Tuesday, September 12, 2017

JACK KIRBY 100TH: A PERSONAL REMINISCENCE

AUGUST 28, 1917 MARKED THE 100TH BIRTHDAY OF JACK "KING" KIRBY; ONE OF, IF NOT, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL COMIC BOOK ARTISTS OF ALL TIME.  
This whole year has been marked by many centennial celebrations  -- a fact which surprised me even though such accolades for Jack are entirely well-deserved.  It's good to know that we still can recognize greatness when numbing mediocrity gets all too much press (as well as electoral votes).  However, it seems like almost everything to be said about Kirby's monumental contributions to comics history as well as his artistic greatness has already been covered by the countless testimonials, re-evaluations and personal stories published recently.  One recent book alone -- KIRBY 100  --  features 100 comic book artists choosing their favourite Kirby work and writing about what Jack meant to them.  It seems like the only thing for me to do is add my little reminiscence to the growing chorus of appreciation.


Many present-day Kirby fans seem to have had a similar first impression of Jack's artwork and truthfully I had the same experience:  I didn't like Jack Kirby's art for a long time.  Not my first reaction, however, because my very first exposure to Jack's artwork found me liking it.  I can actually remember the very first Jack Kirby comic book I bought/read:  MARVEL COLLECTORS ITEM CLASSICS # 14.  Not only is this the first Kirby comic I bought but it also may very well be the very first poly-bagged back issue I bought, too!  I've written before of how, in the early to mid-1970's, my grandfather used to take me to the now-long-gone Pennsauken Mart almost every weekend.  Inevitably, my first stop in this indoors "farmer's market" of countless shops was one that sold comic books, magazine and paperback books; most of which had the covers torn off.  Each coverless comic book was about 10 cents each and I loaded up every weekend.  But oddly, behind the counter, there was a wall that had a handful of older comic books (bagged and boarded) which were outrageously expensive -- probably a couple of bucks EACH!!!  For a 6 year old, that was a mint and I didn't have the nerve to ask my grandfather to shell out that kind of dough for ONE comic book!  But one day, I dunno maybe it was my birthday or something, I actually DID ask him -- and, of course, he bought it for me -- and it was the above-pictures MARVEL COLLECTORS ITEM CLASSIC # 14.  
I'd never read or even heard of the Fantastic Four before and this may even have been the very first Marvel comic I ever read as well; I was a dyed-in-the-wool DC kid.  But there must've been something about that crackling cover that sold me.  When I got it back to my grandparents' house, I tossed the bag and board (the concept of back issues being worth anything was still a long way in my future), and read "THE MYSTERIOUS MOLECULE MAN" (reprinted from FANTASTIC FOUR # 20).  I loved it and reread it countless times.  The art and story were so bizarrely different from anything I was reading in my DC comics (or my Gold Key or Harvey or Archie comics, for that matter) that it became a benchmark issue as far as my comic-reading history would evolve.  So naturally, I should've immediately turned into a 100% Marvel Zombie -- only I didn't.  True, the very next week I conned my grandfather into buying me ANOTHER bagged and boarded back issue -- this time FANTASTIC FOUR # 91 (my SECOND Jack Kirby comic) but I still only became a sporadic buyer of Marvel Comics until the early 1980's.  This must've been around the time when Jack Kirby left Marvel and went to DC so then-current Marvel books didn't have Jack's art in them.  So I was probably 75% DC kid/25% Marvel kid.  

So back to my earlier statement: in the next several years, as I got more and more into comic books, I found myself not liking Jack Kirby's art.  This appears to be a common occurrence with present-day Kirby lovers.  This was the Neal Adams era of comic book art:  slicker, more polished-looking.  To my dumb, childhood eyes, Jack Kirby's art looked clunky and ugly.  I was grooving on the JLA artwork of Dick Dillin, the BRAVE AND THE BOLD perfection of Jim Aparo, the gorgeous LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, WARLORD and GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW of Mike Grell, THE FLASH of Irv Novick, the BATMAN of Marshall Rogers and the intricate maggoty-grave-dirt of Berni Wrightson.  At that time, I would dismiss Jack Kirby's art with a simple "I just don't like it".  The same, by the way, went for the artwork of the likes of Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert and other "old-timers".  My favourite artist was George Perez and these guys' art was VERY different to that!  But, as with everything, our tastes mature and I began to appreciate the artwork of these guys more and more until I now love them.  And no one more than Jack Kirby.  I still love the art of George Perez but now I can really SEE Jack Kirby's artwork.  The sheer power of it; it's like 3-D without the 3-D!  The immaculate storytelling and page composition.  Those breathtaking (and justly famous) two-page spreads Jack loved to do.  I've actually stared and contemplated Jack's art trying to figure out exactly what he did that no one else seems to be able to do . . . and I haven't figured it out yet.  But no comic book art "feels" the same as Kirby.  Jack's figures have a weight to them that no other artist has duplicated.  Just look at the power of these monumental splash pages and how the figures seems to occupy real space.  This is just a random sampling but they're all stunning!












I guess it's the "indescribable something" in Jack Kirby's art that makes all of us celebrate his 100th birthday with such effusiveness and warmth.  His influence on the art of comic books is unmatched and his drawing has never been duplicated.  We love you, Jack. . .and we miss you.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

24 HOUR HORROR MOVIE MARATHON (FIRST INSTANCE)

ON MAY 19-20, SWEET CHEEKS, DENISE AND I CONDUCTED OUR VERY FIRST 24 HOUR HORROR MOVIE MARATHON!  
Armed with a bevy of snacks, my traditional hogleg (a large bottle of Diet Pepsi, that is) and plans for pizza later, we had our 13 movies chosen; each from a specific horror movie category.  And we were off - starting around 2 in the afternoon.  Yeah, a bit of a late start.

I first got the bug for doing this after seeing Moodz616's youtuber video and Cheeks quickly agreed to my suggestion that we do one too.  As a kickstarter, we decided to use the same horror movie categories as Moodz since they seemed to cover a nice variety of film possibilities.  So for our 24 hour Horror Movie Marathon, we chose to pick a film from the following categories:  a vampire film, a zombie film, a slasher film, a werewolf film, a demon/possession/exorcism film, a foreign film, a creature feature, a cannibal film, a black and white film, an anthology film, a Video Nasty, a low-budget Indy film and a film none of us had seen before.  Once we had this solid basis to work from, we went about scientifically choosing one film for each category.  So, with my bag of Bugles in hand, I watched history being made as our first 24 hour horror movie marathon was underway.


First up was our vampire film:  LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS (2009) starring James Corden (GAVIN & STACY, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and some sort of American talk show), Mathew Horne (THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW), Paul McGann (DOCTOR WHO: THE MOVIE) and MyAnna Buring (THE DESCENT, THE KILL LIST).  For some reason, the dim, panty-waist, puritanical Americans decided to release the film entitled simply VAMPIRE KILLERS but we all know what it's really called.  This is a pretty good horror comedy that uses most of the tried-and-true vampire movie tropes with especially-noticeable callbacks to BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA and VAN (*hak*) HELSING.  Not wildly-hilarious but still entertaining with Corden the likeable but sleazy oaf and Horne the inhibited introvert.  Basically if Cheeks and I were British and in a vampire film.  It was an especial treat to see McGann as a foul-mouthed priest.  A light and peppy way to start off our marathon.


Our second film would be our slasher film and this time it was a favourite of mine:  THE BURNING (1981).  The cast is nominally headed by Brian Matthews and Leah Ayres but you'll be looking for other soon-to-be-famous cast members like a young and still-hair-endowed Jason Alexander (SEINFELD), an impossibly-young Fisher Stevens (LOST, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL) and, in a role that gives her one single line of dialogue, future Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter (THE PIANO).  Often dismissed as a FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoff, THE BURNING is a film I much prefer to watch compared to that greater-known blockbuster.  In the opening flashback, a group of kids at camp play a joke that goes horribly wrong resulting in the full-on head-to-toe burning of a camp caretaker named Cropsy (Lou David).  Of course, years later Cropsy returns (with his trusty garden shears) to take his revenge on the newest "crop" of campers.  Of course, THE BURNING is famous for the epic "raft scene" showcasing the effects work of Tom Savini; which led to the film being placed on the "video nasties" list in Britain.  


The third film in our marathon was our werewolf film:  WER (2013).  This was a first viewing for all of us.  Directed by William Brent Bell (THE BOY, THE DEVIL INSIDE), this is more of a police-procedural than a werewolf film but it does have a few good werewolf scenes in it.  Starring A.J. Cooke (THE VIRGIN SUICIDES) and Sebastian Roche (SUPERNATURAL), the film concerns a lawyer hired to defend a man accused of murdering a vacationing family; it's more accurate to say the family was ripped apart and partially eaten.  Our suspect is quite a large bloke who is quite hirsute with grotty fingernails and it doesn't take much of a leap to think that he might be a werewolf.  A little slow but still an OK attempt at depicting a more realistic scenario of what would happen if there were werewolves in real life.


Film number four was our demon/possession/exorcism film and our choice was POSSESSION (1981).  Oh, my brave, brave little marathoners -- they had no idea what they were in for!  DirkH on letterboxd.com gives a very simple but accurate review:  "Fascinating Unrelenting Chaotic Kinetic Evil Deranged  Uneasy Perverted" and that's a review I really like.  (Check out the first letters of each word for an even deeper insight).  Polish director Andrzej Zulawski went to England to make this art-house horror film because there was absolutely no way he would be allowed to make it behind the iron curtain.  The movie begins as what appears to be the depiction of a marriage falling apart but inexorably slides into horrific delirium.  More bewildering still is the fact that Britain chose the film as it's entry for that year's Cannes film festival; making POSSESSION the only film I know of that is a Cannes award-winning movie AS WELL AS a Video Nasty!!!  Sam Neill (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, JURASSIC PARK) and Isabel Adjani (NOSFERATU THE VAMPIRE, THE TENANT, DIABOLIQUE) both give stunning performances; particularly Adjani who won the Best Actress award at Cannes for this role.  And then there's that stunning "subway scene"!  There's really no amount of summarizing that can explain this film; it has to be seen -- and more than once -- the first time to experience the shock of it and the second time to try to make some sense of what you've just experienced.  I can only say that it is definitely a horror movie but it also deals with issues including the damage we do to one another when we try to create our "perfect mate" out of another person.

Back to more traditional material with our fifth film:  THE BABADOOK (2014).  This was our creature feature.  Starring Essie Davis (THE MATRIX RELOADED {!}) as a single mother trying to raise her rather-disturbed young son (Noah Wiseman), this film was understandably one of the most talked-about horror films in recent years.  Tremendously effective and suitably creepy, the concept of the Babadook utilizes the well-worn tradition of "Bloody Mary" or "Candyman" combined with an evil storybook which performs a similar function as the videotape in RINGU.  The Babadook himself has a terrifying appearance which will guarantee he becomes one of the iconic horror figures of the Teenies (the 2010's, if you prefer) and his voice sends shivers up the spine every time it's heard.  Davis' performance really sells the picture as she slowly changes from a worried, protective mother to a harridan from Hell!

I think it was around this point, between POSSESSION and THE BABADOOK that we ordered our Boffo Pizzageddon Special!  In the Moodz and Goddilla marathon video, the boys had a bizarre cheeseburger pizza so we thought why not!  Delivery of some cheeseburger pizzas and some cheezybread would fortify us for the horrors to come. . . .

