Saturday, February 26, 2011

A New Book from the Forgotten Horrors Team

...or should I say, another new book? Forging along already on Forgotten Horrors 6 (covering 1955 through ca. 1960) and Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree (running from approximately 1963 into the 1980s).
John Wooley and Jan Alan Henderson and I have just added The Hounds of Zaroff to the agenda -- a deep-focus study of The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and its (probably) innumerable remakes, takeoffs, spinoffs, ripoffs, and knockoffs. Stay tuned, already.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Early Press on Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5: The Atom Age

Nifty spread on Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5 in the new issue of Fort Worth Weekly, as related by ace critic Jimmy Fowler. The piece appears at

Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction from John Wooley and Laurie Moore

John Wooley, a mainstay of the Forgotten Horrors crew of writers and researchers, comes from an additional background of original novels and the editing of retrospective collections of crime-and-horror fiction. The following entry, recapping a newspaper column of mine from 2002 -- speaking of retrospectives -- places one of the Wooley anthologies in context with a then-new novel from ace storyteller Laurie Moore. Both Wooley's Roscoes in the Night and Moore's The Wild Orchid Society can be found at Amazon-dot-Com. And herewith:

The past and the future of hard-boiled crime -- the fictional variety, that is, comfortably distanced from any Real World concerns -- are amply well represented in a pair of mass-market books from storytellers well known to Texas.
Sales have proved brisk enough to require a second printing of Oklahoma-based John Wooley's Roscoes in the Night -- a restoration to prominence for the Depression-into-wartime author Robert Leslie Bellem.

Meanwhile, Laurie Moore's The Wild Orchid Society (Five Star; $25.95) is gaining ground as a sequel to the Fort Worth lawyer's The Lady Godiva Murder.What is most remarkable about the close-in-time arrival of these books -- each from an independent publisher, each distinguished by a maverick streak of a sort that the mainstream publishing industry avoids at all costs -- is how much they share in common.
Bellem's prose from 1934-1950, as resurrected by Wooley from such periodicals as Spicy Detective Stories and Hollywood Detective, seethes with violence and erotic encounters. Bellem's macho attitudes (as expressed through his main character, a private detective named Dan Turner) might most charitably be considered quaint today.

Which scarcely matters. The very cover of Roscoes in the Night (Adventure House; $17.95), as reproduced from a pulp magazine in which Dan Turner had been a recurring character, bespeaks a throwback to an age that could not be bothered with social correctness, nor with apologies for lack of same. The scale of gender politics could never have been balanced by sending Dan Turner, or his creator, away for Sensitivity Counseling.
These things take time to evolve, and the only appropriate answer to hard-boiled fiction from the masculine sector is its equivalent from a womanly viewpoint. And I don't mean the thin-blooded daintiness of Agatha Christie.

Laurie Moore is hardly the first woman to meet the good ol' boys' club of crime authors, thoroughly well-armed, on their traditional turf. But she may be the contender most thoroughly aware of the No. 1 rule of hard-boiled talespinning: Anything can happen to anybody at any moment. More crucially, Moore understands that virile adventure need not be the exclusive province of the men-folk, and never mind the gender-specific nature of that adjective.Robert Leslie Bellem had his Dan Turner, who ranged Hollywood as a sleuth-for-hire during the glory days of Old Hollywood. Laurie Moore has her Cezanne Martin, a Fort Worth homicide detective who, like Dan Turner before her, has the damnedest habit of barging in on situations that might better be left undisturbed. Such qualities course through the dream-stream of popular fiction, and they are invariably more appealing than infallible heroism.
The Wild Orchid Society finds Cezanne Martin, fresh off a triumphant case whose sleazier particulars have embarrassed her superiors, busted to cold-case duty. Of course, the moment one of Moore's characters lays hands upon a dormant investigation, you know the thing is bound to re-heat itself to a rolling boil. There follows a connection to a perverse community, led by a predatory sadist who hasn't any better sense than to equate mayhem with entertainment. The detective hasn't any better sense than to infiltrate this den of deviants -- a fortunate thing, too, for without her fools-rush-in gumption there'd be no story worth the telling.
Had Moore found herself at large in the day of Robert Leslie Bellem, she'd probably have given the established writers of that era a run for their money. She might have found it necessary to assume a masculine-sounding pseudonym, or to employ a male character as her protagonist. She would have found, perhaps, a readier market for her fiction - the pulp magazines' circulation ran past the tens of millions -- and when the pulps died out during the 1950s she'd probably have retrenched successfully into the new realm of paperback-novel originals.

Moore's entrepreneurial nature - as a practicing attorney, a self-starting novelist and a credentialed peace officer -- dictates that she must create a professional environment in which she, and her storytelling muse, can thrive.
Bellem, by contrast, probably could not survive if he should re-surface as an author of the competitive here-and-now. The pulp magazines in which Bellem held forth were like found money for a writer with the simple ability to make a typewriter smoke. And when the pulps cratered, as John Wooley writes in an introduction to Roscoes in the Night, "guys like [Bellem] had to look for other sources of income." The operative phrase here is look for, as opposed to creating one's moneymaking device. (Bellem retrenched into early-day network television, as a writer and editor.)

Each of these books stands on its merits, and on its vivid, verbose evocation of a time and a place. Their proximity to one another underscores the lasting nature of the hard-boiled school of crime fiction. That the books also should share ties to Fort Worth -- where Moore bases her parallel careers, and where Wooley is a mainstay of the Cowtown Society of Western Music - only intensifies their appeal to a readership attuned to rooting for the home team.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A New Cover-Design Element for Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5

This just in: A rear-cover design component for Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5 -- modeled after the main lobby card for Bob Lippert's production Rocketship X-M, the first coattail-rider to try to get the drop on George Pal's higher-minded Destination Moon. Art here. Additional listing of contents to follow...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5 Titles through 1952

And herewith, Part No. 1 of a listing of titles covered in Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5, through 1952. Balance to follow, in due course, of course...

Come On, Cowboy! • Mantan Moreland bunks up at a haunted (yeah, right) ranch.
She’s Too Mean for Me • Mantan Moreland’s horrors of matrimony.
Souls of Sin • A raw jewel of a noir from the legendary Tyler, Texas, Black Film Collection
Siren of Atlantis • Last of Maria Montez’ exotic Hollywood costume fantasies.
The Judge • Ida Lupino turns producer with one of the crueler films noirs.
Highway 13 • Phantom wrecker on a haunted highway.
State Department File 649 • Foreign intrigues take a terrifying turn toward the Red Scare.
Daughter of the Jungle • Republic’s Third World unit scores again
Bomba, the Jungle Boy Et Seq. • Johnny Sheffield takes a sustained star turn.
Daughter of the West • And you thought A Man Called Horse had the market cornered on tribal tortures…
Amazon Quest • Steve Sekely (Revenge of the Zombies) tackles an unauthorized sequel to a Nazi-banned German picture.
Rimfire • In which Reed Hadley regales his lynch mob with a promise of ghostly vengeance: Western noir.
Harbor of Missing Men • George Zucco, working off-genre.
The Crooked Way • Low-rent noir from Robert Florey — a foreshadowing of Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.
Arson, Inc. • Firebug thriller, in emulation of Dark Eyes of London.
“C”–Man • John Carradine as a mob doctor.
The Devil’s Sleep (Hopped Up) • Dope-racketeers at large from exploitation ace George Weiss.
Africa Screams • Abbott & Costello, Shemp Howard and Joe Besser and (briefly) a gigantic ape
Omoo Omoo the Shark God • Tribal superstitions in a takeoff on Herman Melville
Reign of Terror (The Black Book) • Robert Cummings vs. the guillotine — a bridge between Tower of London and the Corman Poe entries.
Rim of the Canyon • Gothic Western (star player Gene Autry) involving a purported haunting.
Too Late for Tears (Killer Bait) • One of the finer lethal-lady noirs.
Sky Liner • Another entry in the subgenre of Murder by Unconventional Gizmo.
Down Memory Lane • Surreal tomfoolery, with a present-day Steve Allen interacting with a bunch of Old Hollywood comedy footage.
Black Magic • Orson Wells as Cagliostro.
Zamba • Ray Corrigan wears the gorilla suit.
Angels in Disguise • An unusually violent crime yarn in the Bowery Boys series.
Project X • Presumably lost crime/S-F entry, anticipating Ivan Tors’ slightly later in the scientist-as-hero image.
Master Minds • Bowery Boys vs. Atlas the Monster.
I Married a Savage (Naked and the Savage) • Third World striptease hokum, with madness and murder and a consecrated snake-dance ritual.
Oriental Evil (Unmei) • Asian noir from George Breakston.
The Flying Saucer • Mikel Conrad claimed to have photographed actual UFOs — and built this Red Scare picture around the idea.
Guilty Bystander • Zachary Scott in one of the more cynical noirs to be found.
Bells of Coronado • Roy Rogers vs. Mad Doctor. A musical Western, and more.
Gun Crazy (Deadly Is the Female) • Joseph H. Lewis’ classic noir — pure human-monster terrors.
Got, Mentsch, un Tajbl (God, Man, and the Devil) • A modern-dress Yiddish Faust.
Forbidden Jungle • Not as forbidding as the title might suggest, but a respectable tense entry.
The Baron of Arizona • Vincent Price, off-genre, in a con-man role that reflects Dragonwyck and anticipates his Corman/Poe pictures.
Julius Caesar • Ghostly Shakespeare, with a pre-stardom Charlton Heston.
The Great Plane Robbery • Strangler-at-large tensions aboard an airliner.
Killer Shark • Roddy McDowall’s seafaring thriller, directed by tough-guy filmmaker Budd Boetticher.
The Great Rupert (A Christmas Wish) • George Pal’s first animated feature. Wholesome fun for the entire family.
House by the River • Novelist Louis Hayward cannot write unless he has committed murder. Fritz Lang directs.
Kill or Be Killed • Lawrence Tierney at large in a Third World hell-hole.
Jiggs and Maggie Out West • Ghostly shenanigans from a long-running comedy series.
Johnny One–Eye • One of Damon Runyon’s meaner underworld yarns.
Congolaise (Savage Africa) • Primitive customs and a ritualistic hunt for gorillas.
Rocketship X–M (Expedition Moon) • Calculated to beat Destination Moon to the box office, Kurt Neumann’s down-and-dirty little ambush turned out rather well.
Sideshow • A seedy carnival setting — all that’s missing is Tod Browning.
Destination Moon • George Pal’s pocket-epic production, in detailed perspective
It’s a Small World • William Castle breaks out as a maverick artist with the tale of a dwarf’s quest for acceptance.
Motor Patrol • Vehicular homicide as serial murder.
Once a Thief • An off-genre effort from Lon Chaney, Jr.
Jungle Stampede • Third World filmmaker George Breakston brings his documentarylike style to Republic Pictures.
Holiday Rhythm • An offbeat musical with science-fictional interludes.
Prehistoric Women (The Virgin Goddess) • A pageant of mock-militant feminism, undermined by a manly captive’s discovery of fire.
Two Lost Worlds • James Arness fights pirates and dinosaurs.
Ghost Chasers • The Bowery Boys crack a fortunetelling racket.
Skipalong Rosenbloom (The Square Shooter) • Maxie Rosenbloom spoofs the Western genre, with plenty of rubber-reality surrealism.
The Man from Planet X • Pioneering space-invasion entry from low-budget noir master Edgar Ulmer.
Five • Arch Oboler’s thoughtful and influential end-of-civilization drama, a foreshadowing of On the Beach.
Tokyo File 212 • Red Peril weirdness and intrigue, from George Breakston.
The Lost Continent • Do the dinosaurs on view here represent the surviving evidence of an abandoned 1930s project called The Lost Atlantis?
Bride of the Gorilla • In which Curt Siodmak refers to his work on both The Wolf Man and I Walked with a Zombie.
Unknown World • All aboard for the Earth’s Core.
Chained for Life • The Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins, take a pitiable last stab at movie stardom.
Flight to Mars • Monogram Pictures takes a timid shot at the rocket-movie craze. He who hesitates is lost in space.
Superman and the Mole Men • First big-screen spinoff of the TV franchise, by striking comparison with its two-chapter small-screen version.
Wild Women (Bowanga Bowanga) • FX pioneer Norman J. Dawn tackles a genre beneath him.
Aladdin and His Lamp • Monogram takes on the Arabian Nights, with a particularly ominous Genie.
Geisha Girl • George Breakston attempts a Red Menace comedy, with S-F overtones.
Red Planet Mars • Peter Graves intercepts purportedly spiritual messages from space.
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger • Most FX-oriented of the TV spaceman programs, with a history of its TV-movie spinoffs.
The Jungle (Kaadu) • Documentarylike expeditionary fiction, with Cesar Romero as a heroic Sikh.
Untamed Women • Return of the One Million BC stock footage.
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla • Notoriously unfunny comedy, pitting a self-caricatured Lugosi against a Martin & Lewis knockoff team.
Captive Women • Post-apocalyptic anxieties; not to be confused with Arch Oboler’s Five.
Bwana Devil • And speaking of Arch Oboler… his 3-D breakthrough film.
… to be continued…

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree

I owe some friends over at the Classic Horror Film Board a listing of the titles that will be covered in Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5: The Atom Age, due to drop within a month or thereabouts. None too soon to suit contributing authors John Wooley and Jan Alan Henderson and my ownself. That chapter listing will be coming along presently.

In the meantime, I've got some momentum built on the next book, Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree -- a collection of the columns that John Wooley and I have produced since 2002 for Fangoria magazine (plus some solo efforts from out-of-print sources), expanded and amplified. The cover design (below) is Still Under Construction, but far enough along to do a First Look posting. More as things develop.