Thursday, March 30, 2023


It was a number of years ago that I read a news blurb that Guillermo del Toro was licensing the rights of Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLEY for a remake. The horror anthology that lasted three seasons in the 1970s was an off-the-wall series of bizarre gothic stories, sometimes laced with dark humor. Such a series would be a welcome addition to today's streaming services as I am a big fan of television anthologies. With such programs, I find one in five are gems and worth watching four others. For years I heard no updates to the project and now I discovered Netflix has a new horror anthology titled CABINET OF CURIOSITIES, hosted by Guillermo del Toro. While I suspect that Del Toro was unable to secure the licensing rights to NIGHT GALLERY, this series is as close as you get to the same formula.

Guillermo Del Toro and his Cabinet of Curiosities.

Instead of wandering through a museum and choosing a painting that focuses on the story that is to be dramatized, del Toto instead opens a drawer from a large and bizarre cabinet to remove an item (whether it be a wizard's wand or a magnifying glass) that is related to the story that unfolds. Del Toro directs no episodes himself, but the stories were curated and selected from the director. The tales range from originals (some written by del Toro) to classics of H.P. Lovecraft ("Pickman's Model"), and the stories take place from all eras of yesteryear. From space aliens, doppelgängers, ghostly specters to an E.C. Comics style horror story titled "The Autopsy," I was pleased to see "Graveyard Rats" adapted from a gem of a story that I was first exposed to from an LP record of a dramatic reading when I was a child.

A truly enjoyable horror story, "The Autopsy."

Not all of the episodes are gems. "The Outside" was my least favorite and I suspect it will be the least favorite of most who watch the series, and I suspect the producers knew which were the best -- the earliest episodes on the streaming platform are, in my opinion, the best of the series and then it slowly wavers downhill as you get to the last few. Still, this is as close as you get to a remake of NIGHT GALLERY, and perhaps del Toro himself would acknowledge how Serling's series was an inspiration to his Netflix series.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Art of Pulp Fiction by Ed Hulse (Book Review)

IDW Publishing and Ed Hulse have put together one of those fantastic coffee table books worthy of anyone who wants something to browse through for a few minutes during that downtime in the living room. The Art of Pulp Fiction: An Illustrated History of Vintage Paperbacks chronicles the history of pocket-sized paperbound books designed for mass-market consumption, specifically concentrating on the period from 1940 to 1970. These three decades saw paperbacks eclipse cheap pulp magazines and expensive clothbound books as the most popular delivery vehicle for escapist fiction. To catch the eyes of potential buyers they were adorned with covers that were invariably vibrant, frequently garish, and occasionally lurid. Today the early paperbacks--like the earlier pulps, inexpensively produced and considered disposable by casual readers--are treasured collector's items.

For myself, I have two bookshelves filled with paperbacks from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. And when I used the word "filled," that is no understatement. My bookshelves are so wide I have two rows of paperbacks (one behind the other) on each shelf and books stacked on top of those rows. Most of them are vintage horror and science-fiction anthologies, mysteries such as the Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies, and a number of 1950s-1960s science fiction novels. So this book was of interest to further enlighten and educate my knowledge of paperback novels.

Award-winning editor Ed Hulse (The Art of the Pulps and The Blood 'n' Thunder Guide to Pulp Fiction) comprehensively covers the pulp-fiction paperback's heyday. Hulse writes the individual chapter introductions and the captions, while a team of genre specialists and art aficionados contribute the special features included in each chapter. These focus on particularly important authors, artists, publishers, and sub-genres. 

Illustrated with more than 500 memorable covers and original cover paintings, this 240 page book is a feast for the eyes. Hulse's extensive captions, meanwhile, offer a running commentary on this significant genre, and also contain many obscure but entertaining factoids. Images used in The Art of Pulp Fiction have been sourced from the largest American paperback collections in private hands, and have been curated with rarity in mind, as well as graphic appeal. Consequently, many covers are reproduced here for the first time since the books were first issued.

The book includes an Introduction by Richard A. Lupoff, novelist, essayist, pop-culture historian, and author of The Great American Paperback (2001).

Ed Hulse poses proudly with his book.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) Blu-Ray Restoration

In 1967, Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass, the same men responsible for the stop-motion animated holiday special, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, produced a Halloween classic, Mad Monster Party. While it was not as well-received when it was first televised, the special has since become a cult classic among fans of vintage horror movies. Boris Karloff, Phyllis Diller, Ethel Ennis and Gale Garnett voiced the major characters from Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mumme, the Wolf Man, etc. It tells the story of a mad scientist who achieves the secret of total destruction as he summons all the monsters to his island home to show it off while planning to retire as the head of the “Worldwide Organization of Monsters.”

I just received word this week that Mad Monster Party is headed to a Blu-ray set this May from Umbrella Entertainment, complete with new special features from Justin Beahm’s Reverend Entertainment, with a variety of collectibles included. The film is finally presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio as well as the television format of 1.33:1 presentation which we have all been watching for decades. Special features include new commentary and introductions with Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt, as well as a very special Easter egg you will have to find in the menus. Also present are a newly assembled collection of classic Rankin/Bass trailers, historical featurettes, sing-alongs, image gallery, and more. 


Sealing the monstrous deal are a reproduction of the Dell comic book (with additional material from Rick), enamel pins, and poster. Matt Pott produced the wonderful Mad Monster Party art for the package. And best of all, the Blu-ray is all region! With the exception of The Year without a Santa Claus, all of the Rankin/Bass Christmas (and Easter) Blu-Rays need a redo like this because restoration efforts have not bee impressive. I am not sure if there is going to be a DVD version of this special edition, and it does not appear to be one, but if you are a fan of Mad Monster Party, this is something to cheer for.


You can pre-order here: