Sunday, April 29, 2018

TM Gallery: The Dark World, The Death of a Snow Man

The Dark World by Henry Kuttner

World War II veteran Edward Bond's recuperation from a disastrous fighter plane crash takes a distinct turn for the weird when he encounters a giant wolf, a red witch, and the undeniable power of the need-fire, a portal to a world of magic and swordplay at once terribly new and hauntingly familiar. In the Dark World, Bond opposes the machinations of the dread lord Ganelon and his terrible retinue of werewolves, wizards, and witches, but all is not as it seems in this shadowy mirror of the real world, and Bond discovers that a part of him feels more at home here than he ever has on Earth. 

The Death of a Snow Man

A SOUTH AFRICAN EXPLOITATION CLASSIC! ROUGHER AND TOUGHER THAN ANYTHING YOU'VE SEEN BEFORE! Master criminals meet violent death in Johannesburg, South Africa, a city wrought with organized crime. Steve Chaka (Ken Gampu), an ambitious news reporter, learns that these deaths are from the hands of an all-black vigilante group known only as War on Crime. Teaming up with Lt. Ben Deel (Nigel Davenport, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS) of the local police department, Chaka investigates anonymous tips regarding future hits and ends up fighting for his life to uncover the truth behind the vigilante killings!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

TM Gallery: Episode on the Riviera, Evil Dead 2, The Magnolia Murder

Episode on the Riviera by Mack Reynolds
She had coolly planned a campaign to settle her difficulties. A trip to the French Riviera. A stranger - an attractive man without strings. One who would welcome an affair with an American girl.

The first man she ran into was expatriate Steve Cogswell. Good! Just right, thought Nadine.

Until Gerald Silletoe followed her from the States and tried to force her to marry him, using every method from blackmail to mayhem . . .

Until Steve’s luscious ex-wife, Fay, showed up. And Mart Gunther, his ex-business partner . . .

Until Steve was robbed of the money he needed to pay off gambler Constantin Kamiros . . .

And until Nadine got into Steve’s bed and begged for what she didn’t want . . . 

Evil Dead 2
Ash (Bruce Campbell), the sole survivor of THE EVIL DEAD, returns to the same cabin in the woods and again unleashes the forces of the dead. With his girlfriend possessed by the demons and his body parts running amok, Ash is forced to single-handedly battle the legions of the damned as the most lethal - and groovy - hero in horror movie history! 

The Magnolia Murder by Wyatt Bell
He'd hidden the body, hidden the gun, and he had a brand new $20 in his pocket. Now, why should anyone believe P.T. didn't kill the man? When had all the trouble started? On that day, long ago, when Archie Baxley was assaulted by a tramp? Or right after that, when Archie's best friend, P. T. Pride, beat him within an inch of his life? Or when Archie grew bitter and mean, and started to hit the bottle? Or when he married Crystal, and swore he'd never let her forget what she was? Or did it start when the sheriff gave Archie the badge that made his drunken violence legal? 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Things I Didn't Finish - The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself
by Joe Abercrombie
Gollancz, 2006

Grimdark is supposed to be a dark, morally ambiguous reaction to the strict good/evil dichotomy in High Fantasy, much as spaghetti westerns were to the white hat/black hat oaters.  It does this while maintaining the core theme of High Fantasy - walking from one place to another.

I picked up The Blade Itself after reading pearl-clutching reviews of how violent, gory, and nihilistic it is.  Having gotten several thousand pages into it, I can only include that fantasy fans are incredible wimps.

The world building is good - the gods of old were killed years ago, their powers stolen by megalomaniac magicians.  There's a grizzled barbarian, a disillusioned minor magic user, and an idealistic young fighter who's only purpose is to mock the concept of the "hero's journey".  As much as it deserves mocking, it doesn't make for good reading, or at least not for hundreds of pages.  And it's not subtle, either.  He's in league with some escaped prisoners who mock his piety, and I'm sure he eventually makes moral compromises or turns out to be a hypocrite.  But mostly the other escaped prisoners just rub his face in the lack of honor in the world, at one point even calling him a "snowflake".  I tapped out there, before someone explained ethics in gaming journalism.

We get exchanges like:
Flashing Goodboy: "You must be a political prisoner like me!"
Grimey McRapey: "Nope.  I'm a rapist.
"But you must have been falsely accused?"
"Nope.  I done the rapes."
"But you'll change your ways and become a hero like me!"
"Nope.  Gonna keep raping."

There's only a little bit of hyperbole there.  As much as I enjoy moral ambiguity or outright nihilism, I'd rather have a book with black and white morality with something actually happening.  I think there may have been one quick action scene in the part I read, and somebody gets stuck with a needle, which I guess is torture?  Reviews I read said things don't pick up until the end (over 500 pages), and then only to set up the second book in the trilogy.  Joseph Rosenberger would have quadruple digit body counts by then.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Genre Overview: High Fantasy

High Fantasy is set in an alternate history or planet, set in the equivalent of the dark ages through the renaissance, with non-human intelligent races, monsters, and magic.  Lord of the Rings and everything that's ripped off Lord of the Rings.  It's different from Sword & Sorcery (Conan and stuff that rips off Conan), mainly in the amount of clothing worn on the book cover, but there are literary differences I'm not nuanced enough to explain.  It may be the same as Epic Fantasy, or Epic may just be a subset of High.

I should love this stuff.  I loved the Rankin Bass TV specials, and listened to the Hobbit storybook album obsessively.  I played D&D.  Hell, I even liked Willow.  But I could never stomach the fiction.  I read the Hobbit, but got to the first poem in Fellowship of the Ring before giving up.

This is purely a matter of my tastes, but these things seem to be hundreds of thousands of words of people walking from one place to another.  While the movies and video games are all hack & slash, the books seem to be G-rated.

Somewhere in the stretch between the paperback explosion of the 60s & 70s to self-publishing today, there must be something that suits my tastes.  Short (or at least reasonable), violent, gory, exploitive, and fun.  Tie-ins seem to be more readable, but tend towards the young adult side.

So, dear readers, please fill me in on what I'm missing.  And don't tell me about grimdark.  That's just High Fantasy with more dirt smudges.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

TM Gallery: Everybody Had a Gun, Firewalker, Manhunt

Everybody Had a Gun by Richard Prather
Shell Scott. He's a guy with a pistol in his pocket and murder on his mind. The crime world's public enemy number one, this Casanova is a sucker for a damsel in distress. When a pair of lovely legs saunters into his office, he can't help but take the job, even when the case is a killer. Shell feels like a walking, talking target. He's not an easy guy to mistake for someone else, with his gray eyes, broken nose and missing ear tip, but who would want to take a shot at such a stunning and attractive man? Something's fishy in the state of Denmark when Shell finds he is dodging bullets and it seems like everyone is holding a smoking gun. This case just might land Shell a new, deluxe the morgue. 

A pair of adventurers try to track down an ancient Aztec/Mayan/Egyptian/ Apache horde of gold. 


Friday, April 20, 2018

TM Gallery: World Without Women, Man's Illustrated, Death Promise

World Without Women by Day Keene and Leonard Pruyn

Man’s Illustrated

Death Promise
An apartment dweller goes on a search-and-destroy mission to kill the ruthless landlords who murdered his father. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Moonslasher by Douglas D. Hawk

by Douglas D. Hawk
Critic's Choice, 1987

A werewolf story in a Jaws plot.  A mysterious creature stalks a vacation town.  Business leaders don't want to shut down the beaches, er, lake.  A depressed, one-armed cop tries to fight the creature between drinking spells.

The pacing is dictated by the phases of the moon, which gives us long pauses between action.  And it's not a werewolf, it's an Egyptian cat goddess.  The creature isn't described at all for the first few scenes, and my mind filled in a giant wolf.  Later, it still isn't described, other than calling it catlike.  I still had a picture of a wolf for a while, until it was replaced by the image of a twelve foot long house cat biting off heads and being shot at by M-16s.

Decently written, and I'm looking forward to reading more Hawk.

Available in Kindle ebook from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

TM Gallery: The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Zombie, True Men

The Abominable Dr. Phibes
A doctor, scientist, organist, and biblical scholar, Dr. Anton Phibes, seeks revenge on the nine doctors he considers responsible for his wife's death. 

Zombie (1980)

True Men
Breakout from the Nazi Bitch Camp 1034

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

TM Gallery: Sexurbia County, Magnetic Brain, Cyborg IV

Sexurbia County by Orrie Hitt
It's 1960. Tony Benton found flaming passion in the arms of honey-haired, hot-lipped Ruth Kennedy, who floated around in a golden Cadillac. Ruth's husband ran Burk County, the fashionable sexurb filled with thrill-hungry sin-hunters who stopped at nothing to satiate their jaded appetites. Sex, unlimited, brought cash to Burk County, and Tony soon learned that working its crimson nights paid off in dollars and dolls.

But Tony had complications - jet-haired Connie Davis, to whom bedded bliss meant marriage, and bewitching Elsie Grines, his boss' daughter, and Amy Slade, who was callously victimized by the town's penchant for sin.

Another brutally frank novel of 1960's sizzle, by the legendary Orrie Hitt, about men who left their consciences in the city, and women who checked their morals at the supermarket. 
Kindle ebook from Amazon

Magnetic Brain by Volsted Gridban
In a unique plot - as original as it is weirdly sinister - he tells of the effects of a guinea-pig experiment on the brain of an Earthman, severely injured when his spaceship crash-landed on Mars. With the help of the new wonder metal, niridium, the planet's greatest surgeon effected a trepanning operation on the victim's brain. In doing do he endowed the hitherto shy and diffident Timothy Arnside with the dangerous gift of being able to read the inmost thoughts of his fellow mortals. How the Earthman used and abused that gift is the foundation for a graphically moving story that culminates in a denouement as unexpected as it is spectacular 

