Just one look was all it took.
British actress Barbara Steele became known for starring in Italian gothic horror films, a genre in which she could put her penetrating eyes to good use. Some of her films include The Pit and the Pendulum, Nightmare Castle, and The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, as well as mainstream efforts like 8½, Pretty Baby, and 2016's Minutes Past Midnight. She also moved into producing shows for television, earning credits on The Winds of War, Queer Eye, and other shows. No date on the above shot but we're thinking it's from around 1965.
“The Thing” that wasn't there.
We've shared several covers from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's horror collection I Capolavori della Serie KKK but this one is kind of special. Translated into Italian by Fernanda Adami, this is a collection of horror master Robert Bloch's early short stories. In case he isn't familiar to you, he wrote Psycho. This book is called La Cosa, or The Thing because Bloch's first story, a piece called “The Thing” appeared in his school magazine in 1932 when Bloch was only fourteen. But guess what? “The Thing” isn't one of the stories in The Thing. Instead the book consists of four tales—“Colui che apre la via,” “Ritorno a Sabbath,” “Il segreto di Sebek,” and “Enoch.” In English these are “The Opener of the Way,” “Return of the Sabbath,” “The Secret of Sebek,” and “Otis.” Just kidding—it's “Enoch.” Lovecraft fans probably already know of the first three stories because they appeared in Bloch's Lovecraft inspired collection The Opener of the Way in 1945 and remain widely read pieces of Lovecraftian lore. So that makes this paperback a bit of a collector's item. As if the great art by Benedetto Caroselli didn't already do that. Yes, he painted a misleading illustration for a horror anthology but Caroselli and Grandi Edizioni Internazionali specialized in that. Want to see a particularly brazen example? Check here.
Sightings of bizarrely garbed figures have South Carolina residents baffled and worried.
A rash of scary clown sightings have occurred in the U.S. in the last week in the state of South Carolina, mainly in Greenville and Spartanburg counties. The encounters have varied from clowns attempting to lure children into the woods, to a pair of citizens chasing two clowns into a waiting car driven by a third clown. The photo above is an actual shot made by a man in Greenville, which he posted to Twitter with the caption, “Just spotted a major freak behind Fleetwood Apts.” The building happens to be ground zero for some of the clown sightings.
The favored explanation online for all this weirdness is that it's a publicity stunt for the new Rob Zombie horror movie 31. If that's the case, we've done our part for Rob by sharing the promotional poster just below. But assuming these sightings are publicity stunts, doesn't that seem like a very serious risk to take? American cops are trigger happy, and it isn't glitter and confetti that comes out of their guns. Let's say instead of a clown getting ventilated, though, he was arrested. For what, we aren't sure, since it isn't illegal to offer kids candy, which is what reports say one of the clowns did—but whatever, clown gets arrested. All the suspect would have to say is, “I'm a clown, it's true, but not that clown.”
Absent fingerprints (“No prints, sir, he must have worn gloves.”), shoe prints (“The casts are finished, sir—he wore size 37.”) or DNA (best not to think about that), only an admission of guilt could connect the arrested clown to the previous clowns. Or maybe police could stage a line-up. Of clowns. Bring in a tearful witness. “Yes, officer it was the one on the far left. I'm sure of it. I'll never forget *sob* his big red nose.”
Our guess is that these sightings are one of those instances of bizarro cultural programming, like the one that causes UFO or Bigfoot sightings. Rogue clowns have been reported lately not just in South Carolina, but in Ohio, Wisconsin, California, and even jolly old England. For our part, we hope the sightings simply stop. We don't need to get to the bottom of them. If they're real, we don't want to know who (doubtless one or more smug white guys, though) figured it was a perfectly fine idea to dress in a weird costume and terrify bystanders—this in a country where people wearing nothing more than dark skin end up shot for jaywalking. Which raises the question: if a clown were to be shot, would it be tragic, tragicomic, or just plain comical? Guess it depends on how you feel about them.
Whatever happens don't lose your head.
This weird Japanese poster was made to promote the weird Hong Kong movie Xin Mo, aka The Bedeviled, aka Sam moh, a horror flick starring Taiwanese actor Chun Hsiung Ko and Japanese actress Reiko Ike in a tale of corrupt elites in a rural village who frame a peasant and force his wife into sexual servitude. This is not a pinku film—the story unfolds with restraint and the plot is linear. And the moral is clear: don't use your power to subjugate others. But alas, the one-percenters of this village let their greed run rampant and as a result are haunted by severed heads and eventually wind up dead. Too bad greed isn't punished like that in the real world, right? So many severed heads would be flying around they'd turn the noon sky to midnight. We prefer Ike with her head attached, but this is still a good movie. It premiered in Japan today in 1975.
