Finally, it’s Fall!

Although leaves were falling and the air was crisp much earlier in September, it wasn’t until September 22nd that autumn had officially arrived. Perhaps that’s why it took most of the stores I’ve visited this month waited until about now to put out their Halloween merchandise. It’s funny how they feel it’s okay to display the Halloween candy (complete with Halloween-themed packaging) out in August, but everything else is a no-no. I say if you’re going to put out stuff early, you might as well go full tilt. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the dollar stores putting out their stuff before everyone else.

Similarly, Music Choice’s “Sounds of the Seasons” channel finally started playing music related to a holiday. Granted, they’re focusing on Oktoberfest, but at least they’re actually playing something fall-related. Something tells me they won’t wait as long to play Christmas music in November as they will to play Halloween music in October.

Remember Record Store Day? Well, it turns out that it has a movie-themed sequel: Record Store Day Filmfest. The filmfest runs from October 21st through October 27th, so head on down to your local record store for all kinds of cool contests and DVD deals. While I don’t know if this is that case for a participating stores, but Newbury Comics is having 20% off used DVD sale in addition to putting discounts on select “new” titles. To see which stores are taking part, check out the official website.

Why didn’t I write about this sooner? I’m afraid some issues that’ve arisen over the past two weeks have been keeping me away from the blog at a regular basis. Since I don’t know when I’ll have everything straightened out, I thought I’d post the final GdL post for September a bit early than I’d originally planned. Hopefully I’ll be able to get everything resolved in time for the Halloween countdown. See you then!

Viva Naschy!

According to my calendar, September is Hispanic Heritage Month and I feel there’s no better way to celebrate this occasion than to profile Spain’s Sultan of Scare, Paul Naschy. Mr. Naschy is often referred to as the Spanish Lon Chaney, presumably since both Lon Chaney Jr. and he portrayed men tormented by their lycanthropic transformations (Naschy played Waldemar Daninsky and Chaney played Larry Talbot). Another potential source of this comparison is that Naschy, like Lon Chaney Sr., has portrayed numerous horror characters throughout his body of work.

Despite being born as Jacinto Molina in 1934, Naschy adopted his stage name after transitioning from the world of bodybuilding to the world of acting. Although he appeared in several non-horror films prior to making La Marca del Hombre Lobo (which translates as “Mark of the Wolf Man”) in 1968, the film is considered by many to have been when he had truly “arrived” in the industry. The film was also the first of Naschy’s horror films to be shown in America, where it was retitled as Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror. The reason for this was due to the American distributor having promised a film called Blood of Frankenstein to theaters and not being able to produce it due to financial difficulties. In a desperate attempt to keep their promise, an animated prologue was added to the film. This sequence quickly explained how the Frankenstein clan eventually turned into a family of werwolves known as “Wolfstein.” A little more on the matter can be found in an interview with Sam Sherman in Brian Albright’s Wild Beyond Belief!

Speaking of editing, some modern horror fans might forget that Spain was still under the dictatorship of Franciso Franco during the time in which several of Naschy’s horror films were created. As a result of this, many horror films were subject to hastily-made edits and use of alternate takes for the Spanish release in order to comply with censorship laws. Although the uncut nudity and violence were offered in the “international” prints of the films offered to foreign distributors, their removal from the original negatives (and the differing quality of the footage from other prints) has made of mess of modern efforts to release the definitive versions of those films onto DVD. In fact, it is not unheard of for hardcore Naschy devotees to import old VHS tapes (and DVDs) from other countries in order to see every last frame of film missing from their domestic versions. I cannot help but wonder if that censorship is the reason why the portrait of Naschy villain Alaric de Marnac in 1982’s Latidos de Panicos(aka Panic Beats) bears an uncanny resemblence to a painting of Franco’s ancestor, Pedro Fernández de Castro, VII Count of Lemos. You can see a screenshot of the Marnac picture here (some images there are NSFW).

I am happy to report that Paul Naschy is still doing horror films today. In fact, he was given the Spanish Gold Medal in Fine Arts in 2001 and his IMDB profile indicates that there are two new Naschy films on the way. To learn more about Señor Naschy, please visit his Wikipedia entry and the Mark of Naschy fansite.

Happy Birthday to us!

It’s hard to believe that it’s actually been a year since Gravedigger’s Local 16 first started. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it really does seem like it was only yesterday when Strange Jason set up the layout and made the first post on this blog. In celebration of this event, I thought I’d share the other names that were considered for this blog before we settled on the name we all know and love:

Frightmare Manor
The Evergraves
The Screamatorium
Deadwood Heights
Nightmare Fuel
The Night Shift
Dead Martha’s Vineyard
Gravedigger’s Local 113

The “Screamatorium” idea was the first of the names to be dropped. Although it sounded cool, we thought it best to do something original rather than just use a reference from The Simpsons. As you can see, we initially tried going for haunted attraction-style names and gradually shifted toward less location-specific names. Actually, now that I think about it, the never-used “Night Shift” name was a predecessor of sorts for GdL due to both names suggesting strange goings-on at night. In the end, the “Gravedigger’s Local” name won out, but we ran into a bit of a snag when Strange Jason discovered there was a group using a similar name. I randomly picked a new number in order to avoid any confusion and, well, you know the rest.

DRAMA (Of the Free Audio Variety)

Double your pleasure...

It has recently come to my attention that a British company called Big Finish Productions has re-released an audio drama called UNIT: The Coup as a free download on their website. From what I can tell from its Wikipedia entry, it was originally released on a CD given away with an issue of Doctor Who Magazine in order to promote an upcoming spin-off of their Doctor Who audio plays.

For those not in the know, Doctor Who is a long-running British science fiction television series about the adventures of a time-traveling alien who saves the Earth (and other planets) from monsters and alien invasions. The Doctor sometimes aids (or is aided by) the British branch of the Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT for short), an organization dedicated to combating unusual threats to global security. There’s a note here that UNIT was originally called the “United Nations Intelligence Taskforce,” but the producers had to remove the reference to the UN from the name in 2008.

I’m afraid I can’t comment about the quality of the audio play, as I’m not a fan of Doctor Who and didn’t bother listening to it. I only know that it involves a race of reptile-people from prehistoric times called the Silurians. However, I thought that both fans of the series and monster fans in general might be interested in such a freebie. Enjoy!

UPDATE: UNIT: The Coup is now available in both streaming and download form at Big Finish’s official SoundCloud page, along with its companion piece Silver Lining (and other Doctor Who audio dramas).

Special thanks to Big Finish Productions for use of the image!

Free D&D

So I was looking for information about an old horror comic book when I stumbled across the Wikipedia page for Tomb of Horrors (link contains spoilers). Instead of containing information about a comic book, it was devoted to a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. Said adventure is apparently infamous the its sheer number of deadly traps and reputation as a player-killer. Despite its apparent lack of monsters, I thought that some readers might be interested to know that Wizards of the Coast has put up a version (revised for 3.5th Edition rules) as a free download.

After poking around Wikipedia some more, I managed to find two other monster-related free downloads: a never-published supplement for the horror-themed Ravenloft campaign setting and the monster-filled adventure, White Plume Mountain (also revised for 3.5th Edition rules). I should note that I personally haven’t downloaded or opened any of these. As is the case with all links to downloadable content, open them at your own discretion.

As always, Gravedigger’s Local 16 is not to be held responsible for anything that may occur (be it good or bad) as a result of downloading or streaming from any links given here. Attempt at your own discretion. Some downloads may not work in certain regions. We make no guarantees about the future availability of the material listed above, so get them while you can. Blah blah blah…

Deep(ly Odd) Thoughts

So I was watching From Dusk ’til Dawn recently and was surprised to see that the staked vampires in the movie stayed dead even when their stakes were removed. Having been raised on movies where removing a stake meant a vampire would rise again, I was initially against the idea, but further consideration had me rethinking my position. Think about it, if rupturing the heart of a vampire killed it, then it wouldn’t matter if the stake was removed or not. On the other hand, if the material the stake is made of is what kills the vampire, then removing it could potentially let a vampire “live” again. After all, a vampire theoretically wouldn’t need organs to function and something that would permanently kill a human being might not work the same way for them. There’s also the issue of how, in the original folklore, driving a stake through a vampire’s chest only pinned them in their coffins so they couldn’t escape. Do we factor that in and make the whole argument moot or do we ignore it like most depictions of vampires in popular culture?

