Saturday, 29 August 2015

HYPNOGORIA 19 - Zombi Zombi Part VI

Mr Jim Moon returns to his explorations of the Living Dead family tree, and looks at the various movies inflicted upon the world as Zombie 6 and Zombie 7, most of whom ended up on the Video Nasties list too. Featuring Joe D'Amato's cannibal nasty Anthropophagus (1980) and its non-sequel but also nasty Absurd (1981), Umbeto Lenzi's atomic nonsense Nightmare City (1980), and Bruno Mattei's shameless tat Hell of the Living Dead (1980)!

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Zombi Zombi Part VI


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Friday, 28 August 2015

FOLKLORE ON FRIDAY: The Brawny Beasts of County Durham Part III

Over the past two articles in this series, we have detailed the peculiar case of a small area of County Durham being home to three overlapping legends. In the Part I we discovered a muddled legend of the Pollards  in Bishop Auckland, which variously claimed that this aristocratic family's lands were granted as a reward for slaying either a dragon or a monstrous wild boar, noting that the legend and a ritual with a falchion were suspiciously similar to the tale of the Sockburn Worm, another dragon legend from a miles away in Croft.   Meanwhile in Part II, the waters grew even muddier when we discovered the neighboring town of Ferryhill also had a legend of a knight slaying a boar too. 

So then, at last its time to get to the bottom of the mystery. Last time we drew the cautious conclusion that Ferryhill's cherished legend of a medieval knight slaying a huge boar was most likely based on fact, and our earlier article traced the long history of the Sockburn Worm. Therefore it is the Pollards tale is looking most suspect, indeed as we remarked in Part I, it was curious that different accounts seem uncertain whether the beast slain was a wyrm or a brawn. So then, what evidence is there for the Pollard tale?

Well, the earliest version of the legend comes from the Parliamentary Survey of church lands undertaken in 1649, which mentions the tradition of presenting a new Bishop of Durham with the falchion that slew the beast, and that it was for this deed that the Pollard family had been given their lands around Bishop Auckland. However this wasn't the first such record of which family held which lands and the basis for their claims, and there are several earlier mentions of the Pollard family having a falchion as the title deed for their estates, with its image becoming part of the family heraldry from the 14th century onwards. But interestingly there is no mention made of slaying a monster in any of these accounts...

Hence it appears that this story of slaying a beast seems to have only been told by the Pollards themselves. Furthermore it is considerably later that the tale gets its additional details added of the cunning Sir Richard riding around lands to claim them as a reward. Furthermore unlike the similar story of Sir Roger of Ferryhill, there is a distinct absence of any supporting evidence for the story of monster slaying in the historical record prior to the mid 17th century. Indeed the date of that first mention of the legend is significant in itself for that Parliamentary survey was taken while the English Civil War was raging.

Now to sum up briefly, this era saw the country tearing itself apart over who had the right to rule, a battle between the emerging ideas of democracy and the old feudal system which placed political power by birthright in the hands of the Crown and the nobility. Hence in this period the aristocracy were asserting their traditional rights and stressing their long histories and ancient links to their lands. Furthermore after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, there was a considerable amount of romanticizing the past - after the upheavals of the Civil War, there was a strong cultural push to reclaim the ancient traditions that had been disrupted and threatened by the conflict. Hence in this period, archetypes of 'Merry England' - an idyllic view of rural Britain and its local customs and folk traditions - become common in literature and other texts, as the new King  repealed the acts of the Puritan Parliaments that that outlawed the likes of May Day celebrations, harvest festivals and Christmas feasts. Naturally the surviving nobility romanticized their histories too and there are a great many alleged ancient traditions and tales, that were claimed to date from medieval times, were actually fabricated in this period.

Now the Pollard family itself did not survive the Civil War, and hence in the 1660s the current Bishop of Durham, John Cosin decreed that the freeholders of their former lands were to continue the tradition of the presenting of the Pollard Falchion to the Bishops of Durham. Cosin was very active in healing the rifts caused by the civil war, reinstating old liturgies, restoring the fineries stripped out of the churches by the Roundheads, and spent a great deal of the bishopric's revenues in strengthening the Church's charities and schools. In setting up a continuation of the Pollard falchion tradition, Cosin was effectively pulling the local community together - on one hand it was asserting the ancient ties between the Church and the nobility, but in transferring the upholding of the tradition to the local people it was also neatly embracing the political changes whereby the aristocracy had conceded a large degree of power to the new emerging Parliamentary democracy.

And certainly it seems that the legend of Pollard and the monster brawn appears to have really taken root in this period, a time when England was attempting to unite a recent bloody rift. In romanticising stories of medieval times essentially the feudal system was quietly being cemented into history. Hence originally the Pollard falchion, like other ancient weapons held by other noble families, was a symbol of their right to rule through their martial power and oaths to deploy that might in the service of  the crown, it now became a relic wrapped up in folklore, a left-over from days when knights were bold and monsters still lived in Merry Old England.

And in this transition from history to folklore, the tale of Pollard and the boar has clearly borrowed from the neighboring legends of Sir Roger and the Brawn of Brancepeth and the slaying of the Sockburn Worm by Sir John Conyer, with details added as the years passed. And while it is possible there might be lost earlier sources that would show the Pollard story to be a genuine medieval legend, the only other piece of supporting evidence appears to point at it being a later fabrication. For in St. Andrews Church in Bishop Auckland, that ancient residence of the Bishops of Durham, there is a 13th century wooden effigy of a knight. It is the usual sleeping figure atop a tomb and local tradition alleges it is the resting place of Sir Richard Pollard who slew the boar.

Now there are no inscriptions or mentions in ancient records to back up this claim, and the story is based upon the fact that at the feet of the sleeping knight is the carved likeness of a boar - much like how the tomb of Sir John Conyers has a dragon at his feet. However experts believe that this carven beast was most likely originally a lion, and at some later date the creature's face was recarved to resemble a pig's snout. This in itself is certainly suspect, hinting at a later revision of local history. However what make it a smoking gun for our investigation into the brawny beasts of County Durham is the fact that Bishop Cosin, who recreated and remodelled the Pollard falchion tradition was famous for redecorating and restoring old churches whose features and ornaments had been destroyed or defaced by the Puritans. And indeed most tellingly, a whole branch of church decorations in Durham now bear his name - Cosin Woodwork...

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

ZOMBI ZOMBI the story so far....

Once upon at time, Mr Jim Moon foolishly decided to chart all the various spin-offs, remakes and sequels to George Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead... And thus a legendary podcast series was born....

In the opening episode, we discuss the Zombi: L’alba Dei Morti Viventi - AKA Dario Argento cut of Dawn of the Dead, Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 AKA Zombie and Zombie Flesh-Eaters, and the Fulci/Mattei hybrid horror Zombi 3.

This episode's page - ZOMBI ZOMBI Part I 
Or here - Direct download

In Part II, Mr Jim Moon rounds up four flicks that at one time or another have purported to be a sequel to Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 - Zombie Holocaust (1980), Burial Ground (1981), Paul Naschy's The Hanging Woman (1973) and Jorge Grau's The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue (1974)!

This episode's page - ZOMBI ZOMBI Part II
Or here - Direct Download

In this edition, Mr Jim Moon is descending into all manner of benighted worlds of ill to explore Italian mastreo Lucio Fulci's the Gates of Hell trilogy, looking in-depth at City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House By The Cemetery (1981). The Sea of Darkness awaits! 

This episode's page - 
Or here - Direct download

Mr Jim Moon traces some of the more dubious branches of the Living Dead family tree, looking at Zombie 4 and Zombie 5, and then going on to talk about Zombie 4 and Zombie 5. Confused? Wait till you see the movies! And the first pair of 4s and 5s are Italian flicks After Death (1988) and Killing Birds (1988), and their alternative numbers are a brace of Jess Franco movies, A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) and Revenge in the House of Usher (1983).

This episode's page - ZOMBI ZOMBI Part IV
Or here - Direct Download

Mr Jim Moon heads to 1970s Spain to explore one of the legendary Eurohorror franchises. Created by director Amando de Ossorio, The Blind Dead saga is a quartet of movies featuring blood drinkin', horse ridin', sword wavin' undead Knights Templar, who hunt by the sense of sound! We discuss in depth all four movies in the sequence Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971), Return of the Evil Dead (1973), The Ghost Galleon (1974) and Night of the Seagulls (1975) 

This episode's page - ZOMBI ZOMBI 5
Or here - Direct Download



Featuring Joe D'Amato's cannibal nasty Anthropophagus (1980) and its non-sequel Absurd (1981), Umbeto Lenzi's atomic nonsense Nightmare City (1980), and Bruno Mattei's shameless tat Hell of the Living Dead (1980)!


