Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mary Shelley: Born 212 years ago today

And this very day I met her! Or the shade of her spirit, anyway--only hours ago.

Mary Shelley appeared to me during the witching hour, just minutes after my clock downstairs rang out its recorded chime at twelve. Yes, I saw her! Or at least I thought I saw her. I could not really be said to think (not the first time!), yet I saw--with shut eyes, but with acute mental vision--that pale author of unhallowed writing kneeling beside me.

So I smiled and wished her "Happy birthday!" and she smiled a brief smile in return.

I remembered that she had written about people returning to life centuries later in Valerius: The Re-animated Roman, and in an essay called The Reanimated Man, so I asked her if she liked the changes in the world since her time on Earth. To that she only lowered her gaze.

Then, thinking of Frankenstein, I asked her if she could now say whether there was any knowledge more valuable than love and sympathy. She seemed to look away, then I suddenly saw a small shape appear near her--I looked closer and it appeared to be a dark reddish-brown, leathery item, about the size of a fist. I had the impression it was very old. It swelled up a bit--then it suddenly faded away, as did Mary's ghost. Oh, damn, she disappeared too soon!

I felt a genuine loss...

Because I had a cake, and it was decorated with trick candles that won't blow out! Man, I was really looking forward to seeing the look on her face when the flames reappeared!

Read a virtual version of Frankenstein at this link--complete with the original illustrations and pages that 'turn.'

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Now that the Voodoo Queen and I have a new pet--a black- and-sickly yellow* striped garter snake--I've decided to hold a contest to name it. I've already gotten one entry from a friend--"Sassy." If you think you can do better, send in your suggestion and YOU COULD WIN A LOUSY $5 and a prize OF YOUR CHOICE from THIS page! If I get at least 10 entries in response to this post, I'll choose one from those submitted and send off the fiver and prize right away!

Send in your entry in the comments section here, or to drunkenseveredhead[at]gmail[dot]com.

*Appropriate colors here in Steeler town!

Bugs Bunny in GLEN OR GLENDA

Some evil genius has mashed up cross-dressing gags in Bug Bunny cartoons with Ed Wood's whacked-out transvestite apologia, Glen or Glenda. Watch this--it's pretty damn funny.

Bugs Bunny in "Glen or Glenda"

Found at Tom's MySpace page after being tipped off by Mike S.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A man worth knowing: Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas, a professional makeup artist and actor, unexpectedly passed away the other day at age 59. I was very saddened to hear this, as I knew him slightly and thought he was a great guy. The many stories about Mike now popping up on message boards make me wish I had known him better.

Mike was a popular part of classic horror film conventions like the annual Monster Bash in the Pittsburgh area and the Chiller con in New Jersey. Providing excellent entertainment in his comedic portrayals of Bela Lugosi in his characterizations of Dracula and Ygor (as seen in the photo right, from Monster Bash, 2003. )

The soon-to-be released retro indy film
House of the Wolf Man features Mike in his last performance, in a brief but serious turn as Count Dracula. A preview of the film can be seen here.

So today, on what would have been his 60th birthday, I'm presenting a tribute to Mike by a good friend we had in common, George Chastain.


Michael R. Thomas was a Transylvanian National Treasure.

Everybody who saw Mike roaming horror convention hallways and introducing events as Ygor, or any of his other uncanny Bela Lugosi impersonations, knows that he just did the best Lugosi impressions EVER. They were better and truer to the original than most impressionist ever attempted, because Mike was first and foremost a lifelong classic horror movie fan who really studied the parts and worked on them. His knowledge of film makeup techniques and history was impressive.

Mike was also one of the funniest, sharpest people I've ever met, and he had his horror movie shtick down so cold that he could improvise hilariously IN CHARACTER -- imagine Bela himself in full Ygor regalia doing brilliant stand-up comedy and you'll get the picture.

A professional make-up artist since he was a teenager, Mike learned his craft from Dick Smith and other legends, plying his trade at the Metropolitan Opera House, on television shows like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE (for more than 20 years, from the beginning), and on movies like THE SENTINEL (applying John Carradine's make-up), THE WIZ (teenage Michael Jackson's Scarecrow), WOLFEN, FATAL ATTRACTION and GHOSTBUSTERS I and II.

Mike at work for William Roger's film THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. Image source here.

Along the way he did fun stuff like appearing in various monster get-ups, on Zacherley's Disc-O-Teen show in the 1960s (when he was a teenager), and, more recently, appearing as Ygor on Martha Stewart's TV show and making her up on camera as the Bride of Frankenstein.

Mike as Frankenstein's Monster, at age 17 (!) in the film FANNY HILL MEETS DR. EROTICO (1967).

Horror film historian Tom Weaver remembers that episode: "There was a Halloween episode of Martha Stewart's show where Mike, made-up as Ygor, was making HER up on-camera during the show, as some kind of monster. Mike was doing his Ygor schtick, going on and on, and Martha was having trouble getting a word in edge-wise. And finally, in a voice that simultaneously put a chill in the air and made it clear she wanted him to stop, she said, 'Ygor likes to TALK a lot...' .

At the Classic Horror Film Board, Weaver commented on Mike's generous nature and make-up expertise: "Thinking about [Mike] last night, I recalled something I hadn't thought about in a long time (because I haven't listened to my WOLF MAN audio commentary in a long time)--what a huge help he was on that, giving me his theories on how the makeup, appliances, etc., were applied. We mostly remember Mike the Lovable Funnyman but when a subject was near 'n' dear to his heart, he was also quite the serious, professional expert."

Mike and classic horror film expert Bob Burns among friends at Monster Bash 2005.

I love talented impressionists, and Mike was one of the best I've ever heard. Bela Lugosi wasn't the only dead-on impression Mike did. Mike seemed to be able to perfectly mimic any movie or TV star he attempted, from John Carradine, Christopher Lee and Sir Cedric Hardwicke to John Belushi. One of the high points of the 2003 Monster Bash for me was my private moment with Ygor when he looked around furtively, removed his upper plate of snaggly teeth to permit the proper elegant diction, and regaled me with his impression of Sir Cedric talking dirty!

Mike wrote to me and recounted telling the same story to a TV actress: "Several years ago, I was in the Make-Up Department at the Soap Opera, "All My Children," for about two-and-a-half years. One of the lovelier actresses was Gillian Spencer, who played Daisy Cortlandt. One morning, I came in with a copy of the MagicImage FilmScript, "Ghost of Frankenstein." Gillian sat in my chair to be made-up and saw the book. "What is that?" she asked, having noticed Sir Cedric Hardwicke's name on the cover. I handed her the book and as she flipped through the pages, she asked if I was a Hardwicke fan and I told her I sure was. "That's so nice to hear! Cedric was my uncle," she said. "We weren't blood-related - he married my aunt - and, oh, I adored him! He was just the sweetest man!" She went on to say that he'd had the worst case of emphysema (ever notice how many people smoked in those old films?) and I recalled that impersonation that I do. I asked if she'd like to hear it, and she giggled and said, "Oh, yes! I'd love to!" Well, I cleaned it up, for fear of really offending her and ruining a very pleasant acquaintanceship.

The G-Rated version went like this, "(Slow, laborious inhalation of breath) If you lie to me (long pause) you shall be hanged at dawn. But if you tell me the truth (pause), I shall do everything within my powah (pause) to see to it that Ru Paul (pause) rocks your world!" Ru Paul was actually making an appearance on the show that week. Gillian laughed a lot, much to my happiness - and great relief.

"The X-Rated version, which I stole, by the way, from the great Impressionist/Stand-Up Comic Adam Keefe, ends with, '...I shall do everything within my powah (pause) to see to it that Robert Donat (pause) sucks your c*ck.'"

This year Mike regaled me with a story from his encounter with John Carradine on THE SENTINEL set. Mike told Carradine that his presence in horror films elevated them tremendously, regardless of their production values. Carradine accepted the compliment gracefully and told Mike a classic old joke as an example of his attitude about that sort of acting job. The joke was about some hunters who had a rule that the first to bitch about the food would take over from the first guy cooking. All of the hunters were SO careful not to complain that the exasperated incumbent resorted to dumping moose dung in the stew. One of the hunters exploded, "This *!@%*!*! stew tastes like MOOSE FLOP!!!...BUT it's VERY WELL PREPARED!"

The really great thing about the story was that Mike told most of it in a letter-perfect impression of John Carradine's rich, deep voice. I was utterly astounded, since I'd never heard ANYBODY do Carradine before, and this was like hearing the Great Actor himself telling the joke.

I've read where Mike and a friend once did the Abbott and Costello routine "Who's on first?" at a party--only Mike performed it perfectly in the voice and mannerisms of John Carradine!

Mike was a man who had grown up with classic horror films and loved them; and in turn, because of his warmth, people loved him; he was one of the best "Monster Kids" out there.

Ygor and his homies at Monster Bash, 2007.

Rest in peace, Mike.

Watch Mike Thomas performing in a variety of roles in this tribute video by Charles Henson for this year's Monster Bash:

Special thanks to Robert Kiss for the FANNY HILL photos and to George "E-Gor" Chastain for the text. Other photos by Jane Considine and Max Cheney.

Updated related links (thanks to George Chastain):

Make-Up Artists at Large (Mike Thomas' website)
E-Gor's Chamber of TV Horror Hosts
Mike's IMDB page
CHFB tribute comments to Mike
UMA comments to Mike

Best Five jokes in Edinburgh?

At the recent Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the world's largest festival), 9 "comedy critics" sat through a joke competition that featured thousands of entrants, according to the BBC. The judges chose 27 jokes, and viewers of the British TV channel Dave picked the top 10. The top five seemed worth sharing here--they touched on costumes, murder, and death. I like them all, but the fifth one is my favorite!

1. Dan Antopolski - "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?"

2. Paddy Lennox - "I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'."

3. Sarah Millican - "I had my boobs measured and bought a new bra. Now I call them Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they're up where they belong."

4. Zoe Lyons - "I went on a girls' night out recently. The invitation said 'dress to kill'. I went as Rose West."

5. Jack Whitehall - "I'm sure wherever my dad is; he's looking down on us. He's not dead, just very condescending."

I bet my readers could do better. There's one reader in Laval, Quebec I KNOW could do better!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fine art for sale

I just the other day posted a new Barnabus Collins painting by Dwayne Pinkney, one of my favorite working artists. I asked Dwayne if he minded if I shared his contact info for commissions, and asked how I could get a print of the Barnabus portrait. He graciously sent me a friendly letter in response with the info I needed.

Here's the contact info for Dwayne Pinkney: Email themonsterguy[at]hotmail[dot]com.

A limited 25 signed and numbered prints of the Barnabus Collins painting are available for only $20, $30 if you want it sent matted. Would make an excellent Halloween gift for a friend or family member!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mariln Monroe is spinning in her grave.

A woman whose husband is entombed in the vault above Marilyn Monroe's (it was his dying wish), has sold the vault for over $4 and 1/2 million on eBay!

Whoever the winning bidder is, it has to be someone with more money than sense.

Read about it here.

Dwayne Pinkney's BARNABUS

As you know from this post or this post, I like the art of monster portrait painter Dwayne Pinkney.

Dwayne recently finished this lovely painting of Barnabus Collins from TV's Dark Shadows. If you click on it, it will enlarge and you'll see some beautiful detail work.

Why Pinkney isn't working full time as an illustrator and cover artist is beyond me. He certainly is more talented than some professionals doing genre work.

Keep up the great work, Dwayne!

Blizz Con 4

At the recent Blizz Con 4, fans of Worlds of Warcraft gaming showed up in elaborate costume. One of my favorites was this gorgeous goat girl:

(Insert your own cheap "horny" joke here.)

You can see more impressive costuming at this link.

Wikipedia: Blizz Con

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A good week

This has been a good week. Voodoo Queen and I acquired a new pet, and took a trip to a famous cemetery.

The new pet is a garter snake caught in our back yard; it joins two cats and a deceased, preserved tarantula in a glass picture box. The cats are showing a lot of interest in the new pet, which is kept safely out of their reach.

Here's a pic of the kind of the so-far-unnamed new pet we've got; haven't yet taken a picture of our own just yet.

The cemetery trip was to visit Evans City Cemetery, where several scenes where the original Night of the Living Dead was filmed. A caretaker told us that "at least 5 people--and up to 10-- come every single day of the week" to see the portions of the cemetery that are seen in the film.

Sadly, the old chapel near the entrance, which is on screen in the opening of the movie, is being torn down this weekend or early next week, he said. Photos from our trip will be posted soon.

There was news of a newly discovered species of carnivorous plant being named, and I thought that it would be a cool addition to our home.

Not that we'd feed mice to it, though. Just annoying salesmen and salvation sellers who come unbidden to our door, if we could grow the plant large enough.

(For video and another photo of a pitcher plant eating small rodents, click here. Not for anyone who likes mice.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Today, the blog Frankensteinia has hit its two year anniversary. It has been a noteworthy site, and I congratulate blogger Pierre Fournier on keeping up the good work on a regular basis for two years now. It stays interesting and fresh, and for that reason doesn't seem to have been around for years.

The blog's penchant for uncovering new details about, and sharing fresh perspectives on, the central subject--characters created close to two centuries ago--helps keep that subject not just alive, but vital.

Frankensteinia's post for today features a photo that haunted me as a child, when I first saw it in the pages of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland (#35):

I was surprised to see this particular still being used as the emblem for the blog's anniversary, because it was, for me, particularly right. When I first saw this still in FM, it was part of this captioned photo:

This is a picture of director Frank Capra! The caption in FM says the photo is from "a French magazine" and that it was captioned there as "The shadow of Frankenstein haunts the nights of Frank Capra." Neither magazine explained the link between Shelley's hideous progeny and the popular purveyor of "Capra-corn."

I digress. Anyway, as a child I was haunted by that picture--it seemed to mean that the Universal Frankenstein monster haunted adults as it did my daydreams and nightmares. That validated my love of the Monster to me--and Frankensteinia refreshes and validates that love now in my adulthood.

As poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once wrote, "The child is father to the man."

Congratulations to Pierre and his incredible blog.

Flesh-eating plants and my wife

Rest in peace, Venus flytrap in our home!

I'm sorry to say that the Venus flytrap I gave my wife last year is gone. Sadly, I carelessly left the lid off the terrarium it was in and one of our cats ate it!

Jane is not happy about this, natch. I ought to get her one of these to make it up to her.

In other personal plant-related news, we've just discovered that the vine growing in our front yard sprouting purple flowers and bright red berries is deadly nightshade, a fact we both think is kinda cool!

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Krusty Carcass

(Ooooh, there's an appetizing subject line!)

A few weeks ago I picked up a new mask that I love a lot. It's an adult size, pretty gruesome mask from a 2006 kid's Halloween costume called KRUSTY CARCASS, made by Paper Magic Group. I got it at a costume shop for only $1.50, because it was old stock and the costume set of mask, shirt and pants was missing the shirt. Who cares about the shirt? I don't need a shirt OR pants.

It reminds me of old Topstone masks (but better), and also of images from E.C. horror comics. Feast ya peepers on this:

On the left in the photos above are 3 creepy Tingler-like toys I got at Walgreen's last year. They and the mask all sit on top of my computer.

Isn't that mask a thing of beauty and fine design? Well, I certainly think it is! Made me delirious that I could get it for UNDER TWO BUCKS! WOW!

Y'know, the mask kinda makes me think of a rotted Richard Nixon. Sort of a physical, outer portrait of his inner self (when he was alive), like the portrait of Dorian Gray.

You can your own Krusty Carcass at this link.

(At THIS link, you can see a governmental tariff ruling on Krusty Carcass that describes the costume set which describes the shirt part of the set as "imparting the essential character." (WTF??!!)

Monster Mayhem Moved!

Stoner's Monster Mayhem, the website that sprouted from the premiere classic monster movie fanzine of the same name, has had to find new quarters, since Yahoo's sites on Geocities is closing.

The new site is HERE. Go and "Be a Stoner!"

Friend Rick Stoner amongst his monstrous collection of groovy stuff.

Image source: SMM

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The next pat on the head!

A couple of compliments came my way this month, and the second was the Honest Scrap award given to TDSH by the blog when is evil cool? Now, in accordance with the rules sent with the award, I'm discharging my duty to say who else deserves the award. (In other words, I'm s'posed to shoot my mouth off. But I'm good at that.)

First, in no particular order, are ten currently active blogs I haven't previously praised much but which I admire. I pass on the Honest Scrap award to them, but WITHOUT the obligation to do ANYTHING else at all, if they don't want to. Just don't like obligating other folks--and I never send out chain letters or e-mails either. But the following are award-worthy:

The Horrors of it All
For its generosity to its readers and devotion to daily sharing of pre-code horror comics.

Igloo of the Uncanny
For its intelligent but fun use of a fictional persona, theme and setting, and great reviews.

Wonderful Wonderblog
For reflecting Erick B.'s wide-ranging tastes in horror, fantasy, and 60s and 70s nostalgia. A site as kind, low-key, and warm as its owner, Erick B.

Gospel of the Living Dead
For its erudition on the modern zombie.

Groovy Age of Horror
For its daring grooviness.

For making one's childhood traumas come vividly back to life by sharing those of others.

Trixie's Treats
For its dead-ication to macabre and unusual art.

Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire
For being righteously wicked and funny.

The Uranium Cafe
For its readable reviews of trashed and treasured movies.

Radiation Cinema
For being a thoughtful but joyous celebrant of the best of the worst in classic sci-fi.

Numbers 11 and 12, since I just can't stop at ten (Now I include blogs I've praised many times here at TDSH.)

Zombos' Closet of Horror
For his constancy as a source of horror-related news and reviews, and devotion to publicizing good horror blogs.


For keeping Shelley's hideous progeny healthy with celebration and scholarship about all things Frankenstein.

Now, for some reason, I'm supposed to share ten HONEST things about myself. Hmmm. Why limit it to the factual, when the semi-fictional can be so much fun? But, in honor of wiec?, here are ten true things about me:

  1. I had pizza with Abbie Hoffman once.
  2. I actually like some folk music, and some show tunes!
  3. I have a personal connection to the Central High Crisis, even though it happened before I was born.
  4. I once conducted a seance, but was disappointed by it, though others thought it a success.
  5. I once made rum cake that people could feel the burn of the rum from as it went down their gullets!
  6. I got a brief letter from Ray Bradbury the other day!
  7. I had a crush on Julie Newmar when I was a child.
  8. Monster movies and monster toys have been part of my life since I was three!
  9. I once played Bela Lugosi in a stage production of Glen or Glenda.
  10. I miss a lot of people who live in St. Louis, where I used to live.


And now some news to keep my retirement fund jar from looking neglected:

"Want to own these low budget classics? You could take out a cash advance and get these and other number oriented movies like the 13 Ghosts remake or even the Jim Carrey opus 23!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Coupla cool compliments come in hot weather

Just recently the blasted braincase, the 'nebriated noggin, the dipsomaniacal dome (ME, in other words) was given two pats on the head! Honeyed words have been ladled over me, and I'm not even dead! (Of course, I don't exactly call this livin'.)

The first pat came from Freddy in Space, a great blog that keeps an eye on all developments in film (and sometimes video game) horror. Ol' Fred (actually blogger John Squires) said this blog has "perhaps the coolest name out there on the interweb," and was "cool and very unique." He even said I was a "classy dude"! (As of today, he has still not asked for any money yet. Perhaps he was sick and had a high fever when posting.)

Wow. I'm savoring the coolness of all these compliments. Especially now, with the weather so miserably hot and humid, an me living in a house with no air-conditioning!

The second pat came from the decidedly cool blog When Is Evil Cool?, who gave me an Honest Scrap award. (I think that second 'S' is a typo.) It's similar to the world-wide blogosphere's Premio Dardo award, where an awardee is expected to link back to the awarder, then to pass on the honor on to other quality blogs. Finally, with both awards, one is also expected to tell something about him-/her-/itself.

In the case of this Honest Scrap award (named after an old brand of chewing tobacco, of all things), I'm supposed to to pass the pat on the head (or back, in the case of non-severed-head bloggers) to TEN other blogs.

But that'll appear on Saturday, along with all the stuff I gotta share about myself.

Oh, just when IS evil cool, you want to know, intrigued as you are with hard questions? Well, the answer seems to be answered here, here, or possibly here.

If you think you're become both evil AND cool, this society wants you!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Only good for the bottles

The three liquor bottles seen below are the COOLEST liquor bottles ever made, says I.

Photo source HERE.

Ironically, the libations inside 'em are among the worst spirits ever made for human consumption!

The skull bottle on the left once held Crystal Head Vodka, whose taste has been compared to nail polish remover. (Still, it would worth buying just for the bottle.)

Next to the vodka bottle are the two bottles that fit together to hold Jekyll and Hyde liquors, marketed by Anheuser-Busch's subsidiary, Long Tail Libations. As this site describes the two-in-one drink, "Both bottles hold 750 mL, with one clear glass bottle showing the deep-red, 60-proof raspberry-flavored Jekyll, the other revealing the black, 80-proof Hyde, a black molasses-tasting product. When a bartender pours each into a shot glass, Hyde floats on top of Jekyll due to differing product viscosities and the amount of sugar in each." Another site, Liquor Snob, says the Hyde part is "herbal tasting;" the site The Bachelor Guy site similarly describes Hyde as "spicy."

But MOLASSES-tasting? Ooorg!

Both liquors are pretty sweet. Feh. Manischewitz is cheaper.

The Jekyll and Hyde liquors seem to have evolved from fruit-flavored malt liquor shots designed to be added to beer! (Blehhh.) This was test-marketed by Anheuser-Busch in 2006; the following year the harder Jekyll and Hyde liquors came out.

Below is the original art that was designed for the malt liquor; the painting by illustrator Jerome Lagarrigue was adapted for the label of the 2007 Jekyll and Hyde form-fitting bottles:

Image source: Flickr account- Jon Cronin

If you want drink recipes (like a Mary Reilly) that use Jekyll and Hyde, or a Jekyll and Hyde screensaver, go to the official website.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Q and A with THE LANDLORD's Emil Hyde

Recently I sent some questions to Emil Hyde, the co-producer, writer and director of the microbudget indy film THE LANDLORD, which I reviewed at this post. Mr. Hyde wrote me back (I love saying that; sounds like I'm corresponding with a monster) and gave some interesting answers to my queries.

Emil, was the film always planned as a comedy? I can see it being made as a straight horror movie with only a modest amount of changes.

We always intended for The Landlord to be a comedy. Our goal was to combine a typical sitcom scenario (landlord with wacky, trouble-making tenants) with a generic horror plot (flesh-eating demons) and find the humor in juxtaposing the two. And while I agree it would only take a slight nudge to turn the whole thing into pure horror - some of the scenes of people getting killed or eaten are pretty gruesome - it could just as easily be turned into a dumb, formulaic sitcom. On set, we'd amuse ourselves by concocting ridiculous plots for other 'episodes': "This week on The Landlord, Rabisu the demon decides to go vegetarian by eating vegetarians!" [cue laugh track]

Was it hard to keep focus on both the horror elements and the comedy elements while writing the screenplay?

Our main comedic touchstone for The Landlord was Will Farrell. In all his movies, Farrell starts with an absurd character, then plays it with 100% conviction. For instance, in the movie Elf, he's seriously trying to get inside the head of a man raised by Santa's elves, and take the role seriously. That's infinitely funnier than him just standing around making lame candy cane jokes.

In The Landlord, Derek Dziak, the actor who plays the main character, Tyler, really tried to figure out how an average douchebag would cope with having two mass-murdering demons for tenants. Meanwhile Rom Barkhordar, who plays Rabisu, did a great job portraying how a 2,000 year old Babylonian demigod might deal with being cooped up in a tiny little apartment for decades. With that mindset, it wasn't hard to balance the horror and the comedy: the predicaments that Tyler finds himself in may be funny to us, the audience, but for the characters they're deadly serious.

Was there much revising?

Tons. We'd revise and revise, and even on set we might shoot a scene once or twice as written, then improvise. The early drafts bear only a passing resemblance to the finished movie, and even now there are things I'd change.

You've said in another interview that you find monsters of ancient mythology interesting. The Landlord is about two demons of Babylonian myth. Any other creatures of ancient cultures that you would like to put on film?

There are so many fascinating mythologies that Hollywood hasn’t even touched – I have one screenplay that involves these really terrifying tiger demons from Hindu mythology, and another one that features some really cool Vodun (“Voodoo”) gods, who have personalities unlike anything in Greek or Norse mythology.

Name one Hollywood actor or actress you'd cast as a mythical creature. (I think Sandra Bernhard would be a good Medusa. Or maybe Scarlett Johannson--? She'd turn the men in the audience to stone--or some part of 'em, anyway.)

I'd say Jack Black as Bacchus, but that's probably too obvious. Heck, I think our lead actor from The Landlord - Derek - could make a pretty good Bacchus. He's certainly hairy and rowdy enough. As for goddesses, sticking with Greek stuff, I think Catherine Keener and Hilary Swank would be great as Hera and Artemis - and I guess you could let Scarlett Johannson be Aphrodite.

If you could work with any actor and/or actress from any time period, who would you choose?

Well, my time is now, and I hope to collaborate with some of the best actors of the present day. As for who they are: I think Joseph Gordon Levitt is going to become one of the great actors of this generation. While most people will know him as the annoying kid from Third Rock From the Sun or Cobra Commander in the new G.I. Joe movie, they should check out his performances in Mysterious Skin - this unbearably intense movie about child molestation and UFO abductions. Seriously, he's going to win at least one Best Actor Oscar, and G-d willing it'll be for a film that I directed.

Otherwise, I really like the people I'm working with right now. If Derek Dziak, the lead actor in The Landlord, can get some more roles, I think he can become a cool character actor a la Bill Paxton. He's penciled in for a supporting part in our next movie, and I think people will be impressed at just how different that role is from Tyler. Meanwhile Rom, who plays Rabisu, has been getting some small television parts (he was on that show The Beast with Patrick Swayze) and auditioning for supporting parts in big budget films - I think he just auditioned for a suspense thriller starring Adrian Brody and Forrest Whitaker. Rom's forte is playing authority figures - scientists and military generals and whatnot - and he might still be a little young for these parts. But hopefully he'll get his break one way or another, and people in Hollywood will start using him again and again, the way Hollywood uses all the same people again and again.

The sound quality varies and is not very good sometimes. What happened?

If we're going to get into the technical shortcomings of The Landlord - of which there are plenty - let me start by explaining that we made the whole thing - a 95-minute, stunts-and-effects-loaded feature film - for just $22,000. While that might sound like a lot of cash if you're making minimum wage at McDonald's, realize that even the crummiest direct-to-DVD horror flicks you see at Blockbuster will spend more than $22,000 just feeding the cast and crew.

As for the sound, we just weren't able to find a sound guy willing to do the movie without pay. Normally you'd have a full-time sound recordist on set, with a huge collection of microphones, and they'll select the perfect mic for the room, then best type of windscreen if you're outside, and have their assistant - the boom operator - hold it at exactly the right angle so you get the actors' dialogue but not the background noise. Well, we didn't have any of that. We had one mic, with just a standard sock covering it, and oftentimes we didn't have anyone on set available to stand around and hold it. So we'd just stick it on a mic stand, point it in the general direction of the actors, and hope for the best.

Yes, we could have overdubbed the dialogue later, but again we ran into a situation where the actors had already given so much of their time for free, they weren't interested in spending 20 more hours in a vocal booth overdubbing every single line - especially when most of them had moved on to other projects. So we just overdubbed the absolute worst scenes, and cleaned up the rest as best we could, though sometimes “as best we could” was still kind of murky.

But you know what? If the alternative was not making the movie, then I'll deal with some bad audio. If you insist on perfect sound and picture quality, then go watch whatever’s playing at your local megaplex. Meanwhile, I think most fans of indie horror would agree that it’s better The Landlord exist in an imperfect state than not exist at all.

Most of the films you listed in other interviews as favorites are pretty contemporary. Name a favorite horror movie made before you were born, and old favorite non-horror movie. (Being older than you I hadta ask.)

