Friday, March 30, 2007

“Bedlam” (1946)

Boris Karloff was always publicly grateful to the horror genre and its fans for making him a star and allowing him to maintain that status, even if most of the films he starred in were far from memorable for any reason other than his presence in them. But he also made no secret of his preference for historical melodrama, a love he carried over into movies from the stage plays in which he had performed for so many years before Hollywood beckoned. He reveled in pictures like “The Black Room,” “The Strange Door" (with Charles Laughton doing his best Tod Slaughter impersonation), “Tower of London,” and two of his Val Lewton-produced thrillers, “The Body Snatcher” and this one, “Bedlam.”

Lewton, too, has come down to us as a horrorista—and like Karloff, he was a damn good one—but he preferred costume dramas. It’s no wonder, then, that they made two of their best films together.I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for “Bedlam.” The first time I saw it was late one Friday night or early one Saturday morning. I was spending the night with a pal. He and his big brother had both fallen asleep before the weekend horror movie came on television. I would have been more likely to sleep through a meal than I would have to miss an old horror picture on television, especially one starring the Master of Horror, the great King Karloff.

My friend had a TV in his bedroom, rare in those days, but I remember lying on the bed on my stomach so my face would be close to the screen and I could watch the movie with the sound turned down low. Do you remember the bitter frustration as a kid when some post-horror phase adult would make you turn off the movie in the middle because it was too late at night to still be watching television? I did what I had to do to avoid that fate.

Okay, I know I’ve drifted pretty far from the boat with these soggy memoirs, but recalling that night is part of the experience of “Bedlam” for me. I’ll stop it now and get to the film itself.

Anna Lee (“The Man Who Changed His Mind,” “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?”) stars as Nell Bowen, a pretty but too clever young woman in the London of 1761. Nell is the current favorite of Lord Mortimer (Billy House), a pudgy, would-be wit and preening fop who makes up in ready money what he lacks in charm. Nell is his jester, at least (perhaps more but if so, any more personal relationship is sub rosa). He enjoys listening to her abuse society. Her satire is as cold as her sense of justice.

One day, Master George Sims (Karloff) comes to call. Sims is head of the asylum of St. Mary’s of Bethlehem, a name abbreviated in the English manner to Bedlam. In his spare time, Sims, too, is a wit and author of poems and masques. It is hinted that he has been able to assist Lord Mortimer in the past by “accidentally” incarcerating enemies and troublemakers. We learn that an inmate we saw earlier fall from the roof of the asylum and die during an escape attempt was in fact a rival poet Sims managed to confine in the hospital.

To curry favor, Sims offers to lend his “loonies” to Mortimer to serve as entertainment at a party the peer is giving. To complete the evening, Sims will compose a masque for the Bedlamites to perform. Mortimer loves the idea, but Nell, while professing no great pity for the insane, pooh-poohs the idea out of dislike for Sims.

Soon after Sims’ visit to Mortimer, Nell pays her first visit to the asylum. For tuppence, anyone can tour the wards and be amused by the human wreckage they contain. She enters a hall filled with the insane. Some are quiet—one young woman is nearly catatonic, standing stock still by the doorway. Others babble or shriek. Many are seen in attitudes drawn from the William Hogarth plates that inspired the film, collectively titled “The Rogue’s Progress.”

The scene begins with a close-up of Nell’s face, then the camera pulls back to reveal the terrible contents of the room. Nell is shocked and dismayed by what she sees, and she leaves the place after striking Sims with her riding crop and telling him that he is “an ugly thing in a pretty world.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Sims is the Quaker Hannay (Richard Fraser). Hannay is a stone mason. He’s applied for a job at the asylum but Sims refused to employ him unless the upright young man would kick back some of his salary. At first, he has little use for the haughty Nell, claiming that she is as hard and shallow as Sims and Mortimer.

But her veneer breaks at last the night of Mortimer’s party at Vauxhall Gardens when a mad boy, gilded from head to foot by the unfeeling Sims, suffocates while attempting to recite his lines. Nell convinces Lord Mortimer, who is on Bedlam’s board of directors, to work to improve conditions at the hospital, but Sims reminds him that improvements cost money and will cause his property taxes to go up. Mortimer balks, and then decides to renege on his promises to Nell. In a rage, she tells him off.

Later, Sims offers to bring her before the Commission of Lunacy and Mortimer agrees. When asked by the Commission what she considers to be absurd questions, Nell uses her wit to answer. Her cleverness and contempt work against her and she is committed to Bedlam.

With Nell’s interment, Lewton and co-writer/director Mark Robson (Lewton using his Carlos Keith penname) have some fun blending black humor with the horrors. Ian Wolfe plays the self-proclaimed greatest lawyer in London locked up by his enemies, and Jason Robards, Sr. is Oliver Todd, a writer who has had himself committed to prevent him from hitting the bottle and thereby not being able to support his family. These are the People By the Pillar, the inmates closest to sanity and therefore the cream of asylum society.

Of course all will work out well for Nell and ill for Sims. Anyone watching the film for the first time will quickly figure out that his ultimate fate will somehow be left in the hands of his charges, but I won’t go into detail about what happens.

The film is interesting on a number of levels. It was Robson’s fifth film as director, all four of his previous movies made with Lewton over the course of four years after editing “Cat People,” “I Walked With a Zombie,” and “The Leopard Man.” His lighting is Expressionistic and the cast in his mad room interior represents the character types utilized by Hogarth. The film is set just three years before the birth of the gothic with the publication of Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” in 1764, and Robson blends gothic with Age of Reason elements nicely on a miniscule budget.

Karloff delivers one of his best and oiliest performances. Sims is cynical and superior. He’s a forerunner of the kind of condescending but controlled madmen in which Peter Cushing would later specialize. It’s a pleasure to watch Karloff force smiles as Sims flatters Lord Mortimer and drops evil suggestions in his ear, only to give expression to the most withering contempt when his patron’s back is turned.

But the grand old man of horror also gets the opportunity later in the film to wheedle and plead for his life, begging the inmate to pity him because he’s just as miserable a victim as they are, forced to do what he does out of fear of the way the world would react to him if he was powerless. It’s to Karloff’s credit that this cynical and self-serving defense almost works on us.

“Bedlam,” for all its horrific content, is less a traditional horror film and more the kind of historical melodrama Boris Karloff liked so well. It’s also, in its odd way, an attack on middle managers who abuse those under them in an effort to make themselves look good to upper management. At that level, the film is timeless.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"All Wet" (1924)

I’ve read that this very funny one-reeler is just the surviving half of a two-reeler, but nothing connected to the DVD release of this film indicates that it is incomplete. Given the fact that some of its elements seem pretty disjointed, learning for sure that there was more than currently meets the eye would come as no surprise.

Charley Chase was among the most popular stars of short comedies in the late 1920s. Some have written that he was the most popular after Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd moved on to features. It’s easy to see why his style of comedy outshone that of the Sennett stable. The A-listers working for Hal Roach all fell under the influence of Leo McCarey, who appreciated situation comedy rather than the slapstick for which Mack Sennett is best remembered. McCarey’s approach could be riotous enough when called for, but he could also take his time and allow a story, simple though it usually was, to unfold. Watch the slow build in a McCarey silent with Chase or Laurel and Hardy, then compare it to the pacing of “The Awful Truth” or even “Going My Way.” Even the Marx Brothers, in “Duck Soup,” took some advantage of McCarey’s deliberation. Check out the scenes with Edgar Kennedy.

“All Wet” (1924) opens in a family boarding house, a species of communal domicile perhaps unknown to young viewers today. Think of it as a combination apartment complex and hotel. We’re told that this is “One of those places where you can tell what day of the week it is by looking at the tablecloth.” (A different meal was served every day, but it was the same meal every Monday, every Tuesday, etc.)

A telegram arrives, which, of course, means bad news. Who would pay the cost of a telegram to send good tidings? “Somebody must have died,” one of the elderly lady boarders says to another. “I hope it wasn’t serious.”

Everyone abandons lunch, rushing upstairs to deliver as a group the message to young go-getter Jimmie Jump. (This is just one of the dozen Jimmie Jump comedies Chase made in 1924, among his 30 films from that year. He’d been in pictures for ten years, and this was his 110th.) Jimmie is as nervous as everyone else as he tears open the envelope, and then laughs heartily when he finds out that he is to pick up a litter of puppies at the train station at 2:40 Wednesday afternoon. These dogs have no bearing on anything and are either just a means of getting him out of the house or are an indication that some film footage indeed is missing.

As his disappointed neighbors go mumbling back to their meals, Jimmie grabs his hat and leaves the house.

Chase, whose real name was Charles Joseph Parrott, was a thin 6-footer. Not spectacularly handsome, he had a long, open face that was better at conveying realistic laughter than tears. Usually dressed in a light suit and boater and wearing a reasonable mustache, he was an outgoing everyman, not quite as boyish as Harold Lloyd but never as serious as Keaton. His screen character was consistently the victim of the kind of bad luck that forced him into embarrassing situations. The comedy of humiliation and frustration was his specialty.

And Jimmie’s bad luck begins as soon as he leaves the shelter of his home and ventures out into a world full of thoughtlessness and trickery.

He steps off the sidewalk and gives the handle of a parked car a quick twist. As he stands erect to enter the vehicle and drive away, another motorist (William Gillespie) scoots in ahead of him and drives away. Jimmie’s chance for the last laugh comes quickly as he, in the right car, catches up to the man whose auto is now stuck in a mud puddle.

This must have been a fairly common occurrence on the streets of L.A. at that time as Jimmie, too nice a guy to revel in this jerk’s misfortune, is prepared with a tow rope. He tosses it to the other man, who ties it around his windshield. Jimmie slowly ooches forward, freeing the other car. Then, when Jimmie finds himself stuck, the other man tells him that he has an appointment and no time to give him a hand. Rather than flying into a rage, Jimmie seems to accept this as just another instance of ingratitude. His reaction is low-key and realistic.

Jimmie gets out to push his own car and slips into the mud. There is a feel of familiarity here as JJ reacts normally to wet and slush. Here is another perfect opportunity for over reaction but, once again, McCarey and Chase let it go.

Next comes a pure McCarey bit. A piano mover (Jack Gavin) comes along carrying a piano on one shoulder. JJ calls him and he drops the instrument on the grass. Our stranded motorist gives him a silver dollar to push the car out, and when he does the machine inches forward only far enough to slip into a sinkhole and disappear. The two men watch the car go under in the kind of careful, long take from mid-long range that Laurel and Hardy would make their own. Cut to the men’s accepting faces and hold for a beat before the mover returns the dollar and walks off.

This action is being watched by a kid sitting in front of a garage. When he sees that Jimmie is still stuck, he calls out, “Another sucker,” and a man in a tow truck (Martin Wolfkiel) pulls out of the garage. He backs up to the edge of the puddle and offers to retrieve Jimmie’s car. Since JJ is already soaked, he agrees to go into the water to attach a tow line to the submerged car. Rescue seems inevitable, but the tow truck mechanic only reels in JJ’s rear wheels.

Now Jimmie has to re-enter the water, dive under, and re-attach the wheels. The following segment lasts about 90 seconds and its zany surrealism comes as a complete reversal of the everyday reality that has preceded it.

As JJ works underwater, the mechanic sits on dry land. Jimmie’s hand emerges and points to a wrench, which the mechanic gives him. Hand goes back under. Comes up again and points to a hammer. Back under. Pause. Re-surfaces and points to another wrench. As the mechanic reaches for it, the hand waves him off and more emphatically points to another one. Back under. Pause. The mechanic, wanting to light his pipe, calls for a match. JJ’s hand reaches from below with a match. The mechanic accepts it, lights it, and fires up the pipe. He then asks for the time. Hand up. The mechanic takes a look at Jimmie’s watch, nods his thanks and receives a wave in response.

It’s a gag sequence that elicits laughter not just because it’s funny but because it seems to come out of nowhere. We haven’t been prepared for anything this off the wall. It’s a moment of classic absurdity performed to perfection by an actor we can’t even see, although Chase will vanish in other films and allow his hands alone to carry the scene.

Jimmie’s final frustration comes when he arrives at the train station and asks a worker there the inane question, “What time does the 2:40 come in on Wednesday?” The man replies without missing a beat, “2:40 tomorrow. This is Tuesday.”

This little gem of a one-reeler was photographed by Len Powers, who would do the same job for Laurel and Hardy in 1932 when he shot “The Music Box,” the Boys’ only Oscar winner. Somewhere among the boarding house’s inhabitants is an uncredited Janet Gaynor.

Little movies like this one, especially when they feature comedians whose stars have since waned, are easy to overlook in our enthusiasm for big themes in big stories, but there’s much to be said for the little guys. And while we may never be able to identify with the mania of the Keystone Kops, locating what we have in common with a genial fella who suffers from wretchedly bad luck for most of an afternoon is as easy as getting stuck in the mud.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Strait-Jacket" (1964)

By 1964, the year “Strait-Jacket” was unbuckled and America tried it on for size, producer/director William Castle had a half-dozen horror movies under his ample belt, and none of them were “A” pictures. He’d seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” 17 times, pointing to the screen each time while mumbling, “I want one of those.”

He grabbed writer Robert Bloch, whose novel “Psycho” had worked brilliantly for Alfred Hitchcock a few years before—after “Homicidal” in 1961, Castle had broken ties with screenwriter Robb White, who had delivered five of his horror scripts—and Bloch set to work on a story loosely suggested by the Lizzie Borden axe murders of 1892.Bloch was the author of some great short horror stories, a couple of terrific novels, and scores of mediocre scripts. Screenwriting earned him most of his money, but it didn’t produce his most memorable work.

Perhaps Castle saw the approaching wave of “hag horror,” generally “B” creepers starring fading actresses who still had the big name but could no longer command big parts in big movies. He signed Joan Blondell for the role of axe murderess Lucy Harbin. Before shooting began, Blondell had an accident that prevented her from making the movie, and Castle went after one of the stars of “Baby Jane,” Joan Crawford.

Crawford was willing to accept the part, but she demanded cast and script approval. Castle agreed. So arrogant was Crawford, she gave the small role of Dr. Anderson, Lucy’s psychiatrist, to Mitchell Cox, a vice-president of Pepsi Cola, a non-actor but a personal friend, without telling Castle what she was up to. It’s to Cox’ credit that he comes across on screen no worse than many professional actors in “B” horror flicks, and he seems to be having a great time. He’s no Boris Karloff, but he’s no Paris Hilton, either.

Anne Helm was cast in the important role of Lucy’s estranged daughter Carol, but Crawford didn’t like her and out she went. Diane Baker had worked with Crawford in “The Best of Everything” (1959), and with Susan Hayward in “Stolen Hours” (1963), so she knew her way around a diva. Crawford liked her and “suggested” her for the role.

The movie opens with a flashback, a trick Robert Aldrich, the director of “Baby Jane,” would use for his second foray into hag horror, “Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” later that year. We see Lucy’s husband (Lee Majors in his first screen role) flirting and drinking with a young woman. He invites her to his house because his wife is out of town and not expected back for a day or two. The adulterer and his lover make a little whoopee, unaware that they are being watched by three-year old Carol (Vicki Cos).

Then Lucy comes home early.Crawford makes her first entrance in a way that she must have loved. The camera is aimed at the steps that come down from the passenger car of a train. When Crawford steps into the frame, all we see are her legs—and nice looking gams they are still for the 58-year old former dancer. The shot also gives us our first dose of Robert Bloch’s signature black humor. Stenciled above the steps, just below Lucy’s feet, is the admonition “Watch your step.” Listen, too, for lines like “She’s dying to meet you,” and “Sanity is relative.”

When Lucy returns to her house, she finds hubby and his gal in bed. Shocked, she stumbles from the house and trips over a tree stump, imbedded in which is an axe. Bracelets jangling, she pulls the axe from the wood and goes back into the house. We see the outlines of the sleeping lovers in shadows on the wall as Lucy hoists the axe above her head and takes off each of theirs with two manic blows. She then goes to work in earnest.

There is absolutely nothing realistic about these murders. The heads are severed from the bodies too easily and there is no blood splatter as Lucy whacks away. Since Castle cuts a couple of times to close-ups of Carol’s terrified face, maybe we are seeing the crime as the little girl saw it, with full emphasis on her mother.

Okay, Lucy goes to an asylum and Carol is sent to live with her mother’s brother (an amusingly jovial Leif Erickson) and his pinch-mouthed wife (Rochelle Hudson) on a farm somewhere in the Midwest. (Bloch has more fun by letting us know that Lucy’s maiden name was “Cutler.”)

Twenty years later, Lucy is declared sane and she comes to live with the Cutlers and Carol. Carol shows her around the farm and you have everything you need to know to plot the rest of the picture yourself by the 20 minute mark.

Carol decides, in a move reminiscent of “Vertigo,” to re-make her dowdy mom in the image of what she was when she wielded the chopper. Lucy starts wearing loud print dresses, dangling bracelets, and a black wig with a mid-‘40s hairstyle. Then she begins hearing voices chanting “Lucy Harbin took an axe and gave her husband 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave his girl friend 41.”

One night she wakes to find two disembodied heads and a gory axe in her bed. Not too surprisingly, she takes to drinking a wee bit too much.

