October 30, 2009

The Alien Factor

This one popped up, every now and then, on the Saturday afternoon creature feature. Don Dohler's "The Alien Factor" (1976) was shot around Baltimore and, judging by the on-screen results, cost around $80.00. I'm not knocking it, there's a sense of honest, blue collar craftsmanship to these old, low budget schlock fests that is painfully absent from today's direct to DVD or made for the Sci-fi network sleeping pills. The artwork below is actually from the old VHS sleeve that always caught my eye at the video store near my house (I remember it had a green sticker, meaning it was suitable for all ages.)

But believe me, the box art only hints at all the chocolaty goodness at the center of this movie. Wooden acting, garbled sound, poor lighting, cheap effects; it's all there, kids. And best of all, a menagerie of some of the goofiest monsters this side of Sid & Marty Krofft.

This guy is my favorite, It's some kind of Bigfoot-ish creature with extra long legs. On film, it looks like fake fur wrapped around a pair of Romper Stompers.

Then there's this dreamboat from the planet of the skinless people (actually, the reveal of this monster was a pretty effective sequence. It had me hiding behind the La-Z-boy.)

I know it's a generational thing, but I will always champion films like this (Legend of Boggy Creek, Shriek of the Mutilated) against the wretched studio blandness that crowds the shelves at Best Buy. Because, despite their limitations, They were labours of love from genuine film fans and they always entertained.

October 21, 2009

A Little Elaboration

Just a quick follow up that last movie post. Partly because I didn't know how to fit this awesome poster into it.

Also, seeing this film prompted me to re-read the short story that (loosely) inspired it, H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out Of Space." To those unfamiliar with his work, Lovecraft's stories mostly have to do with people glimpsing indescribable horrors from other dimensions that end up robbing them of their sanity. Well, while "indescribable" is great for sparking the imagination of the reader, it's never been much help to filmmakers. In the book, a meteor crashes on a small New England farm and a malignant, vaporous force torments the family while radiating a color "without a place among the known tints of Earth."

Good luck to the poor DP (director of photography) trying to pull that out his box of lens filters. "Die Monster Die!" keeps the meteor angle, but resorts to plain ol' radiation that causes plants to grow huge and animals to mutate into cheap puppets. Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of fun but you get the idea, it wasn't just budget limitations that caused the story alteration. Even today, where directors are able to indulge themselves by coating the screen with ones and zeros, Lovecraft remains, for the most part, unsuccessfully adapted (Stuart Gordon's "Re-animator" and "From Beyond" being two noticeable exceptions.) That's a good thing. There are some things that exist only on the printed page, and to depict them at all on celluloid would rob them of their power to shock and fascinate us. Told ya, I'd rant occasionally.

October 19, 2009

Horror Movie Misc.

Finally got a spell of cool weather here in the sunshine state. Hope it lasts but I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, it was the perfect opportunity to dig through the DVDs and get some Wendy's chili cheese fries. I'm certain most Horror movie fans have their own ritual viewing practices around Halloween, but this year I decided to be a little less deliberate in my choices. Nothing to obscure, just a few old gems.

First up was Hammer film's "The Reptile"(1966), and if you can somehow convince one of today's zero attention span kids to sit still through the second act, the monster close-up scene will 100% guaranteed jolt them right over the back of the couch! That monster stands the test of time. Also, is it just me, or does Jennifer Daniels look more than a little like Carol Cleveland from Monty Python?

Next at bat was "Die Monster Die!" (1965) with Boris Karloff (looking especially grumpy) and the always dependable Nick Adams. I miss Nick. He yelled his lines with conviction but underneath there was always a distinct likability and easy demeanor to his characters. Great color and atmosphere in this, plus a few honest scares.

Finally, if I have a Halloween tradition, It's "Dawn of the Dead"(1978). But, I love and respect this movie so much that I've steered away from it for the past few years, in an attempt to keep it fresh in my mind (whatever that means.) But, what can you do. It just wouldn't be Halloween without helicopter zombie.

October 14, 2009

Quick Spaceship Thing

Just a quick post to remind everyone (including me) what the stated purpose of the blog is. This was an idea for some kind of planet size, Death Star-ish spaceship. The black background makes it easier to cut and paste in Photoshop.

All the surface detail is done by push/pulling small squares and rectangles. It's fun but it can get tedious. the trick is to find an angle you like, get the shadow settings down and then just detail those areas that are noticeably affected by the lights and shadows. Anyway, it's another half realized concept that needs to be taken to some kind of fruition.

