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March 2008
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Leave it to Beaver, as written by Charles Eric Maine

SETTING: THE SNUG KITCHEN OF THE CLEAVER HOUSEHOLD

Beaver: Mom! I'm stuck in the fridge again!

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

June Cleaver [from off-screen]: Oh Beaver! Not again! I'll be right there, after I see why my flower garden has mysteriously died.

[Wally and Eddy enter]

Wally: Hi Mom! Hey, have you seen the sky out there? My science teacher says that the Earth is being slowly drawn closer to the Sun!

[Opens fridge, takes out the milk, closes fridge. He doesn't notice the trapped Beaver - who takes a deep breath (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER).]

Eddy: Hiya Mrs. Cleaver! Golly, real shame about your garden.

[Helps himself to the milk.]

June Cleaver [from off-screen still]: I'll be right in, boys! I made some brownies with the very last of the flour...

Wally/Eddie: Oh boy, brownies!

June Cleaver [walking into room]: ...but don't drink the milk. Your father called to say that all the dairy cows have been infected with a deadly flesh-eating virus.

[Wally and Eddie spit milk back into their glasses while AUDIENCE LAUGHS.]

June Cleaver: Oh boys! I thought the gestalt consciousness raised you better than that! You'll never find a nice girl with that sort of behavior.

Beaver [from inside fridge]: Eeew. Girls.

Wally: Well, gosh mom, ever since all the men in the world started mysteriously dying, I figured my chances at getting a date would be so much better!

[AUDIENCE LAUGHS]

June Cleaver: Remember boys, even if it is the end of the world, there's no excuse for bad manners! Now, get your brother out of the fridge, else he'll be the only one to survive the atomic explosion.


The X-Files: Season 1 Wrap-Up

X-Files

I reviewed the majority of the first season here. Jared and I hadn't finished the season yet, so the review is incomplete. Or, rather, it was. Until this morning! Read on, and learn what the first season of The X-Files has in common with Batman: The Animated Series.

In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman generally captures his foe and locks him away in Arkham by the episode's end, and good conquers evil and all is right in the world, at least until the next time that villian is called for. The Joker or the Scarecrow or whoever is then suddenly, inexplicably free, and Batman has to capture him all over again. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

Continue reading "The X-Files: Season 1 Wrap-Up" »


Underground Reading: The Shores of Kansas by Robert Chilson

The Shores of KansasThe hero of Robert Chilson's The Shores of Kansas is Grant Ryals, a Missouri hillbilly with the much-heralded ability to travel back in time to Earth's prehistoric past. Armed with axe, camera and good ol' boy wisdom, Ryals battles all the traditional dinosaur dangers (big toothy dinosaurs, little toothy dinosaurs, medium-sized toothy dinosaurs) to bring back important scientific evidence.

It is worth noting that The Shores of Kansas was written in 1976, back when dinosaurs were still allowed in Kansas. Were it written in 2008, it would be a much different book. Grant Ryals would pray real hard and learn the truth about the evil-utionary hoax perpetrated by liberal sodomites.

Fortunately, in the naive days of 1976, things like 'evolution' and 'prehistory' were taken as fact, as opposed to being recognized as the evil, Godless lies that they are. When he's not being chased by dinosaurs, Grant Ryal's problems in the modern era aren't Damnation and Hellfire, but, worse, wimminfolk.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: The Shores of Kansas by Robert Chilson" »


Underground Reading: Paradise Motel by Jack Sheridan

Paradise MotelJack Sheridan's Paradise Motel is an original Gold Medal novel, published in 1953. It tells the sorry little tale of a half-abandoned Western town, and the sorry little motel on its outskirts.

The motel is run by Trace (Teresa) (who deserves better) and her husband Walt (who deserves worse). This couple is joined by Della, Walt's alcoholic sister (who is getting exactly what she deserves, and knows it), Sperry (Esperanza) (who is getting exactly what she deserves, but doesn't know it), and Mark (who doesn't quite know what he deserves, what he wants, or whether or not he's ever going to get it).

Despite the horde of parentheses, the whole thing is actually quite simple. The adulterous, alcohol-swilling, wife-smacking baddies meet untimely ends, and the hard-working, hard-persevering types wind up with one another.   

The book is further simplified by shading the characters with the palest gray in the pencil box.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Paradise Motel by Jack Sheridan" »


The Cinematic Black Hole: Carnosaur

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I saw this movie once, like fifteen years ago. It came out in 1993, and I watched a VHS version, so I must have seen it in '94 or '95. Picking on a film I haven't seen since I was a freshman in high school doesn't seem exactly fair, but I've been working on a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen review for two weeks now, and it has spiraled entirely out of control, and I need a stop-gap until I can rein the damned thing in and post it.

Carnosaur wins because it was the first movie on this website's list to which I had the following reaction: "oh, shit, that was a terrible movie."

First: a plot summary without looking it up on IMDB. Dinosaur fetuses are cloned and implanted into unsuspecting women. The women deliver giant, Mentos-eggs which hatch dinosaurs which mature really fast and eat everyone. Eventually the evil scientist who came up with this brilliant plan lays her own Mentos-egg and dies. The End.

Continue reading "The Cinematic Black Hole: Carnosaur" »


Millipede Press

Millipede DraculaMillipede Press first came to my attention with their publication of the (stunning) (unaffordable) Artists Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, introduced by Harlan Ellison and featuring forty artists - all among the best in the field.

Little did I realise that this is only one of their many (stunning) (unaffordable) books - including a Greg Hildebrandt-illustrated Dracula and an Alexander Preuss-illustrated The Shadow of the Torturer that is so unbelievably lovely it almost makes me want to reread that painful (pun!) series.

Outside of horror, Millipede Press also publish limited edition reprints of classic noir titles by David Goodis, Fredric Brown and William Hjortsberg. Ordinary trade paperbacks are available for a mere $14, but the real value may be in the $50 signed hardcovers with introductory essays and extra short stories.

Don't let the minimalist web design fool you - although there a few strangely vague details ("signed"? Isn't David Goodis dead?) and disconcerting typos. The books look fantastic and the site provides plenty of gorgeous photography to help you properly ogle them.


Underground Reading: Tread Softly by Richard Kelly

Tread SoftlyWhen two families team up to go camping in Richard Kelly's Tread Softly, they clearly don't know that Kelly is an early pseudonym for cult author Richard Laymon. And you never want to go camping in a book by Richard Laymon. Satanic sexual predators, random serial killers, zombie dogs... anything could happen (and does. Twice).

This early (1987) publication has all the key traits of a vintage Laymon thriller - including a callous and merry disregard of anything resembling good taste. This is joyously silly slasher fiction with boobs bouncing freely, an axe in every hand and a cannibal around every corner.

With that in mind, a few things to remember when trapped in a Laymon book:

  • Don't go camping. All you're doing is removing witnesses from the equation.
  • Keep your clothes on. Remember, 99% of mad-dog-rapist-serial-killers wait until you've naked before attacking.
  • Knives wound. Axes kill. Be sure.
  • The quickest way to tell a good guy from a serial killer is to flash your breasts. Good guys peek and blush. Bad guys lunge.
  • Don't talk to strangers. At best, they're a meat shield. They're more likely to be a rapist-murderer

If anything, the book is almost too Laymon - it feels so on-formula that it reads like a pastiche of his own work. Later, of course, Mr. Laymon played with his own 'formulaic' plot and character constructions to keep his audience surprised, but in this early work, it stays on-script.

Overall, a tasteless, silly and enjoyable book, making it an excellent  introduction to the larger body of (tasteless, silly and enjoyable) work that is Richard Laymon.


The Cinematic Black Hole: Mirrormask

Dave McKean. His asthetic leans toward creepy, shadow-box inspired collages, which isn't my particular cup of tea. But lots of people like it. He's made a name for himself as an illustrator and artist, and he's written a bit, too. He got his start collaborating with Neil Gaiman; their collaboration made them both (relatively) famous. It was probably inevitable that they would wind up making a movie together.

Alas, that movie was Mirrormask.

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Rediscovering the X-Files: Season 1

On American network television, there's a phenomenon known as the "Friday night death slot." People with lives have fun on Friday nights; they hang out with friends or go on dates or rent movies or whatever, and Friday-night television has a tiny audience as a result. Networks tend to move their long-shots into the death slot, where they limp along to die quiet, ignominious deaths; the Friday night death slot has taken many a good show with it.

One of the few great exceptions to the rule: The X-Files.

Continue reading "Rediscovering the X-Files: Season 1" »


Underground Reading: Gift of Death by Edward S. Aarons

Gift of DeathJerry Benedict, cartoonist and amateur detective, is nervously preparing for his wedding day. He's interrupted by a phone call that carries an interesting proposition. It turns out that Lucius McConaughy, his editor, is one of six heirs to a forgotten fortune. Good news, except that not everyone seems keen on a six-way split...

Benedict is reluctantly pried away from his impending nuptials and, with an apology to his fiancée, heads up to the wilds of Connecticut to poke around. Naturally, things aren't as simple as they seem. Lost diaries, a family curse, the local mob (in rural Connecticut, no less) and a host of unscrupulous heirs all serve to muddy the waters.

The mystery is, at best, so-so, with everyone a little too neatly connected and a few red herrings that I (irritatingly) bought at face value. However, Gift of Death excels at a few, rare, points. Some of the characters (primarily Jerry, Lucius and Stephanie, his semi-jilted bride-to-be) are terrific. Lucius especially is a scene-stealer. Despite his heir/potential-victim status, he's much more concerned with his diet, his cigars and catching the sun.

In true 1967 style, sex also plays a massive role. The author uses the delayed wedding to create a fale sense of urgency. Not only is Stephanie happily flirting with the local mini-mafioso, but Jerry really, really, really wants to get laid. Waiting, however, is a good thing. Like a Reagan-era horror movie, improper (pre-or-extra-marital) sex is invariably rewarded with a messy death.

The fluffy mystery and sex banter made for a thin story but a fast book. Without praising it unduly, I'm interested enough to pursue the other Jerry Benedict mysteries. Maybe the poor guy can finally get Stephanie into bed.