Archive for Stephen King

Update 06/15/2020: Melting candles and Blood Machines

Posted in Blood Machines (2019), Daniel Radcliffe, Death Race 2000, Edgar Allan Poe, Edmund Dulac, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (2004), Good Omens (2019), Guns Akimbo (2019), Joy Bingham Strimple, Matt Berry, Matthew Holness, Ned Dennehy, Planet Poe, Samara Weaving, Stephen King, What We Do in the Shadows (TV series), Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

This past weekend was definitely an odd one. For starters, I noticed on Friday evening that I was sweating in my bedroom. I went to my AC unit and tried to raise the cooling temp on it (or lower, I never can figure those things out) and found that the digital screen was blank and it was unresponsive to my flicking of the switches. I contacted my leasing office and eventually was told how to fix it (possibly a fuse box issue) but the AC was unresponsive to my ministrations. I am still sweating buckets in my room despite having two fans blowing on me, and the miniature ritual candles I just bought have been warping in the heat, so I put them in my fridge to keep them from melting entirely. Hopefully I can get someone to come in and fix this asap.

I visited my buddy Zach Strupp again for a belated birthday celebration. There were a few people there, but still under the 10 person limit. No masks were worn, but we kept to ourselves. It was nice to see my friends and we had some great food (homemade chicken and waffles!) and we saw some fun videos. I caught a bit of a British comedy/horror series called Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004), which IMDB describes thusly: “This parody series is an unearthed 80s horror/drama, complete with poor production values, awful dialogue and hilarious violence. The series is set in a Hospital in Romford, which is situated over the gates of Hell.”

Poster art for Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004).

I didn’t see more than about 10-15 minutes of it, but it was hysterical! Matt Berry (Laszlo, from What We Do in the Shadows) is part of an ensemble cast that is lead by comedian Matthew Holness who plays Garth Merenghi, the UK’s answer to Stephen King, and he introduces AND stars in his own series based on his novels. Zach has promised a marathon one of these days soon. We then watched a strange little show called Blood Machines (2019) of which Zach claimed is “As close to a Warhammer 40k live action film as we’ve gotten. The imagery is exactly how I imagine the Eye of Terror and specifically Slaanesh’s domain to be.” This means nothing to me, as I have not read those books, but I did enjoy the show, which reminded me of a darker take on some of the BBC Sci Fi series. We watched three episodes, which were only 15 minutes a piece, and it was visually stunning, albeit a bit hard to follow narrative-wise.

Poster art for Blood Machines (2019).

Lastly, we watched the Kiwi action/comedy Guns Akimbo (2019) with Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving. It was a wild ride and featured a great supporting cast of actors. Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) trolls a website that broadcasts video of a fight to the death event, à la Death Race 2000. People across the nation tune in to see contestants try to hunt one another down in a fight to the death. He is noticed by the leader of the group, Riktor, portrayed by actor Ned Dennehy (Hastur, from Good Omens) who has guns bolted onto both Miles’ hands and forces him to take part in the show, pitted against its champion assassin, Nix (Samara Weaving). Miles runs all over town trying to avoid Nix and ends up becoming a celebrity by staying alive so long despite all the near misses and setbacks he faces. There is a lot going on besides, but I do not want to ruin it for anyone who wishes to see the film. The supporting cast is great and there are many familiar faces here for anyone who has seen any genre film or television show produced in New Zealand.

South Korean poster for Guns Akimbo (2019).

I also recorded another recital, this one of Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem, The Conqueror Worm, which I dedicated to both my former colleague from Planet Poe, Joy Bingham Strimple, and my little cousin Bella. I included my cousin because I used my copy of The Raven and Other Poems by E.A. Poe, illustrated by Edmund Dulac, for reference and I bought her a copy of the same book a while back, which she seemed to enjoy. It went over fairly well, and I got another recommendation to start a YouTube channel for my recitation videos. I may do that in the very near future, after some research.

The Raven and Other Poems By Edgar Allan Poe Illustrated by Edmund Dulac. (2011)



Update 04/01/2020: Quarantine Blues.

Posted in Allen Koszowski, Ashley Dioses, Blood Ceremony (band), Boris Karloff, Chapbooks, Clark Ashton Smith, Derek Fetler, Edgar Allan Poe, Giallo, Hereditary (2018), Paul Naschy, Robert H. Knox, Somerset Maugham, Southwestern Horror, Spanish Horror Films, Stephen King, The Magician (1908), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Stand (miniseries), The Wolf Man, Thriller TV Series, Updates, Video Watchdog, William Peter Blatty, Zachary Strupp with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2020 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, it is April 1st, April Fool’s Day, and the joke is on us all. This Covid-19 is the pits. I hope that, if you are reading this, you are well, and that you and your loved ones are safe and sound. As far as I know, my family and friends are okay. I say as far as I know, because I am shut off from access to most of my regular communication venues. I am a bit of a luddite and have no personal Internet service, and I have an old flip phone, so I can do nothing but call or text. I keep in touch regularly with my parents, and they fill me in on family stuff, but many of my friends I only communicate with through social media, which I have no access to at present. Nor do I have access to my personal email. I am only able to do updates on here because my work computer does not block access to my blog.

Yes, I am still working. I do captioning for the hearing impaired, and we are considered essential workers, for the time being anyway. I work 10 hour days listening to phone calls of people freaking out about the virus. It is a bit overwhelming sometimes, and I generally go home feeling depleted. Once I settle in, I generally just make supper, watch a DVD from my vast collection, then maybe I’ll read for a bit or listen to a CD before retiring for the night. I live alone, and if ever I were lonely, this has been exacerbated tenfold by the quarantine. In normal times, I would have a few social activities which would keep me feeling connected. I would go to my local coffee shop every morning and chat with the staff and a few of the regulars who were nice enough to engage me in conversation, and I had family visits as well as my frequent movie/game night soirees with my friends at my buddy Zach’s house. Now I have none of that, and weekends in particular, I get cabin fever and pace my apartment itching for a human interaction. For selfish reasons, I want this all to end and everything to go back to normal. I also am fearful that someone I know will get this, especially my loved ones who have vulnerabilities.

Anyway, to pass the time I have been reading and watching DVDs, as I’ve said. In the beginning I foolishly consumed a bunch of stories and movies with plague themes and basically spooked myself! I started out by reading Poe‘s The Masque of the Red Death. It’s a masterfully written story and very effective.  I couldn’t help but think of those covidiots (a new term I’ve seen written on a dry-erase board at work) having parties or going to the beach, then getting sick. In fact, I even heard tell of a bunch of well-to-do folks from Scottsdale or some such affluent neighborhood that got together to hunker down in some remote rural area to keep out the riff raff but, as in Poe’s fateful tale, the Covid-19 held illimitable Dominion over all. 

“The dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet”. illustration by Harry Clarke.