Film number six was our cannibal film:  FRIGHTMARE (1974).  Perhaps very appropriate while chomping on our pizza!  Directed by sleazemeister Pete Walker (HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW), FRIGHTMARE stars the delightful Sheila Keith (HOUSE OF WHIPCORD, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS) and Rupert Davies (WITCHFINDER GENERAL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE) as a nice couple who were committed to an insane asylum in 1957 because . . . well . . . she kinda killed and ate people and he covered up for it.  By 1974, the pair are deemed perfectly sane and released (why do I hear you scoff?) and . . . well . . . what do you THINK happens?!?!?!  This was my first Pete Walker film and it was a little more sedate than I expected; I thought I was in for flesh flying out of the windows incommoding the passers-by!  All in all, I am not a fan of the jungle-based cannibal films like CANNIBAL FEROX et. al. -- and in fact we had originally settled on MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD for our cannibal film but nixed it because of the actual animal cruelty found in that and most other cannibal movies.  FRIGHTMARE on the other hand was mercifully free of such things and was a fun horror romp.


Well, it looks like we're about at our halfway point and so far no sleep-deprived fatalities.  But now we're heading into the wee small hours of the morning with our seventh film:  the absolute classic anthology film DEAD OF NIGHT (1945).  This has been a favourite of mine since I was a wee nipper.  Architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) shows up for a job at a country house feeling like he's been there before - even though he knows he has not.  He knows details about the inside of the house he couldn't possibly know and recognizes the people there from a recurring dream.  All the house guests relate their own personal tales of the uncanny.  This is the film that jumpstarted the horror anthology film in the sound era.  Some of Britain's best directors helm each different story (Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer) and the cast features a veritable who's who of British character actors:  Michael Redgrave, Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns, Roland Culver, Basil Radford, Naunton Wayne, Miles Malleson, Sally Ann Howes . . .  They don't get much better than this!  I suggested we all vote for our favourite segment (not counting the wraparound story).  Hilariously, while the vast majority opinion usually votes for "The Ventriloquist's Dummy" segment as the best, my favourite has always been "The Haunted Mirror" (and Denise agreed with me) while Cheeks went (as is his wont) waaaaaaaaaay into left field by choosing "The Golf Story" as his favourite.


Time now for our eighth film and as our zombie movie we chose LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE aka THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974).  Another old favourite of mine, this is really the first colour zombie film (in the George A. Romero mode) made after NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968).  I've always loved the premise of this one:  government has a new pest control device which uses sonic waves to drive vermin bonkers and then kill one another -- which also has the added effect of bringing the dead back to live as flesh-eating zombies!  I love the big, round red machines of the pest controllers which is actually paid homage to at the beginning of SHAUN OF THE DEAD if you look quick!  Director Jorge Grau makes beautiful use of the rain-soaking green English countryside and the film looks just gorgeous. I enjoy too the look of the zombies with their red, bloodshot eyes.  Another winner -- and also on the Video Nasties list if we're keeping count.  As a kid,  I saw several stills from this film in the Alan Frank book MONSTERS & VAMPIRES and was fascinated particularly by the "zipper-chest zombie" as I always called him (whom you can see in the background of that photo up there)  It took me years and years to finally track down the film but I succeeded about 10-15 years ago.


Film number nine is our black-and-white film:  NIGHT OF THE HUNTER  (1955).  Yeah, I know, I think "black and white film" is a silly category but we're following a template here so whattayagonnadoo.  Famously Charles Laughton's one and only film as director, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER may be considered only tangentially a horror film but I think it qualifies; Robert Mitchum's character is a looney serial killer, after all.  Here we have one of the greatest films ever made with masterful performances by Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and the glorious Lillian Gish.  Stanley Cortez's absolutely beautiful cinematography combined with Laughton's dream-like fairy tale atmosphere (with all the terror that evokes) make for a perfect picture.  There's really not much more I can say about this film that hasn't been said dozens of times already.  It's a must-not-miss movie!


