Friday Reads and a Penchant for the MacabrePosted: October 28, 2016
So, those of you that read my occasionally weirdish posts know that I have a thing for old grave yards and historical sites that are mysterious and ookie. There’s a distinctly granular feel to these places. It’s in the air and it’s in the dust that kicks up when you walk around. Bits and pieces of the past can be tangibly felt. I like the feel of the tingle and chill. I came to the realization that I love horror movies a little bit late in life but now I relish this time of year more than any. Maybe it’s because I can feel the power surge of my inner crone. Maybe because I know that there is no dearth of places to indulge my need to feel creeped out by imaginary things.
I’m not alone in this fascination with how humanity deals with its mortality. Not by a long shot. Stories, art, and the entire religious thing have always dealt with such topics. We created burial rituals and tools to cope with life and death early on. October Horror movie binges just go right along with the roots and rites of our cave dwelling ancestors who lit fires and counted on the stars to help them. My friend and fellow blogger Pete shared this link to Donald Fagan describing his early fascination with those black and white horror movies that rocked Saturday matinees back in the day of double features and bad special effects. I thought I’d pass it on.
Fair Lawn, New Jersey, late ’50s. I must have been 9 or 10 when my Uncle Al surprised my cousin Jack and me by announcing his intention to take us to a midnight showing of Diabolique, the French thriller. The choice seemed odd, since Al, a burly luncheonette operator from Passaic, wasn’t the type you’d expect to harbor a taste for French cinema. Then again, it was no secret that an intermittently active strain of sadism ran in Al’s branch of the family. I guess he didn’t want to miss out on a rare opportunity to watch the kids squirm.
Shot in cadaverish black and white, Diabolique is about these two hot babes, the wife and mistress of a cruel boarding school headmaster, who conspire together to murder their tormentor. They drug him, drown him in the bathtub, and dump his body in the swimming pool. When the pool is drained, though, there’s no corpse to be found. The two women freak out for the rest of the movie. At the end, there’s a scene where the (supposedly) murdered headmaster inexplicably rises out of the bathtub with only the whites of his eyes showing. That’s when I started screaming. Jack, his body quaking from head to toe, slid off his seat and ended up on the sticky theater floor in tears. When we got home, Uncle Al, who’d had a merry old time, had to endure a tongue-lashing from my aunt for permanently damaging our heretofore immaculate sensibilities. We both had nightmares for weeks.
But movie terror is seriously addictive. As soon as we were sufficiently recovered, we started taking the bus to the HyWay Theater every Saturday afternoon to see the horror double feature. At 50 cents plus the price of the popcorn (or a bit more if you wanted a box of the race-regressive Chocolate Babies), it was a bargain.
I started out on the Addams Family and the Munsters and tamer fare. But, TV in the 1960s and 70s also included its Friday night horror shows and that’s where I got exposed to the good stuff. BTW, the “cool ghoul” has passed for any of you that might know the work of Joe Zacherle. Every big city had its horror host back in the day.
The great John Zacherle, known to generations of horror fans as Zacherley, “The Cool Ghoul,” has passed away at 98. The news came tonight as author Tom Weaver, a close friend of the Zacherle family, began informing colleagues of the the sad news, and an outpouring of tributes has already begun across the internet.
A veteran of World War II, Zacherle started working at WCAU in Philadelphia in 1954, and in 1957, he got the job of being Philly’s first late night horror movie host on Shock Theater, creating the character of Roland (pronounced Ro-LAND), who talked to his dead wife in her coffin. An association with Dick Clark, whose American Bandstand was based in Philadelphia, led to the recording of “Dinner With Drac” in 1958. He moved to New York’s WABC in ’59, became known as Zacherley and his show was renamed Zacherley At Large. He later hosted the Newark teenage dance show Disc-O-Teen, and was a DJ on WNEW and then WPLJ, where he stayed for ten years.
Considered by many to be the greatest TV horror host of all-time, Zacherele has spent the last several decades appearing on TV, radio, and film and making personal appearances at conventions and special events.
His horror-themed novelty records have remained perennial Halloween favorites, and you will surely hear them played on WFMU and elsewhere over the course of the next week. So, instead of posting those, I’ve decided to share the REAL DEAL, actual episodes of Shock Theater and Zacherley at Large as they were originally broadcast in the late 1950s. What we have here are three classic poverty row horrors: two Bela Lugosi features – The Devil Bat and Bowery At Midnight, and Rondo Hatton as The Creeper in The Brute Man. This is how original Monster Kids in the Northeast first saw these movies, and I’d recommend taking them all in for a great Halloween triple feature this weekend, just make sure you raise a glass of blood in honor of the Cool Ghoul himself before you’re done. He gave his all!
Now, I’m totally enjoying SYFY channel that really rocks October. My current favorites are ZNation and the ubercreepy Channel Zero. I think what I like best about this season of the year as we head towards Halloween, the election, and my birthday is that movie horror can be so obviously campy and fun that it gives you a sense of control over the real nightmarish fiends and ghouls. Of course, this is a Donald Trump reference. It had to be. Horror movies spin yarn and tales but not quite the way Trump does.
Donald Trump actually said this on the campaign trail late yesterday:
“What a difference this is. Just thinking to myself right now, we should just cancel the election, and just give it to Trump, right? What are we even having it for?”
Whether or not Trump was joking, his supporters greeted that remark with lusty cheers. But here’s the thing: Even as Trump supporters continue to lap up his various suggestions that the only legitimate outcome of the election would be a Trump victory, the broader American public is completely rejecting the story he’s telling.
Indeed, there’s new evidence this morning that Trump’s ongoing effort to undermine faith in our democracy has been accompanied by a strengthening of confidence in it. And there’s also new evidence that majorities see Trump as fundamentally disrespectful of our democratic institutions.
The new Washington Post/ABC News tracking poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Trump by four points nationally. (There may be a tightening, but that would not be surprising; it probably represents Republicans who had been alienated by the awful headlines about his sex tape and allegations of unwanted advances coming back to him).
Now that’s a suggestion that really should strike terror in the souls of all peace and democracy-loving people.
I’m glad our national nightmare will soon be over but we should take nothing for granted. First Lady Michelle Obama gave another inspirational and wonderful speech yesterday along side Secretary Hillary Clinton. All of her words were wonderful but I really want folks to take this message to heart.
Because here’s where I want to get real. If Hillary doesn’t win this election, that will be on us. It will be because we did not stand with her. It will be because we did not vote for her, and that is exactly what her opponent is hoping will happen. That’s the strategy, to make this election so dirty and ugly that we don’t want any part of it.
So when you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy, and saying that this election is rigged, understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter, that the outcome has already been determined, and you shouldn’t even bother making your voice heard.
They are trying to take away your hope. And just for the record, in this country, the United States of America, the voters decide our elections, they’ve always decided, voters decided who wins and who loses, period, end of story.
And right now, thankfully folks are coming out in droves to vote early. It’s amazing to see. We are making our voices heard all across the country. Because when they go low…
AUDIENCE: We go high!
OBAMA: And we know that every vote matters. Every single vote. And if you have any doubt about that, consider this. Back in 2008, and I say this everywhere I go, Barack won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes.
Which sounds like a lot, but when you break the number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was a little over two votes per precinct.
See, I want you all to take that in. I know that there are people here who didn’t vote. Two votes. And people knew people who didn’t vote. Two votes. If just two or three folks per precinct had gone the other way, Barack would have lost that state and could have lost the election.
And let’s not forget back in 2012, Barack did actually lose this state by about 17 votes per precinct. 17. That is how presidential elections go. They are decided on a razor’s edge.
So each of you could swing. In this stadium, just think about it. Each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary, just by getting yourselves, your friends and your family out to vote.
That’s me at St Louis #1 for a funeral a few months ago. See, I do actually live by some historically creepy cemeteries. We love and cherish them down here in Swampland.
The Season of Horror should end here in October except on my favorite TV days. Let’s all get every one out to vote so we can look forward to a New Year and a New Day with Madam President.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?