Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Graveyard

'The Graveyard' by Patrick Woodroffe
from the book Mythopoeikon (1976)
intended as a cover for a book of ghost stories published by Fontana (UK).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Father Shandor: The Hordes of Hell from Warrior No. 7

'Father Shandor, Demon Stalker'
'The Hordes of Hell'
from Warrior (UK) No. 7, November, 1982

In this installment, Father Shandor - lately killed by the demon princess Jaramsheela - gets a new lease on life, as Jaramsheela discovers her brother's army is advancing on her realm. Shandor discovers that being brought back from the dead brings with it some striking new powers.....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review: Lycanthia

Book Review: 'Lycanthia' by Tanith Lee

3 / 5 Stars

‘Lycanthia, or The Children of Wolves’ (220 pp) is DAW Book No. 429, and was published in April, 1981. The cover artwork is by Paul Chadwick.

‘Lycanthia’ is in many ways a forerunner of the highly successful genre of ‘supernatural’ romances (e.g., 'Twilight'), a genre that really didn’t exist back in 1981.

The novel is set in France during the 1920s or 1930s. Its protagonist is Christian Dorse, a young man utterly absorbed with himself, and the tuberculosis that is slowly killing him. 

As the novel opens, Dorse has the good luck to inherit a chateau in the remote countryside. Bored with city life, and conscious of his dwindling years, Dorse travels to the chateau, and the opening chapters introduce the reader to the melancholy Winter countryside, the foreboding mansion, its eccentric servants, and the local village, with its ancient superstitions and strange customs.

At first content to play the cynical aesthete, stylishly prostrated by his illness, Dorse learns that the chateau has a history of disturbing behaviors by its former seigneurs. There are intimations of crimes and atrocities, acts that may have links to the presence of the large black dogs haunting the chateau and the surrounding forests. 

Dorse soon finds himself walking the narrow trails in the woods with a rifle in his hands, seeking what may be man-killing wolves.But what he actually finds is something more complex than a simple folktale of loups-garoux. For the village, the chateau, and the rumored werewolves all are part of an ancient and enduring tragedy, a tragedy that he may unwittingly revive…..

As was the case with most of Tanith Lee’s output in the 70s and 80s, ‘Lycanthia’ relies heavily on an ornate prose style. Readers should prepare for sentences chock full of metaphors and similes, and detailed exposition on the mental and spiritual turmoil of a ‘decadent’ character.

Lee clearly is making a conscious effort to imbue her novel with the same themes and attitudes of J. K. Huysmans’ 1884 symbolist classic A Rebours (‘Against Nature’). Christian Dorse is at heart a more modern version of Huysmans’ Jean Des Esseintes, seeking stimulation of his jaded, world-weary palate from the customs and practices of the primitive, but virile, landscape of rural France.

For these reasons, I suspect that ‘Lycanthia’ will not be embraced by readers of modern urban fantasies, where a clean, clear prose style, and recurring casts of characters, are the status quo.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blood on Black Satin episode one

'Blood on Black Satin' episode one
by Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy
Episode One (from Eerie #109, February 1980)

One of the most impressive strips ever to appear in a Warren magazine was the three-part 'Blood on Black Satin', written by Doug Moench, and gifted with outstanding artwork by Paul Gulacy. 

The inaugural installment appeared in Eerie 109 (February 1980) and parts two and three in issues 110 (April 1980) and 111 (June 1980).

Posted below is the first episode; the succeeding episodes will be posted in the future here at the PorPor Books blog.

These scans are taken from the original comic and done at 300 dpi, using the graytone setting on my Plustek book scanner. I then used Corel Photo-Paint to autoadjust the images for fading and sharpness, although this creates jpeg files each 18 - 22 MB in size - hopefully the web page won't crash when loading. 

For reasons that are unclear, some of the pages present with a sepia tint, despite being auto-adjusted; I suspect this is an issue with Blogger, as when I examine the images in Photo-Paint, they display no tinting.

I expect they will be as good as one can get, at least until Dark Horse / The New Comic Company produce all three episodes in an upcoming Eerie Presents hardbound volume....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Vampire Cinema

'The Vampire Cinema' by David Pirie

Back in the 1970s, before there was an internet, or an, one primary way to acquire PorPor books was via the companies that specialized in selling remainders through mass-mailed catalogs. 

One of the larger such companies was Publishers Central Bureau, or PCB. Their distinctive two-tone catalogs regularly would arrive at my house as part of the junk mail.

'The Vampire Cinema', published in 1977 by Quarto Books, was a perennial entrant in the PCB catalog, and in late 1978 I ordered it.

'The Vampire Cinema' is actually a pretty good overview of vampire movies up till the early 70s. It's well illustrated with copious, often full-page, color,  black and white, and tinted stills.

Pirie's chapters start off with a look at vampires in popular fiction and mythology; move on to the early vampire films, such as Nosferatu; the Universal films featuring Bella Lugosi; and then the Hammer vampire films, staring Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

The chronology then moves to the Eurotrash, low-budget 'sex' vampire films of such directors as Jean Rollin and Roger Vadim. Blurring the lines between softcore porn and art house horror, this sub-genre also was exploited by Hammer, with early 70s movies such as The Vampire Lovers, Twins of Evil, Countess Dracula, and Lust for a Vampire.

