The Curator of Schlock #62: Tales of Terror

The Curator of Schlock #62 by Jeff Shuster

Tales of Terror

Tales of Terror PosterI was first introduced to Edgar Allen Poe in the 2nd Grade. I seem to recall a bunch of the other boys and myself being corralled by a substitute teacher. To pass the time, she read us “The Black Cat.” She mustn’t have realized the symphony of the grotesque contained within in that story for she wanted to stop reading right at the point the narrator cuts the feline’s eye out. I have no idea why. Us boys were sitting in rapt attention at the grisly details being told to us. We wanted to explore the dark side of human nature, which I think is where the allure for horror comes from. I went on to read many other Poe tales, but “The Black Cat” still remains my favorite. That story along with two others was adapted in 1962’s Tales of Terror directed by the unspeakably-prolific Roger Corman.

Poe

Our first tale of terror is called “Morella” and it involves a character by the name of Lorena Locke (Maggie Pierce) who decides to visit her estranged father (Vincent Price). He’s rather cold to her since he blames her for her mother’s death (even though his wife died a few months after childbirth.) His daughter is shocked to find the dried out corpse of her mother, Morella, in the master bedroom. Oh, and Lorena is dying of a terminally ill disease that isn’t specified. She and her father reconcile, Morella’s ghost possesses/kills Lorena, and the house burns down with poor Vincent Price in it. Yeah, I didn’t get this story. I didn’t get David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive either.  There’s sometimes a buggy.

The second tale of terror is “The Black Cat” though this telling is also taking cues from “The Cask of Amontillado.” Peter Lorre plays Montresor Herringbone, a connoisseur of fine wines and by connoisseur, I mean a lush who drinks away the money his wife Anabelle (Joyce Jameson) has squared away for food.

Poe2He’s also a bit of a meanie to her cat, a black cat. While bar hopping, Montresor comes upon a wine tasting event featuring the world’s most foremost wine identifier, Fortunato Luchresi (Vincent Price). Montresor calls him a poser, and they settle it with a wine tasting contest. Neither bests the other, both being able to identify each vintage perfectly.

Tales of Terror 4

Montresor gets all liquored up. Or is it wino-ed up? Fortunato drags Montresor back to his house to sleep it off. Fortunato and Anabelle start making googly eyes at each other, an affair ensues, Montresor finds out, revenge, solidly built walls, etc. We don’t get a cat getting its eye cut out, but we do get a rather wonderful nightmare sequence where Fortunato and Anabelle play catch with Montresor’s severed head.

Tales of Terror 3Our third and final tale of terror is “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” Basil Rathbone–obviously–plays a hypnotist by the name of Mr. Carmichael. He’s hypnotizing M. Valdemar (Vincent Price), a terminally ill man who wants to forget about his constant pain.

Tales of Terror 5Carmichael manages to alleviate Valdemar’s pain through these trances, but requests that Valdemar participate in an experiment. Carmichael wants to keep him under hypnosis to the point of death, seeing if the hypnosis will keep him alive somehow. The experiment is successful…sort of. Valdemar’s body dies, but soul ends up becoming tethered to corpse. You know, I don’t think that would be so bad. Just tune the radio to A Prairie Home Companion each weekend, and I’ll be okay being stuck inside a cold, lifeless corpse.

So, my first foray into a Roger Corman Poe Picture was relatively painless. If you’d like to learn more about Roger Corman Poe adaptations, please allow me to point you in the direction of Randall Burling’s “The Fall of the House of Corman” featured on episode 8 of The Drunken Odyssey podcast.

Five Things I Learned from Tales of Terror

  1. Cobwebs are not shabby chic.
  2. You can drink your food.
  3. Black cats are bad news.
  4. Vincent Price always seems to die in horrible ways.
  5. Oozing putrescence is precisely as unpleasant as it sounds.
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Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida

The Lists #4: Seven Ways to Tell You’re in a Paul Verhoeven Film

The Lists #4 by Clinton Crockett Peters

Seven Ways to Tell You’re in a Paul Verhoeven Film

1: You take your shirt off and aren’t wearing a bra. You also smile during a co-ed shower.

