Sunday, September 30, 2012

Blue Devils, Caches, and Chicken Salad


Reviewer Bob Morrish gives Blue Devil Island the treatment, here: Rainey's Blue Devil Island Deftly Combines War and Horror Fiction. You can still get the beautifully produced paperback edition from Marietta Books from Amazon.com here. The original Five Star Books hardback is, alas, out of print.

I needed a hike something fierce today, as I haven't gotten in much extracurricular walking this week. So, I went out to nearby Keeley Park, one of Greensboro's newest recreational facilities, and hid a new geocache, called Frankenstein Conquers the World — yes, after the Toho monster pic (the two companion caches in the park are War of the Gargantuas: Sanda and War of the Gargantuas: Gaira). It wasn't a big hike by any stretch, but so choked with briers and poison ivy that I did get a pretty fair workout in the process.

I whipped up some chicken salad for lunch today, and damn if I didn't get to experimenting a bit: I hit it with some Dave's Ultimate Insanity, which isn't so much a hot sauce as a concentrated burst of liquid fire (about 250,000 Scoville units). Might as well give you my recipe, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Damned Rodan's Ultimate Chicken Salad
(Makes about four sandwiches)

What You Need:
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, torn to bits
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 dozen Trader Joe's jalapeno-stuffed olives, diced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Tbsp. soy sauce
  • dash of powdered garlic
  • dash of celery salt
  • dash of powdered ginger
  • 3–4 drops Dave's Ultimate Insanity

What You Do:

Combine the ingredients in a big bowl and smash 'em up. Scoop some on sandwich bread. Eat. Scream.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

At Long Last, Megalon



Godzilla vs. Megalon (Gojira tai Megaro
, 1973)

DVD Description:
Released by Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock; additional material: none

Directed by Jun Fukuda

Starring: Katsuhiko Sasaki, Hiroyuki Kawase, Yutaka Hayashi, Robert Dunham, Kotaro Tomita

Rating:


For way too many years, Godzilla fans have eagerly awaited an officially sanctioned U.S. DVD release of Godzilla vs. Megalon — ironically, one of the most reviled entries in the Godzilla series. Till now, no licensed U.S. release has existed, so fans who have never availed themselves to the Japanese Region 2 DVD edition have made do with bootlegs; poor quality foreign editions; or unauthorized pan-and-scan versions (which several U.S. distributors released in the 1990s and early 2000s when they assumed the movie was in public domain; it wasn't, and Toho's near all-powerful attorneys had them all yanked). Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock had plans to release a deluxe package that included all kinds of extra material, as they did with the Destroy All Monsters release from last year; unfortunately, they had not received approval from Toho for the extras for either movie, so — once again — Toho's near all-powerful attorneys had the Destroy All Monsters discs yanked and stalled the release of Godzilla vs. Megalon until such time as a satisfactory licensing deal could be worked out. Tokyo Shock finally got approval to release a bare-bones DVD of Megalon with no extra features, and that's what we currently have in circulation. A Blu-ray edition is in the works that is to include the extensive extras, but it won't be hitting the market for some time yet.

I saw the U.S. theatrical release of Godzilla vs. Megalon in 1976 at the drive-in theater in my old hometown. My younger brother accompanied me, and I'm not sure he's ever forgiven me the experience. It's not my least favorite of the Godzilla movies... but, to be sure, it's damn near at the bottom of the list.

Toho made Megalon during the one of Japanese film industry's worst economic downturns, and the movie advertises that fact in big neon letters. Like Godzilla's Revenge and Godzilla vs. Gigan before it, Megalon comes loaded with stock footage, and the new special effects scenes are, for the most part, sparser than sparse. There are a few exceptions, such as an impressive sequence where Megalon destroys a dam and smashes a bridge. Visually, the movie does benefit from very colorful, widescreen cinematography and quite a few spectacular explosions, courtesy of special effects director Teruyoshi "Mr. Pyrotechnics" Nakano. The monster wrestling matches have some entertainment value, though, by and large, they're simply silly — particularly the empty suit flinging and distinctly non-giant-monsterish hopping and flopping about, as the critters are wont to do. The Godzilla suit is one of the worst ever, being quite scrawny with a muppet-style face and balloon-like feet and dorsal fins. Megalon is the neatest looking one of the bunch — a giant, anthropomorphic insect, more or less — but, sadly, in execution, it is mostly a big buffoon. A shame, it is.

