Monthly Archives: March 2010

Rock The Rondos

Did you vote in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards yet? Remember, the deadline is April 3rd 2010!

Some of you may be asking: What are the Rondo Awards and who is Rondon Hatton?

Well, it’s like this: The awards themselves were originally started in 2002 by Kerry Gammill and David Colton at the Classic Horror Film Board. Said awards are a reference to horror actor Rondo Hatton and, to quote the Wikipedia entry:

“The award is designed to recognize research, scholarship and creativity in keeping classic horror, science fiction and fantasy alive and thriving.”

Gravedigger’s Local 16 didn’t get on the ballot this year, presumably since we missed the nomination period. But there’s still a lot of other cool people and cool stuff to vote on, so don’t let our absence stop you. We’re gunning for getting nominated and winning next year, but you can do a write-in this year if you really want to. Just keep in mind that doing so will probably only get us noticed rather than winning anything. No matter what, you should head to the Rondo Awards site and vote now!

Cast Your Vote!

Go to any discussion of horror films and you’re sure to find people wondering, if not complaining, why certain films haven’t gotten released onto DVD yet.

But I have good news! Turner Classic Movies has set up a website where you can vote for which movies should get a DVD release. The more votes a film gets, the more likely that TCM will approach the licensor or rightsholder about getting it released. You can vote for as many movies as you want, but the best thing to do is for all of us to have a certain film to specifically vote for. After all, we’re more influential together than we are separately. I know this sounds corny, but together we really can make a difference!

I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices, but it was Twitter user bobfreelander‘s Tweet about voting for Island of Lost Souls. So click here and look for the place to vote (where fill in your email address) on the right hand side of the screen. Then feel free to search for other films to vote for. Remember, you can only vote once for each film.

And really, it’s just ridiculous for a horror classic starring Bela Lugosi to not be on DVD…

Thank You for Being a Fiend…

Gravedigger’s Local 16 doesn’t have an advertising budget. Aside from occasionally promoting GdL16 at other sites ourselves, we only have a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page. Many of our visitors are referred here by word of mouth or find us due to search engine hits, which is why having others link to us is such a big deal. Today I’d like to pay tribute to several sites that link to or follow us, which haven’t been referenced by name in any prior posts and haven’t been placed in the “Union Fellows” sidebar:

Black Sun
Sexy Witch
Chicago Ghouls
Dollar Bin Horror
The Scene Stealer
Handmade by Rach555
Wonderful Wonderblog
Azathoth’s Abode on the Plateau of Leng
Thank you!

March Into News

Did Strange Jason’s review of Valley of the Robots whet your appetite? Want more? Here’s a (NSFW) preview:

These puppets ain’t for kids! Amazingly, that was the tamest of the three trailers available at the official PuppeTose Youtube channel. You can order a copy (and find more PuppeTose madness) here.

We’re planning on interviewing real gravediggers. Please send all leads and questions to gravediggerslocal AT gmaiL DOT com. Don’t forget to let us know if you want us to use name (real or web) during the interview!

Horror bands! Strange Jason wants to talk to you. In a band? Know a band? Email strangejason AT gravediggerslocal DOT com.

We’ve heard a rumor that This TV plays a horror movie every Saturday night. It seems to hold true for tonight, as they’re showing the original A Bucket of Blood at 11:30 PM EST. The channel is owned by MGM and Weigel Broadcasting. Weigel owns WCIU, the home of Svengoolie. HINT HINT THIS TV!

Speaking of MGM, they’re streaming a bunch of their movies at their website. Similarly, Troma is offering free streaming films on both Youtube and Hulu.

Indywood Films is raising funds for the upcoming Invasion of the Not Quite Dead by selling promotional packs and putting the names of buyers in the credits. See the official site and Twitter feed for more information.

Mark your calendars, because Record Store Day 2010 falls on April 17th this year. Visit the official site or Twitter feed for further details.

