Monday, October 20, 2014

Raven hair and red lips, subtle wicked smile...

Go ahead and get excited now because the hardest working ghoul in showbiz (during October, anyway) is at it again for your Halloween viewing pleasure! That's right, your mistress and mine, Elvira, is back in the saddle--er, on the couch--and hosting horror movies for the 13 nights leading up to Halloween. 

Except for Night of the Living Dead, which premieres Halloween night, these are all movies she has never hosted before, like Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, Puppet Master, and Evil Bong. A new one will be streaming on Hulu each day, which seems like the perfect outlet for Elvira. Since there are no standards and practices for streaming content as there are for broadcast TV shows, Elvira can be as bad as she wants to be. And honey, you know she wants to be bad.

To celebrate brand new Elvira shows, today's song is an homage to her and her horror hosting legacy. "Mistress of the Dark" is a theme song written especially for Elvira in 2009 by Texas gothabilly band Ghoultown. They had met when Elvira was signing autographs at the same Texas horror convention where the band was performing. Elvira's manager happened to see the performance and told her Ghoultown would be perfect for composing her new theme. After she checked them out, both she and the band (all Elvira fans, naturally) agreed.

Other than mirroring her punk/goth/B-movie aesthetic, Elvira was excited that Ghoultown's sound wasn't death metal because in her experience, most Halloween music seems to be death metal. Instead, Ghoultown plays a dark brand of western Americana, sort of like undead outlaw country. But all of this really begs the question: why isn't Elvira reading my blog?!? Not that there's anything wrong with death metal, mind you, but there's quite a low quotient of it here. I mean, c'mon, Elvira, give a ghoul some credit.
Gris Grimly DVD art

The video for the song is just as spectacular as the song itself--it was filmed at L.A.'s legendary Magic Castle, directed by acclaimed horror artist Gris Grimly, and features both Elvira and her Macabre Mobile! The plot involves the band invading Elvira's humble dungeon through a magical portal in her TV. In the end, Elvira turns the tables on the lead singer by pulling off her own reverse magic and riding off with him into the sunset.

I wonder if I stare at the computer screen hard enough over the next few days while watching Huluween: 13 Nights of Elvira, the same fate might befall me? If so, please don't mourn or come looking for me. I'll be in a much better place.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A cry of terror, a honeymoon scream!

So many Creature from the Black Lagoon songs, so little time! Unfortunately I already used my all-time fave"Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon" by The Cramps, on a previous year's post, so that one won't be profiled this weekend. Its absence leaves space for another Creature classic, though, and this one is pure 70s magic.

Dave Edmunds' "Creature from the Black Lagoon" appeared on his 1979 album Repeat When Necessary, which came near the end of a stellar streak of albums made with his band Rockpile. Edmunds is a man after my own heart--he was heavily influenced by 50s and 60s rock & roll artists like Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and Phil Spector, but despite being Welsh, he never fell in with the British Invasion sound. Instead, he created multi-layered power pop with a rockabilly tinge. Many of his songs, like "I Hear You Knocking," "Slipping Away," and "Queen of Hearts" (which later became a mega-hit for Juice Newton) are 70s rock classics. 

Even after Dave Edmunds slowed down on recording his own albums, he continued to work behind the scenes with similarly-styled artists. He produced the Stray Cats' first album, the Everly Brothers' comeback, and k.d. lang's major label debut. Edmunds is still out there shake, rattle, and rolling, and just last year released his first new solo recordings in twenty years. Here he is during his classic period, though, singing a 50s-style song about a 50s-style monster looking for some 50s-style love.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Up from the depths of unknown waters...

...comes a creature to confound science and terrorize the world! The Creature from the Black Lagoon will shock you with its stark realism of perfected 3-Dimension! Or so promises its provocative trailer:

Pass Creech popcorn! And Sno-Caps!
Many people don't realize the film was shot in 3-D because by the time of its release in 1954, the fad was already close to running its course, so many theaters projected it in 2-D. Even so, Creature's sequel, 1955's Revenge of the Creature, was also filmed in 3-D in an unsuccessful stab at reviving the format. Renowned horror/sci-fi director Jack Arnold helmed both projects, as well as Universal's first-ever 3-D film, 1953's It Came from Outer Space. Although Arnold's films certainly contain fun, campy elements that align them with other so-bad-they're-good sci-fi/horror films of the era, his are genuinely good and often artful. Along with Creature, his Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and It Came from Outer Space are classics.

To continue our celebration of Creech's birth year, today's creature feature is performed by Switzerland's garage punk kings The Monsters! This one is from The Creature's perspective, 'cuz everyone deserves their say, right? Even if they are an aquatic man-beast from the dawn of time.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Happy birthday, Creature!

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, so this weekend we're going to honor that horror classic with songs about Mr. Gill-man! We all know he's more a lover than a fighter, so he lends himself quite nicely to wistful tunes of love, longing, and amphibious carnage.
Milicent Patrick
Other than being a sort of aquatic King Kong, Creech is an extra-special monster to me because he was designed by a lady! Former Disney illustrator Milicent Patrick not only created this one monster, however; she also designed the mutants in This Island Earth, the mole people in The Mole People, the masks in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Xenomorph in It Came from Outer Space. She wasn't given credit for much of her work, and the make-up artist in Creature from the Black Lagoon, Bud Westmore, went so far as to claim The Creature was entirely his own design and later refused to employ Milicent Patrick again.