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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #05 - Devil Priest Pack Part V

Welcome once again dear fiends to the Tomb of the Trumps! Yes, it's time to draw another pair of cards from the infamous 1980s' Horror Top Trumps game and discover where they were ripped off from... I mean, what they were inspired by.... So then, without further a-do, let's get the ball rolling with a very devilishly tricky customer!

And no, that wasn't just an ideal pun, for I mus confess that this one has very nearly beaten me! While there is something familiar about this demonic character, so far I've been unable to find a satisfactory match for him. Now the received wisdom on the matter is that this here Diablo character is actually a very loose drawing of the titular fiend from the classic Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon if you are in the US of A),  the horrible fire demon summoned by a runic charm as seen here -  

However I'm not entirely convinced about this claim. For our unknown artist usually copied his sources far more faithfully, and hence, despite similar nostrils and pose, these two devils are just a bit too different for me to buy the Night of the Demon theory. Furthermore, knowing how much our mysterious artist did copy, the style Diablo is rendered in suggests to me an alternative source, namely 1970s comics. Now as we saw in Part IV, Marvel horror mags did influence other cards, and that scratchy, sketchy shading on Diablo reminds me very much of the black white art in horror comics of that era. But despite hunting to high Heaven and low Hell, it does't look like Diablo is one of the recurring demon characters in '70s horror, and I'm not been able to find  a matching one-off devil or demon yet either... So then, unless you know better, the hunt for the real Diablo continues...

Now then, thankfully our next card is a lot easier to identify, albeit perhaps at little confusing. Here we have a great example of the scatter-brained approach the Horror Top Trumps creators took, for as we will discover as we make our way through the packs, quite often we get an image clearly of one character but given the name of something entirely different!   

Now Dr Syn was actually a character created back in 1915 by novelist Russel Thorndike - a clergyman who lead a double life as a smuggler called The Scarecrow. Thorndike penned several books detailing his swashbuckling adventures, and later his tales were adapted in feature films, radio plays and comics. However despite the slightly spooky edge to the good Doctor's smuggling disguises, and one of the movie version being made by Hammer and starring Peter Cushing, Dr Syn is actually not a horror character. 

Actually the same could be said of the sinister fellow pictured on the card, but ironically he would have been found next to the Dr Syn novels in the bookshops. For this card depicts a contemporary character who also appeared in a string of adventure novels, and later appeared in movies, on the radio, and in comics too. For the Horror Top trumps 'Dr Syn' is none other than the villainous Fu Manchu invented by Sax Rohmer. To be specific, the image on the card is a fairly faithful recreation of this still shown below from Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), which was the late great Sir Christopher Lee's second appearance as the Lord of Strange Deaths. Alright. the artist has changed the colour of his robe and added a scar over one eye but he's fooling no one! I'm guessing the additional chained body is stolen from somewhere less too but sadly it's too short of detail to make a definitive identification. If you recognise this chained fella, concerned relatives are urged to contact Denis Nayland Smith, of Scotland Yard circa 1930.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

MICROGORIA 18 - Usborne Supernatural Guides Vampires, Werewolves & Demons

This week Mr Jim Moon is once more apprehended loitering in Memory Lane as he embarks on a new three part odyssey into horror nostalgia with a look back at the first tome in the Usborne Supernatural Guides series - Vampires, Werewolves & Demons (1979)

DIRECT DOWNLOAD -  Vampires, Werewolves & Demons

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Thursday, 20 August 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #04 - Devil Priest Pack Part IV

Well then, after the easy-peasy cards to identify last time, our next pair present quite the challenge. Indeed over the years, many have thought that this pair were actually the product of the demented imaginings of the unnameable Horror Top Trumps artist. And at first glance, you may be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there was a title mix-up with these two as well. I mean, surely that hooded bloke with the scythe should be Death not that goggle-eyed muppet!

Ah Death, possibly one of the most enigmatic of all the Horror Top Trumps cards. Whole generations puzzled over it. Firstly everybody wanted to know why this card didn't show the expected skellington and scythe. The more technically minded Top Trump players wanted to know how in the seven names of Hades was it possible for Death - Death itself for Pete's sake - only had a Killing Power of less than 100. While the more eagle-eyed amongst us wanted to know whether Death was actually being pictured as wearing a large wide brimmed hat, possibly a sombero... I mean, look at that building in the back ground! Is that one of those sun-bleached little churches that always appear in spaghetti westerns? 

