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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #390 (Vol. 8, No. 37) This edition is for the week of September 10--16, 2007.

The Fabulous Architecture of the Tampa Bay Region, Part Four  by Will Moriaty
"The Brave One"  by Mike Smith
The Swap by Antony Moore  by Lisa Ciurro
Loose in Las Vegas: Update on Ted V Mikels  by ED Tucker
Ray Bradbury at 87 .... VHS Grindhouse: The Undying Monster  by Andy Lalino
Goals, Part 1  by Corey Castellano
Maybe He Can Room With Hinckley .... Just A Coincidence .... Finally .... Passing On  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

Ray Bradbury at 87 .... VHS Grindhouse: The Undying Monster

Ray Bradbury at 87
I read a moving column in Monday's St. Petersburg Times (reprinted from the NYT) in celebration of the life and work of acclaimed science-fiction author Ray Bradbury - one of the last of the Great Ones. For once, an artist didn't have to pass on before a reporter bestows accolades on him. The article was titled Vintage Bradbury Packaged Anew in Author's 87th Year, in which columnist David Shaftel gives valuable insight on the status of Mr. Bradbury and his work, in which there is some exciting news: Forthcoming are two collections of his lost/vintage stories: Now and Forever, Match to Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451, and Futuria Fantasia. The three tomes were "mined" from Bradbury's earliest works and will feature experimental drafts, long-forgotten manuscripts, and unfinished writings.

Now and Forever, will showcase two never-before-released novellas: Leviathan '99 and Somewhere a Band is Playing. The former is described by Bradbury as "Moby-Dick in outer space", telling the tale of a spacefarer who journeys with a blind, Captain Ahab-type character tracking a white comet aboard an enormous starship. The latter is a story originally conceived as a vehicle for Katherine Hepburn, about a reporter who steps off a train into a town where no one dies, ages, or has the ability to conceive children. Somewhere a Band is Playing is a piece Bradbury had been refining for over 50 years, and this collection will include variations on the story, as well as teleplay/screenplay fragments. It is stated that Bradbury was a friend of Hepburn, but sadly the work never got produced as a feature film or TV episode. I find it odd that Bradbury would author a science-fiction story for Hepburn, simply because she's always struck me as alien to genre filmmaking.

Match to Flame: The Fictional Paths to Fahrenheit 451 is an assemblage of the correspondence, stories, and drafts of his famous story.

Bradbury, along with his friends and colleagues Forrest J. Ackerman and Frederick Pohl, are credited as being the pioneers of what we now know as Fandom in the 1920's and '30s. In those days, lovers of science-fiction (I dare not write "sci-fi" in an article about Bradbury!) massed together in living rooms and basements, discussing the genre and on occasion producing fanzines, which were among the first ever such format published. Futur1a Fantasia was a fanzine that Bradbury published himself as a late teen in the '30s. The new anthology contains the first four issues of the fanzine, which was funded by Forry Ackerman and also features Robert Heinlein.

Here's to Mr. Ray Bradbury - certainly one of the best of the best and a perennial inspiration to fanboys the world over - both now and forever. May you live another 87 years!

VHS Grindhouse: The Undying Monster
Oddservation oddballs surely have noted that the ol' VHS Grindhouse hasn't been dusted off for a long while - well, here goes with a rev-up of a new edition!

The Undying Monster is an atypical 1940's thriller. It's a somewhat classy production with the standard great-looking sets and a moody atmosphere populated by a very theatrical cast terrorized by an elusive monster, in this case a werewolf. Please don't take this as a hail of compliments -- it's not; some of these elements work against The Undying Monster being a memorable feature. 1940's horror films, though entertaining, seemed to be stifled by stuffy direction, a propensity toward mystery, ridiculous attempts at humor, and other shortcomings. You can be sure it's always a treat to soak in cavernous manor houses, shadowy crypts and misty moors, but where's the style? Many films of this era play out like a crusty library book by a forgotten author - very soup cracker and vanilla. This film, sad to say, is not an exception.

With an appropriately short 62 minute run time, The Undying Monster starts off somewhat with a bang. Or howl. On the dark and foggy moors in England, a woman is viciously attacked by someone - or something. She's abandoned on the side of a rocky cliff, where she's discovered along with the wounded body of a man, and taken to the cavernous Hammond manor. While the girl remains in a coma, the man's wounds are treated, and he turns out to be Oliver Hammond, resident of the house. It's soon revealed that the Hammond family is cursed by a devil-worshiping ancestor to die at the hands of some supernatural occurrence when adulthood is reached. Oliver's comely sister, Helga, thinks the curse is pish-posh.

Before long, Scotland Yard is called in, with a dashing young investigator Robert Curtis and his unfunny assistant Cornelia Christopher on scene to scope out the scene of the crime and the Hammond house. Like any classic Whodunit?, the script begins to populate the storyline with suspicious butlers, questionable maids, phony ghosts, and other red herrings. Is there really a "Hammond Curse"? Did a monkey escape from a nearby zoo and kill? Are the howls outside just the wind? There are plenty of attempts to throw off the investigators, but like good Dudley Doorights, they'll eventually get their man...or beast.

I have to say that the production design was indeed impressive. There's a delicious scene in the shadowy, cobweb-strewn Hammond crypt which stands up to most any major Universal horror film of the time (note: The Undying Monster was brought to us by 20th Century Fox), and it's always fun watching a B&W movie with foggy moors, distant wolf bellows, and subterranean crypts - it's what I grew up on. In what could be considered either an homage or a direct rip-off of the then recently-released The Wolf Man, a creepy, poetic warning is read aloud several times: "When the stars are bright on a frosty night, beware thy baying on the rocky lane." I think you'll find the monster revelation at the film's conclusion a letdown, and makes quite clear this is no Universal Studios production.

Tune-In Alert: Off-Beat Cinema!
Tune in tonight - late nite Friday (or technically, early morning Saturday) for a hip cat cult movie!
Tonight's feature: Blonde in Bondage (1957) - A Swedish exploitation film banned in Finland!
3am-5am on WTSP Channel 10 (Channel 12 on some cable providers)

Set those VCR's and check local listings.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.