Saturday, January 30, 2010

When the noise dies down, when all the songs are sung...

February may be Women in Horror Month, but here at the Jar, we've contracted our yearly case of Oscar Fever, and so we'll be dedicating a number of posts to contributions to the world of Cinematic Horror that deserved at least a sideways glance from a certain golden gentleman with a sword and conspicuously absent of genitalia. And let's start things off with a song from, of all places, a slasher movie.

And not just any slasher movie, mind you, but one that got many a film critic's knickers in a twist when it hit theaters on May 15th, 1981. See, slashers are supposed to consist of a cast of passing-for-teen unknowns who fade into celluloid anonymity after they've been offed one at a time. Slashers are NOT supposed to feature such Hollywood luminaries as James Garner, Maureen Stapleton and, star among stars, Lauren Bacall. But that was the tony (and Tony'd) cast of The Fan, a not-inexpensive project that opened to critical catcalls and nonexistent box office. It was a gamble for Paramount, an attempt to bring older audiences into the cinemas by highlighting familiar faces (it was originally to have starred Elizabeth Taylor), while maintaining the younger demographic's interest through the grisly storyline of a psychotic stalker (a baby-faced Michael Biehn) who has Broadway icon Sally Ross (Bacall) in his obsessive cross-hairs. Unfortunately, they wound up enticing neither age group, and the movie left cinemas in a hurry. But that didn't stop critics from excoriating the trio of stars for "slumming." (I have to admit - it was really kinda tough for me to watch poor Maureen Stapleton getting threatened with a straight razor, but weeks later, the same critics didn't have any problem with the same scenario playing out against Angie Dickinson in Dressed to Kill. Pauline Kael was there to provide Brian DePalma with back-up, I guess.)

In transitioning from Taylor to Bacall, the creators decided to take advantage of the March 1981 Broadway opening of Kander & Ebb's musical adaptation of the 1942 classic film Woman of the Year, with Bacall in the role of Tess Harding (made famous by Katharine Hepburn). So while Bacall was singing up a storm night after night, she did so just
down street from a cinema where she was...singing up a storm night after night - for about a week or two, anyway. But don't feel too bad for Bacall. About the same time The Fan was exiting movie houses, she was taking the stage at the 1981 Tony Award and accepting her second trophy as Leading Actress in a Musical (the first being for 1970's Applause, the musical version of All About Eve, in which she played Margo Channing, another actress, replacing Bette Davis, who had also gone on to star on Broadway in....ok, I should stop now, right?)

What I do feel bad about is the treatment of "Hearts Not Diamonds," a lovely little song that appears in the final reel of The Fan, and the climactic number in the musical-within-a-movie, "Never Say Never." The music is from Marvin Hamlisch, who had, by 1981, won damn near every entertainment award that could possibly be humanly awarded (he is one of only two individuals to have received the Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy and Pulitzer - the other being Richard Rodgers), and the lyrics are courtesy of Sir Tim Rice, who made himself a household name during the 70s with his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Evita). Gentle Jarheads, those guys don't come cheap.

Once the picture flopped, there was zero interest in any music from the film. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a sheet music edition of this song (believe me, I've looked), and it has never been included in any Hamlisch or Rice collections of songs. Oscar voters do not traditionally look to Horror movies for Best Original Song nominees, and so it went unregarded by the Academy - but not the Razzies, who nominated it for Worst Song more in acknowledgement of The Fan's box office wipeout - either that, or the Razzies were trying to bolster their philistine credentials. While it all but certainly would have lost to "Arthur's Theme" that year, "Hearts Not Diamonds" had the pedigree to be an Oscar contender, and surely had every right to be there in the final five as much as "Endless Love" or "For Your Eyes Only." And to see Bacall sing onstage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion...Oscar, ya blew it.

Someday, someone is going to use this song to audition for a show I'm directing, and if they pull it off - they've got the part.




Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Zelda Rubinstein 1933-2010

And it seemed as if she was rallying...There comes today the sad news that Zelda Rubinstein, the Poltergeist series' unforgettable Tangina, passed away overnight in Los Angeles. Reports earlier in the month that she was gravely ill and had been taken off life support were swatted down by friends and associates, but her death today at the age of 76 has been officially confirmed. Her appearance in the original 1982 film must rank as one of the most unexpected casting coups de theatre ever, as no one in those summertime audiences expected a psychic investigator to be diminutive, maternal, with an inimitable voice like a marshmallow dipped in honey - that could jacket itself in stainless steel when the powers of Hell came knocking. In fact, her very presence struck me at first as being dramatically unnecessary; after all, wasn't Oscar winner Beatrice Straight there to serve that role? But with a handful of lines, and in a matter of seconds, Rubinstein became the compassionate heart of the film and the franchise.

Attention must also be paid to Rubinstein's contributions to a landmark anti-AIDS campaign in LA, as the actress was one of the first recognizable stars to lend her distinctive image to a "safe sex" campaign, portraying the Mother that every gay man wished he had, freely dispensing love, concern and condoms. She became a beloved figure in the gay community, which joins with Horror fans the world over in mourning her passing; small in stature, fragile in body, but mighty in spirit.

"All children must cross over..."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Horror in Small Doses

Over at Dinner With Max Jenke, Jeff Allard has posted a thought-provoking essay about the YouTube-ization of Horror. Given the ready access to scenes and snippets from the great - and not so great - horror movies and shows of the past, what effect is it having upon young viewers and future consumers of the genre? And what effect is it having upon the genre itself? This got me thinking about the great Horror Boom of the 1970s, and what were the conditions that existed that created lifetime fans of those who grew up in the years before those Days of Gory Glory? It's tempting to fall into the trap of solipsism ("Well, this is how it was for me, and therefore how it should be for everyone"), but there was one particular quality to the Horror of that time - and I'm targeting the late 60s and early 70s - that is absolutely non-existent today. It had nothing to do with content, but everything to do with form.

If you were exposed to Horror, chances are that it was in a Short Form - that is, short story collections, tales in comic books, and anthologies both on TV and in the cinemas. These were the days prior to the success of novels like The Exorcist and Carrie, and before the continuing character TV series like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The X-Files and Friday the 13th: The Series. You got to figuratively dip a toe in the water of terror, test your endurance, and then decide if Fear was the emotion for you. Unless you went to your local theater for a movie, the films you were exposed to were on commercial TV, edited for content, but more importantly interrupted by advertising every 10-14 minutes or so. Your Horror came to you in small doses, so that by the mid 70s, you were old enough and tested enough to seek out stronger, longer stuff...and both Hollywood and the publishing industry complied, both enjoying the kind of halcyon days that have never quite re-appeared since. And, as it's easier to suspend disbelief for a shorter period of time, these efforts were frequently, chillingly successful.

So exactly how omnipresent was this Short Form Horror? Let's look at it medium by medium...

FILM - The early 70s saw the culmination of a long stretch of anthology films, primarily popularized by the filmmakers at the UK's Amicus Studios, but with occasional offerings from others. From 1962 to 1975, audiences turned many of the following movies into major box office hits:

Tales of Terror, Twice Told Tales, Black Sabbath, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Asylum, The House That Dripped Blood, From Beyond the Grave, Tales from the Crypt, Tales That Witness Madness, Torture Garden, The Vault of Horror

And these movies, thanks to their episodic nature, lent themselves nicely to commercial breaks when televised on the late, late show. (Once author Robert Bloch became a household name due to Psycho, producers sought out his considerable back catalog of short stories, which formed the basis of many of these movies.) We've seen the occasional anthology movie since - most likely based on Stephen King short stories - but nothing like the proliferation of this era.

TELEVISION - Anthologies were the very foundation of TV's early days, with original live dramas bringing class and credence to the new medium. Eventually these became some of TV's most storied (no pun intended) series:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, One Step Beyond, The Twilight Zone, Thriller, The Outer Limits, Night Gallery, Ghost Story / Circle of Fear, The Evil Touch


When they were not televised as first-run shows, they were staples of local syndication. This format continued into the 1980s with shows like Tales from the Darkside, Monsters, The Hitchhiker, Ray Bradbury Theater, Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected and Tales from the Crypt. But with a paltry few exceptions, anthology shows have all but disappeared over the last 20 years.

It should also be noted that made-for-TV movies, especially from ABC, became the de facto Playhouse 90 of their era, with such watershed films as The Night Stalker, Duel, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Trilogy of Terror, and dozens of other lesser examples. Seldom did a week go by in the early 70s that one of the three major networks did not show an original movie that had its roots in Horror, Suspense, SF or some combination of the genres.

COMIC BOOKS - It may seem difficult to believe today, but Horror anthology titles routinely outsold books featuring Superman, Batman, and The Fantastic Four. After the shooting star that was EC in the early 50s, Horror titles skulked around the fringes of comicdom, taking a back seat to SF collections offered by the major publishers. But thanks to the efforts of people like publisher Jim Warren and editor Joe Orlando, Horror made a comeback in a BIG way, so that, by the early 70s, here are all the titles that were available from the various publishers (and I'm sure to be forgetting some):

DC - The House of Mystery, The House of Secrets, The Unexpected, The Witching Hour, Ghosts, Weird Mystery Tales, Secrets of Sinister House, Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion, Weird War Stories, Weird Western Stories, Black Magic, Ghost Castle

Marvel - Journey Into Mystery, Chamber of Chills, Where Monsters Dwell, Where Creatures Roam, Monsters on the Prowl, Creatures on the Loose, Fear, Uncanny Tales From Beyond the Grave, Crypt of Shadows, Dead of Night, Vault of Evil, Beware!, Weird Wonder Tales, Supernatural Thrillers (plus late 60s titles Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness)

Gold Key - Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery, The Twilight Zone, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, Grimm's Ghost Stories

Charlton - The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, Midnight Tales, Haunted, Creepy Things, Scary Tales, Ghost Manor, Ghostly Haunts, Ghostly Tales, Haunted Love, Monster Hunters

Warren Magazines - Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella

Marvel Magazines - Dracula Lives!, Vampire Tales, Tales of the Zombie, Monsters Unleashed, The Haunt of Horror, Masters of Terror

Skywald Magazines - Psycho, Nightmare, Scream

Add a variety of smaller publishers and less-accomplished magazines (please don't make me go into Witch's Tales and its ilk), and you can see how much space on the newsstand Horror anthology comics occupied during this time.

BOOKS - Before there were novels, there were anthologies. Kids were raised on collections "edited" by Alfred Hitchcock (Monster Museum, Ghostly Gallery,
and many others) and Boris Karloff (Tales of the Frightened), and then graduated to omnibus volumes from Peter Haining, Groff Conklin, Damon Knight, Joan Aiken, Hugh Lamb, Vic Ghidalia, Roger Elwood and many other master anthologists. (The back pages of Warren Magazines were filled with ads for book after book of short story collections.) If you had a particularly continental bookseller, you may have been able to pick up copies in the UK's once-venerable Pan Book of Horror series, or Tales of Unease. Even the lowliest drugstore's paperback rack would feature a half-dozen Horror collections on any given day in the early 70s. Authors like King, Koontz, Saul, Herbert and Farris would eventually appease the new demand, but for years, these anthologies were Horror.

So, while we'll certainly never see a return to those days of Short Form Horror, I wonder - are the kids who are getting their kicks from YouTube terror hankering for something that's simply...shorter?

Well. Now this is something...

So I was about to pen a cyber-missive to the guys over at Planet of Terror, and offer them my heartiest congratulations for being one of the nominees for Bloody Disgusting's Horror Blog of the Year, when I decided to click on the link and see who all was nominated.

And there, on the list...Heart in a Jar.

Folks, I've got beers in my refrigerator that are older than this blog's been on the Interweb, and I find myself in the company of sites that have been doing this here thing for years, so to be included is, to say the least, very humbling. That it comes at (what I hope is) the end of a self-imposed hiatus of sorts because of family issues makes it feel somewhat undeserved, but I accept it in the spirit that it is offered, I give heartfelt thanks to the person or persons who nominated me, and I place the link to vote over yonder there to the right. I'm not gonna canvas for votes, but I throw myself upon your good judgment, gentle Jarhead. And in addition to the guys at PoT, let me also offer congrats to all the nominees, and especially my friends at Billy Loves Stu, Chuck Norris Ate My Baby, Dinner With Max Jenke, Frankensteinia, Freddy in Space, I Like Horror Movies, and Kindertrauma. You are all gentlemen, scholars, and scary as hell.

Here's to Horror!

Can you feel anything when I do this?

A friend of mine has a dentist's appointment tomorrow, and admitted that he had never seen Frazer Lee's short film On Edge, with Douglas Bradley, and based on the delightful short story by Christopher Fowler. Being the thoughtful and benevolent person that I am, here it is.




Now, if you'd step over this way for a moment...

Allow me to draw your attention to my good friend and Jar contributor Andrea's blog, where she has posted her first installment - a review of Mario Bava's classic portmanteau Black Sabbath (or I tre volti della paura / The Three Faces of Fear for my friends in Roma and River Forest, IL) - as a member of Final Girl's Film Club. (You'll also come to appreciate her keen, insightful, artistic way with a camera, as well.) Bravo for Bava, and Brava for Andrea!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hey! It's Tuesday Terror Trivia for 1/26!

In her first incarnation, she sported an eye patch and a pair of stockings that might have come from Frederick's of Hollywood. Never one to shun the New, her cauldron could conveniently be plugged into a wall socket. What was the name of this horrifically hip comic book character?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Miss Marcia Kenwell had a perfect horror of cockroaches.


Great Tales of Horror - The Roaches by Thomas M. Disch
Originally published in Escapade Magazine, October 1965


During July of 2008 I was in transit, relocating myself from Chicago to Milwaukee one rental carload at a time, a process that did not truly end until September. During the blur of that summer, there were a number of events, unnoticed by most, that escaped me as well; one of those that brought me the most retroactive rue was the July 4th passing of author and critic Thomas M. Disch. In addition to his considerable talents in poetry and media criticism, he was also one of the most blindingly brilliant authors of SF and dark fantasy that either genre ever produced, and when I stumbled across the news of his passing during the Fall of '08, there were few memorials that did not remark upon his unappreciated genius and utterly original body of work. They also cited the abject tragedy of his passing, but I'll be getting to that in a bit.

In a fair, just world, Disch would have known all the accolades and hosannas bestowed upon other trailblazing SF writers like, say, Philip K. Dick, but his irascible personality and talent with a finely-tuned critical barb surely kept him from establishing a wide network of close friends in the industry. In fact, some of his most celebrated writing was harshly critical of the genre, which he often considered one step removed from children's literature. Needless to say, such opinions do not endear you to folks who award Hugos and Nebulas. (Ironically, the work that may prove to be Disch's most enduring - "The Brave Little Toaster" - was originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but has gone on to become a contemporary children's classic, albeit one with some pretty dark undertones.)

After spending the 60s and 70s crafting such one-of-a-kind novels as The Genocides, Camp Concentration, The Puppies of Terra, 334 and On Wings of Song, the versatile Disch turned on a dime and began his "Supernatural Minnesota" quartet, including the horrific best sellers The Businessman, The M.D., The Sub and The Priest. To give you a sense of the man's iconoclastic nature, that last title deals with a cadre of Catholic priests who hunt down and murder pregnant teenagers. And it's actually a gothic comedy. (Is there a term for "Blacker Than Black" humor?) But for those of us who were familiar with some of Disch's short fiction, this was a welcome return to form, as many who paid tribute cited their gateway into Dischworld as being his short story "The Roaches."

The tale explores a recurring theme for the author - urban blight. Born in Iowa and raised in Minnesota, Disch spent most of his life in NYC, and his works frequently extol the attributes of the City That Never Sleeps, but the corrosive darkness that threatens to overwhelm the inhabitants is never out of eyeshot. Cockroaches become a metaphor for encroaching (heh heh) filth and decay, as Miss Marcia Kenwell, anal retentive to a fault, must eradicate the multi-legged flatmates that skitter away from view every time she flicks a light switch. Horror fans will readily recognize a similar scenario to the Creepshow vignette "They're Creeping Up On You," scripted by Stephen King some 17 years later. However, don't settle into your chair expecting you'll know exactly where this story is going. Simply and quite abruptly, Disch's tale pivots in a totally unexpected direction, as "The Roaches" winds up asking the very uncomfortable question - What do you do when what you hate and fear...loves you in return?