 I did re-watch the 1964 Roger Corman film eventually, but not right away. It is a fun film and I hope to do a separate post about it some day soon. I then watched the miniseries of Stephen King’s The Stand, which was like an amped up version of what’s going on right now. It was a bit eerie to watch. After thoroughly spooking myself, I decided to lay off the plague films for a while. I watched several episodes of the TV series Thriller, featuring Boris Karloff. Then I re-watched Hereditary (2018), which I’d checked out from the library before they closed. I’d been putting it off for a while, but finally gave in. It is a brilliant movie but harrowing to watch. I remember being white-knuckled, gripping the armrest of my seat when I saw it in the theater with my buddy Chester. I followed that with a viewing of “The Version You’ve Never Seen” of the Exorcist. I enjoyed it in the theater when it came out in the early 2000s, but seeing it now, with a more critical eye, I believe it’s a perfect example of “gilding the lily”. Although it’s interesting to see the additional footage (Regan’s spider walk down the stair is especially fun to finally see after having reading about it in Video Watchdog over 20 years ago) some of the new scenes mess up the pacing and diminish the impact of the more shocking or thrilling moments. Also the image of Captain Howdy is startling when seen briefly in Father Karas’ dream sequence in the original cut. but seeing the same image pasted all over the film like graffiti is almost risible.

Captain Howdy

This week I’ve been watching my Paul Naschy DVDs. For the uninitiated, Paul Naschy is the stage-name of Jacinto Molina, a Spanish actor/writer/director  who is renowned for his films series based on the character of Waldemar Daninsky, a reluctant werewolf in the mode of Larry Talbot from the Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf Man series. Naschy also co-wrote and starred in many other horror/thriller/exploitation films in a career than spanned from the late 60s till his death in 2009.

Blue-ray double feature of classic Paul Naschy features.

His movies are Gothic fever dreams. Like the giallo films of Italy, they don’t make much narrative sense, but their intensity and graphic imagery leave an indelible mark on one’s psyche. Unlike the Italian gialli, however, Naschy’s films are a bit less stylish and are more rough around the edges. Fun fact: my current favorite band, Blood Ceremony, sampled an ominous snippet of Naschy’s dialog from 1972’s El espanto surge de la tumba (Horror Rises from the Tomb) for their song Oliver Haddo, the first of two tributes they penned about the villain from Somerset Maugham‘s 1908 novel The Magician.

I began last week with 1980’s El Retorno del Hombre Lobo (The Return of the Wolfman) a remake of his most successful film 1972’s La Noche de Walpurgis (Shadow of the Werewolf). Essentially, the film pits the werewolf Waldemar Daninsky against a vampiric Countess Bathory. Werewolves + sexy vampires + skeleton knights = Gothic Horror fun.

 Next on the video machine was 1974’s Exorcismo which, despite what Naschy may have said to the contrary, has many scenes that are at the very least inspired by William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist. I then watched 1973’s La rebelión de las muertas (Vengeance of the Zombies) where Naschy plays no less than 3 roles! In a convoluted story of supernatural vengeance, the daughters of a handful of prominent English families, with ties to an old scandal that occurred in India, are being murdered then resurrected as zombies to mete out vengeance on their own people from beyond the grave! Thugees and voodoo; two great tastes that taste great together! Last night I watched 1972’s La Orgia de los Muertos (The Hanging Woman), in which Naschy guest stars as a necrophilic grave digger. This too features murderous reanimated corpses. We’ll see if I continue my marathon tonight or not.

Nostalgia of the Unknown: The Complete Prose Poetry of Clark Ashton Smith (1988, Necronomicon Press, cover art by Robert H. Knox)

Just before the self-imposed quarantine, I received a package from artist Robert H. Knox containing a 2nd printing of the Necronomicon Press chapbook Nostalgia of the Unknown: The Complete Prose Poetry of Clark Ashton Smith. (1988), signed by Knox. I had lost my original copy a couple of years ago, and this was a welcome replacement. Inside the package was also another chapbook Manfish & Other Tales, which he also signed, and a card that featured the poem Djinn Deceiver by my fellow weird poet Ashley Dioses, illustrated by Allen Koszowski.

The Smith chapbook contains the prose poem Offerings, which my old cohort Derek Fetler and I recorded as a spoken word recording accompanied by synthesizer back around 1989-90. I once had it on cassette tape, which I have long since lost. I need to ask him if I can still get a CD burn of that some day.

Anyway, thus ends my first quarantine missive. I will try to keep in touch with you all as I can. Be safe, be well…

PS: I forgot to mention that Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht  (Nosferatu the Vampyre) was the third plague film that I watched. In this 1979 remake of the 1922 Murnau film, Herzog emphasizes the connection between Count Dracula and the plague. Rats infest the town of Wismar, Germany, and people cavort in the town square with farm animals as the world around them falls apart and coffins pile up by the dozens. This is another film I have much to say about and hope to do a separate post for it on here some day soon.

The plague scene from Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979). Note the rats under the table.


Joe Hill’s NOS4A2

Posted in Joe Hill (author), Mary Elizabeth Winstead, NOS4A2 (novel), Stephen King, Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland with tags , , , , on December 24, 2019 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I just re-read the Christmas Horror novel NOS4A2, by Joe Hill, for the monthly Horror Book Club I attend. It is such a creepy and imaginative book. Hill has some of his father’s bad habits, like a tendency towards vulgarity, playing heavily on nostalgia, giving way too much background information on his characters, and being long winded in general (NOS4A2 is 720 pages long), but he also has his gift for creating relatable characters and displays a deftness for creating unique horror situations.

The plot is a little involved so here is a synopsis from the Harper Collins website:

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. The journey across the highway of Charlie’s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

Then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble…and finds her way to Charlie. That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie’s evil is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx hasn’t stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won’t slow down until he’s taken his revenge. He’s after something very special—something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds, Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all—or die trying.

[retrieved from 12/24/2019]

I loved this novel; I loved Vic, and Charlie Manx is a great villain. Christmasland and the monster children were terrifying and very original. On the second time around reading, I recognized some of the references to his other novels as well as the work of his father, Stephen King.  Here is a detailed explanation of the connections from Wikipedia:

The novel includes several references to Joe Hill’s other works. Charles Manx, discussing the concept of “inscapes” and secret places, refers to the Treehouse of the Mind (from Horns) and Craddock McDermott (from Heart-Shaped Box). Later in the novel, the FBI tries to use a cell phone map to track Wayne’s cell phone; the map includes the town of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, from Locke & Key. According to Hill, the novel also includes references to two novels, Orphanhenge and The Crooked Alley, that he may publish in the future.

Hill also included several references to the works of his father, Stephen King. Manx refers to the gates to Mid-World and Shawshank Prison, and says that the True Knot follow nearly the same profession as he does. The phone map also shows Derry, Maine, and a place called “Pennywise’s Circus”. Hill describes Vic’s return from Christmasland as returning “to the clearing at the end of the path”, a reference to the Dark Tower books. In an interview, Hill says that these references were not meant to tie his works to King’s shared world. He claims he was “just fooling around”.

Supporting character The Gas Mask Man says, “My life for you,” in a desperate show of devotion to Manx, a clear reference to the same line spoken by the Trashcan Man to Randall Flagg of King’s The Stand. It is also the same phrase that Andrew Quick, the Tick Tock Man, says to Flagg in book 3 of The Dark Tower series.

A minor character is listening to Frobisher’s Cloud Atlas Sextet on the radio just before being killed. This would seem to connect the reality of NOS4A2 with that of David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas, in which the character Robert Frobisher composes the aforementioned work. A minor character also has the last name de Zoet, another reference to the works of David Mitchell.

