Throwback Thursday: The Toxic Avenger

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

Today is National Cheese Curd Day (10/15) and cheese curd is basically immature cheese that hasn’t gone through any proper process. That’s kinda how I view Troma movies, films shot, cut raw, and served to the masses as unrefined horror. It’s definitely an acquired taste. The Toxic Avenger is a story of a bullied young man who gains superhuman strength after falling into a vat of toxic waste. The new mop-carrying hero promptly sets out to get revenge on those who tried to kill him, but also manages to clean up his small town of Tromaville, by getting rid of the bad guys and corruption along the way.

Directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman, who also helped write and produce the film, The Toxic Avenger was panned upon its initial release but gained a strong cult following after being the featured midnight show at a popular movie house in Greenwich Village in 1985. The rest is history. Troma Entertainment went from making campy sex romps to campy horror, building a franchise of Toxic Avenger movies, which spawned five films and even a short-lived cartoon television series.

Armed with a specialized in a brand of satire, Troma effectively exaggerated the issues of the 80s drug-fueled excess, gym craze obsession, raging crime, political corruption, and clear class divisions, while serving up a satisfying revenge fantasy. The Toxic Avenger is campy, it’s gory, it’s silly, and may have played on stereotypes of the time, but once you swim through the bloodsplatter and Aquanet cloud, the Toxic Avenger is just as heartwarming as any of those John Hughes teen comedies of the 80s, and it had a lot to say about teen bullying. The Toxic Avenger isn’t the best-looking superhero on the planet but he sure is the hero the world needs.

Throwback Thursday: Chopping Mall

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Chopping Mall (1986)

The fear of machines taking over and destroying mankind was all the rage in 80s, and Chopping Mall delivered feathered hair and killer lasers in spades. One-time protégé of B-movie king Roger Corman, Director Jim Wynorski kicked off a long career of B-horror movies and exploitation films, with this story about of group of mall employees partying after hours, only to find themselves the target of the mall’s new nighttime security system. I’m sure the movie had some meaningful message about not having sex in furniture stores and trusting machines to do a man’s job, but who cares, we came to see robots vs. humans!

These formidable Dalek-looking knock-offs rack up a kill count that could make the Terminator proud. They start by impaling a couple of techs and electrocuting a night-time janitor, played by character actor and Corman alum, Dick Miller, before moving on to our horny co-eds, played by a cast of hot 80s hopefuls, including Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, and the legendary Barbara Crampton, in one of her earliest roles. Our spunky protags fight back with Molotov cocktails, flares and propane tanks, but ya know, bad bots and their neon lasers gotta steal the show.

Honestly, most of the special effects are as cheesy as the gratuitous boob shots, but one death does stands out as unbelievably gory, even by today’s blood-thirsty audience standards. It wasn’t as well done as say, Scanners, but it probably was the highlight of Suzee Slater’s career.
All and all, Chopping Mall isn’t the best killer robot movie in the world, but I think true horror fans will appreciate it, besides, once Hollywood figured out how to make heads explode, even bad 80s B-flicks got a little more interesting.

Throwback Thursdays: The Howling II

These movies are so painstakingly 80s, they serve as a tubular tribute to both spandex and bloodsplatter.

The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985)

In celebration of the Harvest full moon, we’re kicking off Throwback Thursdays with this 80s classic, chosen over Joe Dante’s brilliant first film The Howling because it stars Christopher Lee as aging werewolf hunter, who recruits a young American couple to accompany him to Transylvania, on a hunt for the immortal witchy-werewolf queen Stirba, played by B-movie queen Sybil Danning and all her royal glory!
You get the Prince of Darkness himself, cheesy special effects, awful werewolf costumes that were actually ape costumes, bloody carnage, bitchcraft, werewolf menage a trois, werewolf orgy, a catchy theme song on repeat throughout the entire movie, a Czech club full of punk rockers, 80s perma hair, sunglasses at night, the tightest black leather outfit ever stitched together for film, and Sybil Danning’s gigantic scene-stealing breasts. My friends, this is a masterclass in 80s B-movies!

A Brief History of the Jack-o’-Lantern

People have been carving vegetables into lanterns since the dawn of time. The Maori people used gourds for lights, over 700 years ago. It’s believed the making of jack-o’-lanterns began in Ireland in 1600s, when they used turnips and gourds to hollow out to use for lantern during Halloween in Ireland and Scotland, sometimes carving out grotesque faces to frighten people. 

 

The lanterns represented spirits and were used to ward off evil or lost spirits. Sometimes people put them on the windowsills to keep harmful spirits away from the home. Once Christianity took firm hold in the region and Halloween combined with the Christian observances of All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, jack-o’-lanterns were lit in remembrance of Christian souls in purgatory.

