Sunday, October 31, 2010

Great Pumpkin Sighted!

That sound you hear is the cheering of the Dork Forty Halloweenies. For we planted our punkin patch, and we nurtured its sincerity in the manner pro-scribed in the Great Book of Halloween. We Monster Mashed nekkid 'round the fire. We took heed to the words of Brother Vincent, and when he asked of us "Can You Dig It?" we responded unto him in the positive. We wore our shrouds emblazoned with the likenesses of Brother Boris and Father Rondo. We knelt at the Altar of Bela, and learned at the feet of good ol' HP. And when we were done learnin', we took our message to the people (that's you, son, so stand up straight). We shared our knowledge, our ob-sessions, and our pretty pretty pictures.

And tonight, it's all paid off. 'Cause just a few short minutes ago, out in our very own Dork Forty Halloween punkin patch, the Great Punkin himself appeared to us, bringin' candy and shrunken heads for all! His appearance was fleetin', as is his way. He was there and gone in a heartbeat, and his form shifted dependin' on who saw him. Some thought it was a be-goggled beagle. Others, an errant bowlin' ball. But we all knew him as our Halloweenie saviour.

And there was much rejoicin'.

And now, we wanna share that joy with you, via the wonders of the interwebs, with a few choice scenes from the first holy text of the Great Punkin... It's the Great Punkin, Charlie Brown. Like the Great Punkin himself, you can't see the whole thing at once out here in the wild. Just the key scenes, the good ones. The ones everybody remembers. Which you can see... after the jump.

No Service

So have you ever wanted to know what an individual blogger looked like? No? Me, neither. But that's not gonna stop me from making this post! Earlier in the year, I acted in a short student horror film called "No Service," in which I play a serial killer. I had a lot of fun, and I think my director got a good grade, and that's all that matters, really. But still. I hope you enjoy it...

No Service from Jeremy Hill on Vimeo.

Hey Hey Hey!

So the sun's gone down again, we got the razor blades in all the candy apples for Maw to hand out back at the house, and we're back to waitin' in the punkin patch. The Great Punkin might show up any minute now! We're so excited. But while we wait, let's check out the Fat Albert Halloween Special!

Made in 1977, this one's your typical 70s kids' cartoon for the most part. Cool as the Fat Albert gang was, that show got pretty damn preachy at times, and this Halloween special is no exception. Between all the awesome put-downs, it's really about Halloween safety, and how it's wrong to scare old people, and all kindsa weak-ass crap like that. But! There's a section right in the middle with Mudfoot talking about how much better (and more Darwinian) Halloween was when he was a kid, and that's worth sitting through the rest for. So... without further ado... I give you The Fat Albert Halloween Special!

Mars Attacks, Panic Ensues

So it's time for a dinner break. But while you wait... why not enjoy a real American Halloween tradition, and give a listen to this myterious radio broadcast from 1938, when the Martians attacked New Jersey. Just, please, whatever you do... DO NOT PANIC!

Keep your nerves steady, and start listening... after the jump.

There's No Escape...

So I was going to move on to EC Comics next in my cavalcade of comics covers, but then I realized that I'd forgotten one of the big DC horror books: House of Secrets!

The sister series to House of Mystery, House of Secrets has a similar publishing history, though it started publication in 1956, after the Comics Code went into effect. Initially presenting stories of suspense, mystery and the supernatural, it shifted with changing times to giant monster and alien invasion fare before becoming the home of recurring characters like Eclipso (half hero / half villain!) and Prince Ra-Man (super-mentalist). As sales dwindled on the Eclipso series, House of Secrets was cancelled, only to be brought back three years later in 1969 as part of the horror line. And, like the rest of that line, it was blessed with a series of great covers. Most of the early ones were by Neal Adams, starting with issue 81:

Not Adams' best, nor a particular high point for DC horror in the 60s, but still a striking cover image. You'll note the bearded fellow up in the logo? The one that looks like an evil Orson Welles? That's Abel, host of the House of Secrets and brother to the House of Mystery's Cain. Why they thought taking the participants in the first Biblical murder and making them horror hosts was a good idea is anybody's guess, but I must say that it worked. Abel was a less sinister host than Cain, or maybe just less mean-spirited. Abel was plenty creepy, though. Whereas I always got the sense that Cain would be a fun guy to hang out with right up until the moment he cut your throat, Abel always just seemed creepy to me. Like the sort of guy who might have the kind of van you really wouldn't want to climb into...

But, anyway. The covers! Adams didn't deliver such great work on his first few issues, but then, for issue 88, he turned in this stunning piece, which you can see... after the jump!

The Chicken Heart

So here's a Halloween classic for you, courtesy the classic radio program Lights Out: it's the spine-tingling tale of... The Chicken Heart!

Of course, just between you and me... I like Bill Cosby's version better...

Live Sutch!

For your Halloweenie viewing pleasure, here's a clip of a Screaming Lord Sutch performance from the 1972 London Rock & Roll Show. It's ten years after his heyday, he's playing to a festival crowd on a huge open-air stage, and he takes the opportunity to go completely, one hundred percent, batshit insane. There's gunfire, Sutch doubles, a giant white coffin, bikini-clad go-go dancing pall-bearers, and (I think) Alice Cooper. Complete Halloweenie insanity that seems to have perplexed the crowd of hippies that showed up to watch. The cops guarding the stage seem pretty entertained, though...

The Voices in Your Head

So it's not something we talk about a whole heck of a lot, but one of our favorite pastime entertainments here on the Dork Forty is role-playing games. No, we don't put on French Maid costumes for each other -- well, not as part of the official Dork Forty funtimes, anyway. What consentin' nerd wranglers do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is up to them. What I'm talkin' about here is the good ol' dorky table-top RPG. You know... Dungeons & Dragons and the like.

