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Archive for July 12th, 2013

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pigeons from hell

by Sam Juliano

The figure had moved into the bar of moonlight now, and Griswell recognized it. Then he saw Branner’s face, and a shriek burst from Griswell’s lips.  Branner’s face was bloodless, corpse-like; gouts of blood dripped darkly down it; his eyes were glassy and set, and blood oozed from the great gash which cleft the crown of his head.”                      -Robert E. Howard

Robert Ervin Howard (1906-1936) is one of literature’s pre-eminent authors of action and adventure stories. The creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Kull of Atlantis, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, ‘El Borak,’ and many other notable characters, Howard, in an all-too-short 12 year career, wrote well over a hundred stories for the pulp magazines of his time. While he is widely regarded as the ‘father of Sword and Sorcery’ and the creator of Conan the Barbarian, this reputation, while helping to keep his work in the public eye for six decades since his death, has unfortunately overshadowed the wider scope of his imagination, his talent for mastering a variety of genres, and forms. (He excelled at poetry as well as prose) Howard contributed his most acclaimed work to the most celebrated fantasy pulp magazine of the era, Weird Tales.  A good number of his stories also appeared in other publications of the day such as Action StoriesArgosyFight StoriesOriental StoriesSpicy AdventureSport Story, and others.  His vivid and animated writing was hugely popular with readers and his dynamic skills as a storyteller enabled him to achieve some success in other genres. Even after his death publishers continued for some time to publish his stories or reprint them under other by-lines. So enduring is the appeal of his work that over a half century later he continues to gain new fans, introduced to his tales through paperbacks, comics, and movies. His work has also inspired subsequent generations of fantasy writers and a loyal following that has taken to cyberspace to spread the word.  Most literary critics and readers have maintained that Howard’s absolute masterpiece is “Pigeons From Hell,” a macabre story about voodoo, zombies, murder and malevolent birds set in a decaying mansion in the deep south. Published posthumously in 1938, two years after Howard’s death by his own hand, “Pigeons From Hell” has been called “one of the greatest horror stories written in the century” by Stephen King in Danse Macabre, and is one of several Howard stories set in the “piney woods,” located in three states in an area that includes sections of Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana.  “The Shadow of the Beast,” “Moon of Zambebwie” and “Black Canaan” are among some of the others.  With it’s thinly disguised undercurrent of sexual sadism, the story is steeped in the Gothic tradition and features an evil, psychotic spinster and and a disintegrating southern family, suggestive of the writings of William Faulkner.  Howard was not a specialist in horror, but most literary critics have favorably compared “Pigeons From Hell” to the works of Poe. (more…)

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dp 2

by Allan Fish

(USA 1947 106m) DVD1/2

Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers

p  Jerry Wald  d  Delmer Daves  w  Delmer Daves  novel  David Goodis  ph  Sid Hickox  ed  David Weisbart  m  Franz Waxman  art  Charles H.Clarke

Humphrey Bogart (Vincent Parry), Lauren Bacall (Irene Jansen), Agnes Moorehead (Madge Rapf), Bruce Bennett (Bob), Douglas Kennedy (Det.Kennedy), Clifton Young (Baker), Houseley Stevenson (Dr Walter Coley), Tom d’Andrea (Sam, the cabby), Rory Mallinson (George Fellsinger), Mary Field (Aunt Mary), John Arledge (lonely man),

When discussing the films Bogie and Bacall made together, Dark Passage was, and to a degree still is, seen as ‘the other one’.  Not The Big Sleep, not To Have and Have Not, not Key Largo, but the other one.  The director had something to do with this, for while John Huston and Howard Hawks are accepted masters, Delmer Daves was not.  He’s known today for the westerns he made in the mid-fifties, and 3:10 to Yuma is covered later in this piece.  Yet Dark Passage still lingers, the ultimate deeply flawed film which has too much to be cast aside.  Even the title makes one tingle.

Bogart played Vincent Parry, an escaped convict wrongly accused of murdering his wife and off to try and find out who did.  He’s helped, seemingly for no reason, by Irene Jansen, who helps him past the police blocks and back to San Francisco where she puts him up for the night.  Realising the danger he’s putting her in he decides to go, and encounters a philosophical taxi driver who ‘likes his face’ and decides to help him change it.  The cabby takes him to a discredited but excellent plastic surgeon who changes his face.  Vincent thinks he has a place to stay with his friend George, but when he gets there he finds him murdered, too, and is forced to go back to Irene’s.  Time is running out if he hopes to find out who did murder his wife and George and clear his name. (more…)

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