The Dead Drummer

Fear On Four-The Dead Drummer  http://oldtimeradiodvd.com

Guillermo Del Toro on Alfred Hitchcock




Stumbled across this great interview with Guillermo del Toro discussing Alfred Hitchcock. I didn't know he wrote a book about him -- probably because it's in Spanish.





Gurley Is Laying Down The Law [Book Review]

Jake’s Law is another great zombie novel by horror author JE Gurley, who also wrote Ice Station Zombie and the Judgment Day series. I am a fan of Gurley’s Judgment Day Trilogy, so I was looking forward to reading Jake’s Law – the book description doesn’t do it justice. It was non-stop action mixed with the right amount of drama. […]

Surprise Sequel: Deadland’s Harvest [Book Review]

Deadland’s Harvest by Rachel Aukes is a welcomed sequel. I thought 100 Days in Deadland was a stand-alone, so, not only was I surprised that a sequel was written, but I was impressed with the creative way Aukes continued the saga. She didn’t use any over-the-top theatrics to include several characters from the first book. Based on Dante’s Inferno, but […]

The Journey Home

Fear On Four-The Journey Home  http://oldtimeradiodvd.com

R.I.P. Marilyn Burns

When rumors started circulating on social media late last night that Marilyn Burns had passed away at age 65, I didn't want to believe it. It's always a bummer when death notices come down your news feed, sure, but some of them hit harder than others, you know? And this one hurts, not least of all because for fuck's sake, 65 is much too young.

Ms. Burns was a convention regular these last few years, and so the announcement of her death has prompted countless "I met her at a convention and she was so nice" posts, usually accompanied by a photo of Burns next to a fan. I'll refrain from posting the Polaroid selfie I have of the two of us (oh man, it makes me so happy, though), but I'll echo the sentiment because my goodness, what a sweetheart.

When I lived in Ohio, I went to a convention– Cinema Wasteland, most likely- where Burns was a guest, and I got the idea to ask her for an interview. She readily agreed and I count the whole experience- meeting her, listening to her tales, and continuing our correspondence after- to be a career highlight. If whatever it is I do can be called a "career", I mean.

After the interview, I moved to Los Angeles and pitched the article to Sirens of Cinema magazine, who asked if I had any hi-res photos to include with it. I have no idea if this is standard practice (though I'm thinking it's not...?), but I asked Marilyn if she had any to email me. I got a packet in the mail full of pictures she deemed "ugly"- of course they weren't...well, maybe ugly in that horror movie way, you know? All tears and grimaces and bloodstains. She drew a Sally Hardesty smiley face and signed the letter "love, Marilyn." We emailed for a while after that, and every email was signed "love, Marilyn." (Told you she was a sweetheart.) We lost touch because, you know, we didn't really have anything in common. But I still get a thrill reflecting on it or whenever I spot the photo of the two of us (even though...aw dang, did I have to lean back so much and give myself that double chin??).

Her filmography is painfully short, and none of the genre movies she did after The Texas Chain Saw Masssacre were remotely in the same realm of quality. But to me, at least, the image of Sally Hardesty tied to that goddamn chair– sweaty and bloody and filthy and screaming her head off in abject terror– it's just such a perfect representation...it should be the picture shown in whatever volume of Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia references "horror film". It's as iconic as Janet Leigh screaming in a Bates Motel shower. So thanks, Marilyn, for giving everything you had...you helped make film history.

Here's the interview as it appeared in Sirens of Cinema (I love the Elvira bits!) (click to enlarge!) (right click and open in new tab to super enlarge!) as well as some anecdotes that I left out.