My favorite horror movie, Roman Polanski's The Tenant, came out on June 11th, 1976 - exactly four months before I was born (on October 11, 1976). What I love about that movie is how nothing is explained - you never really find out why there's a creepy Egyptian tomb in the middle of this Paris apartment building, or why the main character's neighbors all seem to be conspiring to drive him insane. Even though we end up explaining most of the weird shit that happens in The Landlord, because of movies like The Tenant, I'm fine leaving a few things unexplained: and there's even a few jokes about that, like when Tyler asks Rabisu why demons are forbidden to open the portal to Hell (I won't ruin the punch line).

As for non-horror movies, if I wanted to be all hard-core I'd say Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Aguirre, the Wrath of God), which is about an insane conquistador going rogue in the Amazon jungle and features an even more insane performance from Klaus Kinski, the only actor who can make me forget he's just playing a role. However, if I wanted to be all sentimental, I'd say Casablanca, because it really does contain action, romance, and everything else we traditionally go to the movies for.

What would you name as one of the worst movies you have ever seen?

Whatever it was, I forgot its title. The worst crime a movie can commit is not being memorable. If you keep bashing a movie for being the "worst" you've seen, then you probably find it fascinating on some level. I feel that way about Daniel Day Lewis' performance in There WIll Be Blood - it's so over-the-top and hammy, it's awe inspiring. Hopefully that will prove the case for some critics who hated The Landlord: they'll keep having visions of Rabisu eating brains with a spoon or remember when the detective says "I'm gonna feed your fucking bacon to the fucking piranhas in the fucking aquarium!" and not be able to get it out of their heads.

Film music: Hitchcock had Bernard Herrman, Steven Spielberg has John Williams, Tim Burton has Danny Elfman--what musicians or composers would you hire?

If you're asking for my favorite film composer right now, that would be Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, Blood: The Last Vampire, Moon). But really I'm less interested in hiring Clint Mansell than I am in finding the next Clint Mansell.

On The Landlord, I asked my friend Karen Sandvoss if we could use some of her existing recordings for our soundtrack. Karen's been in so many great bands - Supra Argo, Clevergirl, Beautiful Engines, Pfiffin, Spansion, etc. - and released so much music that we could find a match for just about any scene. And no matter what band she's playing with, Karen has a very distinctive sense of melody that ties all the pieces together.

Going forward - well, perhaps it's premature to be discussing this, but the other day I turned on our local college station and this really intense, disturbing music jumped out of the speakers - a mix of throbbing Middle Eastern percussion, off-kilter jazz, and weird electronic noises. I started imagining scenes from our next project, and the combination of the visuals and the music freaked me out in a very good way. So I called the station and asked who the artist was. It turned out to be a group called The Division, which is mainly a pseudonym for this composer named Matt Schultz. Later that night, I shot Matthew an email, and we e-chatted a bit about possibly collaborating. Hopefully, it will all work out, because Matt's music is absolutely mind-blowing - just pick up the CD Mantras by The Division and hear for yourselves.

Any shooting have to be done "on the sly", and what surprises did you encounter during the shoot?

Before The Landlord, we did a movie called Escape From Planet Love, where we only spent $850. To pull that off, we often had to jump fences and "steal" our shots. However, for The Landlord, we did everything legit, as the worst thing would have been to have one or two dozen volunteers show up, then have the shoot get busted for lack of a permit. Fortunately, the people at the Chicago Film Office were extremely supportive of our efforts, and helped us get all the necessary permits without busting our budget. Seriously, the way they treated us, you'd think we were Chris Nolan doing The Dark Knight, and not some two-bit D.I.Y. flick. Their support made me so proud of our city, that I'll do my damnedest to keep future productions here in Chicago, whenever practical.

When will "The Landlord" go on sale, and where will people be able to buy it?

We're talking to a couple of distributors about getting it in stores and up on Netflix Instant sometime in the next year, but your readers can go to and order a promo copy right now. That's a special, direct link - you can't get that page from the main website. We just figure, if we're handing out DVDs to festivals and blogs, we may as well let any interested folks in the general public see it, too. Any distributor worth its salt shouldn't feel threatened by a few dozen Internet sales.

Thanks for your time, Emil!

No problem. I like to type.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A stiff full of holes?

Most badly-written headline I've seen in a while:

This headline appears at the website of the UK's Telegraph newspaper.

An "an" between "dead" and "unarmed" would have made this much clearer. As it was, I first thought the cops had fired on a corpse. Of course, I wish it meant they had shot at a ravenous zombie or vampire!

Too early!

I've been meaning to bitch about this [;)]. WALGREEN'S and MICHAEL'S stores have had HALLOWEEN items out for nearly a month now!!


I propose that we start celebrating Halloween on St. Patrick's Day and Christmas on Labor Day just to get ahead of the damn retailers who want us to never forget about all the holiday crap they have to sell us.

Oh, well. I strive to keep Halloween in my heart all the year 'round, in spite of 'em. I can find Halloween in my back yard, if I look. (I can find spiders and king snakes on foggy mornings back there.) I don't even need to go to a store for Halloween.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My first blurb! My first blurb backlash!

The ol' crocked cranium is feeling proud, kids; you see, I've hit a kind of milestone. (Thunk!) For the first time, a quote of mine has been used as a blurb on an actual, physical product! (Yes, really!) I've been quoted on various websites before, but never have I had my words put on something for sale. Now, with the official dvd release of the micro-budget indy film The Landlord, some words of praise I gave the movie ("Funny and inventive. The laughs are daring and edgy." ) can be seen on the back, near the top.

Wow. In spite of everything I do here at this blog, someone actually respects my opinion! And enough to think it should be on something he expects people to buy! (I suppose it was inevitable. As standards of excellence in all areas of modern life generally get lower, my stock as an arbiter of taste just had to rise!)

My praise used on the packaging came from this review. It was qualified praise; I also called the film "low rent." But the movie made me laugh, and some of the actors impressed me. It has some amateurish flaws, but it beats many indie features for sale on Amazon by a large margin. It's a good start for its young producer- director-writer, Emil Hyde. (That's his real name, too--and a perfect one for a guy making horror movies.)

Also for the first time, I've been criticized for agreeing to be quoted on the dvd cover! (Man, was that fast.) Over at Freddy in Space, John Squire's fine horror review blog, The Landlord gets pasted as "a horror comedy without horror and without comedy." Okay, a legit opinion. But THEN FiS says,

"This is another one of those indy flicks that has been getting rave reviews from horror bloggers, several of them even plastered onto the DVD cover. And therein lies the problem. So many bloggers are so desperate to get their names on the covers of these indy horror movies that they will praise and suck them off whether they truly liked them or not."

There's a thirty-three-and-a-third percent chance Squires means me, since there are only three blogs quoted--Movie Cynics, Horror Yearbook and TDSH. (Can 3 be "several"?)

So I'm a desperate film fellator, eh, Mr. Squires? (Feh--the only thing that hits my tonsils is 90 proof.) That's funny, since none of the blogs quoted for blurbs gave the film unqualified praise, though Horror Yearbook was the most enthusiastic. In fact, out of the 14 reviews online, only a couple actually raved about the film. Most of the rest gave it a recommendation with some reservations; a couple didn't care for the film at all.

Freddy in Space knocks a reviewer who calls The Landlord "pure comedy gold." I couldn't find that line anywhere in any review. But FiS has a point about the review posted at Happy Horror.Com, a blog that describes itself as "the positive place for all things horror." (Oy boy, is it ever "positive"-- it might as well have a happy face in the logo.) Without referring to HH or anyone by name, Freddy in Space accuses the reviewer of dishonesty for saying the film has "amazing makeup and special effects." Squires has a point there. Happy Horror also enthusiastically gave the film "5 out of 5." Holy happy hyperbole! The Landlord isn't Citizen Kane! (It's more fun than Kane.)

But back to me, the shallow huckster. Of course my next goal will be my first infomercial! But I'd do one only for a product I truly believe in, like a ray gun that disintegrates people who are texting and driving.

The Landlord is now getting bookings on the festival circuit, but Emil Hyde tells me that you can go to and "order a promo copy right now--that's a special, direct link - you can't get that page from the main website." I recommend it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Squire Max's Link Farm

Today I just want to share links to a variety of recent postings and pages elsewhere in the vast virtual wasteland known as the blogosphere. All of 'em made me smile, gasp or squint in existential despair. Recommended:

Do you dare look into her eyes? (NSFW)

Weird News:

Strange piercings and extreme body art

Japan puts robots in the kitchen (But can robo-cooks replace Mama?)

The first step to artificial brains is taken

The first step to making Stepford Wives is taken

Odd Arts and Crafts:

Make a paper "Yubaba" from Spirited Away

Make a giant "Frankenberry" mask

Sites with Horror Sights:

Flayed and embalmed (gruesome!)

Gaze into a REAL mummy's face!

Persian Salt Mummies
(also gruesome)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Art by the Voodoo Queen

My bride of nearly four years, Jane the Voodoo Queen, decamped to sunny Florida a coupla weeks ago on family business, and I am lonely.

And overwhelmed by housework! When you're just a head, it's rough as a cob, as my grandmother used to say. (She grew up in an era where people in the country had outhouses.) Have you ever tried sweeping a floor with a broom handle in your TEETH?)

Anyway, Jane is an artist, but hadn't done portraits in ages. But has taken up her long-unused pencils and sketch pad this past year and a half, and I thought I'd share the results with you here. All were of actors with notable horror credits. Click on the picture to see it in a larger size.

Irving Pichel and Gloria Holden from DRACULA'S DAUGHTER:

Sir Christopher Lee:

Peter Lorre from MAD LOVE:

Christopher Walken:

I like the expressiveness of the eyes in her drawings.

And I like the expressiveness in her eyes--and I want her to get done soon and come home!


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