2: You’re Kevin Bacon. As soon as you turn invisible, you go right for the breast of the woman you hate.

3: You always cock your head sideways when you’re thinking, even if it’s to wonder why so many women don’t seem to be wearing bras. Or why a giant beetle is spewing lava.

4: Two breasts aren’t enough.

5: You think flapping in a pool like a desperate minnow on a hook while riding a tasteless slime ball is a good time.

6: The real you isn’t the one who has committed unspeakable acts of violence and genocide, but the one who is desperate to prove himself and follow the clairvoyance of a Sesame Street reject growing out of a man’s chest. The host man will later become a deranged general and on a distant planet inform everyone that the once-thought mindless insect enemy can, “Suck your brains out!”

7: You’re part man, part metal. But all cop. And shoot between the legs of a screaming maiden, instead of over her shoulder, or around her torso, or wait for a better shot, or tell her to ‘Grab your ankles, lady!’ You’re all cop and fire phallically true.

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Clint PetersA former wilderness guide, Clinton Crockett Peters (Episode 115) has an MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa where he was an Iowa Arts Fellow. He is a Teaching Fellow pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of North Texas and has work published or forthcoming in UpstreetAmerican Literary Review, AntimuseLos Angeles Review, and Ethos. He writes regularly for AMRI. 

Heroes Never Rust #64: Surrender in Vietnam and the Loss of the Real America

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Heroes Never Rust #64 by Sean Ironman

Surrender in Vietnam and the Loss of the Real America

The beginning of issue three of Born shows various images from the Vietnam War: bombs falling from planes, a bridge filled with pedestrians blown sky high, American soldiers setting a Vietnamese village on fire, Vietnamese men and women dead in a ditch, and children burning at planes drop napalm. An unseen narrator comments on America being unable to give up just because America must show the world that they can’t be messed with. “Though we make the world despise us…Though we do things that will stain our souls forever…Though America eats its own intestines over this, cities riven with unrest, leaders inspiring loathing and distrust…We cannot lose.”

Born 3The war has been lost. Readers have seen that in the previous two issues. Frank Castle is the only one left at Valley Forge who cares to strike out at the enemy. The other soldiers wait out whatever days they have left getting high. It’s unclear who is speaking in the opening. It could be Castle, but it could be Goodwin or just a nameless narrator. I don’t think it matters. The opening does a its job—it presents the idea that there really is no reason why America doesn’t just call it quits. It’s all chest pounding. Just a bunch of men refusing to give up to show their strength, even though they no longer know why they are fighting.

Both of the main characters of Born, Goodwin and Castle, are forced to challenge their reasons for their actions. The first line of dialogue in the issue belongs to Goodwin. “Why can’t we stay out of the rest of the world?” Goodwin wants to keep his head low and get home. He doesn’t care for the war, but understands a man like Castle is needed. He spends most of this issue with his friend, Angel, who has given in and is constantly found in the drug den of Valley Forge. An hour before dawn, the two friends watch the rain. Goodwin lays into Angel about getting high. Goodwin tells him, “We shouldn’t have gotten involved here; all we’re doing is making an even bigger mess of the place than it was already. And we’re screwing up our own country. We’ve been tearing ourselves apart over this for the last five years.” Goodwin wants to focus on what he calls “the real America.”

Born 3 detail 1This isolationist idea has been around forever. I hear it from time to time in today’s world when U.S. soldiers are sent overseas. Recently, I watched HBO’s John Adams miniseries and the same idea was discussed when England and France were at war. In Born, Angel shuts Goodwin up. “I keep hearin’ you talkin’ ‘bout this idea you got—this real America? It’s a fuckin’ dream, man. It belongs in the thirties. The twenties. Fuck, the Wild muthafuckin’ West. That’s the real America right there: back when you was shootin’ each other, rapin’ red Indians an’ callin’ me nigga…”

I wrote about this idea recently in a post about Captain America. The past is viewed as a simpler time. It seems like everyone throughout history is trying to make things like they were in the past, even if the past wasn’t so great. Maybe as children we see the love and goodness the world has to offer, and then we become adults and have to make concessions to our beliefs. The past, then, is viewed as pure and wholesome, but as children, we only see one side. Angel wants Goodwin to wake up, not to accept the reality of their situation in Vietnam, but to accept that this perfect America Goodwin dreamed up never existed.

