Wednesday, September 11, 2013

“Carnival of Souls” Graphic Novel Adaptation Returns in New Edition from Cremo Studios

“Carnival of Souls” Graphic Novel Adaptation
Returns in a New Edition from Cremo Studios

Herk Harvey, pioneering independent moviemaker of the last century, foreshadowed the development of an indie-film groundswell with a maverick production called Carnival of Souls in 1962 The film’s resurgence during 1989-1990 as a film-festival and art-theatre attraction brought about, in turn, a graphic novel that inspired Stephen King to declare, “I’m in awe...!”
With the restoration of that Carnival of Souls book in two distinct editions for 2013, Cremo Studios, Inc., has brought Herk Harvey’s accomplishment full-circle. The filmmaker had commissioned the Carnival of Souls graphic novel while enjoying renewed popular and critical acclaim for a film that, during the 1960s, had been confined largely to the drive-in and grindhouse theatres and then banished to late-night television.
The designer and co-author of the comics version, Michael H. Price, had been involved with the film’s 1989 restoration as a syndicated motion-picture critic and a jurist with the USA Film Festival at Dallas, which launched the big-screen reissue. A representative of Herk Harvey approached Price about developing the graphic novel in 1990, and a collaboration with Harvey began. Price enlisted newspaper illustrator Todd Camp as principal artist.
Price and Camp, in turn, developed the comics adaptation from a combination of the restored film, the original shooting script, and Harvey’s film-cutting continuity. The tale follows the narrative arc of Harvey’s original vision: A haunted protagonist finds herself under siege by a mob of ghostly stalkers.
Price & Camp developed the book in a visually intense Pointillist style, employing millions of dots of ink to achieve a photo-realistic image comparable with the film’s shadow-laden camera compositions. The original edition of Carnival of Souls appeared in 1991 from Malibu Graphics, its release coinciding with the first authorized video edition of the restored film.
The new graphic novel, Carnival of Souls: Black & White Omnibus Edition (Cremo Studios; $25) reproduces the original edition with refinements and embellishments. The 290-page package is rounded out with a retrospective of Price & Camp’s additional comics work of the 1990s, including the Hollywood-themed comic strip Moviola, a collection called Holiday for Screams, and such short-story selections as Planet of the Dead and a little-seen serial feature called Corridors of Terror. A limited alternate edition, Carnival of Souls & Further Crepuscular Peculiarities (Cremo Studios; $55) contains a selection of full-color pages.    
Both editions of Carnival of Souls are in distribution via the Web catalogue of Amazon-dot-com. The eStore link is:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Turner Classic Movies weighs in on Forgotten Horrors

A grateful acknowledgment to Turner Classic Movies -- an essential network, by the way -- for its coverage of our two new additions to the Forgotten Horrors shelf. We've announced the books in prior postings, so I'll refrain from adding anything else and let Turner Classic Movies' state the case:

Big Thanx A lot to Turner Classic Movies for its prominent highlighting of Cremo Studios' new Forgotten Horrors books -- F.H. Vol. 6, on the one hand, and the series capper Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree, on the other -- among a wealth of coverage of interest to any and all movie enthusiasts. (TCM, man: Teevee that won't waste your time.)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree

And many thanks to Dennis King (at Projections Movie Blog) for all the kind woids on Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree (eStore link below):

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Timely Preview from 'The Movie Beat' — New Companion Volume to 'Forgotten Horrors'

     Rounding the halfway-mark curve on The Movie Beat, the first book to collect a sizeable number of my newspaper reviews from a good long hitch in the screening room. Akin to the Forgotten Horrors books, of course, but covering a broader range of subject matter and popular appeal. Currently fitting in the 2003 newspaper article about Ang Lee's The Hulk, which seems timely in the Here-and-Now not only in light of its early station in the current sooper-dooper-hero movie craze, but also in view of the chronic controversy over Marvel Comics' shabby treatment of its essential artists. Herewith, a preview of The Movie Beat (below). The book, containing a Foreword by my news-editor cohort Bill Thompson of the Maine Today papers, will issue during the summer from Cremo Studios.
Mike Price

The Hulk
When a shabby, 10-cent funnybook of the 1960s proves more interesting than its spinoff into a high-dollar movie, the ill-balanced state of the Popular Culture becomes disturbingly evident.
Not to suggest that Ang Lee’s take on The Hulk is a particularly bad motion picture. Or even a less worthwhile investment of time and money than, say, staying at home and re–reading the original comic books. A paperback reprint of the earliest Hulk escapades can be had at Half Price Books for less money than a movie ticket.
It is just that The Incredible Hulk, as perpetrated in 1962 by a rambunctious artist named Jack Kirby and an opportunistic sweatshop-boss editor named Stan Lee—no kin to Ang Lee—packed a wallop of predatory hunger and maverick defiance that is nowhere to be found in the well-fed and only superficially edgy movie version. The anger and alienation that motivate the big-screen’s pixel-perfect, Photoshopped-to-death Hulk are entirely melodramatic, cloaked in Existentialistic posturing. The comic book is the genuine article.
Early-day Marvel Comics’ bearing upon the comic-book racket had to do with insurgence and resentment. The Incredible Hulk is an irradiated menace, the alter–ego of a brilliant scientist, an atom-age Jekyll–become–Hyde. Ang Lee’s picture is a mixed bag of honor, betrayal, and transcendence.
It bears noting that the Hulk was popularly counted among the lousiest of his kind during the early 1960s. The Academy of Comic Book Arts & Sciences—a fan-club network of schoolboys who took the funnies more seriously than the rest of the world—found itself torn between The Incredible Hulk and Wonder Woman when it came to citing the Worst Comic Book on the market. (Wonder Woman had the edge in this backhanded contest, what with its being a magazine designed for girls, under consideration by a voting panel of [mostly] boys. At least The Incredible Hulk had the requisite virility.)
Luckily for all concerned except the overworked artists, Stan Lee had in his service such brilliant illustrators as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. Lee also had the advantage of a punchy and memorable monicker, having set aside his actual name of Stanley Lieber in favor of the two-syllable jab of Stan Lee. This euphonious tag would have been just right for a Top 40 disc jockey of the day—especially after he had amended it to Stan “the Man” Lee—although as an attempt at Anglo–Saxonizing the identity it did not quite work. Most of the kids in my junior-high circle of comics fans just assumed that this Stan Lee must be some Chinese guy. (Filmmaker Ang Lee, on the other hand, is authentically Taiwanese.)
Stan Lee presided over a line of also-ran funnybooks, many of them dealing with hideous monsters, like visions from a 6–year–old’s nightmare, at large and getting larger. The Hulk, though consistent with such juvenilia, also was part of Lee’s gone-for-broke attempt to challenge the well-heeled publisher of Superman and Batman, tenured mainstays of an industry. Having nothing to lose and plenty to prove, Lee copped a renegade stance, denying his heroes the joy with which Superman flaunted his powers or the official acceptance of Batman’s vigilante tactics. If Lee’s situations and dialogue were na├»ve and overwrought, at least his attitude was refreshingly grim.
Lee and his hired help (his Betters, though subjugated by economic considerations) already had defined the Amazing Spider–Man as a nerdly misfit, afflicted with superhuman abilities. Their heroic team, the Fantastic Four, was a quarreling extended family transformed into freaks as a consequence of a renegade flight into space. For the Hulk, Lee looked to R.L. Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde while Kirby took a visual cue from Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein movies. When Ditko took over, early in the run, he heightened the sense of malevolent intelligence.
Such prehistory exerts a fundamental bearing upon Ang Lee’s The Hulk. The film is, at one level, a critic-proof blockbuster for a summer moviegoing season that traditionally aspires to such bombastic sensationalism. Lee (Ang, not Stan) is, however, more an Art Film director than a dispenser of Popcorn Movies, and his thematic and artistic conceits make The Hulk somewhat more complicated.
The collaborative screenplay takes considerable liberties with the comic-book version-scientist, transformed in a nuclear shock-wave-to include an element of genetic tampering and at least one generation of mutation. Eric Bana stars as Bruce Banner, whose conversion to the Hulk (the real Bruce Almighty?) has as much to do with inborn abnormalities as with any triggering crisis. Bana’s response to his altered self is too nonchalant, denying the character his due as a tormented anti-hero of the film noir type, and this lack of depth requires what compensation the supporting players can provide.
Jennifer Connelly, as a conflicted romantic interest for Banner, moves beyond the damsel-in-distress stereotype of the Lee & Kirby version, with an actual career and a genuine stake in the motivating crisis. Nick Nolte lends a robust and ominous presence as a fatherly sort who seems responsible for having rendered Banner susceptible to the change. The Hulk himself is more a creation of the digital-effects realm than of any literary or dramatic artistry, and such soulless sensationalism is quite at odds with the deeply felt art of the comic books, where the dichotomy between the man and his monster-self was rather more sharply defined. Where the comics required just one or two capable, underpaid illustrators per issue, the movie requires a regiment of overpriced special-effects artisans.
There also are some gimmick-casting touches, including the overbearing presence of Stan Lee and the pleasanter Lou Ferrigno—television’s Incredible Hulk of the 1970s—in cameos that only flirt with overkill. Or as Stan Lee himself might put it: “‘Nuff said!”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And herewith: The Music of Forgotten Horrors Vol. 2 -- creepy novelties, movie-promo rock 'n' roll, and some jazz-pop hoodoo rarities from the 1920s and '30s.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Forgotten Horrors Vol. 6: New Back-Cover Design

The cover paintings are nearing completion for Forgotten Horrors Vol. 6 ... and here is the back-cover image... More about all that presently...

And Herewith...

...the new Forgotten Horrors bookstore (link also at right):

Sunday, February 3, 2013

“Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree” Traces Upheaval of a Popular Genre—1963-1985

Michael H. Price’s popular Forgotten Horrors series of film-genre studies jumps the chronological track with its newest installment, due to publish in March of 2013. Prior books have covered the field of low-budget horror films and related genres in a direct path from 1929; the new collection flashes forward to a period from the 1960s into the 1980s.

Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree: Dispatches from a Collapsing Genre is a 300-page installment by Price and frequent collaborator John Wooley. The book chronicles a revolutionary upheaval in the cinema of terror—covering a period from the invention of the so-called “splatter movies” in 1963 to the collapse of the low-budget independent theatrical chiller upon the rise of the made-for-video feature in 1985. The publisher is Cremo Studios, Ltd.

“Here lies a genre in upheaval,” Price & Wooley write, “given such audacious benchmarks as the gore pictures of Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman; George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre; and Larry Buchanan’s minimalist Dream Logic fugues, such as Zontar, the Thing from Venus. The species had turned itself inside–out by 1985—more revolution than evolution.”

“The shift found the major-league studios of Corporate Hollywood applying epic-scale resources to cheap-thrills yarns,” explains Price. “Universal Pictures cribbed from Roger Corman, with Jaws in 1975. Twentieth Century–Fox riffed on It! The Terror from beyond Space, with Alien. Meanwhile, the classier film-as-literature fare once associated with Fox and Universal and MGM became the province of the independent studios. The inventory of strange influences is all but infinite.”
Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree collects and expands upon a decade-long run of Price &
Wooley’s monthly Forgotten Horrors column in Fangoria magazine, utilizing images from the authors’ extensive collections of movie posters and publicity stills.

Additional chapters compiled expressly for the book discuss the partnership of David F. Friedman and Herschell Gordon Lewis and Friedman’s origins in the carnival industry; such strange careers as that of Rod Lauren, who pursued parallel careers as a mass-market Sinatra-style crooner and a star of low-budget horror movies; and a rediscovery of Mike Price’s earliest published byline as a film critic—a review of 1968’s Night of the Living Dead as a fresh release. Selected rarities from such genre journals as Psychotronic Video magazine and Wooley’s Hot Schlock Horror! (1992) complete the package.

The Forgotten Horrors series originated in 1979 with a survey of the genre during the Depression years, from 1929 into 1937. Companion volumes have brought the series into the 1950s, with five volumes of Forgotten Horrors in print and a sixth book (covering 1955-1957) in preparation for publication during 2013.

Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree will carry a cover price of $30.