Stacie: [Chain Saw] still really gets to me, even though I know what’s gonna happen. 
Marilyn:  I still jump when I watch the movie by myself- it still makes me jump when I’m pushing Franklin (Paul Partain) in the wheelchair and he goes “There’s a light!” and RARR!  You know? It just makes me jump, which is surprising ‘cause I shouldn’t have any reaction at all. 
S:  From that point on Sally is just, you know, that’s her first…she doesn’t enter the house and think, “Hey, something’s not right here!”  It’s like, she’s pushing her annoying brother in the wheelchair… 
M:  Oh, God was he annoying!  The thing is, that guy’s the nicest guy in the world, but I didn’t know it until 20 years later because he acted like Franklin the whole time, he was like a method actor.  He continued to be just as whiny and horrible when they yelled “cut”.  He’d sit in his wheelchair and say “Someone get me a Coke!” and we’d go “Hey, Paul, you’re not crippled.  Get up and get it yourself.”  Nyah nyah nyah- he’d whine!  And I’m sure someone finally got the guy a Coke.  It was weird.  I should’ve known he was acting, but…it was 20 years later when I talked to him and he said “I felt so bad being so terrible!” and I’m thinking, “Paul, I thought you WERE terrible.”  He was just doing his job, and I mean brilliantly, especially since we were so young then…who would have thought some jerk would stay in character the whole time and be such a terrific guy and you’d not know it until 20 years later? 
S:  Didn’t Tobe [Hooper] kind of set you two against each other to get emotion out of you? 
M: I know right before the flashlight scene, where we fight over it, he said “Paul said this about you” and then he went to Paul and said “Marilyn said this about you”, but it was already set. I mean, the whole shoot was real hard and the more Paul whined as a character the more we went “Oh God!”  But it worked good for the film, because we were ready to kill each other. 
S:  You can really tell in the scene outside the van, before you start pushing him and he’s honking that horn… 
M:  He was so damn…I was…yeah.  I mean, I didn’t really think I could push the guy, especially with all the brambles and brush.  But it made it all funny later.  Ha ha ha.  Later.
... 
S:  You had to go back, right?  After it was over, you thought you were finished, and… 
M:  What happened…we filmed the very end of the show, where I jump in the pickup truck- which kills you if you ever try to jump from the cement into a pickup truck and you’re my size, and flip over…like that was a stunt I do daily!  And your boobs are getting, you know, all parts of you…and who flips over in a truck?  I would never flip over in a truck now.  But anyway, when I finally get in the truck and I had to wear all these stupid clothes full of karo syrup and chocolate and shit and then…I mean, the pants stood up!  They greeted me at the set!  And I thought, “Well, I’ll never have to wear that again!”  I mean, your hair sticks to you and everything, bugs and mosquitoes…if I sat on a chair it came with me…and so I thought “I’m through with that”. 
I don’t know how I did it the first time, I know I was crazy- but the second time, whatever happened there, the girl was just (maniacal cackle) “What are you gonna do to me now?  Are we gonna do it tomorrow?  Are we gonna do it next week?  Are you gonna keep calling me?!”  So yeah, everyone talks about how real that was, and…well, yeah, it would have been!  I hate to tell everybody sometimes, they go “Gee, where did all that come from?”  Well… 
S:  You didn’t have to reach too far. 
M:  Right, I was kinda already there.



R.I.P. Marilyn Burns

When rumors started circulating on social media late last night that Marilyn Burns had passed away at age 65, I didn't want to believe it. It's always a bummer when death notices come down your news feed, sure, but some of them hit harder than others, you know? And this one hurts, not least of all because for fuck's sake, 65 is much too young.

Ms. Burns was a convention regular these last few years, and so the announcement of her death has prompted countless "I met her at a convention and she was so nice" posts, usually accompanied by a photo of Burns next to a fan. I'll refrain from posting the Polaroid selfie I have of the two of us (oh man, it makes me so happy, though), but I'll echo the sentiment because my goodness, what a sweetheart.

When I lived in Ohio, I went to a convention– Cinema Wasteland, most likely- where Burns was a guest, and I got the idea to ask her for an interview. She readily agreed and I count the whole experience- meeting her, listening to her tales, and continuing our correspondence after- to be a career highlight. If whatever it is I do can be called a "career", I mean.

