#MonsterMovieMonday: “It Came from the Malt Shop” Double Feature in Shock-o-Rama!


“Today we are concerned with juvenile delinquency – its causes – and its effects. We are especially concerned when this delinquency boils over into our schools.The scenes and incidents depicted here are fictional. However, we believe that public awareness is a first step towards a remedy for any problem.”

The previous quote comes from the opening text of 1955’s The Blackboard Jungle. That film features very little in the way of fangs and gore, but it does highlight one of the primary fears of the 1950s: teenagers.

Ho-rrible, ain’t they? The adults of the time thought so.  There was a widespread fear of juvenile delinquency, with “experts” claiming that post-WWII children were lazy, spoiled, reckless, disrespectful, violent, and just plain rude. Because of this, teenagers and youth culture were demonized and maligned to an extreme. Horror, being the genre that deals the most with society’s fear and anxiety, took this growing issue to the logical next step and made literal monsters of teenagers.


With the success of I Was a Teenage Werewolf in the summer of 1957, a horde of adolescent abominations invaded cinemas for the next few years. The next two teen terror tales to take the theaters were I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and Blood of Dracula, both films being part of a double feature in the November of 1957. While we couldn’t possibly top the drive-in eXXXperience, we are presenting the gruesome twosome here in this very post!
The monsters in both features are among the very best of ’50s schlock. I Was a Teenage Frankenstein‘s tit-ular ghoul looks very much like an apple sculpture shrunken head, and the teen vampire in Blood of Dracula looks like a creation from Dick Smith’s Do It Yourself Monster Make-Up. Both are utterly fantastic.

While Teenage Frankenstein is the clear winner here, both deliver on the teen thrills and chills.  My only complaint with Blood of Dracula is the title. How does the same studio behind the other two I Was a Teenage… miss out on the opportunity to call their vampire film I Was a Teenage Dracula?! Perhaps if they had done that, we’d be listening to Cramps song with that title…

For all you Hepcats and Kittens out there, here’s the double feature:

 

Goon Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Rock on, Ho-rror Ho-mies! 😉 xo)

Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.

The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.

Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.

The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.

There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.

 

Comic Book Review – The Lost Boys

(Submited by our Heroic Ho-mie, Mr. Prince Adam…Thank you, Super Sir! 🙂 xoxo)

“Santa Carla, California is on edge. The eccentric coastal town and haven for the undead was finally returning to “normal” after its last supernatural scuffle left the local coven’s head vampire dead and gave newcomers Michael and Sam Emerson a housewarming both violent and bizarre. Now the brothers must once again team up with militant vampire hunters Edgar and Allan Frog when a new gang of ruthless, stunning, life-sucking nightcrawlers known as the Blood Belles emerges from the aftermath to collect Michael’s love interest and their lost sister, Star.” (Vertigo)

It’s confession time; I have never seen The Lost Boys. I know, shame on me! The only reason I knew of it was because Kiefer Sutherland was in it. I really became intrigued by it, when Ms. Diana Prince got all excited over The CW developing a TV series based on the film property. So I tracked down the film, before hitting another stumbling block. That stumbling block was the film being directed by Joel Schumacher. Ever since Batman & Robin, my movie viewing has consisted of a “Sans Schumacher” rule. So I thought me and this film ever crossing paths was a no go! Then DC Entertainment, through the Vertigo imprint announced a comic book miniseries. So this was my compromise. Having read the book, and thoroughly enjoying it, as well as for reviewing purposes for this site; I will break my “Sans Schumacher” rule and watch The Lost Boys! See how much I love this site! Aside from liking this book, another reason I must watch the movie is because this book is a sequel to the film! I simply have to watch the events that led to this story unfold. Having said that, if you’re like me and have never seen the film, this book is not confusing. It tells you the basics. Brothers Sam and Michael move to Santa Carla. Michael falls for a girl he meets on the boardwalk named Star. However, Star has ties to a guy named David, a Vampire. Michael is lured into and seduced by the world of the Vampire’s. That leaves Sam, his grandfather James, and two other Vampire Hunters known as the Frog Brothers to save Michael. Our story picks up with the David and his gang of Vampire’s seemingly dead. Sam works at the local comic book shop (bonus points), Michael works at a retirement home, but is also making a life with Star, who’s trying to live amongst us as a human with his family. Meanwhile, his grandfather operates a flailing vampire hunters group out of a Veterans Center known as the Santa Carla Hunters Union. What I loved about this early portion of the book was that writer Tim Seeley catches the reader up to speed with the film just enough, yet works some other spoilery pertinent information about the film for later, when it serve his new story. I enjoyed the Frog Brothers. They kind of remind me of a younger version of Bill and Ted, mixed with the Stranger Thing kids. My one problem is that they seem to be too young for any responsible adult to train and allow go out & hunt Vampires. This is the same problem I have with Bruce Wayne allowing and training 9 year old Dick Grayson to fight crime and be his partner. Both cases are socially and morally irresponsible. Maybe it’ll play out differently when I watch the film, but right now, as they are presented in the book, it bugs me a little. I like that Sam works at a comic book store and in said store, there is a book that mirrors the events of the film. I like when comics and movies have that cool Meta aspect to them.