The new millennium was a time of enormous challenges for Disch. His response to the events of 9/11 was filled with abrasive xenophobia, further estranging him from the literary community. Always a large and imposing man, diabetes and acute sciatica left his body failing part by part, immobile and wracked with pain. Openly gay, he faced his greatest challenge when his life partner of 35 years, poet Charles Naylor, passed away in 2005. Their rent-controlled apartment was in Naylor's name, and eviction attempts and court challenges plagued Disch for the next three years. But his greatest fear was that his prolific imagination was failing him, and while he continued to produce work, he felt his gift slipping away. On Independence Day 2008, in the apartment he fought so hard to maintain and claim as his own, he put a gun to his head and ended his life. He was 68. Try though he might, Thomas M. Disch could not keep the darkness in his life at bay, but we must be grateful that so much of it found its way onto the printed page.

POSTSCRIPT - I managed to find "The Roaches" online here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Did Stanley Kubrick direct "The Shining" to save his sanity, his life?


For those of you Jarheads with a taste for conspiracy theories, and who may be open to entertaining the notion that the great - and secretive - director was responsible for staging NASA's lunar landings at the behest of the US Government so as to appear that we were several steps ahead of the Russkies, I submit for your approval this essay recently posted on this website. Why did Kubrick change elements from King's novel that didn't necessarily need to be changed? And are there hidden codes within the movie that offer a wink and a nod to the role that he played in what would have been history's greatest hoax? Personally, I don't believe a word of it. I think.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

And then Conan would be just like...who?

I watched this clip from last night's Tonight Show, never thinking that it would be a prime candidate for Jar post-age, but then Quentin makes a reference at about the halfway mark that must have left much of the audience scratching their heads...but sent a nice tingly feeling up my spine. Score one for us horror film geeks - and let's hope the uninformed do some research to see who Tarantino was talking about...


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Watching horror movies in the dark. Literally.

Super-sized screens, stadium seating, digital picture and sound, 3-D in its various formats -- we have seen so many improvements in the quality of motion picture presentation over the past few years. At their core, these upgrades have been necessary to compete with the incredible advancements in the technology of home theater systems, and the dogged determination of cinephiles to recreate the cinema experience at home...minus the sticky floors, crying babies, and idiots seated one row back who think their every observation is worthy of inclusion in the next Cahiers du cinema. But there is one problem that cinemas have had throughout my lifetime, and I confess it was something I thought had been dealt with given all the dollars recently invested in multiplex improvement, but since September I've encountered it a handful of times at three different theaters run by three different chains, and it shouldn't be tolerated, especially by horror film fans.

The problem is under-lit projecting, the refusal of some theaters to run their xenon bulbs at full strength and therefore create a light beam that illuminates the projected image in all its crisp, vivid glory. Ever since the 1960s, cinemas have been using projectors that encase xenon gas bulbs -- lamps that burn with a brilliance that rivals the candlepower of the sun. (Consider this - when burned at full power, you're able to see right through the silver "scratch and win" coating - the feature of many a state's lottery tickets - when held up to the aperture. Please don't ask me how I know this.) The bulbs are expensive critters, due primarily to the rarity of xenon gas. When turned all the way up to their maximum power, the average bulb has a lifespan of about 2000 projection hours. (They're also dangerous suckers. You don't want to be next to one when it cracks and explodes due to the highly-pressurized gas. Eyes have been lost.)

But, here's the scam. Some theaters double or triple the lifespan of a bulb by running it at a fraction of its capacity, thereby creating a projected image that is considerably dimmer, duller. As it turns out, many cinema patrons come to accept this quality of the picture, and even grow accustomed to it. ("Oh, that's just the way movies look at this theater, but don't they have the most delicious popcorn?") During the 1980s and 90s, when cinemas showed far more low-budget horror flicks than they do now - movies that were often under-lit without any additional help from the exhibitors - there were many times that films were rendered incomprehensible due to the murky shadows that threatened to digest the image. No less than Martin Scorsese has called this under-projecting the single biggest "crime" committed by theater owners, and has been known to travel with a light meter to cinemas showing his movies...and complaining loudly when the picture is dim.

Complaining is what all film fans should do. If you think that the picture you're seeing is too dark, it probably is, and deserves being called out. The projectionist showing the movies is surely just following orders; exhibitors are continually being pinched by the studios who return fewer and fewer receipts to the owners, and a decision to lower the xenon bulb wattage goes hand in hand with the higher cost of tickets and refreshments, low salaries for employees, and restrooms that don't get cleaned as often as they should. When it comes to picture quality, patrons will complain about focus, "out-of-frames," sound quality,* but a dull, under-lit picture is not a complaint that theaters hear everyday. For those culprits, they should. Let them know that you can see what's happening...or can't see, as the case may be.

* - Which brings up one more point. I have seen audiences sit in quiet sheeplike acceptance of some pretty grievous projection sins for long periods of time, either assuming A) that there is a projectionist who also sees the problem and is working on it, or B) that someone has gone to inform the management already, and there's no need for others to go. Let's clear this up right away - Gone are the days of the projectionist who monitored the movie as it ran. This is the era of automation, and your projectionist may be some high school kid who threaded up your movie, started it (just like he did the other 20+ films at your multiplex), and is now trying to score with the cute girl at concessions. If there's something wrong with the movie, get up and complain immediately. It may be a helluva hike, and you may have to hunt to find someone to alert, but that's the only way the problem will get fixed. Someone needs to develop a call button in the auditorium - that won't get abused - that lets the management know that something's amiss. Someone get on that, will ya?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Wishin' and Hopin' and Thinkin' and Screamin'...

Since many of my fellow horror blogosphere cohorts are answering the same question - "What are you most looking forward to in 2010?" - let's get back to The Jar by tackling the selfsame query...and as circumstances have warranted, my answer would have been the same in 2009...and 2008...and 2007...and earlier.

At the World Horror Convention in April of 2004, anthologist John Pelan announced an ambitious project to be published by Richard Chizmar and the fine, fine folks over at Cemetery Dance Publications. It was to be called The Century's Best Horror Fiction, a massive two-volume tome that collected 100 of the greatest fear-fraught offerings in short fiction that the prior millennium was able to muster. The guidelines were simple; one story per year, and no more than one story per author. Here's the list, presented at the convention, and subsequently promoted through the CD website -

1901: Barry Pain -- The Undying Thing
1902: W.W. Jacobs -- The Monkey's Paw
1903: H.G.Wells -- The Valley of the Spiders
1904: Arthur Machen -- The White People
1905: R. Murray Gilchrist -- The Lover's Ordeal
1906: Edward Lucas White -- House of the Nightmare
1907: Algernon Blackwood -- The Willows

