I guess it must be time to refill the well. I find myself in a mode of consuming, rather than creating, and I’m enjoying the time spent here. I’m truly glad I invested in the 30 film Blu-ray set of the original Universal horror films, which have been remastered to eliminate the scratches and wear marks that we’ve always seen as we watched the old films on TV. They’ve even eliminated those circles we’ve always seen in the upper right corner now and then, which served as a signal to the projectionist to switch to the next reel.

What many don’t know is that analog film stock provides a very high resolution, on a par with today’s 4K digital standard, so the clarity of these films is only limited to the choice of lenses that were used at the time of filming. I believe the quality I’m seeing on my 4K Sony is better than what was seen in theaters when these films were first released.

On a related note, I just read a short book titled “It’s Alive!”, which details the extraordinary obstacles Carl Laemmle Jr. had to overcome to make 1931’s “Frankenstein” and have Boris Karloff star in the title role. It’s scary how close we came to having Bela Lugosi take that role, which (if you’ve ever watched Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man) he was completely wrong for. Karloff was the right man for the part and gave it a persona that I don’t think any other actor at the time could have equaled.

These movies, curated and presented by Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul” on WPIX’s “Shock Theater” in the early 60’s served as my introduction to the world of horror, even before Ed Sullivan brought music into my life when he first introduced the Beatles one fateful Sunday night. I guess the reason I enjoy watching Rich Koz as Svengoolie on Saturday nights is because he’s the latest in a long line of horror hosts, a group that held John Zacherle in such high regard.

The Cool Ghoul!

In addition to my frequent trips down memory lane via this set of Universal classics, I’m also keeping up with the more current lineage of horror. This past Friday, I enjoyed watching “Halloween Ends” on its opening day, and although I understand a lot of the flack and push back it’s getting, I personally enjoyed it and found it a fitting end to the decades of terror brought by Michael Myers.

Time for a word of caution – the discussion about Ends is about to land heavily into spoiler territory, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know what happens before you do, you’d best back out of here now and return, if you so choose, once you’ve seen it for yourself.

I saw John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” in a theater when it came out in 1978, and found it to be a landmark film, not unlike Hitchcock’s “Psycho” a decade and a half earlier. Sadly, the line of sequels it spawned ranged from bad to virtually unwatchable, and I’d personally include Zombie’s two films in that mess. I believe they were all about trying to financially capitalize on the characters created by Carpenter and Debra Hill in the original.

David Gordon Green’s trilogy, which began with 2018’s “Halloween” was the most faithful in terms of following in Carpenter’s footsteps, and I liked that it tossed all previous sequels out the window and brought Michael and Laurie Strode into our world today. I had a severe dislike for the asshole doctor Sartain in that one, especially when he stabbed Hawkins to prevent him from shooting the prone Michael in the head and found myself cheering when Michael stepped on his head, crushing it like a piece of rotten fruit en route to his showdown at Laurie’s fortress of a home.

I wasn’t that crazy about his follow up, “Halloween Kills”, although Green did redeem himself somewhat by bring back Dr. Loomis in a flashback sequence where the actor chosen did bear a strong resemblance to the great Donald Pleasence.

I found the hospital sequence with the entire town chasing the wrong escaped inmate to be overly long and drawn out, especially with both Hawkins and Laurie sidelined by their injuries. The beating, stabbing and shooting Michael endured before his furious rampage at the end of Kills sets the stage for the weakened Michael we find hiding in the sewers beneath Haddonfield four years later in Ends.

(Side note – I had to wonder if he encountered any stray balloons… or clowns in those sewer pipes?)

I think what most people didn’t like about Ends was the side story involving Corey and Alyson taking away from Laurie and Michael, but I see where David Gordon Green was going with this aspect. I think he was stating that Michael wasn’t actually the villain. He was the embodiment, the personification, but EVIL itself was and has always been the true villain in the Halloween series. Dr. Loomis actually stated that in the original, when he described looking into the boy’s eyes and seeing pure evil there, so when Michael has Corey by the throat in the sewer and they stare into each other’s eyes before he releases Corey and lets him go supports exactly what Loomis was saying back then. Corey’s rampage was poorly executed at best, but it did serve to invigorate Michael for his final confrontation with Laurie at the end.

In the sewers… where’s the red balloon?

(Side note – be sure to watch for a cameo by OG Nick Castle, the ORIGINAL Michael Myers from 1978 in the bar scene with Alyson and Corey)

Nick Castle, 1978’s original Michael Myers!