We learned about Record Store Day from the Newbury Comics newsletter. All of our New England readers should sign up at their website as well, as they give out a lot of great news and coupons. The notifications on one day only “flash sales” are also handy. They once had one for 20% any vampire movie DVD, with an extra 10% off for coming in dressed like a vampire! Wearing all black and paper fangs (easily hidden in your pocket for “regular shopping”) is easily worth a 30% discount. They also mention the sales on…you guessed it…their Twitter feed.

Valley of the Robots

The Valley of the Robots

Written and Directed by Ross Wilsey

If granted the power of omniscience, I doubt anyone would notice a difference in my attitude. Perhaps I would be a little bit meaner, a little less joyous at knowing at all times the common atrocities occurring within the universe, about how effortlessly a person can inflict pain on another for those unjustified greedy and pathetic reasons. Witnessing  would threaten to strip away what kindness I have left, what grace and possibility for love I hold for myself and anyone in this world, leaving me a rancid, twisted animal who would pray nightly for a real, tangible extinction.

Or, perhaps, since I would know of all the different creative expressions, the moments that people said “Fuck it, let’s do this because it’s fun,” I may hold a positive outlook on life, that all this misery and death is offset by creation for the sake of joy. I wouldn’t miss out on those pockets of sincerity that get plowed under and buried by the growing disposable commercial dungpiles filling up in the streets, gutters clogged by plastic and still-twitching bodies.

It’s something fun to think about. But honestly, I don’t think I would change that much.

I’m a big supporter of public libraries and public access, of used record stores and second-hand shops. I don’t have omniscience so it’s with these trusted establishments that I usually discover what I’ve missed. The internet can only provide so much and it’s with synchronicity and the grace of the shovel that I dig up what I can.

Three years ago, someone put on ‘Valley of the Robots’ during an afternoon slot on CTV, the ‘Community-Television’ public access channel in this state. While changing channels, I came across it midway and was hooked. The language (explicit) and the inclusion of tits (fabricated) didn’t get it pulled from broadcast. In fact, it would show up twice more in the following years, but only that first half in what thirty-minute bloc it was allocated.

Early searches back then provided the word ‘PUPPETOSE’ though that was it. There wasn’t a name, wasn’t an address. I contacted the station to see if I could get a copy of ‘Valley of the Robots,’ mainly to see the second half.

Produced by Puppetose Theater out of Austin, Texas, ‘Valley of the Robots’ (1999) is a papier-mâché post-apocalyptic play, a “corrupt fable,” from the mind of Ross Wilsey.  Seventy-six years after The Second Ruin, the earth is a radioactive wasteleand. Humanity is nothing but a shadow of what we know, twisted and mutated into gangly forms. Legend speaks of The Valley of the Robots, and the Vault of the Ancients with its untold resources of fuel, food weapons and armor.

Enter Hero (“The Stranger”,) a mercenary initially working for Urknall, leader of the bandits. Instead of delivering The Card of the Ancients to Urknall, the Hero decides to use the card for himself in search of the Vault of the Ancients in the mythical Valley of the Robots. Capturing a perverted scavenger named Modus to use as a pack animal and rescuing Thornya from a one-eyed Radiation Bird, the Hero looks to evade the Urknall’s scorpion-tail arm, the Rat King and his legions and ultimately, the deadly drones inside the Valley of the Robots.

Along the journey, we are privy to puppet rape and pillaging; man-eating flowers; radioactive mushrooms; and an interlude with Eelgid, a crippled hermit living out in the forest. I must say I liked Eelgid the most.  I enjoyed Paul Novak’s go at voicing the character. There isn’t a bad voice actor in the cast.

There’s slack given to a puppet play. Sure, you can see the strings or the sticks, but since it’s a puppet, the strings are part of the show. It’s not like the spotting the zipper on the rubber monster, an event that breaks the film’s illusion. The puppet mechanics are expected constructs of the performance.  They’re part of the reality.