October 12, 2009

Those Cracked Monsters

A few scans from a 1978 Cracked collectors' edtion. The splash panel is signed "McCartney" and a quick glance at Wikipedia revealed that this was how legendary pin-up/good girl artist Bill ward signed a lot of his work for Cracked. If so, COOL! (Click on images to enlarge.)

I know John Severin was their go to artist for the majority of the mags' run, and indeed, this issue contains two articles by him (one covered by Neato Coolville a few Halloweens back.) But to me, Ward's style, with his loose but confident line work and heavy blacks, was especially suited to monster stuff. And check out the letters on the Transylvanian TV header. Man, what I wouldn't give to have a whole font style of that.

I remember this got passed around my neighborhood (being traded for comics, hot wheels, etc.) I ended up with it but it was in sad shape with no cover. Luckily, I came across a nice copy in a local comic shop, a while ago, and snagged it. Enjoy!

October 8, 2009

Horror Hotel

Yeah, yeah, the blog's supposed to be about SketchUp. So sue me, I'm having too much fun with these Halloween posts. Here's another old chestnut that cost me a few nights sleep as a kid. Set in Massachusetts, but shot in England, "Horror Hotel"(1960) stars Christopher Lee and a cast of seasoned Brits doing halfway acceptable American accents.

The story follows Nan Barlowe (cutie-patootie Venetia Stevenson), a college student studying witchcraft. Prof. Driscoll (Lee) suggests that, to really get the facts for her term paper, she should take a trip to the town of Whitewood, were a witch burning actually took place. The town is remote and rarely visited, so the best way for her to get there is to sit behind the wheel of a stationary car while stagehands rock it back and forth and roll scenery past her. Along the way, she stops to pick up creepy hitchhiker Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall, 1963's The Haunting.)

Finally, she arrives at the adjoining sound stage (or the eerie, fog shrouded town of Whitewood, whichever one helps you.)

There, she starts nosing around, pestering the locals about witchcraft...

..and well, things go downhill for her pretty quick. I won't give away anymore but it's full of satanic rituals, cobwebs, secret passages, hip jazz, "Psycho" style plot twists and more fog than some movies that actually have the word "fog" in the title. And I know I poked fun a little at the confined-to-sound stage production, but it really helps give the film a sense of claustrophobia and showcases the deep focus camera work of the great Desmond Dickinson. Plus, the sets are terrific. From the tribal masks on Lee's classroom wall to the decaying church facade and graveyard. Finally, and this is important, the whole cast looks like they're having fun doing this, even Lee. That's the element that lifts this one above most of the budget minded studio horror that was being churned out back then, on both sides of the Atlantic.

October 4, 2009

Scariest Bigfoot Ever!

Or at least to 11 year old me. But all my neighborhood friends who saw this episode of "Fantasy Island" agreed that the Bigfoot they showed at the end was way creepier then all the documentaries we had seen on Saturday afternoon. I think this was actually a 1st or 2nd season rerun when I saw it. Anyway, Peter Graves goes to Fantasy Island where Mr. Roarke informs him that (whadda ya know!) they've got Bigfoot there too.

In his efforts to capture one, we get the occasional glimpse of what appears to be the standard man in fur suit. Needless to say, after the triumph that was Andre the Giant in Six Million Dollar Man, this was all pretty underwhelming. But then in the climax, as Pete is hanging from the edge of a cliff, Bigfoot shows up to save him and we get a nice closeup of this...

GAAHH!! I think part of it was that I was expecting the same old "Planet of the Apes" style makeup that we were all used to from the documentaries (In Search Of..., Mysterious Monsters, etc.) or maybe it's that bulging, dead looking eye, but this about scared the Salisbury steak out of me. Immediately my phone rings, and I vividly remember the conversation.

Me: "Hello?"

My friend, Kenny: "Dude, did you just see that?"

Me: "I saw it. Holy Crap!"

Kenny: "It made me spit milk on my hand. UN-cool!"

I guess you never know what's gonna stick with you, but I'm glad this did. See you next time.

October 1, 2009

Countdown to Halloween

All this month, I'll be participating in "Countdown to Halloween." Scroll down under my links to other blogs and you'll notice a big orange button with the Mummy on it. That takes you to the Countdown to Halloween homepage where you can find links to all the other blogs that will be participating. We'll all be posting lots of groovy ghoulie stuff to help get everyone psyched about Halloween.

To get things started, here's the cover to NIGHTMARE no. 15 from 1973 (cover art by Ken Kelly.) Apparently there was some confusion as to who was Dracula. Thankfully, this cover sets the record straight and puts all our minds at ease (this works best if you say the cover caption out loud to yourself and adopt an aristocratic tone.)

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SketchUp/Screw-up by Timothy P. Butler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.