Now, most RPGs aren't particularly Halloweenie. Sure, there's that (non-sparkly) Vampire game and all the stuff that goes with it. And of course there's the ever-popular Call of Cthulhu. But beyond those, horror roleplayin' has never been all that prominent. It's usually more about killin' stuff in a heroic manner, rather than... you know... serial killer style. (Though there's a game in there somewheres, I just know it...) Part of the reason for this disconnect between RPGs and horror is, I think, the reliance on numbers and dice. Things are just a lot less scary when they've got hit points. There are ways around that if you're creative, but most RPGers just aren't creative in that way. So horror gaming tends not to work so well.

But I was pointed toward an easy (and free!) RPG recently that I thought had a lotta Halloweenie potential: Everyone is John. The premise is fiendishly simple: John is a crazy person, and everybody plays one of the voices in his head. Each player tries to get John to do what they want, in competition with everybody else. You get points for achieving your goals, and roll dice to maintain control. At the end of the evening, the player that's gotten the highest score wins.

Now, there are scores and dice and all that involved in Everyone is John, and I'll give you a link to the full text of the rules (which take up a single page) at the end of this post. But they don't get in the way of play, or in the way of any SANITY-BLASTING HORROR you might want to inject. And the potential for said horror seems pretty high to me. Get a group of like-minded individuals together, and this game could be one of the better exercises in horror roleplaying I've seen. We'll be playin' a around of this game while we wait in the punkin patch tonight, and I personally can't wait. I've had the opportunity to play a voice in someone's head before, and I've been looking for a way to get back to it ever since.

If you wanna give it a shot yourself... Just go here: Everyone is John. And if you want more free weird-ass RPGs, check out the parent page: Sandor at the Zoo.

The Illuminated Annabel Lee

Courtesy most excellent funnybook blog Robot 6 (or Robot 666, as they've been calling it for Halloween), here's an illustrated version of Edgar Allan Poe's Annabel Lee! Or, rather, here's the first page of it. You'll have to go to Robot 6 itself for the whole thing. Done by funnybook artist Greg Hinkle, I thought this was rather nice work. I hope you'll agree...

If You Don't Believe...

So you thought we were done with the horror comics, didn't you? Nothing could be farther from the truth! We'll be visiting a bunch of them today, including the kings of horror funnybooks, EC Comics. But first...

Ghosts was a relatively late addition to the DC line of horror titles, debuting in 1971. Like the others, it had a sensationalistic cover blurb: "If you don't believe in GHOSTS... We challenge you to read true tales of the weird and supernatural!" Not that it actually pretended any of the stories inside were, you know... Real. They apparently did add a single-page feature depicting true-life ghost stories starting with issue 37, but that seems like more of an after-thought to me. The "true tales" bit just made for great copy, and the book stuck with the premise for most of its run.

Ghosts was created by Leo Dorfman, a prolific Silver Age writer who did a lot of Superman work in the 1960s. In his time on that character, Dorfman wrote the infamous "Superman Red / Superman Blue" story, and created Pete Ross, a childhood friend of Superman's who figured out his secret identity in high school, but never said anything, instead secretly helping Supes maintain it in the interest of friendship.

But we're talkin' about horror comics here, so let's get on with it. Like so many of the DC horror titles of the era, Ghosts featured a long series of spectacular covers, most of these from Nick Cardy, who started on the title with its first issue:

Not up to the spooky standards of the 60s work turned out by Cardy, Neal Adams, and the rest, but nice nonetheless. I like the fish-eye lens effect and odd camera angle here in particular. That string-tie-wearing reverend is pretty awesome, too. Another nice touch is the scroll that encompasses the logo, the picture, and the bottom copy identifying the stories inside. Ghosts stuck with that cover design for 14 issues before jettisoning it in favor of a more standard design. I can see why: as the DC horror titles became less an attraction in their own right, and more a testing ground for new talent, it was probably a lot easier to line up generic cover art than commission stuff to be done in the confines of that scroll. But, damn. It was a unique cover design, and I hate that they stopped using it so soon.

Another Ghosts standard seen on this first cover is the death's head. Later issues indicate a black-robed Death as the title's mascot, but on the early issues it's only a motif. Cardy did a lot of these; though it wisely wasn't done for every issue, it happened a lot, as you can see... after the jump...

Stan Lee's The Raven

And now, a Halloween tradition here on the Dork Forty, a warm fuzzy for our hard-working nerd farmers and shrunken head wranglers, and the perfect insane distillation of our dual loves of Halloween and funnybooks: Stan Lee reading Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven!

Countdown to Halloween: The Grand Finale!

It's here! It's here! It's finally here! Hallo-freakin'-ween!

We been staked out in the Dork Forty Halloween punkin patch since midnight, sleepin' in shifts and fillin' the air with Halloweenie Emanations in hopes of attractin' the attention of the Great Punkin tonight. But now the sun's up, we've all had our coffee (with a shot of strychnine, 'natch!) and the Halloween Etherweb's warmed up and ready to bring our final Halloween treats to you, our beloved ghoulish readers! This is the grand finale, folks, a day-long bloggin' marathon of fright! A blizzard of boogins! A cornucopia of creeps! A virtual avalanche of terror, for one and all! First up:

Kate Beaton's Dracula!

