Thursday, October 20, 2016

It's a hard world for little things.

One of my favorite scary films isn't a horror film, but a film noir built on childhood fantasies/nightmares called Night of the Hunter. It was made in 1955 and is the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed. Robert Mitchum gives a career-high performance as the evil Reverend Harry Powell who menaces a little boy and girl because they know the whereabouts of some money he wants. They flee down the river in one of the most beautifully eerie sequences ever filmed. As John and Pearl drift through the night on a rowboat, we see a star-speckled sky, luminous cattails, a frog, a turtle, and rabbits--all of nature combining to give the film the look and feel of a surreal storybook. Pearl sings a haunting song called "Pretty Fly" as they float, which you can hear below. The scene continues after the song, so enjoy more of the Expressionist spell Laughton cast upon this film! Too bad it wasn't well-received when it was released, or maybe we would have more masterpieces like this from him.

In the late 90s, the band Mono Puff included a cover of "Pretty Fly" on their album It's Fun to Steal. It's acapella, with just the sound of crickets in the background as accompaniment, so it casts a similar spell as the original. The singer is Robin Goldwasser, wife of Mono Puff/They Might Be Giants founder John Flansberg. Check out her plaintive rendition below and see how you think she measures up to the timeless Pearl.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sing along with the Munsters!

All that talk last week about the Addams Family got me missing The Munsters something fierce! While I love both families, The Munsters hold an extra-soft spot in my heart. It's been a while since we visited with them, and although we've heard their theme song before, we haven't yet heard it with lyrics!

Nothing can really improve on the original surfy instrumental theme song, which is so good it was nominated for a Grammy in 1965 and remains iconic today. Still, it's fun to hear the words one of the show's producers came up with to describe the Munsters. The version with lyrics was never used on the show, but was included on a 1964 album called At Home With The Munsters. It includes such neighborly numbers as "Everyone Is Welcome," "Meet Our Pets," and "I Wish Everyone Was Born This Way." So if you hear mysterious feet at night and find the Munsters are following you, don't scream and run away! Just turn around, shake their clammy hands, and accept their invitation for a hot drink from the cauldron.

And what goes better with some classic Munsters than a nice bowl of cereal? This weekend I went to the Halloween edition of "Spoons, Toons, & Booze" at a local movie theater, where they show beloved cartoons on the big screen, have an open cereal bar, and serve cereal-infused cocktails. I was enjoying my Halloween Cap'n Crunch (it turns your milk green!) just fine through Halloween episodes of Beetlejuice, DuckTales, and Pinky and the Brain until a disturbing majority of the audience voted to watch Rugrats as the last selection of the day. Talk about frightening! We had the opportunity to watch some little-seen gems, like Count Duckula, The Real Ghostbusters, or Groovie Goolies, and they picked that dirty diaper full of baby talk. Barf! To make it all better, let's enjoy some Cheerios with Herman Munster. After all, they're the greatest things since bat wings!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Dukes of Alhazred

Last night I saw a RadioTheatreNYC performance of two of H.P. Lovecraft's classic horror stories, "The Horror in the Museum" and "The Call of Cthulhu." I saw this company perform some Edgar Allan Poe stories a few months ago, and once again they delivered the bone-chilling goods with just their voices, a few sound effects, and simple lighting. Who needs lame digital effects and movie theaters that rain on you when you can get more and better frights from real people who know how to deliver a scary story?

Since last night was all about the Old Ones and the Outer Gods, today we're going "Down to Dunwich" with The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets to see what that noise in the barn is all about. The Thickets are a Canadian group that specialize in songs about H.P. Lovecraft's extensive mythology. That's quite a specific niche, but so far they've gotten four full-length albums out of it and toured with groups like Bad Brains, GWAR, and They Might Be Giants. Even their name is taken from a Lovecraft story, "The Tomb": "I will tell only of the lone tomb in the darkest of the hillside thickets."

"Down to Dunwich" focuses on Lovecraft's story "The Dunwich Horror," written in 1928 and published in Weird Tales magazine. The story concerns Wilbur Whateley, a man of unfortunate parentage (his dad is Outer God Yog-Sothoth) who is shunned by the townsfolk and their animals for being so ugly and strange. Luckily his grandfather is a sorcerer and teaches him some very important life skills, like how to keep his invisible twin brother alive in the barn by feeding him cows. The story was made into a fun film in 1970 that doesn't completely follow the original plot, but is worth seeing anyway.
Hug Yog!