As with a number of the later Showa-era Godzilla movies, the story is nothing to get excited about. Numerous nuclear tests have done serious damage to a mysterious undersea kingdom known as Seatopia, so — rather than reveal their existence and say "hey, knock it off!" to the surface dwellers — the Seatopians decide to send their guardian monster Megalon up from the depths to wipe out humanity. To accomplish this, they require the use of a robot called Jet Jaguar (to act as Megalon's guidance system, so to speak), created by inventor Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki). Ibuki lives with his little brother Roku-san (Hiroyuki Kawase) and friend Jinkawa (Yutaka Hayashi); Seatopian agents attempt to eliminate the lot of them in order to take control of the robot, but they manage to escape, and Goro overrides Jet Jaguar's altered programming by using his personal remote control unit. He sends Jet Jaguar to Monster Island to fetch Godzilla, who happily agrees to come whoop some Seatopian ass. In response, the Seatopians call on their friends from Space Hunter M Nebula and ask them to send the monster Gigan around to help out their own big critter. Jet Jaguar, evidently possessed of unfathomable technological skills, grows to gigantic size to better match its rivals. Together, Jet Jaguar and Godzilla get into a big old scrap with the villainous critters and — believe it or not — eventually get the better of them.

To me, the most satisfying daikaiju movies are the ones in which the producers' approach is based on the idea that "if the world of giant monsters existed, it would be like this." Godzilla vs. Megalon is not one of these. It's one of those in which the producers say, "Well, no, giant monsters don't exist, so we can just throw in any old shit we want to." This is not to say I don't enjoy this more lighthearted, kid-friendly approach; I do. It's just that it's a cheap and easy way to avoid constructing or relying on any sort of internal logic. Perhaps the most ridiculous example of this is Jet Jaguar growing to Godzilla's height, which Goro, its inventor, explains by saying, well, he must programmed himself to grow — as a survival mechanism. Yeah, all right. I know, it's a Godzilla movie, but still....

Godzilla vs. Megalon does contain what must surely be one of the most bizarre schemes ever devised by its protagonists. In order to reclaim their laboratory from the Seatopian agent who has taken it over, Goro and Roku-san visit a hobby store and "borrow" a large, radio-controlled F-86 Sabre jet model. When they return to the lab, they knock out the external video surveillance system, and when the Seatopian agent comes outside to see what's happened, Roku-san lets fly the model plane, which boops the agent in the head, knocking him senseless long enough for them to get back inside. Perhaps a brick would have been simpler...?

Back when the movie was first released, I quite hated Riichiro Minabe's musical score, having been so accustomed to Akira Ifukube's majestic monster themes. Nowadays, I actually enjoy Minabe's jazzy, lounge-lizard-style music, both on its own merit and because its dated quality helps place the movie firmly within its unique historical context. When I listen to daikaiju soundtrack music, it's actually one of the scores I listen to most.

The Tokyo Shock DVD, for a bare-bones release, is pretty much okay. The print and transfer quality is quite good — a darn sight better than anything we've seen before on this side of the water, perhaps save the widescreen print that the Sci-Fi Channel aired a good many years ago, which I did have recorded on VHS tape. It would be nice to have the extra features, but for the moment, I'm pretty content to get the movie itself in decent quality. It's not as if I'm going to be watching it very frequently anyway....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fun Blood


And more on the subject of vampires....

If you've checked in here recently, you've no doubt seen my little blurbs for Young Blood: Evil Intentions, a new indie vampire flick made by Martinsville natives Myron and Mat Smith, both nephews of my longtime Martinsville classmate Sarah Smith. Back in March, I had been on the set to appear as an extra (see Young Blood: The Movie, March 9, 2012). The premiere was last night at the Rives Theater in uptown Martinsville — the same theater where I saw the vast majority of the most memorable monster pics of my youth — so Kimberly and I rode up from Greensboro after work to make a blood-filled evening of it.

First stop was Rania's Restaurant, one of my favorite venues in town, where we met Sarah, her brother Dod, our mutual friend Susan Fleenor, and some of their respective families and friends. Oh, my gracious me — look! Sarah is a vampire! Wait... there are other vampires at the table. How cool is that? Unlike some bloodsuckers, Brugger and I do drink wine; in this case, a most delightful 2008 Ecco Domani Pinot Noir.

Then it's on to the Rives theater, just around the block, where we find a long line has gathered well before showtime. Here, I run into an old friend from childhood, Pete Wells, now a Georgia native, as well as Young Blood poster artist — and former Deathrealm contributor — Leon Atkinson. In fact, it's a sold-out show, as a fair percentage of Martinsville has turned out for the event.