Castle is in a similar situation. He comes close to tossing a grenade into a latrine that his commanding officer is using. The officer had just told Castle that he stopped requesting supplies and just wants to wait out the rest of the war and not draw anyone’s attention. He stops himself, but later he questions that decision. Castle has been changed by his three tours in Vietnam. Some readers have raised the idea that the voice talking to Castle is supernatural, like Satan, but I don’t buy it. There’s no other supernatural element. I believe it’s his conscience. He questions how he could “kill at the drop of a hat.” At first, he tells himself that it’s about the other men at the base. But he throws that idea away. The war has made him a killing machine. “That’s what’s got you worried? That urge you have, to give every motherfucker in the world exactly what they deserve?”

Born 3 detailHe seeks out Goodwin, and their talk quickly becomes personal. Castle tells Goodwin about his family. He has a four-year-old daughter and son on the way. “I sometimes think they might be my last chance.” Castle is afraid of himself. This scene comes directly after he questions his motivations for wanting to frag his commanding officer. I spoke in my first post about Born that this comic is supposed to be the real origin of the Punisher. That he was the Punisher long before his family was killed in a gangwar. But maybe Castle was always the Punisher. Maybe he just never had the means to kill. Just going to Vietnam doesn’t make a person the Punisher. We’d have a lot of Punishers on the street if that were true. Maybe Vietnam is just one of many events in his life that pushed Castle over the top. Maybe like Angel tells Goodwin, there never was this perfect time in Castle’s life. Vietnam didn’t destroy the good America, and it didn’t turn Castle into the Punisher. Do we really change so much from one event? Or do we just reveal more of ourselves? I believe that one event is not enough to completely change who a person is, but a series of events can. Like waves splashing against rock will, over time, corrode the rock. The issue ends with a Vietnamese army attacking Valley Forge. One more event they have to survive, and if they do, will they think one day that everything was so perfect before this battle, that they had no problems? I think they’d just be lying to themselves.

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Sean IronmanSean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

Buzzed Books #14: Beyond the Pale Motel

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Buzzed Books #14 by John King

Beyond the Pale Motel

Beyond the Pale MotelFrancesca Lia Block (Episodes 30 and 64) is best known for her work in YA literature, as a revolutionary author whose bohemian gypsy sensibilities meshed with punk rock aesthetics and gave two generations of disenfranchised youth something beautiful and aching and honest to hold onto. Her fans are profoundly loyal. I discovered that work as a middle-aged man and adore it.

Her latest novel is entirely adult in nature. Gone is the occasional magic of the Weetzie Bat stories and the gorgeous, gauzy mysticism of her last adult novel, The Elementals. Instead, Beyond the Pale Motel is a mash-up of dark genres of fiction: a pulp horror novel, an erotic novel, an existential novel, a mystery novel, a serial-killer procedural novel. Overall, the effect of so many genres is that the story itself feels unpredictable. The short, staccato sentences make the pages turn, despite how Beyond the Pale Motel is so startlingly honest in its loneliness and alienation.

The novel is about Catt, a recovered alcoholic whose life unravels when her husband leaves her for the famous lover he has impregnated. A serial killer is hard at work in Los Angeles, curating portions of anatomy from his beautiful, female victims. Catt begins drinking, after sexual misadventures fail to keep the desperation of her emotional vulnerability under control. Considering the intrinsic cruelty of the world, anyone could be a psychotic murderer at heart, especially when coincidences from the murders start to insinuate themselves into Catt’s life.

Sometimes, the dark impulses of her own lust make her doubt her own mental health, long before she unravels, before she falls into the hands of The Hollywood Killer.

At that point even if I thought he was dangerous, I might have decided it was worth it. The possibility dangled by that monster, Love, was better than the slow agony of psychologically hemorrhaging to death alone.

Catt retrospectively explores her family history, the façade of her marriage, her yearnings to create a family of her own, or live vicariously through the family lives of friends. Such vivid reflections while observing the nature of her alcoholism and her extreme erotic responsiveness glimmer without hindering the plot.

The book reads slickly, yet the substance and surprises of this story, of this character, rise well above the normal book of guilty pleasures.

The problem with most serial killer stories is that once the killer is identified—once the last act is set into motion—the pleasure of reading is reduced to a binary joy. Will the main character survive, or no? Will the serial killer survive, or no? (In the case of the killer being killed, there is one more question—if the main character kills the killer, then to what degree is main character herself now a killer?) These limited questions seldom deepen the complex stories they are telling, or at least resonate with psychological depth.

Francesca Lia Block wisely eludes the grind of such a conclusion by making this last act sudden, and unforgettable.

Pair with: Seltzer.

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1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

In Boozo Veritas # 64: Adventures in Halloweening, Part 3

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In Boozo Veritas # 64 by Teege Braune

Adventures in Halloweening: Part 3

Horror Movie Poetry Night Teege Braun Howls

This week I broke my finger. Or jammed it; I’m not really sure. If it isn’t better by the time this blog goes live, I’m going to have it looked at. I finally bought a splint, and now it’s starting to look a little more normal and regain some movement. Earlier in the week, not taking my injury all that seriously, I was working, typing, and using it as well as I could, but the swelling, bruising, and discoloration were actually getting worse instead of better. My finger had turned the bloody purple, grave green, and putrid yellow of a decaying, bloated corpse. It actually looked a lot like this grub.

Grub

Read “Taxidermist in the Underworld” by Maria Dahvana Headley in Clarkesworld Magazine. The story’s protagonist Louis is kidnapped by the Devil and taken to Hell for the purpose of mounting and preserving Satan’s exceptional ghost collection. Though Louis protests, the Devil calmly explains that he is the best taxidermist in both worlds and won’t be returning to the surface until he finishes. The descriptions of Hell (Satan travels around using pneumatic tubes) and struggles Louis has with the ghosts (“One must pet the ghost and pose it, and one must not disregard the ghost’s opinions, or one will risk ghost venom dribbled from tentacles, as well as luminous toxins, barbs, and boneless slither,”) are both inventive and humorous, but when Louis’s lover Carl arrives from Earth to help him complete his task some truly bizarre twists and turns occur until the unexpected ending, which while not exactly scary, on the contrary, comes at the reader like a joyous benediction.

I participated in two incredible readings at the Gallery at Avalon Island this week.

Gallery At Avalon Island

I was not originally scheduled to read at There Will Be Words, but blackmailed Ryan Rivas into giving me his spot. As per our agreement, I obviously cannot tell you what information I used to blackmail Ryan, so please don’t ask, but I will say that I’m glad I did because I have never before been to a reading that was so consistently spooky, creepy, and unnerving from beginning to end. You can listen to the entire thing right here at The Drunken Odyssey.

Afterwards, we went to Burton’s where we drank multiple pitchers of beer. Amped up by the spirit of Samhain we got into an altercation when some toughs claimed that Valentine’s Day is a better holiday than Halloween. Well, I may have broken my finger, but we ripped out their beards and stomped them into the pavement of Washington Street.

Horror Movie Poetry Night

Later in the week, the illustrious host of the world’s greatest literary podcast (you know the one) gathered us back at Avalon for a horror movie themed poetry reading that brought together some of Orlando’s best prose writers stepping out their comfort zones and demonstrating their versatility alongside some of Orlando’s best poets just so us prose writers could see how the craft is really meant to be done.

Watched Hell Baby, written and directed by Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, the guys who created Reno 911 and were founding members of The State long before that.

