Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

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Maledicus Final

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.

3 Days Quotation Challenge: Day 2

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I was nominated by Marc Alexander Valle at https://mavtheauthor.wordpress.com for this quotation challenge. Thank you, Marc for this honor and challenge!  If any of you have not visited his blog, please drop in and read the work of a talented writer. This is day 2 of the challenge.

My quotation of the day!

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(http://mrsflaherty.wikispaces.com)

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small everyday deeds of everyday folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”

                                                             J.R.R. Tolkien  The Hobbit

 

The Rules:

1.) Either once a day for three days, post a quotation, or post all 3 quotations at one time. It is your choice.

2.) Nominate and notify three other bloggers of the challenge.

3.) Thank the blogger who nominated you.

The nominees are under no obligation to complete this challenge, but it would be fun if you do.

My Nominees:

Mitch at The Power of Story Mitch Teemley  https://mitchteemley.com/

spearfruit at Spearfruit…it’s my life https://spearfruit.com/

Lisa at Lisa Lancaster Writer https://lisalancaster.wordpress.com

Once again, thank you very much to Marc https://mavtheauthor.wordpress.com for this challenge!

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Birds

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After Psycho in 1960, Alfred Hitchcock directed and produced his other masterpiece of horror in 1963: The Birds. Both of these movies place Hitchcock in the forefront of filmmakers, not only in America, but in the history of world cinema. The Birds was based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, and starred Tippi Hedren in her first featured role, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy, an extraordinary cast.

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(https://pixabay.com)

The movie follows an unexplained series of attacks that centers on a small California coastal village of Bodega Bay. That the attacks come without warning are crucial to developing a central theme of this film: that nature can strike back at humanity without warning. It is a mid-20th century movie that posits an ecological warning to the world that we are not alone and our actions are not without potential consequences. Certainly, this might not be the only way to view this film, but I suggest it is a central and deeply important theme.

As such, the ecologically horrific implications transcend the horror film aspect of the story, which is very powerful and effective, even nearly 53 years later. Hitchcock creates great tensions and frights throughout the film, often alternating sense of sparse filmic density with overloaded density of visual images to create impact. For example, the scene of the attack on the school begins with Melanie Daniels, Tippi Hendren, going to check on her friend, the schoolteacher. Daniels realizes that a class is still in session in the very quaint, old-fashioned schoolhouse, so she goes to smoke a cigarette. Remember, this is the 1960s, when most people smoked. She sits on a bench with a hill behind her, a schoolyard, and a wide expanse of sky. It is peaceful, serene, and visually calm. Then, in a classic moment of dramatic irony, we see the jungle gym behind her slowly filling with crows.  By the time Daniels notices the coming birds, the schoolyard is filled with them, creating a vast threatening menace. Without going into all the details of what happens, in case any of you have not seen  this film, it is a powerful and terrifying sequence.

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The film was a very expensive production for that time, costing between 2.5 to 3 million dollars, and it brought in over 11 million.  By any standards, it was highly successful and has elicited many forms of critical academic reaction, but all, or almost all, agree that it is a masterwork.

I give this movie my highest recommendation. If you love cinema, American movies, or horror films, you need to see it.

Rest In Peace Pat Conroy

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PatConroy

The world of letters, of books, of reading, and of writing lost another important figure on Friday 3/4/16. Best known for his books The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, Conroy was a major figure in American literature. Conroy lived in South Carolina, and his books frequently featured a southern setting, but they often dealt with universal themes: family and its difficulties and conflicts, war, oppression, exploitation, love, and violence.

His works also include: The Lords of Discipline, Beach Music, My Reading Life, and South of Broad. Several of his writing were made into successful movies.

Conroy said, “Writing is more about imagination than anything else. I fell in love with words. I fell in love with storytelling.”

Rest In Peace Pat Conroy

Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: Psycho

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(https://it.wikipedia.org)

It is time to both revisit and move forward with my series on horror films. Psycho (1960) is a Paramount Film that was both produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock and was based on the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch.  This movie stands as one of the best, not only horror but American, films as a whole. Hitchcock is, without a doubt, an auteur, one of the great Masters of American cinema, and this film had huge influence on the creation of slasher films and psychopathic villains in films.

The film revolutionized the way the public viewed evil; it did not have to be supernaturally based nor a radiation caused event; rather, Hitchcock established that the human mind and life experience could create more frightening monsters than vampires and werewolves. These are people who suffered horror, and their creators were other people, at least in most cases of psychopathology.

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(https://it.wikipedia.org)

Psycho had an exemplary cast. Among the actors were Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam, and Vera Miles. All gave extraordinary performances in this movie.  From the deeply disturbing opening sequence of the murder in the shower to the end revelation of Norman Bates’ level of insanity, the film is a masterpiece of cinema.

