Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lovecraftian "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog"

A truly ethereal Lovecraftian reinterpretation of Caspar David Fredrich's "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog".

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Price of Fear - "The Waxwork"

Vincent Price is a name that will forever be associated with Horror and rightly so.  Browsing his filmography, it's difficult to find him working in any other genre.  He was always playing either the startled protagonist or, more commonly, the sinister villain.  While other actors would likely resent such typecasting, Price always seemed to relish his roles within the genre delivering some truly great, over-the-top performances. 

In the 70's BBC Radio produced a series of radio dramas presented by none other than Vincent Price, appropriately entitled The Price of Fear.  Price's debonair voice with its subtly sinister undertone is instantly recognizable as he introduces each episode.  The stories themselves were suitably macabre in nature with strong elements of horror and suspense.  Of course nearly every plot inevitably ended with some morbidly ironic twist of fate.  The program sometimes featured Price as merely the narrator of a particular story while other episodes would find the actor caught up in the action of the tale.

This particular episode is one of my personal favorites.  "The Waxwork" tells the tale of a desperate reporter offering to spend the night in a wax museum for a story he intends to write.  As daylight turns to darkness the reporter begins to sense movement among the wax figures...  This episode is truly chilling, especially when listening in the dark!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Art of Arthur Suydam

Known mainly for his zombie art (he dons the moniker "The Zombie King" for most of his convention appearances), Arthur Suydam certainly has an eye for morbid mayhem.  His best known work is probably on the popular "Marvel Zombies" comic series for which he supplied wonderfully grotesque versions of iconic covers.

Suydam's talents for undead re-imagining aren't limited to the characters of Marvel, he has also created some gruesome reproductions of other pop-culture imagery such as the artwork for the Jaws movie poster and the album cover of Nirvana's Nevermind.  Celebrities Marilyn Monroe and Clint Eastwood have also been disfigured by Suydam's brush.

A sampling of some of Suydam's other works:

Some of Suydam's non-zombie work reminds me of Frank Frazetta...

I had the pleasure of meeting Arthur Suydam at a convention a year or so ago.  Suffice to say, the laid-back surfer-dude type artist was definitely not who I was expecting based on his artwork.  We chatted for a bit and I was able to score two autographed prints!

You can find more of Suydam's work on his website: http://www.arthursuydam.com/

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"The Tell-Tale Heart" - Edgar Allan Poe

"True! --nervous--very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?  The disease had sharpened my senses --not destroyed --not dulled them.  Above all was the sense of hearing acute.  I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth.  I head many things in hell.  How, then, am I mad?  Hearken!  and observe how healthily --how calmly I can tell you the whole story..."

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from working on the Cryptic Corridor as of late due to some personal tribulation.  I trust that you will understand. 

I felt I would be remiss if I did not make at least some kind of posting something today as it would have been Edgar Allan Poe's 205th birthday.  While I plan on doing several posts on Poe and his work in the future, I figure I'll try to keep it short today.

What can be said of Edgar Allan Poe that has not been said before?  The master of mystery and macabre, Poe still fascinates and terrifies us even to this day.  Virtually all modern horror tales owe nearly everything to Poe; his legacy is unmatched.

A woodcut illustration by Fritz Eichenberg from the 1944 edition of Tales of Edgar Allan Poe

One of my favorite stories written by Edgar Allan Poe is his Tell-Tale Heart.  His prose in this particular piece paints a vivid, horrifying picture of insanity.  First and foremost, what always stood out to me about this story was Poe's use of the "unreliable narrator".  As readers, we become accustomed to putting our trust in the person telling the story.  But right off the bat, we are given many clues that the man telling this particular tale is not quite stable even though he assures you of such.  Anyone fooled by his declaration of sanity is horrified to see the narrator's sudden descent into obsession and subsequent blood lust.

Another thing I always enjoyed about this story was Poe's use of suspense.  After the narrator commits his heinous deed he meticulously covers up the crime, only to be undone by his own "hearing acute" mentioned in the introductory paragraph.  Poe is able to make the reader really feel the pangs of insanity the narrator describes.  

I saw the above cartoon several years ago.  While it is a very much abridged version of the story, it does an amazing job of capturing the madness of the thing.

The artwork at the beginning of this post was done by the excellent comic book artist, Franceso Francavilla!

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Judgement Day!" - EC Comics

Originally published in EC Comics' Weird Fantasy # 18 in 1951, Judgement Day was written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Joe Orlando.

This is a classic Science Fiction story from EC that came under fire by the Comics Code Authority in 1953 when it was reprinted later in an anthology called Incredible Science Fiction (to replace yet another story that had been rejected by the CCA).

The reason for all the controversy?  Read the entire story and you'll see for yourself on the very last panel.

I apologize for being so vague and secretive!  I don't want to reveal any spoilers for anyone who has not already read this story!!!

The judge from the Comics Code Authority demanded that the astronaut's race should be changed from black to white!  Obviously, changing this single detail would defeat the whole purpose of the entire story!  (I read elsewhere that the CCA also took issue with the astronaut sweating...  WHAT?!?)

As you can see, the writers at EC were very much ahead of their time and not afraid to take risks!  If you haven't been exposed to EC comics before, I highly recommend looking for some reprints (we have a small, but growing library ourselves here in the Cryptic Corridor...).  These are the same creators who produced Tales from the Crypt, Weird Science, and Mad Magazine!

If you're interested by such things, I also recommend looking further into the history of EC and the Comics Code authority which is truly fascinating (and infuriating!).  Actually...  I'm toying with the idea of writing up a post about this very topic at some point...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Prestige

"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.  
The first part is called 'The Pledge'.  The magician shows you something ordinary:  a deck of cards, a bird or a man.  He shows you this object.  Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal.  But of course...  It probably isn't.  
The second act is called 'The Turn'.  The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary.  Now you're looking for the secret...  But you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking.  You don't really want to know.  You want to be fooled.  
But you won't clap yet.  Because making something disappear isn't enough;  You have to bring it back.  That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part.  The part we call 'The Prestige'."

This is going to be a very difficult post to write.  I want to encourage you to watch the movie, but at the same time I do not want to reveal too much and spoil the film's twists and suprises...  Here we go:

Set in London near the end of the Victorian Era, The Prestige tells the story of two up-and-coming stage magicians:  Robert Angier and Alfred Borden.  At first, the two men are merely vying for top-billing, but following a tragic accident they are propelled into a vicious game of revenge and treachery.

Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) and Borden (played by Christian Bale) become obsessed with outdoing one another.  Their bitter, brutal competition takes a toll on their bodies, their relationships, their very lives.  It may be a bit of a spoiler to say so, but it becomes increasingly difficult to root for either of these characters as the plot develops.  Just when you think you can relate to one of the magicians, he does something that makes you cringe.

The film reveals some behind-the-scenes tricks of the trade of some real-life magic tricks of the time, many of which are genuinely disturbing (the water tank, the bullet catch, making birds "disappear" and "reappear"). Especially when things go wrong.  It's hard to believe that magicians of the era were willing to put their own lives - or, even worse, the lives of others - on the line to astound audiences.

As mentioned before, the film takes place during the Victorian Era, a time when the line between science and magic was very blurred.  The film makes a point of reminding us of this fact later in the film with an appearance of real-life "wizard" Nikola Tesla (played by none other than David Bowie).  How this historical man of science fits into the story you'll just have to see for yourself.  I've probably said too much already!

The director,Christopher Nolan (who is best known for his blockbuster Dark Knight trilogy) creates a complex, maze-like film in The Prestige.  Through the course of the movie viewers are introduced to the three parts of "every great magic trick":  The Pledge, the Turn, and the Prestige.  The film unfolds like it's a magic trick adhering to those three parts.  The story is told through two different journals written by the rival magicians so timelines crisscross and intersect at different points.  Additionally, valuable information is left out by occasionally unreliable narrators with secrets left to be revealed at a later time.

Director Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale behind the scenes
The fractured story-telling of the plot makes The Prestige a bit difficult to follow at first, but that's okay because The Prestige is one of those films that get better with each subsequent viewing.  It sounds cliche, but this is really one of those movies that you notice something new each time you watch it, whether it be recurring symbols, echoing motifs, or visual metaphors you didn't notice the first time around.

Being a tale of obsession and bitter rivalry, the film can be very depressing which probably renders it unenjoyable for some.  I, however, cannot recommend this movie enough.  It's one of those films that I enjoy immersing myself in.  The Victorian atmosphere, the sense of mystery, and twists and turns make this a most intriguing cinematic experience and a favorite of the residents of the Cryptic Corridor.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ye Olde Sea Monsters

It's difficult to imagine a time when there were still blank spots on the globe.  The ocean was a dangerous and terrifying place place for explorers.  Who knew what fantastic and frightening beasts lurked below salty deep?

Mapmakers and other artists could only speculate...