In the short story “Dark Carousel”, one of the carousel creatures on the titular ride “was a gift from Manx, who runs Christmasland in Colorado”.

[ retrieved 12/24/2019]

My copy of the novel is a special Christmas edition with a few spot illustrations and decorations not found in the regular edition, which made it fun to read.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (2013 William Morrow / HarperCollins )

I always thought it was a very visual piece that would make a great film, and envisioned Mary Elizabeth Winstead in the role of Vic McQueen. When I heard they were making a TV series I was psyched but, unfortunately, they ruined it. The few bits I saw didn’t  resemble anything I recalled from the book.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” (2010).

I also have the limited edition comic book series, Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland, that tells the tale of how the villain Charlie Manx came to be, which added to the experience.

Wraith: Welcome to Christmasland  #1 from IDW

Watercolor Macabre

Posted in Classics Illustrated, Edgar Allan Poe, Horror Art, Jerusalem's Lot, Night Shift book, Stephen King, The Raven and Other Poems, watercolor painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

While rummaging through my storage locker, I found a plastic bag which contained some watercolor paintings I had done in the 90’s. Prior to that, I hadn’t played with paints since I was in grade school, and I am not 100% certain what prompted me to take it up at this moment, but I did and the results were interesting, if not spectacular, and definitely macabre in theme. Unfortunately, the best of the lot, a depiction of Madeline Usher in the climactic scene from Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher”, seems to be missing. My parents had it hanging on the wall of their study for years but it seems to have been misplaced and they could not locate it last I asked them about it. The eight remaining paintings are a mixed bag, but each have their things to recommend them. The first is “The Conqueror Worm”, inspired by the Poe poem of the same name. I believe somewhere in the back of my mind was the Gahan Wilson illustration for the same piece, from the Classics Illustrated version of “The Raven and Other Poems”. Looking at it now, it also brings to mind the worm from Stephen King’s “Jerusalem’s Lot” story in “Night Shift”.

“The Conqueror Worm”

Next is “Kiss of Death”, inspired a little by “Death and the Maiden”, which I believe was an alternate idea for a title name. Note the blood smear on the young maid’s lips; she has just received the fatal smooch. Kiss of Death Here is another graveyard scene. I think “Ascension” when I see this one, although it’s really just a ghost rising from a fissure in the cemetery grounds.


This one is called “The Monster & the Crucifix”. It was inspired by something I’d read about a scene which was never shot for James Whale’s “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), with Boris Karloff. In it, he has just escaped imprisonment and is racing through the local graveyard when he comes across a life-sized crucifix. Seeing the crucified Jesus, he runs to help him and pull him off the cross. The censors said “no”, but I said “yes”. I made the monster look different because I wanted to make it my own interpretation. Besides, I wasn’t sure I could do ole Boris the proper justice in reproducing his image.

“The Monster & the Crucifix”

This one is called “The Lair” and was partially inspired by the Munster’s pet dragon, Spot, which lived under their stairwell. In the lead-in to the show I believe they have a flash of his eyes lighting up as he breathes fire in the darkness.

“The Lair”

This one I think I’ll call “Vampyre”. I realize this is the second redhead to appear here, but they do not represent anyone in particular. It was partially an aesthetic choice because red contrasts better with some of the other colors I used in the paintings. Also I believe I had in mind the idea that in the Old World, redheads were usually associated more with witchcraft and the supernatural. I think this one has a bit of the Hammer Horror feel to it. My vampire here looks like she could be one of the Hammer Glamour Girls with her red hair, colorful cloak and dress, as well as her prominent cleavage. Her victim is an attempt at portraying myself as I looked at the time. I never get me right.


This next one is pretty gruesome. I suppose I’d call it “Burn”. For some reason I was going to do a series of paintings related to dungeons, torture, and execution,  and this was the first. The most notable things I see here are the thickness of the flames and the detail of his eyes having been burnt. Perhaps he saw something he wasn’t supposed to?


The last painting, “Inferno” is probably the most striking one. Intended as part of my aforementioned series, I decided to make it take place in some underworld dungeon. The victim is hanging upside down, suspended by a chain which is held by nothing. The torturer is blue, perhaps a demon of some sort. He is expressionless. The victim seems to be smiling, but I intentionally made his muscles droop to show he’d been hanging in that position for a very long time. His parchment yellow skin was inspired by an early promotional photo of the group Iron Maiden taken in the torture room at Madame Tussaud’s  Wax Museum, where a corpse in a gibbet sports a similar hue.


Of course, aside from the shocking full-frontal torture scene, the most striking thing to my eye is the fiery backdrop. I made a point of making it look as hot and bright as I could. The rights to all of these images are mine, so if you want to re-post them, just ask for permission and let me know what you intend to use them for, and I shall be glad to give my consent. In the same batch of artwork I found some colored pencil illustrations I did for various poems of mine, here are links to their respective pages:

“The Author” another botched attempt at drawing myself (the author) and some of the creatures from my poetry. Featured here are my “Flower of Evil”, “Gargoyle”, “My Friend Boris”, and the symbol from “Conjunctio” an esoter-otica poem I am too skittish about to publish publicly.

Flower of Evil:

Early Poems (Coup de Corps / The Necromancer / My Friend Boris):

Ray Russell’s “Sardonicus”

Posted in Frankenstein, Gothic Tales, Guy Rolfe, H.P. Lovecraft, modern gothic, Movie Reviews, Mr Sardonicus, Ray Russell, Sardonicus, Stephen King, William Castle with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2014 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have always fancied myself to be somewhat of an epicure in the terrible, a term coined by H.P. Lovecraft in his story “The Picture in the House” (1920); so imagine my surprise when I finally read “Sardonicus” , by Ray Russell.

Paperback of

Paperback of “Sardonicus” by Ray Russell (1961 Ballantine Books).

Here was a mid 20th century author writing a Gothic Tale in 1961 that could have been penned in 1861!  It’s not just that he wrote a Gothic Tale long after that genre had waned, but he seemed to understand the style, the language of the genre. He even used the convention of not giving specific dates. Anyone who has read Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” or any number of books from the 18th and 19th centuries may have wondered at the practice of giving partial dates like this: “August 13th, 17–” [Frankenstein or, the Modern Prometheus: the 1818 Text, pg 22, Shelley, Mary W., Rieger, James ed., 1982, University of Chicago Press]

I am not entirely sure why this was done originally, but it is a definite nod to the genre by Mr. Russell, almost like a secret handshake to fans. Stephen King is quoted to have called it “perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written” (, retrieved 03-24-2014) although I have yet to see the original source of the quote.

The story begins with Sir Robert Cargrave, a doctor in 19th century London, England, receiving a mysterious letter from what turns out to be an old flame of his, Maude Randall, a young lady of great beauty and charm, with an enthusiasm for the opera, who had disappeared from his life seven years prior when her family had fallen on hard times and her father had committed suicide causing Maude to drop out of society. Now she is married to a man from the continent, a certain Mr Sardonicus. Sardonicus has a peculiar affliction and has read of Cargrave’s ground breaking medical work and upon learning of Maude’s previous acquaintance with the doctor, decides to invite him to his home in Bohemia for a visit and a private (discreet) consultation.

Cargrave and Maude.

Cargrave and Maude.

