Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Big Red's Daughter by John McPartland

Big Red's Daughter
BIG RED'S DAUGHTER - JD Pulp by John McPartland - Cover Image
by John McPartland

Jim Work, a twenty-five year old just out of Korea, arrives on the California coast to attend college on the G.I. Bill, but lands himself in a minor traffic accident that leads to major trouble.  Of the two people in the other vehicle, he becomes fast enemies with one and fast lovers with the other.

Robert "Buddy" Brown is a small-time punk, but definitely dangerous.
"The kind of guy who's a bad drunk, who borrows and cheats for money to live on, who beats up strangers at bars and parties because he's able to whip most men, who always has some woman...around, most of the time three or four.  A guy who likes marijuana, a liar, a useless guy, slightly psycho."
Wild Kearny (her real name) is Buddy's girl, much too good for him, but she doesn't care.
"She was one beautiful girl.  Her body was graceful without effort.  Her hair was a tiger gold, natural and lovely, her face was that of somebody's pretty young sister grown up to be a woman."
After a brief bout of fisticuffs with Buddy, Wild invites Jim back to her pad and he is introduced to her group of friends, mostly well-to-do and classy young characters with a hint of bohemianism around them.  Buddy isn't one to let things go, though, and it is one battle after another with the criminal, which Jim is all too game for.  He figures that if he defeat this dangerous bastard, then he can make Wild his girl.

Jim sums up the whole scenario succinctly:
"This was strange--to know that I'd met the man that was the final one to me, the one you killed or dying to kill.  Met him the same day that I'd met the girl I wanted for the rest of my life."
Why does Wild continue to be so nice to him while her boyfriend is so violently cruel?  She wants something from him, and it's not what he wants her to want.  She wants Jim to pose as her boyfriend in a few short hours when her father, the mob-connected Broadway Red Kearney, arrives for a visit.  Against his better judgment, Jim agrees, but Red sees through the charade pretty quickly...and things spiral into madness from there.

Drawn into this seedy underworld, Jim finds himself wrapped up in a lunatic weekend of drugs, mayhem and mistaken identity--and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

Every once in a while, you stumble across some forgotten book that you instantly fall in love with, but that the rest of the world seems to not even know exists.  It's like a secret tome that only a select few know about, and you just feel you have to spread the word.  This, for me, is one of those books.

True enough, it's "just" a vintage piece of 1950s pulp, a hard-boiled love story and crime caper from an era where such titles were readily available by the hundreds.  But this one seems a big, solid step above the countless others that it surely sat next to on the shelf.

I'm not going to fool myself into believing that everyone will feel the same way as I do.  I'm a bit of an odd duck, enamored with genre films (the primary subject of this blog) in equal measure as I am enamored with the Beat Generation, and it's many offshoots.  The Beat Generation begat the beatniks begat beatsploitation and the Juvenile Delinquent exploitation subgenre.  And while the characters in Big Red's Daughter are never explicitly referred to as beatniks (though the term hipster is thrown about on occasion), they are definitely J.D.'s, and there are elements of Beatnikery on display here, from the carefree lifestyle that these kids are living, to the old-timey slang they utilize, and the jazz music that works as the soundtrack to their daily existence.
"You like [Stan] Kenton?" Buddy asked, smiling.
"He's changed a lot," I answered.  "Now he's saying something, or trying to say something, that I don't quite understand.  Maybe he doesn't, either, but he's trying to say it anyway."
There are also dozens of immensely quotable pieces of streetlight philosophy, most of them delivered to us through Jim Work's narration, subtle little truthlets that you might find in the work of Charles Bukowski:
"There was a sackful of pain and the sack was me."
"I knew what reality was."
"Skinny ol' boys got a lot of grit in their claws."
What the book as a whole really reminded me of, though, may earn a few scoffs from the intelligentsia: the work of Norman Mailer.

Not just any of Mailer's works, though, just a few select ones.  The violent, pulpy exercises in excess that he wrote when he wasn't hard at work on bulky, serious subjects.  Primarily my two favorite Mailer novels, An American Dream and Tough Guys Don't Dance.

Fans of pulp and juvenile delinquency should definitely give this one a read.

Monday, February 25, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep10: The Case of Mr. Pelham (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 110: The Case of Mr. Pelham
Original air date 12.04.55

Written by Francis M. Cockrell
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Based on a story by Anthony Armstrong

Albert Pelham...Tom Ewell
Dr. Harley...Raymond Bailey
Henry Peterson...Justice Watson

When businessman Albert Pelham's acquaintances begin to report seeing him at his favorite social club, in his apartment building, and even at work on days that he is positive he was not there, it first seems as if a giant trick is being played on him. But as the evidence mounts, it becomes apparent that Pelham has a double...and he's slowly edging him out of his life.

It's not the most exciting episode, to be honest, but it might make you think more than others. It's a lot of chatter, and very little action. The lead character is something of a milquetoast, but I think that's the point. He's man of routine, and that routine is severely shattered when someone claims it--and him--as their own. He's an outdated model, soon to be replaced by Pelham 2.0.

The open-ended finale might understandably be a bit frustrating for some viewers, as it never wraps things up in a neat little bow. We're left wondering about the true nature of Pelham and his double, just as Pelham himself is. Though I'm far from the first to make this comparison, this episode would almost seem more at home on the Twilight Zone than it does here, which makes it novel if nothing else.

Tom Ewell appeared onscreen with two of the era's most famous blonde bombshells--Marilyn Monroe in 1955's The Seven Year Itch (reprising a role that he had portrayed nearly a thousand times on Broadway), and Jayne Mansfield in 1956's The Girl Can't Help It. He was a regular on TV's Baretta as Billy Truman, appearing in 35 episodes. This was his only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, although maybe we should count it as two.

Raymond Bailey was most well known for his performance as Mr. Drysdale in The Beverly Hillbillies, but he also appeared in the 1955 big bug film Tarantula, the 1957 little man film The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hitch's own Vertigo in 1958, and 3 episodes of the Twilight Zone. He also played Dean Magruder in a handful of episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, giving him some hipster cred thanks to his proximity to seminal TV beatnik Maynard G. Krebs. This was the first of ten appearances that he would make on the series, and he would appear once more on the Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962.

Justice Watson didn't exactly have a storied career, making mostly one-time appearances on various television shows. He did, though, appear in two episodes of One Step Beyond, and in the 1962 genre film The Tower of London. This was the first of two appearances he would make on the series.

Screenwriter Francis M. Cockrell contributed multiple scripts to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including the pilot episode. Please see that entry for further information about him.

The episode is based on a novel by author and playwright Anthony Armstrong, however the chronology here leads to some confusion. Though this episode aired in 1955, the source material of the same name apparently wasn't published until 1956 or 1957 (depending on which source you believe)--meaning either Hitchcock and Cockrell were adapting a novel that was completed but not yet published; or Armstrong had sold them the rights to an idea that he had not yet developed into a novel; or the novel was, actually, based on the episode; or the date of the novel's publication is listed wrong pretty much everywhere; or there's something that I'm just not getting. If anybody can clarify things, I'd be much appreciative.

The same story was adapted into the full-length feature The Man Who Haunted Himself in 1970 starring Roger Moore, and, apparently a made-for-TV movie that aired the same year as this episode, though there's not much information available about it.

Anthony Armstrong had previously worked on the script for Hitch's 1937 film The Girl Was Young.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep09: The Long Shot (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 109: The Long Shot
Original air date 11.27.55

Written by Harold Swanton
Directed by Robert Stevenson

Charlie Raymond...Peter Lawford
Walker Hendricks...John Williams

Inveterate gambler and swindler Charlie Raymond finds himself deep in debt when his horse fails to place at the track. Rather than wait around for the bookie to come break his kneecaps, Charlie answers a classified ad for a British chap, Walker Hendricks, seeking a driver to take him to San Francisco. What better way to get out of town than in someone else's car and on someone else's dime?

Hendricks is paying him $150 for the drive, but when Charlie learns that he is en route to collect a large inheritance, he sees an opportunity to make a much bigger payday.

It's a decent episode with a nice little payoff, but there's really not much suspense or anything of interest until towards the end. The scheme that Charlie concocts is pretty far fetched, and highly unlikely that it would have worked even back then. But there's some enjoyment to be found here, so long as you don't think too hard about the specifics.

I was unable to find much information about scriptwriter Harold Swanton beyond his filmography. He had written for The Whistler radio series, and went on to contribute to the television series as well, and the episode he wrote for The Alcoa Hour ("Mechanical Manhunt", 1958) won an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Episode in a TV Series. This was the first of ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that he would script, and would contribute one more to the Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Director Robert Stevenson had previously directed the episode "Don't Come Back Alive". Please see that entry for more information about him. This was the second of seven episodes he would direct.

Actor Peter Lawford was invited into the folds of the Rat Pack by Frank Sinatra in 1959, and appeared with the other members in 1960s Ocean's 11. His first wife was John F. Kennedy's sister Patricia, and the two had a son named Christopher Kennedy Lawford, and three daughters. Christopher is an author and actor, who has appeared in Terminator 3, The Doors, and All My Children. Lawford and Sinatra apparently had a nasty falling out when it became apparent that Lawford's Camelot acquaintances weren't too fond of Sinatra's organized crime acquaintances. Go figure.

Peter Lawford later married Mary Rowan, daughter of Dan Rowan of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In; he then married would-be actress Deborah Gould. His married his final wife, Patricia Seaton (who he had been involved with since she was 17) just months before his death in 1984 at age 61. This was his only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, though he appeared in 1962 on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Actor John Williams (not to be confused with the composer of the same name) played Inspector Hubbard in the broadway play Dial M For Murder, a role he reprised in Hitchcock's film version in 1954. He appeared in the 1961 Thriller episode "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," which was based on a story by Robert Bloch, who also wrote the source material for Hitchcock's Psycho. This was the first of ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that he would appear on.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Short Story Review: Men Without Bones by Gerald Kersh

Men Without Bones
By Gerald Kersh
Originally published August 1954, Esquire Magazine

This is the first (and titular) story in the collection of short stories Men Without Bones by Gerald Kersh.

Our narrator here is a man working on a banana boat in Puerto Pobre, and he relates to us how another man, feverish and possibly mad, approaches the crew looking for safe passage from...THE MEN WITHOUT BONES.

He introduced himself as Dr. Goodbody, and tells our narrator, who then tells us, about the lost expedition that he was a part of. After a string of bad luck, all that was left of this group of explorers was Goodbody and Professor Yeoward, and they stumbled across the ancient landing site of a group of Martians.

That night, from out of the jungle that surrounds them, came the gelatinous humanoids...THE MEN WITHOUT BONES.
“They are nothing to be afraid of, actually. It is they who are afraid of you. You can kill them with your boot, or with a stick… They are something like jelly. No, it is not really fear—it is the nausea, the disgust they inspire! It overwhelms! It paralyses! I have seen a jaguar, I tell you—a full-grown jaguar—stand frozen, while they clung to him, in hundreds, and ate him up alive! Believe me, I saw it. Perhaps it is some oil they secrete, some odor they give out… I don’t know…”
As you can see, THE MEN WITHOUT BONES aren't really all that dangerous. The scary part isn't what they are. The scary part is what they represent.

This short story by the relatively obscure author Gerald Kersh should win an award for Best Title if nothing else. It ranks right up there with sci-fi madman Philip K. Dick's The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike. The story itself didn't remind me of PKD, though, but rather of a more science-influenced H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft sometimes used the heard-it-from-a-guy-who-heard-it-from-a-guy narrative device, where the narrator is only telling us a story that he heard, but wasn't actually a part of. Adding a middle-man between the protagonist and the reader gives us one more degree of separation from the truth, giving it an unreal quality. It makes it more difficult to tell if the story being told is "real" or just the hallucinations of a deranged mind.

It seems that this story is held in pretty high regard within science fiction circles, and probably with good reason, though I wasn't as impressed by it as everyone else seems to be. It was a good, quick read, but the final line (where the real bite of the story is located), loses its power after too much scrutiny.

So don't scrutinize it. Just read it, enjoy it, and feel morally superior because you've got bones.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep08: Our Cook's A Treasure (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 108: Our Cook's A Treasure
Original air date: 11.20.55

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Robert Stevens
Based on a story by Dorothy L. Sayers

Ralph Montgomery...Everett Sloane
Mrs. Sutton...Beulah Bondi
Ethel Montgomery...Janet Ward

After suffering from a sudden and short-lived sickness, hardworking real estate agent Ralph Montgomery begins to suspect that his new housekeeper, Mrs. Sutton, is in actuality Mrs. Andrews, the serial poisoner that has been in the newspaper so much lately. He launches an amateur investigation, but will his discoveries come too late? Have he and his beautiful young wife already been poisoned?

It's a pretty good episode, and I only deduced the ending mere seconds before it was revealed. The episode does a good job of making us think precisely what it wants us to think every step of the way. Everett Sloane does an admirable job in the leading role, as the paranoid--perhaps rightfully so--husband.

This episode made me realize a few things. First off, it's amazing how efficient the better episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents are at telling a compact story. This is a plotline that easily could have been drawn out into feature length, and yet here it is presented in under 30 minutes without plot holes and without feeling rushed. It's actually a pretty fantastic feat.

Secondly, it made me realize how much television has changed. It's very rare to see an episode of a modern TV show that hinges on the performances of middle aged (and older) actors. If this were a modern series, we'd have a pair of pretty but vapid twenty-somethings as the Montgomery's, and, maybe if we were lucky, a seasoned 30 year old as the elder Mrs. Sutton.

Everett Sloane had contributed his voice to numerous radio dramas in the 1940s, including Inner Sanctum Mysteries. He was a member of Orson Welles's Mercury Theater, and appeared in his Citizen Kane and The Lady From Shanghai, and acted opposite him in Prince of Foxes. In 1950, he appeared in The Men, Marlon Brando's first film. He appeared in two episodes of The Joseph Cotten Show, Cotten himself also a member of the Mercury Theater and an Alfred Hitchcock alumnus (see the previous episode, "Breakdown"). Sloane voiced the hawk nosed detective in the animated The Dick Tracy Show, and, interestingly, wrote the unused lyrics to the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show. In 1965, at the age of 55, Sloane committed suicide. This was the first of three appearances that he would make on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Janet Ward was primarily a stage actress, but she did rack up a small list of film and television credits, including appearances on Inner Sanctum, Perry Mason, Kojak and Law & Order. She died of heart complications in 1995 at age 70. This was her only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Beulah Bondi began acting as a child, and continued practically her entire life, until only five years before her death at 91. She appeared in a few genre films, including The Invisible Ray (1936) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and She Waits (1972) with Patty Duke, but made a minor cottage industry out of portraying the mother of Jimmy Stewart, which she did in four different films: It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts, and Vivacious Ladies. This was her only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Robert C. Dennis had previously written the episode "Don't Come Back Alive", while Robert Stevens had directed "Premonition". Please see those entries for more information about them.

The source material for this episode was a short story by Dorothy L. Sayers entitled "Suspicion", which has been adapted multiple times. The anthology radio show Suspense adapted it in 1942, though no recordings of this episode are known to exist, and again in 1944 using the same script. They adapted it a third time in 1948 as an hour long episode. The Suspense television show even got in on the act, adapting it in 1949. All of these episodes shared a title with the short story.

"Suspicion" was also adapted for television by The Actor's Studio in 1950, and by Studio One in 1951 (both as "Mr. Mummery's Suspicion"), so even to viewers at the time, it wasn't exactly fresh by the time Alfred Hitchcock Presents took a swing at it in 1955.

"Suspicion: by Dorothy L. Sayers was originally published in 1939, and can be found in various anthology books.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Hole (2009)

The Hole
The Hole - Joe Dante Horror - Poster Image

Written by Mark L. Smith
Directed by Joe Dante

Dane...Chris Massoglia
Julie...Haley Bennett
Lucas...Nathan Gamble

After moving some 2000-odd miles away from home, trying to run from one past trauma or another, brothers Dane and Lucas discover the titular hole hiding beneath a trap door in their basement. They, along with Julie, the hot girl next door, are unable to ascertain its purpose or its depth--indeed, it seems bottomless. But their poking and prodding in the dark pit unleashes an evil force that takes many forms depending on what they are most afraid of, terrorizing them and threatening the new lives they are trying to create for themselves.

The Hole - Joe Dante Horror - Staring into the hole

The actors all do a good job with their roles, even Nathan Gamble as Lucas, who was only eleven when this came out. Chris Massoglia plays teenage Dane well, though occasionally mush-mouthed, but that's probably just the emo coming out. Haley Bennett as Julie is gorgeous and coy, even if the character is sometimes too cool for her own good (she wears sunglasses indoors on at least one occasion). There were a few injokes for the seasoned horror viewer (Orlac's Gloves is the name of a local factory), and it's always nice to see Dante pals Dick Miller and Bruce Dern crop up.

The Hole - Joe Dante Horror - Haley Bennett bikini

And still, this movie disappointed.

(Warning: I'm about to speak in generalities.  Obviously there are exceptions to what I'm about to say, and an entire post could be made on the subject, but this is not that post.)

PG-13 horror films are always risky propositions. They're not intended for children, elsewise they would be rated G (or PG at most). They're not aimed at adults, or they would more than likely be rated R. Most often, they are aimed at teenagers who are in that odd middle demographic, but even then, they more than likely want to watch an R rated film instead. So in many cases, a PG-13 horror film isn't actually intended for any single age group. They are meant for families.

Family friendly horror should be mellow enough for the kiddos, but at the same time offer up enough darkness to keep the older ones interested. It's a difficult balance, but there are a number of films that have managed that balance quite well: The Monster Squad, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, and Arachnophobia to name a few. It's difficult to determine if these films would still be so beloved by us if our initial viewings of them had been as adults, or if a part of our enjoyment is derived from nostalgia.

Which is a long way of saying, we loved those movies. But how do our parents feel about them?

The Hole is a passable effort in the family-friendly horror vein, but I watched it alone, as an adult. Not as a kid or with a kid. Although there were a few instances of creepy imagery (a stutter-walking ghost girl cribbed from Japanese horror flicks actually manages to pull it off better than many of the films it is mimicking), most of the horror was understandably restrained. No self-respecting genre fan past puberty will actually find themselves frightened in any way by the proceedings--though I must admit that the killer clown doll was a badass little bastard.

The Hole - Joe Dante Horror - Killer clown puppet

Enjoyable enough for what it is, but what it is just doesn't add up to much. But the movie isn't meant for me...It's meant for me and my children.

And I don't have children.

92 Minutes
United States

"You've got a gateway to hell under your house.  And that is really cool."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Now THAT'S How You Promote A Horror Film: Mortmain

In 1915, one of the earliest examples of body horror hit the screen in Mortmain, meaning, literally, Dead Hand.  It's one of those films in which a transplant goes wrong, and the transplanted body part maintains a mind of its own--usually dragging the new owner along for the murderous ride.  While browsing some archaic issues of Moving Picture World magazine on my Kindle Fire the other day, I stumbled across this fantastic print ad for the film.  It's in three parts, originally appearing on every other page, so each time you turned the page you would see the same image...only slightly tweaked.  It was simply too badass not to share.

Mortmain Print Ad - Part 1 (1915)

Mortmain Print Ad - Part 2 (1915)

Mortmain Print Ad - Part 3 (1915)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Book Review: Afraid by Jack Kilborn

AFRAID by Jack Kilborn - Cover Art
by Jack Kilborn

I had read on J.A. Konrath's (AKA Jack Kilborn's) blog that when he sat down to write Afraid, he was setting out to craft the scariest story of all time. If it seems like a lofty goal, that's because it is. But it's also a goal that seemingly every author of horror fiction would set for himself when writing any story. But then he went on to say that many people thought he succeeded, and that was enough to intrigue me.

