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Archive for October 8th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

On Friday at the Number 3 School Annex  where Lucille serves as Principal and I as children’s literature instructor, 2018 Caldecott contender Frane Lessac (a favorite son who grew up in bordering Cliffiside and graduated CPHS the same year as I did in 1972) and her husband author Mark Greenwood collaborated on a spectacular smart board and drawing presentation that had First and Second grade students enthralled. We are all so honored that Frane, one of the most popular and accomplished students in high school, is a major contender this year for the Caldecott Medal for her ravishing art in “We Are Grafeful: Otsaliheliga” authored by Traci Sorell. Frane and Mark are pictured here with Lucille, Supervisor of Instruction Lou DeLisio and Tours Truly (holding ‘We are Grateful’ and the new Australian Animal picture book Frane recently published. What a fantastic morning in Fairview!!!   We got to see our friend Frane Lessac again Sunday at the nation’s premium children’s bookstore, Books of Wonder in Manhattan. We also saw Caldecott winner Sophie Blackall, debut author Traci Sorell (We Are Grateful), Stephanie Graegin (The Thank You Book) and Lucy Ruth Cummins (Stumpkin). Also scheduled was two time Caldecott Honor winner Laura Vaccaro Seeger, though she got tied up. She was at BOW a short time ago. Danny is seen with each of the artists, all of whom Lucille and I chatted with comprehensively.

The exciting 2018 Horrorfest continues with two excellent capsules reviews by Jamie Uhler on a longtime personal favorite of mine (The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake) and Tales from the Darkside.  As always some excellent capsule reviews:

The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake (E. L. Cahn… 1959) supernatural/thriller
A low budget chiller from an era in American Horror largely forgotten, this one displays many of the charms nonetheless. One is the total commitment to the story, however potentially ludicrous it appears on paper. Here we have the story of an exploration company that, while securing resources and new land centuries ago in a remote part of the world massacred the entire tribe in the area save one witch doctor who was able to escape. He then put a hex on every male family member of the Drake name, ensuring that they’d all be eventually visited by a descendent of the tribe, murderer, and then have their head lopped off, their skull extracted, and their head made into a shrunken head trophy. It’s happened to the three generations of Drakes, and when the fourth, and last, is targeted and nearly killed, the local authorities get involved even though they all remain thoroughly skeptical about the supernatural events clearly in the case. 
It’s a fun enough film, the type that would have played for real kicks on television in the decades after it came and went with little fanfare. No masterpiece, maybe only average, to slightly above average, but I dig this type of heavily enacted camp made by pros. Recommend.
Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (J. Harrison… 1990) anthology horror
A film that has often been called Creepshow 3 due to its involvement of George A. Romero and Stephen King and being episodic Horror, it goes a long way in explaining what this one is like. I’d never seen it, in fact I don’t even recall ever reading much about it either, so I was happy to learn of it and be able to screen it with real ease via amazon prime. Of course the films framing device—an affluent suburban wife played by Deborah Harry plans to cook the local paperboy she’s kidnapped for her nights dinner party only to be distracted by the three ‘stories’ he tells her—explains what you’re in store for as well; an eccentric, mostly funny mix of special effects laden horror of its time. 
The three stories are all successful to various degrees, especially for pure entertainment factor. The first might be the straightaway best, but produced the fewest laughs. In Lot 249 a graduate student (a young, dweebish Steve Buscemi) buys and sells antique artifacts to supplement his poor college existence at a school filled with rich students (amongst them are Christian Slater and a young Julianne Moore!). His most recent buy, a wooden crate labeled ‘Lot 249’ contains an ancient mummy whom he immediately reanimates to do his bidding and exact revenge on a few fellow students who conspired to rob him of an esteemed fellowship. A few gory deaths result, and the costumed mummy lumbers about humorously. The second one, Cat from Hell, was a George A. Romero adaptation of a Stephen King short story of the same name. The story is thin, but thankfully it only needs to stretch about 25 minutes, a feat which it does hilariously—a wealthy old curmudgeon (Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation) hires an assassin (the New York Dolls David Johansen, lol) to kill a black cat that he feels has demonic powers (it being a spirit of the thousands of cats he used in lab tests at his drug company). The sum for the kill, $100,000, seems great and killing a cat can’t be hard, but after being thoroughly thwarted, the cat actually climbs into the assassins mouth and down into his bowels, to then exit the next morning, killing all involved. Finally is Lover’s Vow, a symbolic Japanese Kwaidan like story where a struggling artist witnesses a monster massacre a bar owner, but, to keep his life must vow to never speak of it again. Later that night be meets the love of his life, who brings him security and stability and thus eventual artistic success. They marry and have kids, but on their 10th anniversary he feels he must no longer keep any secrets from his family. Upon telling them of the first night together, they all turn into versions of this beast, and massacre him.  

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