Sunday, October 31, 2010

Well, Halloween is almost over as I type this. I think I've gotten my money's worth this year. I've watched all the scary movies on my list and a few extra. I've read tons of creepy stories old and new.
The day itself has been almost anti-climatic. I think reading Michael Moorcock's new book over the last couple of days sort of bumped me out of the Halloween spirit, which is fine since I had almost a month's worth of ghostly goings on. And once again, it looks like I'm not going to have any trick or treaters show up.
Been doing a little reading in other genres tonight, and I have a couple of ideas for upcoming blog posts, including the return of the Department of Lost Barbarians. So that's it, I guess for Halloween 2010. Hope you all had a good one. I think I may re-read a short H.P. Lovecraft story before bedtime though, just to see the season off properly. Night!

The Coming of the Terraphiles


When I first heard that Michael Moorcock was writing a Doctor Who novel, my immediate response was, why? I mean this is Michael Freaking Moorcock, creator of fantasy icon Elric of Melnibone, author of something like 80 books, short listed for the Whitbread Prize. Why would he be writing a media tie-in book?
The short answer is, he wasn't. The BBC didn't want a Doctor Who book by Michael Moorcock. They wanted a Michael Moorcock novel that featured the Doctor. Well, they got it. In spades.
Imagine, if you will, that P.G. Wodehouse had written for Amazing Stories instead of The Strand. Then throw in some Space Pirates, a country house mystery farce, and a few British Schoolboy stories. Add The Doctor and the lovely Amy Pond, and then mix all that with elements of Moorcock's Multiverse, including Law and Chaos, the Second Aether series, The Cosmic Balance, the nefarious captain Quelch, and more insider references than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at. Oh yeah, and the entire universe is in peril. It is the Doctor, after all.
The book begins with some of Moorcock's more beautiful and lyrical writing as he describes the arrival of space pirate Captain Cornelius, in his ship the Paine, above the planet Venice. A few pages later, you're in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Amy as the Doctor intercepts a badly garbled transmission. It seems that "Someone 's messing with the normal rules of the energy flow. Time and space are all over the place. quite literally, I mean. Growing increasingly unstable." Imagine Matt Smith spewing that line. Moorcock manages to get Smith's Doctor to the page, despite the fact that he had limited access to the series as he was writing the novel. The new season hadn't been broadcast when he began writing and he was only able to see a couple of episodes a bit later.
The Doctor and Amy end up traveling to the far future where a group of history re-enactors , known as the terraphiles because they revere old earth, are involved in a series of games. The winner of the games gets the fabled Arrow of Law, an object that the Doctor realizes he must have to save the day. The ever resourceful Time Lord pulls a few strings to get himself on one of the sporting teams and we're off. Deprived by circumstances of the TARDIS, the Doctor must take a rambling path to the planet Miggea, (Another insider reference.) traveling on an old "nuker" style space craft, a space faring cruise liner, and eventually on one of the ships of the Second Aether. The Second Aether( or Ether) is the space between the worlds of the multiverse, between Law and Chaos, life and death, love and hate, matter and antimatter. It's Explained in greater detail in books like Blood, Fabulous Harbours, and The War Amongst the Angels, and touched on in many other Moorcock books, including the DC Comics series Michael Moorcock's Multiverse.
As I said, this is a Michael Moorcock book that features the Doctor, and I did wonder as I read, if people less familiar with Moorcock's work might have some trouble following this one. Ultimately the book stands alone, but if you know a lot about Moorcock's other books, you're going to get a lot of references that someone only steeped in Doctor Who is going to miss. I've seen a few other reviewers complain about the book's somewhat leisurely pace, but I think that's part of the way Moorcock approached this one. It gives the author the chance to visit some fun SF tropes like the wonderfully realized spaceport of Desiree. No stranger to SF, Moorcock supplies robots, ray guns, spaceships of all kinds, and aliens of every type.
Moorcock's fans won't find many references to his other pet theme, The Eternal Champion in The Coming of the Terraphiles, but there are one or two. Nobody shows up with a cursed black rune-sword. (Though that would have been really cool!) I suppose one might make a case that the Doctor is the EC in this one, and after all, who better than an eternal man? Does that Make Amy Moonglum? She does have red hair.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun with The Coming of the Terraphiles. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but then that's what I've learned to expect from Michael Moorcock.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Top Five Conan Stories


Over at The Blog That Time Forgot we were talking about introducing Conan and REH to new readers and what would be good Conan stories to give to someone just discovering the character. This led to a discussion of what do we various REH fans think are the top five Conan yarns. So this will be my list of what I consider to be the top five Conan stories. They are also the five I would give to a Conan newbie.

The People of the Black Circle

If I could only use one Conan story to introduce the big Cimmerian to someone, this would be it. As Stan (The Man) Lee used to say, This One's Got it All. It's some of Robert E. Howard's best prose, I think. The secondary characters are every bit as well fleshed out as Conan. It has some of REH's most effective depictions of sorcery as Conan makes his way into the stronghold of the Black Seers. The magic here is weird and creepy. Not at all reader friendly. Conan himself is very well drawn, at turns fierce, crafty, loyal, ruthless and even humorous. Any of Howard's detractors who consider Conan a one dimensional character need to give this one a closer look. For my money, this is one of the top sword & sorcery stories ever written.

The Tower of the Elephant

A story from early in Conan's career, while he was still making his living as a thief and still often mystified by civilization. This one shows Robert E. Howard in full Weird Tales mode, as Conan comes face to face with Yag-Kosha, an alien being from the trackless outer gulfs of space and time. Howard manages to make this creature a sympathetic character and by the end of the story, you're rooting for the bad guy, who cruelly tricked and mistreated Yag-Kosha, to get his strange and horrific comeuppance. And he does. There's not a tremendous amount of action in Tower of the Elephant but for mood and atmosphere it's hard to beat.

Rogues in the House

This is my favorite Conan story. I've always been partial to urban fantasy and I think it works particularly well with Conan, because he's such a fish out of water in a city at this point in his career. This one has court intrigue, revenge in various forms, death traps, a dangerous man-beast, a vile and sneaky sorcerer, and an interesting companion in adventure in the somewhat foppish Murilo. Through it all stalks Conan, dealing with everything thrown at him. It also features the famous scene where Conan tosses a woman who has betrayed him into a cesspool. One of the best.


Red Nails

Robert E. Howard himself thought Red Nails might be "too much raw meat" for many readers, but man, what a story. Howard had written before of a lost, but still inhabited city in the wilderness in The Slithering Shadow (Xuthal of the Dusk) but he really (ahem) nailed it in this story. The supporting cast in this one is great, from Techotl, the warrior who guides Conan through the winding streets and tunnels of Xuchotil, to Tascela, the creepy queen of one of the decadent warring tribes, to the incomparable Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, a woman warrior who certainly puts lie to the words of those who say Howard didn't write strong female characters. Oddly enough, Valeria is also the primary viewpoint character through much of this story. Swordfights, monsters, sorcery, and a brooding atmosphere of violence and treachery. This one vies with People of the Black Circle as the possible best Conan tale. It was also the last one.

Beyond the Black River

Another story often championed as the 'best' Conan yarn, and it is a great one, no question. In this one, Robert E. Howard seemed to be trying to take Conan in a different direction. Beyond the Black River is sort of 'Conan the Indian Fighter' but with Picts standing in for Native Americans. There's still some sorcery, enough to market the story to Weird Tales anyway, but this is closer to a tale of the American frontier than of the Hyborian Age. Late in his writing career, REH seemed to be moved to write more of the world he knew and lived in, or at least was close to the history of, and so he brought Conan into a setting of log cabins and frontier forts, where characters wore buckskins and beaded belts. No glittering cities and silk clad dancing girls here. Conan, of course, is still Conan. Still the toughest hombre on the block and the only man around who can match the Picts at their own woodcraft. While I would recommend this one for a new reader, I'd warn him to read the other four on my list first, as Beyond the Black River isn't a good example of the overall tone and setting of the Conan stories.

Okay, so that's my top five 'best' Conan stories. Now, unlike some of my fellow fans, I can differentiate between best and favorite. If I tried to make a list of my top five favorite Conan stories, I might have to juggle a bit. I really like The Black Stranger, which doesn't seem to make it onto too may people's lists of favorite Conan yarns. I like its almost Gothic plot structure and I think it shows Howard's growing ability to write multiple viewpoints. (Lady Belesa and the young girl Tina are particularly well handled.) I'm also fond of The God in the Bowl, because I think the early scenes do a great job of showing the differences between a barbarian and the civilized men around him. Would I replace any of the above with either of these two? That would be telling.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rinzler Strikes Back

Just saw that J.W. Rinzler has a new book out, The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Rinzler's previous book about the making of Star Wars is hands down the best book I've ever seen about the making of a movie. Incredibly In-Depth and full of all kinds of insider pics and material. (Hey, it's from Lucas Books. He had the inside track.) The new book looks to be more of the same. I'm not what would probably be considered a huge Star Wars fan. I love the original three movies but I don't own any Star Wars stuff or follow all the books, comics, etc that have sprung up. But I really enjoy behind the scenes kinds of books, and as I said, Rinzler's first Star Wars book was amazing. The Empire book is out in hardback for 85 bucks, (It's Gigantic.) but Amazon has it discounted to 50, and that would include free shipping, so I'll probably order a copy. The price is a little steep to ask for it for Christmas.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ki-Gor: King of the Jungle

I've talked about Ki-Gor, the other jungle Lord in previous posts, but here's a quick refresher. Of all the various imitations of Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic jungle lord Tarzan of the Apes, the most successful in the pulp magazine format was Ki-gor. Ki-gor appeared in the Fiction House pulp magazine Jungle Stories from 1938 until 1954. He also appeared as a comic book character called Kaanga. No one remembers why the name was changed for the comic, but Ki-Gor and Kaanga were the same character for all intents and purposes.
Fiction House is long out of business and any number of publishers have been putting out reprints of the Ki-Gor stories, most notably Adventure House who publish Ki-Gor both in pulp replicas and as an occasional feature in their anthology title, High Adventure. The Adventure House folks do a great job and I recommend their books.
Recently however, Altus Press announced that they intended to get all of Ki-Gor's adventures into print in trade paperback volumes. My buddy Cliff ordered copies of Ki-Gor:The Complete Series Volume 1 for himself and me. Volume 1 contains the first six Ki-Gor adventures, including Ki-Gor's origin story, Ki-Gor, King of the Jungle. I already knew the Tarzan clone's origin, having read about it in Don Hutchinson's terrific book, The Great Pulp Heroes, but it was fun to actually read the story.
One thing I noticed right off was that it was better written than some of the later Ki-Gor stories. I'm talking mainly about the prose, which seemed to get a bit wonky in some of Ki-Gor's adventures. The author of the first story was someone named John Murray Reynolds, about who I know absolutely nothing. When the story was reprinted several years later, it was credited to the house name John Peter Drummond. According to various sources, there were around a half dozen writers on the series, which doubtlessly explains the varying quality of the stories.
Anyway, Ki-Gor, King of the Jungle, is a fast moving little story that explains how Ki-Gor met Helene, the woman who would one day become his mate, though in this first story, like in many romances, they don't get along so well initially. Ki-Gor does all the standard Tarzan stuff, killing big cats with only a knife, fighting native warriors, swinging through the trees, and mangling the English language. (Okay, that one's only true for the early movie Tarzan. ERB's apeman learned to speak several languages fluently.) In fact, Ki-Gor is sort of a mix between the pulp and movie versions of Tarzan, pulling elements from both.
I'm having a lot of fun reading these old pulp stories and I'm glad that Altus Press is collecting all the Ki-Gor tales in convenient format. I hope they stay at it until all the stories have been reprinted. I'm already ready for volume 2.

Making Space

I spent part of my weekend culling and rearranging books. I needed more space on the shelves, so I decided to relocate a bunch of paperbacks behind the hardbacks on another shelf. It's okay, the shelves are deep and these paperbacks don't need to be displayed. I know where they are when I need them. That freed up an entire four foot high bookshelf, so I decided it would become the shelf for my ever growing collection of Michael Moorcock books. Once I'd moved the Moorcock books, I was able to rearrange the Robert E. Howard books. My plan at some point is to buy a nice bookshelf with glass doors to house books by and relating to REH, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. But for now I've cleared enough shelf space for the upcoming releases of two new books from the Robert E. Howard Foundation and the fifth and final volume of the Nightshade Collected Stories of Clark Ashton Smith.
I also rearranged my horror anthologies and spaced out my other sword & sorcery books. I took a little time to look through my Ballantine Adult Fantasy volumes. Really need to get back to completing that set. Other than that, I managed to stay focused, and didn't wander off, browsing books. Always a danger.
Aside from the aforementioned, yet to be purchased fancy bookshelf, I am determined to keep my shelves to their current number, so I continue to cull and rearrange as the need arises. At some point I need to take a serious look at my paperbacks. I noticed quite a few I could part with as I was moving books. As next year's annual library sale gets closer I'll see about trimming down the numbers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Painted Ladies


The good news is, Robert B. Parker's next to the last Spenser novel, Painted Ladies, is a much better read than what I previously thought was the last Spenser, The Professional. In a scene reminiscent of the Raymond Chandler novel, Farewell My Lovely, a stuffy college professor hires Spenser to come along as protection for the ransom delivery for a valuable painting.
A wheel comes off and the professor is blown to bits by a rigged package. There doesn't seem to be any way Spenser could have prevented this from occurring, but being Spenser he feels that he's failed, and after returning his fee to the college, he sets out sans client to find out who killed the professor. This being a Spenser novel, things quickly turn complicated and Spenser is almost killed in his office by a couple of hired guns.
As I said, this one is better than the previous book. There's still too much Susan and no Hawk, but the plotting is better and Spenser spends more time actually being a detective. As usual, Parker's dialog sparkles. There are call backs to earlier books as Spenser recalls a case in London (The Judas Goat) and visits with series regulars like Rita Fiore. It's a fun book.
So anyway, that's the good news about the next to the last Spenser book. What's the bad news? It's the next to the last Spenser book.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Long Goodbye


In January of the this year, Robert B. Parker, one of my absolute favorite authors passed away. One of the early articles about his death stated that his most recent novel about his private eye hero Spenser, 'The Professional', was the last completed Spenser book. I wrote a review of The Professional, thinking it my last visit with Spencer and his world.
A short while later, another report said that Parker had actually completed one more Spenser book and yet another article said there were two more. A new Spenser, Painted Ladies, is out now and Amazon lists another Spenser due out next year, this one called Sixkill. Suspicious minded fellow that I am, and fearful of ghostwriters I did some checking. A little web research shows that in Parker's final Blog post he says,

"I am currently writing a book with the working title SIXKILL in which a new character joins Spenser's world. Probably be out next year."

That was in May of 2009 and Parker passed away in January of 2010, so plenty of time for the prolific author to finish another novel. Every other source I've found so far calls Sixkill bona fide, so I guess I have at least two more Spenser's to review. I'm pleased to have them, but at the same them it feels odd, knowing that Parker is gone. And of course I read The Professional 'knowing' it was the last and got all sappy about it. Talk about your Long Goodbyes.

(P.S. There are also contradicting reports of an untitled Spenser Christmas book floating around. Nothing new on that yet.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent

I picked up F. Paul Wilson's penultimate Repairman Jack Novel, Fatal Error, Wednesday night. One more book to go after this before Jack's saga dovetails with Wilson's novel Nightworld and that's all folks. Thinking about that set me to considering the powers behind the cosmic war in Wilson's books, The Otherness and the Ally. What little we humans know of these two powers is that they are playing some cosmic game that we can't hope to understand and that Earth is a playing piece in that game. The Otherness is basically trying to convert our world to a Hell on Earth and the Ally is trying to prevent them. Wilson stresses in the books that this isn't a matter of good and evil. The Otherness is inimical to us and the Ally is less so, but neither of them really care a jot about our world other than claiming it for their own as part of the game. In the big picture, we don't matter.
In this sense, the Otherness and the Ally are somewhat like H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones. Cthulhu and his ilk may be interested in reclaiming our world, which once was theirs, but mankind might as well be an infestation of bacteria. In Lovecraft's stories, humanity is an accident and our place in the universe is random, orderless, and ultimately futile. Later on, writer August Derleth tried to take Lovecraft's mythos and divide the various cosmic entities into camps of good and evil, but that was never Lovecraft's intention.
Another set of powers who seek to use humans (and other races) as gaming pieces to some degree are the forces of Law and Chaos in Michael Moorcock's work. Moorcock too is quick to stress that Chaos isn't evil and Law good. Ultimate, inflexible Law would be every bit as horrific as uncontrolled Chaos, and so the only hope for the peoples of the various universes which make up Moorcock's Multiverse is to strike a cosmic balance. Moorcock's chaotic and lawful deities resemble the Otherness and the Old ones in that they can't usually take an active roll on Earth in the conflict, but have to work through human agents.
Comic book writer Don Glut has his own set of elder gods, The Dark Gods and the Warrior Gods who appear in Doctor Spektor, Dagar, and Glut's other comics, but they are perhaps closer to being representations of good and evil than the others I've discussed here. There are other analogs to the Elder gods in various comics and fantasy novels, but that would take up a post all to itself. Suffice to say, there are many strange forces at work in the worlds of fiction. Some good, some bad, and some who simply don't care.

When the Eagle Hunts

Simon Scarrow was one of those authors I'd been aware of for a while but had never got around to reading. I knew he wrote historical novels featuring Roman centurions, and that was about it. Last week I was looking for something new to read and I spotted Scarrow's novel When the Eagle Hunts in the fiction/literature section at Barnes and Noble and I decided it was time to give Scarrow a try. Hunts isn't the first of Scarrow's books featuring Centurion Lucius Cornelius Macro and his Optio, Quintus Lucinius Cato but I liked the plot description on the back so I went with that one.
The book has one of the most exciting opening chapters I've read in recent memory. It's the winter of A.D. 44, and a ship carrying supplies to the Roman troops in occupied Britain gets caught in a storm of biblical proportions. On board are the wife and two children of Roman General Plautius. The ship ends up running before the storm and eventually breaks up on the rocky shore of the British coast. This is so well described that I was exhausted by the time the ship wrecked. Anyway, the unfortunate wife and kids end up as prisoners of the Druids who send word to Plautius that unless he releases some of their comrades the Romans are holding, Plautius's family will be burned alive.
The first half of the book follows Macro and Cato and the Roman troops on an incursion into enemy territory that goes horribly tragically wrong. The outnumbered Romans have to try and make their way back to camp, harried at every step by the Briton's. I should point out that the well armed and well trained Roman's do far more damage than they take, slaughtering hundreds of Britons with their superior weapons and tactics. If you've ever wondered how Roman shield walls compare to Norse ones, this is the book for you. I learned much about the use of the Roman short sword, let me tell you. Fascinating stuff and told in a way that never gets stuffy or boring.
The second half of the book features a desperate rescue attempt by Macro and Cato, along with a Briton woman with whom Macro has much history and a former druid who acts as guide into the dark forests where the druids dwell and hold sacrifices.
I was very impressed, not only with Scarrow's narrative drive, which is considerable, and his knowledge of Roman history and military tactics, but also with his descriptive skills. I could almost feel the cold and see the glint of sun on snow. The Guy can write. I'll definitely be reading more of Scarrow's books.

P.S.

This is the 100th post for 2010 here at Singular Points. I had begun to wonder if I would break 100 this year as I got off to something of a slow start blogging early on. I seem to have gotten my second wind here in the last quarter of the year. Blame it on a lot of good and interesting books.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hercules and the Books of the Dead


It seems that H.P. Lovecraft has usurped his fellow Weird Tales scribe, Robert E. Howard, as the focus of my blog this month. I suppose since Halloween is nigh, this is fitting. I was doing a little research on Lovecraft's fearful book, the Necronomicon and one of the articles I read mentioned that the book had made an appearance in an episode of Hercules the Legendary Journeys during the sixth and last season of the show. Fanboy that I am, I at once wondered if it were 'historically' possible, given the continuities of the Hercules TV show and the Cthulhu Mythos, that this crossover could have occurred.
I couldn't recall the episode, but I have the entire series on DVD and I'd been meaning to dig out season six, which also features a crossover between Herc and Dracula. so last night I watched Hercules season six, episode six, City of the Dead.
In this one, Herc and his sidekick Iolaus travel to Egypt as Ambassadors for Greece. They find Queen Nefertiti feeling the weight of her crown as her son and daughter plot against her. Herc, of course, foils the original plot and so Nefertiti's son Ramses attempts to seize the throne by using the sorcerous powers of the Necronomicon, which is hidden away inside the City of the Dead across the Nile.
The episode doesn't make it clear if the Necronomicon is Lovecraft's imaginary tome or simply a handy name for an Egyptian Book of the Dead, (There were more than one) so that wasn't much help. However, we know that producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert were familiar with the Lovecraft version because they used the book in the Evil Dead films.
When in doubt, go to the history books. Nefertiti was the wife or chief consort of the Egyptian prince Akhenaten. The couple are famous for converting Egypt to the worship of a single god. The dates of Akhenaten's reign are apparently debatable, but it was probably somewhere between 1350 and 1356 BC, depending on which Egyptologist you ask. Also debatable is that Nefertiti ruled as queen for a short while after her husband's death. The Hercules episode takes this as a fact.
Okay so let's say this episode takes place in 1357 BC. Where does that leave the Necronomicon? According to the ultimate authority, Mr. Lovecraft himself, the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred authored the book, originally know as the Al Azif circa 700 A.D. (Alhazred died in 738 A.D. torn to shreds and devoured by some invisible creature in front of many witnesses.) So from a strictly historical sense, the Necronomicon used in the Hercules episode could not have been Alhazred's evil book. Sorry Herc.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Solomon Kane


Okay, I just finished watching Solomon Kane. Let me say right off that I really really liked it. It's exactly what a sword & sorcery movie should be and that is a historical (or pseudo-historical) adventure combined with horror. I've gone on and on here before about how I feel the best S&S stories have a horror story at their heart. Think of Conan in the darkness with the things under the Scarlet Citadel or almost going down the well with the Lovecraftian creature from Xuthal of the Dusk or fighting cannibals in Shadows in Zamboula.
Horror figures even more prominently, I think, in the tales of Solomon Kane, as the dour Puritan pits steel and courage against vampires, ghosts, dark sorcery, and pre-human races.
Michael J. Bassett's film Solomon Kane finally gets that on screen. There are demons and monsters aplenty in this film and also rousing sword battles against more human opponents, and yes there is actually a sorcerer. This is a dark, scary, fun movie. A really good sword and sorcery film. Maybe the best one to date, though I have to think about that for a bit.
I do have a couple of problems. As some of my fellow Robert E. Howard enthusiasts have pointed out (most of who agreed this was a great S&S film) the character of Kane, as presented in the movie, isn't REH's Kane. There's a bit of an issue with Kane's motivation, especially early on, when he seems to only be doing the right thing in order to save his own soul from damnation.
That is addressed to some degree when Kane basically says, okay if I have to go to hell to save some folks, then I'm going to hell. I could see Howard's Kane saying that, though I don't think Howard's Kane would have ever ended up in that situation. He's always been presented as a man who's unshakable faith drives him to confront evil. He isn't making up for past sins, but is instead something of a fanatic from the get go. Still, by the end of the movie he's homing in more on REH's Kane.
I was also a little put off by the fact that this was an origin film when REH never gave us an origin for Kane, and really, who needs one? It's not like series character James Bond has an origin, and he gets along fine. But common wisdom since the first Superman and Batman movies seems to be that we have to have an origin story. That said, I get the feeling that writer/director Bassett's theme for this film was one of redemption and in order to do that he needed something for the hero to be redeemed from. On that level it works. In some ways it reminds me of my favorite Michael Moorcock novel, The Warhound and the World's Pain. I'm not the first to make the comparison, and having now seen the film I can see why the movie brought that book to mind to others.
Visually this is a great looking movie. Most of the special effects are very good. The overall look of the film is dark and brooding and weather effects are put to good use. Snow falls fitfully through many scenes adding the sort of texture that Ridley Scott is fond of. There are a couple of shots of Solomon Kane in full Puritan garb that should make any REH fan grin, at least briefly. Actor James Purefoy even manages to look good in a slouch hat, not something everyone can pull off. Ask Hugh Jackman.
Speaking of Purefoy, I was impressed with his performance. He could look ruthless or utterly anguished, depending on what was called for. I've liked Purefoy since he played Mark Anthony in HBO's Rome and I thought he did a great job here. He also looked good in the action scenes. I am definitely looking forward to his next action film, Ironclad.
Anyway, I literally just turned the film off so I'm tired and I'm going to bed. Have to watch the extras tomorrow. For some reason, this movie still hasn't had a release here in the US, but it's been out in the UK long enough for DVDS and Blue Rays to be available. I got tired of waiting and ordered my DVD from the UK. I have a non-regional player so it was no problem. And I'm very glad I did.

SPOILER ALERT: There's one scene I really thought REH would have liked but it's a bit of a surprise in the movie, so I wanted to warn potential viewers. You've been warned.

Kane enters a church and a priest (Or someone pretending to be a priest.) who's gone a bit crazy ends up pitching Kane into a cellar full of mutated creatures with glowing eyes that I think very much resemble the vampires from the Solomon Kane story Hills of the Dead. Kane's running battle with these things in the darkness is nightmare inducing material and I think REH would have liked it. That moment feels very much like a Howard story.

END SPOILER:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Letters From Lovecraft

I spent a big chunk of last weekend reading Volumes 3 and 5 of the Selected Letters of H.P. Lovecraft, which seems a fine thing to do here in the Halloween Season. As always, I'm amazed at what a nice guy Lovecraft was and how much effort he put into his correspondences. The fun thing about Lovecraft is that his letters are so lively and entertaining that reading them is almost as fun as reading fiction. Over the years I've read collected letters by various authors and the only one who even approaches Lovecraft in terms of fun is the late Isaac Asimov. (Three words about the letters of Jane Austen. Run. Away. Now.)
Here are a few random thoughts I had while reading through Grandpa Theobald's missives.

Lovecraft only knew Robert E. Howard through letters and you can tell, when Lovecraft is writing to other correspondents, that he took most of Howard's hyperbole literally. It's been discussed before that Howard often adopted a kind of persona in his letters to HPL, mostly the real man but larger than life in a tall tales kind of way. Lovecraft thought of Howard almost as one of REH's own characters, even referring to him sometimes as Conan and Solomon Kane. (Lovecraft's favorite nickname for Howard was Two-Gun Bob.)

Lovecraft was devastated by Howard's death. He wrote many letters to his various friends talking about the loss to the world of a great writing talent and a decent human being.

Of all his many fellow writers, I got the impression that Lovecraft thought of Clark Ashton Smith as a kindred spirit. The tone in HPL's letters to CAS is different than in any of the other letters. I was talking to Cliff about this last night and we agreed that Lovecraft seemed to feel that Smith understood and in many ways shared HPL's world view. Lovecraft's nickname for CAS was Klarkash-Ton, which HPL even used in one of his stories. Lovecraft's letters to Smith usually contained some wild opening lines referencing the work of one or both men. (I'll include one here later. Don't have the books in front of me.)

Lovecraft enjoyed his games with the Cthulhu myth cycle (HPL didn't call it a Mythos. That was August Derleth.) and he dearly loved to see other writers join in, creating new elder gods and demons and new fearful books and artifacts. When I see the massive amount of Lovecraft pastiches cluttering up the bookshelves and comics racks, I think Lovecraft would have been pleased about most of it. He often encouraged writers to join in. One of his early letters to Robert E. Howard contains just such an invitation to jump right into the game.

People have estimated that Lovecraft wrote over a hundred thousand letters during his lifetime. Were he around today he'd probably be an internet junkie, posting at forums and blogs and message boards. I doubt he'd do much tweeting. A bit too concise for HPL. I really enjoyed reading Lovecraft's letters. I feel that sometimes you can almost get a sense of a person you didn't know by reading their letters, which are, after all, their thoughts. The closest I'll ever come to knowing one of the most influential writers in American literature.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Oh, and I did end up ordering a better copy of the Bantam Solomon Kane: Skulls in the Stars. I just couldn't stop myself...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Do You Like Your Sword & Sorcery?

Last night I was reading Simon Scarrow's historical novel, When the Eagle Hunts. It's my first Scarrow book and I'm enjoying it quite a bit and I'll probably get around to reviewing it when I'm done, but for this post I'm mainly using it as an example of what I like about Robert E. Howard's sword & sorcery and what I look for in sword & sorcery in general.
Most S&S fans agree that Howard invented the genre of S&S by combining his love for historical (or pseudo-historical) adventure with fantasy/horror. Even though Conan's adventures take place in the imaginary Hyborian age, a lost era before recorded history, for the most part the Hyborian world is our world and based in our history. The early Conan stories, such as The Tower of the Elephant and The God in the Bowl take place in a world similar to ancient Mesopotamia. As the series progresses, Howard drops his burly hero into places that mimic other times in Earth history from medieval Europe to sixteenth century pirate days to frontier America. The Hyborian age often seems a way for Howard to place Conan into whatever time period Howard felt like writing about.
And leave us not forget Howard's historical sword & sorcery series characters, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn. In these stories, Howard took adventures set in actual historical eras and mixed them with the supernatural.
Anyway, what I'm getting around to is this. As I was reading When the Eagle Hunts and enjoying the roguish adventures of its heroes Macro and Cato, I was thinking, "This is much like a Robert E. Howard story without any sorcery." Because in Howard's sword & sorcery, we seem to be seeing the real world, even in the Hyborian age, a world that operates like the one you and I live in and where sorcery or monsters are aberrations and not part of the norm.
And that's what I like in sword & sorcery. An element of realism. It's not that I don't enjoy pure fantasy. I like a lot of writers who use other nonhuman races in their books. I'm good with elves and dwarves and hobbits or Halflings. But in sword & sorcery I prefer for the world to be as close to Earth Normal as possible, so that the sudden intrusion of the supernatural gives you the same jolt as it would in a Stephen King novel. I don't want the characters to take magic or monsters for granted. For the most part you get that level of realism with Howard.
I've joked before about how these days I have to get my sword & sorcery fix from historical novels, but really that's how it feels. Bernard Cornwell's Norse hero Uhtred has adventures much more like those of Conan than any character I can think of in current fantasy. I'm getting a nice Fafhrd and Grey Mouser buzz from Macro and Cato. All Steven Pressfield's novel of Alexander the Great's armies, The Afghan Campaign, needed was a sorcerer or some lurking horror hiding in the mountains to make it an S&S tale.
So basically I guess I want more of what Robert E Howard was dishing out. The real world with supernatural menaces. Howard noted that his every impulse was to write realism. Of Conan he said:

"It may sound fantastic to link the term "realism" with Conan; but as a matter of fact-his supernatural adventures aside-he is the most realistic character I ever evolved."

Monday, October 11, 2010

In the Mouth of Madness

I've referred to In the Mouth of Madness as the best H.P. Lovecraft film that isn't an H.P. Lovecraft film. Here's why. Madness isn't based on a specific work by Lovecraft, so it's not technically a Lovecraft film. But the basic plot hinges on one of Lovecraft's concepts, that ancient beings called The Old Ones once held dominion over the earth and were somehow banished to the outer dark, and they've been trying to get back into our dimension ever since. Not that Lovecraft used this idea as many times as people think. It's mostly a stereotypical plot that pops up in pastiches of Lovecraft's work by other hands. (Including mine.)
In the movie, the path the old ones are seeking to follow is one of human imagination and belief. Sutter Cane, an insanely popular writer of horror novels is the key. To tell you more would reveal too much of the plot, but basically Cane has vanished, taking his last manuscript with him and his publisher hires insurance investigator John Trent (Sam Neill) to find Cane and secure the manuscript if possible. Trent begins reading Cane's books, looking for clues, and is soon embroiled in the stuff of nightmares as he seeks out the creepy New England town of Hobbs End.
I saw this film at the theater back in 1995 with my pals Chris and Lanny. Lanny's wife was so disturbed by the movie that she had to go out in the lobby for a bit. Watching the film again last night I could see how it could disturb someone, especially in the second half. Director John Carpenter knows what scares people. He also knows his Lovecraft, and to some degree, his Stephen King. The title of the film is the first clue as it seems to be a take on Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness. The creepy old lady who runs the bed and breakfast where Trent stays in Hobbs End is named Mrs. Pickman, presumably after the artist Pickman from Lovecraft's story, Pickman's Model. There are quite a few gibbering and slavering things from the outer dark in the movie and their pursuit of Trent reminds me of the frenzied escape attempt of the protagonist of Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth. One of Sutter Cane's novels is called The Hobbs End Horror, a similar title to Lovecraft's The Dunwich Horror. I've already talked about the basic plot similarities to Lovecraft.
Stephen King is actually mentioned in the film and of course Sutter Cane sounds a lot like Stephen King. Plus, the town of Hobbs End seems more like one of King's New England towns like Jerusalem's Lot than like Lovecraft's shadow haunted Arkham.
Anyway, this is a darn spooky little film which treads the line between fiction and reality that I love so much. The pre-CGI special effects hold up pretty well. There aren't really a lot of effects anyway. Like most good horror films, what you don't see is often more frightening than what you do.

Friday, October 08, 2010

How This Sort of Thing gets Started...


So last weekend when I was thinking about the Solomon Kane fragment 'Death's Black Riders' it made me think of the Kane fragments that had been finished by Ramsey Campbell and I remembered that while I owned a copy of Bantam Books Solomon Kane: Skulls in the Stars, I didn't have a copy of volume II, Solomon Kane:The Hills of the Dead, which meant that there were a couple of Campbell completed Fragments that I didn't have, so I found a copy of Volume II and ordered it.
The book arrived today and I wanted to compare it to Volume one because I realized that both books had fold out covers, so I wanted to see how the paintings matched up. Well while I was looking for the Kane book I noticed the cover of the Bantam edition of Conan the Swordsman had a foldout cover with a gold frame like the two Solomon Kane books. A quick check showed that I had other matching covers for Conan and the Spider God, Conan the Liberator, and Conan: The Road of Kings. Then I noticed that my copy of Bantam's Conan the Rebel was similar but didn't have a fold out cover. (Keep in mind that all these paperbacks have been accumulated over a decade or so, so I just never got around to looking at all of them closely.) A quick check of the interior of the books showed that Bantam had at least six books in the series of matching covers and I was missing Conan the Rebel and Conan: The Sword of Skelos.
Now unless you're a collector, you don't know why this is a problem. If you do collect, then you know why part of my brain was disturbed by the notion that I only had four out of six in a series. So I went to Ebay and Amazon and now I have copies of the two missing books coming even though I already own other editions of both those books. Now I'm trying to ignore the facts that there are editions of some of the other books that match the copy of Conan the Rebel that didn't match the other four and that my new copy of Hills of the Dead is much nicer than my copy of Skulls in the Stars and maybe I need a better copy...

The Crown of the Blood


Reading back through a lot of my book reviews, I noticed a couple of catch phrases that I tend to use for books that I like. 'Hits the ground running' and 'up and at em' are usually phrases you'll see when something is my kind of book. Both would apply to Gav Thorpe's The Crown of the Blood.
It definitely hits the ground running, as within the first few pages, (after a very nifty opening with some creepy priests and some Elder God types.) the hero, General Ullsaard, faces off against tribal warriors mounted on a dinosaur and makes short work of both. He's barely back to his camp when an old friend arrives to tell Ullsaard that his presence is required back at court and the main plot gets underway. Ullsaard is an interesting protagonist, a driven man limited by the fact that he is not "of the Blood" (A direct descendant of Askhos, the founder of the empire) but still determined to rise as high as he can.
This is epic fantasy with the emphasis on the epic. The cast is large and Thorpe shows that he's got the characterization chops as well as a way with a bloody conflict. A lot of writers can write senate floor or battle field but not both. I mention the senate because I get a somewhat Roman feel from this book, the military structure, the way the government is set up and the types of political power struggles going on. I'm good with that. Lately I've noticed that I prefer my fantasy worlds to be similar to periods in Earth history. Makes things seem more real. It's nice to see someone utilizing a time period that isn't the usual Tolkein derived Medieval mash-up. Not that Thorpe has just transported ancient Rome to a fantasy setting. There's plenty of imaginative world building on all fronts. I will note that while I tend to like smaller stories about fewer characters, (I've never been able to get into Robert Jordan of George R.R. Martin for instance.) Thorpe keeps things moving so I didn't get bogged down much.
I wasn't familiar with Gav Thorpe's work but a friend of mine in the UK said that Thorpe had done a good bit of writing for Warhammer's Black Library. I already liked several authors from Black Library, including William King and C.L. Werner. I ended up liking Thorpe's writing style. Straightforward and uncluttered. I may have to backtrack and read some of the BL stuff while I'm waiting on further installments in this series.
Anyway, I had a good time with The Crown of the Blood. It's a well written fantasy with some nice twists, especially near the end. Oh yeah, and it's 'up and at em' too.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

And More Books...

Yes, the book buying frenzy goes on. It was a Weird Tales kind of night at the Comic Book store last night. I picked up a small Neal Adams sketchbook called Savages II which contained a bunch of pencil or pen and ink drawings of Kull, Conan, Solomon Kane, Red Sonja, Tarzan, and the like. Always a pleasure to see Neal drawing Conan.
It's kind of a shame though that I enjoyed this slim booklet more than the larger and far more expensive Art of Neal Adams from Vanguard, which showed up a couple of weeks ago. The Vanguard book is nicely printed on nice paper, but I was really hoping for a more in-depth and comprehensive book on Adams. The Art of Neal Adams isn't that. I dug out some of my old Adams items like The Neal Adams Treasury and really there's far more interesting stuff in those old publications. So, yeah, Savages II gets an A and The Art of Neal Adams gets a B-.
The other item I got was the eighth volume of the Darkhorse 'phonebooks' reprinting Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan. Unfortunately they are now into the period I think of as the long wasteland of Michael Fleisher. After Roy Thomas left Marvel, there was a long period where Fleisher wrote most of the Conan stories for Savage Sword. While I've enjoyed Fleisher's work on other titles, DC's Spectre comes to mind, I never felt that he had the feel for Conan.
There is quite a bit of John Buscema art during this period, which is always a plus, but I get the feeling that after Roy left John lost a lot of interest. He also was mostly doing breakdowns (very rough pencil art) at the time to be finished by inkers like Ernie Chan, though every once and a while there would be an interesting inker choice, such as Nestor Redondo. So while you never get a bad art job from John Buscema, there are quite a few indifferent ones here. Still, though I own a complete set of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazines, it's nice to have these handy volumes.
That was all the Weird Tales related stuff I bought, but I also had a couple of packages arrive. One contained volumes 3 and 5 of the Arkham House selected letters of H.P. Lovecraft. An online bookstore I frequent was having a sale and I go these two books for twenty bucks each, which is better than I can do anywhere else. I already owned volume 4 of the five volume set, so now I just need two more. More on those later.
The other package was my DVD of In the Mouth of Madness, the best Lovecraft film that isn't a Lovecraft film, which I mentioned in my Fright Flick Festival post. Glad to get that one before Halloween.
Which reminds me, I also just ordered a UK DVD of the Solomon Kane film, since there's still no set date for a US release of the movie. I have a non region DVD player so now I can check this one out. Email tells me it shipped yesterday. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Add Another One to the List

Just found out that my pal Howard Andrew Jones' debut novel The Desert of Souls, a historical fantasy set in 9th century Baghdad, will hit the bookstore shelves in February of next year. Souls features Howard's characters Dabir and Asim, who I've read about before in short stories for several years. I've referenced Howard here before as an expert on historical fiction author Harold Lamb and as a fellow Robert E. Howard fan and sword & sorcery enthusiast. Very much looking forward to his novel.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Death's Black Riders


I mentioned in my post about the Robert E. Howard Conan fragment sometimes called The Hand of Nergal that the other Howard Fragment that fascinates me is one featuring Solomon Kane called Death's Black Riders. It's very short, only a few paragraphs, but it seems to have so much potential that I wonder why Howard abandoned it.
The story begins with Kane riding a narrow path through a deep forest. The trees press so close that the sky is blotted out and there is scarcely room for one horse on the path. Then:

"And down this trail, as Solomon Kane halted and drew his pistol, a horseman came flying. A great black horse, incredibly gigantic in the grey light, and on his back, a giant of a rider, crouched close over the bow, a shapeless hat drawn low, a great black cloak flying from his shoulders."

Kane tries to rein aside, but there isn't room. He sees two glowing eyes below the brim of the hat and catches the gleam of a sword. Kane fires point blank into the face of the rider, but it doesn't slow him down and then, as the rider passes over him, Kane feels a blast of icy air and he and his horse go down. Both Kane and horse are up almost instantly and impossibly they are unhurt. The fragment ends right there.
I've never really understood if Howard was trying to say that the rider had no actual tangible form, but that's how I read it, as if the rider passed not over Kane and his horse but through them and that the passing left them numb with the cold from some black and nameless gulf.
Dark Horse comics tried an adaptation of this fragment too, but I can't report on it because I found the artwork so messy and the storytelling so confusing in the first issue that I didn't read the rest of the mini series. Feel free to let me know if it got better. Maybe I'll check out the trade collection.
Roy Thomas adapted the fragment (Though he adds a couple of riders, but hey, the fragment is called Death's Black RIDERS not rider.) as the opening for a two part Savage Sword of Conan story, but the opening has little to do with the rest of the story which involves a team-up between Solomon Kane and Conan. Still, it was nice to see it drawn and the art by Colin MacNeil was pretty sharp. (I'll add a picture later. blogger is acting up.)
I noticed that writer C.J. Henderson has taken a stab at finishing the fragment, but I haven't had a chance to read his version. I used to read Henderson's Jack Hagee private eye books back in the day, and I know Henderson is a big fan of Howard and Lovecraft. I'll check it out when I get time and report back here.
Anyway, Lord of the Rings fans might almost think that Solomon Kane had a run in with a Nazgul. Not that J.R.R. Tolkien could have had any influence on Robert E. Howard, who died a year before the publication of the Hobbit and many years before publication of the Lord of the Rings. Still, some grist for fan fiction there for anyone with the time and energy. Not me.
So yet again, another fascinating fragment to speculate over. What was the rider in black and where was he bound? Perhaps there is a clue in the last words of the poem that REH used to preface the fragment.

The hangman asked of the carrion crow, but the raven made reply:
"Black ride the men who ride with Death beneath the midnight sky,
"And black each steed and grey each skull and strange each deathly eye.
"They have given their breath to grey old Death and yet they cannot die."