But as perplexing as all the above queries where, there was one question that, if you pardon the pun, trumped all the rest. And that was simply - What. The. Hell. Is. THAT? 

Well dear friends, I can now at last reveal the truth! Although the bizarre nature and slapdash penmanship of the card do rather suggest that this was the product of a deranged imagination, Death is in fact another rip-off, although admittedly a somewhat obscure one. The card is actually based on a mask made by the legendary Don Post Studios. 

Founded by Don Post (obviously) this outfit began producing novelty items in the late 1940s, and by the 1960s had become famous for their full head latex masks. Post soon brokered a deal with the likes of Universal and began producing masks of the famous movie monsters based on the original make-up. What's more he took casts of living cult icons such a Tor Johnson and William Shatner to masks in their image - famously Michael Myers' mask in the original Halloween is actually a modified Post Shatner mask!  Furthermore the range of deadly masks from Silver Shamrock in Halloween III: Season of the Witch are Post creations too. However aside from doing classic movie monsters and having the licenses to produce Planet of the Apes and Star Wars masks, Don Post Studios also created there own original creations - one of which was this chap (no doubt inspired by the Star Wars spawned SF boom) appeared in the 1977 Don Post catalog - the Coridian Alien! 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen I believe we have a match! Incidentally Top Trumps was the only thing to recast the Coridian Alien mask either. As Don Post masks were of such good quality it wasn't unusual for them to be used in low budget movies and TV, and hence the Coridian Alien appeared in the short-lived Logan's Run TV series. In the second episode, The Collectors, which aired on 23rd September 1977, Logan and his companions encounter nefarious shape-shifting aliens disguised as humans. This sneaky lot were collecting samples of different lifeforms for the usual conquer everything schemes, and the Coridian Alien masks were used as the true monstrous features revealed in the finale of these intergalactic ne'er-do-wells! 

Given their brief screen time in the Logan's Run TV series episode, it's unlikely the Horror Top Trumps artist copied it from there. However considering that Don Post were advertising in a variety of horror and Sf magazines in the '70s, its far more likely the Coridian Alien was discovered in such an ad. Indeed it would seem likely that the mags like Famous Monsters of Filmland and Starlog were the source of many of the images cribbed for the Horror Top Trumps, and our next card bears this out...
In the 1970s there was a huge boom in horror related magazines, with the charge being led by Warren Publishing. Now famously horror comics had been effectively banned in the US since the mid 1950s,  thanks to the Comics Code Authority. However having produced two successful magazines celebrating monster movies - the afore-mentioned Famous Monsters and Monsterworld, the ghouls at Warren realised that the Code didn't cover magazines being larger and pricier fell outside the CCA definition of a comic. Hence in 1964, Creepy was launched, and as the world didn't collapse in a riot of moral decay, was soon followed by Eerie and Vampirella. The mix of articles, comics strips, and text stories proved to be highly popular and other companies such as Skywald were soon producing rival publications. By the early '70s, even the mighty Marvel had got in on the act with a whole slew of horror mags published under the imprint of Curtis Magazines, which delivered a similar blend of text and comic books features.    

One such publication was Vampire Tales which ran bi-monthly for 11 issues from August 1973 to June 1975. As well as the usual one-off anthology stories, the magazine starred Morbius the Living Vampire, a former Spiderman villain now getting a new lease of life in pure horror comics, and introduced to the world Satana, the Devil's Daughter who would later migrate to the Marvel superhero universe. Now evidently the mysterious Horror Top Trumps artist was scouring the monster mags of the day for things to pinch, for who do we find menacing Morbius on the cover of issue #3? Why it's Devil Priest! 

OK so he's traded his purple clobber for a more tasteful blue and has been flipped from left to right, but Devil Priest is unmistakably the leader of the Demon Cult pictured above! 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

MICROGORIA - A Call from the Deep

A short info-cast in which Mr Jim Moon details his newly launched Patreon campaign

DIRECT DOWNLOAD - A Call from the Deep

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   MICROGORIA is hosted by GeekPlanetOnline and is part of the ROGUE TWO Podcasting network.