The Comedy of Terrors

For your Halloween consideration…

This classic horror comedy stars Vincent Price as a conniving undertaker who resorts to murder to drum up business. Peter Lorre is his bumbling, soft-hearted assistant, Boris Karloff his senile father-in-law, and Basil Rathbone his hardnosed landlord-turned-victim. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, with a brilliant script by horror great Richard Matheson, this is the sort of film Abbott and Costello might have made had they been into Shakespeare and worked for Hammer Films. Very smart, wonderfully entertaining, and family-friendly; we watch it every year.

You can watch it streaming on Netflix, or rent it on Amazon for $2.99.

Happy Hallowe’en (and the Song of the Week, 10/31/2011)

Halloween/Samhain has always been my favorite holiday. To celebrate, here’s Springsteen channeling the raging ghost of Howlin’ Wolf with a perfect Halloween song…

For the interested, here are some posts from back in my blog somewheres related to Halloweeny goodness…

5 Classic Horror Flicks to Goose Your Bumps

…for those who might like to watch something scary and good, I figured I’d throw you a few bones. Collect ‘em all and you can build a skeleton.

These are just five classics, not my all time favorites or anything with that much thought behind it, not in any particular order. All of them are first rate.

5 New Classic Horror Flicks You Might Have Missed

Some more contemporary works that many people haven’t seen, and everybody who loves a good scare needs to.

Saturday Night With Cthulhu

Sebastian’s Voodoo (A Great Short Film)

A wonderful short animated film by UCLA student Joaquin Baldwin. It’s visually amazing, and the story is very moving.

“The Show Is Over” by Nora Keyes

Last Halloween’s Song of the Week, Nora Keyes gettin’ her serious creep on.

Two-Fisted Flickage (My Latest IMJ Pulp Column)

My latest column at Inveterate Media Junkies is up. It’s part 2 of my look at pulp adventure films.

Two-Fisted Flickage (Pulp On The Big Screen, Part 2)

And if you missed part 1 or earlier columns:

If Adventure Has A Name (Pulp On The Big Screen)

Column 1: I Am Doc Savage

Column 2: I Am Not Doc Savage

If Adventure Has A Name… (My Latest IMJ Pulp Column)

He knows.

My latest column on pulp adventure is up at Inveterate Media Junkies. This month I’m discussing pulp movies.

If Adventure Has A Name (Pulp On The Big Screen)

And if you missed the earlier columns:

Column 1: I Am Doc Savage

Column 2: I Am Not Doc Savage

My Pulp Pit Column at IMJ Returns! Pulp Pit #2: “I Am Not Doc Savage”

After many travails, my second column at Inveterate Media Junkies is now finally online:

I AM NOT DOC SAVAGE

Trying

Fuck Yoda.

We all know his words of wisdom, right?

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

That’s all well and good if you’re a super-monk toad-midget with a glowy sword, living in an imaginary swamp, created by a man who’s getting closer by the minute to exhausting every good idea he’ll ever have. But in real life, sometimes trying is all we’ve got.

No one is perfect. Not all actions, no matter how resolutely performed, will be successful. The nature of the scientific method is all about trying, trying this and trying that, seeing what works, seeing what doesn’t. And life is pretty much the same.

You want to “Do or do not, there is no try?” Then only act on simple things, don’t aspire. Stay in your safety zone.

Trying is good. Trying is noble. If you try and fail, learn from it and keep going. That is wisdom.

My status on Facebook as I wrote this:

  • Tim Byrd

    is trying, in both senses of the word, but trying not to be trying, so it can be just the one sense from now on.

Camelot…Where They Sing From The Diaphragm A Lot… [Updated]

I watched the first episode of Starz’s Camelot series today (it debuts tomorrow evening, but I’m  magic).

I had no interest in it until yesterday, when it came to my attention that Eva Green was playing Morgan le Fey in it.

Eva Green.

As Morgana.

That said to me that someone, at least, had a clue.

So I checked it out. Watched about half of it, and had an “eh” reaction. The direction was sorta crap, especially at the very beginning. It was TV fantasy, not fantasy fantasy, with some really bad editing choices and “dramatic” camera angles that annoyed the hell out of me.

The guy playing Arthur was sorta callow and Teen-Beat. Eva Green was hot and intense (which are two things she can’t help but be, because she is, after all, Eva Green), but Morgan wasn’t that interesting. Joseph Fiennes was an intriguing Merlin, though…

Then it started coming together. The first half, I figured I’d never watch it again. The second half bought them the next episode at least.

Morgan’s conniving got more interesting. The callow young Arthur pulled out a spine, and the writers established him as an underdog in very interesting ways. Camelot itself was a revelation, an ancient Roman fortress abandoned and lost to wildness before being reclaimed by the new king. And Merlin got more and more charismatic and intriguing.

So, yeah. Check it out. It has promise.

I’m looking forward to seeing more direct conflict between Merlin and Morgan, myself…

[UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I just lack interest in this show. I think I may have been trying to convince myself just to look at Eva Green every week. But I haven’t watched it since.]