Here's the story: "Raised in a torn home, young Anavey discovers she has the ability to make big changes, with even bigger consequences. She, with the loyal help of her little sister Anastasia, form an army of young, blood-thirsty vampires to kill all the adults. No one is safe, especially the girls' mother, Olivia (Rebecca Kidd), and their abusive, overbearing stepfather, Dale Buckmeyer (Myron Smith). Will Anavey’s dreams become a reality? Will Anastasia escape the cult before it’s too late? Will the angry mob put an end to the insanity?"

In old-timey roadshow fashion, the movie opened with a classic Popeye cartoon, followed by an MPAA-style warning that the following movie "most likely would have been rated R." And aye, that it would. Young Blood is a screaming hoot from start to finish, with over-the-top performances, over-the-top sight gags, plenty of local scenery, a perfect musical score, and a few brief appearances by ye old dude, including a little ad-libbed speaking role. The young leads, Autumn Ward and Zoë Cox, are absolutely engaging. Without a doubt, one of the movie's standout features is Troma Entertainment actor Lloyd Kaufman as an alcoholic newscaster, who periodically breaks into the film to report on the shocking events happening in the little town of Martindale, VA. His interplay with Star News reporter Dick "DICK!" Jansen is beyond priceless — and his final appearance at the climax literally stops the show, which rightly brought the house down. Now, having had a little hand in this movie and knowing many of the people involved in its production, my view is anything but objective, but suffice it to say I had the best time at the premiere, and I imagine that just about anyone with a love for indie horror flicks — and a keen sense of humor — will find Young Blood a monstrously enjoyable vampire outing. I'm not sure when the DVD release will be available, but I'll post the info when I get it.

Young Blood: Evil Intentions stars Autumn Ward, Zoë Cox, Rebecca Kidd, Myron Smith, Brett Smith, Cletus Earles, Robert Hobbs, Cindy G. Price, and Rita J. Smith, who are all Martinsville natives. Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Entertainment), Dick Jansen (Star News), Count Smokula, Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Sal “The Vampire Santa” Lizard, Jamison Newlander (The Lost Boys), and Sierra Holmes (Piranha 3DD) make special guest appearances in the movie.
The kids in Martindale, VA, are acting strangely. Some of them are becoming little blood-sucking
hellions intent on ridding the community of the adults who oppress them.
Anastasia and Anavey take no guff.
The townspeople become unruly.
Don't cross these young'uns, or you may find yourself with a knife in your eye (or your feet
being carried off by housecats).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Long Shadows

Cast of Dark Shadows, the original ABC-TV series
You do know I'm a nut for Dark Shadows, right? I grew up on the original TV show; watched portions of it again in the 1970s and 1980s when it was syndicated; viewed the entire series in the early 1990s when it aired on the Sci-Fi Channel; wrote one novel for the HarperCollins book series (and one unofficial novel); and scripted three of recent Dark Shadows audio dramas for Big Finish, which star members of the original series' cast. I attended several of the annual Dark Shadows festivals, mostly in the late 1990s/early 2000s, and was fortunate enough to meet quite a few of the surviving stars. Then there were the two original theatrical movies based on the series (House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows), the 30-plus novel series written by Marilyn (Dan) Ross in the 1960s and 1970s, the 1990 revival series, and, most recently, the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp Dark Shadows (which, unfortunately, I damn near loathed; not because it wasn't the Dark Shadows of old, but because it rightly stank on its own merit).

You think I've had enough Shadows for one lifetime? Well, of course not.

Actually, it's been over 15 years since I've watched any significant number of the original series episodes. When I was working on the novel(s) and audio dramas, I put on a few now and again to refresh my memory, but mostly I referred to Pomegranate Press's rich library of Dark Shadows books and various online resources to get the details right. Frankly, during the time I went whole hog into the creative work, I was too caught up in the business end of things to think much about the franchise from the perspective of a mere fan — a fact I've often lamented, despite the joy I took in the writing. After I watched the Burton film, I realized just how vague many of my recollections of the old series really are. Thus, I decided, it was high time to give the show another look from a very much refreshed perspective.