This actually reminds me of a conversation Strange Jason and I once had. For some reason, he had started thinking about vampires having a divorce and how the process would work. The big question on his mind was whether or not alimony and/or child support have to be paid for all eternity, while I wondered if being undead would create any loopholes. If a couple is married “’til death do [them]” part, does it mean the marriage is invalid if both parties are undead?

Speaking of bizarre monster-related conversations I’ve had, one of my cousins came up with an interesting series of questions about zombies: Do they simply eat until their stomachs rupture or are they able to somehow digest the flesh they consume. If they do digest their “food,” then would they poop? If they do, would they just soil themselves or would they have a basic memory about things like using a toilet or going behind a bush?

Come to think of it, would vampires have to urinate after they’ve digested blood (assuming that’s what they do with it) or would they have really bad diarrhea?

The (Vincent) Price is Right

The personification of class.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Onion AV Club recently posted an article devoted to Vincent Price, and the films starring him that were most likely to make viewers devoted fans. I link to this both because I agree with the movie choices they list and because the users comments offer a wealth of trivia about the man. For example, I learned that he made a cameo in the movie Beach Party for the sole purpose of plugging The Pit and the Pendulum and that he provided vocal work on Alice Cooper’s album, Welcome to My Nightmare (long before Price did his “rap” for Thriller). Price also appeared in Cooper’s TV special, Alice Cooper: The Nightmare. Said special’s VHS release has some hilariously cheesy (albeit intentionally so) cover art that I doubt anyone would try doing nowadays.

Inspired by these discoveries, I decided to visit his Wikipedia entry. My favorite factoid has to be this quote:

“In an often-repeated anecdote from the set of Batman, Price, after a take was printed, started throwing eggs at series stars Adam West and Burt Ward, and when asked to stop replied, “With a full artillery? Not a chance!”, causing an eggfight to erupt on the soundstage.”

How can you not love that man?

Saving the best for last, check out vincentprice.org for a treasure trove of Vincent Price-related trivia, pictures, sound files and much more. Trust me, you’ll be glad you visited.

UPDATE: The Price may be right, but it turns out that Beach Party trivia was incorrect. Although Vincent Price did appear in the movie and made a The Pit and the Pendulum joke, his appearance was done to plug The Haunted Palace. Had I bothered to look up the release dates prior to making this post, I would have realized that The Pit and the Pendulum was made long before Beach Party went into production.

The above PD photograph was created by Carl Van Vechten

It Came From Wikipedia

Even Wikipedia isn’t the most accurate source of information in the world, I still find myself browsing through when I’m bored and need to kill a little time online. I checked the information found in the links below using other resources and can guarantee that they’re all true.

Even though I’m not a fan of the Saw franchise, I’m fascinated by the licensing decisions surrounding it. Not only does the soundtrack for the European version of Saw III have a Dethklok song in it, but there are also an amusement park ride and video game based on the series.

Speaking of odd choices for video games, it turns out that there was a Plan 9 from Outer Space computer game! What’s even weirder is that the game is about recovering the film’s reels (stolen by Bela Lugosi’s double) rather than it being a playable adaptation of the game.

I find it odd that, despite J. J. Abrams’ claim of coming up with the idea for Cloverfield out of a desire to create an American monster, there’s a (currently) Japan-only manga prequel.

You might know John Agar from movies like The Brain from Planet Arous or Tarantula, but I bet you didn’t know that he is connected to a theme park called “Land of Kong” that featured a forty foot tall King Kong statue. Sadly, the park (which had since changed its name to “Dinosaur World”) closed in 2005. As noted on in these blogs, the massive King Kong statue’s blinking red eyes and roaring sound effects (along with the now-outdated dinosaur statues) couldn’t compete with the thrill-rides and realistic animatronic effects that can be found in modern theme parks.

It’s a rare treat to get some insight the creation of the horror movie posters of yesteryear. The late Tom Chantrell, who designed the posters for Star Wars and many Hammer horror films, apparently only used a basic plot description and a few publicity stills (along with pictures of himself and others posing) in order to create his masterpieces.

Japan’s first giant monster movie might have been a lost 1938 film called King Kong Appears in Edo. I say “might have” because there are some allegations that the film is a hoax and it’s been theorized that the film was actually called King Kong and the “Appears in Edo” was merely the tagline. You can find an alleged publicity picture here.