So are you ready to go out to the barn and see what that noise was? And where did that slime in the kitchen come from, anyway? Maybe you should bring a cow along, just to be safe...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bloodsucking vampire? Too bad, so sad.

I'll skip the blood today, thanks. Instead, I'm a sucker for any song that opens with a thunder storm, like "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath, "Dirty Black Summer" by Danzig, and today's song,"Keep on Runnin' (The Vampire Song)" by The Hot Toddies. All I know about this band is they're from Oakland, they're all women, and they wrote the poppiest song I've ever heard about a vampire. It even name checks Mary Poppins! That's more than enough for me. Besides, isn't it time we visit with some lady bloodsuckers again? The Hot Toddies haven't put out an album in a while (2013), but they're still playing shows here and there, so we can hope the future will bring more infectious songs about the heartsickening troubles that come with graveyard love.

Wield the Square Hammer! It is your destiny!

In a few weeks I will get to see a band I've wanted to see live for  a few years--Ghost! We heard a song from them here a few years ago, but since then they've released another full-length album, Meliora, and a brand-new EP called Popestar, just out last month. Today's song, "Square Hammer," is from the EP, and in my opinion is one of their best yet! Not only is it insanely catchy and rocking, but the video is a masterpiece. It weaves many of Ghost's loves (and mine) together into a beautiful tapestry: art deco horror art, a vintage movie palace, real film projection, lightning made of negative scratches, bats flying out of a movie screen... all of this backed a kickass song that will have you swearing to the devil before you know it! I know I'm ready for the altar call when I go see them in November. Until then, let's all feel the power of the square hammer, the test of blood and spirit...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Addams Crazy Bunch!

After yesterday's song from the Addams Family musical, I realized that in six years of doing this blog, I hadn't yet posted one of the most iconic pieces of Halloween music ever written--The Addams Family theme! Sure we've covered the The Munsters, and mentioned the Addamses in passing, but never have we honored their most well-known ditty. Today that wrong gets righted. Or would the Addams prefer if the right got wrongded?

The theme was written by Vic Mizzy, who was something of a jingle genius. Not only did he write the theme and scores to The Addams Family, but also for some of the other great loves of my life: Green Acres, five Don Knotts films, and three William Castle films! Just a few years ago, when Vic was hitting 90, he even helped out Sam Raimi on music for two of his Spiderman films. Talk about holding a special place in my heart! 

Vic died in 2009 at the ripe old age of 93. I hope he's now dancing the Mamushka with Raul Julia and Charles Addams himself! Happily we still have Vic's wonderful music to remember him by, in all its creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, finger-snapping glory. Below are two versions of the theme--the first is a fun reworking of it by comedian Joey Gaynor doing his best Frank Sinatra. It was originally on an album of celebrity impersonators covering TV themes called Rerun Rock, although I know it from an Elvira compilation. The second is the beloved original from the show. Let's get our witches' shawls on, broomsticks we can crawl on, and snap along, shall we?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Death isn't just around the coroner...

As mentioned in the last post, a few years ago there was an Addams Family musical on Broadway that has since toured nationally and will soon open in England. Sadly it was not well-reviewed, but it was quite popular and did well financially. One interesting aspect is that it was based on the original Charles Addams cartoons rather than the TV series or the movies. With so many adaptations of those iconic characters over the years, it's easy to forget where they came from.

Another bright spot was that the always-wonderful Bebe Neuwirth played Morticia. Other than being an incomparable dancer and singer, as well as a glamorous vamp in her own right, Bebe used to idolized TV's original Moriticia, Carolyn Jones. As a child, Bebe wanted to embody that wry wit and dark beauty. If you think about, wasn't Lilith from Cheers and Frasier basically Morticia in a power suit? Frasier was no Gomez, but Lilith certainly had more than a little Morticia blood flowing through her icy veins.

Today's song is the same Morticia number Jinkx Monsoon has been performing in concert on her recent RuPaul tour. "Just Around the Corner" is a feel-good song Morticia sings to remind herself that no matter how bad things get, there's always a silver lining--sweet, sweet death is always just around the corner. I couldn't find a decent video of Bebe singing it, so here's a shaky one someone in the audience recorded. The version on Spotify is from the cast album, so enjoy crystal clear audio of it on the playlist. At least we can see a little of how Bebe brought Morticia to life/death: