Monthly Archives: February 2010

Custom Cover Art

Maybe it’s due to the dream I had awhile back about a video store’s VHS clearance sale, but I’ve been thinking about custom cover art for VHS and DVD lately. More specifically, covers created by rental store employees after something happened to the original cover. I’ve only seen this happen a couple of times, with the styles ranging from hand drawn overs to “blank burst” advertising signs crammed it into a black clamshell case with the title written on in black marker. My personal favorite has to be a Children of the Corn cover consisting of a mostly B&W drawing of a corn stalk with a trickle of red ink “blood” on it. If memory serves me correctly, the artist even went through the trouble of designing a logo for the title instead of just scrawling it on in block letters.

However, I’ve noticed that practically everyone I’ve talked to about this has never been to a video store where this has happened. Instead, the stores used photocopies of the original cover art. Has anyone out there ever seen the sort of replacement covers I’m talking about?

Bonus links:

Printable custom DVD covers hosted by Retroslashers.

TheGreatWhiteDope’s custom DVD covers.

This page offers horror-themed printable CD/DVD covers which are similar to the cardboard slipcases used for promotional CDs.

These covers
look great, but don’t seem to be printable.

This page has some examples of covers put out by a professional video company that look amateurish.

The Return of Horror Trivia

Back when the 1998 American Godzilla movie was announced, Sid Pink tried to get funding for a sequel to or remake of Reptilicus by commissioning some CGI test images.

Curse of the Puppetmaster was originally supposed to be the first entry in the proposed Puppet Wars trilogy, in which Toulon’s puppets battling a mummy and other classic monsters. However, money issues resulting in the film being turned into a Sssssss clone.

Modified versions of the title character of The Crater Lake Monster, an alien from Laserblast and the Beetleman from Flesh Gordon appeared in a short motion simulator ride film called Monster Planet.

Speaking of the Beetleman, the model used in Flesh Gordon is a recreation of one of the models used in Pete Peterson’s Beetleman test footage. This footage, along with Peterson’s The Las Vegas Monster test footage, appears in the special features portion of the DVD release of The Black Scorpion.

Most horror fans know that some models from the lost spider pit scene from the original King Kong were reused in The Black Scorpion, but many don’t know some props from that scene were used as set dressing in the film Genius at Work.

Anyone who has seen The Pit has probably wondered what the deal was with the Trogs and whether or not Teddy was really alive or not. As it turns out, the film was originally supposed to make it clear that it was all just in the protagonist’s imagination, but that got changed during production.

For some strange reason, Don Post Studios actually made a licensed Syngenor mask back in the day. That’s right up there with the official The Incredible Melting Man makeup kit.

It’s been said that the dragon from Toho’s Princess from the Moon is actually the Nessie prop from the never-realized Toho/Hammer co-production of the same name.

The Incredible Petrified World was originally supposed to have a monster in it, but the costume shrank during transport to the filming location. Although they found someone who kind of fit into it, the resulting footage was so terrible-looking that it was removed from the film. Considering the “quality” of Jerry Warren movies, that’s saying something!

Monarch Books published novelizations of Gorgo, Konga and Reptilicus that are infamous for the sex scenes inserted into the plots in order to pad out the page count. At the same time, Charlton Comics published Gorgo, Reptilicus and Konga comic books. Apparently Charlton got sick of paying licensing fees for Reptilicus, because they altered his design, changed his coloration and renamed the series Reptisaurus the Terrible.

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood was originally supposed to be Freddy vs. Jason, but the idea was dropped when Paramount and New Line couldn’t reach an agreement.

Jon Mikl Thor, star of Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare and Zombie Nightmare once appeared as a feature in an indie comic book. Years later, he would appear in two other comic books devoted to him.

Remakes Are Hell

Horror remakes are always interesting and controversial: interesting, because it’s always good to see the old nightmares get new blood; controversial because the movies often trample over the established cannon for the sake of ‘modernizing’ and ‘revamping.’

Often when changes are made to the appearance of the central antagonist, they’re small and more subtle.  Michael Myers’ pristine white mask was dirtied and slashed in the 2007 remake, but still had the William Shatner cast to it. The 2003 ‘Texas Chainsaw’ movie tweaked Leatherface but it wasn’t far from the iconic human flesh grimace. It’ll be interesting to see how the Freddy Krueger appearance turns out in the coming remake. (Hit Flix has a good write-up about Jackie Earl Haley taking on the character, which raises my own optimism for the project)

Recently, I came across the following video concerning the possible Hellraiser remake.

In early 2008, when HELLRAISER Make-up Effects Designer Gary J. Tunnicliffe heard the rumors of a HELLRAISER Remake and a radically different Pinhead, he was faced with a choice…Stand by and let the iconic image of Pinhead be redesigned by others, or have a crack at it himself…

Project: Angel Redesigning an Icon, is the end result of this decission.

(This concept was created during the time when Alex Bustillo was set to direct and was partly based on concepts relating to his version of the film. This has nothing to do with the current director’s version.)

As seen in the video, it’s an interest redesign of the classic character. Done by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who has worked on six of the Hellraiser movies, it suited more than others to apply a redesign to the character.

I asked for feedback from Ben Chester, a special effects artist with numerous credentials under his belt:

I must admit I have never seen the original, but naturally am very familiar with the character. I can’t imagine a greater pressure than the task of re-designing an icon, and don’t envy Gary. 

First impressions is this is a weak attempt. The applications feel very thick and distractingly unnatural. They broaden, almost swell the features to a level that clearly says….”make-up”. And the sloppy slashing effect really, to me, detracts from the menacing power of the character.

I always felt that the symmetry of his scarring suggested a long, slow, calculated torture that was simply unbearable. And his cold, calm demeanor in the face of such pain was what made him so intimidating. This new approach feels like it was a quick, sloppy attack which lessens the meaning of what I believe the wounds are meant to symbolize. 

The pins are also important. While not having a needle phobia myself, I know many do. And I think think rather than the open festering wounds, what would psychologically impose a sense of pain would be thinner needles, and a great many more of them. 

If it were me, I would have suggested more healed, but intricate scarring. Perhaps a fine and ornate design of symboling, like a darker version of the classic henna tattoos. And I would have introduced fine pins at every visible cross-section. Perhaps even including strategic sections in which the skin was stretched and pinned in place at various points. 

I’d keep brainstorming if I were them. They’re dealing with a fanbase that is expecting nothing but dissappointment. The effort has to exceed expectation, or simply not bother.

It’s very interesting to look at the effects side of the movie. I like the mention of a “darker version of the classic henna tattoos” suggested by Ben, since the original movie had the Frank Cotton character purchasing the Puzzle Box in Morocco. It would be a nice call-back to the original movie and would add a clever appeal to the character. As expressed in the second video below, Tuncliffe was working according to the Alex Bustillo script. The project has since underwent a change in direction and remains in development.

Also seen in the video below, Gary Tuncliffe explains his reason behind the redesign. Having worked so close with the movies and the character of Pinhead, he felt that the choice was either to embrace the remake or to let a character important to him be taken in the hands of someone else. It’s a hard choice, since he shares the same ideas expressed above by Ben Chester.

While as fans, we often end up as spectators to redesigns and remakes that often disappoint our expectations, these remakes must be harder on those who have worked on the original material. The videos here and comments show the conflicting positions that effect designers find themselves.

A big thank you to Ben Chester for his comments and to both him and Gary Tuncliffe for their work throughout the years.

Note: You don’t have to go to Morocco to get your own Puzzle Box. Weird Jon showed you how to make your own right here.

ADV is not dead, it just smells funny

I discovered something quite interesting while trying to find contact information for Section23/SXION 23 Films, AEsir Holdings and Switchblade Pictures so I could ask if they’d be licensing certain Asian sci-fi movies. You see, it turns out that I made a mistake when I reported that ADV Films had gone out of business and that most of its assets were bought by several corporations registered by their former senior vice president of business and legal affairs. As it turns out, ADV had (more or less) split itself into several companies!

This actually isn’t anything new in the entertainment industry. Ventura Distribution was alleged to have done something like this several years ago, which angered enough of its former clients to start a (now defunct) website called “Ventura Ripoff.” However, ADV/Section23/etc. does not seem to have angered or lost anyone they have done business with in the past.

According to the sources given here, Section23 Films is a “distributor and marketing company of Switchblade Pictures, Sentai Filmworks, and AEsir Holdings.” The company is also said to have acquired all of ADV’s old licenses and most of ADV’s old staff. This says the co-founder of ADV is now employed as the “manager of Section 23 Films, where he over sees business of Section 23’s subsidiaries; Sentai Filmworks, Switchblade Pictures, Valkyrie Media Partners, and Sephrim Studios.” Wikipedia also notes how episode 19 of the podcast alleges that the entire process was a “drastic rebranding and restructuring” of ADV done to take advantage of certain loopholes. I’ve also discovered that the Amazon listing for the (as of this writing) yet-to-be released You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle – Collection 1 DVD set lists “Adv Films” as the releasing studio, a title that’s handled by Sentai Filmworks and Section23 Films.

Please don’t think that the “smells funny” part of this post’s title implies any wrongdoing; it’s just a Frank Zappa homage. I’m glad they’re still in business and hope to see more horror/sci-fi releases from them in the future, no matter what name the company uses. In case you’re wondering, I did eventually find a website for Section23 Films and two websites for Switchblade Pictures, along with this very interesting fansite devoted to Section23 and co.

Just to keep this “on topic,” I have a little something for those of you who want to buy the Orochi: The Eight-Headed Dragon (aka Yamato Takeru in Japan) DVD but feel that the price on Amazon is too high: Just mosey on over to Amazon’s listing for the much cheaper original release from 2003!

Chinese New Fear?

In honor of Chinese New Year (aka the Spring Festival), I had originally planned on doing a review of Mr. Vampire coupled with a paragraph about the origins and traditions of the holiday. Up until now, I had never known that Chinese New Year is celebrated over the course of 15 days or that it doesn’t have a set starting date.

However, I noticed very something interesting during my research. Something interesting enough to make abandon my original plans: the claim that Chinese New Year’s origins are linked to a rampaging monster!

According to this Wikipedia entry, a monster called the “Nian” (sometimes called the “Nien”) used to ravage villages in China on the first day of each new year. People would leave out food for the beast in the hopes that would make it too full to eat anyone. After noticing that the creature was scared of a child’s red clothes, people started putting out red decorations around New Year’s. That, combined with setting off fireworks, drove the Nian away for good. The Nian would go on to be tamed and rode upon by a famous Taoist monk and the methods used to scare the monster became New Year’s traditions. In fact, the word “Nian” means “year” and the Chinese New Year’s phrase “guo nian” can also mean the “passing of (or “to survive”) the Nian.”

However, both that article and the Nian’s Wikipedia entry lack citations of any kind (unlike the facts I mentioned in the opening paragraph) and the accounts of the legend differ in each. The Nian entry claims that the beast feared red and gold colors and claims that lion dancing was started to help scare the beast away. The thing is, the lion dance originated in India! Even more confusing is how the same entry also says that the lion dance costumes are supposed to represent the Nian!

Growing more and more suspicious over whether or not this was a real legend, I did a little outside research. Good Luck Life: The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture by Rosemary Gong certainly seems to confirm the double meaning of the word “Nian.” Mark and Olga Fox’s Time to Celebrate: Identity, Diversity and Belief provides a variation of the tale wherein an old man merely tells people to make a lot of noise in order to scare the Nian to death. Pages 69 and 70 of Ju and John Brown’s China, Japan, Korea Culture and Customs also have an “old man” (and not a child) responsible for learning the beast’s weaknesses. Perhaps the old man is actually the monk mentioned earlier, only with his title changed so that the story wouldn’t promote one religion over the other?

Finally, Hiss! Pop! Boom!: Celebrating Chinese New Year by Tricia Morrissey and Kong Lee provides yet another version of the story where the Nian is actually a disguised gang of bandits! The (false) claim that lion dancing was created to scare away the robbers is repeated here and fireworks do play a role. Unsurprisingly, the color red is not used to scare the thieves

On the other hand, Jonathan Bignell’s An Introduction to Television Studies notes that the color red symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture while Understanding China: Center Stage of the Fourth Power by Yan’an Ju and Yen-an Chü says that firecrackers are used to drive off spirits and bad luck of the past year. These two pieces of information provide non-Nian explanations for those Chinese New Year’s traditions.

So, is the story of the Nian an actual legend used to explain how the Chinese New Year? I really can’t say for sure, as it is possible for a story to have variations. All I do know is that it was a fun story and trying to learn more about it did teach me more about the holiday. Scrolling through the previously-linked book previews and articles should provide plenty of information to those who wish to learn more. Alternately, I recommend reading these selections from Food Culture in China by Jacqueline M. Newman.

Sun Nien Fai Lok!
Xin Nian Kuai Le!
Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Valenslime’s Day!

Referencing The Green Slime on Valentine’s Day actually makes sense in a warped sort of way, seeing as how there’s a love triangle in the movie.

(from neotokeo2001’s Youtube channel)
Man, does that song ever need a CD release. Don’t laugh, it got a vinyl release back in the day.

The film’s Wikipedia entry is a must-read. Not only does it reveal who composed the amazing song showcased above, but it also has some cool trivia. For example, did you know about the film’s loose connection to the “Gamma I Quadrilogy” of Italian space adventures directed by Antonio Margheriti. It’s claimed here that the films were originally commissioned by MGM as a set of made-for-TV movies. Said films consisted of: Wild Wild Planet, War of the Planets, Planet on the Prowl, and The Snow Devils. It should be noted that those films have about a million alternate titles and the ones that seemed to be the most popular were used to create that list.

The Green Slime is also famous for having footage used in the unaired pilot episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which finally had a public showing in 2008.

MGM has yet to put out The Green Slime on DVD, but the VHS release (along with some promotional gimmick memories) can be found here.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Lil’ Cthulhu

Given the popularity of “franchise characters as children” shows in the entertainment industry, it was inevitable that someone would create a parody using characters from a source that was anything but “kid friendly.” Enter Youtube user TheZebu’s The Adventures of Lil’ Cthulhu.

The Adventures of Lil’ Cthulhu is also a dead-on perfect parody of television programming aimed at young children, right down to the use of female narrator speaking in soothing tones. It also features what is (in my opinion) undoubtedly the best Nyarlathotep joke ever made

You might be interested to know that there’s also a “Lil’ Cthulhu” web store selling official merchandise.

Away He GoGoes.

Just found out that Kevin “Sir GoGo Ghastly” Hair retired from The Ghastly Ones. They made the announcement on the site back on January 28th. 

THE GHASTLY ONES want to extend a ghoulishly warm welcome to our newest member Ryan “Cousin Boris” Watusi who will be pounding the bass guitar in our band from here on out. Many thanks to Sir Go Go Ghostly for his years of service. Sir Ghostly has retired to the ghastly graveyard and we wish him all the best as well. Come see Cousin Boris’ debut on Saturday April 3 at HAUNTED HOUSE AU GO-GO!!!

Sir Ghastly was one of the founding members of the Ghastly Ones. Next year is the band’s 15th anniversary. I’m glad I got to see him in 2007. Wish the best for him and the Ghastly Ones. Shame though. Hopefully this means that both Ghastly and Ghastly Ones ascend to new personal and professional heights this year. One can hope.

A Black History Horror First

Rather than doing my usual profile of an African-American who made some kind of contribution to horror cinema, I thought I’d do something a little different this year. Instead, I’m going to highlight the (alleged) first-ever collection of short horror fiction by African-American authors.

First published in 2004, Dark Dreams: A Collection of Horror and Suspense by Black Writers, is an anthology of 20 tales of terror edited by Brandon Massey. From classic horror staples like ghosts and vampires to lesser known creatures of the night, “Dark Dreams” has them all. Interested parties can find previews of selected stories here. I particularly liked Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s “Danger Word,” a tale of survival in a zombie-infested world. In my opinion, the rich characterization and interesting twists would’ve made for a perfect episode of Masters of Horror. I’ll definitely have to dig up a copy of this sometime (as should you).