The book's final chapters touch on the mixed success Hammer experienced with taking its Dracula series to the 20th century, as well as an overview of the 'New American' vampire films of the 70s, such as Blacula and Count Yorga

Pirie makes the argument that the American low-budget horror cinema made a crucial transition in subject matter, taking the European image of the vampire as a seductive aristocrat, and converting it into a zombie or ghoul with a more grim and unglamorous aesthetic.

'The Vampire Cinema' closes with a brief overview of The Latin Vampire, as epitomized by Spanish and Italian productions of the 60s and 70s.

I suspect that anyone under 30, exposed to the tsunami of vampire content dominating today's popular culture, is going to find the content of 'The Vampire Cinema' to be quirky and quaint. 

The book's most appreciative audience will probably be found among those who subscribe to Shock Cinema and search the cult cinema websites for the DVDs available for some, but not all, of the films covered in 'The Vampire Cinema'. In other words, those who grew up in the 60s and 70s and still have a nostalgic fondness for the Old School approach to horror movies. 

This book is for you....and copies can be found at the usual online sources for under $10.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review: The Black Horde

Book Review: 'The Black Horde' by Richard Lewis

2 / 5 Stars

‘The Black Horde’ (166 pp., Signet, October 1980) was first published in the UK in 1979 under the title ‘Devil’s Coach Horse’. (The ‘Devil’s Coach Horse’ is a soil-dwelling rove beetle that lives in the UK).

Richard (E.) Lewis has written a large number of novels for the adult and young adult markets. ‘The Black Horde’, along with his other novel ‘The Spiders’ (1987), doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the literary equivalent of the low-budget, ‘monster of the week’ movies that appear on the SyFy Channel.

The plot is simple and direct: John Masters, a British entomologist, discovers a new species of rove beetle, resembling the Devil’s Coach Horse beetle, overseas, and is carrying live specimens back to the UK when his plane crashes in the Alps. With the coming of Spring and the melting of the snow, his corpse is recovered from the mountain top and shipped home. 

It turns out that the enterprising beetles have used Masters' body as an impromptu shelter, and they emerge from the corpse at a British mortuary and escape into the wild. This is in fact a disaster in the making.

For these are not ordinary rove beetles, preying on small insects; instead, these rove beetles prefer the taste of human flesh. And with their sharp mandibles, they can chew their way into exposed skin in a matter of seconds. Once embedded in the internal organs of their victim, the beetles lay eggs, which rapidly hatch into flesh-eating larvae, which in turn mature into pupae, and then adult beetles, completing the cycle.

Young entomologist Paul Adams, a colleague of the departed Masters, finds himself called in as a subject matter expert when the police receive disturbing reports of people being eaten alive by beetles. As Adams and the authorities soon learn, these isolated incidents are the forerunners of much greater horror to come, as the beetle population expands and swarms of hungry insects trespass on the English countryside in a frenzied search for warm, sustaining flesh….

‘The Black Horde’ shows considerable influence from the horror novelist James Herbert, adopting the clipped, declarative prose style favored by that author and the regular inclusion of passages of gore and grue. 

As with many of Herbert’s novels, ‘The Black Horde’ alternates its main narrative with vignettes in which people – most often couples having sex – find themselves at risk of a bloody, painful, terrifying death at the mandibles of the ravenous beetles. 

I can’t recommend ‘The Black Horde’ as a masterful example of the horror genre, but if you are looking for a brief ‘pulp’ read, something on the order of a James Herbert out-take, it fits the bill.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Heavy Metal October 1983

'Heavy Metal' magazine October 1983

October, 1983, and in heavy rotation on FM radio and MTV is 'In A Big Country' by the Scottish New Wave band, Big Country.

The October 1983 issue of Heavy Metal magazine features a front cover by Luis Royo, and a back cover (a portrait of Ranxerox) by Liberatore.

The Dossier section opens with an interview with a documentary film-maker about his recent work, a film about Bob Dylan. By 1983 Dylan had lapsed into well-deserved obscurity, and this film did little to resurrect his career, which would be effectively killed once and for all by a disastrous performance at the close of the Live Aid concert in 1985.

The Dossier moves on to a brief overview of Harlan Ellison's literary career; an advertisement for the biography Loving John [Lennon] by former girlfriend May Pang; and a cultural analysis of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon (?)........ it must've been a slow month for Dossier content.

John Glen, director of the just-released Bond film Octopussy, gets an interview,as does the director Walter Hill.

For the comics content, the October issue offers up new installments of 'Tex Arcana', 'The Odyssey' by Navarro and Sauri, 'The Third Song', by Jodorowsky and Arno, and 'Ranxerox', by Tamburini and Liberatore.

Perhaps the best strip in the issue is another of the 'red convertible' tales by Didier Eberoni, this one titled 'Nimble Fingers', with a plot by Rodolphe. 

Its existential theme is well-served by the great artwork of Eberoni, whose meticulous rendering of the grassy fields, the tree branches and twigs, and the contours of the rocks.