The Creature takes a call
while carrying Ginger Stanley.
In recent years, however, Patrick's name has resurfaced in connection with her accomplishments, probably in some part due to female horror fans searching out the women who helped shape the genre. In fact, Creature from the Black Lagoon features yet another notable contribution from a woman, stunt swimmer Ginger Stanley. Stanley was a stunt double for lead actress Julia Adams, and appeared in many of Creature's underwater shots. She was discovered by Ricou Browning, the man who would play The Creature, when Stanley was performing as a mermaid at Florida's Weeki Wachee park. After Creature and its sequel, she would go on to appear in various underwater film/photography projects, and to perform as Esther Williams's underwater stunt double.

Today's song, "Creature Stole My Surfboard" by The Dead Elvi, pays homage to The Creature's love of aquatic trickery, and the video features the work of yet another former Disney artist, Frank Dietz. The Dead Elvi have been around since 1993, when New Jersey's Chiller Theater Expo needed a scary house band to play their parties, and they're still letting loose their surf punk horror-billy on convention-goers today. Frank Dietz helped them get really stripped down for today's song... all the way to the bone!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Vote Official Monster Raving Loony Party!

Although the BBC once named his debut album the worst of all time, Screaming Lord Sutch still laid the groundwork for later horror rockers like Alice Cooper and predated the Beatles for recording rock and R&B classics in England. Seriously, BBC? You would prefer listening to Phil Collins or Limp Bizkit? 

Lord Sutch started out in life as David Sutch, but after hearing Screamin' Jay Hawkins, he changed his name and took up Screamin' Jay's affinity for horror drag, too. He didn't have a lot of musical ability, but he made up for it by stocking his band with accomplished musicians, like Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Keith Moon, and putting on a killer (ha!) horror-themed show.

In the 80s, Screaming Lord Sutch forced himself onto British politics by founding the Official Monster Raving Loony Party and ran in several elections. He never won any, but gained a lot of notoriety and once prompted a party to dissolve itself after he received more votes than their candidate. Although Lord Sutch died in 1999, his party still exists and takes stands on important issues like making unicorns a protected species and attaching bungee cords to all vehicles so no fuel will be required for the return journey. 

"Jack the Ripper" is probably Screaming Lord Sutch's most well-known song, and the video for it features him in his classic Jack the Ripper get-up, with top hat, cape, and corpse-like make-up. You know, I never really understood Beatlemania--what about those four squares would make any girl need to faint?--but here I kinda get that reaction. If I was sitting in the first row of this performance, fainting might seem like just the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

And the Grammy for spookiest Halloween sound effects album goes to...

Who else, but America's favorite composers of imaginary horror soundtracks, Midnight Syndicate! Although the films are fake, however, each song evokes its own story through the group's use of sound effects and symphonic orchestrations. Just the songs' titles tell stories--who couldn't listen to "Haunted Nursery," "Mansion in the Mist," or "Inn of the Weeping Sparrow" and come up with some pretty frightening scenarios?

Edward Douglas and Gavin Goszka, the core composing duo that make up Midnight Syndicate, have been cranking out the fright together since 1998's Born of the Night. Since then, their music has gained a wide audience through its use in Halloween-themed events of all shapes and sizes, from local Halloween parties and haunted houses to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. The group is credited with legitimizing Halloween music as a genre, and just this year they began their first residency of live multimedia performances at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. The show is called Midnight Syndicate Live! Legacy of Shadows and is still running now, so if you're in the vicinity, go see 'em!

Today's song is from Midnight Syndicate's 2013 album Monsters of Legend. The theme of the album is based on classic movie monsters from various time periods and genres, from silents to Universal monsters of the 30s and 40s to British Hammer films of the 60s and 70s. The title of the song is "It Lives!", and although there are no lyrics, I don't think you'll have any trouble conjuring up a monstrosity of your own horrific design.

Don't believe they give out Grammys for spookiest Halloween sound effects? Just check out last year's happy winner!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween is every day!

Since yesterday's post referred to Sharon Needles' version of "Every Day is Halloween," today's song is a long-overdue inclusion of the original by Ministry. It was first released in 1984, back when Ministry sounded more new wave than industrial, but clearly the band already had dark leanings. The lyrics give a little insight into those of us who live Halloween all year round, and make a strong case for why that is just as acceptable as any other lifestyle. We're all the same underneath, you know? Plus, Halloween is really fun, and Halloween all year round is even funner.

Al Jourgensen, Ministry's lead singer, started out in a band called Special Affect, with guys who would later be in My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult and Concrete Blonde (does that make them a proto-supergroup?). Ministry formed in 1981 and stayed together until 2008, morphing from synthpop to industrial metal along the way. I first heard them as a wee metalhead in the early 90s, when their most commercially successful album came out, Psalm 69. It was their first with guitarist Mike Scaccia, whose untimely death of a heart attack in 2012 sadly marked the end of a reunion period for the band.

Al Jourgensen says Ministry won't regroup in the future, so it seems we'll have to satisfy ourselves with the legacy they've left us, not least of which is "Every Day is Halloween." It's been covered and remixed countless times in its 30-year existence, but the original is still the most classic. Let's all raise our black-nailed fists in salute!