The peaceful status quo is interrupted when a fire erupts at SCHU headquarters. This lures the remaining few hunter left outside and the vampires kill them, including Michael and Sam’s grandfather. This action causes Star to flee and Michael to chase after her. Meanwhile, the Frog brothers are on the case, trying to figure out what the vampires are up to. Armed with wooden stakes, crosses, holy water and garlic, they find themselves at the Santa Carla Sea Caves, where they discover an underground female gang of vampires known as the blood belles, who revived David and secretly used an unknowing Star, to lure Michael and the Frog Brothers to their caves. Their ultimate goal; to resurrect the lost Vampire City of Xibalba, which had been lost under these caves thanks to earthquakes for six thousand years. Along with the city, their inhabitants, the Mothers of Vampires will be resurrected. To do this, they need to drain the blood of a half human/vampire of his blood, which is why they have Michael, as well as sacrifice a virgin, which is why they kidnapped the Frog brothers. This aspect of the story offers so much to like. First, is the classic method to kill a vampire. I’m a sucker for the tried and true techniques of killing a vampire and it’s nice to not see a story try and reinvent the wheel just to be different. I love that the new vampire threat in town is a gang of women, better still that they are revving an ancient civilization’s group of vampire’s. With rare exceptions like Buffy, Vampirella and Van Helsing, the vampire genre’s history is to position women in the roles of damsel’s in distress. It’s good to see them take the lead here and to be villainesses power houses too! Even David, the lead Vampire is working FOR them. He is their minion and that is a bold statement by our writer. As for how David survived death from the film? He was given an injection of blood from the Mother’s in stasis, which heals his wounds. I like the idea that their blood can save fellow vampires, as well as the conceit that a mere injection of vampire blood can turn humans into vampires. Typically, a human injected with vampire blood has to die before turning but here the change can happen amongst the living, which is unique. At least to me it is. Star’s Sire and chief member of the Blood Belle’s, Billy was the daughter of a master and a slave. While she was freed, she was chased by a witch hunter who branded her with the mark of a witch. As a result, her townspeople attempted to burn her. However, she was saved by a vampire, one of the original Blood Belle’s. Ultimately, she dies in the third act of this book, by watching sunrise, one last time. I was entranced by her origin but feel as though it was glossed over. They could do her origin story and early history justice with a comic book miniseries. Her death served to tell the reader that in this books mythology, when a sire dies, their offspring return to being human. This presents Star with a dilemma at the end of the story. Does she take the injection of blood from the mothers of vampires, or does she live out her days as a human, waiting to succumb to her pre-vampire disease of cystic fibrosis? Oh btw I am so not spoiling the end. Read it and see for yourself.

I do have some problems with the finale of the book. For one, Michael, Star and the Frog Brothers are rescued by Sam and an underdeveloped character known as The Believer. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy this guy as a vampire hunter. He has more in common with Ashton Kutcher in Dude Where’s My Car, than he does with Abraham van Helsing. Not to mention, we’ve already chronicled Sam’s non experience as a vampire hunter. The Mothers of Vampire’s were built up as such a threat, with their blood holding so much power, yet, they are given so little time to showcase their true levels of badassery. In the end, they are felled by a Vampire bomb thrown into the cave by Sam, which causes the cave to crumble on top of them. I think that was a waste of great setup for these characters. Also a waste, was the subplot of the residents of the Hughes Retirement Home being turned into vampires. First off, the turn was done off page, so you didn’t know it happened until you see them. Add to that, the fact that they are confronted and killed within half an issue. This book suffers from pacing problems, and could have easily been an 8 or 12 issue maxi series. All is not lost though. These problems could be fixed in a follow-up comic, which I believe is likely, since the ending suggests that original Lost Boy, David, once again escapes eternal death in this story.

Steve Godlewski is the artist for this book and provides great work. While his art is nowhere near as realistic looking as Alex Ross, I think the characters bare a strong resemblance to their film actor counter parts. This is especially true of David. You can definitely see a young Kiefer Sutherland in the rendering. One panel that is particularly beautiful is the shot of the Santa Carla boardwalk all lit up during a night setting. Also, in terms of picturesque beauty, the final image of Michael and Star kissing on the bluff as the sun sets, looks like something you’d see in and old school film like Gone With the Wind. Let’s get to the vampires shall we. I loved the look and wardrobe of the Mothers of Vampires. The Ancient Egyptian look really gave weight to their distinction as the mothers of vampires. One extremely striking image was the pages featuring the residence of the old age home as vampires. It’s striking because recent movies, television and books don’t depict elderly people as vampires. It’s typically reserved for the “young and beautiful.” The most gruesome images of the book go to the flashback of Billy being burned at the stake and David being skewered in the head/eye. I have to give special mention to the early pages of Sam working in the comic book store. On the walls, you can spot actual comic books from the 80’s including John Byrne Superman and John Ostrander Suicide Squad issues.

This was a really good book. I’m glad I decided to read it. Sure, I had some issues with it but overall it was fun and I got invested into most of the characters. This book is so good it has me eagerly looking forward to watching a Joel Schumacher film. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the highest amount of praise I could give to a comic book.

Goon Review: Vamp (1986)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my wickedly awesome ho-rror ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Can we agree that vampires are horribly misrepresented nowadays? I could count how many decent vampire movies that came out since 2000 on one hand, even if I were missing a few fingers. After the ‘80s, vampires didn’t seem to work too well. During that decade, we saw too much of the fashion and pop culture making their way into these films, like the filmmakers wanted to “modernize” vampires. They also had this unnecessary trend of having one of the characters reiterate all of the vampire rules just incase you have comatosed since the beginning of vampire films and didn’t know what kind of creatures there were. In all seriousness, a lot of vampire movies I like come from the ‘80s, including Fright Night and Near Dark (which in my opinion is the best vampire movie). I didn’t include The Lost Boys, because personally I don’t like it and I know it has a huge following, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.

Somewhere in the middle of all those movies lies Vamp from 1986, a movie that was advertised to be much darker than it actually is. The first time I ever saw this movie, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the movie that was sold to me and it was jarring to watch this sophomoric comedy that happened to have vampires and an albino gang. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, but slowly it began to grow on me somewhat. It’s not a bad film, but it’s not the greatest. It’s about as middle of the road as you can get. The humor doesn’t always work, it doesn’t offer anything to frighten you, it’s quite predictable, but visually it’s super stylish. There’s mood and atmosphere to accompany the style Vamp undeniably has. It’s be can cool, it’s a little sexy and it’s very much a product of the ‘80s vampire era.

Chris Makepeace and Robert Rusler play Keith and AJ (I’ll let you guess which one of the two plays the loveable asshole), two young college studs that are trying to find just the right fraternity to join and not just any old fraternity will do. They are looking to rub elbows with the rich and spoiled, so ya know, less college work for them. Offering to provide the frat with any service, and they do mean anything, the frat tasks them with getting a stripper for their party. Sounds like no problem for two resourceful, handsome gents… except between them, so after enlisting the help of rich kid Duncan, they head off to the dirtiest part of town. Duncan serves almost no purpose for the film other than to later try and the wool over your eyes, but it doesn’t work. He pretty much just drinks and regurgitates bad jokes, but hey, this Meatballs inspired vampire flick needs a cliched Asian character. Speaking of Meatballs, Chris Makepeace was also in that movie. Well, let’s move on.

The trio runs into an albino gang at a pitstop for some coffee and now I realized I wrote the words “albino gang.” The leader, who kinda looks like a Pablo Honey era Thom Yorke pulls a switchblade on them, but AJ’s also kind of a badass and turns the tables. The scene ends and the film carries on and as it progresses, it will be in the back of your mind and you won’t be able to help yourself and wonder, “what the hell did that have to do with anything?” The short answer is nothing. Not a goddamn thing other than to add an action scene later that could honestly be cut from the film and it would have no effect on the overall feature or maybe it was to pad out the run time. When it comes to things like this in films like this, neither answer would surprise me.

Somewhere in between classy and sleazy is the nightclub, ran by a slender man in a pink suit named Vic and his brute of an enforcer, Vlad, where they decide to find their stripper and the patrons and workers are also somewhere in between classy and sleazy. Actually, it’s very fitting with how I first described this movie. It’s like it wants to take inspiration from others, but never finds an identity of its own. An old acquaintance of Keith’s, a very cute and new wave looking girl named Allison played by Dedee Pfeiffer, recognizes him, but he can’t seem to recognize her. Honestly, how could you forget such a cute face like that? This is Dedee Pfeiffer at her cutest. She would go on to do a lot of TV show appearances, like Supernatural, but her real big credit would go to starring alongside the 2000 action flick, Billy Ray Cyrus starring vehicle, Radical Jack. It’s worth it to see Billy Ray Cyrus try and play an action star.

Now for the main event. A mysterious woman named Katrina (Grace Jones) takes the stage and performs a very ritualistic style dance that commands attention, although I’d have to say it’s the fell-asleep-with-product-in-my-hair hairstyle I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Being thoroughly impressed, AJ, unbeknownst to Keith, goes backstage to hire Katrina, but never comes back. Keith now starts to realize that there is some really weird stuff going on, like Vic snacking on crickets and everybody seems to be telling him that AJ ditched him. Something isn’t right here and as Keith keeps meddling, his questions are making him a target and soon he’s confronted by AJ who is telling him to relax and then reveals himself to be a vampire! But, ya know, not before going down the list of rules that makes you a vampire. As I said, a lot of vampire movies at this time had a character exposition dump all the vampire rules, because the filmmakers and studios thought we were idiots and had never seen or heard of vampires before. No matter what film it’s in, these scenes bring the movie to a screeching halt for me and it never fits in. Well, it only lasts several minutes before the two are forced to fight and Keith escapes to learn that the whole nightclub and most of the town are bloodsuckers!

At this point, it’s relatively paint by numbers without any surprises, although the film will still try to make you believe there may be. Keith tries to survive the night along with his new galpal Allison, but escaping seems much harder than it should be and the film does a great job at this point of making an open city feel closed off and isolated. Keith is even driven into the sewers for hiding after being confronted by the albino gang once again, which at this point feels like filler. They needed something to stretch out the run time, so they added a subplot with a bunch of violent, punk rock albinos. Come to think of it, albinos are fairly rare, so the fact that they all found each other and formed a gang is commendable.

I have to wonder if From Dusk Til Dawn would later take the idea of a strip club full of vampires. Just a thought that’s totally irrelevant. So anyway, Arrow Video presents Vamp in a brand new high definition digital transfer that looks quite remarkable. The film itself is lit with a lot of magentas and greens, almost like it’s a comic book and this new transfer helps those colors really pop out and it looks really beautiful. There are some other features included, like a brand new documentary called One of Those Nights that interviews the cast and crew as they recall making the film. There are some funny stories involved, so it’s absolutely worth a watch. Retro viewers might get a kick out the rehearsals video and blooper reel or even director Richard Wenk’s short film Dracula Bites the Big Apple.

Vamp may not be the best vampire movie or even the best college buddy comedy, but it’s not horrible in any way. It unfortunately misses the mark at mixing both genres and has noticeable filler, but thanks to great performances, special effects and likeable characters, it will be one of the better “teen vampire” movies to me.

Blacula (1972)

(Submitted with all the love by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thank you, my fang-tastic friend. 🙂 xoxo)

“You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be… Blacula!”

-Dracula

The Vampire is a rather pitiful figure. Unable to die a nature death, the vampire stalks the earth for sustenance out of a primitive need to survive.  If it feeds, it is considered a monster. If it resists the urge, it ceases to be. Along with a taste for blood, it carries with it many lifetimes of regret and sorrow, constantly tormented by the cruelty of Memory. The creature can never again walk on a warm summer’s day or experience warmth of any kind, save for the searing touch of a crucifix. Life(?) isn’t all romance and sparkles for the Vampire.

Traditionally, movie vampires are not particularly tragic. Cinema tends to focus on the monstrous side of vampires, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I usually prefer bloodsuckers who have a little bite to them. Save for one quick line about how  “glorious” it would be to be truly dead, Lugosi’s Dracula was primarily a ghoul, while Christopher Lee’s Count said very little and drank blood very often. One of the earliest depictions of a vampire as a tragic figure was 1935’s Dracula’s Daughter, the direct sequel to Universal’s Dracula. Other than that, there was Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows, but these two examples represent a minority of the subgenre. Considering this, it was rather bold for a film like Blacula to go in this direction.

Conceived as an attempt to capitalize on the enormous success of the growing “Blaxploitation” craze, American International Pictures saw a chance to cash in by producing a contemporary gothic horror picture with a primarily black cast. The result was Blacula. The film was intended to be more of a blatant cash-in, but star William Marshall wanted to give the film the dignity he felt it deserved. With Marshall’s influence, Blacula’s name changed from “Andrew Brown” to “Mamuwalde,” became an African prince, and was injected with pathos. His Mamuwalde is a man condemned to vampirism by an incredibly racist Dracula after the Count refused to help Mamuwalde suppress the slave trade. Mamuwade and his wife Luva are imprisoned, leaving Luva to die and Mamuwalde to suffer in isolation.

Nearly two centuries later, Mamuwade’s coffin is rediscovered in Transylvania by two flamboyantly gay antique dealers (there is a total lack of political correctness here that may be unpleasant for modern viewers, but please bear with the movie.) who transport the casket to California, inadvertently resurrecting the vampire in the process. Once revived, the vampiric prince stalks the night and begins to turn others into Creatures of the Night, like any respectable vampire is likely to do.  Mamuwalde soon discovers Tina, a woman he believes to be the reincarnation of his beloved Luva and attempts to reunite with his lost love. With his beloved wife found, Mamuwalde plans to  be with her forever… even if that means turning her into one of the undead.

William Marshall completely and utterly dominates this picture. While most of the other actors are quite good in their respective parts, it’s the Shakespearian Marshall who makes this film an eternal classic. Marshall’s Mamuwalde is an honorable man damned to the existence of a demon. All he really wants to do is reconnect with his humanity and the woman he loves. Mamuwalde doesn’t enjoy being a monster, but it’s his cross to bear… and it burns him as much as an actual cross would.  Marshall’s eloquence and regal bearing allow him to endear himself to us as a gentleman besmirched by fate… and terrify us an uncontrollable beast with an insatiable appetite for blood. As far as I’m concerned, William Marshall’s Mamuwalde is one of the most excellent vampires to ever haunt the screen.

With the exception of a few jokes, Blacula tells its story in a commendably straight fashion. Before Hammer gave it go Dracula A.D. 1972, Blacula combined traditional gothic frights with a contemporary vibe that manages to do justice to both the old and the new. The film also features some of the most memorable vampire minions in fright film history. Painted in ghastly white, the ghouls here are given an appearance that feels effectively ghost-like. With their fangs bared and their eerie stares, these ghouls are truly frights to behold.

 Blacula ends on a rather tragic  note. There is no triumphant stake through the heart and the young human lovers do not embrace at the end. Instead of the customary “Good Triumphs Over Evil” ending, the heroine loses her life and the monster is denied the love he fought so hard for. With no reason to keep existing, Mamuwalde solemnly tells his attackers to stand down and simply walks out into the sun. For a film intended to be a silly cash-in, that a pretty haunting ending. Like with so many great movie monsters before and since him, Mamuwalde’s passing is a dagger through the heart. For all his sins, he was primarily an ill-fated man damned into evil by forces beyond his control.

William Marshall went on to went on to portray the character again in Scream Blacula, Scream with the same grace he brought to the first.  In later years, Marshall played the “King of Cartoons” on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, earning a new generation of fans. While I adore him on that show, it’s his portrayal of Blacula that has made him a legend. Mr. Marshall brought nobility to a part that easily could have been phoned in and made us feel sympathy for a real monster. For that reason, he will always be my favorite pain in the neck. Blacula shall never die!

Goon Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, ya big Goon! 😉 xoxo)

Castlevania without a doubt holds a place in video game history. It had some solid gameplay, cool tunes and it was creepy, plus what kid didn’t want to fight monsters, like Dracula? It help shape the side scrolling platformer and many would come to imitate it. Castlevania’s sequel, Simon’s Quest, however, is a totally different story. Although it was still the same side scrolling platforming style as the original, it tried to add some RPG elements to the game that didn’t mesh well and players were forced to wander back and forth between towns, farming for hearts. This was to pad out the length of the game and boy, did it feel like it. The game also confused gamers by adding cryptic text from villagers that were supposed to be hints at what to do next, except they made no sense and gamers were lost. Remember having to equip the red crystal and kneeling next to a wall for five seconds to make a tornado appear and then you could continue the game? Of course you do now, but the game never told you that!

Okay, so it wasn’t the best game. Or very well liked by fans. Or very well liked by critics for that matter either. But if there is one thing everyone universally agrees on, it’s that the soundtrack was – and still is – amazing. Arguably, it’s still one of the best out there and has some of the most iconic and memorable tracks by Konami Kukeiha Club. Having ventured from horror and sci-fi soundtracks over to video games, Mondo has “whipped” up a stellar release of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest on vinyl that’s worthy of any vampire slayer.

Being a company that loves and respects art, Mondo never skips on the presentation. First impressions and all, you know. Eric Powell’s artwork is an astonishing way to catch someone’s attention with Simon fighting a legion of skeletons. Kinda reminds me a Ray Harryhausen film. Behind him is a twisted path that leads up to Castlevania with skelefied version of Dracula over a full moon. Gotta hand it to Eric Powell there for capturing how Dracula looks in the game, since some people forget that he kinda looks like Death himself. Overall, it’s a perfect image that captures the good aspects of the game in one look. The backside is a werewolf beginning to reach out for you and I have to admit that it reminds me of old Nintendo Power Magazine images, which makes this packaging feel totally nostalgic. Once you open it, you’ll find the map of the whole world from Simon’s Quest with nothing labeled, like it’s something hand drawn… which it is, so this makes total sense. The vinyl itself is pressed on blue vinyl with green splatter, giving it a groovy effect.

Rather than split up the tracks on both sides, Mondo has done something unique that I am sure collectors and fans alike appreciate; Side A of the record presents the NES version of the soundtrack and Side B is the Famicom version of the soundtrack. For those of you who don’t know, the Famicom is the Japanese version of the NES and although both sides have the same nine tracks in the same order, the sound of them is different. The NES version sounds more rock/poppy (as much as 8-bit can) whereas the Famicom version sounds more rustic, like something you would expect an old vampire film to have. The Famicom version certainly fits the mood more and can create a haunting atmosphere (which I do love), I often prefer the NES version. Maybe it’s because that’s what I grew up with or certain tracks like the popular Bloody Tears sounds fantastic when it’s got more kick and gets you all energetic.

Listening to the whole album is like a quick walk through the game itself without all the backtracking and farming and it actually made me remember the parts of the game that I actually liked. It even made me feel that sensation of accomplishment when you finally figured out what to do next and continued further. I even found myself bobbing my head and tapping my foot to the tracks as it progressed and I continuously flipped the record over and over and replaying it for long periods of a time, because the soundtrack is that good and everlasting. Kinda like Dracula himself. It’s kind of a short experience, but video game music wasn’t that long to begin with. It was usually a short amount of music looped, but when it’s this good, you really don’t mind going back and playing it again. You can purchase the soundtrack at the Mondo site for only 20 hearts… I mean, dollars.

#TBT: Vincent Price’s Dracula

Is there any name more synonymous with exquisite terror than “Dracula?” If there is, it would probably be “Vincent Price.”

Considering how often Dracula is resurrected for film, it’s rather curious that legendary gentleman ghoul Vincent Price never gave us his interpretation of The Count.  Sure, Mr. Price played Dracula’s cousin in a charmingly silly episode of F-Troop, but that’s hardly the same as a full-blooded portrayal of the Prince of Darkness. Casting the ever-elegant Price as the urbane bloodsucker seems like a rather natural choice, but it never happened. We can only speculate on what a Vincent Price Dracula would’ve been like, but that doesn’t that Mr. Price stayed clear of the Dracula legend entirely…

The 1982 documentary Vincent Price’s Dracula (or Dracula: The Great Undead) begins with an opening worthy of any gothic picture: an old carriage cuts through the fog towards an ominous castle.The carriage speeds away, leaving us to wander up to the old fortress. We soon discover that our host for the evening is none other Vincent Price, sporting a smoking jacket and welcoming us in his own inimitable way, informing us that his servants are away. The title appears in a bold, dramatic font: “Vincent Price’s Dracula.”

From this point on, Master Price begins to tell us all about the history of the Count, from the real-life Vlad the Impaler to the Bram Stoker novel to the various films. During the presentation, we are treated to clips from Nosferatu (1922), Vampyr (1932), Mark of the Vampire (1935, erroneously referred to as a 1936 Dracula sequel here), Return of the Vampire (1943), The Vampire (1957) and Return of Dracula (1958). Curiously, the Lugosi Dracula and the Hammer Dracula films are absent here, but I suspect that may have something to do with copyright. At one point, Mr. Price reads an excerpt from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it as glorious as one would imagine.

Filmed in a spectacularly gothic fashion, Vincent Price’s Dracula is the rare horror documentary that’s as entertainingly dramatic as a true monster movie. Vincent Price is sheer perfection here, but I doubt that would surprise many horror fans. With his trademark humor and regal bearing, Mr. Price seems to relish every moment of the material. Mr. Price was always delightful in everything he graced, no matter how strange or morbid it was. There are few men in horror that are as consistently charming as Vincent Price was and this documentary is drenched with that signature Price charm. In addition to its perfect host, this macabre feature is rich with classic horror embellishments that make this a fantastic watch for all you vampire lovers out there. To my knowledge, it is the only documentary in which the host transforms into a bat at the end.

For you, the Creatures of the Night, I present Vincent Price’s Dracula:

TV Review: Van Helsing: Season 1

(In ho-nor of New Comic Book Day, I figured we’d go another round with our SuperheroScifi guru, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for reminding me this exxxists, sir. I’m ashamed I haven’t checked it out yet, but I shall correct my misdeeds posthaste! 😉 xoxo)

“Vanessa Helsing, distant relative of famous vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, is resurrected only to find that vampires have taken over the world.”  (SyFy)

At the end of every episode, the credits indicate that this show was “inspired” by the Zenescope comic book.  The similarities between the show and the comic are that they both center on a female relative of vampire hunter Abraham Van Heling., and in both cases, the female lead was resurrected after presumed death. The difference between the two characters are; the comic book version being the daughter of Abraham Van Helsing, resurrected after hundreds of years, while the TV show incarnation is the great, great, great granddaughter of Abraham Van Helsing, who was resurrected three years after death..  If I had to compare this show to anything, I’d say it’s The Walking dead but for vampires. Essentially the story tracks a core group of survivors, who have been combating and also are always on the run from vampires. As for how the vampires took over, and forced humanity into slavery, as well as being their breakfast lunch and dinner, that is explained and I dig the explanation.  A volcano eruption in Wyoming has covered the air with smoke, smog, soot etc. This accumulation of darkness has in effect blocked out the sun, allowing the vampires to rise up and take control of the earth. To prolong the darkness, the vampires have taken control and are messing around with power plants. With all this going on we’re thrown into a feud between two sects of vampires. The ancients and the ferals. Ancients are more humanoid in thought, speech and appearance.  While they can’t live forever, they live several hundreds of years.  Meanwhile, ferals are newly minted vampires, lacking the proper amount of human blood consumption following their turn. This causes diminished intelligence and more animalistic look, mannerisms and behavior.  I love these new added wrinkle in vampire mythology. I also find it unique that both are after Vanessa for different reasons; the Ancients want to use her to prolong their race, while the ferals want to exterminate her to protect themselves. There’s a fascinating power struggle at play in this book.

Having the surname of Helsing isn’t what makes Vanessa so interesting to both sets of Vampires, it’s the blood that courses through her veins that is most unique. One night, before The Rising, single mother Vanessa was celebrating her daughter’s birthday.  The two were attacked by a vampire.  While the young girl escaped, Vanessa was furiously bitten by a feral.  However, rather than turning herself, her external wounds heal, and the vampire who bit her ends up dying. She is taken to a Seattle hospital, for observation, but shortly after The Rising, the military took control of her case and began running tests and experiments on our comatose. Hero   When we pick up her story three years after The Rising, Vanessa awakens in the now run down Seattle hospital while her fellow members of The Resistance, are fending off a vampire attack. Once again Vanessa is bit, however this time, the vampire who bit her begins throwing up blood, appears to die, but later returns to life as a normal human.  The idea of Van Helsing having powers has never been a part of any version I’ve seen or read before. So this is very new and interesting to me. I loved that the reveal of Vanessa’s heritage was a slow burn, over the course of the entire season. I was eagerly awaiting, watching every new episode hoping to get the next piece of the puzzle.  The nature of her abilities is a bit of a mystery. That mystery deepens, when Vanessa is captured by the vampires. There are two instances when this happens, and in both, Vanessa must bite a human and or drink human blood. In both cases, her healing factor quickened and she got stronger. I’m starting to think that Vanessa is somehow a vampire/human hybrid, and that’s why Dimitri wants her, because she can birth them daywalkers, as she is the original daywalker. That’s just my theory for now, so we’ll have to wait until Season 2 to see if I’m right.

I’ve mentioned the resistance Vanessa is in league and travelling worth, so let’s give them a closer look. The core group consists of Axel Miller, Sam, John, Doc, Flesh, Mohamad, and Susan. Each one had unique reasons for taking up the fight against the vampire’s, most of which make you as a viewer instantly connect with them. Even before finding out she was a Van Helsing, Vanessa took up the fight to find her daughter, who had gone missing when Vanessa was attacked. Susan was a neighbor and best friends to Vanessa. Vanessa had saved her from an abusive boyfriend, and then turned her human after they had reunited and Vanessa realized Susan had been turned during The Rising.  Susan fights out of loyalty and payback to her best friend. John is a former military man, along with Axel. After his wife was killed by vampires, his vendetta against them led him to take up arms against them. Doc is the doctor who presided over Vanessa and who the government had working on a cure for vampirism. She was bitten, but Axel kept her confined and fed from his own blood, until Vanessa returned her to human form. Flesh is the first vampire Vanessa encounters, and turns back to a human being. He stays with the resistance to atone for the sins he committed as a vampire, chief among them, slaughtering his wife and kids.  Sam and Mohamad are kind of a package details. Both used to be slaves and escaped. Mohamad now hunts vampires in search of his sister, who is still at one of their slave camps, while Sam has taken to protecting Mohamad.  I thought certain actors deserve recognition for excellent work, while others weren’t so good. Kelly Overton juggled the feelings of confusion over her new status quo, and sadness over her characters missing daughter perfectly, all the while flipping the switch just enough to go full on badass when the character had to fight the undead.  Vincent Gale as the vampire reborn as a human known as Flesh, was strong in portraying his characters sadness and repentant over killing his entire family. He questioned whether he was worthy of forgiveness and a second chance. As a viewer you can believe and appreciate his pain, but also question whether he can truly atone from something so heinous. A fantastic performance was given by Christopher Heyerdahl as Sam. The character of Sam is deaf and suffers a speech impediment. The veteran actor portrays these aspects of his character and the vocal and physical mannerisms with such sincerity and care.  All this is heightened because we’re dealing with a world that is over-run by Vampires. I’m so thrilled the creative team put this actor and character front and center on the show and made him a force to be reckoned with, rather than a frail person in need of rescuing.  My two favorite frightening performances belong to Paul Johansson as Dmitri and Laura Minnelli as Rebecca, The vampire duo don’t speak very often but are so menacing and methodical in their mannerism and movements, they are instantly imposing in every scene they’ re in.  Even if the show was on mute, you’d understand the fear other characters, both vampire and human have towards them.  On occasions when they do speak, there accents are passable, and never end up being over the top. Several actors do give over the top performances.  I thought Rukiya Bernard as Doc and Hilary Jardine as Susan, went unnecessarily over board in most of their scenes, regardless of the events that were unfolding, or the emotion that was called for.  On the other hand, I thought Trezzo Mahoro was rather bland as Mohamad. While I thought the friendship between Mohamad and Sam was written well, the character of Sam elevated it and made it stand out. Finally, actor Jonathan Scarfe who played Axel came off a little too stereotypical armed soldier to me. He felt like a one dimensional G.I. Joe character.

 When I mentioned this show is like The Walking Dead for Vampires, I meant that because our resistance group is constantly on the run from them late in the season. The original base of operation for our resistance is the abandoned hospital outfitted with booby traps and UV lighting, it keeps the vampires away.  When the power source is damaged, Vanessa and Axel head out into the streets on a parts scavenging mission. It is here, they meet another group of resistance fighters who have wounded members. Vanessa and Axel, take them to the hospital. Shortly thereafter, one of the members of the incoming resistance is murdered. Blaming Axel and Vanessa’s crew, the new tenant’s mutiny, taking control of the hospital. Believing Mohamad to be the culprit, they banish him to the unprotected outside world. Axel, Vanessa and crew eventually reverse mutiny, exile their captors and take back control of the hospital. That success is short lived as the vampires use a human to trip up the hospitals U.V defenses and launch an attack.  This forces our protagonist to flee and head to an abandoned army bunker. Their peace and respite are once again upset when a grenade is set off, barricading them inside,  While stuck inside, the murderer seemingly attempts to strike again, when John gets a little too rough with Susan, to the point where he is choking her. The group calls him out on it and upon further investigation, find evidence connecting him to the previous murder.  The group ultimately decides to kill him. Most of the group find a way out of the bunker via underground tunnels, however, one of the key figures in the group is killed, as they try and thwart off vampires in their escape. The remaining survivors head to a farming community of humans who have bargained with the vampires; blood in exchange for peace. A darker pact is revealed. In that the head of the community is providing actual young children and babies are being offered up to the vampires, not just blood. The leader of this group is killed, and Flesh decides to stay with this community to help them rebuild.  As Vanessa and the others embark on their journey to Dmitri’s concentration camp, the killer strikes again, meaning Vanessa and company were wrong in killing John.  The killer is taken out to the woods and wounded to the point where he/she couldn’t get away and was left there as vampire fodder. The Final act of the film finds Vanessa betrayed by one of her own and led straight to Dmitri.  The final battle between Vanessa taking on Dmitri and Rebecca features deception and death. It also answers the question of what happens to Vanessa’s daughter, tantalizingly setting up season 2.

 

This show is insane, in the best possible way. There’s always a threat of a vampire attack and our main characters are always on the run.  As a viewer, just as you get used to their new situations, those situations get upended.   Every time they meet fellow resistance groups, they encounter people who are secretly in league with the vampires.  Some of these defectors happen to be some of the shows main characters. Add to that a serial killer in their midst and WOW! Trust me, you won’t see the reveal for that one coming.  I’m not giving you spoilers on any of the big reveals or events of episodes, because that would absolutely ruin the season as a whole. I love that this show goes the Game of Thrones route and isn’t afraid to kill off, or change the status quo of our main characters. It takes balls to do that, and make things more interesting.  The show doesn’t shy away from violence. Heads are chopped off, vampires are stabbed through the neck etc.  The violence and blood spatter is more in line with Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, you know that hyper exaggerated style.  My top 3 favourite episodes are Help Me, Stay Away, and It Begins. Help Me is the pilot and instead of slow expository setup, it throws you right into the craziness of this post-apocalyptic vampire run world with a vampire attack on our main heroes and their home base.  Stay Away is a great episode because the mysterious killer is revealed. It Begins is the season finale and gives us the war that’s been brewing for the first nine episodes.  The reveal at the end was so big, that it had be going full Darth Vader, screaming “NOOOOOOO”; especially with the knowledge that I’d have to wait for season two.  If you’re a fan of vampires and The Walking Dead formula, this show definitely should be on your watch list.  Finally, SyFy has given us a show we can truly sink our teeth into.

