Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Norbert Jacques’ Weimar Republic criminal mastermind, Dr. Mabuse has proven a potent allegorical figure for communicating the chaos of socio-economic collapse. From the original Roaring Twenties figure of Jacques’ fiction and Fritz Lang’s epic two-part silent film and its Depression-era sequel to the character’s rebirth which bookended the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the modern police state with its intricate and intrusive surveillance systems, Mabuse’s long cinematic history incorporates Expressionism, film noir, krimi, Euro-trash, and now modern independent film. Ansel Faraj is the ambitious young man who has brought Dr. Mabuse into the twenty-first century. A mere twenty-one years old, Faraj has already written and directed twenty-five independent films for his Hollinsworth Productions over the past seven years. Dr. Mabuse, newly released on DVD, shows a surprising polish and sense of artistry rarely found in the work of young filmmakers. Most surprising is how well Faraj makes use of his modest budget to the film’s overall advantage instead of its detriment. The Spartan production values assist in creating the dreamlike quality of the film. This can best be appreciated by watching the film in its entirety. Judging the results by the trailer fails to do justice to the neo-Expressionistic mood Faraj has managed to capture here. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Without Fu Manchu in my life, I would never have started down the path of penning these articles. One thing I was certain of was that there were no more surprises. I had found ever official appearance of Sax Rohmer’s master villain and would, in due course, cover all of them in this blog eventually. So it seems appropriate that in this the year that marks the centennial of the first Fu Manchu novel, my 200th article covers a hitherto unknown official piece of Fu Manchu history. A few weeks ago, I attended Classicon in Michigan and convention organizer, Ray Walsh handed me the January 1933 issue of Movie Mirror with Joan Bennet on the cover. The second feature was The Mask of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer. I suspected it was an unknown excerpt from the book and was intrigued I hadn’t been aware that it had turned up in print. What the issue actually contained was something far more valuable: an 11-page “fictionization” of the 1932 MGM film starring Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy, fully illustrated with stills from the film, some of which were quite rare. The adaptation was credited to Constance Brighton, an author I have found no other information concerning which makes me suspect the name is a pseudonym. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE TOMORROW.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
For twenty years now, George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box has been publishing quality hardcover and trade paperback reprints of titles one might never otherwise discover. Their books rarely appear on Amazon or eBay, so the devoted bibliophile who ven-tures to http://www.batteredbox.com is among the few to find such treasures. Initially focusing on Sherlockian pastiches and scholarly efforts as well as reprinting long unavailable titles from Arkham House and Mycroft & Moran, BSDB has broadened their catalog to include other more obscure treasures. Their two most recent titles are The Crimes of Hanoi Shan by H. Ashton-Wolfe and The Last of the Borgias by Fred M. White. Both books were edited by acclaimed pulp historian Rick Lai whose own works were spotlighted in last week’s column. To Continue Reading This Article, Please Visit The Black Gate Tomorrow.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Some readers find the literary game of treating fictional characters and their worlds as real to be off-putting. It has certainly delighted, confounded, and divided Sherlockians for decades. The Wold Newton approach merely added a new wrinkle by suggesting a fabric woven between various works could form a patchwork that is more fascinating than the individual pieces. From my own perspective, I have always been less concerned with the conclusions drawn than I am by the value of the scholarship involved. Rick Lai has done more than I could ever hope to repay by inspiring my own fiction and provoking thoughts on literary titles I thought I knew inside out or had initially disregarded as trivial. The more one delves into Lai’s speculative studies, the more one finds avenues missed and new paths down familiar roads. Unsurprisingly, Lai’s research sparked his own creativity. Reading the two Secret Histories volumes from Altus Press inevitably suggests that someone could or should take Lai’s theories and present them in story form. Appropriately enough, Lai has begun to do just that with the Shadows of the Opera trilogy and its companion trilogy, Sisters of the Shadows. Wild Cat Books published the first volume, The Mark of the Revenant in 2011 with Black Coat Press picking up the second installment, Retribution in Blood and the first companion volume, The Cagliostro Curse for publication this year. TO ENJOY THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Pulp fiction is alive and well in the new millennium as a niche market fed by reprints of classic pulps, revivals of countless public domain properties, licensed continuations that protect aging copyright claims, and even new pulp fiction cut from the cloth of the classic originals. The evolution of western hero to an archetypal pulp hero has happened once more in this fringe market in the case of western author Thomas McNulty. A veteran western writer in the Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour tradition, McNulty has made the transition from cowboy hero to pulp hero with his latest novel, Jack Ripcord. The title character for a planned trilogy of books, there is no mistaking that Jack Ripcord is an alter ego of the author from the cover character portrait to the way that the story functions as a synthesis of all of McNulty’s interests. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Marvel Comics quickly responded to the news that the creative team behind the legendary Tomb of Dracula series had moved over to Dark Horse to relaunch the property as Curse of Dracula. Marvel put together their own creative team to try to give fans of the original series what they wanted. Glenn Greenberg wrote the script for the three-part Dracula, Lord of the Undead limited series and Pat Olliffe provided artwork that recalled Gene Colan’s work. Colan’s original inker, Tom Palmer was back on board as well and his contributions cannot be underestimated (and were very much lacking in the Dark Horse series). The story opens in contemporary Transylvania where Dracula still terrorizes the locals. The scene quickly shifts to London where we meet Dr. Charles Seward, great grandson of Dr. John Seward who fought alongside Abraham Van Helsing to combat Dracula in the late 19th Century. Young Seward is a research scientist whose marriage is falling apart due to his obsessive devotion to his research. Seward’s mysterious and sinister employer has hired him to develop a cure for vampirism. To this end, his employer has recently ransacked Castle Dracula and successfully captured a vampire to serve as a guinea pig. Seward’s serum makes blood indigestible for vampires dooming them to starvation, but it also unleashes a highly contagious blood disease that threatens to wipe out the human race. TO CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 1.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Marvel Comics’ long-running Tomb of Dracula series by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan was a landmark in the medium. The award-winning series set a standard in the industry that is still felt four decades on. Marvel shamefully squandered their efforts to turn the controversial monthly title into an adult-oriented comic magazine free from the strictures of the Comics Code Authority. A dozen years later, the duo reunited to revive the series for Marvel’s Epic Comics line, but this highly underrated four-part limited series was not granted the accolades or the follow-up it deserved. Flash forward to 1998 and Dark Horse Comics offered Wolfman and Colan a three-part limited series to reinvent the property for the up and coming rival in the field. The only tragedy is that The Curse of Dracula ended up being another one-shot limited series despite the storyline’s potential to be expanded further. Much of the Dark Horse series recalls the story and artwork in the Epic Comics limited series from earlier in the decade. The plot is equally complex and adult and the art pushes the boundaries to the edge yet again. Once again, Marv Wolfman is crafting a new set of vampire hunters and has Dracula rooted in the world of politics. The new protagonists are an interesting lot led by Jonathan Van Helsing, a cerebral but physically unchallenging character whose vocal chords were destroyed by vampires ten years before. Jonathan is the CEO of Sunlight Industries and is a regular feature on the television talk show and convention circuit. His father and grandfather died staking Count Dracula at his castle in Italy in 1979. Sadly, Jonathan learns the vampire has been resurrected. He prays after each battle, not for his own lost soul, but to retain his sanity after the atrocities he has witnessed and committed. TO CONTINUE THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE VISIT THE BLACK GATE ON FRIDAY.