Angel in Black: A Nathan Heller Novel by Max Allan Collins / Z-View

Angel in Black: A Nathan Heller Novel by Max Allan Collins  (2001)

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: NAL

First sentence…

The two pieces of her lay porcelain-white in the ankle-high grass and weeds of a vacant lot on South Norton Avenue, like the upper and lower sections of a discarded marionette.


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

I’m a sucker for the Nate Heller series by Max Allan Collins.  Heller is a detective who finds himself involved in famous murder cases.  Collins is a stickler for historical accuracy and has created a timeline and plausible setting that allows Heller to find himself (over the course of the series) mixed up in everything from the Lindbergh baby murder to the assassination of JFK!

This time out Heller ends up at the scene of the Black Dahlia murder and discovers that he had dated her in Chicago just months before her murder.  She had told him she was pregnant and he was the father… then disappeared.  Since Heller had since married her murder could ruin his marriage, his career and makes him the number one suspect in her death.  Heller must stay a step ahead of the reporters and the law and find out who killed the Black Dahlia before he ends up taking the fall.


Bad Boy Brawly Brown: An Easy Rawlins Mystery by Walter Mosley / Z-View

Bad Boy Brawly Brown: An Easy Rawlins Mystery by Walter Mosley (2002)

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Little Brown

First sentence…

Mouse is dead.


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Easy Rawlins used to be the man that could fix problems.  Now it is 1964 and those days are behind him.  Easy is raising a family and trying to stay clear of anything that would bring danger to his home.  When an old friend asks Easy to just check on young Brawly Brown the job seems easy enough.  Brawly is running with a Black militant group and his mother just needs to know he’s okay.

Soon enough Easy finds himself a suspect in a murder case that has the militants on one side and the cops on the other.


The Strain Producers Carlton Cruse & Chuck Hogan Talk about Watching the Apocalypse Happen!

The Strain is one of my favorite shows producing new episodes.  Based on the trilogy of books by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain tells the story of a vampire apocalypse… but these ain’t your pop’s or your little sister’s vampires!  They’re not romantic and they don’t sparkle.

One of the things that I love about apocalyptic stories takes place at their start when no one is sure what is going on or what is the best course of action to take.  You know, when Brad Pitt watches in amazement as normal citizens begin attacking each other, or when Barbara is attacked in the graveyard by the creepy guy in the business suit or when Rick wakes from his coma to discover… well you get what I mean.

That’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan of The Strain.  We’re two seasons in and just 23 days have passed.  The audience knows what’s coming but the characters on the show have only slowly come to realize what’s happening.  The producers were brave (smart) enough to not just jump in to the frenzy.  A slow build-up has been such fun.  I can’t wait for season three to start Sunday night.

/Film has an interview with The Strain Producers Carlton Cruse & Chuck Hogan Talk about Watching the Apocalypse Happen!

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson / Z-View

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson (2011)

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (March 15, 2011)

First sentence…

Repaiman Jack awoke with light in his eyes, white noise in his ears and an ache in his back.


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The Tomb is the first in the Repairman Jack series and an excellent introduction to his world.  Jack lives off the grid and makes his living solving other people’s problems.  Often the solutions aren’t legal but Jack is no hitman. Still, once Jack’s girlfriend Gia discovered the nature of his work, she distanced herself and small daughter from Jack.

When Jack is offered a job to find a stolen necklace that is a matter of life and death, he takes on the task despite long odds.  Jack recovers and returns the necklace to learn, only too late, that it holds an ancient power over monster-like creatures that are now being guided to kill his ex-girlfriend, her daughter and Jack.

F. Paul Wilson has created a believable world by seamlessly meshing the detective and horror novel through the creation of Repairman Jack.  I loved The Tomb and look forward to reading all of the Repairman Jack novels.


Are You Ready for Mel Gibson’s Comeback?

