It was a great honor to be invited to participate in Jacques Tourneur Month at The Pink Smoke. Widely considered to be one of the greatest horror movies ever made, his occult thriller Night of the Demon (released in the US in an abbreviated cut titled Curse of the Demon) features a memorable black magic villain, eerie ambiguity, beautiful cinematography, and a delightfully puppety creature effect. What's not as frequently discussed is the movie's rich esoteric symbolism, which in this author's opinion earns it a place of pride as an early example of British Folk Horror.
I had the opportunity to chat with artist Cristóbal López, aka Kerbcrawler Ghost, about his astonishing artwork. There's nothing NOT extraordinary about his work, from his draftsmanship to his willingness to push erotic boundaries. The story of how he came to this mode of creating is even more amazing: he began honing his technique a mere three years ago, after spending over a decade in advertising and commercial work.
The Tao of Alan Moore & Grant Morrison - Sequart Organization
I am always eager to read about an author feud and I'll fully cop to finding Moore's anti-Morrison comments in "Last Alan Moore Interview?" to be delicious. That having been said, there's probably a bit too much emphasis put on this particular interpersonal disagreement (Moore's body of work is vastly more interesting than any of his admittedly satisfying verbal slap-downs), so I enjoyed this article. The phrase "Hulk vs. Superman argument for the Vertigo set" hits quite close to home.
Number 2155: Dr Hypno inks with cat fur - Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine
Thanks to Pappy's Golden Age Comics, I now know that Dr. Hypno is a hero who can transfer his brain into the body of other living creatures. In this story, Dr. Hypno employs the body of a cat to escape from the clutches of devious Fifth Columnists (probably Communists, but maybe really beardy Nazis--who knows?).
Look, this is a lot more mainstream than I'd usually go here, but I imagine you're the kind of people who would get a chuckle at a song in German about electing ALF as Federal Chancellor, so I'm posting it here. Learn more about how the Germans went nuts for ALF on No Recess!
Calendrier Magique - Feuilleton
A wondrous achievement of fin-de-siecle graphic design and good old fashioned witchery, the Calendrier Magique is now available in beautiful high-resolution format online. Maybe this Internet thing isn't entirely bad after all...
I can't build on that title. You're probably best off clicking the link and watching the video.
I have to say that GoodReads has been a great tool for me to get through some of the books I've been hoarding! There's something to be said about the accountability of having a "Books I'm Reading" update glaring at me every time I log on. In addition to my podcast reads, here are a few titles that stood out for me this month.
Much as a I hate star ratings from a principled standpoint, they're a good tool when seeking automated recommendations--sort of a way of saying "more like THIS, please." I'm always going to default high when star-rating creative works in these kinds of online platforms, since my real approach is more of a "pass/fail" depending on what I'm looking to be entertained by at that specific moment.
By turns sardonic, mystical, romantic, witty, and violent, this lushly illustrated trio of stories builds an immersive fantasy-futurist vision that one won't soon forget. Bilal seems to take a "more is more" approach, blending elements of espionage, mythology, film noir, surrealism, and meta-narrative into these stories. Each panel is exquisitely detailed, encouraging a pleasurably slow reading process. A spiritual cousin to The Incal but from a grimier, more pessimistic perspective.
Completely over the top horror SF fantasy from the team that created Requiem Vampire Knight. This is very much a Heavy Metal title, with all the violence, acerbic satire, and weird sexual politics that implies. Ledroit’s visionary art style brings Mills’ dystopian occult revenge plot to life. This very much feels like a test run for the more immersive (and more outrageous) Requiem.
Becky Cloonan's gifts as a visual storyteller are aptly demonstrated in this trio of short stories linked by themes of loss, heartbreak, and the cruelty of fate. The juxtaposition of her thoroughly modern visual style with the weighty supernatural tales she weaves creates an impact that lasts long after the final frame. There's a restraint present here that focuses the attention on small gestures and facial expressions, making climactic moments land all that much harder. The added "Concept Sketches & Illustrations" are a welcome treat that allow the reader to linger in Cloonan's medieval world a bit longer. Highly recommended.
The real joy of Larson's narrative approach to writing about history is found in the small moments he captures. While the broad strokes of Hitler's consolidation of power are known to virtually all readers with a passing interest in military and political history, Larson narrows the focus and depicts events as experienced by a very specific set of personalities. This is a book about romantic entanglements, over-dinner conversations, and personal diary confessions, all of which grow to have dire consequences in the charged, bloody, and tragic atmosphere in which they occur. Larson mentions the influence of Christopher Isherwood on the development of the book, and that's an apt point of reference for potential readers. This is a real page-turner with two captivating, flawed American characters (scholarly Ambassador Dodd and his vivacious twenty-something daughter Martha) at its center.
There are an almost infinite number of enticements I could use to convince you to watch Henrik Galeen's 1928 screen adaptation of Hanns Heinz Ewers' decadent occult romance novel "Alraune," but for the purposes of brevity and impact, I've selected the five GIFs below to plead my case. While the film departs from the source material in several particulars, it retains much of the cruelly humorous eroticism while adding in a tension-filled train ride and an extended circus interlude. Those are both terrifically Weimar Era touches to which I simply cannot object.
Backing up a few paces: the novel "Alraune" tells the story of a woman created by a scientist through artificially inseminating a prostitute with the seed of a hanged convict (deftly harvested during the criminal's death throes) that the resulting child might take on the magical characteristics of the mandrake (alraune) root. This daughter brings both incredible luck and tragic misfortune to every person who attempts to get close to her, from bewitched fellow students in her convent school though besotted men who bend to her whims.
The English cut of the film adaptation glosses over Alraune's conception, though for Those In The Know it's all pretty much there, opening as it does on a fantastically moody gallows with lurking figures beneath. What the film does maintain, though, is the novel's overarching spirit and (spoiler alert for an almost-100-year-old movie based on an over-100-year-old book) while the ending is significantly more upbeat, there's something deliciously subversive about transforming a tale of a born-and-bred femme fatale into a redemption arc.
With that, I'll proceed onto the facts of the case.
FIRSTLY: "Alraune" features an actual "train going into a tunnel" cut to indicate two characters having sex. That's fucking terrific.
SECONDLY: Have you ever wanted to see Brigitte Helm, Maria from "Metropolis," performing an adorable calisthenics routine? Then I admire the specificity of your tastes and will inform you that this is your film, friend.
THIRDLY: There is a beer-drinking bear.
FOURTHLY: I direct you to GIF Left, in which there is a woman wearing a monocle. The monocle was frequently donned by cosmopolitan German women who wished to indicate their lesbian identity, in a supreme gesture of elegant sartorial BAMF-ery.
FIFTHLY (and perhaps most importantly): "Alraune" features some of the best exchanges of Significant Looks ever captured on film. The smoking! The gazes! The cheekbones! It's more than the heart can stand.
And with that, I leave you to watch "Alraune" (aka "A Daughter of Destiny"):