possible, but I don’t think so. I do have a fuzzy memory of the Gary Collins goofy psychic show THE SIXTH SENSE, which alternated with NIGHT GALLERY, and knowing whenever I saw that dude, the evening’s show was gonna be a stiff, but, again, I think that was on rerun. Sorry, Gary.)
Since we have referenced Stephen King’s beatdown of NIGHT GALLERY a couple of times, I am going to offer my amateur analysis of why he found it so lacking—he was just a bit too old. If he watched the original run of the shows, that was 1970-1973. Mr. King would have been in his early-mid 20s, which may be a bit out of the sweet spot demographic. (Plus, at that time, wasn’t he working several different jobs and writing on the side? If he did have any time to watch TV, he was probably tired and grumpy, which could explain even more…)
However, as a little kid, I was the perfect audience.
It’s easy now, in the 21st century, to go back and find a lot that stinks about NIGHT GALLERY—the cheap costumes, the poor acting, the obviousness of every episode being shot on Universal’s backlot (my favorite example of this occurs in the episode “Lagoda’s Heads,” –written by Robert Bloch(!), based on an August Derleth short story—when a paunchy Patrick McGee and an extremely young Tim Matheson (complete with hilarious fake 70s porn star ‘stache) go trouping through the “jungles of deepest Africa” which are quite obviously the sunny hills of Southern California, which is bad enough, but then they have keep playing the same canned “elephants trumpeting” clip every 30 seconds or so.), and the bottom-basement special effects—but at the same time, it is also somewhat astonishing the level of horror fiction they were adapting for TV. Many, many famous horror tales—“The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes,” “The Devil is Not Mocked,” and on and on, plus selections from authors like Basil Copper, Richard Matheson, and H.P. Lovecraft.
H.P. Lovecraft. Think about it for a minute. Someone was actually doing serious adaptations of H. P. Lovecraft stories ON PRIME TIME TELEVISION! It wasn’t THE TWILIGHT ZONE, it wasn’t THE OUTER LIMITS, it wasn’t even Boris Karloff’s THRILLER.
It was NIGHT GALLERY. That alone should count for something.
In fact, one of the more surreal moments one can enjoy is viewing one of the lesser “knock off” episodes, entitled “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture.” The episode itself is an extended set up to a not very funny punchline. But, it features an earnest Carl Reiner (channeling his best Peter Straub impersonation), and—without a doubt, the most amazing chalkboard ever seen on network television:

Not only does the chalkboard feature most of Lovecraft’s beloved Old Ones, but Reiner reads aloud from a certain text and—don’t groan, but appreciate the inside joke—refuses to heed the warnings of one of his students: a “Mr. Derleth.” Again, THIS WAS ON PRIME TIME NETWORK TELEVISION.
“Mannix in a shroud,” indeed.

Over the course of the 90-plus episodes, there were plenty of fillers—“Junior” perhaps being the most crappy—but there were also moments of stark raving terror. Or, more to the point, moments where someone watching had to shake his or her head and say, “How the hell did that get on TV?” Essentially, a “WTF moment” before “WTF” had been coined.

So, (as Mr. Serling would say), “presented for your enjoyment” are the top ten just plain WTF moments from NIGHT GALLERY. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. If you don’t want to know the “twists” or surprises in some of these episodes, then stop reading now, go purchase the DVDs here or watch the episodes for free on Hulu here.

(**In order to view Hulu videos, you may be required to watch one or more short commercials.**)

OK? All caught up? Then here we go:

10. The Air Conditioning Fails in “Cool-Air.”

The first of numerous H.P. Lovecraft stories adapted for NIGHT GALLERY, this is a fairly well-known story. Actually, plot-wise it bears a marked resemblance to one of the famous episodes, “Pickman’s Model” which was also based on a HPL short story. In both of them, an innocent woman befriends an odd fellow who is very courtly, but also adamant that his certain “rules” be obeyed. Such as “don’t try and find out where I live UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.” Of course, the innocent lass tracks down the eccentric chap to his rooms, with the predictable disastrous results. In the case of “Cool-Air” there is, of course, a reason the mysterious Dr. Munoz keeps his flat at the uncomfortable (for his lady friend) temperature of 56F, utilizing a rudimentary air-conditioning system. Again, remember that it helps to be watching this not knowing what is coming—meaning not having read the source material. After a power outage during an exceptionally inconvenient heat wave, as well as vain deliveries from the iceman, our hapless heroine (played by Barbara Rush) breaks into Dr. Munoz’ now-warm (and one would imagine, rather malodorous) flat and discovers, in a shock cut this:

I mean, WTF is that? Talk about a nasty surprise. That’s pretty graphic for 1970s TV, and coming from a quiet story with no action prior, it’s pretty horrific. I still remember the jolt when that flashed on the screen. Then, when “Cool Air” would be come on again, I would run and hide at the end, to try and avoid that particular shot. Yes, I was a gutless sissy.

9. “Brenda” turns out to be a love story.

“Brenda” is one of the oddest episodes of NIGHT GALLERY ever aired. (which, thinking about it, is saying something). Based on the short story by Margaret St. Clair (who was a pretty interesting lady—her Wikipedia bio lists some of her interests as “witchcraft, nudism and feminism.” Even more importantly, she also wrote the exceptionally nasty short story “The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles,” which anyone who is familiar with ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S terrifying MONSTER MUSEUM anthology—which is basically an entire book of “WTF are these stories doing in a supposed kid’s book?—will remember for not only the story’s creepiness, but the completely freaky accompanying illustration), “Brenda” is about a completely unpleasant little girl (the actress admittedly looks a little long in the tooth to be portraying a “little girl”) who lives on a island and has no friends. Exactly zero friends. This is one of several NIGHT GALLERY stories that play on childrens’ feelings of loneliness and the fear of being left alone, either by parents or friends (another one, THE BIG SURPRISE, approaches this from a somewhat different angle, as we will see shortly).

Being friendless, Brenda has plenty of time to wander aimlessly about the island, and encounter the “monster” of the story. Actually, it’s not much of a monster—but that’s the point. The creature is kind of like a giant, hulking moss man, who sort of shuffles around. At first she is terrified of the monster, and it sort of pursues her in a very slow and roundabout way, but she is easily able to escape it. And, after a fashion, she forms a sort of bond with the thing, talking to it and actually wanting to befriend it. This further touches on so many childhood issues—fear of being friendless and alone, as mentioned before; finding a “stray” and befriending it, only to ultimately lose the stray due to childhood helplessness. Any kid who has ever found a sick animal and brought it home only to have the entire episode end badly (especially after becoming attached to said animal in distress) would certainly empathize. The adults of the island, upon discovering the creature shambling around, attempt to kill it with rifles, to no avail. So, they end up burying it under a large pile of rocks in a pit. At this point, you might be expecting either a) the creature to escape and kick some major monster ass; or b) Brenda to help her friend escape to kick some major monster ass. You would be a) wrong and b) wrong. Instead, Brenda comes to the pile of rocks representing the monster, and promises to love it forever, and come back next year and let it out, and, once again, love it forever.

(NOTE: JUMP TO 48 mins to see scene)

WTF is that? It might sound boring and hokey here, but it you watch the entire episode, it is actually quite devastating. On the “weepy factor scale” it’s certainly no OLD YELLER (or even BRIAN’S SONG, for that matter), but it does pack an undeniable punch. Much kudos to the actress who plays Brenda—Laurie Prange—for not trying to make the character a typical sympathetic “misunderstood” kid. She really is a rather unpleasant little girl, which only makes the relationship (imaginary or not) she develops with the creature that much more wrenching. Pretty heady stuff for a “monster show.”

8) Oh, THAT’S the “OTHER WAY OUT.”

In case you didn’t know, NIGHT GALLERY got a huge dose of “Fuck You” from the network—NBC—for virtually its entire run. For the first season, NG was a one-hour show that alternated with three other shows, each one showing an episode one week, then another show the next week and so forth. Meaning, if you were hoping to see a NIGHT GALLERY episode, you had to wait four weeks between telecasts. Way to build an audience there! When people somehow actually still remembered to watch the show, NBC decided to order a second season. Most of the good stuff on NG comes from this second season, when NG actually came on every week instead of once a frigging month. (Although, to be fair, this is also when there was the most filler—the vampire coming to the blood bank to “apply for a loan,” Death removing his skull as part of doffing his hat when a woman enters the elevator, and other side-splitting time wasters—appeared). After the second, uninterrupted season, the geniuses at NBC, apparently appalled that nothing had been done to fuck with NIGHT GALLERY in a whole year, decided to change the format in season 3 to half-hour episodes. (Or perhaps they were really pissed about the unfunny PHANTOM OF THE OPERA spoof with Leslie Nielsen). In any event, NG switched format again, this time to mainly showcasing one longer tale that took up the entire 30 minute running time.

By this time, as well, it was apparent Rod Serling was getting pretty frosted with all the interference from the network. Because he famously didn’t have the control of NIGHT GALLERY that he had enjoyed with THE TWILIGHT ZONE, he sorta checked out, limiting most of his enthusiasm for lobbing grenades at NBC in the press about the direction of the show. At this point, it seemed like NBC was only paying Serling to rent his name to plaster on the opening credits and to introduce the paintings in the greatest example of unhappy narration until Harrison Ford has to make up a bunch of totally nonsensical shit at the end of BLADE RUNNER.

And, you had to know season three was going to suck even if you didn’t listen to the theme music (more on that in the next paragraph), because someone took the brilliant idea of having a narrator (who was NOT Rod Serling) intro the evening’s “guest stars” and having their images (moving images from the episodes) come up into an empty painting frame. This is about as silly as it sounds, and was put to much more appropriate use a few years later when ABC introduced the “guest stars” each week on THE LOVE BOAT in a similar manner, except they were enclosed inside a giant Captain’s Wheel.

Perhaps worst of all, for season three they inexplicably changed from composer Gil Melie’s iconic theme to a new, almost-unbearable-to-listen-to one by Eddie Sauter that sounds like a herd of hungry feral cats running around in an orchestra’s instrument room, along with a mildly retarded child blowing fitfully into one of those plastic “recorder” flutes they let everyone rail on in grade school. Christ almighty. (NOTE: All themes can be heard at the official Night Gallery web site)

However, the 3rd season did have a few pretty decent episodes, and one of those was “The Other Way Out.” The reason “The Other Way Out” works so well is that it is essentially an exercise in suspense, drawn out to the very last moment of the 30 minutes allotted. The set up is simplicity itself: Ross Martin (Artemis Gordon from WILD, WILD WEST!!!) plays Bradley Meredith, a cad responsible for the death of a young woman—the evocatively named “Marilou Doubleday”—a “Go Go Dancer” he had apparently been having an affair with and who was slain one month previously. Meredith returns from a coincidental vacation with his wife that started right after the girl’s body was discovered, and immediately begins receiving cryptic notes in childish block printing that indicate that whomever is sending them knows of Meredith’s guilt. He is directed to bring a bunch of money to a secluded location at 11pm or suffer the consequences. (only 12 miles from San Bernardino!). He brings a gun and comes upon an isolated farmhouse and a kennel of wildly barking dogs. (Although they show snarling German Sheperds leaping at the gate of the kennel, the “dogs barking” track they keep looping sounds like toy poodles) Meredith meets a highly eccentric old man, who is none other than Burl Ives, very very far away from his animated-snowman singing “Silver and Gold” days here. The old man tells Meredith that when “Sonny” gets back, he is gonna be real mad at Meredith for murdering his sister. Of course, Meredith had brought a gun, but Pops Ives has his hillbilly shotgun (they are, after all, “12 miles form San Bernardino”) and, anyway, Meredith uses all his bullets trying to escape back to his car, even though the dogs have been released. He shoots many of the dogs at point blank range, but the barking loop never changes and Meredith runs back to the house, now begging for mercy. Ives tells him that Sonny isn’t the type for mercy, and so on, causing Meredith to panic, at which point the old man tells him, there is another way out. Meredith searches and finds a secret compartment behind the fireplace, and proceeds along the dusty corridors, all the while the disembodied dulcet tones of Burl Ives keep warning him what Sonny is gonna do when he gets back, which should be “any minute now.”

Whipped into a fever pitch, Meredith stumbles across a trap door and opens it, revealing a rope ladder leading into the darkness. Deciding to take his chances in the dark and finding the “other way out” he begins descending the rope ladder, only to have it collapse and dump him to the floor of what is not an escape tunnel, but a small empty room, with the opening impossibly high overhead, which really doesn’t matter since he apparently broke his leg in the fall.

The reason I am describing this episode in such a detailed fashion is to attempt to pass along a sense of the suspense building. Ives comes along and pulls up the remains of the ladder, and then announces that “Sonny” has arrived…and, in twist #1, Sonny turns out to be a little boy with a really bad 70s bowl haircut. Meredith can only laugh at this, but it gets worse. Ives merrily informs their unhappy guest that he promised to take Sonny to Disneyland, and then maybe some fly fishing, so they will be gone probably a month or so, and Ives is a man of his word, so he has to take Sonny. Meredith calls him a liar, saying Ives told him there was another way out, but there wasn’t. Ives replies that his word is always good—and Twist #2, throws down one lone bullet for Meredith’s gun—“the other way out.”

WTF kind of ending is that? The double-twist! The audience is still trying to get their heads around that the kid is in fact the fearsomely advertised Sonny, and then this—it’s almost not fair. Never having read the source story by Kurt van Elting, still have to say that’s a pretty nasty conclusion. One of those stories where you’re left thinking about what if it were you in that miserable hole in the ground? How long would you hold out? How hungry and thirsty would you get? How many days and nights in complete darkness, just screaming your throat raw for no one to hear—while that rotten kid and his sly old grandpa are riding “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”. WTF!

7) Something REALLY fishy happens in “Lindeman’s Catch.”

Here is yet another NIGHT GALLERY episode that examines what happens when an unloved, lonely individual comes up with something—or someone—not from this world. (It’s uncanny how often this theme seems to pop up in NG). This time, instead of a loner teen girl like in “Brenda” we get a crusty old sea captain who is none too popular on the docks (and, apparently, at the one dockside bar where all the other fishermen hang out). Lindeman is content to drink alone and be as crusty as a crusty sea captain can be when he is played by Stu Whitman.

Then, since this is NIGHT GALLERY, he captures something interesting in his net: a mermaid.

This development doesn’t sit well with the other fishermen—they think it’s a bad sign and want him to throw her back to where she belongs. But, as the doctor helpfully explains, Lindeman has finally found someone—something—he can care about, maybe even love.

To make matters worse, said mermaid is slowly dying, apparently really not able to acclimate to the world out of the sea. Again, his cronies strongly urge Lindeman to just throw the poor thing back, but he is too stubborn to do so. After pleading with the doctor who says there is nothing the medical profession can do for her, Lindeman is desperate.

Oh, and I forgot to mention Suggs. He is apparently the seaside town’s village idiot/vagrant/bum. At the beginning of the episode, he is laying out cards to tell fortunes in the saloon, but since he is apparently dealing out a mean game of Solitare with a standard issue 52 card deck, it’s pretty easy to see why some of the hard-case sailors might be a bit dubious about his skills in, as he puts it, “the soothsayer’s arts.” But, he is tolerated by the other patrons. When Lindeman comes in, however, Suggs offers to use the cards to tell his future, or to look upon the fisherman’s palm, or read his tealeaves, or even avail him a “magic potion” from his stash of ancient bottles. Lindeman throws the cards—and poor Suggs’ face—into the spittoon, showing both what a mean old douche he is, and setting up the third act, when Suggs reappears to offer him a “guaranteed” cure: “by seven bells, she will walk on two legs.” You can tell that Capt. Lindeman is really desperate, since he is now entrusting everything to the one guy he used to beat up and stick his face in a spittoon. You can just imagine how this is going to end.

Well, next morning at 7, Linedman practically leaps into the hold of his ship to check on the mermaid, and as he slowly rolls the blanket up, we’re treated to the longest, lovingest shot of shapely female gams outside of a Nair commercial. Lindeman runs out in joy to exclaim to the rather skeptical other fishermen (all three of them) that a miracle has occurred, and when they clearly don’t believe him, he calls her up to walk out on the deck and show everyone she is human now. Bad move, that.

For, technically, Suggs’ magic potion has indeed worked as advertised—she is indeed walking on two legs.” Alas, she still is half fish, and thus it is revealed in a truly “WTF moment”:

(NOTE: JUMP to 20:15 for fish face)

Thanks, NIGHT GALLERY for the free nightmare.

6. Jewelry turns deadly in “A Feast of Blood.”

Again, we have an example of the uncanny ability of NIGHT GALLERY to mine some shred of total creepiness out of the sum of less-than-perfect parts. A very beautiful young woman (the exquisite-early-1970s Sondra Locke) is encouraged by her dotty mother to accept the ardent attentions of the somewhat slimy Henry Malloy, even though they both know she is really in love with the (unseen) John. As Sondra sums up perfectly: “Horrible Henry—small and soft and repulsive as a slug. There’s something not quite right about him.” File that under the “Truer Words Never Spoken” category.

Nonetheless, she allows her mother to force her into another “date” with Henry, in advance of which he has sent a dozen red roses and a small jewelry box as presents. The mother can scarcely contain her glee as she vicariously enjoys all this expensive attention, and opens the box, revealing perhaps the single creepiest piece of jewelry ever seen.

(Although, I have to provide credit where credit is due: among the many things I learned in watching NIGHT GALLERY, one was the existence of a piece of jewelry called a “broach,” a fact I took full advantage of with all of my mom’s friends, who undoubtedly found it amusing that a grade-schooler would cavalierly compliment them on their “fine broach” when calling on my mom.)

This “broach” appears to be some type of hedgehog complete with actual hair, an exceptionally long proboscis and HUGE red eyes. Since it seems fair to assume Sondra is not a Goth club kid, there is no way—ever—she would favor such a piece of jewelry, but, if she put it in her drawer, I guess we wouldn’t have much of a story, so off we go, with little Mr. Spooky Hedgehog pinned to the lapel of Sondra’s coat with a nice stickpin and chain ensemble.

Anyway, Henry, who, as played by Norman Lloyd, indeed does quite adequately fit Sondra’s description to the letter and exudes a sort of low-rent George Sanders oiliness, does take her out to dinner, where it is revealed that she doesn’t care for him and plans to “take her chances with John.” Henry does not seem perturbed in the slightest with this potentially devastating news, asking her instead about how she likes her new broach. He dutifully explains how the broach is a representation of a half-mouse/half bat creature (of course) that, if he just removes the chain and stickpin holding it on the lapel of her coat, will still cling to the coat with its “prehensile feet” (wacky science alert!).

By now, anyone who had read Richard Matheson’s short story “Prey” would be pointing out the huge enormous alarm bells going off all over the place—one does not remove chains and stickpins from creepy figures unless one wants to dramatically shorten one’s lifespan. Even though it would still be a few years until “Prey” was forever immortalized in “Trilogy of Terror,” everyone sitting at home in the audience is nodding their heads together, thinking “this can’t be good.”

Sondra and Henry leave the restaurant and he relieves the chauffeur of his duties to drive her home himself (for some reason this episode is set in an England of indeterminate age—people dress and act like present day, but also there are some characters who appear to have wandered in out of Dickens novel). They have one last final argument—hilariously, he calls her a “peacock”—and then he pounces on her with one of those close-mouthed-rub—faces 1970s kisses, at which point she screams to get out of his car—even though, as Henry notes, she is 3 miles from home with only the dark woods to walk through. Hmmmmm.

What’s really interesting about this so far, is that really neither of the characters are sympathetic in the slightest. Sondra’s character is the very definition of haughtiness, and Henry is every bit the “repulsive slug” as advertised. As an audience, we’re sort of confused as to who we should be rooting for at this point. Although, since Sondra presently has the creepy broach clinging with its “prehensile feet” to her coat and is about to commence a long walk through the dark woods, I think it’s fairly safe to assume we know she is moments away from collecting her paycheck and going on to a future with Clint.

Indeed, as she walks through the woods, one of the cleverest use of film tricks is used to increase the menace. First we get a long shot of her walking toward the camera with the broach halfway up her lapel. Next is a shot from behind, showing her walking in the dark woods. We cut back to the perspective of the first shot, and now the broach has moved a few inches up her lapel. That is the kind of bargain-basement ingenuity that I adore. This is repeated a few more times, until the broach has climbed as close to her neck as it can and still be on the coat. So, it’s time for part two: on the next cutaway, it is revealed the broach has grown from the size of a small mouse to a rat. And, then it keeps on growing.

Watching Sondra Locke wrestle with the final, football-sized creature is extremely amusing, but that levity is quickly ended by the next shot, showing the creature hungrily advancing on the camera, with its horribly huge eyes reflecting the moonlight as it gets closer and closer…

(JUMP TO 46:35)

WTF is that? Even with the two comedy-relief dimwits and the subsequent cheesedog ending with Henry at a bar giving the broach to another haughty beauty, the frightening spell of the bejeweled Hedgehog (not a Ron Jeremy reference) lingers.

5) NIGHT GALLERY goes all-in with “Pickman’s Model”

Even though “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” garnered the awards nominations and is frequently cited as the pinnacle of NIGHT GALLERY’s run, in retrospect the real centerpiece of the show’s run was an episode adapted from a famous H.P. Lovecraft short story, “Pickman’s Model.”

In a way, this makes perfect sense—Lovecraft’s story is, after all, about a tortured artist who paints the most horrible canvases of unspeakable creatures—frequently featuring the unspeakable creatures carrying off human women. For a show set in a creepy art gallery, this couldn’t be more perfect. Someone at the network must’ve felt the same way, since they decided to blow the budget on this one in creating the monster.

How do I know this? I remember way back when this episode first was set to air, the venerable publication TV GUIDE did a two page photo spread on the creature. Two pages in TV GUIDE! You can guess how often TV GUIDE featured anything remotely “monster-related,” so I was speechless with delight. I even saved the copy of TV GUIDE in stash of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND trove of important periodicals I needed to keep (sadly, all long since departed).

And, to NIGHT GALLERY’s credit—they really tried to do a good job on the entire episode. They got a “real” actor—Bradford Dillman—to portray the tortured Pickman, and they let the story unfurl at the perfect pace. It strikes the perfect balance of gradually building menace with the payoff at the end. The painting for this episode might arguably be the best of all the NIGHT GALLERY creations, and the other Pickman paintings are pretty awesome as well. It is also the only episode (aside from the three pilot episodes) where the painting is actually featured in the story.

I can remember being HIGHLY satisfied with this episode when I first viewed it (including the great ending). However, watching it now, many years on, I have to confess that the weakest part now may in fact be the creature itself.

As explained, these creatures are some sort of hybrid, with elements of man and…rats (hence the tail—although lacking the “prehensile feet” from the Killer Broach episode). Whatever their genealogy, the mask created is appropriately scary, with the red and yellow eyes. However, the decision of selecting a small-in-stature stuntman to play the creature means that everyone—even the damsel in distress—towers over him in their scenes together. As a result, the supposedly terrifying creature comes across as a sort of an unfortunate cross between one of the flying monkeys from THE WIZARD OF OZ and one of the Sleestaks from LAND OF THE LOST.
Especially considering how truly monstrous the paintings in this episode are, the final creature is a letdown. But, still, for what one was seeing on network TV, it’s pretty memorable. Plus, again, another prime-time H.P. Lovecraft story. I mean, how many years has it been now since a H.P. Lovecraft credited work has appeared on prime-time network TV. Indeed.

(JUMP TO 21:51 for monster)

4. All Hail “A Fear of Spiders”

This may be the single most well-written NIGHT GALLERY episode. In fact, (with one HUGE squeaking exception), this may be the best NIGHT GALLERY episode period. All the pieces are in place: the two leads are “Justice,” played by Patrick (CHAMBER OF HORRORS) O’Neill, who, along with Jack Cassidy, had the coolest “middle-aged guy” vibe going back in the 70s and “Elizabeth” portrayed by the unbelievably awesome Kim Stanley (who was more famous as a Broadway than film actress, but she was the narrative voice of Scout in the film version of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; the director is none other than John Astin, moonlighting from portraying Gomez on THE ADDAMS FAMILY; the great, exceptionally disturbing painting (see above); and a can’t miss story—I mean, what could be creepier than not just spiders, but multiple, GROWING spiders?

And, for the most part, this actually works really well. Well, at least up until the Big Disaster. (which we’ll get to).

O’Neill is a “gourmet critic” who is working on one of his columns as the episode begins. Between his fancily-augmented typewriter, elaborate telephone, splashily decorated apartment (especially when contrasted with Elizabeth’s) and fussy air of fastidiousness, it seems like he was meant to be seen as fabulously gay in a 1970s context. Perhaps that is one reason he constantly spurs the increasingly strident advances of his upstairs neighbor, Elizabeth. (He alludes to asking her out to dinner a few times out of simply “being neighborly”).

He dismisses her no less than five times in the opening scene, each time a little more mean than before, finishing with the snippy “Elizabeth, take a pill, count sheep or fix yourself a club sandwich!” In an episode rich with easily the best dialogue of the series, she delivers this from the other side of the door, which he has just unceremoniously shut in her face:

“I dearly pray that someday—someday—you’ll need someone, you’ll be helpless and need someone and love and affection…I hope so.”

Considering that she is dressed in a long black skirt and black shawl and choker that practically screams “I’M AN EFFING WITCH!!!” you know this isn’t going to end well for Justice.

Sure enough, soon he notices a dripping faucet in his kitchen, and, upon going to fix it notices a small spider crawling in the sink. He distastefully washes it down the drain. (Since this apparently was in the pre-PETA days, it seems that several spiders gave their lives in the service of this dramatic production—there are at least three spiders washed down the sink, including a hapless tarantula, so animal lovers beware.)

Hearing the sink dripping again, Justice goes back and now the spider is not only back in the sink, but it is significantly larger. This progresses as you would expect, up until the WTF moment that keeps this episode from being a perfect classic. Justice, fleeing the spiders in the kitchen, opens his bedroom door… is confronted by this:

(at the 10:40 mark)

Okay, if you’re done laughing, go back and watch it again so you can laugh some more and get it out of your system. Predating the rug-covered Volkswagen in THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION by a few years, this still might be the least-convincing giant spider in cinematic history—especially when combined with the inexplicable “cheeping” or squeaking sound. WTF.

However, that shouldn’t detract from the overall elegance of this episode. As has been pointed out several times previously, many of the best NIGHT GALLERY episodes—“Brenda,” “Lindeman’s Catch,” even, to a certain extent, “A Feast of Blood” are primarily about loneliness—specially the affect that has on the characters and what lengths they will go to achieve some kind of connection. What’s so clever about this episode is that it’s obvious aim—to start out with Elizabeth as the pitiful,—and, let’s be honest—unattractive sad sack begging for attention (or, at least a little human compassion)from the more attractive Justice and then have the shoe be on the other foot at the end. But, it’s in the dialogue that this is so expertly realized.

Early in the episode, Justice is being dismissive to Elizabeth, which prompts this exchange:

Elizabeth: “Why are you so cruel?”
Justice: “I’m not cruel, Elizabeth, I’m refreshingly blunt.”

And then, later when he is begging her to shelter him, since his apartment has suddenly become Spiderville USA:

Justice: “Now, you’re the one who is being cruel.”
Elizabeth: “No, not cruel, just refreshingly blunt.”


Even better, at one point, she tells Justice “You don’t understand women” which is a variation on the famous, devastating last line of THE WINSLOW BOY (and I bet I am the only person ever to compare a NIGHT GALLERY episode about giant squeaking spiders to a Terence Rattigan play), and it is used to similar devastating effect here. However, it is Elizabeth’s anguished declaration that sums up the message of this (and, again, many of NIGHT GALLERY’s best episodes) tale:

“I dearly pray that someday—someday—you’ll need someone, you’ll be helpless and need someone and love and affection…I hope so.”

3) The Big Surprise

From one of the most nuanced messages (yes, “nuanced, even though hidden with a large helping of giant spiderness) in an episode, to an episode that has every bit of subtlety and nuance cheerfully removed, we proceed to “The Big Surprise.” Written by Richard Matheson, based on one of his short stories, this is yet another perfect example of the kind of no-frills nightmare installation he perfected and practiced for 50 some years.

By the way, did I mention he is one of my idols and I got to meet and hang out with him (and his awesomely cool son, RC)in Burbank a few years ago? Oh, look:

(NOTE: Picture credited to Nanci Kalanta. Thanks, Nanci!)
OK, now that I feel like Sports Illustrated’s Peter King posting photos of himself eating lunch with Roger Goodell, we can continue.

There’s not really much to say about “Surprise.” It’s a very simple tale—a bunch of kids decide that there is treasure buried in a creepy farmer’s field, because the farmer (played by—who else?—John Carradine) tells one of the kids if he digs there he will “get a big surprise.” You think this is gonna end happily? Even the painting manages to be horrifying while at the same time evoking Tabonga in "FROM HELL IT CAME".

And so, like many Richard Matheson tales, this one proceeds in about the straightest line one can draw from start to finish. Part of what makes his stories so elemental is that, in their brutal simplicity, they carry the weight of timeless fairy tales—the ones where the kids get eaten in the woods, and grandmother eats Little Red Riding Hood just because.

What is so astonishing is that, if we use our own common sense, we know that “The Big Surprise” is ridiculous, that everything about this scenario (including the “big surprise”) makes no sense at all. And, yet, we are helplessly glued to our sofas as the kids dig and dig and keep digging and the sun dips lower in the sky and the crows caw and caw and then the rest of the kids give up to go home and have dinner, leaving one boy, all alone, with the darkening sky and the wind blowing the leaves and the dead tress look like skeletal fingers and the crows cawing and then his shovel strikes something…(whole episode begins at 28 minute mark, “big surprise” at 38 minutes)

WTF??? Who puts this kind of thing on TV where any kid can stumble along it? Thanks—again—Mr. Matheson for the lost sleep.

2. Thankfully, “There Aren’t Any More MacBanes” or Joel Grey Illustrates the Challenges of Responsible Pet Ownership

In many ways, I feel like this episode is very similar to “A Fear of Spiders” in the following:

a) Great Cast: Joel Grey, Howard Duff, and Mark Hamill(!), as “Francis the delivery boy”
b) Great writing, teleplay by Alvin T. Sapinsley, based on a short story by Stephen Hall
c) Creepy painting (look at the magician/warlock’s face)
d) Totally crappy special effect that almost—but not quite—ruin the whole thing.

“MacBanes” is probably the story I remember most from NIGHT GALLERY, at least the kernel of it. As with many of the NIGHT GALLERY great episodes, it can be summarized fairly succinctly: Young member of the MacBane clan is at college studying what his “rich old uncle”—his only living relative—considers “pointless drivel.” Uncle tells him to study something more practical or he is “cut off forever” from the family fortune. Something that has eyes like the taillights of an old Chevy Impala and growls/grunts like a cross between a rabid gorilla in heat and a cranky mountain lion does in the rich uncle. Then the real fun starts.

Young MacBane, played by an exceptionally energetic (and very young himself) Joel Grey, realizes that he has, using the diaries of a long-dead ancestor, conjured up a demon that has been at the service of the MacBane family for centuries. Gradually, MacBane’s closest friends get the headlight/growling treatment, until only his best friend remains. That friend, Elle, barely escapes when the creature comes for him at his apartment building and emergency stairway. So, he goes to MacBane who is holed up in the family mansion, and, apparently completely insane. It is here that MacBane relates the story of the family’s personal demon, and how it comes “scratching at the door like a dog” every night and how—even though it does the murderous bidding (in fact, that’s all it can do—murder) of the MacBane who summoned it, it also is “hatred and jealously incarnate” and seeks to similarly kill all those closest to that MacBane. (You’d think that the ancestor MacBane would have helpfully gone back and put this troublesome information at the beginning of his accursed diary, to possibly prevent his as-yet-unborn ancestors from calling up the wretched thing in the first place).

Alas, MacBane the youngest states that the written declaration of his ancestor—the wonderfully named Jedidah—to attempt to destroy the creature, along with the subsequent abrupt end of diary entries indicates that the thing killed even its master. So, there pretty much is no way to stop it, and did I mention that it happens to “come about this time every night, scratching at the door like a dog?”

Up ‘til now, this has been an exceptionally riveting bit of television. They wisely (VERY wisely, as we are about to see) have kept the creature off screen for the entire episode, except for the red-light eyes, the mad growling and, in the penultimate attack on Elle, some most unfortunate rubber “monster gloves.” Still, the combination of the build-up and Joel Grey’s outstanding performance—he seems as if he really believes all this hocus pocus—we are right there, on the edge of our seats, when the demon breaks down the door.

And that’s where they lose the ballgame in the bottom of the ninth.

The monstrous demon turns out to be a lady who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West, who holds her rubber monster hands up over her head while they put a red filter on the camera lens and (inexplicably) play the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN “I’m-using-my-bionic-powers” sound effects (ching-ching-ching-ching, na-na-na-na.) Disappointing demon arrives at about the 49:00 mark

To put it mildly, WTF?

1) The Doll

Ok, just look at this:

I shouldn’t even have to write anything else. Just that photo might be the most classic WTF of all time. What were they thinking putting something like that on network TV during prime time? Or, for that matter, AT ANY FREAKING TIME?

Without about doubt, this is the most disturbing NIGHT GALLERY episode EVER. If you disagree or are unsure LOOK AT THE FREAKING PICTURE AGAIN.

I’ll be honest with you—I’ve been putting off writing this part of the column because I didn’t want to look at that damn picture again. That rotten doll has given me more nightmares than just about anything.

In fact, this whole stinking episode is one giant, sustained WTF.

In this instance, the painting may be the least terrifying component of the episode. It is based, of course, on one of Algernon’s most famous stories, “The Doll” but is heavily modified and a new ending is tacked on also. However, the basic ideas from the story remain the same. Let’s break down some of them and examine why this is so horrifying for children:

1) The episode is about a killer doll. Most, if not all children, at some point believe their toys are, in fact, alive. It’s natural, just about every kid does it. So, let’s add the idea that your toys might indeed be alive, and also that they might want to kill. Sleep well.
2) By biting. Yes, that toy you have sleeping on your bed or on the chair may in fact have a huge set of choppers and want to tear into your flesh in the dark. Sleep well.
3) Oh, and that bite is poisonous. Even if the doll doesn’t rip your throat out, even if it just nips you on the finger, you’re a goner. Sleep well.
4) Oh, the doll also talks and tears apart the other toys—with its teeth. Ok, at what point did we pass “nightmare overkill” and enter into the realm of “you’re going to need therapy”?
5) Just in case you forgot, here it is again:

If you don’t think this is off-the-charts majorly messed up, plumb crazy fucked up industrial strength wrong and terrifying, then we live in different universes.

There’s plenty more to this episode: Henry Silva playing a Hindu assassin (Henry Silva was kind of the Anthony Quinn of TV and low budget movies in the 1970s and 80s—he could play just about any ethnicity, but I don’t believe he ever before (or ever again) wore a turban. And, don’t forget the sneaky twist ending. Even the sneaky twist ending gives me the willies, so I ‘m not even going to discuss it further.

That doll.

That doll is the single most frightening thing ever on a network TV show. Look again at that photo, and then compare it to the famous Zuni Fetish Doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR. No contest. How about those creepy elves from DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK? Not even close. I’d like to track down Jewel Blanch—the actress who portrayed the little girl in the episode—and see if carrying around that disgusting doll onset made her spend a few years in therapy.

(THE DOLL can be found at the 31:35 mark)

Anyway, there you have it. If you have any NIGHT GALLERY WTF moments you think I may have missed, please add them in the comments selection. If you want to watch “The Doll” (and, remember, it’s not the episode entitled “The Doll of Death”), then bless your heart.

--Bill Breedlove
(NOTE: More info and history of Night Gallery can be found here. And all episodes can be found on