Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween, punkins

Ooh baby. This song gets a lot of play at TMI headquarters, but it's never more appropriate than on Halloween. The vintage radio-drama organ stabs and shocks, eerie sirens call in the distance as the drums clap thunder to keep you awake long after dark. And Mr. Cave spins a deep baritone tale of Southern Gothic dread, dropping Robert E. Howard horror into the modern age. Ice. Cold.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Spanish Inquisition-ers Must Have Really Been Bored

In a serendipitous bit of Web surfing -- where intent and chance run wild in the brain -- we've been reading a bit about the Basque witch trials of the early 17th century. The Wikipedia article is a fine a place as any to start, and should the subject stimulate your brain, there's more to read on the Web and in print.

The Basque witch hunt was the largest of any perpetrated by the Spanish Inquisition, with estimates of nearly 7,000 people in Basque Country investigated, accused and/or tried.

And as is often the case, minorities were targeted for persecution. Women were the primary victims, as midwives and herbalists, steeped in the non-Christian [and totally compelling -- ed.] folklore of the region, faced accusations. But plenty of men and children were charged as well, including Conversos, descendants of the Jews and Moors who had converted to Christianity.

It ended as quickly as it started, but not without a body count.

Though not directly inspired by the Basque witch trials, the late 18th century painting "Witches' Sabbath" by Francisco Goya, intentionally recalls medieval and early Renaissance beliefs in what went on during a black sabbath:

You'll pardon our modern eyes for thinking that with the exception of the creepy skeleton baby, this looks like "Awesome Storytime With Uncle Goat" and not some heinous gathering of ill intent.


Bonus witchcraft-y weirdness!

Major Thomas Weir, a 17th century Scottish soldier who, at 70, suddenly claimed not only to be a warlock, but to have engaged in all manner of taboo acts with his sister Jean. All of this flew in the face of their very public life as devout Christians. As their confessions continued, the claims grew even stranger, and both were executed, despite any compelling evidence beyond their claims.

A BBC documentary made in 2007 examines the likelihood that Maj. Weir was largely the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Movie Time!

Surely you have a three minutes to spare for some George Melies magic circa 1896?

Watch more like these at Silent Film House's Youtube channel.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Great Old Ones

Wanna read some H.P. Lovecraft but don't have any scratch to put toward buying new books? Or maybe your local library banned you after that unfortunate misunderstanding regarding the copy machine?

The H.P. Lovecraft Archive has you covered. A disturbingly generous selection of Howard Phillips' writings are available to you with just a couple clicks of the mouse. It's there, deep beneath the surface of the Web, undistrubed in its slumber, waiting, but still stirring a nagging feeling in the dark recesses of your mind ...

[Cthulhu image courtesy of The H.P. Lovecraft Wiki]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Casual Friday Wolfman

Found another terrific art blog for things fantastic, gruesome and just plain fun: Fantasy Ink. In blogger Tom's own words, Fantasy Ink collects "comic and fantasy art plus artwork from the Golden Age of Illustration and whatever else sparks [his] interest."

And we'll share with you the image that was our gateway into Fantasy Ink:

Don't you love how the Wolfman, despite being in full-moon mode, is still neatly buttoned and belted in his circa 1993 Gap fashions? He's totally going to ruin that woman's French beat-poetry party.

That painting by R.L. Allen was done for a series of Universal Monster-themed jigsaw puzzles by Whitman in 1969. And if you like it, there's more to see at FI.

Also because of our undying love and appreciation for The Creature From the Black Lagoon, we strongly encourage you to click here. In the words of Haley Mills (as Pollyanna) -- it's gorgeous.

Finally, we once again thank Monster Crazy for turning us on to these. If you're not visiting Monster Crazy and Monsterbrains regularly, your eyes must be so bored.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Monkey Watches: Melty!

The Incredible Melting Man
Dir. William Sachs
Poorly executed B-movies don’t always deserve the drubbings they get from critics. And by critics, we mean everybody on the internets, ever.

It’s too easy to rip apart something that gives the distinct impression that it’s held together by masking tape and misguided dreams. Yet The Incredible Melting Man, another entry in American International Picture’s (AIP) long list of low-budget genre films, is kind of asking for it.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 probably did the best job of beating up this movie. We’ve never seen that episode of the show, but Incredible leaves itself wide open for the kind of snark and barbs the MST3K team did so well.

You can probably wring nearly as much joy from the user-submitted review of the film on IMDB. However, we suggest you watch the film yourself, aided and abetted by friends, family and, if you bend that way, whatever mood enhancers you prefer.

In the interest of clarity and er, journalism, we watched it stone sober and violently alone. Yet still we lobbed our share of critical Molotovs at the screen, wondering how such a wickedly pulpy idea could be so boring.

The answer, we believe, is a two-parter.

1.  Allegedly, The Incredible Melting Man was conceived as a comedy – designed to be a parody of 1950s era “atomic monster” shockers. Some of the film was already in the can when AIP decided to switch to straight horror. Unsurprisingly, the movie shifts in tone throughout.

2.  Every single character in the film behaves in ways that no human being ever would, except for the title character, who we have lovingly dubbed Melty.

The plot concerns a manned mission to Saturn, but something involving solar flares kills off two of the astronauts, leaving Steve West (Alex Rebar) the only survivor, who tumbles back to Earth, waking up in a top-secret military/NASA/whatever hospital room, swathed in bandages and … different.

To paraphrase Elaine Benes, yadda yadda  yadda, he murders a nurse and escapes into the hills above Burbank.

Whatever turned astronaut Steve West into Melty has also driven him mad. And who wouldn’t be? He’s literally decomposing in the most gruesome, moist way a fellow can, and because this is a horror movie, Melty’s madness includes uncontrollable urges to kill.

Burr DeBenning plays Dr. Ted Nelson, the man trying to determine how Melty got that way, and, once Melty escapes, charged with finding him before he kills again.

Now you’d think a man who is slowly liquefying shouldn’t be that hard to track down in the scrubby fields surrounding a secret space-accident research facility. You scramble a couple helicopters, call the Eagle Scouts and start looking for the trail of gross that leads from the door of the building into the wilderness.

You’d think that, but you’d be wrong. Dr. Ted Nelson decides that he should first head home and eat some soup because chasing Melty is going to be tough and you don’t want to do that on an empty stomach. Then he gets a Geiger counter to track Melty, even though the man is surely leaving his disgusting mark wherever he goes.

What’s that? You want to know how a man with a Ph.D. decided a hot bowl of Campbell’s was the priority when a horrific abomination is loose near the borders of a housing development? You stop that right now. That’s not how we catch monsters in this universe.

There’s a decapitation, a weird excuse to show boobs, children are endangered and Gen. Michael Perry (Myron Healey) shows up to help convince local law enforcement that all these dead bodies are surely not the work of a space mission gone terribly wrong.

Gen. Perry has a Jeep too, which is a good idea since Melty’s gotten pretty far while Dr. Ted Nelson fiddly-farts around not pursuing him.

Despite the Jeep and, we assume, the U.S. Military’s knowledge of Melty, Dr. Ted Nelson and the General stop by the Nelson home again to have a couple drinks and accidentally break the news to Mrs. Nelson that there’s a murderously inclined creep running around out there, and well, he’s melting too.

Poor Melty. He gets very little screen time despite being the title character.

Some of the “comedy” footage is preserved in a puzzling and unfunny aside involving an old couple who stop to pick some lemons on the side of a dark highway. There’s finally a showdown and Dr. Ted Nelson tries to save or catch or do something about Melty, but it’s too late. [Watch the gruesome finale here, but be warned, it spoils the ending.]

Various sources say make-up artist Rick Baker had four distinct “phases” to the Melting Man costume, to show how Melty’s problem was worsening. But budgets got in the way and instead Melty looks like cheese pizza throughout. The make-up is still the best part of the film and Baker deserves his status as one of Hollywood’s great monster men.

We don’t expect much from our b- and z-grade horror and science fiction movies. But when you have the basic idea of The Incredible Melting Man right there, standing on the backs of various Twilight Zone and Outer Limits plots, and leaning heavily on The Quartermass Xperiment, it shouldn’t be hard to make that movie fun.

Reference material:  Oh, so you’ve seen The Hideous Sun Demon? Then you’re perfectly primed for this. Also, you only have to endure the first ten minutes before you get to the only gag in the film that works: Two short scenes involving a ridiculously long hallway.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I Love You Anyhow

This live performance of "I Put a Spell On You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins jettisons the baritone sax that filths up the 1956 studio recording replacing it with a carnival-esque organ and Duane Eddy guitar.