Words to ponder.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter


I had a very vague memory of this movie, having seen it only once and that in about 1976, so for all intents and purposes it was new to me. I did recall that there was an extended sword fight near the end, and there is.
The basic plot is that the Captain (Horst Janson) is a professional vampire hunter who travels with his hunchbacked friend Grost (John Cater). Kronos is called to a small village by an old friend and there he and Grost, joined by a young woman (Caroline Munroe) they rescued from a roadside pillory, hunt for the killer of several local women. (This being a Hammer film, the victims are rarely males.)
Watching this movie so soon after seeing The Brotherhood of the Wolf, I have to wonder if Wolf director Christopher Gans had been influenced by Kronos. I noted in my review of Wolf that there were certain elements of the spaghetti western to Wolf and there are to the much earlier Kronos as well. Horst Janson seems to be doing his best 'man with no Name' glower throughout the film and also spends a lot time smoking slender cheroots just like Clint Eastwood. Wolf's blond hero seems rather similar to Kronos' blond protagonist at times.
I also wondered at certain similarities between the hunchback tactician and weapons man Grost and the monk who performs much the same function played by David Wenham in Van Helsing. Wenham does a funny voice throughout Van Helsing and it's amazingly like that of the hunchback, Grost. I understand that Captain Kronos is something of a cult film now, so I suppose it wouldn't be odd for it to influence later films and Van Helsing IS a movie about a professional monster hunter.
Anyway, I found the plot of Kronos to be a little muddy and the actors seem to just wander around a lot before things pick up near the end of the film. The big sword duel at the end holds up pretty well in terms of choreography, though the camera angles could have been better. There are some good plot twists, though sharp eyed viewers may see a couple of them coming. This film was made about the same time as The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Caroline Munroe, who starred in that one as well, looks cute, though she seems to spend an inordinate amount of time with her hair hanging in her face.
Captain Kronos was rated R at the time of release, but would probably get a PG13 today. The blood and gore is pretty mild, as are the love scenes between Janson and Munroe.
One thing I did like about this one is that the Vampire isn't the classical Dracula sort. It has no trouble moving about in daylight and it doesn't drain the blood from the victims but rather drains their life forces, leaving them old and withered. Before Bram Stoker cemented the idea of the vampire in modern fiction, various folklore attributed other powers and weaknesses to vampires. At one point in Kronos, Grost tells another character that there are as many types of vampires as there are any other type of predator and they can't all be killed in the same way. Finding the weakness of this particular vampire and the vampires it spawns is one of the plot points in Kronos.
All and all I enjoyed Captain Kronos. If you have fond memories of the old Hammer Horror films and enjoy a little swashbuckling, you'll probably have fun with it too. I get the idea that Hammer hoped to spin Kronos off into a series as they gave him his own logo and the ending certainly hints at possible sequels. I've also heard rumors that a remake is on the horizon.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Brotherhood of the Wolf


2001's The Brotherhood of the Wolf was a film that I'd been meaning to watch since, well 2001, but somehow I just never managed to see it. I even rented it from Blockbuster a few years back, but somehow didn't watch it before I had to return it. So I was looking for some new horror films for my Halloween season Fright Flick Festival and I stumbled across a copy of Brotherhood for four bucks. Watched it last night and was very impressed.
It's a hard movie to describe, not really a horror film, though it certainly has elements of horror and it is not a movie for the squeamish among you. It's kind of a historical/horror/kung-fu/spaghetti western/romantic/political thriller. I'm not kidding.
The French film is very loosely based on a historical event. In the mid-1700s the French province of Gevaudan was terrorized by a savage beast (or beasts) that was never identified or captured. Reports vary but over 100 victims were supposedly killed by the creature over a three year period. The killings stopped on their own and the beast of Gevaudan vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared.
Director Christopher Gans took this story and used it as a springboard for his homage to all the genre films he loved as a kid. Gans is apparently a huge fan of Hong Kong wushu films. Thus we have anachronistic martial arts fights, featuring real life martial artist Mark Dacasco playing an American Indian, sort of Kato to the film's 'hero' Gregoire de Fronsac, (Samuel Le Bihan) a royal taxidermist to King Louis XV, sent to capture the beast. As I noted there are also references to spaghetti westerns of the 'Fist Full of Dollars' type, to samurai films, to Italian horror movies and to other genres. The movie's time period and overall dark tone give it a nice Solomon Kane vibe too. It also features Monica Belluci in a small role and Monica is hot.
The movie is beautifully and stylishly photographed with many of the camera tricks that fans of John Woo have come to know. The special effects are very good and the fights scenes are seriously fun. The only real problems I had with the film were the ending, which is rather muddled, and that the movie is long and tends to be slow moving in between the action sequences. Watch it anyway. It's worth sitting through the slow parts to get to the good stuff. I watched the English dubbed version and the dubbing was very good. Next viewing I'll probably try it in French with English subtitles. I'll definitely be watching it again. The 2010 Halloween Fright Flick Festival is well underway.

The 2010 Halloween Fright Flick Festival


As I noted earlier, I seem to have reached a point where I enjoy Halloween more than Christmas. I certainly do more planning for Halloween, lining up sufficient horror books, short stories, and comics to see me through October. I also watch a lot of scary movies. This year I've done a bit better job in having my creepy movies ready, ordering a few from Amazon and picking up others used at Blockbuster and Movie Stop. This year's lineup includes:

The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) Reviewed above.

In the Mouth of Madness (1995) The best H.P. Lovecraft movie that isn't really an H.P. Lovecraft movie ever made.

Zombieland (2009) Haven't watched it yet, but several folks recommended it to me.

The Haunting (1963) Probably my favorite scary movie of all time.

Captain Kronos:Vampire Hunter (1974) Had to get a hammer film into the group and I haven't seen this one since the 1970s.

Van Helsing (2004) This fits into the so bad it's good category.

Pitch Black (2000) My favorite SF horror film.

Other posibilities include Hell Boy 1&2 , the 2005 silent Call of Cthulhu, and assorted classic Universal films. It's possible that I'll have a double feature of the original King Kong and Time Machine, because though neither are really horror films, I saw them as a double feature one late night on Friday Night Frights. I'm sure other movies and TV shows will occur to me as I go. Feel free to offer suggestions.