Sunday 22 December 2019

Not Remotely Yuletide in Theme - The Vampire's Ghost

This 1945 short feature is a very odd film indeed, combining the full-on vampire legend with the then fashionable jungle movie - all short in Hollywood, of course, on studio sets and with black actors dressed up as 'natives', broken English and all. Not surprisingly, the jungle genre does not seem ripe for revival.

It's a bizarre but oddly compelling idea - a vampire in Africa. It's based on a story by the remarkable Leigh Brackett, one of the few female stars of pulp science fiction and a respected Hollywood scriptwriter. Brackett also gets a script credit, and you can see her intelligence and playfulness in the way she handles this strange hybrid tale. But hark! The jungle drums are beating, and the natives turn out to be more clued-up about this vampire malarkey than the hapless white colonials.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Bonkers Yuletide Viewing - Q - The Winged Serpent, 1982

This is absurd in the best possible sense. I defy you not to love the premise and the way it's handled. If you're in the mood for gore, boobs, a diamond heist, terrible jazz vocals, and the return of an ancient Aztec god that roosts in the Empire State Building, this is the one for you.

Spooky Yuletide Viewing - Ghost Story (TV 1972) The Concrete Captain

1970s TV (mild) horror with a remarkable pedigree - the writing team being Richard Matheson, Jimmy Sangster, and Elizabeth Walter (a Brit who also wrote for Rod Serling's Night Gallery).

Friday 20 December 2019

Spooky Yuletide Viewing - The Cat Creature 1973

Based on a story by Robert Bloch, no less, this is a typical TV movie of the week horror tale. Fun, with some groovy fashions and dialogue.

Spooky Yuletide Viewing - Carnival of Souls 1962

Perfectly legal and free to view - if you haven't already seen it, this fun, influential, and very effective indie movie is well worth a watch.

Monday 16 December 2019

Imperfect Democracy...

Supernatural Tales 42I have tried and failed to find a better polling widget for this blog, so I'm giving up. There seems to be no way to embed a poll to the side of the blog posts so everyone can see it all the time. The last online poll - for best story in issue #41 - closes at the end of the year, btw, You can still vote here.

From now on I'm just going accept votes via the comments, or email, or indeed carrier pigeon. Let me know in any way you like which story in the current issue, #42. Obviously, you should read it first. If you want to buy a copy, go to the 'Buy Supernatural Tales' page - the link's up above, under the title of this page.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Don't forget...

Supernatural Tales 42

The latest issue is available to buy in print or download as an e-zine.

New stories by Steve Duffy, Jane Jakeman, Sam Dawson, Patricia Lillie, Mark Valentine, Lynda E. Rucker, and Helen Grant.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Legionnaire - New Sarob Title!

Cover art by Paul Lowe

An exciting package flumped onto my doormat today - a novella by C.E. (Clive) Ward, no less. Long a contributor to Ghosts & Scholars, Ward has been a much-valued author of traditional ghostly tales for many years. 

This, his longest work, is doubly interesting because the author describes it as 'a most unlikely pairing and melange of the contemporary writers Montague Rhodes James and Percival Christopher Wren'.

If you don't know who P.C. Wren was, go here. Short version - he wrote Beau Geste. So what we have here is a tale of the French Foreign Legion, with ghosts! Sounds spiffing to me.

I will review Legionnaire as soon as I can, but I suspect it will sell out before I've read it. So, get yourself over to Sarob at the first link above if you want to bag a long ghost story for Christmas.

Monday 2 December 2019

"Number Ninety" & Other Ghost Stories by B.M. Croker

No photo description available.

This collection has a superb cover and boards, courtesy of Megan Kehrli, from artwork by Alan Corbett. As you can see, a map of India is prominent. Bithia Mary Croker (nee Sheppard) married an Irish officer who served in Madras and Burma. Many of her ghost stories deal with aspects of life under the Raj that are - to some extent - already familiar to readers of Kipling. The main difference is that Croker's point of view is more domestic - concerns over accommodation, servants, generally organising family life are central.

In an excellent introduction the late Richard Dalby gives a literary biography of Croker, who wrote 42 novels and several short story collections. Colonel Croker, on half pay for many years, was no doubt pleased to have a wife who made a tidy sum from her writing. And Croker was popular, her novels combining romance and details of military life in India. But how was she at supernatural fiction?

Pretty good, on the evidence collected here. She is a typical late Victorian, in that she carefully sets up the tale with close examination of the situation, the characters, the landscape etc. It's also notable that she is never dismissive or contemptuous of 'the natives', and in fact some of her best stories show Indians in a good light. They are invariably more sensible than the British when it comes to obscure but very real dangers.

A typically well-crafted story is 'If You See Her Face', in which the ghost of a horribly disfigured dancer manifests, to terrible effect. In the hands of a lesser writer the appearance of a pair of tiny, nimble feet might be rather comical, or at least fall flat. But Croker makes it clear that there is more than meets the casual eye going on here - the use of a 'partial ghost' reminded me of the Hong Kong horror film The Eye, and I suppose Gautier's 'The Mummy's Foot' might be among the story's antecedents. I suspect A.M. Burrage might have read this one, and taken the idea for one of his own best stories. 'If You See Her Face' also has a slightly Jamesian feel, with its young British official casually disregarding a threat until it is too late.

Sunday 1 December 2019

'The Whisperer in Darkness' on the BBC

The BBC has (for my money) badly bungled its TV adaptation of The War of the Worlds, which I gave up on after a feeble first ep. But over on BBC Sounds, the new and admittedly somewhat annoying audio app, comes an updated, British-set version of one of Lovecraft's best tales. Check out the trailer here. If you go to the programme web page here, you will notice that a previous adaptation by the same team at Sweet Talk is 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward'. I rate that one as pretty good - again, an updated podcast version in the style of Serial etc. Worth a listen if you like audio horror.

'Lost Estates'

This is part of a running review of  Lost Estates  by Mark Valentine (Swan River Press 2024) The title story of the collection! And it begin...