Hellbaby

Like other screwball horror spoofs, some of which I actually enjoy, Hell Baby exploits the tropes of scary movies, but transcends the genre by not merely relying on cliches for laughs. Starring the always funny Rob Corddry, this time as the straight-man, and Leslie Bibb as a couple who has recently moved into an old house with a sordid past. Is the house possessed? Or is the wife Vanessa simply carrying the devil’s child? Well, you find out the answers to these questions, but the plot is really less important than the characters’ enthusiasm over po’ boys, their puke-fest at photos of mutilated therapist Dr. Marshall (Michael Ian Black), and the comings and goings of the intruding neighbor F’resnel (Keegan-Michael Key). The movie has as many groans as laughs, but it is, nevertheless, worth throwing in the middle of your Halloween marathon, maybe late at night after everybody’s already had a few drinks or made a couple passes with the pipe.

Jenn and I went to Horror Business Theater’s performance of Children in Heat Vs. The Teenagers From Mars, a musical that tied various Misfits songs together with a science-fiction/horror storyline about a small group of criminal gutter-punks locked in interplanetary battle against a team of extra-terrestrial jocks who are attempting to conquer Earth by impregnating teenage girls with their alien seed and killing everyone else. While the micro-production had no real set to speak of and felt like little more than an excuse to sing Misfits standards, there’s really nothing wrong with that. The costumes were fun, the songs executed fantastically, and the leading man, billed as Rodney Attitude, sounded preternaturally like Glenn Danzig himself. Furthermore, the constant barrage of beer cans and profanity slung at the cast throughout the duration of the performance, created a damned lively atmosphere. It was also the first play I’ve ever been to that had a mosh pit. Jenn and I stood (there was no seating) near the back with some other older members of the audience, but sang along to each number with the same enthusiasm as everyone else. At one point I looked over at the guy next to me, and he was the same creepy, ugly zombie I had seen at Zombietoberfest a couple weeks ago still lurking under that hat and trench coat.

“Getting as much use out of that fancy makeup as you can this Halloween season, huh, man?” I asked him snidely.

As usual a slight nod was his only response. I planned on talking to him after the show to tell him I really did admire his disgusting makeup and find out if I actually knew him under all that face paint, but he slipped out at some point near the end of the performance. I asked the people I was with if any of them knew who he was, but no one else had even noticed him.

Yesterday, to celebrate our sixth anniversary, Jenn and I went to the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. Making multiple loops around the pavilion sampling just about every pescetarian-friendly dish available and sipping numerous, though modestly-sized glasses of wine, beer, and various cocktails, taking breaks in between to ride Spaceship Earth and watch Captain Eo, does not necessarily qualify as a Halloween adventure, but it was a blast all the same.

Captain Eo

After we got home, to get us back in the spirit, we put on another Francis Ford Coppola film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a movie I watch every Halloween, but never get tired of.

Dracula

Brimming over with gothic decadence, its balance of sex and decay perfectly poised, even the intentional anachronisms contribute to a film that feels almost dangerous in its indulgent delights. Gary Oldman remains the greatest Dracula in the history of cinema and leads a fantastic ensemble with one glaring exception but is made up for by including Tom Waits, no less.

Renfield

I know I’ll get hate mail for this, but I think the movie is even better than Bram Stoker’s Victorian classic.

Tune in next week for this year’s exciting final installment of Adventures in Halloweening.

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teegenteege Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102, episode 122) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Shakespearing #17.1: More on Merry Wives of Windsor

Shakespearing #17.1 by John King

More on Merry Wives of Windsor

Pardon my commandeering David Foley’s wonderfully textual Shakespearean blog for one week, in order to prolong the magic of the discussion of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Adolf_Schrödter_Falstaff_und_sein_PageI have read Merry Wives, even though I probably have only read a little more than half of Shakespeare’s plays. What is more, I have taught Merry Wives in an undergraduate Shakespeare course. (If you were in that class, accept my belated apologies.)