Cartoonist Kate Beaton, for her web-comic Hark, a Vagrant, has done a really nice (but loving!) piss-take of Bram Stoker's classic novel, which can be found in all its Halloweenie glory here:

But first, a couple of sample strips so you'll know the clickie's worth your time...

click to embiggen
this may also be embiggened by clicking

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bride of the Crypt of the Horror Hosts

So it's gettin' real close to go-time now. Only a little while longer, and we begin the lonely vigil and blizzard of Halloween sincerity required to attract the attention of the Great Punkin. But first... More horror hosts! Our final horror hosts, in fact, and my favorites of the current generation: Mr. Lobo, host of Cinema Insomnia, and...
Penny Dreadful

That's not just Penny up there, of course. She's the witch in the middle, but she's flanked by whacky neighbor and monster hunter Dr. Manfred von Bulow (on the left) and her werewolf husband Garou (on the right). Though Penny's clearly the star, these three host Shilling Shockers as a team.

But backing up a sec... When I learned that there was a horror host show called Penny Dreadful's Shilling Shockers, I was won over without ever seeing a minute of footage. "Penny dreadfuls" and "shilling shockers" were (for those of you who don't know) names for cheap, tawdry fiction in Victorian England. Poorly-written and printed out for the masses in serialized format, on cheap paper and even cheaper printing presses, penny dreadfuls were the precursors to pulp magazines, comic books, and of course the very types of B-Movies most often shown by TeeVee horror hosts. In other words, everything we love most here on the Dork Forty.

And we love this show, as well. They've done seven seven-episode seasons since 2006, appearing on cable access stations (and I believe PBS) throughout New England and elsewhere. Penny's a versatile and extremely charismatic host, able to move from gothic spookiness to broad humor in the blink of an eye. That transition's one of her best tricks, in fact, as you can see in this storyline recap clip... after the jump.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't

So we try not to give in to nostalgia too much here on the Dork Forty. Nostalgia's dangerous for a dork. The entertainments of our childhood were really no better than the entertainments of today; in many cases, in fact, they were worse. It's just that our enjoyment of them may have been greater because our childhood tastes weren't as refined. But dorks too often get caught up in the idea that they don't enjoy things as much as they used to, and it turns them bitter. And there's nothing more tiresome than a bitter dork.

So when we're cultivating our nerd crops around here, we tend to treat nostaliga as a weed. We rip that shit out by the roots, poison it with the new and different, whatever it takes. We want to judge all the great dork stuff out there by its own merits. Some of it stands the test of time, some of it we love because of its flaws, and some of it just needs to be tossed in the dustbin of dork history and forgotten. And then there's stuff like what we're about to show you tonight...

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't was a comedy special done for ABC in 1979. The premise is simple, and pretty cool: Dracula (in his capacity as King of the Monsters) calls all his horrific subjects to his castle to lay down the law. People aren't afraid of them anymore, and that's gotta stop. The monsters (by which this special seems to mean, mostly, the monsters Universal Studios made movies about) have got to start being scary again, or Drac will lay the hammer down. The Witch refuses, and the show then breaks down into a power game between her and Dracula, with the fate of Halloween itself on the line. And then there is disco dancing.

Sounds like pretty good children's Halloween fare, and it is exactly that: pretty good. There are some decent gags, the show creates a pretty entertaining Halloween mythology, and the execution isn't entirely embarrassing. But then you toss in this tidbit: the special stars Judd Hirsch and Mariette Hartley. Fresh off their success on Taxi, a (for the period) rather sophisticated sitcom for adults, these two are for some ungodly reason cast in a kids' Halloween special. And they're fantastic in it. Or rather, he is. Hartley's good as the Witch, but it's Hirsch's performance as Dracula that steals the show.

An awful lot of actors have done comical Bela Lugosi impersonations over the years, and as a big Lugosi fan I'm pretty picky about them. Some I've liked. Some I've hated. But I hold no love for any of them. Except for Hirsch. He's genius at it. He understands that what he's doing is comedy, but he never winks. He plays it completely straight, never making Lugosi look like a buffoon, and he's ten times funnier because of it. He's even a tiny bit scary in the role. It's an amazing performance, and the only thing that makes The Halloween That Almost Wasn't worth remembering.

At least, you know, in the nostalgia-hating eyes of the Dork Forty nerd wranglers...

Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Son of the Crypt of the Horror Hosts

So the fun levels returned to normal around the Dork Forty today. Sure, everybody’s real excited about the possibility of a visit from the Great Punkin in three days’ time. But it was back to business today. The blood fields have been exsanguinated, but now it’s time to start wranglin’ the shrunken heads and pickin’ out the punkins we’re gonna be carvin’ in effigy this weekend. A busy day. But not so busy that I can’t share a couple more of my favorite working horror hosts with you for Night 28 of the Countdown to Halloween. Tonight, it's Dr. Gangrene, and this guy...

I capitalize the header above because Karlos Borloff is a capital letters kinda guy. Aside from having maybe the best horror host name ever, Borloff is also the most in-your-face excited and enthusiastic host I've ever seen. His love of monster movies is palpable every time he comes on-screen, and that makes his show, Monster Madhouse, a pure-fun joy to watch. The premise is simple, and gloriously stupid: Borloff has gathered a collection of monster hunters to destroy or (even better!) recruit dangerous monsters! And then they all get together to show monster movies and try to make sense out of them.

Debuting in the Washington, DC, area in 2006, Monster Madhouse is complete chaos. The current cast picture at the website...
...features no less than ten characters, and that seems like a serious under-representation. To watch Monster Madhouse is to fill your screen with bizarre characters swirling around a set that sometimes looks like some kind of Transylvania Labor Day Telethon, with Borloff as a monster-metal Jerry Lewis at the center of the maelstrom. The cast often expands to include even other horror hosts! Jeremiah Buzzard, Dr. Sarcofiguy, and Sally the Zombie Cheerleader have all been members of Borloff's gang at various points, joining regulars like Lizardman, Sasha Trasha, Freak Daddy, and (my personal favorite) the Countess Contessa Vanessa. Sometimes, it's a wonderful mess... as you can see if you make the jump...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Will Rogers' Legend of Sleepy Hollow

So it's been a long and pleasant day here on the Dork 40. The first Halloween presents were given, we got a coffin cake from the mummy, and we put the sun to bed over a feast of strange Asian delicacies (don't ask what's in the dumplings, folks!), accompanied by talk of blood and death by fire. A red-letter day all around. But a day that's left us a bit tuckered out. So I hope you'll forgive us if we don't get to that next post on the horror hosts tonight. Because right now, there just ain't time and energy enough in the world for that.

