Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I’d like to give thanks for all the Halloween fans and curious souls who have stopped by my little web blog to share in the love for Halloween. Be sure to check us out in December,  when we’ll celebrate the dark and spooky side of the holidays.

Haiku of the Week

broken stone
a lover, taken too soon
empty grave

Tuesday Terror – The Black Cat

The Black Cat (1932)
“Did you ever hear of Satanism, the worship of the devil, of evil?”

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Today’s black and white classic is the horror-thriller The Black Cat from Universal Pictures. Horror icons Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff square off for the first time in a movie about a traumatized doctor with a cat phobia named Werdegast and an American newlywed couple, who seek medical aid at the home of the doctor’s nemesis, Hjalmar Poelzig, the dark high priest of a devil-worshipping cult. The doctor’s original plans of revenge on Poelzig are changed when it is revealed the priest plans to sacrifice the young bride at the dark of the moon.

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Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr., the young studio head believed in director Edgar G. Ulmer’s vision enough so the man had free rein over the pic. Although presumed to be loosely based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe, there are not too many similarities here. It’s a bit strange really because the movie is good enough to stand on its own merits. This perhaps one of my favorite classic films. The story is excellent, with strong performances from the entire cast. David Manners and Julie Bishop pile on the melodrama with their romance, which is now part of the charm in some of these old films, but let’s be honest, they weren’t who we’re here to see anyway.  Lugosi playing the tortured Werdegast against Karloff’s evil Poelzig in a battle for screen supremacy is one of the best horror face-offs ever found in horror. I’d say Lugosi is the clear winner, due to a more fully fleshed-out character and more dialogue to offer, but Karloff does manage to say quite a lot with just a creepy stare. Madness and secret motivations are the whole reason why this film is so scary. Clearly, something evil has hold of these men.

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The film escaped the Pre-code guidelines but Ulmer’s first cut of the film, which included several scenes of satanic worship and skinning alive of Herr Poelzig, was deemed too dark and violent for the Laemmles (father and son). Between that and Bela Lugosi’s complaints that he appeared to be too villainous, Ulmer reshot several scenes,  downplaying the gruesome last scene, and added some sprinkling of humanity in the tragic Dr. Werdegast. In a touch of irony, while cleaning up the film’s ending, Ulmer snuck in some extra shots of Poelzig’s necrophilic menagerie. Already heavy with a dark look and satanic theme, studio execs managed to miss The Black’s Cat’s seriously taboo subject matter, or perhaps they ignored it.

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The eerie movie score runs 80 minutes contains many classical selections, including the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, only the second time a horror film featured the now cliched song.  The set of Poelzig’s mansion is considered somewhat of a masterpiece in the industry, part art deco, part haunted house. In contrast to The Old Dark House, this film is well-lit, casting defined shadows in a way that you’re unsure if you’re watching a horror film at all.

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The Black Cat is considered to be the first movie to use psychological horror, capitalizing on public interest in psychiatry at that time. Despite the audience’s distaste for the dark subject matter, it was the biggest box office hit for Universal that year, due in part to the popularity of its stars.  What didn’t work then is exactly why it works now. The Black Cat is creepy, scary, and a masterclass in great classic horror.

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Ten Freaky Vintage Costume Photos

Whenever someone mentions vintage Halloween, the first thought that jumps into everybody’s head are those creepy costume photos we see online. It took an awful lot of courage to be a Kodak developer back in the day.

10. The Real Mickey and Minnie

mickeyandminnie

9. Ann looking raggedy without her Andy.

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8. Has anyone seen my dearest Lamb Chop?

sheep man circa 1915

7. Take us to your former leader.

strange old costume

6. You’re next!

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5. But, I like cornbread.

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4. These are the Wild Things you’re looking for.

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3. Bette and Joan, the early years.

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2. Coming this Christmas, It’s a very very Texas Chainsaw Reunion!

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  1. Is it a man?  A beast? A pig?  The Hulk? Skeletor’s dad?  Whatever it is, it’s terrifying!

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Worst Dads in Horror

Posting this blog a day late and a dollar short, just like dear ‘ole dad. If you were one of the millions who spent Father’s Day pining over your lost, non-existent volatile relationship with daddy dearest, cheer up, and be glad you weren’t the offspring of any of these bad dads of horror.

10. Satan – Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

It doesn’t really get much worse than having Satan for a dad. Sure, there are probably perks to being the Antichrist, but the trade-off is lifetime of micromanagement from mid-level staffers on daddy’s payroll. Satan’s coven rape, conspire, commit murder and drive the chosen mother-to-be to the brink of insanity, all to ensure Satan’s son is born on the exact date that will make him 33 years on the millennial, the same age as Jesus when he came into his own. Who would’ve guessed the devil would be so petty?

Rosemarys-Baby

Continue reading “Worst Dads in Horror”

6 More Things to Do When It’s not Halloween

Happy Walpurgisnacht! We are halfway to Halloween and another long, hot, miserable summer is just around the corner. Last year, around this time, I shared with you 10 Things to Do When It’s Not Halloween.  Sometimes, we tend to focus on the bad so much that we forget to concentrate on the good, like the fact there are plenty of Halloweenesque activities to do to keep us happy until October.

Plant a pumpkin

The Pumpkin is the ultimate symbol of Halloween. It’s the heralded icon. The shepherd of the holiday. One could argue it’s the whole reason that Halloween even exists. Planting your own pumpkin can be rewarding in a number of ways. For starters, you’re doing something nice for the environment. Your pumpkin can be insecticide and chemical-free. Second, it might be more economical than buying a pumpkin at the store, particularly if you live in rural areas. Next, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that gardening relieves stress. Watching your little pumpkin grow makes you happy. That alone is totally worth it. Next, you can brag about it on your Instagram and social media. Create a photo album tracking your pumpkins growth. Lastly, you’ll have an amazing pumpkin to carve into a jack-o’-lantern by Halloween!

The Farmer’s Almanac has all the info you need on growing pumpkins:
https://www.almanac.com/plant/pumpkins

bonnie plants pumpkin
©Bonnie Plants

Paint Halloween ceramics

Lemax and Department 56 are awesome, no doubt about it, but they’re also a little pricy.  Why not try and create your own Halloween village? Everything you need, ceramics, materials, and the tutorials that teach DIYers how to create certain looks with paint, can all be found online. Likewise, you can find paint, brushes and other materials at your local arts and crafts stores. You can paint your own ceramic haunted house and knick-knacks, or add new items to storebought villages piecemeal.

Bonus: Painting ceramics can be a soothing way to relax and hone in your concentration skills

Watch all 1225 episodes of Dark Shadows

ABC’s dark gothic soap opera Dark Shadows featuring vampires, witches, ghosts, werewolves, and other supernatural creatures, aired 30-minute episodes on weekdays from 1966-1971.

The first season sluggishly produced efficient melodrama, romance, and the usual family squabbles, as found in a typical daytime soap, until introducing the charismatic, creepy, and somewhat sexy character of Barnabas Collins, a centuries-old vampire played by Jonathan Frid. From that point, the show became his show and Frid’s portrayal of the powerful Barnabas helped boost audience viewership and eventually, made him a horror icon.

 

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Create your own Halloween florals

You can certainly wait for fall to buy some artificial autumn florals or black roses, but it’s always been my belief that some fake flowers are “fuller” than others, during different times of the year. This is certainly just an opinion, based on no facts whatsoever, but if we always paid attention to facts, we’d have no fun at all!

For those of you looking to dye real flowers black, the good people over at Florist Chronicles have put together one of the most comprehensive tutorials on how to create black flowers that I’ve ever seen. Check it out: www.floristchronicles/2011/create-black-flowers

black vase Steph O Rama
©Steph O Rama

Create a spooky centerpiece

After you create some black florals, you may need a haunted vase to put them in. You can turn any dollar store vessel into a gothic or Halloween centerpiece with some black paint, a glue gun, some fake spiders and other Halloween objects.

spray painted vases paige taylor evans
©Paige Taylor Evans

Check out this amazing easy to make spider vase tutorial over at KS Craft Shack:
http://www.craftshackchronicles.com/dollar-store-crafting-spider-halloween/

spider vase ks craft shack
©KS Craft Shack

Need more ideas, check out the Halloween florals board on Pinterest:
https://www.pinterest.com/halloweenkristy/gothic-halloween-florals/

Visit a cemetery

Cemeteries are lovely quiet little places, open all year around. There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting under a tree and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature of a cemetery in the springtime, a time when the flowers and trees are in full bloom. There’s something meaningful, even bit ironic, about so much life flourishing among the dead. Just when you thought your little goth heart didn’t like pastels.

Go early and you’ll have a chance to photograph the gravestones before the morning mist burns off, or try in the late afternoon to catch those eerie shadows falling over the tombstones.

springtime greenwood cemetery
Springtime ©Green-wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

 

Haiku of the Week

Bats Night Darkness Halloween Full Moon

flutter of black wings
circling their next victim
blood they seek