I don’t think ‘Valley of the Robots’ could be as successful of a movie if it were shot with actors and given a bigger budget. The atmosphere generated by the use of puppets was appropriate for the movie. In a world that’s supposed to be growing out of the remains of Armageddon, the lifeless and unblinking objects express a desolate and perfunctory existence.  The puppet stands in for a representation of what humanity has become. We would only see actors in makeup and latex, looking for the face under the mask. With puppets, it’s understood that there’s a performer but as a viewer, you don’t look for the person pulling the strings. You focus on the object that speaks and moves, giving it the idea that it’s alive and functioning even though it’s a construct of newspaper and paint.

If there’s any disappointment, it involves the term ‘Raping Spree.’ It’s such an excellent line that doesn’t have the proper follow up, in my opinion. It’s a small complaint considering the carnage that follows. The ending is delightfully nihilistic and well executed.  There is no happy ending. The film would be worse off if it was any other way.

If granted the authority that all starting filmmakers should seek me out for an example of what to do to make a good movie, I would hand them ‘Valley of the Robots.’ Puppetose shows that a production shoe-stringed by budget should never letting the fact get in the way.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth

You might remember the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society from my “Printable Halloween Decor” article or for their 2005 silent film, The Call of Cthulhu. Just as that “Mythoscope” film was designed to look like a 1920’s silent film (as the original story was written/published then), their Dark Adventure Radio Theatre CD series seeks to adapt Lovecraft tales in the style of old-time radio shows. To date, the series has adapted At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time, and The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a tale of one man’s harrowing visit to a strange seaside (and mostly fictional) town in Massachusetts. The odd-looking inhabitants are very suspicious of outsiders and fiercely secretive about the practices of their religion, the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Rumors of the townspeople making sacrifices to and interbreeding with sea demons turn out to be more than the ramblings of the town drunk…

The HPLHS has put together a simply amazing audio adaptation in the grand tradition of horror-themed radio shows like Lights Out, Quiet, Please and Inner Sanctum Mysteries. Thanks to the acting and authentic-sounding opening sequence, one could easily pass this off as an episode of an obscure radio series to an unassuming listener. That is, until they get to the humorous “1931…plus 77” copyright notice. The tongue-in-cheek ads for the nonexistent Fleurs De Lys brand of cigarettes (a staple of the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre dramas) are an amusing callback to the days when cigarettes were supposedly good for you.

In order to make the story more suitable for the radio play style (and too add more dramatic impact than the lead simply reading the story), some changes had to be made. Whereas the original story frequently has the protagonist recap events and conversations he has, the audio drama opts to dramatize them. Similarly, the start of the play now features a fake clip of a radio news story on and interviews with the FBI agents raiding Innsmouth rather than the original’s narration about the events, which may remind listeners of Mercury Theatre on the Air’s infamous broadcast of The War of the Worlds. A framing story featuring an FBI agent interviewing the protagonist has been added to make the story end with “more of a bang,” as noted by the production blog. Occasionally, extraneous lines that didn’t add anything important from the story have been left out. This was most likely done to allow the audio to fit onto a single CD and only the most anal-retentive purist would be bothered by this. Truth be told, I only noticed their absence after the CD inspired me to read the original. As for the running time, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. clocks in at a little under 80 minutes, comparable to the length of the average feature-length film.

The acting and music are both top notch. The conversations all sound natural (or as natural as you can get with Lovecraft’s purple prose) and the rural Massachusetts accents are dead-on accurate. The actor playing Robert Olmstead will amaze you by how easily he can transition between the world-weary man tortured by what he has experienced at Innsmouth and the cheery, chuckling student he used to be. I was also impressed by the use of old-fashioned pronunciations for words like “roof,” which led to one person who overheard the audio play into thinking it was Canadian! Composer Troy Sterling Nies has put together a terrific score, which effectively enhances the both mood and sound effects. Their well-timed, minimal nature of the effects provide a sense suggestion that Lovecraft himself would have approved of. Given Lovecraft’s low opinion of this particular story, he might have even approved of the alterations made for this particular adaptation.