I liked when Hawkins entered the kitchen, looked at Alyson and Laurie and simply said, “Michael?” referring to the prone body on the table and Laurie replied, “He’s dead”, followed by Alyson adding, “Not dead enough.”, leading to the procession by the entire town to the auto junkyard. It was fitting that Alyson turned on the shredder and Laurie actually rolled Michael’s body into the shredder, where he was ground to raw meat between the massive steel rollers. Michael Myers is absolutely dead, once and for all, but evil? No, not by a long shot.

For me, the lineage of Halloween is best served by Carpenter’s original and Green’s trilogy. These four films are all I need in my collection to represent the Michael Myers saga and once Ends is released on Blu Ray, those four will reside on my server along with the universal series and the Hammer collection featuring Christopher Lee as Dracula.

It’s over now Laurie… you can rest

I do have one nagging question, though… when Laurie has Michael pinned to the table, she removes his mask before she uses the large Chef’s knife to slice open his throat. Whatever happened to that mask? Director David Gordon Green said he’s finished with the Halloween saga now that this trilogy is done and released, but… Whatever happened to that mask?

As I expected (and feared), I dug into Stephen King’s “Fairy Tale” like a hungry dog, but once the tale left our world and descended into the fairy tale element, my reading slowed to a crawl, and ultimately stopped. I like my horror firmly grounded in the world in which we live, as King did so well in works like “’Salem’s Lot”, but his flights into fantasy lands like the new one and his Dark Tower series (which I’ve never read) just don’t appeal to me. I might just commit the ultimate crime and skip ahead to the final chapter and read the conclusion of Fairy Tale! I’m glad to hear he has another book with Holly Gibney (from Mr. Mercedes) in the works for next year – I’ll be looking forward to that one for sure!

I did enjoy the film adaptation of “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, although it was shocking to see how much Donald Sutherland has aged. I found it to be a good ‘coming of age’ tale, which is an area where King truly excels. That was another one that didn’t get a lot of love because it wasn’t “horror enough” for the complainers. Wonder how they felt about ‘Stand By Me’?

The old saying is so true – Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.

Funny thing about “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” … after watching that, I did scribble a quickie a day or two afterward. It’s nothing to write home about, an idea for a first draft at best, but at least it did inspire me to hit a few keys during a lull at work!

Ends? Yes, it does.

Here we are on the 14th, and I’ve just finished watching “Halloween Ends” on my big screen, courtesy of Peacock. I’m not going to reveal any spoilers here, as I think everyone should see and judge it for themselves.

Overall, there are some parts that seemed to drag for me. I paused it twice to take a break, have a smoke… step away for a bit. The ending, however, is indeed definite, nothing uncertain about it. Having seen them all, starting with John Carpenter’s original in a dark theater back in 1978, I will say that this ending, compared to all the others, leaves no sense of ambiguity.

Take a couple hours and see it for yourselves, whether in a theater or in your own living room (if you subscribe to Peacock), but do watch it and judge for yourselves.

Ah, October!

I find October very amusing, as I watch the world embracing horror and monsters so enthusiastically… and then on November first, they all pack it away as they prepare for the next bandwagon to jump on.

For those like me, for whom Halloween is a lifestyle and not just a day, it’s funny to watch. For me, Halloween is every day, minus the children going door to door seeking candy.

I now have the entire collection of Universal’s classic monsters on Blu Ray, and the quality of the remasters is superb. I enjoy choosing one at random and relaxing as I watch where it all began.

I like some of the new works also… we just enjoyed watching “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” on Netflix, based on Stephen King’s short story in last year’s “If It Bleeds” collection.

The day after watching it, it was a quiet day at work, so I began scribbling a little bit…

When old Eugene Patterson died, his home sat vacant for months before our firm was retained to perform a complete inspection and evaluation to be provided to the attorneys handling the probate arrangements.

I’d decided to begin in the basement and carefully look over the heart of any home, the plumbing and heating systems, and found them to be in perfect condition, clearly well maintained during the years that Patterson was in residence.

The entire building fit that well maintained, yet now vacant category well, everything neatly in order, yet wearing a light coat of dust from the lack of attention. I finally walked along the upstairs hallway, approaching a closed door that must have been old Patterson’s bedroom and the last room on my list for the inspection.

When I opened the door, I was startled by the contrast to the rest of the house. There was no dust to be found in here, the furniture having been polished to a deep luster, giving the mahogany a subtle elegance. The window was slightly open, the curtains rustling gently in the light autumn breeze, and yet there was still a hint of lemon scent in the air, as though the furniture had been very recently polished.

As I turned my head to leave, something caught my eye… a reflection of the late afternoon sunlight in an unexpected place? I walked back in and looked carefully, now seeing the fresh drop of blood on the bed pillow. The drop was still liquid, having not yet been absorbed by the bedding, but how? The place had been completely vacant for months.

As I jotted my observations down on the tablet I’d been using to take and notate photos of the property, I heard a soft click, a stealthy sound I’d easily have missed if I’d been framing a photo. I noticed the closet door was not fully closed, an anomaly in the otherwise pristine room.

Wasn’t that door closed when I first looked around the room upon entering? I‘m not sure, maybe I just missed it as surprised as I was by the pristine look of this room compared to all the others. No problem though, I’ll just walk over and pull it clo…….

Nothing to write home about as it stands, but refreshing to find that I can still manage to string a few words together now and then.

Speaking of new, we’re now just days away from “Halloween Ends”, the final installment in the Blumhouse trilogy that represents the best Michael Myers treatment since John Carpenter’s 1978 original. I’m looking forward to seeing how they wrap this set up, and I’m diligently avoiding any spoilers online about it beforehand. I’d much rather be surprised as I watch the film.

Do sleep well…

Classic Horror LIVES!

The classic horror that monster kids like me grew up with and came to enjoy so much all began with Universal Studios.

Universal Logo

When we saw that plane circling the planet, we knew we were in for some good stuff! And, as good as the actors were that gave life to our monsters, we really need to credit the amazing makeup work and original designs of Jack P. Pierce. He’s the man that gave the monsters the iconic look we all know today.

Classic Wallpaper

Here’s Jack at work with Boris Karloff…

And the result of his work…

Bride Of Frankenstein

When Universal made “Werewolf Of London” in 1935, Pierce’s original concept for the makeup was different than what we saw on the screen because Henry Hull, who played the title role, pointed out to Pierce that the script called for the characters to recognize who he was, so they modified the design accordingly.

Henry Hull

Stories circulated at the time that Henry Hull’s vanity was behind the redesign, but it was simply to align with the script. I got the true story from Henry’s great nephew, Cortlandt Hull, during a visit to his amazing “Witch’s Dungeon” in Plainville, CT.

With Cortlandt Hull in his Witch’s Dungeon

As he said when he told us the story about the makeup change, “And this is straight from the wolf’s mouth!”

Jack was able to use his original concept a few years later, when Universal released “The Wolf Man” in 1941 with Lon Chaney Jr. in Pierce’s original werewolf makeup.

The Wolf Man

As we entered the 1950’s, American movies shifted toward Sci Fi for the source material, with the Big Bug films (Them!, Tarantula, The Deadly Mantis) and the outer space adventures, such as Forbidden Planet.

Gothic horror made a comeback before the end of the decade, courtesy of our British cousins across the pond at Hammer Studios!

Hammer Title Card

This title card, dated 1958, is from Hammer’s “Horror Of Dracula”, which introduced us to Christopher Lee wearing the cape and bringing a ferocious side to Dracula that we never experienced with Bela Lugosi.

Christopher Lee

Hammer added three elements we’d never experienced with our beloved Universal classics. They presented in Technicolor, they literally spilled buckets of bright red blood throughout the films, and yes… the women in Hammer horrors were often buxom beauties in varying stages of undress (which had teenage monster kids like yours truly lined up at the box office for every new release!)

Lust For A Vampire

Since those early days, we’ve been dazzled by CGI effects creating the impossible and making it look so realistic.

Kong vs Godzilla

But I still prefer the originals, the incredible makeup and performances of the classics which were groundbreaking at the time and hold up so well even now.

Bride Of Frankenstein

And that’s why they’re called Classic Horror!

Amazing artist!

It’s been a busy time since I returned to the workplace in a full time job, but I did manage to find some interesting things here and there.

I’d seen posts of Frederick Cooper’s artwork here and there, but came across an ad for a book he’d published of his sketches. Intrigued, I visited his site ( and had a look.

I found that you could order a signed copy, and placed my order for one, which arrived just the other day. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he not only signed the book, but added 3 x 5 prints of Boris and the Bride, and signed those too!

His work is so good, the finished images look like stills from the films, rather than having been rendered by hand. We’re planning to get frames for the 2 signed prints and add them to the dungeon.

In other news, I’ve reached the halfway point in “Fairy Tales”, the new Stephen King book that was just released, and… I’m slowing down.