Instead, we offer you this: a 1922 silent film version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, starring none other than Mr. Will Rogers! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Again With the Batman!

So I’m gonna do it to you again: here’s a slight divergence from the Halloween festivities because… dude, new Batman comic! But there’s a nice Halloweenie touch to it, as you’ll see below…
Batman and Robin #15
by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving

With all the heavy extra-textual stuff going on in Morrison’s Batman run, it was refreshing this issue to get more of a straightforward adventure story. Don’t get me wrong; there are still mysteries within mysteries, and super-condensed writing, and yet more pieces to the Dr. Hurt puzzle. But it’s hard for me not to focus on the pure fun aspects of a comic that starts with this image:

(click to embiggen)
See? Halloweenie Goodness!
…and ends with this one:

(Which you can see in all its SPOILERY GLORY… after the jump.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Return of the Crypt of the Horror Hosts

So it's back to the horror hosts for Night 25 of the Countdown to Halloween, with my first look at the horror hosts of today. The relatively easy availability of public domain films (along with the proliferation of video cameras and affordable film editing software) has lead to a renaissance of horror hosting in the last decade. No longer requiring the facilities of a television studio, many B-Movie fans have decided to make their own home-made horror shows in imitation of the great hosts of the past. Some just put their stuff up on the web, but many (most?) instead broadcast via their local public access stations, with YouTube serving as a way to reach a wider audience. The quality of these shows, as you'd imagine, varies wildly. On the low end, I've seen filthy-mouthed sock puppets, emo versions of Wayne's World, zombie potheads, you name it. But on the high end, I've also seen hosts with great gimmicks, good writing, and shows every bit as entertaining as the classic hosts of days gone by. There's a lot of good hosts out there, and I plan to spend some time here in the home stretch to the bestest day of the year counting down my favorites. Tonight, I'll be bringing you clips from Ghoul A-Go-Go, and this guy...

Eerie Lee Shivers

Eerie Lee hosts Uncle Eerie's Midnight Shiver Show out of Portland, Oregon. The show just launched earlier this year (I think there are only about four episodes extant right now), but I really love the gimmick. Uncle Eerie is an Old West gambler type, with of course a ghoulish touch. I don't really know much about the guy other than that, but I will say that he's one of the most entertaining Facebook friends you can have.

There are lots of Shiver Show clips on the YouTube, but I think the flavor of the show is best-represented by a commercial done for its launch, which you can see... after the jump.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Dork 40 Radio Theatre of the Air

So I thought I’d take a little time tonight to share with you one of the dorkier corners of our Halloween Punkin Patch: The Dork 40 Radio Theatre Of the Air, our radio drama mix-tape!

A playlist and download link will follow after the jump, but first… a little history. Radio plays were the favorite entertainment of America for more than 30 years. Telling stories with nothing but voice, music and sound effects, radio drama thrilled millions of listeners coast-to-coast. It was killed by the advent of television, of course, but thousands of radio plays were produced between the 1920s and 50s, and one of the most popular genres in the medium was horror.

There were any number of horror radio series back in the day, with titles like Suspense, The Mysterious Traveler, The Hermit’s Cave, The Inner Sanctum, and Lights Out (famous for its trademark opening: “It‘s… Later… Than… You… Think!”). As with much radio drama, these shows were anthologies, with each week bringing a new and different story. Many of the shows had a regular host as their only common thread from episode to episode, and these hosts ranged from regular radio announcers to morbid characters who added a bit of color to the proceedings.

Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve been visiting the Dork Forty much this month. It was on radio that the whole concept of horror hosts began. The idea was copied first by EC Comics for their infamous horror line, and then on TV by the likes of Vampira, Zacherley, and all those who followed them. But it all got its start on the radio. My favorite of the radio horror hosts I’ve heard is the Old Hermit from The Hermit’s Cave, if only because I love the “crazy old coot” voice.

The Tingler is Loose On This Blog!!

So I'm getting a very, very early start on Day 24 of the Countdown to Halloween, but I just watched The Tingler for what must be the fifth or sixth time, and thought William Castle's intro was so Halloweenie-great that I just had to share it...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Screaming Lord Sutch Story

So now we find ourselves on the 23rd day of the Countdown to Halloween (fnord), and I've just been pointed toward an old British television documentary on one of horror rock's greatest performers:

Screaming Lord Sutch!

Lord Sutch got a spot on my 13 Halloween Songs list earlier in the month, and it's great to be able to learn more about the guy. This is a bit of a fluff piece, as these things generally are, but it still gives some interesting insights into Lord Sutch's performance philosophies, and a couple or three tremendously entertaining live performances, to boot. As you can see... after the jump!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do You Dare Enter...?

So I was just thinking that it was time once again to delve into the wonderful world of funnybook covers. When Joe Orlando landed in the editor's chair for DC's line of horror comics, he brought in a renaissance for their longest-running title. So tonight, I thought I'd give you a sampling of covers from that series, House of Mystery.

The series began in the early 50s as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the EC horror line, which included such classics as Tales From the Crypt. But DC's horror line was much tamer (and lamer) than their competition, as the cover of House of Mystery #1 should show...

