Happy Independence Day!

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I wish all a happy and safe 4th of July.  Please celebrate safely, have fun, and take a moment to remember all those who sacrificed to bring freedom.

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Let us also remember that freedom includes everyone of all races, religions, ethnicities, backgrounds, classes, sexual orientations, creeds, and neurodiversities–and any others I may have forgotten.  Freedom demands inclusion, not exclusion. We must always remember that. We are all connected. We, all of us, are the people.

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Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

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I have changed the title of my horror novel Evil Lives After to Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I.  An extraordinary cover has been designed for the book by Judy Bullard at customebookcovers@cox.net.  I recommend her highly. Her designs are professional and of excellent quality, and Judy will work with you to create the cover you need and are happy with!

I am targeting late September for the book’s release.

Here is a little about my novel:

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

Roosevelt Theodore Franklin attempts to make it through life day by day.  Roosevelt is a widower, who lost his beloved wife to cancer and a retired history professor, and he has not stopped grieving.  Along with his two closest friends, also retired and who have also lost loved ones, the three men form a paranormal investigation group.  They hope to find an answer to the question: is there life after death?

When asked by a local teacher to investigate a possible haunting of her house, the group discovers an evil beyond anything they could have imagined.  This is no mere ghost. Maledicus, who was in life a pimp, torturer, and murderer during Caligula’s reign in Rome, in death has become a sociopathic demon that attacks the weak and the innocent.  Maledicus threatens a five year old child’s life and soul.  Terrified by what they have discovered, Roosevelt and his friends must choose to either walk away from this threat, or to do battle with this ancient creature at the potential loss of their sanities, their lives, and their souls.

Look for my book to follow this battle.

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Curse of the Werewolf

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The decade of the 1960s saw the production of many horror films, some fairly standard offerings and some innovative. In 1961, Hammer Studios continued the re-imagining of classic horror characters, which they had begun with The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, in the release of The Curse of the Werewolf. 

Movie audiences in 1961 were still very aware of the image of Universal Studios’ The Wolfman and its assorted sequels with Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the unfortunate and reluctant lycanthrope. Talbot, a good man, was cursed to become a killing monster after having been bitten by a werewolf while attempting, unsuccessfully, to save a girl from its attack. This cinematic image was one that would be very difficult to alter for the horror viewing audience.

While not making viewers forget Lon Chaney Jr. and Larry Talbot, The Curse of the Werewolf, directed by Terence Fisher, did establish new cinematic territory in this often overlooked, but important, film. This film, unlike its Universal predecessors, which were made primarily in black and white and influenced heavily by German Expressionism, is shot in color and features an almost blond werewolf in an extremely effective makeup and, for the time, a great deal of blood.

The star of this film, in his first movie, is Oliver Reed, who would go on to have a long and productive career as a film actor. Set in 18th Century Spain, the film bases its lycanthropy  on the juxtaposition of two events: Leon is the result of a peasant girl being raped, and he is born on Christmas Day, which was considered a very unlucky event. Leon is raised by a kindly man, but when puberty hits, besides the normal changes in his body, he becomes literally a monster.  What would Freud have to say about that?

Just as religion plays a part in his curse, so does it in his death. His step-father, a kindly man becomes the agent of his release. His step-father has a silver bullet made from a cross.  He shoots Leon with it, while his step-son is in the form of the monster; thus, he  destroys the werewolf and release’s Leon’s soul, but it also fills his step-father with deep grief.

Like the previous Hammer productions, this film continues with its exploration of sex and violence, going further than that which had been seen in the Universal films. While tame in sexual depictions by our contemporary standards, it was shocking to many audiences of the time.

From a critical perspective, this film also introduces an element of class critique. The young woman who is raped at the beginning of the film comes from abject poverty at the lowest level of the class structure, and the man who puts her in the cell, setting up the circumstances for the attack, is a Marques, a Spanish nobleman. Clearly, the film indicts the abuse of power and the class inequity of that time. If this were an academic paper, I would focus heavily on the class critique, but I simply wanted to draw attention to it briefly in this post.

The Curse of the Werewolf was another successful entry in Hammer Studios’ new cycle of horror films, although unlike the Dracula and Frankenstein movies, it would not generate a run of sequels. On its own, however, it rates as a film of importance in the horror genre.

Overall, if you have not seen this film, I give it a very strong recommendation.

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Science Fiction Films of the 1950s: Them

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https://en.wikipedia.org

One of the main themes that ran through many science fiction films of the 1950s was the combined fear of nuclear war, nuclear explosions, and fallout. This atomic fear is one large terror that haunted the Cold War world and was developed in many ways in science fiction films.

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One such expression was in the advent of the giant bug movies, which addressed the question of what might happen to  the world after radiation had somehow been released either through detonation of weapons or by accident. In Japan, the consequences of having been the only nation to have suffered the devastation of nuclear bombs, saw the emergence of giant monsters like Godzilla, often seen destroying Japanese cities–a very direct metaphor for nuclear explosions. In America, a similar motif was seen in the proliferation of Giant Bug movies.  This might be considered an early example of ecological concern in cinema.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

Them, a 1954 production by Warner Bros, starred James Arness and James Whitmore. In the beginning of the movie, a little girl was found alone and traumatized, saying only “them, them.” The girl was rescued, but during the investigation, other people were found who have been killed, and the perpetrators were discovered to be giant ants.  The monsters were created when normal ants came upon sugar that had been irradiated by atomic weapons testing.  They reached the height and size of small military tanks and were ferocious killers and hunters.  This film made Americans think about the potential risks from insects that would normally have been viewed, at the worst, as mere pests at picnics.  Radiation had the capacity to distort they way we  interacted with the world.

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http://themindreels.com

Eventually, the creatures were hunted down and destroyed by the use of flame-throwers.  As would be the motif in most of the giant bug movies, the world was saved by using technology against technologically-created creatures.  At the conclusion of the movie, a warning was given in solemn tones that we have entered a new world in the atomic age, and we have to be aware of its dangers. These are themes that would be repeated frequently in other giant bug movies.

If you have not seen this one, it is worth a look.  It may not be the best film of all time, but it does introduce important Cold War themes into science fiction cinema.

Science-Fiction Films of the 1950s: The Day The Earth Stood Still

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https://en.wikipedia.org

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a brilliant science-fiction film that set the standards, in many ways, for other following films.  One of the great strengths of the genre of science-fiction as well as horror and fantasy is its ability to comment on direct issues in contemporary society.  In this 20th Century Fox film, the director, Robert Wise uses the arrival of an alien spaceship on earth as a cautionary message about the potential of the human race to cause its own self-destruction through atomic warfare.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

The core plot element is that beings from advanced civilizations on other planets have found people on earth have developed both nuclear weapons and a space program. They have sent an emissary, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, to deliver a gift and a warning to the people of Earth.  The gift, a small box, was destroyed by a frightened soldier who thought it was a threat. In reality, it was a device that would have allowed humans to study the universe. With the gift gone, what is left is a warning that if human beings insist on bringing their atomic weapons and violence into space with them, then earth and its inhabitants will be destroyed utterly. This message is a quietly subversive challenge through what was seen as just a movie to the nuclear states of the world.

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http://highlandcoldwar8.wikispaces.com

A staple of science-fiction, both cinema and television is the robot.  This kind of machine will figure into film in many ways from the earliest days to recent film.  The Day The Earth Stood Still has such a machine in Gort, a robot that serves as an aide  to the alien Klaatu.  Earth people view it as a threat, as they do everything alien, which is yet another point to the movie.  Xenophobia and bigotry, unfortunate human capacities, were at the forefront of American society in the late 1940s and 1950s.  If someone was different from the so-called norm, then they were somehow bad and immoral.  This will be the main point of the next movie I will examine in this series: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Day The Earth Stood Still was a critical success and has been named by several film organizations as one of the most important films of American cinema.  If you have not yet seen this movie, and I am NOT talking about the remake, then I recommend it highly.

 

Dining With Characters: Part 4

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John Trumball

I chose this painting for the mood of calm it suggests, perhaps after a storm.  It seems like an ideal piece to suggest that redemption is possible.

For this particular culinary and fictional interlude, I want to speak with a few characters who have achieved redemption at the end of the work in which they appear: Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Leontes from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. Some characters are heroic from the beginning of the story through to the end, but some, if not the complete antagonist of the tale, are deeply flawed. In the cases of these three characters they are all deeply damaged, if not morally defective when we see them much earlier in their respective works.

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https://commons.wikipedia.org

I thought given the nature of these men, an afternoon of a few glasses of ale might be the perfect way to discuss what they have learned or how they came to an understanding of what they needed to change in their lives. Scrooge, of course, had to learn not to focus his life on the acquisition and hoarding of material goods, that people and their welfare should be his concern.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontes

Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, allows baseless and unprovoked jealousy to overtake him, and he becomes a vicious tyrant who casts out his loving wife and infant daughter.  He also loses his son to death as a consequence of his terrible actions. It is only at the end of the play when he sees a “statue” of his wife Hermione come to life that he is able to understand the enormous errors he has made and their horrible consequences.  He has to face knowing that his actions cause deep and almost unimaginable pain to other people.  At the end of the play, he is a changed man, one who seemingly has grown as a result of his wife’s extraordinary act of mercy.  His redemption can come only through the forgiveness of another.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand

At the beginning of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, Larry Underwood is a dissolute rock and roll emerging star, who has fallen prey to temptation, drugs, and a very dangerous crowd. He comes back east to visit his mother just in time for the outbreak of Captain Trips. If you have not read this book, I will go no further with the plot, but I do recommend it highly.  King acknowledged that this book was his homage to Lord Of The Rings, and the same level of epic sweep and individual morality and action occurs here.  For Larry Underwood, his most powerful moment is that of personal sacrifice.

As a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I am very interested in how characters change within the arc of a story.  I would want to ask these three how it felt to achieve their most powerful changes at or near the climax of the pieces.

Best TV Shows of the 1950s and 1960s–Part Three: Have Gun Will Travel

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

For the third entry in this series about what I consider to be the best TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s, I want to mention a series that might not be as well known as the previous two I have discussed: Have Gun Will Travel.  This western ran from 1957 to 1963 and starred Richard Boone as Paladin, the man with the gun for hire.

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The name Paladin, which refers to medieval wandering knights was the working name of the main character, an educated man who charged for his services as a mercenary, except when he was defending or fighting for the poor or the week.  I have been deeply interested in the legends and mythology of knights, and I suspect this is what triggered, if you forgive the pun, my fascination with this idea.

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For me, the most important episode was in the first season: “The Teacher.”  In this episode, Paladin was hired by a rancher to help remove a local schoolteacher who was teaching other than what the local people wanted to hear.  Paladin ends up defending her and takes no offer of money, because he believed that she was doing the most important work in society.

While it was a western, filled with gunfights and fisticuffs, it was also an introduction for me to the idea of honor and standing up for those who are weaker. It also showed the importance of education for society, a value that I honor as of the highest importance.

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Do any of you remember this show?

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