On the afternoon she meets Carol’s fiancĂ© Michael (John Anthony Hayes), Lucy gets tight and flirts shamelessly with the younger man. This scene is the most memorable for viewers who like the picture for the wrong reasons—i.e., its camp value—as Crawford pulls out all the stops. She drapes herself over Hayes and even runs her fingertips around and between his lips. This was apparently not in the script nor the direction, and Hayes wondered what God had wrought, and he wondered it in a big way.

To make matters worse, Lucy’s psychiatrist, Dr. Anderson, shows up on his way to a fishing trip and the former patient gets upset. Lucy runs off and the doctor goes outside to look around. He soon looses his head over the place to the accompaniment of the sound of jangling bracelets.

Handyman Leo Krause (a wonderfully dim and degenerate George Kennedy) finds the doctor’s abandoned car and blackmails Carol into letting him keep it. He, too, is soon headed off, and then the film rushes to its conclusion with villainy revealed and honesty triumphant.

You don’t really know the movie is working as well as it is until you get to the murders and find yourself growing apprehensive. Castle’s best moment comes in a scene that finds Lucy watching Leo decapitate a chicken. The sound of the spinning blades on the weather vane builds throughout the brief scene until it reminds you of the jangling of Lucy’s bracelets. By the final reel, every time someone bends slightly at the waist, you expect an axe to enter the frame.

I suspect the participants had four ways of looking at “Strait-Jacket.” Crawford saw it as a star vehicle, while the supporting cast saw it as a paycheck. Castle saw it as an entry to “A” filmmaking, and Bloch saw it as a huge, sick joke. Viewers today don’t care much about what the supporting cast thought. Castle was wrong, while Crawford and Bloch were dead right—especially Bloch. It’s in the joke that the film is still most enjoyable.

Sadly, as a vehicle for Crawford, it’s really just the first step toward “Trog,” and there’s nothing funny about that.


Playing With Bloch's

In the coven made up of the mothers in my neighborhood when I was a kid, my mom was the only one who allowed copies of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine into the house. This made me very popular — and it was the only thing that did — at least on the Saturdays after the new issue hit the street.

My pals and I loved looking at pictures from monster movies, and it didn’t matter whether or not we’d seen the flick, or ever would. In those pre-home-video days in that small town, we had no hope that we’d ever be in a position to see films like the silent "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or even the Lon Chaney "Phantom of the Opera."

Which brings us at last to Robert Bloch, who frequently used FM as a bully pulpit to introduce us kids to the fading grandeur of silent horror films — or those pictures that passed for horror films before sound. I had no idea at that time that Bloch wrote fiction. I don’t remember now how I found out, but it was probably at the time Hitchcock’s "Psycho" came out and suddenly Bloch’s books were on every paperback spin rack in town.

Okay, here’s where I embarrass myself by admitting that I was too scared to see PSYCHO on it first run. Here’s why: I’d read Bloch's novel on the assumption that no book could be as scary as a movie. Word circulated around the horror-movie fan underground in town that this movie was the goods, more terrifying than a William Castle picture, and that would make it scarier than all hell on a rainy weekend.

So my plan was to read the book so I’d know what the story was and I could bluff my friends into thinking I’d seen the movie, just in case I wasn’t, you know, able to see it. Damn good plan for an 11-year old, except for one thing: Bloch’s novel is not the standard mystery/thriller, like Hitch’s film is not the standard horror movie.

The book scared me. Badly. Profoundly. Everlastingly. So much, I was even more afraid to go to the movie than I had been in the first place.

I’ve cleared my conscience.

So, this Bloch guy pulls the plow, huh? Oh, yeah. By 1960, he had been sharpening his blade since he published his first "Weird Tales" short story, “The Secret in the Tomb,” at age 17 in 1934. He had been on the fringes of the H.P. Lovecraft circle since 1933, when he initiated a correspondence with the old gent that lasted until Lovecraft’s death in 1937.

Honestly, in those early stories, derivative of HPL’s concepts and frequently overwrought style, Bloch didn’t show much promise that he would ever be anything more than a precocious acolyte.
If stories like “The Feast in the Abbey“ and “The Shambler from the Stars“ rely too heavily on Lovecraftian themes and atmospherics, Bloch soon found his own voice. More than one, actually. After all, what kind of schizophrenic has only one voice whispering in his ear?

