The Chances of Anything Coming from Mars…

One Christmas long ago, I got Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds. I was excited, of course, because I loved anything War of the Worlds. The cover was incredible, featuring a a Martian tripod melting the deck of an ironclad. As I flipped through the included book of artwork, my hopes steadily grew. It was full of paintings of tripods blasting old-timey looking British people. Now that was what I’d been wanting from a War of the Worlds adaptation!

War of the Welles

The country was, in the autumn of 1938, primed for a panic. And 23-year-old radio actor Orson Welles was primed to give them one. At 8pm on October 30, 1938, he and the Mercury Theater on the Air began a broadcast that would, if you believe the stories about believing the story, send the whole of the country into a panic, convinced the planet was under attack by Martians.

Half a Decade of Boooozy Tales

From 2013 through 2017, I wrote an annual Halloween article for Alcohol Professor about haunted bars or adjacent drinking and carousing. I don’t have anything new this year — between finalizing Cocktails and Capers and day-to-day work, I just couldn’t think of a fresh angle — but in lieu of a freshly dug grave, I thought I’d resurrect the previous five year’s of articles to provide a haunted tour of some of the world’s most famous haunted bars, spooky spirits, and spine-chilling literary libations.

The Maze

The Maze depends heavily on atmosphere. For the bulk of the movie, very little actually happens. Small tidbits are thrown the viewer’s way to keep them interested — a fleeting glimpse of a glistening creature, a weird webbed footprint, the frequent foreboding stares of the butlers.

Bio-Zombie

Before the zombie glut of the 2000s, one could count the number of Night of the Living Dead-type zombie films from Hong Kong on, well, one finger. Bio-Zombie is one of the few Romero-style zombie flicks to come from Hong Kong. The result is curious, to say the least. For the most part, it’s uneven but enjoyable.

Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Honjo

Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Honjo is a period piece ghost film, one of countless Japanese ghost movies in which a scheming, evil samurai runs afoul of a ghost. What makes Ghost Stories of Wanderer at Honjo different than, say Ghost of Yotsuya, is that the yokai make token appearances.

The Cat and the Canary

Under normal circumstances, The Cat and the Canary could have been a simple affair — a living room, a bedroom, shots of the spooky exterior of a mansion. Sprinkle some cobwebs and people looking side-eyed at one another, and there you go. In the hands of German Expressionist Paul Leni however, things were going to be different.

Atlantic logo

A Little Song and Dance

I often forget that, for a little while, I worked at Atlantic Records. It was such a bizarre position that every day I was there, I wasn’t sure I still worked there. Even today, some fifteen years later, I’m not sure I ever actually quit, like maybe I could just show up tomorrow and everyone would shrug and go on with their business.

Queen of the Seas

Queen of the Seas

Best known for his gritty crime films and, for better or worse, cannibal movies, Italian director Umberto Lenzi spent his early career making fun swashbuckling adventures. Queen of the Seas was the first of them, and it’s a fun tale of high seas adventures and a sassy pirate queen.

Bastard Swordsman

The Bastard Swordsman Saga

In the 1980s, Shaw Brothers was running out of gas. They responded by letting directors go totally insane. Amid the maelstrom are the delirious martial arts fantasies Bastard Swordsman and Return of the Bastard Swordsman

Island of Death

Island of Death

Twists are heaped upon perversions until the whole thing threatens to collapse into one giddily irredeemable pile of filth that happily violates any taboo of which it could think, and then finds a way to make it all weirder still.

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

The Red Queen Kills Seven Times

As with his previous film, Miraglia takes the modern setting integral to the spirit of gialli and dresses it up in a bit of old-fashioned Gothic spookiness by, once again, setting a portion of it in a moody Gothic estate full of dark secret passages and dungeon chambers.

The Sister of Ursula

The Sister of Ursula

The Sister of Ursula is like watching a Jess Franco film without that director’s flare. Contemplate that one on the Tree of Woe. Sex scenes, the Italian coast, outlandish murders — everything about The Sister of Ursula seems to operate under the directive of “Well, this should be good, but we’re going to mess it up.”

Dark Purpose

Had Dark Purpose been an hour long episode of a TV show, it would have delivered. But forced to come up with, roughly, three half-hour acts, it can’t sustain the momentum and Shirley Jones, while perfectly acceptable, just isn’t dynamic enough to make us forget nothing much is going on.

Death Walks On High Heels

Few giallo directors were as adept at melding the sundry fetishes that defined the movement as Luciano Ercoli. Nudity, violence, cabaret numbers, quirky camera work, exquisite living rooms, and flash clothing all hit their crescendo under the steady guidance of a man who seems to treat every film as a fashion shoot.