It's a valiant effort, don't get me wrong. That's actually a pretty scary-looking pack of slavering hounds (which I guess are supposed to be wolves). And the semi-see-through skirt on old Wanda there is actually a bit more risque than EC itself often was. But overall? This cover lacks the drama and sheer visceral thrill that EC was routinely delivering on covers like this:

Heh. Of course, that's also the sort of thing that got EC publisher William Gaines dragged before a Senate subcommittee hearing, while House of Mystery managed to survive those horror comic witch-hunts and the arrival of the Comics Code Authority. Albeit in an even-more-neutered form, as they switched from supernatural horror to science fiction and giant monster stories, as you can see... if you continue reading past the jump...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

De Veekly Veb Program

So it’s Night 21 of the Countdown to Halloween, a mere ten days from the big day itself. We’ve got the sincerity of the punkin patch all straightened out now, and I’m starting to feel the press of days. I’ve got a whole bunch of horror hosts left to talk about, and only a little over a week to do it. So here, tonight, is a piece on a still-active horror hosting giant known as…

Count Gore de Vol

Dick Dyszel started hosting horror in 1973, under the name of Count Gore de Vol. But many also knew him as Captain 20, a pointy-eared alien cartoon show host. Others knew him as Washington, DC’s Bozo. And still others knew him as the guy in the plaid suit who spun the big movie prize wheel. Basically, if you watched local TV in the DC area in the 70s and 80s, you probably saw Dick Dyszel in some guise at some point. But through it all, there was Count Gore.

The character apparently debuted on Bozo, and was such a hit that the station (WDCA, Channel 20) gave him his own show called Creature Feature, where he, as you would expect, hosted horror movies. Count Gore very swiftly moved on to slightly more… grown-up material with Creature Feature. His name, for instance, is a double joke: it's a neat play on the name of author Gore Vidal, but for local viewers it also plays off Washington's De Vol Funeral Home. He also made political satire a Creature Feature staple, having a particular field day during the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals. Count Gore also fully embraced the sexual revolution. He was infamous for having Penthouse Pets as guests on the show, and Count Gore himself is a rather amorous (though eternally frustrated) sort of vampire. He's a bit like your sleazy uncle. If your sleazy uncle was Bela Lugosi...

And if that sort of thing appeals to you, continue on after the jump to see Count Gore in action...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So it's back to the horror hosts tonight. I've alread talked about a few of my favorites from years past, but now it's time to turn to the big guns. The guys who, through sheer talent and/or longevity, have become the legends of horror hosting. So, for Day 20 of the Countdown to Halloween, I give you...


A legend of local Chicago television, Svengoolie is a class act all the way. As you can see from the picture above. That's the current and most beloved Svengoolie, Rich Koz. But he was preceded in the role by Jerry G. Bishop, who originated the character on a horror movie show called Screaming Yellow Theater (which is, hands down, the single best name for a TV show EVER). Bishop played Sven from 1970-73, and his version was essentially a ghoulish hippy. The YouTube is full of Jerry Bishop Svengoolie segments, so many that I can't really choose between them. So here's a bit of the Svengoolie segment from American Scary, the horror host documentary:

(As often happens to us here on the Dork Forty, the videos in this post aren't showing up on the front page, but are all intact and viewable if you go into the post itself.)

American Scary is well-worth a watch, by the way, if you've been enjoying these horror host posts we've been doing here on the Dork Forty. Virginia Creepers is also good; it covers the long tradition of Virginia/Washington DC area hosts.

But here's another Jerry G. Bishop clip, chosen specifically because it features Svengoolie's primary contribution to the culture of the greater Chicago area, from which I took the title of tonight's post:

There you go. That exasperated, disgusted exclamation of "Ber-wyn?!" is apparently in the vocabulary of everybody who grew up in the Chicago area, to this day. Crazy the impact a horror host can have. (Oh, and "Berwyn," by the way, is the name of a local town that Svengoolie long ago decided, for no apparent reason, to make an object of scorn. I have friends who live there now, and they say it's very nice. Plus, it's got to be cool to live in a place that's the source of such a universal local joke.)

After three years in the make-up, Jerry G. Bishop left Chicago for a fabulously successful career in Hollywood voice-over announcing (I'm told that, if you've watched American television at all in the last 30 years, you've heard his voice thousands of times). But a few years later Rich Koz (a former fan of Bishop's who'd worked as an assistant on Screaming Yellow Theater) resurrected the character with Bishop's blessing. But Koz didn't want to just repeat his mentor's act, so he debuted as The Son of Svengoolie. About whom, more after the jump...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Last Week's Horror Comics Today!

So one of our semi-regular Tuesday features here on the Dork Forty is "Last Week's Comics Today," a review run-down of the funnybooks I bought the previous Wednesday. But, since the Halloween Countdown has sorta taken over the blog this month, and since I don't read that many horror comics, I haven't really done that (last night's Batman post doesn't count. Because, you know... Batman!). But last week I actually did buy some horror comics! So here, tonight, are Last Week's Horror Comics Today! Starting with the current version of an old favorite...

House of Mystery Halloween Annual #2
Written and Drawn by Various

I wrote off Vertigo's current incarnation of the House of Mystery after the first issue. The promise of an anthology format with an on-going story as its backbone seemed kind of nifty, but I didn't like the set-up that much: they turned the House into a bar, with a staff that can't leave even though the patrons come and go every issue. I didn't find the cast all that compelling, either. Too normal, or either too whacky, to find my favor. And then there was the biggest problem: without this guy... ain't the House of Mystery. That's Cain, for the uninformed among you, the host of the original House of Mystery comic from the mid-60s on through to its bitter demise 20 years later. Cain's my all-time favorite funnybook horror host, and I just couldn't push past to accept a House of Mystery without him at the helm. If it had been better-written, maybe, but as it was? No way!

