Vintage Pulp Jan 16 2020
ZEST INTENTIONS
It was a different flavor of men's magazine.


Zest magazine, with its bold graphics and cover portraits, looks like a classic mid-century tabloid, but its banner tells you it's really a men's magazine. It lives up to its billing in this issue from January 1956—issue number one, actually—with short stories from Michael Avallone and H.P. Lovecraft, real life adventure tales, scare stories (“Is Your Daughter a Sex-Film Star?), glamour photography, and humor.
 
The Lovecraft tale, “Rats in the Walls,” is called “the greatest horror story ever written.” We wouldn't go that far, but it's freaktacular, like everything Lovecraft wrote. It had originally been published in Weird Tales in 1924, and we imagine that its bizarro mutant/cannibalism themes were pretty shocking back then. The Avallone story, “The Glass Eye,” is novella length. He had already published three novels and was building a reputation as a reliable author of thrillers, which makes his inclusion a nice coup for a new magazine.
 
The photography in Zest is just as impressive as the fiction. Readers get to see rare shots of major celebs such as Sophia Loren, Sabrina, and Delores del Rio. All in all Zest was a high budget effort, but it lasted only two issues. Why did it fold? No idea on that. Competition in the market was plenty stiff at the time. On the other hand, maybe two issues are all that were planned. We're thrilled to show you one of them, comprising thirty-plus scans below for your Thursday enjoyment.

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Modern Pulp Oct 24 2017
SO FAR NO GOOD
Some things are better left undimensioned.


Stuart Gordon's cult classic horror film From Beyond premiered in the U.S. today in 1986, but we're sharing this Thai poster because it's more attractive than the American promo. For the uninitiated, From Beyond is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name about a scientist who discovers what is today a standard terror motif: if you can see them, they can see you. Lovecraft came up with this idea way back in 1920, spinning a tale about a machine called a resonator that enables humans to see horrific beings that surround us but reside in an invisible adjacent dimension. But once the scientist perceives them, the monstrous entities likewise perceive him—and come calling.

The film starred Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, two alumni from Gordon's bravura gorefest Re-Animator, released the previous year. From Beyond doesn't push the envelope as far as the earlier film, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It just means Gordon tempered his vision a bit. In other ways the films are quite similar. Both play the naked-woman-as-victim card, which can be uncomfortable to watch, since these days such sequences are not benignly received. As always, times change.

In From Beyond the nudity isn't gratuitous exactly. One of the side effects of the resonator is that it frees the id, which is why you see Crampton go from buttoned up schoolmarm to brazen dominatrix in the promo shots below. Males are similarly affected. We searched for shots of co-star Ken Foree in his banana hammock undies—one of many famous moments from the film—but came up empty, so to speak. Regardless of the cultural shift that has placed movies like From Beyond, with its depiction of sexual assault, on shaky ground in 2017, we recommend it for true horror fans. The viewing may discomfit, but the villain is after all both man and monster, which makes him/it an interesting symbol for our modern age.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 9 2016
WRITER'S BLOCH
“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.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 16 2016
ENDLESS LOVECRAFT
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.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 6 2013
H.P. COVER CRAFT
Look, but only if you dare.

Above, two awesome covers for H.P. Lovecraft’s classic horror tales The Dunwich Horror and The Weird Shadow over Innsmouth (plus other stories), printed by Bart House, a New York City-based publisher that got its name from the structure that was its home—the Bartholomew Building on East 42nd Street. Lovecraft wrote Dunwich and Innsmouth in 1928 and 1931, but these editions appeared after his death—in 1945 and 1944 respectively. Lovecraft is an author most recognize, but surprisingly few have actually read. He’s sort of the horror version of The Godfather movies—everyone knows all about them, but it’s incredible how few have actually sat through them. If you don’t know his writing, his style can admittedly make for a difficult read. Plus there’s not much emotional payoff—his heroes generally face mind-bending horrors that simply can’t be beaten, which means you have to get used to them awaiting an inevitable death or going insane. But that’s one reason we like him more and more as time goes by—in this post-millennial era, what is more appropriate than a battle against forces too powerful to beat, too complex to comprehend, and too corrupt to look upon without losing every shred of your own goodness?

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Vintage Pulp Jan 14 2009
LOVECRAFT CHEESE
Never has a writer of such quality suffered so many bad adaptations of his work.

Thirty-eight years ago today in Hollywood, sexploitation producer Roger Corman premiered a film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s macabre story The Dunwich Horror, and it was almost good. Wait, did we really just say that?

*sigh*

Not to get all self-pitying here, but us Lovecraft fans have been so desperate for so long for a truly great HPL movie, we’ll see merit in virtually any lame attempt. But when we are honest with ourselves—really truly brutally honest—we have to admit this movie is a stinkbomb. Lovecraft is simply difficult to adapt. So difficult, in fact, that if you remove Stuart Gordon from the discussion, virtually all the movies based on his material have been awful.

But even if The Dunwich Horror disappoints, the poster is rather interesting, with its implied violation by a hydra-like monstrosity. Incidentally, of special note here is the presence of writer Curtis Hanson, who would go on to direct the great L.A. Confidential. Nice comeback, Curtis. As for us, we’ll just plan on seeing the low budget Dunwich remake slated for release later this year, and hope Guillermo del Toro’s big budget At The Mountains of Madness actually films sometime this century.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
March 28
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
March 27
1958—Khrushchev Becomes Premier
Nikita Khrushchev becomes premier of the Soviet Union. During his time in power he is responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, and presides over the rise of the early Soviet space program, but his many policy failures lead to him being deposed in October 1964. After his removal he is pensioned off and lives quietly the rest of his life, eventually dying of heart disease in 1971.
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