Saturday, October 31, 2020

Isle Be Seeing You

The zombies are walking the isle
They're somber, not schlocky or vile
With its soft, twilight hush
It's no coffin of mush
But a combo of chills, shock and style.

James Ellison, Christine Gordon, and Darby Jones in I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur; 1943). We hope you've enjoyed our Countdown to Halloween focus on Val Lewton. Stay tuned for more Lewton, horror, sci-fi, and monster fun in November.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Walk Show

In this place "Even stars come to die,"
Their last trace a bright scar in the sky
"But the great ones still glow
On the Late, Late, Late show,"
Their new faces bizarrely awry.

David Cairns with Surly Hack

Paul Holland (Tom Conway) explains his views on shooting stars and life in the Caribbean to Betsy Connell (Frances Dee) in I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur; 1943). Here is the dialog from the scene:

Paul Holland: It's not beautiful.

Betsy Connell: You read my thoughts, Mr. Holland.

Paul Holland: It's easy enough to read the thoughts of a newcomer. Everything seems beautiful because you don't understand. Those flying fish, they're not leaping for joy, they're jumping in terror. Bigger fish want to eat them. That luminous water, it takes its gleam from millions of tiny dead bodies. The glitter of putrescence. There's no beauty here, only death and decay.

Betsy Connell: You can't really believe that.

Paul Holland: Everything good dies here. Even the stars.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

My Chair Lady

You stay in a bare, lonely room
Each day you prepare in the gloom
At the end of your rope
You descend without hope
Your way is despair, angst and doom.

Jean Brooks is The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson; 1943), one of the darkest films from producer Val Lewton.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Manhattan Hell-o-drama

For her sister she'll search the Big Apple
With a mystery church she will grapple
They're not pentecostal
But despotic and hostile
A twisted, besmirched kind of chapel.

David Cairns

Kim Hunter takes a sinister subway ride in The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson; 1943).

The Trump TrainWreck

The Troll-King is not feeling well
His poll numbers tottered then fell
Though the clown tries to cheat
He'll go down in defeat
And his soul will be rotting in hell.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Seventh Frail

Make friends with the Satan obsessed
You end up deflated, depressed
Thoughts rife with despair
For life you don't care
You spend what's left rest.

Jean Brooks in The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson; 1943).

Monday, October 26, 2020

The New York Daily Noose

There's a death cult at work in the village
And its methods are lurking and killage
These are scum, running loose
If they come with a noose
Hold your breath, your neck jerks, now keep stillage.

David Cairns

Jean Brooks might become The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson; 1943) of a satanic cult in Greenwich Village.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Captain's Outrageous

Seafarers, abstain from hard drinking!
Be careful when chains starts in clinking
The sot in command
Has got out of hand
Beware of his brain's errant thinking.

Captain Will Stone (Richard Dix) goes homicidal in The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson; 1943).

Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Captain's (a) Mess

Here's a captain who rules like a god
He's a crapulent, foolish old sod
Though nautically skilled
He ought not have killed
His mind snapped, so he's cruel and quite odd.

David Cairns

Richard Dix stars in The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson; 1943).

Friday, October 23, 2020

Shipping Yarn

In this thriller a freighter's en route
And our chilling narrator's a mute
Someone's pelted with chains
And as Skelton explains
There's a killer predating to boot.

David Cairns

Richard Dix captains and Skelton Knaggs narrates The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson; 1943).

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Simone Simon Says

An imaginary friend is just charming
Nothing tragic portends, it's disarming
But on Lewton's dark screen
It's less cute: the unseen
Makes the fragilest blend: sweet/alarming.

David Cairns

Simone Simon and Ann Carter in The Curse of the Cat People (Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise; 1944), the most magical of the films produced by Val Lewton.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Cat People are Strange

She's French, and a proto-sex-kitten
With a wrench, you are totally smitten
But with passion aroused
She will slash her espoused
Jaws clench and your throat's getting bitten.

David Cairns

Tom Conway, Simone Simon and Kent Smith star in Cat People (Jacques Tourneur; 1942).

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Swimsuit Issues

Like to think that I'm far from a prude
I don't blink when a star plays half-nude
Soaking wet in a suit?
Nothing better, she's cute!
In the drink or your arse is cat food!

Jane Randolph as Alice Moore in Cat People (Jacques Tourneur; 1942).

Monday, October 19, 2020

Pool Queues

Down the stairs, where the lighting is muted
Randolph bares a bod tightly swim-suited
Black as night, something prowls
Out of sight, something growls
Something's there--and in fright Randolph scooted!

Jane Randolph takes a memorable basement swim in Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942).

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Val, He of the Shadow of Death

The lights are keyed low, setting mood
The frights all build slow, tone subdued
The Lewton made Bs
Are beauts aimed to please
And tight with the dough, which was shrewd.

Frames from I Walked With a Zombie and Curse of the Cat People, two of the crudely titled yet exquisitely crafted films produced by Val Lewton at RKO in the 1940s.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Gilt by Association

He's gilded all o'er to look arty
Guests swill, crying "More!", eating hearty
But the boy daubed in paint
Can't enjoy, soon feels faint
He's killed by blocked pores at the party.

David Cairns

In Bedlam (Mark Robson; 1946), inmates at an insane asylum are made to perform for the callous upper-class. Glenn Vernon plays the Gilded Boy. This was the last in the series of stylish B horror films produced by Val Lewton for RKO.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Screamature Burial

Each night as you lie in your bed
You fight with a violent dread
What scares cataleptics?
To be buried by skeptics!
That's life on the Isle of the Dead.