When I first read that Viras (and other monsters from the Gamera franchise) had an animated cameo on the children’s television series Franklin, I was convinced it was just a joke. Then I saw a screenshot…

Speaking of giant monsters, I was surprised to learn that the 1977 novelization of The Creature from the Black Lagoon changed the Gill-man into a thirty ton, hermaphroditic monster.

Finally, Poltergay. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this.

Christmassacre in July

Despite my lack of understanding about the whole “Christmas in July” concept, I figured that I’d hop on the bandwagon anyway. Anyway, here are several hilarious (and NSFW) clips from Silent Night, Deadly Night II:

You’re curiously attractive for a fish-man…

A discussion with a friend of mine regarding Monster Force led to us talking about Darkstalkers. Not to be confused with the Japanese OVA series Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge, (although both were based on the same Capcom fighting game) Darkstalkers was an American animated series infamous for its poor quality and unintentional comedy. To learn more about it, check out Rage Quitter 87’s episode reviews, complete with screenshots and humorous sound files.

If you’re wondering about the title of this entry, watch this:

Come to think of it, the werewolf character in the show kind of ties into the the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing…

UPDATE: The running gag that serves as this entry’s title appears to be a direct reference to a prophecy of Nostradamus involving Oannes.

Happy 4th of July!

Since it’s Independence Day, I thought I’d share an interesting fact I learned. It turns out that the movie Independence Day had an audio sidequel about Britain’s response to the alien invasion called Independence Day UK (aka ID4UK). From what I can tell, the play starts off sounding like a real radio program about UFOs (complete with British celebrities playing themselves) and then segues into a standard audio drama after the aliens attack. You can read more about it here.

But while that ties into the holiday, it wouldn’t feel right to do a 4th of July entry without something 100% American. Since the word “force” kinda sounds like “fourth, I thought now would be as good a time as any to share the following news:

The Abominable N. Oremac informed me that Monster Force is getting a DVD release on September 15, 2009. Not unlike Van Helsing, this 1994 animated series was an attempt to make the Universal Monsters appeal to the youth of the day. In it, the titular Monster Force (whose members included Frankenstein’s Monster and a descendant of the Wolf Man) protected the world from Dracula and his team of evil monsters. Judging from the Wikipedia entry, the show made some rather bizarre choices for some of the monsters’ powers, such as the Mummy having freeze breath or the Creature from the Black Lagoon having a sonic scream-type attack. Come to think of it, could the Creature really be considered evil? It’s just an incredibly sexually frustrated animal (being the last of your kind tends to do that). In my opinion, the only reason he went after Julie Adams in the first movie was since he desperate enough to consider pursuing a (by his species’ standards) ugly, scaleless freak. I’m not saying what he tried to do was right, but wild animals aren’t exactly the best representatives of ethical or moral thinking.

Getting back on topic, the short-lived cartoon also resulted in a line of action figures. You can learn more about them at this Monster Force fansite. It should also be noted that the cartoon has no relation to the video game of the same name.

Finally, I’d like to wish a belated Happy Canada Day to all our readers up north. In celebration, here’s a link to my favorite Canadian horror movie-related site: Canuxploitation.

Cool Cover Art

I love looking at the cover art on old horror movie VHS tapes. From lurid paintings to goofy staged photographs, they have a unique style that today’s DVD covers rarely match. So you can imagine my delight to discover Critical Condition Online’s cover art gallery. Not only does it have tons of cover scans, but it also lists the various home video companies of the 80’s/90’s, provides company histories and even includes scans of vintage promotional material!

Happy Father’s Day!

Watching television with one’s father is a time-honored family tradition. So on Father’s Day, why not relive those moments with your father by heading over to Youtube?

Both MGM and Lionsgate have uploaded several full length movies and television shows onto their Youtube accounts. GdL readers should be interested in Amityville II: The Possession, Dark Fields, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, Parents, The Outer Limits and The Addams Family. And if the old man isn’t a horror fan, then there’s plenty of other types of movies and shows to watch. It may not sound like the most glamorous way to spend Father’s Day, but I’m sure dad will like it more than getting yet another tie.