Comic Book Review: Vampirella #7

(Submitted by our resident SuperheroScifi Stud, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Kinky Ho-mie!! 🙂 xoxo)

Her name is Sofia, a young woman pulled into the maelstrom of violence and supernatural terror that surrounds Vampirella. She’s stood at Vampirella’s side during the terrifying battle Against the Lord of Worms, fought the blood-hungry legions of Dracula, and survived the clutches of the vile Le Fanu. But who is Sofia, and what secrets lurk in her past? Written by Eric Trautmann (Action Comics, The Shield) and illustrated by Walter Geovani (Red Sonja), this issue marks the transition to a new — and bloodier — chapter for Vampirella!” (Dynamite)

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Usually, I review completed story arcs of comic books.  However, on rare occasions, I’ll make an exception. As it says in the description, this story is a transition between the previous story arc and the new upcoming one.  Normally, these types of stories offer nothing of value to the story, or the mythology and are a filler one off story.  This story is not. It picks up right after the events of last issue, and we see Sofia helping a wounded and spent Vampirella back to her apartment.  Sofia hooks Vampirella up to  the makeshift intravenous she has in her apartment, connecting it to the bags of blood she finds stacked in the fridge.  I really like the inclusion of these moments, as writer Eric Trautmann points out how well prepared Vampirella is for every possible scenario. She has contingency plans and is not arrogant about herself or her prowess, despite her nature and enhanced abilities.  While Vampirella recovers, the story alternate between flashbacks and present day, to flesh out the backstory and character of Sofia. After all she’s been through in the first story, almost being bitten by Le Fanu, and helping battle the Lord of Worms, I questioned why a normal human being would stick around for more of this craziness? She had a terrible child hood, where she and her mother endured abuse from her step father, as well as being picked on and ridiculed in high school.  So I think it’s natural that she’d stick with a woman who saved her and who she saved in return. The other reason she stays, in this new world of vampires and monsters, is because she’s a vampire fan girl.  She’s a big fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I love that her recent experiences, seemed to toughen Sofia up, and encourage her to confront and kick her verbally abusive and demeaning boyfriend to the curb.  Between last volume and this story, you get the sense Sofia is Vampirella’s take on Mina, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula story. Sofia even mentions that character is her favourite in that story.  Even though Sofia, is a  fan girl of vampire and monster mythology, I’m glad writer Eric Trautmann showed her being flustered and overwhelmed by what she had experienced. This is a natural reaction, and one that would happen if this were a real life situation, no matter how much of a fan of the fictional mythology one may be. While Vampirella rests, Sofia searches the internet for more information on who and what exactly Vampirella is. She stumbles on fan sites, and conspiracy theory articles about Vampirella’s origins.  All of them are either off base, or wrong, which is great for the story conceit of keeping her origins a mystery to the outside world. Nobody tends to believe the credibility of fan or conspiracy theory websites. Even in a character driven issue, the mythology is moved forward when Vampirella wakes up from her dream screaming the name Adam! If Vampirella were real, I’d love to her to be screaming my name in bed. 😉 However, in this case, she was referring to Adam Van Helsing. I can’t wait to see how the presumed relative of the famed vampire hunter factors into this book going forward.

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Artist Walter Geovani takes over on art for this issue.  The art style is in the same vein (pun intended) as the previous story arc.  However, I feel this artist provides greater detail and close up imagery where facial features are concerned.  The art really does a great job of showcasing the dichotomy of Vampirella being as beautiful as a supermodel. But also being a monster with vampire fangs, and a bloody mess. Those scenes of Vampirella wounded and bloody lying in bed, were expertly drawn and colored, perfectly highlighting the beauty and brutality of this title and its main character. I loved the look of Sofia. She was vey unique, and stood out in her own right. To me it seems like their was a mix of punk rock/goth look to her. She’s got a more punk look to her in my opinion. The green hair was a really good choice. It looked good and gave me a momentary flashback to the female Joker in Batman: Thrillkiller.  The pages with Sofia searching the internet for info on Vampirella felt very meta, because I was on the internet on comixology reading about Vampirella! This book is light on action, so it made the image of Sofia kneeing her now ex boyfriend in the groin, all the more painful and exhilarating. Painful because as a man, every time you see a visual of a man getting kneed in the groin, you feel residual pain. Exhilarating because he absolutely deserved it. All the deferent covers for this book are fantastic, and could be Cosplay material for out very on Diana Prince. The one above is my favourite! Vampirella is without a doubt Bootyful! 😉

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One of the reasons I love this issue, is because it puts the focus entirely on Sofia. From the first story arc, I could sense that she was Robin to Vampirella’s Batman, Gabrielle to Vampirella’s Xena. So it’s great that we get a chance to sink our teeth into  her back story and what makes her tick. I look forward to seeing more of her, as well as where the rest of the book takes us in general. While you don’t have to read this to keep up with the overall story, you most definitely should!