Six Million Dollar Man 6: Cyborg IV by Martin Caidin
"Here is 'The Six Million Dollar Man' in a space adventure of the near future in which Cyborg Steve Austin races against time and technology to protect U. S. Military security and his own life. Bionics man Steve Austin is now linked symbiotically to his own space vehicle 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

TM Gallery: The Year of the Boar, 12 Must Die

Kung Fu Featuring Mace 6: The Year of the Boar by Lee Chang
Mace is the praying Mantis stalking the victim with its eyes, while its body remains motionless, patiently waiting for an opportunity to attack with blinding speed and deadly accuracy. Mace is the ape powerfully enforcing its indomitable will against all enemies. Fluid agile, it can squeeze the life from an adversary without precious energy. Mace is the clawing tiger storing its power in steel-coiling muscles that explode upon command to unleash total fury and destruction. Mace is the King Cobra moving rhythmically in a slow dance of death while its prey is helplessly driven into an hypnotic stupor. Then the snake strikes like lethal lightning, ending its victim's agony forever. Mace is Kung Fu deadly, accurate and powerful. 
Paperback from AbeBooks

Dr. Death: 12 Must Die
Who is Dr. Rance Mandarin? A wizard of science dedicated to hurling modern man back into the Stone Age! A twisted combination of Albert Einstein and Boris Karloff. The malevolent monster who calls himself Doctor Death!
Master of the Black Arts, invoker of evil elementals and generalissimo of an army of marauding Zombies, Doctor Death has decreed that mankind must revert to a more primitive state - or perish! And standing against him, a scientific detective steeped the ways of the occult - Jimmy Holm, brave leader of the Secret Twelve, a council of business and political leaders whom Death has marked for destruction. Together, they are mankind's last hope of preventing civilization from crumbling under his sinister supernatural spell. One by one, the Twelve begin falling victim to the evil scientist. Is the end of everything near?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Encounter with the Unknown

Encounter with the Unknown

Hosted by Rod Serling, this one is packaged like the unexplained documentaries of the time period.  It isn't, it's a zero budge horror anthology.  The concept is that a researcher found that several unexplained deaths had their corpses buried in 23 cemeteries, and these are three of their stories:

A prank goes wrong, leading to a young man's death.  His mother curses them to die at seven day intervals.  To be honest, if you go skydiving while under a curse, you've got it coming.

A hole opens up in the ground in a small town.  A man is lowered in by rope and goes mad.

A ghost lady hangs out on a bridge.

It has a low budget charm, but then lost me when it replayed scenes for like ten minutes at the end.

Available at Amazon Video

Friday, April 13, 2018

TM Gallery: Born to Die, Dealer in Death, Mean Johnny Barrows

Apache 14: Born to Die by William M. James

Super-Detective Jim Anthony: The Dealer in Death
October 1940

Mean Johnny Barrows (1975)
Former NFL star Fred Williamson (making his debut as a director) is Johnny Barrows, a soldier dishonorably discharged from the army. He returns home to encounter racism, violence, and an escalating mafia war. Naturally, a man with Barrows' rough background is hired as a mob enforcer. This brutal, blazing, blasting epic also stars Roddy McDowell, Stuart Whitman, and Elliot Gould. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Ants by Peter Tremayne

The Ants (aka The Ants are Coming)
by Peter Tremayne
Sphere, 1979

An anthropologist looks for her missing father in the jungle, only to find cleared fields and a pile of bones.  She meets up with a native child and an American pilot, and together they flee from mutated soldier ants to a plantation.

Well researched, but weak sauce, to the point that I would shelve this as Adventure rather than Horror.  A couple of interesting angles poke their heads up (native workers regressing to human sacrifice, the ants having mind control powers), but nothing comes of them.  Any tension is immediately dissipated and our heroes escape the ants with few obstacles.

Kindle ebook available from Amazon

Click here to read a sample

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bad Influences: Max's Mondo Madness

Max Headroom is one of those formerly ubiquitous cultural artifacts which society collectively decides to scrub from it's consciousness, like Gangam Style or Zach Galifianakis.  Either it's time has come again or I have lost all sense of taste, but I think it holds up well today, at least the movie and TV series, if not the Coke commercials.

In 1986, Max hosted a series of what were then called "mondo" or "midnight" movies.  I recall very little of it, except that's where I taped Reefer Madness and The Forbidden Zone featured prominently in the intro, though I may be confusing it with Night Flight.

This show has almost no internet fingerprint, but it's likely called "Max's Mondo Madness", a term that I am now ruining the googlewang for - it's only reference is at Max Headroom Notes.

Monday, April 9, 2018

TM Gallery: Jaka Sembung, Werewolves on Wheels, Ten Story Detective

Jaka Sembung

Werewolves on Wheels
A motorcycle club encounters a satanic cult of monks. After partying all afternoon they all pass out, except for one of the biker's girlfriend. She ends up getting lurked by the cult to participate in a ritual which turns her into a werewolf.  

Ten Story Detective, April 1948