Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Moon

(This post originally appeared on January 17, 2010.)

I’d heard quite a bit of good buzz about this film, so we checked it out. And I’m glad we did, because it’s excellent.

Sam Rockwell, who really carries this movie, plays Sam Bell, an employee of a corporation that mines Helium-3 (a cheap, clean energy source) on the Moon. Sam is the only person in the mostly automated station, and his job is to collect the cylinders of Helium-3 mined by some mobile harvesting machines and send them back to Earth by rocket. There are problems with the communications system, so the only contact he has with Earth is through delayed messages. He does have a robot called Gerty (I’m sure the letters stand for something, but I never picked up what it was), voiced by Kevin Spacey.

The isolation gets to Sam after a while, but he has a three-year contract that’s almost up, so he’ll soon be going back to Earth. Before that can happen, though, some vaguely sinister things begin to happen, and eventually Sam’s life on the Moon turns downright weird, not to mention dangerous, because (cue spooky music) he may not be alone in the mining station after all.

Despite that set-up, MOON isn’t a horror movie, although it’s pretty creepy at times. It’s pure science fiction, the sort of low-key, intelligent yarn you might find in a Fifties issue of GALAXY or F&SF. The special effects aren’t flashy at all, but they’re very effective. Rockwell is in every scene and does a great job. It’s really his show, along with the direction by Duncan Jones (the son of David Bowie, I believe, who was also in a good science fiction film, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH). If you’re a science fiction fan, I can’t recommend MOON highly enough. It’s not a swashbuckling spectacle like STAR WARS (hey, I love those, too), but it is a smart, compelling film.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Now Available: Weird Menace Volume 1

The Weird Menace pulps flourished for less than a decade, from the mid-1930s to the early '40s, but while they were popular, they delivered adventure, excitement, and spine-tingling thrills in quantities rarely seen before or since. Mad scientists, deranged henchmen, damsels in distress, and stalwart heroes raced through their pages in breathless, over-the-top, never-ending action. A good Weird Menace yarn really is just one damned thing after another. 

Rough Edges Press asked some of today's best authors of popular fiction to write Weird Menace stories, and they delivered. Settle back and let us spin a few yarns for you... 

But keep an eye out behind you. You never know when something might be sneaking up on you. 

Stories in this volume include: 
"Bodies for the Brain Butcher" by John C. Hocking 
"A Night on Madhouse Mountain" by Bill Crider 
"The Curse of the Monster Makers!" by Scott Dennis Parker 
"Farmhouse of the Dead" by Keith West 
"The Hideous Blood Ray" by Robert E. Vardeman 
"Blood Treasure for Satan's Buccaneers" by James Reasoner


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: G-Men Detective, Winter 1944

That's a pretty grim but effective cover on this issue of G-MEN DETECTIVE. I've read quite a few of the Dan Fowler novels and found them to be consistently entertaining, despite the wide variety of authors who wrote them. This one is by Laurence Donovan, and there are also stories in this issue by the prolific Norman A. Daniels and Robert Sidney Bowen.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday Morning Western Pulp: All-Story Western, November 1950

Since H. Bedford-Jones died in 1949, the full-length novel "Guns at Hell's Border" was either an unacknowledged reprint or a story that had been lying around in inventory at Popular Publications for a while. Either way, I'd sure like to read it, as Bedford-Jones is a long-time favorite of mine. I don't have this issue, though. Maybe someday. The only other story in the issue is a reprint of a T.C. McClary yarn originally published in 10 STORY WESTERN half a dozen years earlier. Nice cover on this issue of ALL-STORY WESTERN, too.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Orrie Hitt Video

Thanks to Brian Ritt for the heads-up on this! Orrie's now a video star. Can you imagine what he would have thought all those years, sitting in his kitchen banging away at his typewriter, if you told him his work was going to make such a comeback? I suspect he would have been happy about it.

Forgotten Books: Spawn of the Desert - W.C. Tuttle

W.C. Tuttle's novel SPAWN OF THE DESERT was published in the May 10, 1922 issue of SHORT STORIES, then reprinted by Doubleday, Page the next year in that oddball series of digest-sized paperbacks comprised of material from SHORT STORIES, complete with the usual "Red Sun" covers. It's a stand-alone novel, instead of an entry in one of Tuttle's many series, and opens with a pair of mysterious travelers arriving in the rough-and-tumble mining town of Calico, on the edge of the Ruby Hills.

Calico is ruled by a brute of a man known as Silver Sleed, and it doesn't take long for the newcomers to clash with him. The pair are Duke Steele, who gives every appearance of being a gunman, and a white-bearded old timer who claims his name is Le Saint. The Saint, as he comes to be known, is part preacher, part gambler, part killer, and a man haunted by secrets. When Steele and The Saint meet Silver Sleed's beautiful daughter Luck, it's inevitable that those secrets will begin to come out and result in gunplay and tragedy.

I love W.C. Tuttle's work for its irresistible blend of mystery, comedy, and Western action, but SPAWN OF THE DESERT is a very different book for him. There are a few small touches of humor, but mostly this is a grim yarn full of psychological drama, much more reminiscent of Max Brand than of Tuttle's usual output. However, it's written with Tuttle's usual talent and he really makes the characters and setting come to life. The long, compelling scene that forms the climax is as suspenseful as anything I've read in a good while.

You're not likely to run across either of the original editions of this book, but there's a very badly scanned e-book version available on Amazon. That's how I read it. The poor production values are annoying at first, but the story is so gripping that I soon forgot about those problems. If you've never read Tuttle before, this probably wouldn't be a good place to start, but if you're already a fan and want to see him trying something different, I highly recommend SPAWN OF THE DESERT.

UPDATE: And thanks to August West, we now know there was a movie version as well! Judging by the IMDB entry, it appears to have been a fairly faithful adaptation, too.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Coming Soon: Weird Menace Volume 2

Perfect reading for this Halloween season. Stories include:

"The Spider-God of Nauru!" by Mel Odom
"Lust of the Cave Spirit" by Keith Chapman
"Attack of the Nazi Snow Warriors" by Michael Bracken
"Ghost Writer" by Paul Dellinger
"The Hades Mechanism" by John McCallum Swain
"Howl of the Werewolf" by Ray Lovato

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Son of Frankenstein

I recently watched SON OF FRANKENSTEIN, the third and final film to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster, for the first time in years, and I was pleased to discover that it holds up really well. Although it's generally regarded as the least of the opening trilogy in the series, it's actually my favorite of the Frankenstein movies for several reasons, most of them involving the cast.

Karloff is bigger and bulkier than ever as the Monster, and he's great as usual. But Basil Rathbone gives a fine performance as Wolf von Frankenstein, Victor's son, who winds up reviving the Monster even though he knows he shouldn't. My favorite actor here, though, is Bela Lugosi, who is almost unrecognizable as Igor and turns in one of his least hammy performances. He summons up some serious creepiness in this movie, especially when he peers through windows or hidden openings in the walls, as he often does.

The script is good, too, with some nice touches of humor. At one point Rathbone, as Wolf von Frankenstein, complains that people think the Monster's name is Frankenstein. (I did when I was a kid, and you probably did, too.) I always enjoy seeing those stark Castle Frankenstein sets, and the photography is nice throughout. Rowland V. Lee, the director, wasn't as much of a stylist as James Whale, who helmed the first two films, but he keeps things moving along briskly and the action-packed ending is both exciting and poignant. Overall, I find SON OF FRANKENSTEIN to be a huge amount of fun.

Those Universal horror movies scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, but at the same time I loved them. Every time I watch one of them these days, I still get a big kick out of it. That's the mark of a good movie. (Although I have to admit, while I was watching this one a part of me kept waiting for Frau Blucher to show up. And when the characters first arrived at the castle, I couldn't help but think, "What knockers!"...)

Monday, October 05, 2015

Now Available: The King of Horror & Other Stories- Stephen Mertz

"One of my favorite writers...a born storyteller...Enjoy!" – Max Allan Collins 
"Stephen Mertz writes a hard-edged, fast-paced thriller for those who like their tales straight and sharp." — Joe R. Lansdale 

For the past forty years, Stephen Mertz has been a bestselling author of thrillers and men's adventure novels, while also becoming known as one of the best mystery writers in the business. THE KING OF HORROR & OTHER STORIES, the complete collection of his short fiction, showcases the wide variety of his work, from Westerns and historicals to hardboiled private eye yarns to pure pulp adventure and razor-sharp suspense. 

Featuring an introduction by Evan Lewis and an afterword by Stephen Mertz, the stories in this volume include: 

The King of Horror 
The Death Blues 
Talon's Gift 
The Lizard Men of Blood River 
The Busy Corpse 
Take Two 
The Basics of Murder 
The Dark of Midnight 
Last Stand 
A Hit for the New Age 

Rough Edges Press is proud to present THE KING OF HORROR & OTHER STORIES. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sunday Morning Bonus Pulp: The Feds, March 1937

Featuring an adventure of the Federal Gorilla Bureau! Seriously, this cover seems to be illustrating a story by Alan Hathway called "The Gorilla Speaks", but I have no idea what it's about. Other authors in this issue are Steve Fisher, Paul Ernst, Laurence Donovan, Norman A. Daniels, Ben Conlon, George Allan Moffatt, Jean Francis Webb, and William G. Bogart. If you're keeping score, that's four guys who wrote Doc Savage novels (Hathway, Donovan, Daniels, and Bogart) and another who wrote under the Kenneth Robeson by-line (Ernst, on THE AVENGER), plus the fellow who wrote Pete Rice (Conlon) and one of the many Phantom Detective authors (Webb). Quite a line-up.