Hitchcock’s cinematic formalism is evident in his complete control of every detail of each shot. This is a film that is created with the planned brushstrokes of a master artist. The power of the murder scene in the Bates Motel bathroom is so strong that many people watch it and believe they have seen much more than they actually have.  Hitchcock never shows the killer’s knife entering the body of Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh.  Hitchcock’s use of careful angles and reaction shots as the young women is being murdered makes the viewers perceive more than is being shown on the screen.  The effect is far more powerful than later films which would rely primarily on gore to have an impact and not on story and cinematic technique.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

It is also interesting to note that the first victim, Marion Crane, was a woman who had committed a crime, in the theft of a substantial amount of money from her boss.  Hitchcock would establish this pattern that was too often used to the point of becoming cliched that the so-called “bad” girl was the one to be killed.  Additionally, if Norman Bates is also viewed as a victim of the circumstances of his own life, then the film focuses primarily on the impact of these crimes on the young.  This is certainly not exclusive; others who are older are also attacked, but Hitchcock seemed to be exploring the effect of this horror on the younger generation. Perhaps he also understood that group was the primary audience for his film.

Psycho made an extraordinary profit at the box office, and it was nominated for several Academy Awards.  Its legacy is well established. Norman Bates is a character who has grown past this film and entered into the public’s awareness through other remakes and adaptations, and many of the motifs of horror/slasher/gothic films are derived from this movie.

Psycho must be seen as one of the best films in American cinema, and Hitchcock is one of the American film masters. If you have not seen this movie and are prepared for powerful images and shocks, then I recommend it highly. It is one of the best films of all time.

 

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.

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. These are themes which frightened many people.

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Quotations from Harper Lee And Umberto Eco

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To honor the writings of the two recently deceased great writers, Harper Lee and Umberto Eco, I wanted to offer these quotations in remembrance:

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http://mayfieldfhs.wikispaces.com

  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”                                                                                                      Harper Lee  To Kill A Mockingbird

  “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”                                                    Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird

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https://es.wikipedia.org

 “Love is wiser than wisdom.”                                                                                                        Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

“This, in fact, is the power of the imagination,  which, combining the memory of gold with that of the mountain, can compose the idea of a golden mountain.”

                                                 Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose

 

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.

 

Favorite Science Fiction Films of the 1950s: The War Of The Worlds

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https://en.wikipedia.org

I have been discussing horror films primarily in my blog, but I want to extend my examination to science fiction movies also. Certainly the two genres have much in common, especially in their examination of very real social issues through the motif of the creation of fantasy worlds. They also differ in their focus on monsters or unseen fears in horror and on the dangerous use of technology in science-fiction.

The 1950s was a decade  that saw the emergence of science-fiction films into the public consciousness, especially reflecting the twin fears of the Cold War: of communists and of nuclear annihilation. These were the kind of enormous social anxieties that played well in the genre of science-fiction.

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In 1953, H. G. Wells’ classic novel The War Of The Worlds was adapted into a contemporary American setting in their feature film. A previous incarnation had been the 1938 Radio production for the Mercury Theater on the Air by Orson Welles. This was the famous production that had sent much of the United States into a panic, thinking that the country was being invaded.

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http://www.openculture.com

In post World War Two America, after having experienced an attack on native land by a foreign country and being one of the major forces in a global war of unprecedented scale, the time was correct for a newer adaptation of the novel. The world had suffered devastating losses with a conservative estimate of the dead at 56 million. Immediately upon the ending of that war, NATO and the Soviet Union faced each other in an often silent but still hugely dangerous new kind of conflict.  Fears of a new invasion and of complete destruction permeated the country. This 1953 movie, made by Paramount Pictures, produced by George Pal, and starring Gene Barry, addressed those concerns directly.

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http://scifi.stackexchange.com

Shot in Technicolor and set in California, the film employs sleek new special effects, although dated by today’s standards, and shows powerful alien spaceships from Mars attacking Earth.  The planet’s powerful military defenses are useless against the superior technology of the invaders. (This point, which was a crucial theme against England’s colonizing of countries with lesser technological abilities, was dropped from this film.) Neither God nor the figure of the young scientist, who would save the world in other movies, had any impact on the invaders.  Even the atomic bomb, which had been used to force the surrender of Japan in World War Two, had no ability to break the Martians’ defense. The world is saved only by germs in the environment to which the Martians have no immunity.

It is a powerful film, and a reflection of the fears of that time. If you enjoy science-fiction cinema, take a look at this movie.

 

 

 

A New Semester

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https://www.flickr.com

Today is the beginning of a new semester at one of the two colleges where I am teaching; next week the other school begins, and I am very excited. I always feel like this at the beginning of a new session.  I certainly needed the winter break after last semester, which was very busy, but now I am filled with energy and ready to begin.

I will have a varied group of classes, but tonight I begin with Medieval Literature at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College.  Among the texts we will read are Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and Le Morte d’Arthur.  I love these works, and I hope that the class enjoys studying them.

I have to go and put the finishing touches on today’s opening lecture.

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Photograph by my wife Liz French (2014)