Ellen Drew attends to Katherine Emery, a cataleptic who is terrified of premature burial: Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson; 1945), produced by Val Lewton.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Lockdown Among the Dead Men

A war rages near, bodies pile
We're quarantined here on an isle
As a plague septicemic
Acts vaguely pandemic
It's horrid and eerie and and vile.

David Cairns with Surly Hack

Boris Karloff plays a merciless general in the Val Lewton production Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson; 1945).

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Just "B" Claws

The victims are females alone
Slain by sicko or feline unknown
Did Lewton regret
This brutal noire bête?
Would a flick this extreme Val disown?

Apparently producer Val Lewton and director Tourneur both said that they felt the film was an artistic failure. Unlike their previous collaborations, it was not a financial success. The serial murder plot and narrative structure which shifts from victim to victim came from the source novel Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Leopard Manslaughter

The daughter's dispatched to the store
She's caught--there's a scratch at the door! 
She knocks and she shrieks
Then, shockingly, leaks
Well-wrought, but unmatched in its gore.

Teresa Delgado (Margaret Landry) meets a cruel fate in The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur; 1943), an early precursor to the giallo and serial killer film.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Double Leopardy

It's released to run wild on four paws
And it feasts on a child with its jaws
But there, too, is a man
With a zoophile plan
He's a beast wielding filed metal claws. 

David Cairns

James Bell and Jean Brooks in the Val Lewton production The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur; 1943). This mystery-thriller is an early attempt at depicting what is now known as a serial killer.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Deft Leopard

Steer clear of the still of the night
A serial killer might bite
An animal act
Or man that has cracked?
This eerie blood-spiller's a sight. 

The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur; 1943), one of distinctive horror thrillers produced during the 1940s at RKO by Val Lewton, the new focus of our Countdown to Halloween.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Turn of the Screwy

Is she haunted, demented or cursed?
Does she want to be sent off and nursed?
Have the kids been possessed?
Or is Giddens obsessed
By that gaunt-featured gent who's the worst?

David Cairns

Deborah Kerr stars as Miss Giddens, governess to two children she believes are possessed by ghosts. The Innocents (Jack Clayton; 1961), based on the 
novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Age of the Innocents

With her scandalous need for the groom
She's commanding indeed, boding doom
It's a shock when you spot her
Is she walking on water?
She just stands in the reeds spreading gloom.

David Cairns

Clytie Jessop is the ghost of Miss Mary Jessel in The Innocents (Jack Clayton; 1961.) With Deborah Kerr and Pamela Franklin.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Quint Essence

When Wyngarde at window she sees
He tingles the skin like a breeze
Uncanny intrusion
Or nanny's delusion?
His Quint brings a tinge of unease.

David Cairns

Peter Wyngarde (Quint, a ghost) and Deborah Kerr (Miss Giddens, a governess who possibly imagines the ghost) in The Innocents (Jack Clayton; 1961). The Countdown to Halloween has a British accent.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Plants in Your Pants

Your neighbors have died or have fled
But lady, don't hide in the shed
The Triffids will find you
In a jiffy they'll bind you
Soon babe, on your hide they'll have fed.

Janette Scott is caught in The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963). 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Fire All Over England

Bum peepers, carnivorous plants!
The people ain't given a chance
They're stunned, and now learning
That London is burning
I'd see about living in France.

The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963)

Monday, October 5, 2020

I DON'T See England...

In Wyndham's botanic dystopia
We're thinned out by manic myopia
In a country that's blind
We confront the unkind
Thus hindered, in panic, we grop-ia.

David Cairns

Much of the Earth's population is blinded by a meteorite in The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963), loosely based on the 1951 novel of the same name by John Wyndham.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Veg of Darkness

It picks up its roots and starts hobbling
Those hickory boots don't need cobbling
With a poisonous tongue
That destroys them that's stung
It's a rickety shoot, slow and wobbling.

David Cairns

Rampaging plants from space invade Earth, terrorizing defenseless office furniture in The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963).

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Day of the Triffic

These rubbery things keep attacking
The shrubbery stings then starts snacking
Don't make hay with this hedge
You're the prey of some veg
Cause the shrubbery finks are bushwhacking!

David Cairns

Janette Scott in a lobby card from The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963). David says that "triffic" is Posh British for "terrific".

Friday, October 2, 2020

Plant Debased Diet

Most weeds have both tendril and root
When needed can send out a shoot
No celery stalk
This Hell-plant can walk
And feeds on your friends...better scoot!

Janette Scott tries wishes she'd slept through The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963).

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Tendril Is the Night

By ants, big and angry, pursued
By Mantis we're mangled and chewed
We flee from big bugs
But trees we give hugs?
To these plants weirdly tangled, we're food!

Janette Scott is plant food in The Day of the Triffids (Steve Sekely; 1963). Welcome to the Countdown to Halloween!

Countdown to Halloween 2020!

Greetings, goblins and ghouls! Welcome to the Countdown to Halloween blogathon, our annual month-long crawl-up to everyone's favorite scary holiday. Throughout October we will be posting limericks about horror, monster, sci-fi and generally spooky movies and comics. See you soon, goons!

To see who else is participating, visit the home of the blog marathon, here.