Live like a snake, die like a snake.
Kaidan hebi-onna is known in English as Snake Woman's Curse, or sometimes Ghost Story of the Snake Woman, and it stars Sachiko Kuwabara, who is also known as Yukiko Kuwabara, and whose last name is read informally as Kuwahara. These various designations have caused some confusion online, but whether Sachiko or Yukiko, or Kuwabara or Kuwahara, they're all the same woman. She doesn't star on the poster, though—that honor has been reserved for Yukie Kagawa, who's there because, well, we'll get to that.
The plot here involves a cruel landlord in feudal Japan who overworks a sharecropper couple, bringing about their untimely deaths by illness, causing them to linger as vengeful spirits who regularly pop up and scare the shit out of everyone. The couple's bereft daughter also soon dies, but by her own hand. The landlord and his son begin seeing spirits and snakes everywhere, and even begin to think those close to them are becoming snakes. Kagawa undergoes such a transformation, though only imagined by the villains, and that's why she's on the poster despite her secondary role in the film.
Kaidan hebi-onna is well shot and acted, but the blood efx are amateur hour and the snake sequences mainly consist of the poor creatures being thrown into shots from off-camera. Based on the highly polished look of the film, we'd have thought there was enough budget to get this stuff right, but what do we know? Maybe all the money went into the sets and costumes. Not frightening, but still an atmospheric evocation of classic revenant themes, Kaidan hebi-onna opened in Japan today in 1968. You can see an alternate poster for the film here, and as a double bonus, below are two promo photos of Kuwahara, or Kuwabara. Talk about cold blooded—she must be freezing inside and out.
Mexico serves as a fresh backdrop for a macabre classic.
From Estudios America, S.A. came this poster promoting their low budget adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," which the studio called Satanás de todos los horrores. You've read the Poe story, right? Cursed house, woman buried alive, house cracks in two, falls over, and sinks into swamp. Satanás premiered in Mexico today in 1974, and starred Enrique Lizalde, Enrique Rocha and Illya Shanell. Though it's been poorly reviewed over time, we've seen far worse. The promo poster, you may notice, is signed “E.M.” We don't know who that is yet. Anyone out there with insight feel free to drop us a line. In the meantime we will dig, as always. See more Mexican movie poster art here and here.
Newly unearthed manuscript by horror master set to be auctioned in Chicago.
A newly discovered manuscript written by otherworldly horror writer H.P. Lovecraft has been found in a collection of magic memorabilia in Chicago. The 31-page piece, titled "The Cancer of Superstition," is said to have been originally commissioned by Harry Houdini in 1926. Houdini died that year and the project fell by the wayside, but the typewritten pages were conserved by Houdini's widow Bess, and her manager, Edward Saint. The sheaf of pages will be auctioned April 9th, with bids starting at $13,000 and a final price estimated to reach $25,000 to $40,000—a pittance considering Lovecraft's fans will probably pay plenty to buy anything published bearing the icon's name.
This story dusted off some nice memories for us and brought a smile to our faces because—as any Call of Cthulhu geek knows—the real-life pairing of Lovecraft and Houdini is like ice cream paired with caramel sauce, or a census-taker's liver with a fine Chianti. We'd go so far as to say that any Call of Cthulhu keeper worth the title incorporates Houdini into the game eventually. In our long-running C of C campaign—years before we had girlfriends and an inkling that there were equally sticky but much more enjoyable ways to spend a Saturday night—Houdini appeared in a session only to promptly have his head melted by an interdimensional horror.
There's some small question whether "The Cancer of Superstition" was written by Lovecraft, or if it was actually penned by fellow author C.M. Eddy and merely polished by Lovecraft, but we suspect doubts on that score will always remain. After years of doing this site and trying to track the original authors of numerous obscure novels we know some questions about the provenance of literature are destined never to be answered.
So get your bidding hats on. Since anyone out who's seriously into Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu is a supernerd (we mean that affectionately, as former nerds ourselves), you've probably squirrelled away plenty of cash from your career in computer sciences or botany or something. Don't let the manuscript fall into the hands of some empty suit hedge fund manager from upper Manhattan. And for those of you who haven't read Lovecraft and have no idea what we're talking about, we highly recommend you give him a try if you feel like a little literary horror. Just don't read too much about Lovecraft as a person. Some of his views were even more terrifying than his stories.
Carmilla’s in the mist.