Are You Ready for Mel Gibson’s Comeback?  by Kevin Lincoln is an excellent profile of, well, the potential comeback of Mel Gibson.  Here’s a taste…

While Hollywood figures have made comebacks before — think Alec Baldwin or Robert Downey Jr. — it’s never been quite on the scale that Gibson faces… Gibson’s 60 years old; his days as a classical movie star would be behind him even if the last decade hadn’t happened. But every one of Clint Eastwood’s 11 Oscar nominations have come after that age, all in movies he’s directed. Gibson has been allowed to be a filmmaker again, with the potential for a long and rich career still to come, and Hacksaw Ridge will be a kind of referendum. The people have the power to forgive Mel Gibson. They also have the power not to.

Source: Vulture and Al Bundy’s Socks.

The Making of The Lords of Flatbush by Stephen Verona (2008) / Z-View

The Making of The Lords of Flatbush by Stephen Verona (2008)

Paperback: 155 pages
Publisher: Creative Book Publishing International; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (June 15, 2008)

First sentence…

When I was single and dating I would regale girls with these stories of my childhood and the guys I hung with.


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Stephen Verona, the writer and director of Lords of Flatbush, takes us on the amazing trip to get Lords of Flatbush, one of the first truly independent films made.  Along the way, we’ll learn how Verona got started (becoming friends with John Lennon and working with Lennon to animate the Beatles song I Feel Fine) and the long process to get Lords of Flatbush made.

Verona worked with many big names [Lee Strasberg, Janet Leigh, The Beatles, Chicago, Barbara Steisand, etc.] prior to writing and directing Lords of Flatbush and those stories are fun but the heart of the book is of course getting LoF made.  Verona provides many anecdotes and behind the scenes photos and trivia.  (Did you know that Richard Gere was originally to play Perry King’s role? Stallone and Gere had a falling out and one had to go!]

Verona writes in a conversation style that’s easy to read.  Fans of LoF will love the behind-the-scenes peek and prospective film makers will learn from the mistakes Verona as a first time film-maker made.


11 Nightmarish Facts About “Nosferatu”

Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 11 Nightmarish Facts About Nosferatu. Here are three of my favorites…

Little is known about Max Schreck’s life and film career, a fact to which his biographer, Stefan Eickhoff, can attest. According to Eickhoff, the actor’s colleagues regarded him as a “loyal, conscientious loner with an offbeat sense of humor and a talent for playing the grotesque.” The star of over 40 motion pictures, Schreck is best remembered for his haunting portrayal of Orlok in Nosferatu.

Fittingly enough, the man’s last name is the German word for “terror.” Schreck’s performance was so effective that some viewers wondered if the mysterious thespian was an actual vampire in real life. Film critic Ado Kyrou popularized this idea in 1953 when he wrongly claimed that the name of the actor who played Murnau’s monster had never been revealed. “Who hides behind the character of Nosferatu?” Kyrou wrote. “Maybe Nosferatu himself?” That suggestion was subsequently used as the premise of Shadow of the Vampire (2000), which features John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as a bloodsucking, coffin-loving Max Schreck.

The idea that vampires burn up when exposed to direct sunlight is traceable to this movie. In Dracula, the villain casually walks around outside in broad daylight. According to the novel, solar rays can slightly weaken a vampire, but Stoker never implies that they could kill one. Yet for the sake of a more visually compelling climax, Grau and screenwriter Henrik Galeen decided to make the sun’s light utterly fatal to poor Count Orlok, who disappears in a puff of smoke when he’s lured into a well-lit room. Thus, a resilient horror cliché was born.

If she’d gotten her way, this movie would have joined Dracula’s Death in the dustbin of film history. Shortly after Nosferatu premiered in Berlin, Florence Stoker—Bram’s widow—received an anonymous package containing one of its promotional posters. Displayed upon this placard was the inflammatory line “Freely adapted from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

An outraged Mrs. Stoker immediately took legal action. Upon receiving the poster, she joined the British Incorporated Society of Authors, which hired a German lawyer to go after Prana-Film. At first, the plan was to sue Grau’s company for copyright infringement. However, a string of terrible business decisions—not the least of which was Nosferatu’s recklessly expensive marketing campaign—had already bankrupted the studio.