The tenth film in our marathon is the film we have never seen before:  Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE (1979) also known as ZOMBI 2 or ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS as it appears on the Video Nasties list.  Just look at that iconic cover zombie!  In Italy, it was called ZOMBI 2 because it was marketed as a sequel to George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD (it wasn't).  However, it is certainly one of the most influential zombie movies ever made.  As with most Italian movies, it's filmed in New York (what's up with that???), as the boat carrying naughty munching zombies sails into port.  Another favourite is the first appearance of a zombie in the film:  the fat zombie.  You just KNOW he gobbled up all the passengers on the boat!  And, of course, the maggot-covered zombie clawing its way out of the ground has become justly famous as well as hugely influential.  Then, of course, there's the infamous "eye-gouge scene".  The cast features Tisa Farrow (ANTHROPOPHAGOUS, WINTER KILLS . . . and yes, Mia's sister), Ian McCulloch  (ALIEN CONTAMINATION, THE GHOUL, IT) and the marvelous Richard Johnson (THE HAUNTING, THE MONSTER CLUB).


For our eleventh film, we have our Video Nasty:  NIGHTMARE MAKER (1982) aka BUTCHER BAKER NIGHTMARE MAKER aka NIGHT WARNING.  This is a rather new favourite of mine in the last year or so and is definitely my favourite Jimmy McNichol movie.  OK, it's the ONLY Jimmy McNichol movie I've ever seen.  Another oddity on the Video Nasties list as it was fairly critically-acclaimed at the time and even won an award.  Susan Tyrrell (FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, ROCKULA) plays Aunt Cheryl; who has to raise her nephew Billy (Jimmy McNichol) after his parents are killed in a horrific car crash.  This opening car crash is hilariously over-the-top as the parents are not only pulverized by a huge log falling off a logging truck right through their windshield but also then has the car plummet down a cliff to crash at the bottom. . . .and THEN blow up in a huge fireball!!!!  Aunt Cheryl is quite lonely and soon starts to take a rather uncomfortable interest in her teenage nephew.  While Billy is having some sexual identity issues of his own to deal with (in a homosexual/heterosexual subtext which is surprising yet thoughtfully done for the time), Aunt Cheryl's frustration leads her into more and more shall we say "unhinged" behaviour until she goes off the deep end.  Susan Tyrell's performance is an explosion of insanity while Jimmy McNichol does a fine acting job as well.  A very young Julia Duffy (NEWHART) does a nice job as Billy's girlfriend while Bo Svenson (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, SNOWBEAST) is great in his usual dickhead role. For a Video Nasty, this is top notch.


We're slouching towards our home stretch, bleary-eyed and exhausted, with our twelfth film:  THE BATTERY (2012).  This is our low budget indy flick and features director/star Jeremy Gardner and Adam Cronheim as professional baseball players (a pitcher and a catcher -- a combination which is called "the battery" in baseball lingo, I'm informed by Cheeks) who are trying to survive in a zombie apocalypse.  This is a really terrific film which rightly got a lot of buzz for such a small picture.  The focus is on the day-to-day life struggles of the two men rather than on the zombie apocalypse as zombies float in and out of the storyline.  Among the zillions of zombie films out there, this is indeed a fresh approach.  While the film is not a horror comedy, it is however very, very funny; but the humour arrives from the situation and the characters' interactions.  There is also an impressively bold loooooooooooooooooong single take shot towards the end of the picture.  Great soundtrack too.  Great film!


Can it be!?!?  Can we at last be at our final movie of the marathon?!?!?!?!  Can we hope to survive?!?!?!?!  The lucky thirteenth and final film of our 24 hour horror movie marathon is our foreign film:  TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016).  What are we nuts, scheduling a film with subtitles at the bleary-eyed end of 24 hours?!?!?!?!  This South Korean film features a zombie apocalypse (WOW!  Another one?!?!?!  We've had a LOT of zombies in this marathon. . . next time maybe we'll lighten up on the zombies a little) in which a zombie outbreak takes place inside a speeding train.  But these are the really fast, running zombies this time.  Widely touted as the best zombie movie in many years, TRAIN TO BUSAN really does live up to that hype.  However, that should not be surprising since South Korea has been making some mighty fine films over the last decade or so.  TRAIN TO BUSAN features finely-constructed character studies combined with breakneck zombie ack-shon!  And how many movies can claim that?!?