Grandpa and the Midnight Mutants

In 1990, Atari and Radioactive Software released an interesting action game for the Atari 7800 system called Midnight Mutants. The game dealt with a young boy’s quest to save his grandfather, who has been turned into a pumpkin by Dr. Evil. What’s really interesting about the game is that, as you can see from the screenshots from the game shown here, the grandfather in question is Grandpa Munster! Or is he?

You see, the game technically wasn’t related to The Munsters. Apparently, only the use of Al Lewis’ likeness was licensed. But, thanks to his appearance being so strongly linked to his portrayal of “Grandpa” from the series and since he was used to represent the captured grandfather of the game’s protagonist, many assumed that the game involved Grandpa Munster. If the rights holders for The Munsters had attempted any legal action, I’d assume that Radioactive Software and Atari would’ve pointed out that since the main character was named Jimmy Harkman, then it would mean that his grandfather would be named “Grandpa Harkman” and wasn’t related to character from The Munsters in any way. I’m not saying that it would necessarily hold up in court, but I’m sure they’d make that sort of argument. Although the character from the TV series is informally referred to as “Grandpa Munster” by many, he was actually referred to as “Count Dracula” in a few episodes of the show. This is because he was only the father-in-law of Herman Munster.

This unusual licensing strategy was also used on other occasions. Lewis hosted horror movies on TBS as “Grampa” during the 80’s and also hosted a series of VHS tapes from Vintage Video (aka AmVest Video). Notice that, although the Amazon listings refer to him as “Grandpa Munster,” he is merely called “Grampa” on the packaging. In these appearances, he did not wear the same makeup design used in The Munsters television series or films (with the exception of Grampa’s Sci-Fi Hits, which marked his only appearance in makeup as “Grampa”).

I have to wonder why they chose to use “Grandpa” in that game. Were reruns of The Munsters really all that popular with the youth of the time? Perhaps they were inspired by a similar game for the NES called Fester’s Quest, which featured characters from The Addams Family. However, unlike Midnight Mutants, this game had licensed the characters. But even if that was the case, one has to wonder why they thought that children of the 80’s would want to buy a game about a character from a 60’s sitcom battling aliens.

Is this the end of civilization as we know it?

MGM/Comcast’s “Impact” OnDemand channel is now offering the 1986 post-apocalyptic trash classic Robot Holocaust for free. Yes, as in the one that appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Although the film’s print is very good and has all the footage that was cut from the MST3K version, those who remember Wizard Video’s claim that it was “too gory for the silver screen” are going to be disappointed. Although it does have its fair share of severed limbs, it isn’t very gory and the tagline was only putting a positive spin the fact that it was a direct-to-video movie. On the plus side, it’s chock full of killer robots, mutants, buck-toothed worms and other bizarre creatures!

I hope that it gets a DVD release under MGM’s Midnite Movies line sometime soon, if only to see what movie it would be paired with. My best guess would be the similarly-themed Mutant Hunt. I love the original VHS box art for that movie; not only does it make promises it can’t keep regarding the film’s quality, but it also appears to show a half-naked Inspector Gadget going on a rampage.

Also, the big switch from analog broadcasting to digital is scheduled for midnight tonight! It also seems that even those who have converter boxes or cable might experience a little trouble. From what I could glean from the news today, you might have to press your remote’s menu button and hit any option that has the word “Scan” in it if you are unable to get certain channels. You can find more information on the matter by looking around here.

I’m sure that some of you readers have fiddled with a TV antenna trying to get some horror movie to tune in a little clearer or settled with a snowy TV signal from a distant station since they were airing something you desperately wanted to see. Although the switchover will make that impossible for modern viewers, some will surely miss the ability to do that sort of thing. If you have any memories like this which you want to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

Linger Longer II: The Legend of Jimmy’s Gold

Opie and Anthony fans are well acquainted with Jim Norton’s multi-talented character, “Ted Sheckler.” In this installment, Ted looks back on his career as a ghost hunter. First we have the full length (audio only) version uploaded by Yarsh29:

For those of you with slower connections, here’s the animated “best of” version by cokelogic (uploaded by foresaken797):

As with most great Youtube videos, neither of these are “work safe.” By way, am I the only one who’s noticed that all the ghost hunters on television basically act like Ted? Despite going to places for the sole purpose of looking for evidence of the paranormal, they run away screaming bloody murder if anything actually happens!

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