Favorite Horror Films of the 1960s: The Curse of the Werewolf

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Curseofthewerewolf

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The decade of the 1960s saw the production of many horror films, some fairly standard offerings and some innovative. In 1961, Hammer Studios continued the re-imagining of classic horror characters, which they had begun with The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, in the release of The Curse of the Werewolf. 

Movie audiences in 1961 were still very aware of the image of Universal Studios’ The Wolfman and its assorted sequels with Lon Chaney Jr. as Larry Talbot, the unfortunate and reluctant lycanthrope. Talbot, a good man, was cursed to become a killing monster after having been bitten by a werewolf while attempting, unsuccessfully, to save a girl from its attack. This cinematic image was one that would be very difficult to alter for the horror viewing audience.

While not making viewers forget Lon Chaney Jr. and Larry Talbot, The Curse of the Werewolf, directed by Terence Fisher, did establish new cinematic territory in this often overlooked, but important, film. This film, unlike its Universal predecessors, which were made primarily in black and white and influenced heavily by German Expressionism, is shot in color and features an almost blond werewolf in an extremely effective makeup and, for the time, a great deal of blood.

The star of this film, in his first movie, is Oliver Reed, who would go on to have a long and productive career as a film actor. Set in 18th Century Spain, the film bases its lycanthropy  on the juxtaposition of two events: Leon is the result of a peasant girl being raped, and he is born on Christmas Day, which was considered a very unlucky event. Leon is raised by a kindly man, but when puberty hits, besides the normal changes in his body, he becomes literally a monster.  What would Freud have to say about that?

Just as religion plays a part in his curse, so does it in his death. His step-father, a kindly man becomes the agent of his release. His step-father has a silver bullet made from a cross.  He shoots Leon with it, while his step-son is in the form of the monster; thus, he  destroys the werewolf and release’s Leon’s soul, but it also fills his step-father with deep grief.

Like the previous Hammer productions, this film continues with its exploration of sex and violence, going further than that which had been seen in the Universal films. While tame in sexual depictions by our contemporary standards, it was shocking to many audiences of the time.

From a critical perspective, this film also introduces an element of class critique. The young woman who is raped at the beginning of the film comes from abject poverty at the lowest level of the class structure, and the man who puts her in the cell, setting up the circumstances for the attack, is a Marques, a Spanish nobleman. Clearly, the film indicts the abuse of power and the class inequity of that time. If this were an academic paper, I would focus heavily on the class critique, but I simply wanted to draw attention to it briefly in this post.

The Curse of the Werewolf was another successful entry in Hammer Studios’ new cycle of horror films, although unlike the Dracula and Frankenstein movies, it would not generate a run of sequels. On its own, however, it rates as a film of importance in the horror genre.

Overall, if you have not seen this film, I give it a very strong recommendation.

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R.I.P. Umberto Eco and Harper Lee

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https://tr.wikipedia.or

The world lost two of its most important writers today, Friday February 19, 2016: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.  I offer this small post in remembrance of their brilliance.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

Umberto Eco was a renowned professor of semiotics, the study of language and signs, as well as a best-selling novelist, and he died at the age of 84. He is probably best known outside of the academic world for his novel The Name of the Rose and the successful Hollywood film based on it, which  starred Sean Connery.  The book was, on the surface, a medieval murder mystery that was heavily influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his great detective Sherlock Holmes. It was also a multi-layered exploration of the medieval as well as the contemporary world. Eco incorporated a difficult series of puzzles and codes within the text by utilizing his knowledge of semiotics, and his labyrinthine library was based on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges.   The Name Of The Rose established Eco’s career as a novelist, which he followed up with books like Foucault’s Pendulum.   His writing entertains on  the surface and then challenges the reader to delve deeply into intellectual exploration of the world.

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https://ru.wikipedia.org

Harper Lee,  the novelist whose seminal work on racism and justice in America To Kill A Mockingbird, also died today.  She was 89 years old. Her book focused attention on racism and the lack of justice in southern small-town America as well as the attempt by her hero Atticus Finch to fight for the life of a black man accused of raping a young white woman. This book, and the enormously successful film based on her novel by the same name and starring Gregory Peck, a powerful adaptation, are both beloved and masterpieces of literature and film. In 2015, Lee released a book that can be seen as a sequel, prequel, or adaptation of To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set A Watchman.

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http://thereadersreview.org

As a reader, I have loved their writings.  I have also used To Kill A Mockingbird and The Name Of The Rose in my college classes.  Both books presented challenges to my students as well as great rewards for the studying of them.

The world has lost two powerful and deeply important writers.

Rest in Peace: Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

 

The Cogsmith’s Daughter by Kate M. Colby: A Review

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I read The Cogsmith’s Daughter by Kate M. Colby, and I loved this book. Ms. Colby’s novel is a combination of steampunk, dystopia, and social critique. Her antagonist, Aya Cogsmith, is a well-drawn and rich character, full of the strengths and weaknesses of a human being. We see fully developed characters in this novel, in addition to careful plotting and a well-thought out world that not only shows the characteristics of steampunk but also illustrates the problems with class and privilege in our society.

The pacing of the story moves quickly, and the plot holds together very effectively. At no point did I think–that wouldn’t have happened; rather, I was delighted with the deftness of hand that Ms. Colby used in crafting this excellent tale. In many ways, I was reminded of the novels of Charles Dickens as well as contemporary authors.

Ms. Colby has a singular authorial voice and uses it to enrich herthemes in this novel but never at the cost of the pleasure of reading this book. I give this book my high recommendation. Read it, and enjoy the time you spend in its world!

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Dining With Characters: Part II

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For the next installment of this series, I wanted to focus on a few characters out of Shakespeare with whom I would like to spend a couple of hours eating, drinking, and talking. I have loved Shakespeare’s plays and poetry for much of my life. I have acted in and directed some of his work, and I have studied and taught his writing, so I would be thrilled to be able to speak to some of his characters.

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http://coursphilosophie.free.fr/illustrations/mort.php

I would have Hamlet, Henry V, and Macbeth as my guests. I imagine we would meet in an English tavern and have a basic meal and beer.  I hope that my royal attendees would not mind not having a grand meal; I am reasonably sure that Henry V and Hamlet spent a fair amount of time in such modest places before their respective plays begin, and as a Scot and a warrior, Macbeth probably was used to basic accommodations while in the field.

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http://www.pinterest.com/pin/502503270894234224/

I would ask them about their views of leadership and the responsibilities of a leader and about their portrayals in the plays.  Henry V and Macbeth are both based on historical persons, while Hamlet is perhaps based on a real person–that is a debate for another day, so I wonder what they might have to say.

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I think this would be a lively and deeply fascinating discussion.  Who from the world of drama, not necessarily Shakespeare, would you choose to invite to speak with?

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Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More!

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Or should I say at least once more? (with thanks to William Shakespeare Henry V 3.1.1.)

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I have not posted for a while about the progress of my horror novel Evil Lives After, and I thought I should give a report on what was happening with it. I am receiving excellent editing and feedback on my previous draft, which I deeply appreciate.  After having spent several months in primarily working on a first draft on another novel and on revisions of my second novel, I realized I needed to get back to Evil Lives After.  I am, therefore, now actively, cutting, adding, and revising to create the 8th draft.  I think this will be a much tighter, more compelling, and more frightening book than before.

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I suspect that completing the revisions of this draft will need a three to four month time frame.  I am sure that the book will be greatly improved after this process.  I will keep you updated on the progress.  For now, to revising I go!

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Favorite TV Shows: the 1950s: The Twilight Zone

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I had engaged recently in a conversation in which TV shows were discussed. Afterwards, I was thinking that I consider the 1950s and the 1960s to have been the era which produced the best television shows.

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I am not claiming that the special effects were good or that the shows were slick in any way.  In some cases that I will mention, the acting was not the finest, but, and this is my point, the writing was extraordinary.

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I will mention one show per post and will cover more in the not too distant future.  In all cases, I am referring primarily to the writing, the story-telling, and the themes of the shows. First is The Twilight Zone, which ran from 1959-1964 and dealt with the moral, ethical, and social problems of the time.  Certainly, this show is memorable for the famous actors who appeared at different times, but it is still the writing with which I am the most interested.

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(https://commons.wikimedia.org)

The one episode, in particular, that I argue is among the best writing of all time for TV is “Death’s-Head Revisited.”  In this episode, a former concentration camp captain visits Dachau after the war.  There the ghosts of his victims take vengeance on him.  Serling wrote a riveting epilogue in which he says, “All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes – all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone but wherever men walk God’s Earth” (The Twilight Zone.) This is one of Serling’s best moments in writing.

This is one of the most powerful moments ever shown on Television, and it is one of the most extraordinary statements on the worst evil ever committed by human beings to other human beings.  We must never forget  the horror of the Holocaust.

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Citations:

Serling, Rod. The Twilight Zone. “Death’s-Head Revisited” 1961.

Patrick’s Smashed Potatoes

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This post continues a series of posts I have done featuring recipes from characters from my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. Patrick Franklin, along with his twin brother Michael, is a secondary, but important, character in this book. He is a retired Marine Corps Officer who fought in the first battle of Fallujah in 2004 in the Iraqi War. He is the protagonist’s—Roosevelt Theodore Franklin—nephew and a strong supporting element in the story.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Like his uncle, Patrick prefers rustic and basic meals to that of haute cuisine. One of his favorite is what he calls smashed potatoes.

The recipe: (intended to feed 8-10 people at a large meal)
5 pounds of red potatoes
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
fresh paprika
fresh dill
fresh black pepper
coarse sea salt

*Rinse, clean, but do not peel the potatoes. Cut away any bad spots.
*Cut the potatoes into small irregular pieces.
*Boil in dutch oven until fork tender.
*Drain and rinse potatoes.
*Place in mixing bowl.
*Add the rest of the ingredients.
*Using a hand masher, not a mixer—Patrick says too much air is incorporated, which makes the potatoes look pretty, but they lose some flavor. He is not a believer in the phrase “we eat first with our eyes.” Like his uncle, he believes we first notice smell, then we taste the food. Its appearance is irrelevant. Mix with the hand masher until blended together and serve hot. If desired, serve with gravy.

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(http://thrivingvegetarian.com   flickr.com)

Enjoy!!

Helen Murray’s Peanut Butter Cookies

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I have shared some recipes from the three gentlemen who make up the ghost hunting group in my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I. These are the main characters in my novel, but there are other very important people also, and they will also share recipes with you.   Today, I wanted to offer a baking recipe from Helen Murray.

Helen Murray, one of the main secondary characters, is a high school history teacher and the guardian of her niece Helena who was named for her.  Helen became the child’s guardian when her sister and brother-in-law were killed by a drunk driver.  The child was an infant when this tragedy occurred, so she has grown to the age of 5 thinking of Helen as her mother.  One of the tasks involved with caring for the little girl that Helen embraced was baking.  Previously, she had done very little of it, but after gaining the responsibility for taking care of this little girl, whom she loved, she found a passion for baking.

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One of her simple recipes is also one of Helena’s favorite treats: Helen’s peanut butter cookies.

1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy)

1/2 cup butter–softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or 1 vanilla bean if adventurous)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1&1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Put peanut butter and butter into mixing bowl. Use medium speed, and beat until the mixture is smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Add sugar, egg and vanilla.  Use medium speed, and beat about another minute.  Scrape bowl and combine together.

Add all the other ingredients for about 1 more minute of beating.  Roll the dough into one inch balls.  Press flat with a fork into a criss-cross pattern.

Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.  In Helen’s oven, that takes about 10 minutes.  It could vary by a few minutes.  Remove from baking sheets and let cool. This recipe will make about 33-37 cookies.

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As an extra treat, Helen sometimes will dip half the cookie in melted chocolate and add rainbow sprinkles and let them cool.

Helena always loves these!

More recipes from characters to come in the future.

A 3rd Draft Complete

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It always feels wonderful to reach a goal!  I had hoped to have completed the third draft of my Young Adult novel by the middle of this month, and I finished it on Wednesday!

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The next step in the process is to have it read by a few select readers and then return to the revision process.  I suspect the next draft will  take approximately 1-2 months, so accounting for reading times, I would like to have this draft (# 4) finished by the end of the summer.

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I am taking just the weekend off from drafting, and then I will return to the cycle of beginning a new novel.  I have several competing in my head to be the next one begun, so I am not yet sure which will win.  I will, however, choose and begin a first draft on Monday.  My goal for that draft is to have it finished by the end of the year.

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As a side note, I am working, albeit, very slowly on my academic book.  I am still trying to find a copy of the play I need, so more on that progress in the future.

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Allergic To E Challenge

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I received an unusual and very interesting writing challenge from Kritika Vashist https://krivashist.wordpress.com , and I am happy and amused by it.  At first, it seemed to be very odd, but then again, I love the odd, weird, and unusual.

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Here are the rules:

Here are the rules of the challenge:

  1. Write a whole paragraph (a paragraph sounds easy right?) without any word containing the letter “e” (still easy?)
  2. By reading this you are already signed up.
  3. Challenge at least five bloggers to do the challenge. They must do it within 24 hours or it is considered as failure.
  4. If you fail or pass, suffer in the Page of Lame.
  5. If you win, wallow in the Page of Fame.

Soooooooooooooooo, here is my effort.  Make of this “very odd” piece of writing what you will!

What a wondrous world Sam, a druid of old, walks into. Spinning around, Sam spots a brilliant sky, a group of birds flying without much work, and clouds billowing as if animals cavort in air. A dragon shows up, wings flapping away, and it shouts with an Irish lilt, “top o’ th’ morning.” Sam thinks it is a happy, and not angry, magical animal.

Here are my nominations to try this little exercise.  I hope you enjoy it and don’t hate it.

Victoria Iskak https://victoriaiskak.wordpress.com

Kate M. Colby http://katemcolby.com

Next Step to Nirvana  https://poonamallee.wordpress.com

Mitch Teemley http://mitchteemley.com

Sophie Kat https://sophiespeaksup.wordpress.com

Zach Chopchinski http://zachchop.com/

Good luck to all!!!!

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