So here we are -- tattered and bedraggled, stumbling dazed into to morning sun searching for coffee and some much-needed shut-eye.  All in all, I think our first 24 Hour Horror Movie Marathon went very well.  It IS a marathon in the true sense of the word as it's truly exhausting and a test of stamina.  However, I can't think of a better way to deprive yourself of sleep by staying up for over 24 hours than to watch some great horror movies with your friends. Maybe we'll do this again sometime . . .

Saturday, April 29, 2017

PSYCHIC KILLER (1975)

A SURPRISING, ODDBALL & FUN PROTO-SLASHER.
 I forget how or why I stumbled upon PSYCHIC KILLER but I hadn't even known of its existence before last month; which is odd since it's the final film Jim Hutton made before his untimely death.  Hutton, probably best-known for his role as television's Ellery Queen and for being Timothy Hutton's daddy, stars as Arnold: a man wrongly convicted of murder and committed to a mental hospital.  While inside, he becomes friends with fellow inmate Emilio (Stack Pierce of CLEOPATRA JONES) and is befriended by staff psychiatrist Dr. Scott (no, not the ROCKY HORROR one but instead Julie Adams of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON).  Arnold is having headaches and strange nightmares which Dr. Scott is attempting to help him combat.  Emilio, inside for having killed his daughter (who had become a prostitute) makes a strange promise to Arnold:  the day before he dies Emilio will kill the pimp who turned his daughter into a hooker and the day AFTER he dies Emilio will help Arnold get revenge on those who caused the death of his ill mother.  It turns out Emilio is a practitioner of some form of magic.  
The next day in the exercise yard, Emilio climbs the barbed-wire fence and jumps several storeys to his death.  The next day, a prison guard brings Emilio's belongings to Arnold (which the dead man had bequeathed to him) and a letter to Emilio containing a newspaper clipping reporting the gruesome death of a pimp.  Hmmmm.  Inside Emilio's small cask are some books of magic and a medallion which give Arnold the power to psychically leave his body and kill those who've done him wrong.  Suddenly the real killer of the surgeon Arnold was convicted of murdering confesses and Arnold is a free man; he returns to his mother's dilapidated, cobweb-covered house and those people who mistreated his mother suddenly start meeting gruesome ends.

Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Nehemiah Persoff and Paul Burke


PSYCHIC KILLER feels a lot like a 1970s supernatural TV movie (and that's a GOOD thing).  I mean, REALLY feels like a 1970s supernatural TV movie . . .until we see the nudity and surprising gore!  The film comes by this atmosphere honestly since director Ray Danton was mostly known as a TV director (aside from this film, Danton only directed the abyssmal HANNAH, QUEEN OF VAMPIRES and the Robert Quarry vehicle THE DEATHMASTER).  The cast is also stuffed with actors who, although movie actors as well, were known for doing a lot of television work in the 1970s.  
Also in the cast is Paul Burke (whose 70's supernatural TV movie Cv includes CROWHAVEN FARM) as the police detective determined to prove Arnold has something to do with these murders.  Veteran actor Nehemiah Persoff (memorable in the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "JUDGMENT NIGHT") appears halfway through the film as a parapsychologist.  The film is littered with great character actors from Aldo Ray (of the Hepburn-Tracy vehicle PAT AND MIKE, WE'RE NO ANGELS and THE MARRYING KIND), Whit Bissell (also from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON as well as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, SOYLENT GREEN, THE TIME MACHINE et. al.),  Neville Brand (of such classic noirs as D.O.A., WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS and KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL as well as THE NINTH CONFIGURATION and EATEN ALIVE), and singer/actor Della Reese (who appears in a terrific cameo role in one hilarious scene set in Neville Brand's butcher shop).  The scene is not there to serve the plot in any way but the verbal jousting match between Reese and Brand is priceless and probably my favourite scene in the film!  

While the nude shower scene may be the first clue the viewer has that they are not watching a TV movie, the appearance of some bloody gore effects will definitely shake you out of such complacency.  Bloody and gorey they may be but the effects are also intentionally hilarious as Jim Hutton, in a death-like trance back home in his easy chair, psychically stalks and kills his victims.  And this is where the term "proto-slasher" comes in.  In the history of films leading up to the creation of the slasher genre, everything from Hitchock's PSYCHO to the Italian giallo film pioneered by Mario Bava with THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and his body count classic BLOOD AND BLACK LACE through to Bob Clark's seminal BLACK CHRISTMAS (released a year before PSYCHIC KILLER), this film right here is very much in the same line.  After all, PSYCHIC KILLER features Jim Hutton as a wronged fella seeking revenge and picking off his victims one by one (body count style) in suitably bloody fashion.  That sounds like a slasher to me.  In actuality, there is more blood and gore in PSYCHIC KILLER than in John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN.  Is PSYCHIC KILLER as good or better than HALLOWEEN???  Certainly not.  Is it a fun and entertaining psychic proto-slasher well worth your time.  That's a big 10-4, good buddy!  And Vinegar Syndrome's superb edition is probably the best you'll ever see the film look!   Oh, and did I mention the ending?!?!?!?  I did NOT expect them to go THERE with the ending but it's superb!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

BERNI WRIGHTSON: MASTER OF THE MACABRE (1948-2017)

THE KING OF COMIC BOOK HORROR IS GONE.
 The legendary Berni Wrightson lost his battle with brain cancer on March 18th.  As one of my favourite artists of all-time, Berni Wrightson not only co-created Swamp Thing but also was the heir apparent to classic (and equally legendary) E.C. Comics horror-meister "Ghastly" Graham Ingels.  For pretty much my entire life, Wrightson has represented the best in comix horror from his first comic book HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 to his latest illustrative work (epitomized by his justly-celebrated illustrations for Mary Shelley's novel FRANKENSTEIN).  

Born in Baltimore on the 27th of October (obviously infusing him with the spirit of Halloween), "Bernie" Wrightson showed his work to DC Comics editor Dick Giordano who hired him to do freelance work for the company.  At the tender age of 19, Wrightson got his first story published in HOUSE OF MYSTERY #179 in 1968; he dropped the "e" from "Bernie" to distinguish himself from an Olympic diver with the same name and became Berni Wrightson professionally (he would restore the "e" to his name years later).  In DC's HOUSE OF SECRETS, he would co-create the character Swamp Thing with Len Wein; the short story was so popular DC would spin it into it's own critically-acclaimed series.
 Leaving DC in 1974 for Warren Publications, Berni would illustrate many horror stories for their B&W mags CREEPY, EERIE and COMIX INTERNATIONAL including many adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  Wrightson took seven years to craft the incredibly detailed line drawings to illustrate the novel FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley which remains a benchmark of his career and his most personal work.  Collaborations with another horror guy by the name of Stephen King resulted in CREEPSHOW and CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF among others and his "Captain Sternn" segment of the cult film HEAVY METAL is also a fan favourite.  In more recent years, Berni's classic horror story "JENIFER" was adapted into a superb episode of Showtime's MASTERS OF HORROR series directed by Dario Argento.  

Berni Wrightson represents to me, at least, the very essence of comic book horror for the last half century.  His loss is a great one to me and to all his fans.  My condolences go out to Liz, John, Jeffrey and Thomas.  As my woefully inadequate tribute, I thought I'd provide just a taste of some favourites from the Master of the Macabre.