The Curator of Schlock #295: Cat People

The Curator of Schlock #295 by Jeff Shuster

Cat People

Cat People got no reason to live. 

My editor seems to think that Mad Love was first romance movie I covered on my blog. Not true. What about The Love WitchSomeone I TouchedLolaFist of the North StarDay of the Dead: BloodlineMy Bloody Valentine, The Vengeance of SheThe Boy Next DoorThe Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above SuspicionNude for SatanMagicUnsane, and all those Hallmark Christmas movies with the delightful Lacey Chabert? We love romance here at The Museum of Schlock!

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Speaking of romance, tonight’s motion picture is 1942’s Cat People from director Val Lewton. It’s about a man who falls in love with a woman who owns six cats! The horror! The horror! Run away, good sir! I’m just fooling. The movie starts out in a zoo in Central Park in New York City. A young, Serbian-American woman named Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is sketching a black panther (the animal not the super hero) when she catches the eye of a man named Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). There’s some banter. Irena invites Oliver back to her place where she tells him a story about a great Serbian King who slaughtered a town full of Satan-worshipping witches and how cats are considered evil in the village she was born in.

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That’s a bit of an intense conversation for a first date, something that might be considered a red flag in the modern day, but Oliver is undeterred. He asks Irena out to dinner for the following evening. He buys Irena a kitten as a gift in lieu of a bouquet of flowers. That’s odd. Was that a courting custom back in the 1940s? The kitten reacts badly to Irena, hissing at her. They take the kitten back to the pet shop, hoping to exchange it for another pet, but the whole pet shop comes alive with howls and chirps. I guess Irena has a problem with animals. Maybe because she is one!

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Despite this weirdness and the fact that Irena refuses to kiss him, Oliver decides to marry her. I think there’s a legend in Irena’s birth village about the women being cursed to turn into cat people should they ever kiss a man. Worried for Irena’s state of mind (and their marriage not being consummated), Oliver has Irena see a psychiatrist, Dr. Judd (Tom Conway), to get to the bottom of her unsound mind. Oh, and Oliver’s co-worker, Alice Moore (Jane Randoph), confesses her love for Oliver.

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So there you have it. We’ve got a love triangle going on. Who says we’re not romantic here at The Museum of Schlock. I think Oliver gets tired of waiting for Irena to sort her shit out and wants a divorce so he can marry Alice.

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Since Oliver doesn’t want Irena anymore, Dr. Judd makes his move and kisses Irena causing Irena to turn into a black panther. What do you know? Irena was right to fear her village’s curse. Balls.


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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #40: Another Master of Horror

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #40 by Drew Barth

Another Master of Horror

The spooks continue this week with a look at another creator whose work has kept me awake on more than one occasion: Junji Ito. His work has become synonymous with horror manga over the last fifteen years in the US. Through many of his longer works like Gyo, Uzumaki, and the decade-spanning Tomie, Ito has established himself as a pillar of modern horror.

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What makes Ito’s horror stand out among many of his peers is his focus on the mundane. From panel one, we are almost always grounded in the daily lives of our main characters in the real world. But then the twist. It could be something as simple as someone unable to get the smell of fish off of them or noticing a friend’s dad doing something odd in an alley or wanting to paint a woman. As fantastical as many of the horror elements Ito utilizes are, they still have the feeling of being too eerily close to the real world, and that is how his horror can seep in under the skin for a full-body terror.

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There are also interpersonal relationships as a means of driving the story forward. Ito tends to use one as a narrator and one continually in peril or wrapped up in the bizarre occurrences.

 

When looking at a story like Uzumaki, we have Kirie and Shuichi as the narrative duo. Kirie is the focus of the mysterious obsession of the spiral without having fallen into the obsession herself. Shuichi studies the effects of the spiral obsession and oftentimes will disappear without warning, causing Kirie distress. We feel Kirie’s worry and are thus worried ourselves. This dual-character narrative helps to maintain the uncertainty that fuels our terror by always ensuring at least one character is in danger.

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The influence of Ito’s work is far-reaching: from film and anime adaptions to Hot Topic shirts. He has become one of the most recognizable artists not just in horror, but in graphic narratives in general. With it being so close to Halloween, why not take a chance on something terrifying to get you through the month?