Cargrave, anxious to revisit his former crush accepts the invitation. Initially, the reunion is a joyous one, but Cargrave soon relizes that his former sweetheart is unhappily living like a prisoner in her own home, with no outside contact and under the oppressive thumb of her husband, a dark and mysterious man who seems to only be tolerating Cargrave’s presence so he can get a diagnosis for an eventual cure of his affliction. It seems that Mr. Sardonicus had a traumatic shock which has frozen his face in a grotesque grimace that is so unsettling he wears a mask most of the time to obscure it and must take meals by himself because his feeding process is unbearable to witness.

“It was the same mirthless grin I had seen once before: on the face of a person in the last throes of lockjaw. We physicians have a name for that chilling grimace, a Latin name, and as it entered my mind, it seemed to dispel yet another mystery, for the term we use to describe the lockjaw smile is risus sardonicus.”  (Russell, Ray. “Sardonicus” Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories. Ed. Guillermo Del Toro. Penguin Books, 2013. p 16.)

A masked Sardonicus leans in to strike his beleaguered wife.

A masked Sardonicus leans in to strike his beleaguered wife.

At first, Cargrave is uncertain as to whether he can help and when he demurs Sardonicus threatens to harm Maude. Eventually, he agrees to try a highly unusual and untested treatment to get Sardonicus to back off, but he also has a trick up his sleeve.

Cargrave begins his treatment on Sardonicus.

Cargrave begins his treatment on Sardonicus.

The story touches all of the great Gothic themes and devices but never sounds forced or derivative of any specific tale.

Movie poster for

Movie poster for “Mr Sardonicus” (1961).

The story was made into a film by B-movie director William Castle with Russell writing the screenplay that expanded the role of Sardonicus’s anonymous (in the story) manservant as an evil henchman named Krull.

Krull spends his downtime torturing young women from the village. Here he is punishing Anna, the maid for telling Sir Cargrave of the unorthodox experiments she has been subjected to by Sardonicus in order to test possible treatments for his affliction.

Krull spends his downtime torturing young women from the village. Here he is punishing Anna, the maid, for telling Sir Cargrave of the unorthodox experiments she has been subjected to by Sardonicus in order to test possible treatments for his affliction.

The make-up for Sardonicus, once his face is revealed, seems a little hokey by today’s standards, but the rest of the film is for the most part spot on in comparison to the novella. Castle’s gimmick for the film was to hand out cards to the audience to vote thumbs up or down whether they thought Sardonicus was to be shown mercy for his transgressions or given prejudicial punishment. He even stops the story within the film and feigns to count the cards in the audience to see what the crowd decides as per the villain’s fate but there was only one ending ever filmed so it is just a gag to get the audience involved.


Castle’s “Punishment Poll” card, which was handed out to audience members to vote on the fate of Mr. Sardonicus.

If you do however come across “Sardonicus” or any other Ray Russell collections I suggest you pick it up and treat yourself to some fine storytelling in the Gothic style but with a modern sensibility.  The movie is a hoot, but currently out of print, so definitely pick that up as well if you see it reasonably priced.

Mr Sardonicus DVD

Mr Sardonicus DVD

Stephen King’s “Graveyard Shift”

Posted in Graveyard Shift 1990, Night Shift, Stephen King with tags , , on October 23, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Poster for

Poster for “Graveyard Shift” (1990).

Although it’s not considered one of the better film adaptations (it rates a dismal 13% on the Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” [ retrieved 10/19/2013]) I do get a kick out of watching the 1990 film adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Graveyard Shift”. While I freely concede that it is not a classic like Brian De Palma’s “Carrie” (1976) or Stanley Kubrick’s re-envisioning of “The Shining” (1980), it isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other silver screen atrocities that have been perpetrated in the movie houses across the land in the name of Horror Cinema.

Signet paperback edition of

Signet paperback edition of “Night Shift” (1984).

So, even with King’s loyal and forgiving fanbase, why has this movie been so largely dismissed? I believe that perhaps the root of this diss might lie in the faithfulness (or not) of the adaptation. To test my theory, I re-read the story, which can be found in King’s short story collection “Night Shift” (1978). Having first read “Night Shift” on a family road trip back in 1985 or so, I’d largely forgotten the details of the stories, especially the ones which weren’t overtly horrific (I was an impressionable teenager after all). Re-reading it was quite an enjoyable experience, and with the movie fresh in my mind from a recent viewing, I kept my eyes peeled for any obvious differences between the tale and the film. I didn’t have to go far before I noticed the first big divergence in the story: there are no women.

Foreman Warwick harasses Jane Wisconsky.

Foreman Warwick harasses Jane Wisconsky.

The whole movie subplot of foreman Warwick being a womanizer who sexually harasses his female staff is solely an invention of the screenwriter John Esposito, and it also follows that there is no love interest for Hall, the protagonist of the tale. I understand Hollywood’s annoying habit of fleshing out classic horror stories with fodder for for the masses in order to broaden their box-office  appeal, but in this case it’s distracting and it takes up a good portion of the film. A fan of the original story, watching the film for the first time might wonder when the storyline is going to resemble its source material.

Night Shift (Doubleday, 1978).

Night Shift (Doubleday, 1978).

Another weakness in the film adaptation is the decision to make Hall an outsider who is bullied by the other mill workers at the local eatery. He does nothing to defend or redeem himself, so why should we care what happens to him? Also, actor David Andrews’ portrayal of the story’s anti-hero is lackluster at best. Even at the movie’s pivotal moment when his co-worker / love interest Jane (Wisconsky, who in the King story is a whiny, fearful man who like the other characters of the tale is only ever referred to by his surname) is fatally stabbed by Warwick as she attempts to pull him off of Hall, after he has pinned him down on a pile of human bones in the monster’s lair; Hall just holds her briefly in his arms then leaves her body to the vermin of the mill without a backward glance as he makes a run for it. Also, I just have to say that I lived in New England for 8 years and never met anyone with an accent like the one actor Stephen Macht used for the character of Warwick.

Daalph S Singleton prepare to shoot a scene.

David Andrews (left) and director Ralph S Singleton prepare to shoot a scene.

Another significant change in the story is the addition of the exterminator, Tucker Cleveland, portrayed by Horror film veteran Brad Dourif in an over-the-top performance, even for him. This character was created for the film and was not featured in the King story. Although Dourif’s performance is arguably amusing to watch, his monologue about the rats in Vietnam betraying the US soldiers by eating them in the VC prison camps after they’d shared their food with them is laughable and not a little insensitive to the many soldiers and citizens who suffered horribly during that war in such camps.

Brad Dourif as the exterminator, Tucker Cleveland, in Graveyard Shift (1990).

Brad Dourif as the exterminator, Tucker Cleveland, in Graveyard Shift (1990).

The film does pick up a bit when it gets to the part that involves the original plot-line where Warwick takes a select crew into the bowels of the Bartlett Mill (dubbed “Bachmann Mill” for the film in honor of King’s nom de plume)  to clean out some old files and rotted furniture during the off- season. The environment down there is creepy, with crumbing fungus-ridden floorboards, hidden passages and trap doors, nasty bugs and the icing on the cake is that the whole dilapidated mess is totally infested with rats, which they ward off with high powered water hoses. In the story, the deeper they go into the bowels of the mill, the larger and weirder the rats become. Eventually, in the deep, dark corners of the mill, they come across 3 foot tall blind albino rats with missing hind-legs, which seem to be on part of an evolutionary chain to becoming giant rat-bats, sprouting wings but retaining their rat-tails.