Introducing My New Monthly Column on Pulp Adventure: The Pulp Pit

A Typical Pulp Hero...

As I mentioned in the Song of the Week post yesterday, I have a new monthly column over at Inveterate Media Junkies. The first installment is now live and you can read it here:

I Am Doc Savage

The column is called “The Pulp Pit,” and as you might deduce, its subject is pulp. I’ll be covering whatever pulpy topics tickle my muse (or maybe cuddle my muse, since she’s not that fond of tickling), pointing out cool pulp stuff for people to enjoy, and reviewing books, comics, movies, games, TV shows, and whatever else as appropriate.

For those with possible review materials they think might be on-topic for a pulp column, please drop me a line at thepulppit at gmail.com (just connect the two parts up with an @). I’m interested in any sort of pulpish media, old or new. I don’t want people just sending me things that stack up and I never get to, as that costs you money and both of us time. So tell me what it is, and if I think it’s something I might actually make time to read/watch/play/etc., I’ll tell you how to send it to me.

Regular readers of this blog  might have noticed a recent password-protected entry titled I Am Doc Savage (Pulp Pit # 1). Two weeks after a column appears on IMJ, I’ll remove the password and make the post public, so it’s available to readers here.

Cliffhanger Music (Song of the Week, 3/21/2011)

To commemorate my new monthly column on pulp, which debuts today at Inveterate Media Junkies, here’s John Williams’s perfect cliffhanger background music from Raiders of the Lost Ark…

And as a bonus, here’s Taylor Dayne’s “Original Sin,” the Jim “I Wrote All Meat Loaf’s Best Songs” Steinman creation used for the Alec Baldwin version of The Shadow

The Real Chuck Norris Is So Chuck Norris… (UPDATED)

…I’d never let him in my house.

Chuck Norris is a tool. He’s a bad actor and an over-the-hill karate instructor and a particularly idiotic political commentator.

The jokes about him are often funny, but they aggrandize a man who should be allowed to wither in obscurity without the eyes of the world upon him. Granted the aggrandizement is largely ironic, but Norris is such a nitwit I’m sure he takes it all in as evidence of his place of respect in the world.

Back in May 2009, I took it upon myself to spend the day tossing out Facebook statuses which were Chuck Norris jokes that more properly belittled him. Offered below, for posterity, are my creations. I invite you to add more in the comments.

It’s a worthy cause. Continue reading

Look! Up In The Sky!

An incredible short, hand-animated by Robb Pratt, full of supery goodness. I love it, particularly his take on Lois Lane.

And if you like that, and aren’t familiar with the classic Fleischer Bros. Superman cartoons from the ’40s, check this out:

Of Forests and Men

There is some spectacular and gorgeous footage of forests in this video. Which is apropos, as it’s about forests.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand was appointed by the United Nations to produce the official film for the International Year of Forests.

Following the success of Home which was seen by 400 million people, the photographer began producing a short 7-minute film on forests made up of aerial images from Home and the Vu du Ciel television programmes.

This film will be shown during a plenary session of the Ninth Session of United Nations Forum on Forests (24 January – 4 February 2011) in New York. It will be available to all from February 2 – for free – so that it can be shown worldwide.

goodplanet.org/​forets

Good Memories of 2010, Day 7: Kick-Ass

I loved the movie Kick-Ass.

What, you didn’t? That’s fine. Hear me out.

I’ll be the first to admit that it sets up a scenario as its foundation that it ultimately blithely abandons, the whole “what would it be like if someone tried, in real life, to be a costumed superhero?” thing. As an exploration of that theme, it’s mostly a failure, though it does sort of tell us that if someone did that they’d get the shit beat out of them a lot and possibly die. Which may be all we need to know.

By giving us those answers early in the film, though, it does add to the vulnerability of its hero, Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass, and we never doubt that he is all too mortal. The old rule in writing is “Mistreat your protagonist,” and Dave really gets his share.

In a review at Comic Book Resources, comic writer Steven Grant made some interesting commentary on the movie’s thematic shift:

[Kick-Ass] cheats right and left on its premise. Once donning his goofy costume, a mish-mash of scuba gear and ski mask, Kick-Ass quickly demonstrates why people are generally disinclined to wear costumes and fight crime in the real world. Once that point is made, though, the intro premise is thrown away so quickly it’s like watching a stage magician make a prop vanish, and to the same effect: it draws the audience further into the show…

If the film cheats on practically every level, that’s why it works. That’s where much of the humor comes from…When characters try to anticipate how “real world” superheroes will or should act, they resort to their only frame of reference – comic books – despite no natural law requiring people to behave like comic book characters when they put on comic book costumes. But we say “but of course” because it’s also our only frame of reference and in the logic of the film it makes sense: if you’re trying to emulate comic book characters, you emulate comic book characters, and when the film finally makes the notion explicit we’re already so deep into the magician’s act that our instinct is to play along.

Kick-Ass is both one of the best and purest superhero films yet and mostly not a superhero movie at all. Continue reading