Get excited. Focus on the spiral.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 388: Erik Deckers!

Episode 388 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s episode, I interview Erik Deckers about how he finished the novel he began as a resident at the Kerouac Project of Orlando.

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NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out this early first episode of my new web series talk show about the history of Batman!

 

If you are in Orlando on November 2nd from 6 to 9 PM, be a part of the book party for my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover

There will be a raffle for those who show up, no purchase necessary. Raffle items include autographed books, a t-shirt, a gift package from bachelor Pad Magazine, a gift certificate for a medium sized literary tattoo, plus …

Guy Psycho Raffle

this framed, autographed poster featuring the book cover of Walter Mosley’s Debbie Doesn’t Do it Anymore.

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Guy Psycho Book Launch Party

6-9 PM

1418 Clouser Ave, Orlando, FL 32804-6209

https://www.facebook.com/events/619433221793908/


Episode 388 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #294: Mad Love

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The Curator of Schlock #294 by Jeff Shuster

Mad Love

Old movies are weird. 

 

The Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights brand of cookies is the greatest packaged soft cookie the American chemical confectionary industry has ever produced. I don’t want to hear about Fig Newtons. Give me a break.

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Pumpkin Delights taste like fall and Halloween and all that is right in the world. They are the only cookies I care about right now, and I can’t seem to find any in either chain of grocery stores in my neighborhood. The trials I have to go through just to enjoy the simple things in life.

This week’s movie is 1935’s Mad Love from director Karl Freund. It is not about a man who enjoys the simple things in life. Peter Lorre stars as Dr. Gogol, a gifted doctor residing in Paris, France. Dr. Gogol is obsessed with an actress named Yvonne Orlac (Frances Drake) who performs at the Théâtre des Horreurs, a kind of combination wax museum and theater of the grotesque.

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I think Yvonne stars in some play where she’s being tortured on a rack to the audience’s disgust or delight.

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Dr. Gogol decides to meet Yvonne in her dressing room after the show in the hopes of wooing her, but this doesn’t go so well. For starters, Yvonne is married to Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), a gifted pianist and composer. But there’s a bigger reason why Dr. Gogol stands no chance with Yvonne. She’s a living goddess and Dr. Gogol looks like Kermit the Frog’s deformed brother. And he’s awkward around the Yvonne, even forcing a kiss on her at the wrap party. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Yvonne and Stephen are about to move to England leaving poor Dr. Gogol to obsess over the wax statue of Yvonne he purchased from the museum after her final performance.

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Yes, he purchased a wax statue of Yvonne for his house. That’s a little creepy. He even has his elderly maid dress the statue for him with fine garments he purchases from the best boutiques. His maid is a bit of a drinker and has an angry cockatoo perched on her shoulder, but I’m getting off track. Dr. Gogol refers to his wax statue of Yvonne as Galatea and hopes to will her to life. This is one weird dude. I’m sorry for anyone that knows him.

Stephen Orlac is traveling by train when said train gets into a horrible accident. Stephen’s hands are damaged beyond repair, so there goes his piano-playing career. In fact, a doctor wants to amputate his hands. Yvonne wants a second opinion and remembers that gifted doctor who was obsessed with her. Surely, he can save her husband’s hands. Dr. Gogol attempts a hand transplant operation on Stephen and it works. He doesn’t bother telling Stephen or Yvonne that those aren’t his hands.

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Did I mention that he transplanted the hands of a recently executed murderer with a penchant for knife throwing? This might explain why Stephen’s piano playing skills have waned, but his knife throwing skills have improved. I’m not going to spoil the end of the film, but don’t be expecting Peter Lorre to get the girl. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on the hunt for some pumpkin flavored cookies.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

 

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #39: Master of Horror

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #39 by Drew Barth

Master of Horror

Alex Toth as an artist and illustrator is an unsung masters of the medium. Toth strove to push the boundaries of what a comic could do in terms of creating panels, lines of sight, and use of shadows. Using simple black and white techniques, Toth was able to create some of the most spectacular short comic works for Dell Comics, DC, and Warren Publishing with genres spanning mystery, war, superhero, and horror.

His short form horror comics are still some of his most underrated creations—even more so considering his most iconic work was the design and animation of the Super Friends cartoon in the 70s—but Dark Horse has amassed much of Toth’s horror work in Creepy Presents: Alex Toth. But what makes Toth’s horror work so distinct? So memorable? Why catalog his work with the reverence and respect in this collection?

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As an illustrator, Toth knew how the eye would move across a comic page and how certain kinds of panel breaks, coupled with clever lettering, could keep a reader from wandering into the twist ending of a story too early. His panels worked like walls for the eyes—they would maintain a thick, black panel frame. This technique of paneling is one of the reasons his horror work was always so shocking whenever the ending did come. The steady pacing of his panels, the continuous cordoning off of panels for the readers, and his thicker, almost brush-like line would instill in readers a sense of constant mystery and unease.

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The above page is a perfect example of how his panels would create this uneasy feeling, by allowing the eye to literally rock back and forth through the page. He strove to do something different with each comic he created as a means of maintaining an audience’s uncertainty, whether this was through window panes as panels, the excessive use of black space to create a sense of claustrophobia, or misdirection via simply not showing what a threat was at a given moment.

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Alex Toth was able to create some of the most interesting and innovative horror comics of his time. And he did it all without having to saturate his pages with blood and gore. Even stories concerning grave robbing or murders in a theme park, Toth was able to maintain a subtlety in the macabre that would deepen a story’s sense of dread. That focus on the anticipation of horror is what made his stories so interesting to read and why his horror lingered long after the story was finished. It is also why a book like Creepy Presents: Alex Toth exists—to ensure new readers can feel that same terror decades later.

Get excited. Something lurks.


 

drew barthDrew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Introducing The Batalogues!

Hi, gang!

For over two years, I, Patty Hawkins, and Shawn McKee have been in production of a series that discusses the history of Batman, mostly in secondary media. Patty is Vergil to my Dante as we explore this cultural phenomenon that has endured for 80 continuous years.

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John King, Batmobile replica, Patty Hawkins. Photo by Shawn McKee.

For those of you who want to hear more of me while hoping I will ask even fewer questions, consider your pleases answered.

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Today, the first video of this series is now out in the world. Patty and I could not resist talking about Todd Phillip’s Joker.

Please watch it if you have the time, and if you think you’ll be interested in following the exploits of our Batalogging, please subscribe to us on youtube.

With immense gratitude,
John King

 

Episode 387: Mixtape 11: Dark Thoughts from a Very Pink Room

Episode 387 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s episode, music!

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NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover


Episode 387 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

The Curator of Schlock #293: The Black Cat

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The Curator of Schlock #293 by Jeff Shuster

The Black Cat

Lugosi + Karloff = Total Terror!

It’s October, and you know what that means! Your humble Curator of Schlock will transform into the vile Curator of Schlock! All month long, I will be watching some of the scariest motion pictures Tinsletown ever produced. Tonight’s picture is 1934’s The Black Cat from director Edgar G. Ulmer. It stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. This movie is Universal Studios biggest box office success from 1934. It made $236,000. I guess that was a lot back then. The Black Cat is also one of the earliest examples of psychological horror so those of you out there who hate horror movies might like this one.

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The title credits read The BLACK CAT SUGGESTED BY THE IMMORTAL EDGAR ALLEN POE CLASSIC. I remember reading “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allen Poe back in the second grade. A substitute had us read the short story, but she regretted it as the story revolves around a man torturing and killing a black cat over and over again. He evens cuts the cat’s eye out. Now see, this is what you give young boys to read if want to get them interested in reading. Not Johnny Tremain.

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This movie has nothing to do with Poe’s “The Black Cat.” It starts out with newlyweds Peter (David Manners) and Joan (Julie Bishop) on a train traveling to Hungary. They’re a good looking, yet boring couple. A mysterious man named Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi) joins them in their train compartment. He’s a Hungarian psychiatrist fresh out of a fifteen-year stint in a Siberian prison camp after serving in World War I. When Joan falls to sleep in Peter’s arms, Dr. Werdegast reaches out and almost touches her hair. He begs Peter this indulgence as Joan looks like his late wife.

Weird.