The monster of the

The monster of the “Graveyard Shift” (1990).

This is the model for the monster of the film, which seems to be a giant rat-bat creature that slinks around the mill, picking off the mill workers one by one. The monster in the book however, only appears once and seems more like Jabba the Hut, a giant hairless slug-like creature, reclining in her lair. She has no wings and also lacks hind-legs. Hall forces Warwick into her den where he is killed. Hall, trying to get away, ends up being overwhelmed by the encroaching rats and the rat-bat hybrid creatures. The movie, on the other hand, ends on a semi-happy note with Hall luring the “magna mater” (“great mother”, i.e. the queen rat) into the upper levels of the mill where she gets her tail caught in a thresher of some sort, which reels it in to be crushed twixt its rolling pins.

Over all, I still enjoy watching the film, and I understand the logic behind some of the changes, I just think they might have worked better if they’d been wrought by hands that were more accustomed to working in the Horror genre.

Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 7, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

 Peter Straub's "Ghost Story" (1979 Coward, McCann & Geoghegan)

Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” (1979 Coward, McCann & Geoghegan)

I cannot recall when I first saw it, but I have been a longtime fan of the 1981 film adaptation of Peter Straub’s 1979 novel, “Ghost Story”. Despite my enthusiasm for the film, however, I never read the novel; so one day I decided to fix this by picking up a copy of the mass-market paperback and, much to my chagrin, I hated it! Mostly, this was because it seemed to be nothing like the movie that I knew and loved so well. I read about half of it, then sold my copy out of frustration. Over the next year or so, I read articles praising the book and spoke to friends who swore that if I gave it another chance I would like it. What sold me, however, was reading Stephen King’s take on the novel in “Danse Macabre”, his renowned treatise on the Horror genre, where he praises it as being “the best of the supernatural novels to be published in the wake of the three books that kicked off a new horror “wave” in the seventies—those three, of course, being Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Other.” [Stephen King “Danse Macabre” Berkley 1983 pg 253]

Paperback edition (Pocket Books 1980)

Paperback edition (Pocket Books 1980)

As luck would have it, I was able to procure a discard of the paperback from the bookstore where I work, so I didn’t have to purchase it again. This time I tried to read the story without expectations and accept it as a separate entity from its film adaptation. Approaching it in this manner allowed me to take in the myriad threads of the novel’s multi-layered plotline. I then saw how everything fit in, including the Bate brothers who are much more significant and menacing the novel than their on-screen counterparts. But I am getting ahead of myself here…

Promotional photo of the delectable Ms. Krige.

Promotional photo of the delectable Ms. Krige.

The film features the delectable Alice Krige as the enigmatic Eva Galli / Alma Mobley character, along with a host of aged stars from the early days of Hollywood, including Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Houseman and Melvyn Douglas, a/k/a the “Chowder Society”, a group of childhood friends from Millburn, New York (in the film, it is in Connecticut), who encountered the young and gorgeous Eva Galli when they were just coming into the world as innocent young men and were completely taken by her beauty and her bohemian way

Screen-cap of Eva Galli and her young suitors at a masquerade party.

Screen-cap of Eva Galli and her young suitors at a masquerade party.

They follow her around like puppy dogs, hanging on her every word and treating her like a goddess until she falls off their pedestal in an awkward confrontation during one of their evening soirées at her house where they accidentally knock her down and believe they’ve killed her. Fearing the scandal would ruin their promising career prospects, they place her body in a car which they sink into a lake. As the car is sinking, however, they see her look through the rear window just as it is too far gone to do anything about it and are traumatized. Thus the Chowder Society is born; it is an exclusive club that gathers monthly, always in evening dress, to tell one another ghost stories as a coping mechanism to allay the guilt and personal horror from what they did. The film’s use of the aging stars helps to add a bit of pathos for the characters who are not entirely sympathetic, as they are all beloved actors who were major stars back in their halcyon days, much like the Chowder Society in Milburn.

The Chowder Society.

The Chowder Society.

The film presents the story as a tale of vengeance from beyond the grave. Krige’s “ghost” comes back after 60 plus years to haunt and hunt down the now-aged members of the Chowder Society to mete out justice on the men who “killed” her so many years before. She comes back under the assumed name of Alma Mobley and begins by seducing the sons of one of the men, Edward Wanderly (presented as their uncle in the film and played by Fairbanks). She sweeps Edward’s son Don, an ambitious author with a successful novel under his belt, off of his feet at his job at Berkeley University, causing him to neglect his duties there and basically ruins his reputation. However, after a whirlwind romance replete with talk of marriage, she leaves him once he begins to sense that something is not right with her. She then seeks out his more materialistic brother David and ends up causing him to fall from a window to his death before disappearing again, only to reappear in Millburn to prey on the old men themselves.

Screen-cap of Ed Wanderly's funeral. Don is the 2nd from the left.

Screen-cap of Ed Wanderly’s funeral. Don is the 2nd from the left.

After the death of Ed Wanderly, the Chowder Society decide to write his son Don on the basis that he might be able to help them because of his seeming knowledge of the occult gleaned from some of the supernatural themes in his last novel. He agrees to help and with the aid of Peter Barnes, a teenage boy (completely omitted in the film adaptation), take on the spirit of Alma Mobley.

One of the myriad manifestations of Eva Galli's ghost.

One of the myriad manifestations of Eva Galli’s ghost.

The film has Alma / Eva slowly picking off the men one by one, usually appearing as a water-logged corpse which scares her victims into accidents and heart attacks, but in the book, she never died that way in the first place. Rather, it is revealed that she is a shape-shifter and that she walked away from the sinking car unnoticed by the men who watched it so closely they did not notice a lemur slinking away on the other side of the shoreline. In fact, it is implied that what people are seeing when they freak out is not a ghost so much as a gorgeous woman changing into various animals and creatures. In the book, there are several mentions of the concept of the Manitou, but upon personal investigation, I did not see a correlation between the Native American belief and Straub’s monster other than the shape-shifting. If anything, Eva Galli reminds me more of a Japanese vengeance ghost, like the Onryo, rather than the Manitou.

Onryō from the Kinsei-Kaidan-Simoyonohoshi (近世怪談霜夜星) taken from Wikipedia 06-07-13.

Onryō from the Kinsei-Kaidan-Simoyonohoshi (近世怪談霜夜星) taken from Wikipedia 06-07-13.

The movie has some weak spots like the omission of major characters, like Peter and the total mishandling of Fenny and Gregory Bate. In the movie, they are two escaped loonies who team up with Alma Mobley and become her henchmen. In the book, they are shape-shifting revenants whom have given up their souls to do her bidding in return for a conditional immortality. Their tale is but one of the multiple ghost stories told throughout the course of the novel.

USA poster for "Ghost Story" (1981).

USA poster for “Ghost Story” (1981).

The novel has some issues as well, like Alma Mobley’s god-like super powers which are a bit of a stretch, even for fantasy. Aside from her ability to shape-shift and reincarnate, she also has the ability to alter perception where her intended victim may believe themselves to be in a completely alternate reality. I found this part of the story to be distracting because it was too farfetched for me to accept within the confines of this particular tale.

French translation of "Ghost Story" (NEO)

French translation of “Ghost Story” (NEO)

“Ghost Story” reads a bit like Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot” in the sense that slowly but surely, people are being killed and brought back as zombie-like followers of the central villain, Alma Mobley. In fact, the scene where Peter is being called to his bedroom window by the revenants of his mother and various townsfolk who are outside in the snow, calling for him to come and join their ranks, brings to mind the analogous scenes in King’s novel where newly turned vampires tried to persuade their former loved ones to let them into their homes so they could recruit them for the undead ranks of Kurt Barlow.

French Poster for "Ghost Story" (1981).

French Poster for “Ghost Story” (1981).

In the end, in light of having finally read the complexity of the original storyline I must admit that the film over-simplifies the plot and does not do justice to its grandiose themes. On the other hand, maybe the book was too convoluted to work as a 2 hour film. Just the same, I like both the movie and (now) the book for their respective attributes and thrills. I think what makes the film still so special for me is Alice Krige in her portrayal of Eva Galli / Alma Mobley; her beauty and charisma really make it believable that so many men would fall prey to her charms and she also has a bit of the aloof otherworldliness that makes her a little frightening when the story calls for it.

Lobby-card for "Ghost Story" (1981).

Lobby-card for “Ghost Story” (1981).

I recommend both for anyone who is curious and wants to see a film or read a novel that treats the ghost story in an intelligent and imaginative manner.

Online cartoon critic reviews the movie.

Online cartoon critic reviews the movie.

Stephen King’s “’Salem’s Lot”

Posted in 'Salem's Lot, Danse Macabre (1982), E.C. Comics, Glenn Chadbourne, Night Shift book, Secretary of Dreams Anthology, Stephen King, Vampire Fiction, Vampire Novels with tags , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2013 by Manuel Paul Arenas

1st edition of "'Salem's Lot" by Doubleday (1975).

1st edition of “‘Salem’s Lot” by Doubleday (1975)

Ben Mears is a moderately successful author who harbors some unresolved guilt after the death of his wife in a motorcycle accident in which he was involved. To get to the heart of his fears, he has decided to return to the site of a dreadful fright he experienced years before, as a child, during his temporary stay at his aunt Cindy’s house in ‘Salem’s Lot. As a rite of initiation into a local boys club, he had gone on a dare to enter the local haunted house: the home of former gangster Hubie Marsten, of whom it was rumored in the town, was responsible for the disappearances of some local children during the Great Depression. According to local legend, the mailman discovered the corpse of Hubie’s wife, Birdie Marsten, in the kitchen with half of her head blown off. The mailman then went back into town and fetched the local law, who later discovered the corpse of Hubie Marsten hanging from a rafter in the upstairs bedroom. The house itself was said to be a virtual rat’s nest of junk, books, and periodicals, with deadly traps set all around the house to ward off, or perhaps just kill, intruders.

Hubie Marsten, by David Loew.

Hubie Marsten, by David Loew.

When young Ben enters the house, he is confronted by the specter of Mister Marsten, hanging by a noose in the main bedroom, replete with a green face and puffy eyes, which open to look down upon master Mears. Frightened out of his wits, he runs away from the house, but is haunted ever since by his experience there. Twenty-five years later, now-author Ben Mears wants to purchase the Marsten house so he can face his demons and purge them by writing a book about his experience there. Unfortunately, someone has beat him to it, and that someone is shortly going to bring a pall down upon his world that will make the specter of Hubie Marsten look like Casper the friendly ghost.

Original artwork for CBS's 1979 "Salem's Lot" mini series.

Original artwork for CBS’s 1979 “Salem’s Lot” mini series.

1982 mass-market paperback edition of "Danse Macabre" by Berkley Books.

1982 mass-market paperback edition of “Danse Macabre” by Berkley Books.

In his 1981 treatise on the horror genre, “Danse Macabre”, Stephen King says of “’Salem’s Lot”: “When I conceived of the vampire novel which became ‘Salem’s Lot, I decided I wanted to try to use the book partially as a form of literary homage”…”So my novel bears an intentional similarity to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and after awhile it began to seem to me what I was doing was playing an interesting—to me, at least—game of literary racquet ball: ‘Salem’s Lot itself was the ball and Dracula was the wall I kept hitting it against, watching to see where it would bounce, so I could hit it again. As a matter of fact, it took some pretty interesting bounces, and I ascribe this mostly to the fact that, while my ball existed in the twentieth century, my wall was very much a product of the nineteenth. At the same time, because the vampire story was so much a staple of the E.C. comics I grew up with, I decided that I would also try to bring in that aspect of the horror story.” [“Danse Macabre” Berkley Books 1987, pg 25]

Haunt of Fear #15 by E.C. Comics.

Haunt of Fear #15 by E.C. Comics.

As far as the EC influence goes, most of King’s fiction reflects the EC ethic of bringing the supernatural and the horrific into the mundane modern world, as in the scene where the mean school bus driver gets his comeuppance through a late-night visit from some of his former charges. King himself sites this as a perfect example in this footnote from “Danse Macabre”:

“The scene in ‘Salem’s Lot which works best in the E.C. tradition–at lest as far as I’m concerned–is when the bus driver, Charlie Rhodes (who is a typical E.C. -type rotter in the best Herbie Satten tradition), awakes at midnight and hears someone blowing the horn of his bus. He discovers, after the bus doors have swung forever behind him, that his bus is loaded with children, as if for a school run…but they’re all vampires. Charlie begins to scream, and perhaps the reader wonders why; after all, they only stopped by for a drink. Heh, heh.” [“Danse Macabre” Berkley Books 1987, pg 25, footnote]
In fine, he did succeed in bringing all of these relatable, yet distinct takes on the vampire story together to create a classic horror story in the modern vernacular. Kurt Barlow is in essence Dracula under a different moniker; he is supernaturally powerful and dreadful, yet urbane and almost charming in the way a smart sociopath can be. He even starts off as an older man and appears more youthful as he feeds, and like Dracula, he is a foreigner who has come to this wholesome New England town to infect it with his transoceanic bric-a-brac and his vampire taint.
He even hits the hero in the heart by taking his ladylove, but unlike Mina Harker of Dracula, Susan Norton does not survive her contact with Barlow. Perhaps in this way she is more like Lucy Westenra, Mina’s friend who is turned by Dracula into the “bloofer lady” who feeds on the local children before Van Helsing has her fiancee put her down; in fact, in ‘Salem’s Lot, Susan does attempt to seduce Mark Petrie into letting her into his bedroom window, but he denies her leave to enter. The scene where Ben Mears has to stake Susan is also very similar to the corresponding scene in Dracula where Van Helsing convinces Arthur Holmwood that he is the most fitting amongst them to deliver the blow that will save his beloved’s soul from eternal damnation.

1976 mass-market edition of "'Salem's Lot" by Signet. Original copies were all black with the drop of blood being the only other item of color on the cover.

1976 mass-market edition of “‘Salem’s Lot” by Signet. Original copies were all black with the drop of blood being the only other item of color on the cover.

Speaking of damnation, much hoopla is made in the book of the powers of Good versus the powers of Evil. The Marsten House is described as being a sort of repository for evil energy, like a hell-mouth, which draws wicked men to its threshold. This is shown time and again by the tenants that choose to reside there and use it as a home base from which they spread their evil into the surrounding town; like Straker & Barlow, the Marstens, and as we shall later see, in earlier times, the Boone family.

The power of Good is championed by Ben Mears and his company of ragtag vampire hunters, but the power itself seems to come from inside the respective individuals. On the surface one might chalk it up to a discovery of a new-found faith in the power of Good through the use of holy relics (like their use of holy water or homemade crosses), but whenever their faith wavers, the efficacy of said talismans ceases, as in the scene where Father Callahan wards off Barlow in the Petrie’s kitchen until his gets scared and doubts his ability to defeat his foe. Initially, he feels the power of the cross reverberating in his arm as it emits bright light across the darkened kitchen but as his confidence diminishes, the cross becomes a mere trinket and Barlow mocks him before snatching it out of his hand; “Sad to see a man’s faith fail. Ah well…” [“‘Salem’s Lot” Illustrated Edition, Doubleday 2005, pg 397]

The irony in all this is that Callahan had always had a hankering to fight EVIL, like a warrior of God…

“He wanted to lead a division in the army of–who? God, right, goodness, they were names for the same thing–into battle against EVIL with its cerements of deception cast aside, with every feature of its visage clear.”[“‘Salem’s Lot” Illustrated Edition, Doubleday 2005, pg 176]

…so when he quails and fails at his first real encounter he runs away in shame…only to pop up again in the Dark Tower series to fight the good fight for real.

It is interesting as well to note that the only type of relics which seem to have any effect are Catholic ones. When Ben’s friend, school teacher Matt Burke, asks him to procure a holy cross to protect him from the revenant of Mike Ryerson, no one in town seems to have one. Eva Miller even rebukes Matt Burke saying to Ben “He should have known better than that. (…) All his people were Lutherans.”[“‘Salem’s Lot” Illustrated Edition, Doubleday 2005, pg 215]

In the prologue of the book, which takes place after the events in the novel, Mark Petrie even decides to join the church at a little Catholic sanctuary in Los Zapatos, Mexico. Perhaps the Catholic rituals resonate more because they are still steeped in a mysticism and ritual that the Reformation dismissed in Martin Luther’s time. They still take communion, hold confession, pray to saints, perform exorcisms (albeit quietly) and still acknowledge the Darkness which grasps at men’s souls.

I first read “’Salem’s Lot” in the summer of 1986. I had just gotten out of high school and was staying at my maternal grandparents’ little house in Phoenix. My cousin Jason was staying there as well and he loaned me his dog-eared paperback (a “mass-market” paperback, as is known in the book trade) and I devoured it with gusto, although there were a few minor hiccups along the way, mostly King’s penchant for supplying his readers with an excessive amount of personal information on minor characters that has no real bearing on the story, which still bothers me to this day.
Even so, the story stuck with me and even though the details blurred with time, the overall emotion did not. In the intervening years, I saw and learned to love the original CBS mini-series adaptation with David Soul as hero Ben Mears, James Mason as Richard Straker, watcher and henchman for vampire Kurt Barlow, wordlessly portrayed by veteran horror actor Reggie Nalder in an iconic blue-faced Nosferatu-like make-up job that still sends shivers down my spine whenever I see it; a fresh-faced Bonnie Bedelia makes a memorable appearance as the hero’s love interest, Susan Norton, and a host of other 70’s character actors have cameos as some of the myriad townsfolk.

1979 TV Guide ad for the original CBS mini series.

1979 TV Guide ad for the original CBS mini series.

This was my reference on the story for years until I recently sat through the 2004 remake, which varies on many different points, and wondered which one of the adaptations was closer to the original?
So, I pulled my 1st edition copy of the book club version of “’Salem’s Lot” and began to re-read the tale of Ben Mears and company for the first time in 27 years. As it turns out, they’re both fairly close to the book, but emphasize different aspects and scenes, which makes them seem divergent at times. The adaptation with the most changes however, is the 2004 version, in which the screenwriter felt the need to update the story by having characters referencing rap tunes, or modern political topics (Ben Mears is a journalist here instead of a novelist, who wrote some unflattering books about the US Military handling of the Gulf War; early on in the show there is a scene where he has a heated discussion with a local about a particular story he ran which caused some soldiers to get in trouble), Doctor Jim Cody is made into a philanderer and other minor characters are given more screen-time than necessary. The biggest offense however was the opening scene with Ben Mears confronting a vampire-tainted Father Callahan in a New York homeless shelter. This never happens in the book and Father Callahan actually pops up in the Dark Tower series as a good guy, so this interpretation messes with the character all together.

Father Callahan as he appears in the Dark Tower series.

Father Callahan as he appears in the Dark Tower series.

Other than that though, most of the differences were how they chose to combine characters from the book to get in relevant scenes without confusing matters with an enormous cast.
One minor addition, which is not in the book, but piqued my interest, was a scene from the remake in which Eva Miller (renamed Eva Prunier) visits Barlow and Straker’s antique store where she discovers a graphically illustrated book that contains what appears to be some satanic rituals. As she examines the book with growing horror, Straker approaches her and surreptitiously harasses her telling her that he wishes he knew her as a young girl, when she used to dabble in the occult and apparently wrote some letters to Barlow inviting him to visit ‘Salem’s Lot. As a coup de grace to his creepy harangue, he lolls his tongue at her and makes a face that causes him to look like a mad satyr. None of this is in the original novel, where the only one who corresponded with Barlow was Hubie Marsten.

Straker harasses Eva Prunier (Miller) in the 2004 adaptation.

Straker harasses Eva Prunier (Miller) in the 2004 adaptation.

James Mason’s portrayal of Straker is a lot more subtle, and thus creepier. His death scene—he is shot several times whilst descending the Marsten House stairwell with a piece of the banister raised over his head in an attempt to club Ben Mears—always seemed a bit weak to me though. This is one instance where the remake got it right. It is actually young master Petrie who overtakes Straker when he is not looking and Barlow later strings him up to drain him of his blood in a fit of pique. Barlow resents Mark for essentially forcing him to take the life of his favorite servant as is shown in the mocking letter he leaves for the men when they come looking for him in his former lair. In said letter, he addresses each one of the would-be vampire hunters personally, exhibiting his cleverness not only by escaping them, but by correctly assessing who would ultimately comprise such a group. In the section addressed to the youngest member he says:
“Master Petrie, you have robbed me of the most faithful and resourceful servant I have ever known. You have caused me, in an indirect fashion, to take part in his ruination, have caused my own appetites to betray me. You sneaked up behind him, doubtless. I am going to enjoy dealing with you. Your parents first, I think. Tonight…or tomorrow night…or the next. And then you. But you shall enter my church as choirboy castratum.” [“‘Salem’s Lot” Illustrated Edition, Doubleday 2005, pg 376]

Kurt Barlow holds Mark Petrie as Richard Straker negotiates with Father Callahan in the 1979 CBS mini series.

Kurt Barlow holds Mark Petrie as Richard Straker negotiates with Father Callahan in the 1979 CBS mini series.

In the deleted scenes section of the “’Salem’s Lot: Illustrated Edition” (Doubleday 2005) this scene is not only extended, but has some interesting changes. First off, it is not a letter he leaves for the men, but rather a tape recording, which almost smacks of Dracula again where the some of the narrative journal entries are recorded on cylinders. And in a nasty turn, which is quite effective, Barlow has the vampiric Susan taunt her lover with a salacious harangue:
“The tape spooled on vacantly for a sheaf of moments and then another voice spoke—Susan’s voice. The cool, clear accents were the same, complete to the Maine accent of slurred r’s. Yet for all that, it was a travesty, a husk, a bad imitation, a talking doll speaking in Susan’s voice.
‘Come to me, Ben. Let me fuck you. Wait until dark and I’ll fuck you. Fuck-fuck-fuck. Father Callahan, too. Would you like a piece of it Father? Let me slip my hand under that black robe and start to—‘“ [“‘Salem’s Lot” Illustrated Edition, Doubleday 2005, pp 569-570]
Ben then grabs the player, and destroys it before she can continue. The staking scene which follows is so heartbreaking and emotional in the book, but both film adaptations chose to change it for some inexplicable reason and both the emotional impact and the implied Dracula reference are lost in the respective rewrites.

A vampiric Susan visits Ben in his post-'Salem's Lot hideout in Guatemala in the 1979 CBS mini series.

A vampiric Susan visits Ben in his post-‘Salem’s Lot hideout in Guatemala in the 1979 CBS mini series.

The scene in which Mark and Father Callahan are confronted by Barlow in the Petrie family kitchen has a completely different ending which, although interesting, would have had significant effect on King’s later output. In this version, Father Callahan takes his own life rather than become a vampire. His mutilated and decapitated body is later found by his peers nailed to the Petrie kitchen door.
Most of the other deleted scenes are extensions of scenes already featured in the original novel. Some of the extra information is interesting, some of it is superfluous. Even so, if you come across the illustrated edition someday used, it might behoove you to pick it up if you’re a fan, as it is currently out of print. My only complaint is that the touted “illustrations” are actually photographs by Jerry Uelsmann which, although artful, aren’t really depictive of anything delineated in the story. Even so, the new introduction by King and the aforementioned outtakes are worth the price of admission to the devoted fan and students of the oeuvre of this modern master of American Horror fiction.
To complete this macabre package, two related short stories have been included which were originally featured in King’s 1978 short story collection, “Night Shift”. The first story, “Jerusalem’s Lot” deals with the original owners of what came to be known as the Marsten House. Written in an epistolary style, through journal entries and letters (again referencing Dracula), “Jerusalem’s Lot” is the tale of an aristocrat, Charles Boone who travels to Chapelwaite, the neglected estate of his estranged cousin Stephen. Charles finds that the housekeeping staff are none too happy about being on the grounds and the townsfolk treat both he and his footman, Calvin, as pariahs.

The real culprits responsible for the scratching sounds in the walls. One of Glenn Chadbourne's illustrations for "Jerusalem's Lot" in the "Secretary of Dreams" anthology.

The real culprits responsible for the scratching sounds in the walls. One of Glenn Chadbourne’s illustrations for “Jerusalem’s Lot” in the “Secretary of Dreams” anthology.

Charles soon realizes that his estranged cousin and his branch of the family were into some dark dealings and upon further investigation, the duo find secret passageways and an arcane map to a deserted village nearby named Jerusalem’s Lot. He and Calvin go to check it out and find a ghost town with a church which has been converted into a Satanic meeting house. They also discover the black grimoire, “De Vermis Mysteriis”, “The Mysteries of the Worm”, which figures prominently in Robert Bloch’s Lovecraftian Mythos stories. Of course, things just go downhill for everybody concerned from here on in.
“Jerusalem’s Lot” almost reads like a Mythos tale with its black books, archaic language, old tainted family lines, backwards untrusting townsfolk and even makes vague references to other Lovecraftiana like “The Rats in the Walls”. It is a very good tale and has even been anthologized by Arkham House (bearers of the H.P. Lovecraft Legacy) in a collection entitled “Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos” (1990) alongside many other classic tales in the genre.
The next bonus tale is “One for the Road”, which really feels like just that—one more little fright before he lets you go. Gerard Lumley is a desperate New Jersey man who has left his wife and little girl stranded in their car in a fierce blizzard on the outskirts of ‘Salem’s Lot so he could find help. He bursts into a local bar where he collapses, but is brought back to consciousness by two old timers who reluctantly agree to help him retrieve his family only if his they are still inside the car when they get there, for they know that if the freezing temperatures don’t get them, something else will.

Mr. Lumley finds his family in "One for the Road". This illustration can be found in the "Secretary of Dreams" volume two.

Mr. Lumley finds his family in “One for the Road”. This illustration can be found in the “Secretary of Dreams” volume two.

“One for the Road” is a well told tale, but nothing new is said here. It really does feel like a superfluous scene that didn’t make its way into the original novel, just tacked on at the end. That being said, it is both entertaining in its depiction of the eccentric Maine natives as well as the delineation of the thrilling climactic scenes in the blizzard.
Note, both of these bonus tales appear in “Night Shift” as well as in “The Secretary of Dreams” compilations by Cemetery Dance. “Jerusalem’s Lot” appears in Volume 1 and “One for the Road” appears in Volume 2, both illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne.
Re-reading “’Salem’s Lot” was an enlightening and enjoyable experience, from which I learned a lot about King’s legacy and his craft. I believe that I shall return to this world again someday after I read some more of his fiction both things I have read in the past (I hope to re-read “The Shining” before the sequel “Doctor Sleep” comes out this year) as well as newer things, which I have not (like the “Dark Tower” series), and as I do so, I shall keep you all informed of my progress ; )

Stephen King’s “Carrie”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on June 7, 2012 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I just finished reading the book “Carrie”, by Stephen ing and I am surprised by how different it is from the movie version, which I have known and loved for so many years. The basic storyline is the same, with the expected few minor Hollywood changes, but there is a whole side to the novel that wasn’t addressed in the movie. I understand why, but it just surprised me to find it there because no one I had ever spoken to that had read it had ever mentioned it to me until recently right when I decided to read it.

“Carrie” paperback, Signet 1992.

The Carrie of the novel is not quite as endearing and sweet as Sissy Spacek’s movie portrayal, and is actually kind of pathetic and slightly unlikable. She also ends up showing way more power than demonstrated in the movie and ends up not just burning the gymnasium where the prom was held, but almost the whole town! The death toll at the end is almost 500 townspeople and investigations are held and studies are done years after the incident. This is another difference from the movie, the pseudo-scientific tracts and FBI interviews with survivors that pepper the narrative and set up scenes. Carrie’s death is protracted as well and she shows signs of not only telekinesis, but mental telepathy. Her death scene in the arms of Sue Snell, after killing her mother and burning half the town down is very dramatic and somewhat unsettling.

Spanish poster for Brian De Palma’s 1976 movie version of “Carrie”.

For my money, I still like the movie better as a coherent, streamlined narrative, with a sympathetic protagonist and a “gotcha!” ending, but the novel did make me think a lot and provided a depth to the story that I hadn’t considered before.