Yep. A few months back, I started running Dark Shadows from the very beginning, with the intent of watching all 1,225 episodes, however long it might take. Yes, I know... for many diehard fans, that means big whoop, since they've been watching, discussing, critiquing, and deconstructing the show over the course of many complete runs. That kind of devotion hasn't been my lifelong desire, although I do admit to believing that if you've lived a good life and said your prayers every night, when you die, you'll go to Collinwood. That's the way it ought to be, anyway.

So, I'm a few hundred episodes in, during the early period when Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) is at his most evil. When I was a kid, of course, it was the whole vampire business that excited the living crap out of me, but watching it now, Barnabas Collins — cold, two-faced, murderous predator — is really quite disturbing. Naturally, being daytime television in the 1960s, there wasn't much graphic about it, and though the actors played it very seriously, you could safely let your kids watch it without fear they'd be damaged for life (although, back then, some particularly sensitive souls did persist in attempting to get the show banned because it just might have ruined your young'uns forever and forever). Later on, of course, Barnabas became far more even-tempered and sympathetic, even heroic. So much the better, I suppose, but even now, I find Barnabas, dark, powerful, and unrepentant, far more fascinating than brooding, tortured, sometimes wishy-washy Barnabas.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett), Roger Collins (Louis Edmonds),
Jason McGuire (Dennis Patrick)
Although I recollected the show's pre-Barnabas days as being pretty good, this time around, I was particularly struck by how well the distinctly non-supernatural storylines held up. Early on, Louis Edmonds, as Roger Collins, had a much more prominent presence than in later days, and he truly chewed up the scenery, particularly in his confrontations with Burke Devlin (Mitch Ryan), who was out to ruin him (for wholly justifiable reasons, I might add). I enjoyed watching Roger go on a rampage more than Barnabas putting the bite on someone. In fact, when Barnabas first came round, the storyline of Jason McGuire (Dennis Patrick) and his sidekick Willie Loomis (originally James Hall, then John Karlen) blackmailing Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Joan Bennett) for a murder she never actually committed was just wrapping up. Oftentimes, the episodes alternated between these two subplots, and the more true-to-life blackmail story far outshone the budding vampire tale. I rather hated to see Jason McGuire meet his demise, for he was truly a fine villain. (For what it's worth, Dennis Patrick returns as Paul Stoddard way down the line, and he's quite excellent in that part, as well; I do look forward to that point in the series.)

I manage to catch a few episodes here and there, so this full run may be a couple of years in the making, who knows. In any event, an awful lot of that old Dark Shadows excitement, which fell by the wayside while I was involved in the business of writing Shadows, has come rushing back. Warts and all — and yes, there are many of them, oftentimes hilarious — Dark Shadows retains much of the sheer imaginative power that enthralled me all those many years ago. Indeed, it has been one of the constants of my creative life. It's magic, that's what it is.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Young Blood Premieres September 21

A concerned old citizen grumping on the set of Young Blood: Evil Intentions
Back in March of this year, I made a little trip up to Martinsville, VA, my old hometown, to be an extra in the indie vampire flick, Young Blood: Evil Intentions, made by local filmmakers Mat and Myron Smith (see "Young Blood: The Movie," March 9, 2012). At last, the movie premieres at the Rives Theater in uptown Martinsville on September 21, at 9:00 PM. Tickets are $7.00, but only limited quantities remain. (There are additional screenings Saturday, Sept. 22, and Sunday, Sept. 23.) Tickets may be purchased at the following locations in Martinsville and Eden, NC:
  • Screamin InkTattoo - 625 N. Bridge St., Eden, NC (336) 623-2205
  • Woodall's Music - 2163 Virginia Ave., Collinsville, VA (276) 647-1973
  • Stafford's Music - 1320 S. Memorial Blvd., Martinsville, VA 24112 (276) 656-1555
  • What's Your Sign? - 27 E. Church St., Martinsville, VA (276) 632-0576
You can also purchase tickets on www.amazonpayments.com. Make payments to Smithstonia Videography & Graphic Designs.

Young Blood: Evil Intentions stars Autumn Ward, Zoe Cox, Rebecca Kidd, Myron Smith, Brett Smith, Cletus Earles, Lloyd Kaufman (Troma Ent.), Dick Jansen (Star News), Robert Hobbs, Cindy G. Price, Rita Smith, Count Smokula, Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Sal “The Vampire Santa” Lizard and Jamison Newlander (The Lost Boys).

"Raised in a torn home, one girl discovers she has the ability to make big changes, with even bigger consequences. Anavey Winchester (Autumn Ward), with the loyal help of her innocent little sister Anastasia (Zoe Cox), form an army of young, blood-thirsty vampires to kill all the adults. No one is safe! Will Anavey’s dreams become a reality? Will Anastasia escape the cult before it’s too late? Will the angry mob put an end to the insanity?"