So imagine my surprise (nay, delight!) to find that evil old bastard staring out at me from the cover of this Halloween Annual! It's not a great cover, mind you. The art's a little funky, and it's not laid-out well. But to hell with that, I thought! It's got CAIN on it! So I had to buy it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

But Getting Back to Batman...

So all this Halloween talk has been lots of fun, but it’s time today to turn the spotlight back onto what’s really important: Batman. Well, okay… The Batman story I’m going to talk about does have a sect of devil worshippers performing hideous sacrificial rites to summon a demon who’ll give them the secret of eternal life. Plus, it’s got this picture in it:

And that’s pretty creepy, right? So there’s still a strong horror component for Day 18 of the Countdown to Halloween. It’s just wrapped in spandex this time around…

The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 (of 6)
by Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook, and Pere Perez

Morrison takes his “super-condensed” writing style to new peaks this issue, with reams of fascinating backstory packed into a few tantalizingly brief lines of dialogue. He’s also expecting the reader to do an awful lot of heavy lifting on those background plotlines this time out. Which is fine with me; I love doing that kind of work as a reader. Of course, as always with the Moz, it may not be to everyone’s taste. But I get ahead of myself…

And from here on out, we drive directly into the busy heart of Spoiler-Town, so you might not want to hit the jump link unless you’ve read the issue at hand…

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Crypt of the Horror Hosts

So tonight I thought I'd feature a few more horror hosts of years gone by. I have a lot of favorites out there, but I don't have a lot to say about some of them. Either their story is the standard one (station personnel press-ganged into putting on the ghoul make-up) or I don't know a lot about them. One drawback to armchair research on local TV personalities is that they're very fondly remembered by a very small group of people, and sometimes there's not much easily-accessible information. There's only so many hours in the day, as well, and sometimes I don't care enough to dig, or haven't gotten around to it yet. That doesn't mean they're not worth taking a gander at, though, so here's a small sampling of what I consider to be the best of the rest: the guys who aren't horror hosting giants, but who put on interesting shows nonetheless...

The Host and Ronald

These guys worked out of Wichita, Kansas, where their show was on the air in various incarnations from the late 50s to the mid-90s! I've only recently discovered these guys, and as yet I know little or nothing about them. But that's insane longevity for a horror host, and I love their schtick as seen in this clip from their first series, Nightmare:

(I'm with The Host here, by the way: Lon Chaney Jr. was a lump.)

More hosting goodness, after the jump...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Movie Night on the Dork Forty!

So we've had a punkin patch emergency out on the Dork Forty today. Somebody let a buncha them damned snark-crows like you find on the interwebs in there, and they knocked the sincerity all outta line. I'll be too busy fixin' the mess to give you anything too in-depth tonight. But in celebration of the half-way point, Day 15 of the Countdown to Halloween, please enjoy, in its entirety, the 1920 silent film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...

Or, if you'd like to download a copy of your very own, you can go to The Internet Archive to get one. Lots of great public domain media to track down there, so poke around a bit while you're visiting. There's no telling what you'll find.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

13 Horror Songs in 13 Minutes

So did I ever explain how much we like listing things here on the Dork Forty? I did? Well, alright then. Here's another list for you, a vampire's dozen of our favorite songs to sing while we're out pumpin' the blood fields, with accompanying videos. This was a tough one to pare down, I've gotta say. The Dork Forty horror song library is pretty big, and picking out just thirteen records actually kinda hurt. So we culled out most of the standards, the songs everybody knows and has heard a million zillion times. Unless, of course, we really like them...

1. “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

One of the first songs most people think of when they think of horror records, though they might be thinking about the Creedence Clearwater Revival version as much as this one. Or, depending on your musical bent, maybe even the Marilyn Manson. But Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ 1956 original is the best as far as I’m concerned. Nobody else has matched the barely-contained frenzy of Screamin’ Jay’s delivery. He really does sound like a man possessed, a man who might very well cast a spell to keep his woman in line. That quality especially comes out in the following live performance. Screamin’ Jay made a career out of being rock’s voodoo man, and it was a role he played with crazy relish (which I understand is really quite tasty when you put it on the Hot Dogs of Madness).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I Just Wanna Give You the Creape

So technical difficulties have delayed my planned funnybook post for tonight. It looks like Friday the 13th came on Wednesday this month! But I couldn't possibly skip Night 13 in the Countdown to Halloween! That would just be... wrong. So! Instead, you'll get another look at a classic local TV horror host, this time Nashville's Sir Cecil Creape:

"Did Someone Call?"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Kinder, Gentler Halloween

So after last night's discussion of pitch-black horror, I thought I'd lighten the mood a bit for Night Twelve of the Countdown to Halloween by posting up my two all-time favorite Disney cartoons.

Now, don't think I'm going completely soft on you here. These cartoons were made when Unca Walt was still alive, so they've got a little bite to 'em. I mean, Mickey's got a shotgun in one of 'em, and Donald's just being a complete bastard in the other. And they are, naturally, Halloweenie cartoons to boot, which automatically made 'em my favorites as a wee lad. This was back before there was a Dork Forty to plow, understand, when my nerd farm didn't really extend very far past the boundaries of my bedroom, and the most sincere punkin patch I'd ever seen was the one Linus laid in with his best gal Sally Brown. Good times. Innocent times. Times that were ripe for my young brain to be warped (in the best way possible, of course) by the Halloweenie magic of the Walt Disney Company...

Cartoon goodness awaits... after the jump!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dreams of Chalk and Fish-Men

So it’s back to the funnybooks for Day 11 of the Countdown to Halloween, with a review of a comic that’s actually current…

Neonomicon #1 & 2
by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

So, uhm… Wow. This book is pretty hardcore. I mean, it’s a horror comic, so I expected something scary or disturbing, but man! I’ve seldom felt more uncomfortable reading a funnybook as I did reading the second issue of this series. I’m getting way ahead of myself with this intro, but I thought I should get that out of the way up-front: there’s some disturbing content ahead. Lots of SPOILERS, too, so read on with that in mind…

Saturday, October 9, 2010

13 Horror Comics in 13 Minutes

Hrm. Last time I tried this, my house caught on fire. Let’s hope I have better luck tonight…

I have to admit, I cheated horribly on this list: it took far longer than 13 minutes to compile. But that’s not because I tried to make the list perfect. It’s because I had a really hard time thinking of 13 horror comics I was willing to recommend. That shocked me a bit, because I feel like I’ve enjoyed horror comics my whole life. But when it came time to list them out… I realized there’ve been damn few of them that were really any good. Of course, I suppose I could have listed out the EC, DC, and Warren horror anthologies separately, but that just seemed… wrong, somehow.

At any rate. In no particular order, here’s my list of 13 Horror Comics in 13 Minutes…

1. Tales From the Crypt, by William M. Gaines, Jack Davis, “Ghastly” Graham Ingles, Joe Orlando, etc.

THE horror comic. I’ve always been struck by how… realistic? The stories in Tales From the Crypt (and the rest of the EC Comics horror line) were. I mean, sure, there were ghosts and zombies, and even the occasional vampire or werewolf. But they always played second-fiddle to the very grounded tales of vengeance, greed, and love-gone-wrong that were EC’s bread and butter. There was always a perfectly relatable motive behind all the gruesome shenanigans, written to a pitch-perfect tone for the audience of 10-year-olds that loved them.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention EC’s ground-breaking work in one of my personal favorite fields of pop culture ephemera: the horror host. Each of the EC horror titles had a host, a master of ceremonies who not only served as a continuing character for readers to latch onto, but also did some heavy lifting in the stories themselves, offering introductions that set the mood and sometimes established important plot points. Tales From the Crypt had the Crypt Keeper, of course (though he was a far cry from the emaciated corpse puppet that hosted the TV show). And as for the others…

If you want more: Luckily for you, the EC horror line was more or less interchangeable, except for the hosts. So if you like Tales From the Crypt, you’ll almost certainly also enjoy its sister series The Vault of Horror (hosted by the Vault-Keeper, who was sort of a cut-rate Crypt Keeper) and the Haunt of Fear (hosted by The Old Witch, drawn with aplomb by "Ghastly" Graham Ingles). All three are available in collected editions, sort of a “best of” for each series, and are well-worth a look.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Thomas Edison's Frankenstein

So I've got a busy night ahead of me, making sure that the punkin patch is sincere enough to attract the attention of the Great Punkin at the end of the month. It's just a test-run, of course; we'll reach the height of sincerity come Halloween night. Still, I'm a little too busy for an in-depth post for Countdown to Halloween Day 8. But I'm hittin' you up with a good one...

It was 100 years ago that Thomas Edison made the first monster movie: a very short silent-film adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. And it's available for viewing, in its entirety, via the magic of YouTube. The only available print is pretty badly damaged in places, but it's a piece of movie history you don't often see.

(Note: you may have to endure an annoying political ad before the movie begins. My apologies. But, hey. It's free.)

And if that's not enough streaming horror video for you tonight... In celebration of Edison's milestone film, the good folks at Fearwerx have launched 100 Years of Monster Movies. Every Friday night at 8 pm, they offer a monster movie double feature at You can watch full-screen, or join in a live chat with dozens of other horror dorks, all trying to play Mystery Science Theatre with the weekly offerings. It's a good time either way, and it starts in just a little over an hour...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

13 Horror Movies: the Trailers

So this is something I'd intended to include with my list of 13 Horror Movies in 13 Minutes: the trailers for each. The fire kind of kept that from happening, but tonight... since I'm down to a light campire sort of smell in the house now... I figured it was time. Hope you enjoy!

(Note: the first trailer doesn't seem to want to load on the main page here, but it's visible if you click through to the post itself. Sorry! Not sure what's up with that...)

1. Evil Dead II

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's 12 O'Clock...

So the blood farming's got me a bit tuckered out tonight, and I'll just be posting some pretty pictures. But, hey! It's not all bad! 'Cause I'm turning the focus back to the funnybooks, and shining the Spooky Spotlight on the cover art brilliance of ... The Witching Hour!

Part of DC's classic horror comic line, The Witching Hour was the relative baby of the batch, not launching til 1969 in comparison to the 1950s debuts of the more venerable House of Mystery and House of Secrets. These anthology series were profitable "try-out" books for DC through the 60s and 70s; many artists (perhaps most notably Bernie Wrightson) got their first professional funnybook work through the horror titles, and the better talents were nurtured for eventual jobs on the higher-profile super hero books. But The Witching Hour launched big, with a series of really fantastic, eye-catching covers from Teen Titans artist Nick Cardy. Like this one, from the very first issue...

Love that cover! The vertiginous perspective, the eerie green, the pose on the witch, the way the title's worked into the image as a word balloon... That's some classic-ass funnybook cover design! And it continued...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Madblood: The Doctor Is In

So here we are at day five of the Countdown to Halloween, and tonight I'm turning my focus back to the horror hosts. Following Vampira and Zacherley (who I discussed back on day one), local TV stations across America found that having a performer (usually station personnel pulling double-duty) host their weekly late-night horror movie broadcasts boosted ratings. At one time, there was a veritable parade of home-grown vampires, ghouls, and mad doctors out there, all with intensely loyal followings inside their home broadcast area. The shows were cheap affairs, generally, with very basic makeshift sets, and acting that could hardly be called professional. But audiences thrilled to the hosts' macabre puns and irreverent attitudes toward the schlocky movies they were showing each week. If you grew up anytime between the 50s and the 80s, you had a pretty good chance of seeing one of these guys.

I grew up watching a show called Dr. Madblood's Movie. Every Saturday night, I'd creep out of bed, turn the rotor box on my parents' rooftop antenna all the way around to tune in WAVY-TV 10 out of Tidewater, Virginia, and sit back back for the best two hours of my TV week. The premise was simple: Dr. Madblood was a mad scientist who'd retired to the swamps of Pungo, Virginia, to build monsters, conduct experiments, deal with a legion of whacky neighbors, and of course show movies that he tuned in via his Ethermorphic Receiver. Here's the good doctor with a couple of early supporting cast members:

That's Madblood in the middle, flanked by Queen Mumenkara and the lecherous vampire Count Lacudra (that's Dracula spelled sideways, as the Doc was fond of saying). The actor playing Lacudra was local radio personality Mike Arlo, who played a number of characters: Madblood's next door neighbor Dusty the Crop Duster, snooty French painter Tolouse Latrine, Drunken Dave, Lacudra, and (my personal favorite) Father Beerabelli, a punch-drunk priest known as Kid Exorcist. Arlo's a hoot; he can't be on-stage more than 30 seconds before I start laughing. Of course... I am, as I've said before, a very strange man.

More history, and a couple or three complete Madblood episodes, if you hit the link...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Frazer Irving's Crypt of Terror

So... Did I say that I would be missing a day on the Halloween Countdown due to fire? I did? Well, I guess I lied...

Taking the focus of the blog back to the funnybooks where it belongs, I give you today a series of images from funnybook artist extraordinaire Mr. Frazer Irving...

Your Standard-Issue Zombie Apocalypse

Click the link below for more Irving Terror!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

13 Horror Movies in 13 Minutes

So my intention to post a Halloween-related post every day in October will be getting sidetracked for a few days. I had a house fire earlier tonight, and it's going to take a while to clean up the mess. No one was hurt, thankfully, and the damage wound up not being too bad. But the clean-up's going to take a lot of my concentration for the next little bit. I had just finished writing today's entry when I smelled the smoke, though, and since I can't do any more cleaning tonight, I figured I might as well drown my sorrows by getting at least one thing taken care of. So here goes...

Based on a Facebook trope I’ve been tagged with more than once… It’s 13 Horror Movies in 13 Minutes! I’ve taken just 13 minutes (I promise!) to make a list of my 13 favorite horror flicks. Or at least the best ones I could think of within the time limit. The benefit of a list like this is that it’s quick and fun to construct. The drawback, of course, is that you’re always going to forget something. But that’s the way the casket crumbles.

Working well outside the 13-minute time limit, I’m also saying a few words about why each movie is on my list, and suggesting further viewing options for each. Because if there’s anything I love more than listing things, it’s listing things with annotations! (Sadly, I’m not really joking there.) I doubt there will be many surprises for the hard-core horror dorks among you, but maybe you’ll stumble across something you’ve never seen before. Or at least be reminded to screen an old favorite this year. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here’s my list of…

13 Horror Movies in 13 Minutes

1. Evil Dead II

The best of the Evil Dead series, one of the best horror movies made in the 80s, and by far my favorite zombie movie. What puts this one over the top for me is that it’s simultaneously funny (often hysterically so) and at times genuinely scary. Sure, all the stuff with the hand is comedy gold. But, man. Henrietta in the trap door? The monster cam? Ash’s mirror image reaching out to grab him? That’s some scary shit!

If you want more: All three Evil Dead movies are Required Dork Viewing, of course, but you could also check out Peter Jackson’s excellent (and insanely gory) Dead Alive, Stuart Gordon’s Reanimator, or a Japanese rock n roll zombie flick called Wild Zero.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Backstage With Frankie

So here we are again, with night two of the Countdown to Halloween. This time, I thought I'd share a few backstage pictures from the set of the 1931 Universal Pictures Frankenstein. I'm a huge fan of the Universal monster movies. I first saw most of them when I was still young enough for them to scare me, and as I grew up I came to appreciate them as the finely-crafted pieces of pop entertainment they are. Which brings me to my first picture for tonight...

Ugly Parlor

That's Boris Karloff in the chair, of course, and the rather intense-looking dude on the left is Jack Pierce, the make-up genius behind most of the classic Universal monster make-ups. Pierce did amazing work, applying his monster make-up in pieces that took painstaking hours to apply, but that allowed his actors a full range of facial expression. His dedication to quality is one of the reasons the Universal monsters became so iconic, and why everyone thinks of the Frankenstein monster as a tall, gangly man with a flat head and bolts in his neck. Here's Pierce with Karloff again, looking even more intense...

Friday, October 1, 2010

The King and Queen of Halloween

So there's one thing that everyone reading this really ought to understand: Halloween is the most important holiday we have out here on the Dork 40. It's like Christmas, Easter, July 4th, Waffle Day, and Jack the Ripper's Birthday all rolled up into one! We dude up the scarecrows in their scary best, harvest our punkins and carve them up in effigy, light bags of poo on fire, and then hunker down in the fields and await the arrival of the Great Pumpkin! I just know he'll come this year! I know it!

It's a busy time. But I'd feel like a poor host indeed if I didn't share the fun with you, my faithful readers. So I've decided to take part in the Countdown to Halloween, a crazy-ass blogging marathon in which I'll make a Halloween-related post each and every day in October, the bestest month of all. I'll review horror movies and horror comics, post Halloweenie videos and music, and on days when I'm feelin' real tuckered out from the blood farming, maybe just post up some scary pictures.

To start, I thought I'd talk a little bit about my hero and personal savior, Zacherley the Cool Ghoul.