When we shared a poster for Roger Vadim’s Il sangue e la rosa way back in 2009 we didn’t talk about the movie. But since we found this beautiful alternate promo to show you, we thought we’d watch the film again to refresh our memories. It’s an ethereal gothic drama about a woman caught in a love triangle who is subsequently possessed by a vampire after an accidental explosion opens the monster’s centuries buried tomb. It feels like a supernatural version of Emily Brontë, but the source material was actually from Sheridan le Fanu, whose vampire story Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by more than twenty years. Long on lustful gazes, lingering fog, and lilting harp music, short on chills and thrills, Il sangue e la rosa is more of a Vadim art piece than a conventional film, but it has some charms, personified by Elsa Martinelli and Annette Vadim, aka Annette Stroyberg. Il sangue e la rosa premiered in Italy today in 1961. See the other poster here.
Satan claws is coming to town.
Nothing says Christmas like a cheesy horror movie, and they don’t get much cheesier than Hammer Film Productions’ b-flick Satanic Rites of Dracula. This was the seventh and last movie to feature Christopher Lee playing Dracula, a role he inhabited with great gusto, and the third with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. In other words, Hammer really knew how to beat a dead horse. Plenty of summaries of this online, so we won’t bother. We just wanted to show you the nice art. Satanic Rites of Dracula first played in Japan today in 1974.
It may be a classic but it’ll probably leave you wanting something more.
The Black Cat has been called one of the greatest horror films ever made. Taken in context it’s creepy, no doubt, and it stars spookmeister Bela Lugosi alongside Boris Karloff, he of the sinister widow’s peak and cinderblock head, so they alone make it somewhat unsettling. But it was produced in 1934, and much has changed since then in terms of what is truly terrifying. Plotwise, what you have here are two honeymooners in Hungary who encounter a mysterious traveler and who all end up stuck in the dreaded hilltop manse—not the gothic pile you would expect, but rather a linear, art deco box. The house is occupied by Karloff, a sort of war criminal, and it turns out Lugosi has traveled there with revenge in mind, for it seems Karloff had something to do with the deaths of Lugosi’s wife and daughter. The honeymooners are basically hapless bystanders to this situation, and their approach to the predicament doesn’t remotely resemble the approach you or I would take, but people had better manners back then. Eventually, though, manners are jettisoned and that’s when the movie gets interesting.
Watching two honeybaked hams like Karloff and Lugosi square off is rather entertaining, we gotta say, even if the plot doesn’t entirely hold together. But all that matters is the mood and the shadows and the evil glances and the fact that there can be only one winner—or none, considering the house is wired to self destruct. Of special note, by the way, is the music, which is almost continuous, and consists not of compositions made for the film, but rather a greatest hits assortment of Beethoven, Bach, Liszt, Schumann, and Tchaikovsky. It all gets a bit over the top, in our opinion, but you do get to enjoy probably the first movie usage of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565” (if indeed Bach wrote it, something that is in dispute). You know the tune—it’s the gloomy, edifice shaking organ solo most people associate with the 1962 film Phantom of the Opera. Well, Karloff’s character plays it here. We won’t lie—even the most chilling piece of music ever written can’t make The Black Cat scary, but if you have sixty-five minutes and consider yourself a horror buff it’s still worth the time. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1934.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Hitler Marries Braun
During the last days of the Third Reich, as Russia's Red Army closes in from the east, Adolf Hitler marries his long-time partner Eva Braun in a Berlin bunker during a brief civil ceremony witnessed by Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann. Both Hitler and Braun commit suicide the next day, and their corpses are burned in the Reich Chancellery garden.
1967—Ali Is Stripped of His Title
After refusing induction into the United States Army the day before due to religious reasons, Muhammad Ali is stripped of his heavyweight boxing title. He is found guilty of a felony in refusing to be drafted for service in Vietnam, but he does not serve prison time, and on June 28, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court reverses his conviction. His stand against the war had made him a hated figure in mainstream America, but in the black community and the rest of the world he had become an icon.
1947—Heyerdahl Embarks on Kon-Tiki
Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his five man crew set out from Peru on a giant balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki in order to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey, Kon-Tiki smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947, thus demonstrating that it is possible for a primitive craft to survive a Pacific crossing.
1989—Soviets Acknowledge Chernobyl Accident
After two days of rumors and denials the Soviet Union admits there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four had suffered a meltdown, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Today the abandoned radioactive area surrounding Chernobyl is rife with local wildlife and has been converted into a wildlife sanctuary, one of the largest in Europe.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
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