What can I say? I'm easy.

When a black helicopter crash lands in the small rural town of Safe Haven, Wisconsin, the citizens are anything but safe. It was carrying a squadron of scientifically-enhanced soldiers who believe that they have arrived at their intended destination and quickly set out on their mission: kill, maim and destroy.

An entire town against a small handful of soldiers wouldn't be any kind of a fight no matter how well-trained and well-armed the soldiers are, but most of the townsfolk don't realize they're fighting until it's too late. They are viciously slaughtered one-by-one as the soldiers work their way towards their final objective.

One word that you will see in virtually every review of this novel is "relentless", and with good reason. The action and bloodshed kick in on page one and it doesn't stop until the finale. The scenes are brief, switching from one to another at a breakneck pace, always leaving you breathlessly anticipating what comes next.

The core group of our heroes survive explicit scenes of torture that are not for the squeamish, and although they are not as well-realized of characters as you might find in other, longer works, the fact that they are as well drawn as they are is astounding, given the speed of the plot.

It's a fantastic and fast read, even if it does stretch the limits of believability on occasion--but there aren't many genre entries that don't.

But the question on the table is: is this the most frightening story ever written? It's certainly one of the more exciting horror tales I've read in a long while, but thrills don't equal chills. I'm inundated with horror media every day, which has probably dulled my senses to some extent, but I can't honestly say that I was ever frightened while reading this book. But then again, I can't remember the last time a book actually frightened me. I wish I could.

I will tell you this, though: if a helicopter ever crashes in my backyard, THEN I will be afraid. Very, very afraid.

Well worth the cover price, hipsters.

Friday, February 8, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep07: Breakdown (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 107: Breakdown
Original air date: 11.13.55

Written by Francis M. Cockrell & Louis Pollock
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

William Callew...Joseph Cotten
Ed Johnson...Raymond Bailey
Hubka...Forrest Stanley

William Callew, a cold and callous business tycoon is involved in a horrible accident that leaves him in a paralytic state that mimics death. Our immobilized protagonist comes into contact with a surprising number of people, but will any of them realize that he's still alive?

This is a simple, but chillingly effective episode--definitely the most suspenseful yet. It takes the fear of being buried alive, which is highly unlikely, and turns it on its ear, making it utterly believable.

Surely you wouldn't be buried alive. The embalming process would kill you first.

Seeing as how our leading man is paralyzed, he doesn't take part in a ton of action. The action on screen is all happening to him or around him, if at all. In the lonely and silent moments, the camera shifts from one awkward angle to another to keep it as visually interesting as possible while Callew voices his inner monologue.

This is basically Joseph Cotten's show, with only very brief and very minor roles by other actors. Cotten did good enough, meaning he stayed pretty damn still, while narrating his interior thoughts. He didn't have a very active role. How could he? This is sort of the antithesis of Weekend at Bernie's.

Cotten was lucky enough to be a favorite of two amazing directors. He started out in theater, where he worked closely with Orson Welles on numerous productions, becoming a member of his famed Mercury Theater Company. He appeared in Welles' Citizen Kane in 1941, co-scripted (and starred in) the thriller Journey Into Fear with him, and appeared alongside him in The Third Man.

He had previously starred in two of Hitchcock's films, Shadow of a Doubt from 1943, and Under Capricorn from 1949. This was his first of three appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Other notable genre appearances include Gaslight (1944), The Man with a Cloak (1951, portraying Edgar Allan Poe), Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Lady Frankenstein (1971), Baron Blood (1972), The Devil's Daughter (1973), and Soylent Green (1973).