I’ll confess, I’m not a fan of the fantasy side of King’s body of work. I prefer the tales set in relatable locations, places you feel like you’ve been. When he ventures into the fantasy worlds, my interest wanes quickly. The first part of this book is classic King, where he fleshes out the characters so well that the reader becomes vested in them. I flew through that part, as is my usual habit of inhaling new King works. Now, we’ve entered the part that defines the book’s title, and my consumption speed has slowed to that of a 1972 Pinto station wagon. You know, the one where every Sunday, you take the family out for a push.

I’ll finish it… eventually, I suppose. I’d like to see the conclusion, which (I hope) will take place back in our world. I’ve never been tempted to skip ahead to the end of a King book yet, but… well, there are first times for everything, no?

Time, as they say, will tell.

To The Dungeon!

After a 2-hour drive to Plainville, Connecticut (including a hair-raising stretch through Hartford on I-84, the road that seems to attract those drivers with a prominent death wish), we arrived yesterday afternoon at our destination!

Upon entering, we were greeted by Cortlandt Hull, curator of the museum and the great-nephew of actor Henry Hull, who played the title role in Universal’s “Werewolf of London” in 1935. Cortlandt is actually featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for his longstanding role as curator of this museum.

As he took us into his prop room, Cortlandt shared a lifetime of history behind the scenes of the films he has represented by the props on display, many of which were used in the films (such as the head cast of Linda Blair, used for the head turning sequence in The Exorcist).

For example, I asked him about something I’d read where Jack Pierce (Universal’s makeup artist, who developed the iconic makeup for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein) had a design he wanted to use for Henry Hull, but Henry objected because he wanted to be recognizable. Cortlandt told us that was originally put in a gossip rag back in the day, but what really happened is that Henry pointed to the script and told Pierce that the script called for his on-screen wife (played by Valerie Hobson) to be able to recognize him, so they modified the design, adding the prominent widow’s peak. Pierce was able to use his original concept a few years later on Lon Chaney Jr. when Universal released The Wolf Man in 1941. (As he shared this story with us, Cortlandt smiled and said, “And that’s right from the wolf’s mouth!”)

Here’s more from his website to enjoy!

And then, it’s on to the displays themselves. Our tour guide was Farnsworth the Butler, who did a tremendous job introducing each display, describing the actor, the character, the title and year of each film and playing the audio samples that many of the displays included. One example was the Dracula display playing many of Bela Lugosi’s most memorable lines from 1931’s “Dracula” (“I am… Dracula. I bid you welcome”). Farnsworth was the perfect guide for the tour, and fit right at home in the museum.

And again, here’s more from the website to enjoy!

As we prepared to depart the dungeon and head back to the real world (far more frightening!), Cortlandt was gracious enough to take a photo with me!

Our host, Cortlandt Hull

Here are some of the extraordinary guests and friends who’ve visited and contributed to the dungeon!

This day was an early birthday present from my amazing wife Anita and was an experience I’ll enjoy remembering for a lifetime. There aren’t many like Cortlandt who preserve the traditions and history of movie monsters from when it all began, so this was truly a special day for me!

If you’re a monster kid like me and find yourself within driving distance to Plainville, CT, do yourself a big favor and visit The Witch’s Dungeon. You’ll enjoy the trip, I guarantee it!

Visit The Witch’s Dungeon website to learn more!

Where it all began…

As a “monster kid” from the late 50’s, my introduction to the world of horror began with watching the classic monsters in the Universal Studios movies that started it all. My particular host to these films was Zacherley, the “Cool Ghoul” hosting “Shock Theater” on TV.

I’ve recently acquired the entire set of Universal classics on Blu Ray, and the quality of the remasters is amazing. The film scratches are all gone, the soundtracks are crisp and clear… I’d bet these look even better than what moviegoers saw on the screens when these films made their debut in theaters!

And now, it gets even better! My wife is giving me an early surprise birthday present tonight, taking me to Plainville, CT to visit Cortlandt Hull’s “Witch’s Dungeon”, a museum dedicated to preserving the history of these classic films.

Cortlandt Hull is the great nephew of Henry Hull, who starred in the 1935 Universal film, “Werewolf of London”, the first werewolf film released by Universal. Lon Chaney Jr’s turn as The Wolf Man would come a few years later and prove to be an enduring character making numerous appearances in films.

Henry Hull as the Werewolf Of London

I’m greatly excited about this visit tonight, and hope they’ll allow me to photograph the exhibits! If so, there’ll be a follow up post tomorrow with a bunch of photos to enjoy!

To learn more about Cortlandt and the museum he curates, visit his website and check out his remarkable history and the extraordinary people he’s had the opportunity to meet over the years.

Duty calls – I need to gut, thoroughly clean and degrease the shell, then rebuild our grill with a new set of burners this morning and get it restored to like new condition, a task I generally do every two years. Once done, it’s into the shower to get humanized… well, at least as human as I can get… and prepare for our journey to the Witch’s Dungeon tonight!

Hopefully, I’ll be posting again tomorrow with a boatload of photos from our trip tonight!

Until then, as always… do sleep well

My chosen category

Having been born in the mid 1950’s, I’m categorized as a ‘Baby Boomer’, which doesn’t bother me. We tend to categorize and compartmentalize everything, and this just happens to be where I fall. So be it. Call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for dinner and all’s good.

But, back in the late 50’s, I chose another category for myself, one that I hold dear and proudly enjoy membership in, to this day.

I was, and always will be, a Monster Kid!

I knew nothing about the business changes and evolution that Universal Studios had gone through over the years… that would all come later on. What I did know is that I discovered a TV show called Shock Theater, hosted by John Zacherle (a.k.a. Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul), that introduced me to Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man and all the other classic monsters that originated at Universal.

Zacherley’s antics were hilarious, one of my favorites being when he’d cautiously approach a huge industrial laundry cart on wheels that was thrashing around wildly on the set. He’d lift the lid just high enough to toss in raw meat, which caused the basket to thrash all the more.

He said he was feeding his wife, which had me rolling on the floor in gales of laughter.

The laundry cart!

Zach graced the covers of a few issues of my favorite reading material, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

The combination of his humor and the incredible monsters I’d see in the movies he hosted were the coolest thing ever to my preschool eyes.

All these years later, they still are!

I’m enjoying a great trip down memory lane, courtesy of a new coffee table (or is that coffin table?) book I just received this morning.

This book is a significant history of Universal Studios and their place in horror history, the place where it all began. I find it funny that, as management changed over the years, they tried to walk away from horror movies, only to discover that their monster movies, like the monsters within, simply would never die! Generation after generation discovered the movies and held them in a rightful place of honor. Those monsters are, and will always be iconic, no matter what else comes down the road.

The book is comprehensive in documenting the studio’s history and is lavishly illustrated with great stills from all the films it covers. Studying history back in school was never this much fun!

Boris Karloff in Bride of Frankenstein
Karloff and Lugosi, Universal’s Kings of Horror

I could go on for days about all this, but… life and an appointment for an oil change beckon me away from the keys for now. I know what I’ll be reading while they tend to my car!

What’s next?

As we’ve gone through 2020, 2021 and 2022, we’ve experienced a global pandemic, bodies stacked in refrigerated trailers like wood piles, we’re on the brink of a nuclear holocaust as tensions mount across the world, global supply chains have clogged, making resources scarce, and inflation has exploded to levels that leave us on the brink of recession.

You have to sit and wonder, after all this are we finally seeing the way out of this mess, or will the next year harbor something even worse?

Is that a light at the end of this dark tunnel, or…

Happy New Year?

Well… I was thinking about looking at a new car sometime soon, so who knows?

Back at the keyboard

It seems my old friend, the Muse, has elected to return and spend some quality time with me again. I’ve broken ground on what I hope will build into a novel, and I just finished a new short story about a call center I briefly worked at, titled “The Facility”.

In this one, I tried to develop a sense of unease about the building itself as a lead-up to the main event:

Walking through the door, I exchanged pleasantries with the security guard at his desk, and then the strangeness returned.
There are not many people in this facility, and the few you encounter in the halls generally walk with their heads down, not looking at anyone else. The few that do look ahead return your greeting with a slight nod, the haunted expressions on their faces unchanging, their vacant thousand-yard stare unblinking.
I don’t know if it’s the silence in here, (even more unusual, given the large size of the building), but I find my
senses heightened whenever I’m here, noticing every whisper, every keyboard click, even the shadow of a bird passing by one of the frosted windows high up on the wall over the large clocks displaying the time of day in cities around the world.
I can even hear the soles of my sneakers as I walk along the floor, which is covered in industrial carpeting.
The real question is whether I’m unconsciously reacting to the building itself… or is the building affecting me somehow? Is this the reason for the ghastly expressions on the faces of the silent ones as they walk along the corridors in here?

And then, when the main event occurs, I deliberately chose to focus on reactions, rather than the cause itself. I think I’d rather allow readers to use their imaginations to concoct their own vision of what… well, can’t give it away now, can I? That would defeat the whole purpose.

The good news overall is that the old “What-If?” engine seems to have had a good tuneup, and is purring nicely again, so I need to fasten my seat belt and sit back and enjoy the ride.

All aboard!