After the interview, I moved to Los Angeles and pitched the article to Sirens of Cinema magazine, who asked if I had any hi-res photos to include with it. I have no idea if this is standard practice (though I'm thinking it's not...?), but I asked Marilyn if she had any to email me. I got a packet in the mail full of pictures she deemed "ugly"- of course they weren't...well, maybe ugly in that horror movie way, you know? All tears and grimaces and bloodstains. She drew a Sally Hardesty smiley face and signed the letter "love, Marilyn." We emailed for a while after that, and every email was signed "love, Marilyn." (Told you she was a sweetheart.) We lost touch because, you know, we didn't really have anything in common. But I still get a thrill reflecting on it or whenever I spot the photo of the two of us (even though...aw dang, did I have to lean back so much and give myself that double chin??).

Her filmography is painfully short, and none of the genre movies she did after The Texas Chain Saw Masssacre were remotely in the same realm of quality. But to me, at least, the image of Sally Hardesty tied to that goddamn chair– sweaty and bloody and filthy and screaming her head off in abject terror– it's just such a perfect representation...it should be the picture shown in whatever volume of Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia references "horror film". It's as iconic as Janet Leigh screaming in a Bates Motel shower. So thanks, Marilyn, for giving everything you had...you helped make film history.

Here's the interview as it appeared in Sirens of Cinema (I love the Elvira bits!) (click to enlarge!) (right click and open in new tab to super enlarge!) as well as some anecdotes that I left out.

Stacie: [Chain Saw] still really gets to me, even though I know what’s gonna happen. 
Marilyn:  I still jump when I watch the movie by myself- it still makes me jump when I’m pushing Franklin (Paul Partain) in the wheelchair and he goes “There’s a light!” and RARR!  You know? It just makes me jump, which is surprising ‘cause I shouldn’t have any reaction at all. 
S:  From that point on Sally is just, you know, that’s her first…she doesn’t enter the house and think, “Hey, something’s not right here!”  It’s like, she’s pushing her annoying brother in the wheelchair… 
M:  Oh, God was he annoying!  The thing is, that guy’s the nicest guy in the world, but I didn’t know it until 20 years later because he acted like Franklin the whole time, he was like a method actor.  He continued to be just as whiny and horrible when they yelled “cut”.  He’d sit in his wheelchair and say “Someone get me a Coke!” and we’d go “Hey, Paul, you’re not crippled.  Get up and get it yourself.”  Nyah nyah nyah- he’d whine!  And I’m sure someone finally got the guy a Coke.  It was weird.  I should’ve known he was acting, but…it was 20 years later when I talked to him and he said “I felt so bad being so terrible!” and I’m thinking, “Paul, I thought you WERE terrible.”  He was just doing his job, and I mean brilliantly, especially since we were so young then…who would have thought some jerk would stay in character the whole time and be such a terrific guy and you’d not know it until 20 years later? 
S:  Didn’t Tobe [Hooper] kind of set you two against each other to get emotion out of you? 
M: I know right before the flashlight scene, where we fight over it, he said “Paul said this about you” and then he went to Paul and said “Marilyn said this about you”, but it was already set. I mean, the whole shoot was real hard and the more Paul whined as a character the more we went “Oh God!”  But it worked good for the film, because we were ready to kill each other. 
S:  You can really tell in the scene outside the van, before you start pushing him and he’s honking that horn… 
M:  He was so damn…I was…yeah.  I mean, I didn’t really think I could push the guy, especially with all the brambles and brush.  But it made it all funny later.  Ha ha ha.  Later.
... 
S:  You had to go back, right?  After it was over, you thought you were finished, and… 
M:  What happened…we filmed the very end of the show, where I jump in the pickup truck- which kills you if you ever try to jump from the cement into a pickup truck and you’re my size, and flip over…like that was a stunt I do daily!  And your boobs are getting, you know, all parts of you…and who flips over in a truck?  I would never flip over in a truck now.  But anyway, when I finally get in the truck and I had to wear all these stupid clothes full of karo syrup and chocolate and shit and then…I mean, the pants stood up!  They greeted me at the set!  And I thought, “Well, I’ll never have to wear that again!”  I mean, your hair sticks to you and everything, bugs and mosquitoes…if I sat on a chair it came with me…and so I thought “I’m through with that”. 
I don’t know how I did it the first time, I know I was crazy- but the second time, whatever happened there, the girl was just (maniacal cackle) “What are you gonna do to me now?  Are we gonna do it tomorrow?  Are we gonna do it next week?  Are you gonna keep calling me?!”  So yeah, everyone talks about how real that was, and…well, yeah, it would have been!  I hate to tell everybody sometimes, they go “Gee, where did all that come from?”  Well… 
S:  You didn’t have to reach too far. 
M:  Right, I was kinda already there.