David is entirely right that the wordplay grows tiresome on the page, and that there is a looseness and grossness of comedic effects that we seldom associate with Shakespeare. Hamlet’s filthy, punning mind is always counterbalanced by his spiritual urge for perfection and mental clarity.

There is something deliciously punk-rock, however, about Shakespeare being bidden by the queen to produce a play about “Falstaff in love” and instead his producing a play in which his wannabe knight is essentially an unrepentant gigolo wooing married women. Elizabeth wanted Falstaff to be other than what he was, which means that she wanted Shakespeare to be other than what he was. Shakespeare could apologize much more easily than he could change what he saw as human nature. Perhaps he would not have lasted in the production processes in Hollywood.

shks_boydell14If Shakespeare’s Richard III can be seen as an enhanced and humanized version of a vice character from Medieval morality plays, then Falstaff is sort of a super-vice character’s enhancement. His braggadocio, cowardice, vanity, and base morality seem so compelling, like Jack Sparrow, but Sir John Falstaff is quite fat and incapable of actually winning any fight or struggle, apparently. The pull of such deep foibles is strongly felt by audiences. We laugh at him, but we are all to some degree like him, if we are honest with ourselves.

But what I want to talk about most when I talk about Merry Wives is how much fun the play is, and how funny, it is, in performance.

sign

Carlin Park, Jupiter Florida.

In 2005, I saw The Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival perform it gloriously. The setting of The Garter Inn was interpreted as a roadside motel in the rural American south during the late 1970s. The stage was exposed (no curtain). A dumb-show preceded the first act, like an opening credits scene, in which the disco music got louder, and the actors, in character, congregated by the small pool and the bar. I had to struggle not to leave my seat and join them up there for a drink.

Kevin Intro

Kevin Crawford, actor and director, with a pre-show announcement.

The actors mostly affected southern accents, which sounds like a terrible idea, but sounded shockingly apropos for the pastoral setting. The actors, Krys Parker in particular, made it work wonderfully.

Kevin Crawford (whom I interviewed on Episode 4) portrayed Falstaff in a fat suit, with a pompadour and white disco suit. He did this in Florida, in July. Miraculous.

As Falstaff in 2005's %22The Merry Wives of Windsor,%22 with Megan Ford as Pistol and Kelly Ainsworth as Nym

When the married women prank Falstaff with their “fairy” revels in the woods, the true effect cannot be managed in the text—it must be seen. In this case, a stagehand held over the top of the inn a long pole with a mirror ball that radiated over the audience.(Michael Ditsua, the actor whose job it was to hold that pole, noted that the bugger was immensely heavy.)

Dreaming of fairies and seeing fairies can seem much like the same thing, and one can feel, like Falstaff, the horror of transgression when it seems to cause the fabric of the world itself to rupture.

This production ended, however, with a kiss upon Falstaff’s head, which was such a sweet, an amazingly powerful gesture, that suggested that if Falstaff was most in love with himself, that he was still lovable. This swerving from the text is what I imagine Shakespeare might have wanted, if he thought Elizabeth would have tolerated it.

Trio

John King, Maria Fadiman, Taco Reus.

The play is exquisite fun, especially when enjoyed by friends.

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1flipJohn King (Episode, well, all of them) is a podcaster, writer, and ferret wrangler.

Episode 122: There Will Be Words Fourth Annual Flash Fiction Spooktacular!

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Episode 122 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I share a recording of a Halloween show in Jesse Bradley’s prose reading series, There Will Be Words, in which I was a reader.

The There Will Be Words Fourth Annual

Flash Fiction Spooktacular featured

KAREN BEST
KEITH GOUVEIA
MATT PETERS
REBECCA SWAIN VADNIE
JOHN KING
WHITNEY HAMRICK
BRETT PRIBBLE
TEEGE BRAUNE
JARED SILVIA

Karen Best

Karen Best (Photo by Leslie Silvia).

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Episode 122 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #61: Black Sabbath

The Curator of Schlock #61 by Jeff Shuster

Black Sabbath

(The band was named after the movie, smart guy.)

