Book Review: ‘The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard’

I’ve always loved that H.P. Lovecraft never really gave a shit that other writers would tap into his Cthulhu mythos. In the case of Robert E. Howard, the two had become good friends whose work influenced each other. So, naturally Howard wrote some Lovecraftian tales and even merged some of his most famous characters with those existing in Lovecraft’s literary universe.

The first story in this anthology collection sees Howard’s Kull of Atlantis crossover into Lovecraftian horror. Granted, this also happened in some works featuring Conan the Cimmerian, as well.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, which was originally a novella. The story is called “Skull-Face”. The story is about a British man who smokes opium, has weird visions and then discovers that there’s something real and sinister afoot.

As I was reading “Skull-Face”, I kept envisioning Peter Cushing as the main character and it read like something that could’ve been adapted greatly by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

The rest of the stories were also pretty solid but my mind kept drifting back to “Skull-Face”.

All in all, this was really neat to read as it merged two of my favorite fantasy authors’ worlds together. Sure, Lovecraft influenced Howard’s sword and sorcery tales but this thick volume went beyond just the stuff I’ve read involving Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other works by Robert E. Howard, as well as the literary work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Film Review: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Also known as: Trick or Treat (alternative spelling)
Release Date: December 9th, 2007 (Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Festival)
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Written by: Michael Dougherty
Music by: Douglas Pipes
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Britt McKillip, Jean-Luc Bilodeau, Samm Todd, Leslie Bibb, Tahmoh Penikett, Brett Kelly

Bad Hat Harry Productions, Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros., 82 Minutes

Review:

“Werewolves, zombies and demons of every variety. They’ve all descended on the normally sleepy town of Warren Valley, OH. Where the holiday and all of its strange traditions are taken very seriously. It’s only 8:00 and the streets are already packed with costumed visitors. Some to show off, others to blend in, but all to celebrate the magical night of Halloween. The one night a year where we can pretend to be the scariest thing we think of.” – Reporter

It’s been a hell of a long time since I last watched Trick ‘r Treat and I was a bit surprised that I hadn’t reviewed it yet, as this is already the fourth Halloween season since Talking Pulp started. Not to mention all my other blogs that predate this one where reviewing movies was part of the regular output.

I like this movie quite a bit, especially because it truly is a love letter to Halloween and while we have a lot of horror movies in the universe, we don’t have enough that feel like they’re Halloween specific.

This is an anthology but all the stories are connected and happen in the same town on the same night. The plots overlap a bit and the movie is shown out of order ala Pulp Fiction but it isn’t hard to put the pieces together and it keeps you guessing as the multiple plot threads develop.

My only real complaint about the film is that it felt like it needed one more story thrown in to help pad out the running time and to take the picture to the next level. It’s short, moves really quick and the flick ends before you’re really ready to say goodbye to it. But I guess that’s also a testament to how entertaining it is.

I had always hoped that this would’ve kicked off a franchise of annual or semi-annual Halloween anthologies that exist in this same universe. Michael Dougherty, the film’s writer and director, has said he’s wanted to make more but it’s been thirteen years since this was originally shown and not much has happened since.

Well, Dougherty did do another holiday themed horror movie with 2015’s Krampus and I did enjoy that as well. But still, this deserves more love, more chapters and with that, I feel like it could evolve into a franchise strong enough to rival John Carpenter’s Halloween series.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies, as well as movies about Halloween.

Film Review: Movie 43 (2013)

Also known as: Truth or Dare (working title)
Release Date: January 1st, 2013 (Russia)
Directed by: Steven Brill, Peter Farrelly, Will Graham, Steve Carr, Griffin Dunne, James Duffy, Jonathan van Tulleken, Elizabeth Banks, Patrik Forsberg, Brett Ratner, Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Baker, Damon Escott
Written by: Steve Baker, Ricky Blitt, Will Carlough, Tobias Carlson, Jacob Fleisher, Patrik Forsberg, Will Graham, James Gunn, Claes Kjellstrom, Jack Kukoda, Bob Odenkirk, Bill O’Malley, Matthew Alec Portenoy, Greg Pritikin, Rocky Russo, Olle Sarri, Elizabeth Wright Shapiro, Jeremy Sosenko, Jonathan van Tulleken, Jonas Wittenmark
Music by: Christophe Beck, David J. Hodge, Leo Birenberg, Tyler Bates, Miles Moon, William Goodrum
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Leslie Bibb, Kate Bosworth, Gerard Butler, Josh Duhamel, Anna Faris, Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Hugh Jackman, Johnny Knoxville, Justin Long, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloë Grace Moretz, Liev Schreiber, Emma Stone, Jason Sudekis, Uma Thurman, Naomi Watts, Kate Winslet, Dennis Quaid, Greg Kinnear, Common, Charlie Saxton, Will Sasso, Seth MacFarlane, Mark L. Young, Fisher Stevens, Beth Littleford, Julie Ann Emery, Chris Pratt, J.B. Smoove, Kieran Culkin, Bobby Cannavale, Patrick Warburton, Seann William Scott, Stephen Merchant, Snooki, Emily Alyn Lind, Julianne Moore (scene cut), Tony Shalhoub (scene cut), Bob Odenkirk (scene cut), Anton Yelchin (scene cut)