Dig Into Dulaney [Book Review]

Shades of Gray by C Dulaney is the third installment in the Roads Less Traveled series. The Plan introduced us to a group of people who actually had a Z-plan in place when all hell broke loose. Murphy’s Law showed us how easily the best survival plan can fall apart in a zombie apocalypse. In the third book, Dulaney combines […]

Finally!! Zombified Book 2!! [Book Review]

Zombified: Shady Oaks by Char Robinson picks up several months after Hudson Place. I strongly recommend that fans reread the first book to appreciate how much Robinson has grown as a horror author. The survivors of Shady Oaks just can’t catch a break. Several months have passed since they left Hudson Place, and everything that could go wrong does…almost all at once […]

Between Major Infections…

The zombie genre is much like an actual horde of the undead: it WILL find you, and you WILL be overwhelmed. Whether it’s the books, movies or TV shows (hell, even Maron on IFC spoofed The Talking Dead in its season premiere), you can’t escape the infection. But, as any zombiephile could tell you, “Ain’t NOBODY got time for THIS!” […]

Extant



We're about three episodes in and I still can't shake the feeling that Extant would work better as a feature film rather than a TV series. 

An astronaut returns to Earth from a lengthy solo mission and discovers she's pregnant.

Fantastic premise, but how is this supposed to work past 6-7 episodes? What happens in season three? Molly turns out to be a clone and the real Molly has been held captive on an alien spaceship the whole time? The writers have done an admirable job creating various subplots (android son Ethan, government conspiracy, shady billionaire, etc.) and some cool sci-fi worldbuilding, but nothing seems as compelling as Molly's bun in the oven.

Hey, I could be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time.

Extant is an intriguing mash-up of ideas: Rosemary's Baby, A.I, The Astronaut's Wife, Contact, and Gravity -- in case you didn't notice, all movies. I question its longevity but I'm still watching.  The script was apparently decent enough to get the attention of Z-Listers like Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry so there's that. If the ratings continue to hold up, we might get to see how it all plays out.

Check out this inspirational interview with show creator Mickey Fisher:










Extant



We're about three episodes in and I still can't shake the feeling that Extant would work better as a feature film rather than a TV series. 

An astronaut returns to Earth from a lengthy solo mission and discovers she's pregnant.

Fantastic premise, but how is this supposed to work past 6-7 episodes? What happens in season three? Molly turns out to be a clone and the real Molly has been held captive on an alien spaceship the whole time? The writers have done an admirable job creating various subplots (android son Ethan, government conspiracy, shady billionaire, etc.) and some cool sci-fi worldbuilding, but nothing seems as compelling as Molly's bun in the oven.

Hey, I could be wrong -- wouldn't be the first time.

Extant is an intriguing mash-up of ideas: Rosemary's Baby, A.I, The Astronaut's Wife, Contact, and Gravity -- in case you didn't notice, all movies. I question its longevity but I'm still watching.  The script was apparently decent enough to get the attention of Z-Listers like Steven Spielberg and Halle Berry so there's that. If the ratings continue to hold up, we might get to see how it all plays out.

Check out this inspirational interview with show creator Mickey Fisher:










The Roman

Croupier-The Roman 9-21-49  http://oldtimeradiodvd.com

It’s CURTAINS for you, pal

For the last 30 years or so, Curtains (1983) has languished in the blackness of Negative Zone, home to all the horror movies lacking a proper release. Fans and curious newbie viewers alike have suffered through beyond subpar-quality versions of the film, found on the internet, bootleg copies, or VHS tapes. Orrrrr on VHS tapes formerly owned by Tori Spelling...and I know I've talked about that plenty of times before, but listen, I'm going to talk about it plenty of times in the future, too, and I'll probably be buried with that thing. But! The important thing here is not all those cruddy versions of the film. The important thing is that no longer must the world endure cruddy copies of Curtains! No more must we squint into the deep dark of the movie as we try to figure out what's going on. No more must we deal with bland colors and middling sound and mushy visuals, for the wonderful wizards at Synapse Films have painstakingly restored Curtains for a DVD/Blu-ray release next week. Y'all, it is a thing of beauty.


Truly, it's a sight to behold. I've seen Curtains several times, but this was like a whole new movie for me. Guys...in the famous ice skating scene? The killer's ice skates are fuzzy! Who knew? From the glint on the edge of the sickle to the killer's eyes darting back and forth to every nook and cranny on that terrifying mask, all the little details that come shining through on the Blu-ray got me all giddy. I am only a little bit ashamed about that.


Now, here's the thing: gorgeous picture quality doesn't mean that Curtains is a good movie. We can all admit that, can't we? Undoubtedly it's got some pretty high highlights- come on, the aforementioned ice skating scene sits well-deservedly in the genre's Hall Of Fucking Creepy As All Get Out. Lynne Griffin is terrifically charming as comedian-turned-actress Patti (makes you wish she'd been able to stick around longer in Black Christmas...), and if Lesleh Donaldson isn't one of the horror mavens of your heart then I'm not sure what kind of problems you have, frankly.

A movie about six actresses and two guys snowbound in a mansion, should be straightforward and full of tension, but somehow Curtains just plain ain't. It's saddled with a meandering, largely nonsensical plot and characters that are, for the most part, severely underdeveloped. Mmm, make that completely undeveloped- does Laurian even speak? And what the heck is with that Matthew guy? Meanwhile, it's nearly devoid of explicit violence and/or gore- not that bloody mayhem is essential in a good horror movie (often, it's a detriment if you ask me) (GO AHEAD, ASK ME), but for a film that came out during the slasher heyday and features so many of the genre's tropes, it's surprising.


So if it's not good, why is Curtains so beloved? I mean, I love the hell out of it, not even ironically! Why have fans been clamoring for this film forever? I've long tried to figure this out- is it just that a few stellar moments are enough? That's partially it, but I think Lesleh Donaldson is absolutely spot-on when she says "They love it because of the idea of what it could have been." That's a quote from The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of "Curtains", an all-new retrospective included in this release. Lemme tell ya, that documentary is pure gold to a horror nerd as it lifts back the curtains (sorry) on the messy story behind the making of this film.

It's the tale of a director and producer at odds- the former wanted to make an artsy psychological thriller, the latter wanted a straight-up slasher flick- whose differing visions all but tanked the film. Curtains is notoriously disjointed, and you'll learn why that is as everyone interviewed, whether actress or composer, sheds light on the interminable production. They all disparage the film in the end, and they're baffled as to why anyone would enjoy it- pretty hilarious and refreshingly frank, really.


Again, Donaldson perfectly articulates the way fans feel about Curtains- it's not the movie's fault it's so bad- it was doomed nearly from the start! Of course it could have (and should have) been better, but what it gets right, it gets really really right, and now it looks better than ever. Better than it has any right to, probably. But what can I say, it's always been a movie I feel oddly defensive about. Even when I (secretly) agree with those who'd put it down, I find myself wanting to throw a blanket around Curtains's shoulders, pat it on the head, and tell it, "Don't worry, at least you tried."

It’s CURTAINS for you, pal

For the last 30 years or so, Curtains (1983) has languished in the blackness of Negative Zone, home to all the horror movies lacking a proper release. Fans and curious newbie viewers alike have suffered through beyond subpar-quality versions of the film, found on the internet, bootleg copies, or VHS tapes. Orrrrr on VHS tapes formerly owned by Tori Spelling...and I know I've talked about that plenty of times before, but listen, I'm going to talk about it plenty of times in the future, too, and I'll probably be buried with that thing. But! The important thing here is not all those cruddy versions of the film. The important thing is that no longer must the world endure cruddy copies of Curtains! No more must we squint into the deep dark of the movie as we try to figure out what's going on. No more must we deal with bland colors and middling sound and mushy visuals, for the wonderful wizards at Synapse Films have painstakingly restored Curtains for a DVD/Blu-ray release next week. Y'all, it is a thing of beauty.


Truly, it's a sight to behold. I've seen Curtains several times, but this was like a whole new movie for me. Guys...in the famous ice skating scene? The killer's ice skates are fuzzy! Who knew? From the glint on the edge of the sickle to the killer's eyes darting back and forth to every nook and cranny on that terrifying mask, all the little details that come shining through on the Blu-ray got me all giddy. I am only a little bit ashamed about that.


Now, here's the thing: gorgeous picture quality doesn't mean that Curtains is a good movie. We can all admit that, can't we? Undoubtedly it's got some pretty high highlights- come on, the aforementioned ice skating scene sits well-deservedly in the genre's Hall Of Fucking Creepy As All Get Out. Lynne Griffin is terrifically charming as comedian-turned-actress Patti (makes you wish she'd been able to stick around longer in Black Christmas...), and if Lesleh Donaldson isn't one of the horror mavens of your heart then I'm not sure what kind of problems you have, frankly.

A movie about six actresses and two guys snowbound in a mansion, should be straightforward and full of tension, but somehow Curtains just plain ain't. It's saddled with a meandering, largely nonsensical plot and characters that are, for the most part, severely underdeveloped. Mmm, make that completely undeveloped- does Laurian even speak? And what the heck is with that Matthew guy? Meanwhile, it's nearly devoid of explicit violence and/or gore- not that bloody mayhem is essential in a good horror movie (often, it's a detriment if you ask me) (GO AHEAD, ASK ME), but for a film that came out during the slasher heyday and features so many of the genre's tropes, it's surprising.


So if it's not good, why is Curtains so beloved? I mean, I love the hell out of it, not even ironically! Why have fans been clamoring for this film forever? I've long tried to figure this out- is it just that a few stellar moments are enough? That's partially it, but I think Lesleh Donaldson is absolutely spot-on when she says "They love it because of the idea of what it could have been." That's a quote from The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of "Curtains", an all-new retrospective included in this release. Lemme tell ya, that documentary is pure gold to a horror nerd as it lifts back the curtains (sorry) on the messy story behind the making of this film.

It's the tale of a director and producer at odds- the former wanted to make an artsy psychological thriller, the latter wanted a straight-up slasher flick- whose differing visions all but tanked the film. Curtains is notoriously disjointed, and you'll learn why that is as everyone interviewed, whether actress or composer, sheds light on the interminable production. They all disparage the film in the end, and they're baffled as to why anyone would enjoy it- pretty hilarious and refreshingly frank, really.


Again, Donaldson perfectly articulates the way fans feel about Curtains- it's not the movie's fault it's so bad- it was doomed nearly from the start! Of course it could have (and should have) been better, but what it gets right, it gets really really right, and now it looks better than ever. Better than it has any right to, probably. But what can I say, it's always been a movie I feel oddly defensive about. Even when I (secretly) agree with those who'd put it down, I find myself wanting to throw a blanket around Curtains's shoulders, pat it on the head, and tell it, "Don't worry, at least you tried."