They get in some kind of shuttle bus after the train stops, but it gets into an accident. Peter brings an unconscious Joan to the house of an old friend of Dr. Werdegast, Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff). Dr. Werdegast isn’t all that fond of Poelzig as his command resulted in the death of thousands of Austro-Hungarian soldiers to the Russians. Poelzig also told Dr. Werdegast’s beautiful wife that he died in the war. Poelzig then married Dr. Werdegast’s beautiful wife while he was stuck in a Siberian prison. Ouch! Some friend!

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Did I mention that Poelzig is a great Austrian architect? I guess he’s like the Frank Lloyd Wright of Austria. This is a weird house with sliding doors that adjoin each room. So much for privacy. Dr. Werdegast finally confronts Poelzig about his wife only to learn that she died many years ago. Poelzig kept her perfectly preserved in a glass case in his basement. Poelzig’s not lonely, though. He simply married Dr, Werdegast’s hot, young daughter. Dr. Werdegast  wants to shoot Poelzig, but he freezes in fear at a black cat that crosses his path.

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Did I mention that Poelzig is a Satanist? Yeah, he’s got a devil-worshipping cult coming over for a human sacrifice party.  They’ve got those black robes and everything. Who is the human sacrifice? Joan the newlywed, of course.

I’m not going to spoil the ending, but let’s just say it features a man getting skinned alive and a whole lot of dynamite.


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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #38: Dipping Into Horror

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #38 by Drew Barth

Dipping Into Horror

It’s October this year, so you know what that means: thirteen months until the next presidential election.

Also, Halloween—the best time of the year as a different kind of horror (finally) can grip our imaginations. From the ghosts, ghouls, and other ghastly creatures that invade the space under our beds to dark, macabre tales of the gothic that creep into our minds, October is the season of the spook. The horror comics of old really advanced what was imaginatively possible with the medium, and there are still a great variety of chilling and creepy comics coming out, like Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’edera.

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Tynion is known for haunting series like UFOlogy and The Woods and Dell’edera for working on The Crow: Memento Mori and House of Mystery. Together, the duo have crafted a first issue that oozes with unease and menace, bolstered further by the beautiful color work of Miquel Muerto.

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Something is Killing the Children establishes itself quickly as a series that knows how to ratchet up that menace panel by panel. We begin the first issue with James, a high school kid trying to impress his friends with truth or dare during his first sleepover. He tells them the story about a monster he saw in the woods while home alone—something spooky for a sleepover, because that’s what sleepovers are for—a monster he made up for an entertaining yarn. But somehow the monster was real. On a dare, he sent his friends out into those woods. James then must watch as his friends are eviscerated. From here we cut to an unnamed woman with swords now tasked with slaying this monster.

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What makes Something is Killing the Children so tense for a first issue is the immediate tone and pace. If ever there was a master of the page as a stanza idea, it is Werther Dell’edera. Dell’edera knows how our eyes track shape and movement and uses that as a means of ensuring we look where we need to look on the page every time. When we have the flashback of James watching his friends die, it is a large two-page spread that uses longer panels that layer the action in an effortless way. We instinctively follow the line of action until the moment concludes with the monster on the next page.

Coupling the above art with Tynion’s fantastic realism-in-the-face-of-actual-monsters dialog and Muerto’s use of comfortable blue tones for horror sequences turns Something is Killing the Children into one of this year’s strongest comics. Something is Killing the Children knows how to do uncomfortable uneasy horror without having to splash blood in our eyes. The building of tension through its panels, the pitch-perfect small town characters, the dread we feel when we see those blue night tones are perfect to make us squirm.

Get excited. Check under the bed.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 386: A Craft Discussion of Mystery and Manners, with Vanessa Blakeslee and Lisa Roney!

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Episode 386 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

In this week’s episode, I wear an ugly shirt from outer space  to speak with Vanessa Blakeslee and Lisa Roney about Flannery O’Connor’s Mysteries and Manners.

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NOTES

This episode is sponsored by the excellent people at Scribophile.

Scribophile

TDO Listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

Check out my literary adventure novel, Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame.

Guy Psycho and the Ziggurat of Shame Cover


Episode 386 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcasts, stitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).