That change takes away the nudie-mag bomp of the original but cranks up the song's late show histrionics.

Hawkins' woody baritone sounds great and his stage performance -- how we wish we'd been around to see the man at full power.

Now get yer creep on:

[courtesy of nedalivzjatmojnik]

Why didn't he ever host The Muppet Show?

Ghosts Eat Marshmallows

This isn’t a book review because we haven’t been able to find a copy of this book and the last time anyone here at The Typing Monkey read The Marshmallow Ghosts by Priscill and Otto Friedrich, was too long ago to remember specific details.*

In essence, the story tracks a family of ghosts who’ve emigrated from Ireland to the United States, and the ghost kids – that’s right, ghost kids – want to experience Halloween American style. In doing so, the spirit children find that if they eat marshmallows, their ghostly vapors turn solid, allowing them to go trick-or-treating like kids who aren’t ghosts.

We bring all this up as a seasonally appropriate gateway to remind you of the illustrations (and also writing) of Louis Slobodkin. Go back to the books you read as a kid and chances are one of them was illustrated by him.

Sadly, the website dedicated to Slobodkin’s work went dark sometime during the past year, but Page Books has a fairly robust Slobodkin page with a good cover gallery.

Whether illustrating his own writing, the collaborations with his wife, or the work of others, there’s an utterly charming post-War warmth to Slobodkin’s art.

*[Sincerely, if you find a copy of The Marshmallow Ghosts snap it up. It's long out of print and we won't mind if you mail it to us.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Them $@#% Goblins Again!

The animators at Screen Novelties do good work. And The Typing Monkey has swiped their content before to show you why we think that.

Here's another great piece of stop-motion and puppet animation work Screen Novelties crafted, inspired by Wladyslaw Starewicz's seminal work. It's both sweet and creepy, and that's not easy to achieve.

Check it:

You like? Here's a link to their Vimeo page for more, more, more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Can't Look Away

The drudgery of day-to-day tasks might well put us over the edge if it weren't for the great images, artists and films we've been turned on to by Monster Crazy, a site that puts Tumblr to good use.

By visiting recently we found the work of Jon Kelly Green:

You can see much more of his work, including pictures of cats in groovy sweaters and boot cut pants, at his site, Action Art! [punctuation his -- ed.]

And if that weren't enough, Monster Crazy also alerted us to the fact that Arbogast On Film has risen from its slumber, possibly only for this month, with a series called "31 Screams." Each day of October, film critic/historian/scholar Arbogast parses some of the great screams in horror films.

It's mesmerizing and you must go now and enjoy it. [Understand some of the images on that site are NSFW.]

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dinosaur Dracula Loves Halloween

We've pointed you toward a site called X-Entertainment before. It sounds NSFW, but it was about as harmless as the web gets. We refer to it in the past tense because Matt, the man behind X-E, has closed that site and moved on to Dinosaur Dracula.

And just like his previous site, DD catalogs toys, candy, cartoons and questionable breakfast cereal with both fondness and comedy. Plus Matt is a Halloween freak, purchasing, testing, consuming and reviewing just about every disposable-income item you might see on the shelves any given year during October.

Check out his new site and if you want to get a feel for what it's all about, we recommend the "Count Chocula Through the '90s" feature.

Fun fact: X-Entertainment's Countdown to Halloween inspired The Typing Monkey's own Halloween Frenzy ... and now we're sad.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"... every sort of filth."

Dig this fan-made video for "Wizard in Black" by doom-metal legends Electric Wizard. It's eight minutes of punishing, bleak guitar fuzz and brontosaurus beats with Lovecraftian lyrics rasped for maximum effect. And that's just the music.

To accompany this crucial cut from the band's Come My Fanatics... LP is a series of horror film clips of corpses rising from their graves, ostensibly coming to tell you to turn down the goddamned noise and put the bong down because you have work tomorrow. Or maybe they just want braaaiins.

And if you want to know which films were used by the video creator, "thofilo13," here's a list straight from the source:

Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974); City of the Living Dead (1980); The Plague of the Zombies (1966); Tales from the Crypt (1972); Zombi (1979) The Beyond (1981) Return of the Living Dead Part 2 (1988).