And Bloch’s best imaginary friends were schizos, serial killers, mass murderers and just all-around boy-or-girl-next-door psychopaths. They dispatched their victims with butcher knives, scarves, axes, saws, shoves off of cliffs, and even the unimaginative handgun. He more than made up for that last with a death by gorilla costume. Of course I’m serious. Joe R. Lansdale selected Bloch’s “The Animal Fair” for the 2004 anthology "My Favorite Horror Story." Check it out.

Bloch never lost his affection for Lovecraft, and even as late as 1978, his novel "Strange Eons" was in honor of his mentor, but after the publication of his first novel, 1947’s "The Scarf," he was wedded to psychological horror in the public’s mind. Short stories like “Lucy Comes to Stay” and “Final Performance” – which is wonderfully ghastly and receives a tip of the hat in the current horror film "Dead Silence," showing up regularly in everything from the crime pulps to "Playboy" – kept that association alive.

He missed out on the screenplay assignment for "Psycho," but Bloch scripted for radio, films (including two for Castle), and television. He finally linked up with Hitchcock, sort of, by writing 17 episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." In all, Bloch provided scripts for 19 series, including "Star Trek," "Thriller," and "Night Gallery."

Many of his best post-"Scarf" stories are a blend of supernatural and psychological horror. “The Cheaters” is about a pair of eyeglasses that allow the wearer to read people’s minds, and what they think is scarred by greed and lust. “Catnip” is about a high school punk who accidentally burns down an old woman’s house and is then stalked by her cat. I’ve always been a big fan of “Sweets to the Sweet,” about a little girl and her favorite voodoo doll. Very nasty ending to this one. Yummy.

He wasn’t a perfect writer. Having published more than 200 stories and two dozen novels means there are several clinkers in the bunch, but when he was clicking, he was as good as anyone.

One more thing I have to mention: Bloch was one of the funniest horror writers ever. He was a popular emcee for science fiction and horror conventions, and in print, his stuff is littered with sick in-jokes and unexpected puns. Remember all those sick gags in the movie version of "Psycho"? “Mother isn’t herself tonight” and “A boy’s best friend is his mother” both originated in the novel. I still remember the pleasant chill I felt the first time I re-read the book and Mrs. Bates accuses the effete Norman of being “only half a man.” Heh, heh, heh.

Bloch once famously said of himself, “People think I must be a monster, but really I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

But my all-time favorite Bloch moment comes in an otherwise disposable British film from 1966 called "The Psychopath," in which a sick, aging German war widow who collects dolls sends her feeble-minded but physically strong son out to murder the men she thinks killed her husband. In the film’s climax, the son injures his back while being pursued but manages to get home. The police show up to arrest him and his mother. Mom puts up a small struggle and the son, who is hiding in the attic, hears what is going on and begins howling. The police open the door and we are faced with the now-paralyzed young man seated in a chair. His fruitcake mother has powdered his face to remove his natural coloring, and rouged his lips and cheeks to make him look like a giant Kewpie doll. A tear runs down his cheek as he sobs, “Momma. Momma.”

Comic shocks don’t come any sicker than that.

Robert Bloch died of cancer on Sept. 23, 1994. Every time a new anthology of horror or crime stories is published, I look to see if it includes a new story by him. It’s a silly habit I don’t want to break.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Volume 1, Number 1

Why Saturday? I’m an aging 12-year old and I remember Saturday as the day for watching cartoons, going to the movies, checking the drug store to see if the new issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland was in yet, and reading the latest Edgar Rice Burroughs release from Ace Books.

So am I confessing to arrested development? To a degree, but I am old enough now to know that the pop culture artifacts I love are not necessarily representative of the best the human race has to offer. When I was 12, Burroughs was the greatest writer of all time. Now he’s only in the top dozen. Just kidding. (Sort of.)

What can you expect to find on this blog? Reviews, commentary, opinions (lots of those), stupid opinions (lots and lots of those)—generally a continuing love of the things most people expect to find around the bottom rungs of the pop culture ladder. I love pulp magazines, vintage comic strips, movies old and new, detective stories. I adore and have strong feelings about the norms--comedy and drama—but for reasons that may or may not become clear to you and me in time, my heart truly belongs to the extreme forms of farce and melodrama. I suppose that makes me an outlaw critic. I’ve realized over the years that other reviewers hold several of my passions beneath contempt. To those people I say . . . well, I’ll say it as we go along.

I’m already posting on some other blogs and websites— for movies, for books and comics, and a couple of others—but this is the place at which all my stuff will be gathered. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And vice versa.