When it became clear that Stoker would never make a dime off of Nosferatu, she did everything in her power to have all copies of the film destroyed. In 1925, a German court sided with her and ordered that every copy within that nation be burned. And yet, just like Count Dracula, Nosferatu proved very difficult to kill. Over the next few years, surviving copies made their way to the U.S. and UK. Thus, the undead picture haunted Florence Stoker until the end of her days. Before she died in 1937, a handful of screenings took place—usually in the United States. Stoker relentlessly tracked down wayward copies of the movie and incinerated those that she got her hands on. But despite her best efforts, Nosferatu lived on in the form of pirated bootlegs.

31 Things We Learned from “The In-Laws” Commentary

Rob Hunter and Film School Rejects present 31 Things We Learned from The In-Laws Commentary.  Here are three of my favorites…

7. The infamous “Serpentine! Serpentine!” line came from Bergman’s time at college playing touch football with friends. One of his friends used to say it as they left the huddle.

10. Marlon Brando was a huge fan of the film and told Arkin at dinner once that he’d seen it over twenty times. “And then he started doing imitations of me.” Bergman adds that this is the reason why Brando agreed to do The Freshman with him.

30. Hiller had difficulty finding enough American-looking performers to play the dozens of CIA agents who come to the rescue in Mexico. He ran across some American medical students in town and cast them as the extras. Over half of the agents are those students.

Diablerie by Walter Mosley (2007) / Z-View

Diablerie by Walter Mosley (2008)

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

First sentence…

The apartment reeked from the acrid odor of roaches – a whole colony, tens of thousands of them, seething and unseen in the walls and under the dull, splintery floorboards of the vacant apartment.


The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ben Dibbuk is a middle aged computer programmer with a successful wife and a daughter headed to college.  Life should be great… but it’s not.  His wife has become distant and may have a lover which would only be fair since Ben has a young mistress.  Ben knows that he’s at a crossroads and needs to sort things out.

That becomes more complicated when a woman from his past approaches him with the knowledge that years ago he killed a man in a drunken stupor.  Ben is a recovering alcoholic and remembers much of what the woman tells him but not the murder.  Did he kill a man?  Why is the woman approaching him now?  And why is his wife having him investigated?

Craig says: While Mosley is probably incapable of writing a bad book, Diablerie isn’t in the same league as his Easy Rawlins novels.  I enjoyed the story but didn’t hate to see it end.  Be aware that this is one of Mosley’s “erotic” novels.


12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi

Mark Mancini and Mental_Floss present 12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi.  Here are three of my favorites…

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year’s biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

The Demented (2013) / Z-View

The Demented (2013)

Director: Christopher Roosevelt

Screenplay: Christopher Roosevelt

Stars: Kayla Ewell, Richard Kohnke and Ashlee Brian.

The Pitch: “Let’s make a cheap zombie movie with some good looking kids.”

No Tagline:

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Three college aged couples decide to spend the weekend at their rich friend’s parents’ getaway house.  A terrorist attack turns the locals into zombies.

Craig says: If you’re a die hard zombie fan then this might be for you.  Of course you’d have to enjoy zombies that for no reason will freeze in strange positions and sleep until awakened by a noise.  You’d also have to like characters that make really stupid decisions, are loud when they should be quiet, bad special effects and an ending that will really tick you off (at least it did me).


Night Monster (1942) / Z-View

Night Monster (1942)

Director: Ford Beebe

Screenplay: Clarence Upson Young

Stars: Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Leif Erickson and Irene Hervey.

The Pitch: “How can we go wrong with people stranded in an old, creepy house with mysterious murders?”

Tagline: “NIGHT MONSTER with Mystery’s Greatest Thrill Team: Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill.”

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Dr. King [Atwill] gets three doctors out to his secluded, remote mansion under false pretenses.  King has been left paralyzed and blames the doctors he invited.  Dr. Lynn Harper  [Hervey] is also there but for another reason.  When one-by-one doctors begin turning up strangled, Harper and her new friend, Don, must figure out who is doing the killing and how they’re able to do it before they become the next victims.

Craig says: This one just didn’t work well for me.  Low on humor, suspense and when all is said and done, not that convincing of a killer aka Night Monster.  It was fun seeing Leif Erickson at such a young age.  It seemed to me that Bela was there just to throw suspicion his way.  I may be in the minority on this one…


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