Relativity Media, Virgin Produced, GreeneStreet Films, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Excuse me, I’m gonna go do some Batman-ing.” – Fake Batman

I never wanted to see this movie and that was before I heard how bad it was when it came out. Also, the few people who seemed to like it were people that have historically had terrible recommendations in not just movies but just about everything in life.

Recently, I was told to watch it and I kind of just said fuck it because part of me was curious and wanted to know if this was as bad as I had heard it was.

It’s worse.

In fact, I can confidently say that this is the biggest waste of talent I have ever seen in a motion picture.

It’s so bad that it’s beyond atrocious. So much so, that I find it not just baffling that this film attracted so many big stars but I find it really unnerving.

Who greenlit this fucking thing? And how many terrible agents are there in Hollywood? Fire all of them!

Anyway, I had to start asking myself some questions while trying to work this film’s existence out in my brain:

  1. Is everyone in Hollywood actually insane?
  2. Do the Hollywood elite want all of us to commit seppuku?
  3. Do the Hollywood elite think that sucking their own assholes is a good use of time?
  4. Did this movie somehow leak over from a parallel dimension where Earth actually is Hell?
  5. Did all of these “artists” commit some unspeakable crime and this was secretly some sort of punishment for said crime?
  6. Did all of these people lose a bet?
  7. Was this movie actually the result of a writing contest for mental patients?
  8. Is this what people mean by “anti-humor”?
  9. Did the person who put up the money have some sort of Brewster’s Millions deal where they had to throw away money to get their full inheritance?
  10. Was this produced to debut on an earlier, failed attempt at CBS trying a streaming service?

I mean, those are all legitimate questions. In fact, I’d say that they’re more legitimate than this film.

This is the worst movie I’ve seen that was made for less than thirty dollars.

The film was full of crude jokes, none of which landed, and it offered up a bunch of gross out moments that just come across as Hollywood trying so hard to be edgy when in reality, they haven’t had their fucking balls in a long time.

Honestly, seeing how “politically correct” and “apologetic” the Hollywood elite have become since SJWs emerged and Cancel Culture took hold, this film feels like them desperately trying to get all the edgy shit out of their system before they all started their “I’m sorry, I’ll strive to do better” world tour.

Additionally, none of these gross out moments are all that effective if you’ve been a fan of ’70s and ’80s horror. Go watch Society and try again. Better yet, you shouldn’t have tried at all.

I think that film critic Robbie Collin said it best in his review of the movie:

“I was immediately overcome with a sudden rush of emotion: not amusement, anger or even mild irritation, but a profound and faintly tragic sense of pity.”

Speaking of reviews, let’s look at what all the big sites think. IMDb gives it a 4.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 5 percent from critics with 24 percent from the audience, Metacritic gives it an 18 percent and Richard Roeper referred to it as “the Citizen Kane of awful.”

In closing, I’ll simply state:

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: bad cavities and genital warts.

Film Review: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)

Also known as: Two Fabulous Characters (working title)
Release Date: October 5th, 1949 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, James Algar
Written by: Erdman Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brightman, Harry Reeves
Based on: The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Basil Rathbone (narrator), Bing Crosby (narrator), Eric Blore, Pat O’Malley, Colin Campbell, John McLeish, Campbell Grant, Claude Allister, Leslie Denison, Edmond Stevens, The Rhythmaires

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 68 Minutes

Review:

“Come along! Hop up here! We’ll go for a jolly ride! The open road! The dusty highway! Come! I’ll show you the world! Travel! Scene! Excitement! Ha ha ha!” – Mr. Toad

This is the sixth and final movie in Disney’s string of anthology/package films, ending their strange and very different approach to feature length animated productions in the 1940s.

Overall, this is my favorite film in this strange stretch of pictures, as it feels more like traditional Disney storytelling, as it only features two stories and both are done quite well and exhibit that Disney storytelling magic better than anything else out of the package film releases.

I really like both of these stories and both were favorites of mine, as a kid. However, I’ve never seen them presented in this full film version and usually just saw them used separately as filler to take up time between movies on the classic ’80s version of The Disney Channel, back when it was a premium cable channel that had to be subscribed to similar to HBO and Showtime.

This movie actually feels like the people at Disney were already planning on returning to feature length storytelling but they had to do this to get their mojo back and to learn how to tell a longer story, once again.

This film is made by two different teams, each focusing on their half of the film.

The two stories here are adaptations of two different books: The Wind In the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The former makes up the Mr. Toad portion of the film, the latter makes up the Ichabod story.

I think what I liked about these stories was that they were just amusing and fun. I loved the spirit and tone of the Mr. Toad segment but then I really fell in love with the Ichabod half because of its finale with The Headless Horseman, which is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest finale sequences that Disney has ever done.

Seeing this now, the animation really stands out and it’s clear that over the course of these six experimental anthology pictures, that the Disney company really honed their skills in a variety of ways. In this film, applying these more refined skills, we’re treated to a picture that looks better than most of the work that Disney has done previously in regards to their standard animation style.

This is more fluid, the action and motion is just more dynamic and the two sequences just blend together nicely, even in spite of their very stark narrative and style differences.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Melody Time (1948)

Also known as: All In Fun (working title)
Release Date: May 27th, 1948
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
Written by: Winston Hibler, Harry Reeves, Ken Anderson, Erdman Penner, Homer Brightman, Ted Sears, Joe Rinaldi, Bill Cottrell, Jesse Marsh, Art Scott, Bob Moore, John Walbridge
Music by: Eliot Daniel, Paul J. Smith, Ken Darby
Cast: Roy Rogers, Trigger, Dennis Day, The Andrews Sisters, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, Freddy Martin, Ethel Smith, Frances Langford, Buddy Clark, Bob Nolan, Sons of the Pioneers, The Dinning Sisters, Bobby Driscoll, Luana Patten

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 72 Minutes

Review:

“In the state of Texas, USA, life still goes on in the same old way.” – Roy Rogers

Melody Time is the fifth of the six Walt Disney anthology/package films of the 1940s. This one is also a lot like Make Mine Music in that it mostly focuses on a series of musical numbers.

I’d say that this one is a bit better than Make Mine Music, as it features some live-action actors interacting with animated characters. Although, I don’t think that it’s as groundbreaking as The Three Caballeros in that regard.

While I appreciate these films, I much prefer the anthologies that feature stories or educational bits like Fun and Fancy Free, Saludos Amigos and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

The animation is really good, the voice acting is solid and overall, this is an energetic and amusing film with great music. But I think, by this point, the animated anthologies were starting to get redundant and tiresome.

Luckily, Disney fans in 1948 were only two years away from the second great era of Disney animation with 1950’s Cinderella being just around the corner.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

Also known as: Fun and Fancy Free, Featuring Mickey and the Beanstalk (VHS title)
Release Date: September 27th, 1947 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Hamilton Luske, William Morgan (live-action)
Written by: Homer Brightman, Eldon Dedini, Lance Nolley, Tom Oreb, Harry Reeves, Ted Sears
Based on: Little Bear Bongo by Sinclair Lewis, Jack and the Beanstalk
Music by: Oliver Wallace, Paul Smith, Eliot Daniel, Charles Wolcott
Cast: Cliff Edwards, Edgar Bergen, Luana Patten, Walt Disney, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Anita Gordon

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 73 Minutes

Review:

“Once upon a time, long long ago…” – Edgar Bergen, “Funny, nothing ever happens nowadays.” – Charlie McCarthy

The fourth of six films in Disney’s 1940s package/anthology series is a return to form of what the first two were. It actually plays very similarly to Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, except it’s not pushing Latin American tourism as its main objective.

This one is an anthology film that features a few short animation tales that come together with a series of live-action bits featuring a guy and his ventriloquist dummy telling the tales to kids. The guy and his dummy also narrate the short films.