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Monkey Reads: Roald Knows How to Pick 'Em

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories
Various; Introduction by Roald Dahl
To curate this collection of haunted tales, Dahl read more than 700 short stories, which he admits with a wry “so you don’t have to” attitude in his superb introduction. Note, these are not stories written by Dahl, but rather stories he found to be of high quality and wanted to share.
His original intent was to adapt these stories for an American television program – an anthology show in the vein of The Twilight Zone and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. But after a pilot was produced, the show was nixed and Dahl was left with a stack of stories to share.

The best entry in Ghost Stories is Robert Aikman’s “Ringing the Changes.” This tale of a newlywed couple on their honeymoon in a quiet, nearly abandoned seaside village in England has its own strange rhythm that rewards greatly with sheer creativity as it builds a genuine sense of dread at what’s coming.

Edith Wharton and Cynthia Asquith contribute a story each, with Wharton’s “Afterward” burying the scares under an affecting sense of loss, confusion and grief, as a woman attempts to figure out what happened to her missing husband. Asquith’s “In the Corner Shop” has such descriptive prose that it works even though you know where she’s headed after a page or two.

Jaded, over-stimulated modern brains will recognize the plots of some of these stories, as they’ve been repurposed many times, and, as with “On the Brighton Road” by Richard Middleton, read like urban legends.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still take pleasure in high quality writing of A.M. Burrage’s “Playmates” or F. Marion Crawford’s “The Upper Berth.”

Reference material: Own a copy of The Oxford Book of Victorian Ghost Stories? You may have already read some of these, but can likely find something new. And anyone who will stay up late to watch a favorite episode of The Twilight Zone should enjoy Dahl’s collection.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's Only a Gumdrop

Regular readers may recall the Ghost Dot Crisis of 2010, which spilled over into 2011 as well.

For the uninitiated, Tootsie Roll Industries makes a seasonal selection of their Dots candy, the best of which is Ghost Dots. During the past two Halloweens, they've been increasingly difficult to find, especially in the fun-size boxes one might hand out to trick-or-treaters.

Last year, on Nov 2, our legal team drafted a stern letter to Tootsie Roll Industries [ didn't intern Eileen just fill out a form on their website? -- ed.] and got a response within 24 hours from a nice lady named Susan:

"Thank you for contacting us. Ghost Dots were available, but apparently, no retailers in your area ordered them. Sorry."

We have yet to really scour the region for Ghost Dots, but found this Halloween candy page on Tootsie's online store, which does not bode well.

Those lonely howls you hear on Oct 31 may in fact be the agonized baying of all at The Typing Monkey, as we drown our sorrows in the pumpkin patch. Don't let us down, Tootsie Roll Industries.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

And So It Begins

Here we are three days into October and you probably feel like we've left you at T-ball practice and it's starting to rain. Relax, get yourself a beverage and grab a donut -- you know the drill.

Welcome to the 5th annual Typing Monkey Halloween Frenzy. For the next 30 27 days we'll do our best to pollute your innocent eyes with as much seasonal evil as possible.

However, we will stick with tradition by easing you into things with a video from filmmaker we featured last  year. This one's not Halloween related, but might scare you and your cats.

Catnip: Egress to Oblivion? [Classroom Drug Educational Film] from Jason Willis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sexy Astronomers of History [No. 6]

Collect 'em all!

Johannes Kepler
(Dec 27, 1571 – Nov 15, 1630)
Birthplace:  Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt near Stuttgart, Holy Roman Empire (now Germany)
Culture-shaping contribution:  The laws of planetary motion, which proved mathematically that planetary orbits around the sun are elliptical. Really there's much more to it than that, but suffice it to say that Kepler's math checked out thanks to his groundbreaking use of physics. His theory fueled Isaac Newton's laws of universal gravitation, even though at the time Kepler published his theory, Galileo and Descartes thought it was nonsense.
Fun fact:  Kepler's mother, Katharina, was arrested in 1620 for witchcraft. The charges had been levelled at her in 1615, during a wave of accusations that snared herbalist Katharina. Johannes took her away, but upon her return she was arrested. Her son managed to argue for her freedom in 1621. She died a year later, a free woman. [This is a "fun" fact? -- ed.]