Archive for March, 2019

H.P. Lovecraft’s “In the Vault” (1925).

Posted in Angus Scrimm (actor), Arkham House, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, In the Vault (1925), Phantasm (movie franchise), The Dunwich Horror and Others (Arkham House), The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales with tags , , , , , , , on March 24, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

“Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft” by H.P. Lovecraft (2008, Gollancz).

Rummaging through boxes in my closet I found two story collections I’d been looking for as long as I have been at my current residence (6-7 years): The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, and Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft. I was so excited because most of my good books are packed away in boxes at present. I flipped through the Lovecraft book and read his early tale “In the Vault” (1925), which was one of the first tales I read of his some 30+ years ago in the Arkham House collection The Dunwich Horror and Others. At the time it really made an impression on me, but as I became more familiar with his work and was inundated with his Cthulhu Mythos it became lost in the back of my mind and I could only recall bits and pieces of the plot, the title long forgotten and even at one point confused with “The Tomb” (1922).

The Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft (1988, Arkham House).

If you haven’t read it, here is a synopsis from Wikipedia:

George Birch, undertaker for the New England town of Peck Valley, finds himself trapped in the vault where coffins are stored during winter for burial in the spring. When Birch stacks the coffins to reach a transom window, his feet break through the lid of the top coffin, injuring his ankles and forcing him to crawl out of the vault.

Later, Dr. Davis investigates the vault, and finds that the top coffin was one of inferior workmanship, which Birch used as a repository for Asaph Sawyer, a vindictive citizen whom Birch had disliked, even though the coffin had originally been built for the much shorter Matthew Fenner. Davis finds that Birch had cut off Sawyer’s feet in order to fit the body into the coffin, and the wounds in Birch’s ankles are actually teeth marks. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Vault#Plot, retrieved 03/24/2019]

Reading it now, I admire his ability to invoke the charnel atmosphere and his macabre invention, but having worked in a mortuary, however briefly, I know just how heavy corpse-laden caskets can be and I doubt that George Birch, the drunken protagonist of this gruesome tale, could have stacked four of them so easily, if at all (unless, of course, he was like Angus Scrimm‘s “Tall Man” from the Phantasm movie franchise). One of my first nights on the job a coworker almost lost his fingers lowering a no-frills travel casket into a crate when they got caught between the box and the crate. He was a big guy and there was another big guy on the other end (I was assisting on the side, guiding the casket into the crate). In the “real world” the drunken underhanded undertaker in Lovecraft’s tale would have perished in the vault with the disgruntled resurrected cadavers of his former clients… Just sayin’.

And that having been said, although it’s no Dunwich Horror, nor it does it feature any of the tropes and characters he is famous for, it is a fun creepy tale to read on a chilly autumn evening.

 

Galad Elflandsson’s “Tales of Carcosa” (2018)

Posted in Ace Books, Copper Toadstool (magazine), Cyäegha Press, Dragonbane (fanzine), Galad Elflandsson, Graeme Phillips (editor), H.P. Lovecraft, How Darkness Came to Carcosa, Robert W. Chambers, Steve Lines, Supernatural Horror in Literature (essay), Tales of Carcosa, The Black Wolf, The King in Yellow (1895) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Tales of Carcosa by Galad Elflandsson (2018, Cyäegha Press).

A while back I did a review on the dark fantasy novel The Black Wolf (1979), by Galad Elflandsson. Mr. Elflandsson saw my review and contacted me starting a correspondence which has been both genial and edifying. Although he has been out of circulation in recent decades, he has continued writing albeit for the most part he has abandoned his Fantasy roots. Even so, he was recently contacted by someone (presumably editor Graeme Phillips) over at Cyäegha Press about some stories he had written which appeared in various fantasy and horror themed journals back in the late 70s and early 80s, like Dark Fantasy, Dragonbane, and Copper Toadstool.

Dragonbane #1 (1978) in which first appeared the story How Darkness Came to Carcosa.

The stories in question were of a specific ilk, focusing on the themes and characters that originated in the book The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers, later incorporated by H.P. Lovecraft into his mythos and augmented upon by subsequent mythos authors. Galad Elflandsson was one such author. According to his afterword, he picked up a copy of the 1965 Ace paperback edition after reading Lovecraft’s rhapsodic endorsement in his benchmark essay Supernatural Horror in Literature. Apparently it left an impression on him because he eventually wrote his own cycle of tales set within the purlieu of Carcosa.

The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (1965, Ace Books).

The tales as I found them, are entertaining although not as fast paced as his novel, The Black Wolf. Knowing his personal writing, I could recognize his penchant for focusing on the human experience. The Exile in particular has a focus on social/class issues and the inner world of the protagonist, Henri. In fact, many of the tales herein seem almost like a mixture of existential literature, and Fin de siècle decadence with a soupçon of horror thrown in on occasion to remind one that these are dark fantasy tales after all. As with The Black Wolf, I would have liked a bit more of a macabre atmosphere maintained throughout, but that is just a personal quirk of mine. I think my favorite story was the opening tale, How Darkness Came to Carcosa, which apparently delineates the origin of the King in the Pallid Mask, and I especially liked the few poems which are scattered throughout the book alongside fitting illustrations by Steve Lines.  Over all, it is a highly enjoyable read, and one does not necessarily need to be familiar with the extended mythos built around Carcosa or The King in Yellow to enjoy these tales, but it wouldn’t hurt going in knowing the reputation behind the forbidden play and the significance of the Yellow Sign.

The book appears to be a limited run, my copy being #8/50 numbered copies, so if you see it, grab it!

 

Update 03/22/2019: Dimas Akelarre

Posted in Dimas Akelarre, S.T. Joshi on March 22, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I just received a polite rejection notice from S.T. Joshi for Dimas Akelarre. His assessment was that it was too dense and had too many obscure references in several languages (incl. Spanish, Basque, and Latin). It was not my actual intention to be obscure or (let’s face it) pretentious, but I can understand his critique and take it seriously. He suggested I try to keep things a little simpler and I will keep that in mind moving forward. I think I shall bench Dimas… until further notice.

Frankenstein: The True Story (1973)

Posted in Amicus, Frankenstein, Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), Hammer Horror, James Mason (actor), Jane Seymour, John Polidori, Mark Maddox, Mary Shelley, The Vampyre (1819) with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Spanish poster for Frankenstein: The True Story.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I have been a life-long fan of all things Frankensteinian. Growing up I watched any movie or TV show that featured Mary Shelley’s monster. Over the years there have been a few that professed to portray the definitive faithful adaptation of the influential novel, but none have truly depicted the story as it was written. One such production is the two-part TV miniseries Frankenstein: The True Story (1973).

Add for 1st episode, presumably, from TV Guide.

Adapted by novelist Christopher Isherwood, it does portray events and characters from the 1818 novel not usually portrayed in other filmic adaptations, but it still takes several liberties with the story. One of the biggest changes was the inclusion of Dr. Polidori, who seems to be a stand in for the character Dr. Pretorius, from Universal’s The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Dr. John Polidori, in reality, was Lord Byron’s personal physician and traveling companion, and he was present during the fateful evening at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva in Switzerland when 18 year old Mary first conceived of the grisly tale which has fascinated scholars and fans of macabre and fantastic fiction for centuries. Polidori, only 21 at the time of the celebrated soiree,  was hardly the gaffer portrayed by English actor James Mason. He is known nowadays mostly as the author of The Vampyre (1819) “the progenitor of the romantic vampire literary genre” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein#Composition, retrieved 02/21/2019).

John William Polidori, by F.G. Gainsford (floruit 1805-1822), given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1895. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Polidori#/media/File:John_William_Polidori_by_F.G._Gainsford.jpg retrieved 03/05/2019).

It’s been decades since I read Ms. Shelley’s novel so I couldn’t quite cite specifics, although there are some obvious ones which bear mentioning. For starters, the role of Victor Frankenstein’s boyhood friend Henry Clerval (played by a young David McCallum, a/k/a “Ducky” from the TV series NCIS) who for some reason in the mini series is the instigator for Victor’s experiment and the source for the creature’s brain. In the novel, he is just a good friend who is later murdered by the creature. There is also the creature itself who in the miniseries starts out as a handsome young man then deteriorates into a gnarly walking corpse. The biggest change I think is the bride, who in the novel never gets created. In the mini series, she is created using parts from Agatha, daughter of the blind man the creature befriends. The bride here is played by actress Jane Seymour, who looks stunning and plays the bride as a rather coquettish, bourgeoning femme fatale. Her death scene is the one bit that stuck in my head from when I first saw it as a boy on it’s original run.

Jane Seymour as Prima (the Bride).

Overall, I can tell what the makers of Frankenstein: The True Story were going for, but I think they missed their mark by a longshot. They had an all star cast but the script was weak and some of their plot choices are befuddling to say the least. There are some interesting ideas and images, however, and I can now watch it will a little less antipathy than I was wont to in the past.

DVD for Frankenstein: The True Story.

 

Apparently, the fanzine Little Shoppe of Horrors The Journal of Classic British Horror Films, which specializes in Hammer Horror, Amicus and related Gothic Horror films, featured an in depth article on the making of Frankenstein: The True Story in their 38th issue. The artwork by Mark Maddox is quite striking.

Detail from artwork for The Epic Untold Saga Behind Frankenstein: The True Story by Mark Maddox for Little Shoppe of Horrors #38.

 

 

 

 

 

Requisite author pics for Spectral Realms #10

Posted in Gargoyle, Hippocampus Press, Morbidezza, Prose Poetry, Spectral Realms, Thérèse Lavery with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Just a quick post of some photos my friend Thérèse Lavery took of me showing off my contributor copy of Spectral Realms #10 from Hippocampus Press.

Me and Spectral Realms #10.

My prose poem Morbidezza, which can be found on pgs. 30-31.

My prose poem Gargoyle, which can be found on page 75.

Update 03/01/2019: Rosaire

Posted in Ashley Dioses, Hector Laureano, Horror Harvest, Rosaire, Scott J. Couturier, Spectral Realms with tags , , , , , on March 3, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I heard back from Hector Laureano and he seems to be a very nice fellow, and I shall be sending him my updated edit of Rosaire tomorrow when I go through my messages again*. He said it’ll take a while before the Horror Harvest comes out, but when it does he promised a contributor copy. Still no word from Miss Ashley though. I hope I have not overstepped my bounds somehow by asking her to do this for me.+

I got a very nice message from author/poet Scott J. Couturier o how much he enjoyed reading my contributions to Spectral Realms #10. He singled out Morbidezza as his favorite of the two and called it “a fantastic piece of dark & decadent dreaming…”

 

*Updated edit sent as of 03/02/2019

+She messaged me on FB apologizing for the delayed response, citing other commitments, and said she would take a look at Moribond when she has a chance.