Black SabbathI’ll admit it. I had a bit of an obsession with Boris Karloff growing up. Not so much for his portrayal of Frankenstein, but for the Universal Monsters classic The Mummy. Imhotep. That was his name if I recall. He didn’t spend too much time in those bandages, but he did wear a fez. Anyway, I wish my eight year-old self had known about Black Sabbath, the 1963 horror anthology from director Mario Bava. Karloff serves as our ghoulish host of this screen adaptation of Chekov and Tolstoy horror stories.

Black Sabbath 2Our first story is called “The Drop of Water,” a tale about bad things happening to a bad people. Let me explain. This master medium lady dies in the middle of a séance or she was in a trance or something to that effect. Anyway, her nurse, Helen Chester (Jacqueline Pierreux), shows up to the scene to prep her body for the inevitable funeral.  The medium’s corpse is quite hideous, not the sort of thing you’d want to be left alone in a room with. Oh, and the medium said that anyone who stole her property after she died would have a terrible curse placed upon them. So naturally the nurse decides to steal the gold ring off the corpse’s finger.

I don’t get people sometimes. Don’t steal the corpse’s golden arm or pocket the silver dollars that was keeping its eyelids shut or carve out the corpse’s liver so you have something to feed your ill-tempered husband for supper when he gets home from work. These stories never end well. The corpse will come to house late at night to do you some damage. And they tend to mess with you first before dealing the final blow. Don’t be greedy. Let the dead take it with them.

The next story is called “The Telephone,” and it’s about a telephone that tends to ring from time to time.

Black Sabbath 5Some guy named Frank keeps calling some woman named Rosy (Michele Mercier), commenting on what a “beautiful body” she has.

Black Sabbath 1Now I want to make it clear that we here at The Museum of Schlock do not condone obscene phone calls. Prince-Albert-in-a-can calls are okay. Anyway, Karloff promised a ghost in this story, but we get a deranged maniac instead. Maybe he was possessed by the ghost of Frank or something. I don’t know. We’re moving on now.

The last story is called “The Wurdalak,” and it’s about vampires, Russian vampires called wurdalaks. The main difference with these vampires is they tend to go for the blood of family members.

Black Sabbath 4

So when the patriarch of the clan by the name of Gorca returns from the wilderness deathly pale and complaining about insatiable hunger, his family naturally takes him in despite the fact that they know the countryside is swarming with vampires. It doesn’t help matters that Gorca is played by Boris Karloff! Anyway when Gorca is offered succulent roast lamb only to push it away in disgust, you shouldn’t take that as a sign that he’s suddenly gone vegan. When he orders the first son to shoot his favorite dog, this isn’t some test of loyalty where he’ll intervene at the last minute to stay the canine’s execution. When he starts drinking the blood of his family members, you shouldn’t take that as a sign that he’s a vampire…oh wait. Nix that last one. Boris Karloff playing a vampire. The circle is now complete.

Five Things I Learned from Black Sabbath

  1. Creepy corpses sure like rocking chairs.
  2. Better sell that cursed ring to the pawnshop before sundown. This way the corpse should go after the pawnbroker.
  3. If your caller ID says Frank, ignore the call.
  4. Don’t let a vampire into your home even if he’s your grandfather.
  5. A disembodied talking Boris Karloff head must have been a sight to see on the big screen.

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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida

The Lists #3: Likely Kanye West Masturbatory Fantasies

The Lists #3 by Dan Lauer

Likely Kanye West Masturbatory Fantasies

  1. That blonde girl. The singer. He can’t remember her name. But just before he finishes she interrupts, but keeps promising she’ll let him finish.
  2. A pornographic parody of A Room With A View starring the original cast of Night Court. Particularly John Larroquette.
  3. The fundamental historical differences between Romans and Greeks.
  4. Perfectly buttered croissants. Yeah, just like that.
  5. He’s the world’s best astrophysicist. At least he would be, if THEY weren’t holding him back. Also, there are tits everywhere.
  6. Jim Jones’s final, glorious moments on Earth.
  7. Watching self, watching self, watching self masturbate. While masturbating.