The term Jack-o’-Lantern began showing up in print in the early 1800s, when Irish newspapers began printing stories telling of carved gourd lanterns and information on local gourd carving competitions. But it wasn’t until 1866, that the first recorded association between a carved pumpkin and Halloween would show up in an edition of The Daily News in Kingston, Ontario.

turnip jol

Today’s jack-o’-lanterns have evolved into works of art.  No longer content with simple faces, pumpkin carving has become big business with the sale of tools and artistic guides to help amateurs and home haunters create their own elaborately designed pumpkins, to televised competitions and special appearances by professional carvers, who enjoy D-List celebrity status.

Will-o’-the-Wisp

Jack-o’-Lanterns were once associated with the term ‘will-o’-the-wisp’ or ‘ignis fatuus’, the Medieval Latin for “fool’s fire”. A will-o’-the-wisp was thought to be a ghostly light or orb seen by travelers during the night, particularly near bogs, swamps, or marshes. The phenomenon was said be supernatural, brought on by ghosts, fairies, or other elemental spirits.

330px-Will-o-the-wisp_and_snake_by_Hermann_Hendrich_1823
Will-o-the-wisp_and_snake_by_Hermann_Hendrich_1823

A tale behind the term refers to a wicked blacksmith who was turned away at the pearly gates by St. Peter. He was given a second chance to redeem himself but the blacksmith failed to change his evil ways and was then cursed to wander the earth for eternity. The Devil was impressed by the blacksmith’s antics and decided to give him a single burning coal to keep him warm, which he used to lure foolish travelers into the marshes instead.

The Story of Stingy Jack

In addition to the will-o’-the-wisp myth, no folklore associated with jack-o’-lanterns are quite as memorable as the story of Stingy Jack, a devilish man, so evil, the real Satan paid him a visit to see what all the hoopla was about. The witty Jack was a shrewd deceiver, a master manipulator and a nasty drunkard, who managed to trick Satan, not once but twice. The first time, he convinced the devil to go drinking with him. Afterward, being too stingy to pay, Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin so he can pay the bill. Once the Devil did so, Jack put the coin in his pocket along with a silver cross, trapping Satan until he agreed to spare Jack’s soul for ten years.  The Devil agree and off Jack went.

by surrounding the devil with crosses to trap him until he agreed to spare Jack’s soul. Once Jack finally died from drink, he was refused entrance into heaven for his lifetime of sin and denied entrance into hell per his previous agreement with Satan. Satan cast the doomed soul out to wander the world for eternity, with only a single ember, which Jack inserted into a hollowed turnip to light his way. He became known as Jack of the Lantern, and eventually, Jack-o’-Lantern.

stingy_jack_by_jovan_ukropina
stingy_jack_by_jovan_ukropina

The Witch’s Tale, American Radio’s First Horror Show

The Witch’s Tale was the first horror-fantasy radio series, which aired from May 28, 1931, to June 13, 1938, on WOR, the Mutual Radio Network, and later in syndication. Creator Alonzo Deen Cole, a 34-year old Minnesota native, convinced the station to air the supernatural series that he wrote and directed himself. His goal was to draw audiences away from more conventional musical shows airing on rival stations.

Witchs_Tale_1The creepy 30-minute weekly anthology featured a cackling host named Old Nancy, a witch from Salem, who, along with her wise black cat named Satan, spun a new wicked “bedtime yarn” each week. The show terrified younger listeners and was a huge success with New York children, who adored Old Nancy, often imitating her cackles and quips, in efforts to scare younger siblings.

The shows were broadcast live, recorded for syndication, and then distributed to various national markets. It’s reported, that in 1961, Cole didn’t think the recordings held any value, so he destroyed nearly all of them (only about 30-50 recordings exist today).

Witchs Tale trio
Most scripts were original stories but there were a few literary adaptions as well. Cole played the cat Satan and enlisted the aid of his wife Marie O’Flynn to play lead female characters. Old Nancy, liked telling tales was created by stage actress Adelaide Fitz-Allen, who portrayed the spooky witch until her death in 1935.Auditions were held soon after to find a new Old Nancy and 13-year old Miriam Wolfe, a radio prodigy from Brooklyn, New York was chosen for the role after Cole heard the girl mimicking the character’s trademark cackling laugh. Wolfe would play the character for several years, in addition to other characters, before leaving to pursue other interests. Veteran radio and film actress Martha Wentworth (the famed Disney voice artist) then stepped in to lend her voice talents as Old Nancy. Top New York radio actors were often cast to fill roles of secondary characters respectively.

 

 

 

 

In 1936, a companion magazine called The Witch’s Tales was published by the small firm, Carwood Publishing Co., which reportedly failed to promote the radio show properly and completely mismanaged finances and distribution of the magazine. Only two issues (November and December) ever made it into print. Although Alonzo Deen Cole was named editor, real editorial work was believed to be done by Tom Chadburn. Cole did, however, write the lead story for the first issue and contributed the plot for the main story in the second issue. The magazine’s other stories were all reprints from the American version of Pearson’s Magazine. 

The spell cast by The Witch’s Tale came to an end in 1958, with talk of bringing the series to television. Cole was eyed as a consultant and story supervisor for the pilot, but the idea never came to fruition.

You can find many episodes over at Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/TheWitchsTale

The video shown below is titled Graveyard Mansion, originally aired in 1934, about two brothers who may have stumbled upon a New Orleans vampire. Take a listen.

Vintage Halloween Collectibles Wish List

Do you love Halloween Memorabilia? Do you wish all the money in the world belonged to you so you could buy Halloween collectibles? Join the club!

I adore the vintage Halloween style. I especially love old Halloween antiques, but true Halloween collectibles are pricey, leaving many of us out in the cold. Interest in Halloween yesteryears has spawned a growing sidearm in the Halloween retail industry, replica vintage Halloween décor. Beistle Company, which started out in 1900 making paper products, was one of the very first companies to make Halloween decorations and party goods. Today, they make replica items of their very own designs! Pretty genius.

There is one downside however, and that’s if you’re a serious collector who wants real vintage merchandise, you might have a tougher time finding authentic vintage memorabilia. Those who wish to get into collecting vintage Halloween items, you need to do your homework. Learn the business, the items, the creators, the prices, even the people who deal in collectible market. Many of them are quite nice and always willing to answer questions or help out with their vast knowledge of Halloween history.

There are tons of guides out there. Two of my favorite comprehensive guides are Vintage Halloween Collectibles, 3rd Edition by Mark B. Ledenbach, and the newly published, Vintage Hallowe’en: Tricks, Treats & Traditions authored and created Robert S. Pandis and Heidi Pandis.

 

Everyone has different preferences in the type of Halloween collectibles, they’d like to own. Below is my own personal wish list.  Feel free to chime in on the comments below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram and let me know what’s on your list.

Vintage Postcards, 1910s
($5-$100) **

Vintage postcards and other ephemera can be found at paper shows and antique shops. Prices vary based on condition and rarity of the piece.

 

Beistle Embossed Die Cut – Black Cats and Moon,
($20-$100) **

Authentic Halloween Die Cuts  are usually thick cardboard and embossed, always check the back. Prices vary based on condition and rarity of the piece.

 

Gurley Novelty Co. Halloween Candles, 1950s
($15-$80) **

I posted a pic on Instagram on October 8, 2019 that shows the solo black cat below, but in really bad shape. I’d love to get another one and more like it.

 

Dennison’s Bogie Book, 1920
($30-$150) **

This is a pic of the original Hallowe’en, Harvest and Thanksgiving party planning guide. There are many Bogie Books from Dennison’s floating around. The 1920 version is supposedly in public domain, which means anyone can copy, reprint and sell them. If you just want the information, cool, but understand, you’re not buying an antique.  I’ve seen authentic originals sell upwards of $150.

Dennisons Bogie Book Collectible 1925

Anton Reiche Dresden Witch or Pumpkin Chocolate Molds, 1930s
($25-$350) **

If you’re a chocolate lover, you might enjoy checking out this history of chocolate molds from Germany, at http://www.chocolatemoldsmuseum.com/history/chocolate-molds/    Friedrich Anton Reiche from Dresden made lots of chocolate molds for several holidays, including these two below for Halloween.

 

Rosbro Halloween Snowman Candy Container, 1950s
($75-$250) **

There are hundreds of collectible Halloween candy containers from either Rosen/Rosbro or Kokomold to search out if you’re looking to get into collecting those (I hear the Kokomold witch rocket on wheels are extremely rare and valuable), but I particularly adore these Halloween Snowmen.

vintage halloween snowman

Vintage Horror Movie Posters, 1930s
($1500-$435,500) **

According to this Guardian article from 2012, The Mummy film poster from 1932 comes in as the second most expensive film poster of all-time, behind the Sci-fi thriller, Metropolis from 1927, which recently auctioned off for $1.2 million, along with other memorabilia in a bankruptcy deal.

Mummy Film Poster 1932

**All prices are only estimates from the lowest to highest auctions that I’ve seen.