From 1960 until his death in 1994, Cotten was married to the beautiful and exotic actress Patricia Medina, who would later appear in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Francis Cockrell previously wrote the pilot episode of the series, "Revenge", so please see that entry for more information about him. This was his second of 19 scripts contributed to Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Cockrell's writing partner here, Louis Pollock, never wracked up a lot of film credits. He is said to have contributed, uncredited, to The Jackie Robinson Story and Disney's Lady and the Tramp, and he wrote the war documentary Suicide Attack from 1951, as well as two episodes of the anthology series Suspense. He was also an author, and this episode--as well as one of his two episodes of Suspense--was based on his own short story of the same name.

On a side note, Pollock found himself blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1954 after a case of mistaken identity. A store owner by name of Louis Pollack was called upon to testify and he refused, and a clerical error of some sort caused significant damage to Pollock's career, probably explaining his rather lean résumé.

The short story first appeared in the June 7, 1947 issue of Colliers magazine, and was later collected in the anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents A Baker's Dozen of Suspense Stories.

This story served as the inspiration for Stephen King's "Autopsy Room 4", in which a man who has been bitten by a rare snake finds himself in the very same predicament. That character even explicitly states that he has seen the television version of "Breakdown". "Autopsy Room 4" first appeared in the anthology Robert Bloch's Psychos, and later in King's short story collection Everything's Eventual. It was adapted for television as an episode of Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Be sure to check them out if you dug this episode as much as I did.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crazy Keywords for January 2013

It's time once again, hipsters, for us to take a look at some of the wackier search terms that have lead people to my site.  These were some of my favorites for the month of January.  Again, most of my readers appear to be searching for some pretty disturbing pornography.

  • collecting sperm from a human (Sounds very clinical)
  • how do i correctly write 'everybody meet my new neighbor Francois'? (Pretty much just like you did)
  • how does Superman masturbate? (Very carefully)
  • I want to see Ryan Sandefur penis (Judging from the few pics I saw when trying to find out who Ryan Sandefur is, this shouldn't be too difficult)
  • i love boo (And Boo loves you, too)
  • toe sucking teen (The great thing about fetishes is how specific they are)
  • state does Bruce McDonald live in he's the director of my babysitter a (I think someone needs to teach you how internet addresses work...)
  • how does Willie Dynamite control his bitches? (His pimp hand is strong)

That's all for this month.  Come on back in 30 days or so to see what weirdos stumbled onto my blog during the month of February!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Movie Review: Saturday the 14th (1981)

Saturday the 14th
SATURDAY THE 14TH - Poster Image

Written & Directed by Howard R. Cohen

John...Richard Benjamin
Debbie...Kari Michaelson
Mary...Paula Prentiss
Waldemar...Jeffrey Tambor

SATURDAY THE 14TH - Title Screen

When I was a youngster frequenting the local mom 'n' pop video store, one of my more frequent rentals was the title Saturday the 14th Strikes Back.  Even after multiple viewings, I had somehow convinced myself that the title was a joke, that it wasn't a sequel to another film.  Like Leonard Part 6, starring Bill Cosby.  Eventually, my father clued me in to the fact that it was a sequel--he had seen the original--but unfortunately the video store didn't carry it.  Don't ask me why.

Now, all these years later, I've finally been give the chance to see the original Saturday the 14th thanks to the wonders of Netflix Instant.  Was it worth the extended wait?  Not by a long shot.  But to be fair, if I watched Strikes Back through modern eyes, it surely wouldn't hold up either.

SATURDAY THE 14TH - Soon All Ded

The plot is fairly simple:  A family moves into an old house they inherited after the death of a relative, paying little to no mind to the curse that is said to be hanging over the estate.  The precocious young son finds a book called the Book of Evil and when he opens it, he unleashes a legion of cheap, goofy-looking monsters and the family has to come together to save themselves, save the neighborhood, and save the world.

In case the title hasn't clued you in, this is a spoof film.  The IMDB synopsis would have you believe that it is "primarily a spoof of the Friday the 13th series", but that's not even close to true.  Aside from the title, there's nary a reference to Jason Voorhees or Camp Crystal Lake.  It takes gentle pokes at a small handful of other films, though, including Dracula, The Birds, Creature From The Black Lagoon and Jaws (at the same time).

It is, at times, amusing in an eye-rolling sort of way, but it is rarely if ever actually funny.  It's not even very clever.  The acting is generally hammy and well over-the-top, and the special effects are a noxious soup made of corn and cheese.

And yet, despite the flaws, I did find myself enjoying this movie.  Can one be nostalgic for something they've never seen before?  I suppose, in certain situations, you can be.  Nostalgia by proxy.

If this were the sort of thing you enjoyed as a kiddie, then you might want to give it a watch.  But for the rest of you, you might find yourself disappointed.

SATURDAY THE 14TH - Bath time for beauties

On an interesting side note, the house in this movie is on Elm Street, and there is a scene with the daughter taking a bath that closely mimics the famous scene with Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) in the original Nightmare on Elm Street.  However, this movie came out a full three years before Nightmare on Elm Street hit theaters.

Rated PG
75 Minutes
United States

"If you weren't immortal, you'd kill yourself."

Friday, February 1, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep06: Salvage (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode 106: Salvage
Original air date 11.06.55

Written by Fred Freiberger & Richard Carr
Directed by Jus Addiss

Dan Varrel...Gene Barry
Lois Williams...Nancy Gates

Lois Williams is in a lot of trouble. Recently released criminal Dan Varrel is on her tail and seeking revenge because she was inadvertently responsible for the death of his younger brother, gunned down by police on a robbery job. When Dan catches up to her, Lois doesn't even seem too concerned about her impending demise, seems, in fact, to welcome it--which Dan does not appreciate in the least.

He has a change of heart and not only lets her live, but also gives her a life. He gets her a good job, solves her economic woes, and convinces her lousy suitor Tim Grady to quit his playing around and marry her.

So why is this greasy gangster suddenly playing the role of life coach? It's certainly not because he found religion while on the inside. He's much too nefarious for that.

The acting is good here, especially by the two leads. Gene Barry plays well as a scheming scumbag, and just as well playing as a scheming scumbag playing that he has a heart of gold. Nancy Gates was also good as the harried and paranoid victim of hard luck and hard knocks.

This is a pretty solid episode, although it certainly has its moments of misogyny. At the start, Lois enters a bar and is promptly told that she has to leave. "Sorry, miss, but we don't serve unescorted ladies at the bar." Then when Dan finds her, he craves her subjugation, wanting to see her on her knees and begging for his life before he offs her.

Gene Barry had previously appeared in the episode entitled "Triggers in Leash", so please see that review for more information about him. This was his second and final appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, having gone from a gunslinger to a gangster.

Nancy Gates had appeared in two different Gildersleeve films and the science fiction movie World Without End, but she is most well known for her part in Suddenly with Frank Sinatra, which earns her some hipster cred as well. She married J. William Hayes in 1946 and had four children, including producers Chip Hayes (who worked on Melrose Place) and Jeffrey M. Hayes who produced the 2004 remake of Salem's Lot and the Stephen King anthology series Nightmares and Dreamscapes. This was the first of two appearances she would make in Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Fred Freiberger was a scriptwriter with a very varied career, careening from horror and sci-fi, to westerns, to cartoons, and various mashups therein. He wrote the script for the films The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Beginning of the End ("Filmed in new HORRORSCOPE!"), and contributed to TV shows like Rawhide, The Wild Wild West, The New Scooby Doo Mysteries, and Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, as well as Space: 1999, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Superboy. He was also a producer, however his track record in this capacity has given him an unfair reputation as a "Series Killer", as Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Space: 1999 were all cancelled while he was on the job. This was his only contribution to Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Richard Carr, who shared scripting duties on this episode, contributed to many Western television shows, including Rawhide, Bonanza, Gunsmoke and 50 episodes of The Guns of Will Sonnett. This was one of three episodes he scripted of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Justus "Jus" Addiss directed the film The Cry Baby Killer (featuring a young Jack Nicholson) in 1958, and also did work on the Twilight Zone and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. His life partner was the "unashamedly gay" (in the words of Barbara Eden) actor Hayden Roarke, best known for his role as Dr. Bellows on I Dream of Jeannie. This was the first of ten episodes that Addiss would direct.



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