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Dan Lauer

Dan Lauer (Episode 63Episode 71Episode 75, Episode 81, and Episode 93) is without academic achievements of any stripe worth mentioning. He makes his living as a technical writer. He drinks Scotch whiskey exclusively.

Heroes Never Rust #63: Lost in Vietnam (The Punisher’s Platoon)

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Heroes Never Rust #63 by Sean Ironman

Lost in Vietnam: The Punisher’s Platoon

In the first issue of Born, readers were given two points of view: Stevie Goodwin and Frank Castle. Readers only get Goodwin’s viewpoint in the second issue. Frank Castle remains as the main character. By showing him through Goodwin’s eyes, the reader can be guided into the difficult story.37_83328_0_PunisherBorn2BornThe first act has Goodwin attempting to keep his friend, Angel, off drugs. Many soldiers at Valley Forge have given up. Castle and his platoon are the only ones who still patrol. When Goodwin drags Angel out of a drug bunker, Castle approaches and asks if Angel is clean. Goodwin says yes and Castle walks off. Many readers might view Castle as a hard commander, but I don’t. He doesn’t reprimand Angel. He doesn’t argue with the men still in the bunker sitting around high. What soldiers do doesn’t matter to him. If they can shoot, then they can shoot. If they can’t, then they are no good to Castle.

Goodwin and Angel go out on patrol with Castle. Goodwin tells readers that he doesn’t have to go out with Castle’s platoon. He says he’s only there for Angel, but that doesn’t make much sense. If he let Angel get high, Angel wouldn’t be out on patrol. Goodwin wouldn’t have to look after him. “Some of us are here for our brothers, some of us for our horror stories. Some of us even still believe in duty. Americans through the looking-glass, lost in Vietnam.”

Born 2.1Goodwin is lost. There’s no right or wrong in Vietnam. Neither side are angels. No one is a war hero in Born. When the platoon comes under attack, snipers shoot down American soldiers. Goodwin and the rest of the platoon hide. Castle is the only fighter. He stands tall in the wide open and fires a sixty into the trees, taking out the snipers. As the enemy is killed, Castle doesn’t smile. He takes no joy in this. He’s shot in the arm, and to take a line from Predator, he doesn’t have time to bleed. He’s emotionless. When the Vietnamese are dead, Castle stands over their corpses. Goodwin thinks, “The black pig-iron in his hands falls silent. Try as it might, the world cannot exhale.”

American soldiers find a Vietnamese soldier, a woman, bleeding out but still alive. Goodwin and the rest stand in a circle as one American pushes the dying woman onto her stomach and rapes her. Where is the good America that Goodwin spoke of in the first issue? The American solider who rapes the woman is unimportant. A minor character introduced just for this scene. He could be any one of those soldiers. Any person who has lost their sense of morality.

Born 2.2Castle shoots the Vietnamese woman in the head and tells the American, “No rape. We’re here to kill the enemy. That’s all.” Then, he walks off. When no one is looking—well, except Goodwin—Castle drowns the rapist. Castle, in his own mind, has not lost his sense of morality. He only sees the world in black and white and will never see the gray. At the end of the issue, Goodwin states that he is scared of Castle. “Because this place is hell and we need a man like him to lead us through it, and what that says about us in unthinkable.”

Born 2.3Goodwin stays quiet, instead of telling the other soldiers. He might not like Castle, but he needs Castle. In that last scene, Castle is only shown in shadows. When he says he wanted to punish the rapist, he has no eyes. Only darkness. The cover of the second issue shows an American solder’s skull in a cracked helmet. Worms and plants cover the head. If Goodwin wants to get out of Vietnam, he needs to stick close to Castle. That’s why he goes out on the patrols. That’s why he stays quiet. Americans in Vietnam need a leader who is willing to damn himself so that right can be right and wrong can be wrong and those that do wrong can be punished. Goodwin needs to believe that right and wrong still count for somebody.

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Sean IronmanSean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

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