Honestly, my only real issue with Fun and Fancy Free was the narration. It’s not bad but the guy talking to his dummy gets tiresome after awhile and it felt like more of a distraction by the time you reach the great Mickey and the Beanstalk story.

That Beanstalk cartoon is the most memorable bit to come out of this film and it has lived on beyond this movie as a whole. I think most kids, even today, have seen or at least heard of Mickey and the Beanstalk but not a lot of people would know what Fun and Fancy Free is. That’s probably due to that short film appearing on its own over the years in a variety of places.

In the end, this is mostly okay but it’s not up to the level of what Walt Disney Studios was capable of at their best.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Make Mine Music (1946)

Also known as: Swing Street (working title)
Release Date: April 20th, 1946 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, Hamilton, Luske, Joshua Meador, Robert Cormack
Written by: James Bordrero, Homer Brightman, Erwin Graham, Eric Gurney, T. Hee, Sylvia Holland, Dick Huemer, Dick Kelsey, Dick Kinney, Jesse Marsh, Tom Oreb, Cap Palmer, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Dick Shaw, John Walbridge, Roy Williams
Music by: Eliot Daniel, Ken Darby, Charles Wolcott, Oliver Wallace, Edward Plumb
Cast: Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters, Jerry Colonna, Sterling Holloway, Andy Russell, David Lichine, Tania Riabouchinskaya, The Pied Pipers, The King’s Men, The Ken Darby Chorus

Walt Disney Animation Studios, RKO Radio Pictures, 75 Minutes, 68 Minutes (DVD cut)

Review:

“And you, faithful little friend, don’t be too sad, because miracles never really die. And somewhere in wherever heaven is reserved for creatures of the deep, Willie is still singing, in a hundred voices, each more golden than before, and he’ll go on singing in a voice so cheery forever.” – Narrator

Overall, this is probably the weakest of the Disney package/anthology films. That’s also probably why it’s the only one not on Disney+. I was able to find all the segments (and in order) on a YouTube playlist.

This one is comprised of more than a half dozen musical numbers of varying lengths and done in varying animation styles with different genres of music.

This isn’t bad and it’s fairly entertaining but it lacks any sort of cohesion and just feels more like what watching an hour or so of MTV could’ve been like in the 1940s had music video channels existed that far back.

The animation is good and this is a nice looking production but comparing it to something as glorious and perfect as Fantasia really exposes its flaws and lack of production value.

To be fair, however, Disney was stretched thin in the ’40s between making World War II propaganda films while also trying to put out stuff like this to keep the studio from completely moving away from entertainment during wartime.

Make Mine Music is interesting more for what it is and its place in history than it is for its actual content. By the time this did come out, World War II was over but while it was being made, the war was still a reality.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: Tales from the Crypt (1972)

Release Date: March 8th, 1972 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Freddie Francis
Written by: Milton Subotsky
Based on: Tales From the Crypt & The Vault of Horror by EC Comics, Johnny Craig, Al Feldstein, William M. Gaines
Music by: Douglas Gamley
Cast: Joan Collins, Peter Cushing, Roy Dotrice, Richard Greene, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Barbara Murray, Nigel Patrick, Robin Phillips, Ralph Richardson

Amicus Productions, Cinema Releasing Corporation, Metromedia Producers Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox, 92 Minutes

Review:

“[reading Arthur Grimsdyke’s revenge letter written in the dead James Elliot’s blood] “You were cruel and mean right from the start, now you can truly say you have no… heart”.” – Father

As a fan of Amicus Productions and Tales From the Crypt, I don’t know how I didn’t discover this film sooner. I just assumed that the ’80s television series and the few films that followed were the only live-action versions of the franchise, which started in the ’50s as a comic series put out by publisher EC.

Furthermore, this has Peter Cushing and Patrick Magee in it. It also has Joan Collins, who would go on to have great fame a decade later.

This is an anthology movie like many of the films that Amicus put out. It’s not their best effort but it is still cool seeing them recreate EC Comics stories from Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

Like most anthologies, the stories are a mixed bag. What’s interesting about this one, however, is that it crams five stories and several bookend/bridge scenes within its 92 minutes. Most of these movies would give you three tales.

That being said, some of the segments feel rushed and too quick. However, the ones that are good are pretty fun and cool.

As a film on its own, without the Tales From the Crypt branding, this just feels like another Amicus anthology lost in the shuffle with most of the others.

In the end, it’s just okay but the high points saved it from being a dud.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other horror anthologies of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: The Three Caballeros (1944)

Also known as: Surprise Package (working title), A Present for Donald (TV title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1944 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Norman Ferguson (supervising director), Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Harold Young (sequence director)
Written by: Homer Brightman, Ernest Terrazas, Ted Sears, Bill Peet, Ralph Wright, Elmer Plummer, Roy Williams, William Cottrell, Del Connell, James Bodrero
Music by: Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith, Charles Wolcott
Cast: Clarence Nash, Jose Oliveira, Joaquin Garay, Aurora Miranda

Walt Disney Productions, RKO Radio Pictures, 71 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, Baia. It is like a song in my heart. A song with love and beautiful memories. Que saudades que eu tenho. Ah, Baia. I close my eyes, and I can see it now. I can see the beautiful twilight in the sky. I can feel the breeze from the bay. And I can hear the music, the music of Baia.” – José Carioca

The second of Disney’s package/anthology films, The Three Caballeros isn’t too dissimilar from the first one, Saludos Amigos, as it takes the same subject matter and expands on it more.

Beyond just that, this is a much more impressive film, as it spends a big portion of its time mixing animated characters with live-action. This plays like a proto-Who Framed Roger Rabbit over forty years before that film came out. And the execution of it is damn impressive, proving just how great the Disney animators and live-action directors were at this sort of thing. This is a film that is certainly far ahead of its time.

This pairs extremely well with Saludos Amigos, though, as it takes the audience back down to Latin America and showcases the region’s culture from style, fashion, music and their way of life. This focuses less on trying to be educational and more on the music, dancing and showing how fun these once exotic places were three-quarters of a century ago.

I really loved the scenes with Aurora Miranda and the other dancers, as it really kicks the second half of the film into high gear and makes it thoroughly enjoyable and lively.

The music in this feature is fantastic and if this picture didn’t get people flocking down to Central and South America in the 1940s, no other tourism marketing would.

The Three Caballeros is enthralling and exhilarating. It took the neat formula of Saludos Amigos, refined it and perfected it as best as could be done with the technology and craftsmanship of the time.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Disney’s other 1940s package/anthology films.

Film Review: The Monster Club (1981)

Release Date: April 2nd, 1981 (UK)
Directed by: Roy Ward Baker
Written by: Edward Abraham, Valerie Abraham
Based on: the works of R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Music by: Douglas Gamley, various
Cast: Vincent Price, John Carradine, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Magee, Stuart Whitman, Britt Ekland, Richard Johnson, Barbara Kellerman, Simon Ward

Chips Productions, Sword & Sorcery, 94 Minutes

Review:

“Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not boast amongst our membership a single member of the human race?” – Eramus

This used to be one of my favorite anthology horror movies when I was a kid and while it wasn’t my first Vincent Price movie, it’s one that I had on VHS and would watch more than any person probably should have.

The film is really a mixed bag, as anthology horror movies tend to go, but most of the stuff contained within is good and amusing. Even if the disintegrating woman at the end of the first story scared the living shit out of me every time I saw it with young eyes. Frankly, it’s still effective and the best special effects shot in the entire film.

This is incredibly low budget but it also makes the best out of its limited resources and I actually like how bad the monster costumes are in the nightclub scenes, which are sprinkled throughout the film as the narrative bookends.

A lot of this film felt overly hokey and I’m not sure if they were specifically aiming for that but it worked and gave it a charm that it wouldn’t have had if it was more serious or had a budget that better hid its flaws. I love that the movie sort of wears its cheapness and absurdity on its sleeve.

My favorite parts of the movie are the bookend bits, mainly because I like the music, the performances and the banter between Vincent Price and John Carradine. I especially love the scene where Price goes on a diatribe about how The Monster Club needs to open up to humans, the best monster that ever lived.

As far as the actual short horror stories go, I like the first one the best. It was actually effective, emotionally and I liked the characters and the simple story. The vampire chapter was the worst one and it’s really just meh. The final story with the village of ghouls was decent and I liked Patrick Magee in it but it’s still far from great and watching it, you just want to get back to the Monster Club scenes.

Overall, I can’t say that this aged well but it will most definitely excite the nostalgia bug for those who loved the horror and music of this era.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s and ’80s horror anthologies.