1908: Perceval Landon -- Thurnley Abbey

1909: Violet Hunt -- The Coach

1910: Wm Hope Hodgson -- The Whistling Room

1911: M.R. James -- Casting the Runes

1912: E.F. Benson -- Caterpillars

1913: Aleister Crowley -- The Testament of Magdelan Blair

1914: M. P. Shiel -- The Place of Pain

1915: Hanns Heinz Ewers -- The Spider

1916: Lord Dunsany -- Thirteen at Table

1917: Frederick Stuart Greene -- The Black Pool

1918: H. De Vere Stacpoole -- The Middle Bedroom

1919: Ulric Daubeny -- The Sumach

1920: Maurice Level -- In the Light of the Red Lamp

1921: Vincent O'Sullivan -- Master of Fallen Years

1922: Walter de la Mare -- Seaton's Aunt

1923: George Allen England -- The Thing from Outside

1924: C.M. Eddy -- The Loved Dead

1925: John Metcalfe -- The Smoking Leg

1926: H.P. Lovecraft -- The Outsider

1927: Donald Wandrei -- The Red Brain
1928: H.R. Wakefield -- The Red Lodge

1929: Eleanor Scott -- Celui-La

1930: Rosalie Muspratt -- Spirit of Stonhenge

1931: Henry S. Whitehead -- Cassius

1932: David H. Keller -- The Thing in the Cellar

1933: C.L. Moore -- Shambleau

1934: L.A. Lewis -- The Tower of Moab

1935: Clark Ashton Smith -- The Dark Eidolon

1936: Thorp McCluskey -- The Crawling Horror

1937: Howard Wandrei -- The Eerie Mr Murphy

1938: Robert E. Howard -- Pigeons from Hell

1939: Robert Barbour Johnson -- Far Below

1940: John Collier -- Evening Primrose

1941: C.M. Kornbluth -- The Words of Guru

1942: Jane Rice -- The Idol of the Flies

1943: Anthony Boucher -- They Bite

1944: Ray Bradbury -- The Jar

1945: August Derleth -- Carousel

1946: Manly Wade Wellman -- Shonokin Town

1947: Theodore Sturgeon -- Bianca's Hands

1948: Shirley Jackson -- The Lottery

1949: Nigel Kneale -- The Pond

1950: Richard Matheson -- Born of Man & Woman

1951: Russell Kirk -- Uncle Isiah

1952: Eric Frank Russell -- I Am Nothing

1953: Robert Sheckley -- The Altar

1954: Everill Worrell -- Call Not Their Names

1955: Robert Aickman -- Ringing the Changes

1956: Richard Wilson -- Lonely Road

1957: Clifford Simak -- Founding Father

1958: Robert Bloch -- That Hell-Bound Train

1959: Charles Beaumont -- The Howling Man

1960: Frederic Brown -- The House

1961: Ray Russell -- Sardonicus

1962: Carl Jacobi -- The Aquarium

1963: Robert Arthur -- The Mirror of Cagliostro

1964: Charles Birkin -- A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts
1965: Jean Ray -- The Shadowy Street

1966: Arthur Porges -- The Mirror

1967: Norman Spinrad -- Carcinoma Angels

1968: Anna Hunger -- Come

1969: Stefan Aletti -- The Last Work of Pietro Apono
1970: David A Riley -- The Lurkers in the Abyss

1971: Dorothy K. Haynes -- The Derelict Track

1972: Gary Brandner -- The Price of a Demon

1973: Eddy C. Bertin -- Like Two White Spiders

1974: Karl Edward Wagner -- Sticks

1975: David Drake -- The Barrow Troll

1976: Dennis Etchison -- It Only Comes Out at Night

1977: Barry Malzberg -- The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady

1978: Michael Bishop -- Within the Walls of Tyre
1979: Ramsey Campbell -- Mackintosh Willy

1980: Michael Shea -- The Autopsy

1981: Stephen King -- The Reach
1982: Fritz Leiber -- Horrible Imagings

1983: David Schow -- One for the Horrors
1984: Bob Leman -- The Unhappy Pilgrimage of Clifford M

1985: Michael Reaves -- The Night People

1986: Tim Powers -- Night Moves

1987: Ian Watson -- Evil Water

1988: Joe Lansdale -- The Night They Missed the Horror Show

1989: Joel Lane -- The Earth Wire

1990: Elizabeth Massie -- Stephen

1991: Thomas Ligotti -- The Glamour

1992: Poppy Z. Brite -- Calcutta Lord of Nerves

1993: Lucy Taylor -- The Family Underwater

1994: Jack Ketchum -- The Box

1995: Terry Lamsley -- The Toddler

1996: Caitlin R. Kiernan -- Tears Seven, Times Salt

1997: Stephen Laws -- The Crawl

1998: Brian Hodge -- As Above, So Below

1999: Glen Hirshberg -- Mr. Dark's Carnival

2000: Tim Lebbon -- Reconstructing Amy


Impressive, no? And once announced, it led to much online chatter among the Horror Polloi as to individual author and year representations, but all were agreed that, boy oh boy, this was gonna be something to own. CD was listing the price at a hefty $150, but for 700,000 words, this was a must-have. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. For the last few years CD has said on its website that the books are "going out with the next batch," but one would assume that several "batches" have come and gone without the promised result. The book is taking on all the characteristics of Harlan Ellison's long-promised, never-delivered The Last Dangerous Visions, albeit with tales that were previously published and possible to find elsewhere...if you are willing to dig. What was once a very high-profile announcement on the CD site has now been buried, and you have to search to find the page dedicated to the books. There is info buzzing around the Interweb that they are still waiting for rights clearance for a handful of stories, but that seems a far cry from telling fans they're getting shipped off to the printers, if not outright dishonest. For a publisher with such a reputation for excellence, the failure to deliver after all this time is a black eye. So my hope is that all the forces come together, the books truly are ready to become reality, and that next year at this time I'm holding these in my hot little hands...taking care not to drop either on my foot.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mr. Letterman, Mr. Savini; Mr. Savini, Mr. Letterman

While the mainstream media goes into paroxysms of prognostic apoplexy over the state of NBC's late night broadcasting (if, like an old phart like me, you consider 9:00pm "late night"), I'd like to take you back to the good old days of the mid 80s, when Carson was the King, and all self-respecting college students made it a point of religiously watching his follow-up and (then) heir-apparent, Dave. This recently-uploaded segment comes to us from August of 1986, days before the Friday the 22nd opening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Enjoy watching Master of Splatter FX Tom Savini showcase his works to an always-prickly Letterman...


Thursday, January 7, 2010

A day of highs and lows and highs...

...was Wednesday, January 6th, as the day began with doctors telling my Dad that he should be making plans to go home from the hospital in a day or two, turned suddenly fear-fraught as his heart stopped beating while he sat in a chair, turned agonizingly anxious as repeated electro-shocks and a temporary pacemaker were unable to keep that heart from seizing up, turned tragically somber as we were told to come to the hospital to say our goodbyes, turned apprehensive with dread as we were asked to consider what lengths we - and, by extension, he - were willing to go to keep machines doing the living for him.

And then the morning came. A regular heartbeat, weaning from the ventilator, a drawing-down of dosages, responsiveness, color, life. Doctors again talk of him going home, equipped with a unit to shock his heart back into rhythm when needs; weary nurses - who responded to at least four Code Blues - talk of a "miracle."

Toldja my Dad was a fighter. But whether his younger progeny can take another 24 hours like that is up for discussion.

And all throughout it, wonderful folks were giving me awards. Well, maybe not me per se, but this Interwebbian extension of the contents of my horror-filled cranium - or, if you prefer, Jar. My heartfelt (absolutely no pun intended) thanks go out to the talented and terror-iffic titans behind these blogs -

Chuck Norris Ate My Baby
Dinner With Max Jenke
Scare Sarah
Planet of Terror
All Things Horror

- all of whom saw fit to bestow either the One Lovely Blog or Kreativ Blogger award upon The Jar, and were overly-effusive in their praise and generous in their sentiments. I get very Old School when someone does something nice for me, folks - I cry like a big ol' baby. (I take after my Dad in that regard.) The Jar is not yet three months old, and to receive these from folks whose work I admire and enjoy genuinely moves this here old phart, and inspires me to even bigger and better things...and they will come. (My apologies if time and present circumstance don't permit me to follow through on some of the requests of the awards; it in no way diminishes my gratitude.) And when Dad comes around, I'll tell him what you've done. Nothing makes him feel better than when people say nice things about his sons.

Again, to all my followers and readers, and especially to my newest ones, in the words of the final line of Fight Club, "You met me at a very strange time in my life." Rest assured that I'll be keeping The Jar open, digging out little tidbits every day, and the walloping massive reviews and posts will see their day in the sun again, I promise.

All you hearts out there, you keep beatin' now, ya hear?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Closet Killer, The V of Doom and the S From Hell

One of the more eye-opening phobias I've discovered through my YouTube searches is an intense, horrified reaction to the corporate logos that appear at the end of television broadcasts - born in childhood and, in rare cases, carried through to adulthood. They're tagged onto the end of telecasts that are often kid-friendly, but seen through the impressionable eyes of youth, they may take on a violent, menacing quality. Among both corporate types and those afflicted, many of them have acquired names: Viacom's "V of Doom," Screen Gems' "S From Hell," and for my money, the nastiest of the bunch, Paramount's "Closet Killer," an angular, borderline-atonal stinger guaranteed to raise your hackles. Coming after a benign cartoon show, they felt like a sucker-punch to many kids. This is absolute fodder for my friends over at Kindertrauma, where I've posted about a couple of my kiddie nightmares in the past - not connected to any logos, mind you, but terrifying nonetheless. (People, do NOT make any effort to dredge up that anti-heroin toy monkey commercial from the late 60s / early 70s - I NEVER want to see that again!)

The S From Hell is a short film that will be premiering at Sundance this month, one that interests me as much as any of the full-length features being offered. And, truth be told, I had never given that Screen Gems logo much thought...but now that you mention it, there's something about the pinched, almost nasal quality of the music tag...and the way the bars swim into frame to intercept the dot...

OK. I'm now creeped out. Here's the trailer for The S From Hell, as well as a compilation of some of the most notorious logo traumatizers.