And... ye trailer:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cybernocturnalism at Servante of Darkness

A few weeks back, writer/reviewer Anthony Servante sent me a set of interview questions to answer for a blog article titled "Cybernocturnalism," a discussion about the world of e-book publishing. Three other authors (Lisa Morton, Ray Garton, and John Shirley) took part in the interviews, and the blog has gone live as of today. Tis here, for your persual: Cybernocturnalism: Horror, SF, and Noir. Words and Sounds for the Living.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

THE MONARCHS Is at The Crossroad

No, they're not of the royal family or even a bunch of butterflies. The Monarchs is my most recent completed novel, which has been officially accepted by Crossroad Press for release late this year or early next. The book is scheduled for both e-book and paperback editions. Needless to say, I will post status updates regularly.

Here's a little teaser for you.

After her husband murders their daughter and then commits suicide, Courtney Edmiston, devastated and homeless, accepts an invitation to move in with her old college friend, Jan Blackburn. Jan lives with her brother, David, and eccentric Aunt Martha in the town of Fearing, North Carolina, at the edge of the Dismal Swamp. The Blackburn family has suffered its own recent tragedies — and Courtney learns that Jan and David have more than their share of enemies in the town. Because of her association with them, Courtney soon finds Fearing a very dangerous place to live. Certain members of the Surber family, who once worked for the Blackburns, hold a deep grudge against Jan and David and, on several occasions, attempt brutal acts of violence against them. Courtney, determined to help her friend in her own time of crisis, sets out to broker a peace but instead becomes more deeply mired in the bitter feud. 

For reasons Courtney cannot comprehend, many of the townspeople fear old Martha Blackburn. However, she begins to understand why when Martha threatens the Surbers with swift retribution — by way of a ghostly entity known as the Monarch — and gruesome death does indeed visit the Surbers. And to her horror, Courtney, caught between the two feuding families, at last becomes the focus of Aunt Martha’s fury.

In desperation, two of the Surber brothers abduct Courtney and Jan and threaten to kill them unless the Blackburns meet their demands. Instead, Martha unleashes the horrific Monarch against her family's rivals. And Courtney, whom Martha now considers an enemy, becomes as much a target for its inhuman wrath as the remaining members of the treacherous Surber family....

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Damned Rodan Visits Dr. Evil


Picked up geocache number 5,000 today, plus a few extra for good measure. The big one was a particularly enjoyable hide — "Dr. Evil Visits Mebane" (GC2B9TZ) — which leads one into places that at least some sensible persons of my acquaintance simply won't venture. I never claimed to be all that sensible, but I sure enjoyed this little underground adventure with Ms. Bridget, a.k.a. Suntigres, who accompanied me to make sure I came back out. Figuring out the best way to access the beast took some doing; I will say that I found a novel use for a light stick to guide us once we got down there.

Spiders? Oh, yes, quite a few. Happily, most were not of the gigantic, hairy variety that give old Rodan the shudders, and they were readily dealt with. Reaching the cache actually proved a bit less physically taxing than I expected, for which my back thanks the very considerate cache owner (some of those tight pipes have given me lingering backaches that I haven't much appreciated).

A very decent Mexican lunch followed, and then we got humiliated. Yep. We visited "Humiliation" (GC32J40) at a nearby playground, which required a couple of full-grown adults to undertake an adventure on the kiddie slide. More challenging than Dr. Evil? Well, I dunno, but we both felt horrible, shamed, low, and even downright dirty as we claimed our smileys on this one.

Caching completed, we met up with Ms. Kimberly to visit GlenMarie and Irongate Vineyards, which involved the hideous suffering of sitting and relaxing with some excellent wine. Topping it off, an excellent Thai dinner at Simply Thai in Elon, which has become one of my favorite Asian restaurants.

No telling whether I'll find another 5,000 caches in this lifetime — quite a few geocachers of my acquaintance have numbers up in the 10,000–30,000+ range — but as long as there are plenty of smileys to be had, I figure I'll traipse out after them. The activity has sure done wonders for conquering a few phobias. Now, if only there were a cache to fix my deep dread of politicians....

Old Rodan at the access point.
Suntigres conquers her fear of humiliation! (GC32J40)
One of GlenMarie Vineyards' resident alpacas