The Shadow Over Innsmouth comes with informative liner notes about the genesis of the story. As it turns out, the name “Robert Olmstead” was never used in the story and the name was found in H.P. Lovecraft’s old notes on the story. On top of that, the CD comes with an assortment of props similar to the “feelies” that came with old Infocom text adventure games.

The props include a “Newburyport Historical Society” postcard depicting some Innsmouth jewelery, a book of matches from the Gilman House Hotel (with a single unused match), a page torn from an old newspaper about the FBI raid, and a fish-scented scratch and sniff map drawn on First National Grocery paper. Like the liner notes, a lot of hard work and research was put into these. The actual logo and slogan from the now-defunct First National chain are used for the map and the fake newspaper clipping draws its design from the New York Evening Graphic, an out-of-print tabloid from the era. And if you carefully removed the custom security sticker, you also get an Esoteric Order of Dagon seal!

All in all, the props are very cool and do help the listener get a better connection to the story. Home haunters probably won’t have much use for them and would probably prefer the occult tome pages from the The Dunwich Horror and The Shadow Out of Time installments of the series. The props could also be used in a Lovecraft-themed RPG (be it tabletop or live action) or left where a Lovecraft neophyte could stumble upon them as a gag. Like the Infocom feelies, they can be thought of a a kind of copy protection (after all, you can’t torrent a scratch and sniff map). I also suspect they are the result of the HPLHS’ origins as a LARP group. Speaking of which the Fate of the Ancients episode mentioned at the end of the play is a reference to one of their old gaming sessions. Only time will tell if that adaptation will really happen.

Special thanks to the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society for the review copy!


What do Godzilla vs. Megalon and Leprechaun both have in common? They both had short promotional comic books released during their theatrical runs! And if you guessed that the Leprechaun comic was riddled with as many inaccuracies as the Godzilla vs. Megalon comic, you’re absolutely correct.

It should also be noted that there was a Leprechaun comic book series published in 2008 by Blue Water Productions. The series, which involved the Leprechaun traveling the world to recover his lost gold, ceased publication after four issues. This Wikipedia entry provides more plot details, along with notes on a never-released comic crossover battle between Warlock and Leprechaun. That’s probably for the best, as the only thing each series have in common are that they are both linked to Trimark.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

George W. Bush’s Silver Scream

Imagine my surprise when I came across an article by Psychotronic Video’s Michael J. Weldon, which claimed former US President George W. Bush was involved in the making of the 80’s horror classic The Hitcher (among other R-rated films). Although very interesting, I was dismayed that Mr. Weldon did not provide any references. After much searching, I finally found what I believe to be the list of films briefly referred to in the article, which emphasizes how the films contained the sort of content that’s often decried by conservative Republicans. While this also lacked any references, it did provide some quotes and comments that I could look up online. A little online research confirmed that Bush was an outside director (which is not like a film director) for Silver Screen Management and that “My only interest was for the company itself” was a real quote by him in reference to the company raising funds for R-rated movies and how it contradicted his prior criticism of the alleged “pervasiveness of violence” in the entertainment industry.

Now I’m sure many of you are still curious about Silver Screen Management (aka Silver Screen Management Services, Inc). Said company was founded by one Roland W. Betts, who had gone to Yale with Bush in the 60’s. SSM organized and managed a series of limited partnerships under the name “Silver Screen Partners.” Said partnerships were used to raise money to invest in feature films. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it won’t surprise me if at least some of Bush and Betts’ earnings from SSM helped fund their investment group, which purchased the Texas Rangers.

So there you have it: It seems that George W. Bush is the first US president to be involved in the making of a horror movie in some way.

Linger Longer IV: A Fistful of Boomstick

rqbuchanan uploaded a multiple part interview with Bruce Campbell. Need I say more? As this is an O&A video, some language might be NSFW: