Monday, January 25, 2016

Do You Dare Enter? Part Seventy: July/August 1976

The DC Mystery Anthologies 1968-1976
by Peter Enfantino and
Jack Seabrook

Ricardo Villagran
The House of Mystery 243

"Brother Bear"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Franc C. Reyes

"Things Like That Don't Happen"
Story by Sheldon Mayer
Art by Jess Jodloman

Peter: Hunter/tycoon Zebulon Hunt is sentenced to die by electric chair but... for what crime? In a flashback we see that Hunt has a penchant for polar bears and their skins; in fact, he's dressed his entire mansion with pelts and heads. His manservant, Umiak, tells Zeb that he should not be hunting polar bears anymore as it will bring bad juju but the tyrant won't listen. When Zeb jumps in and nails a bear that Umiak was hunting (in an admirable fashion), the gods are disturbed and a price must be paid. Umiak disappears but that doesn't keep the great hunter from his fun and, while out on the frozen tundra, the biggest polar bear ever to cross Zebulon's path practically gives itself up to him. Zeb takes advantage of the free pass and then lops off the head and walks it down to the taxidermist. That's where the trouble starts. Though "Brother Bear" is a variation on a theme we've seen before (several times in a jungle setting with Alfredo Alcala art), Bob Haney (whose work we've been critiquing in our DC War room) manages to pull this one off. I especially liked the fact that, when the payoff comes, Umiak's noggin is never seen, only gasped at, a subtlety we don't see often in these here parts.

Jack: I preferred the second story, "Things Like That Don't Happen," in which a Boardwalk Gypsy King fortune teller machine gets revenge by murdering the no good husband of a decent woman. Jess Jodloman's art is always a bit on the scratchy side but I've gotten used to it, and any story that involves a Boardwalk fortune telling machine already has a leg up in my book. Millie, the gal who is killed, shows admirable skill when she picks the lock on the machine to prop up the Gypsy King after he suddenly falls over.

Something sexual about this panel!

Luis Dominguez
The Witching Hour 64

"The Mark of a Murderer"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by E.R. Cruz

"Mirror of Madness"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Buddy Gernale

"My Mother Was a Witch!"
Story by Carl Wessler
Art by John Calnan

Jack: Poor Julie Burrows! After her father walked out on her and her mother when she was just eight years old, the other kids at school started to pick on her. Good thing she could say that "My Mother Was a Witch!" Mom waves her hand and the bullies regret their behavior. The same fate awaits teachers and parents who don't mind their manners. Two years later, Julie's Mom dies and the girl is sent to an orphanage, where she retaliates against the cruel matron with a little witchcraft of her own. Finally, Dad comes to retrieve her, revealing that he's a warlock and little Julie takes after her old man--Mom was never a witch after all! Wessler and Calnan combine to create a story that barely edges out the other two travesties in this, another forgettable issue of The Witching Hour.

Peter: Wessler and Calnan combine to create a story certain to top my "Worst of the Year" list. Wessler's script is inane but Calnan's amateurish chicken scratches seal the deal. Just plain ugly. Nothing about this story made sense. Julie's dad is sent away by her mom because her mother didn't want anyone to know he was a warlock? Why wouldn't she let dad hang around and help Julie master her skills? Wouldn't that make more sense? None of the stories this issue have a twist ending. They just end. If there's one speck of respectability here, it lies in the artwork E.R. Cruz delivers for "The Mark of a Murderer." Nicely atmospheric. Otherwise, it's the usual issue of The Wretched Hour.

Luis Dominguez
Unexpected 174

"Gauntlet of Fear"
Story by George Kashdan
Art by Don Perlin

"Sands of Time"
Story by uncredited
Art by Rich Buckler

"The Long Arms of Death"
Story by Weshley Marsh (Murray Boltinoff)
Art by Fred Carrillo

Jack: Gerald left England to become secretary to a wealthy man in India, but all he can think about is the man's pretty but lonely daughter, Kaleli. Ignoring the father's warnings to stay away from his daughter, Gerald turns on the charm and before you know it he tells Pop he wants to marry the gal. Oddly enough, she never wants to go for a swim, or dance, or basically do anything involving removing her shawl. Gerald tells Kaleli he bought airline tickets for the both of them and, when he robs her Dad's safe, he is surprised by his employer, who tells him to keep the cash but leave the girl alone. Gerald kills the boss and is attacked by his bodyguards, but soon Kaleli grabs them and Gerald sees that she is Kali, the ten-armed goddess. She does not cotton to his suggestion that they go to London and have eight of her arms removed by a surgeon, so she gives him a great big ten-armed hug and crushes him to death.

"The Long Arms of Death" is easily the most fun story in this issue of Unexpected, which also features a dreadful entry by Kashdan and Perlin and a two-page flop by Rich Buckler.

How many arms does
she have on the cover?

Peter: With the cover illustration and a "stunning beauty" named Kaleli, I sure never saw that shock ending coming! But I thought the highlight of the issue was the delightfully dumb "Gauntlet of Fear," in which psychiatrist Dr. Terrell is hired by the President of a "remote tiny republic" to help soothe his fears of assassination. The doc is kidnapped by The Great Bajir, an evil and rotund terrorist whose goal is to brainwash the headshrinker into murdering the President. Bajir's personal fear of dirt (!) becomes his undoing in the end. "Gauntlet" has a script that's one part Man From U.N.C.L.E. and six parts dopiness and art by one of the crown princes of mediocrity that suits its inanity. Hell, at least it's a lot more fun than 90% of the swill that's being presented as professional comic book material this month.

Luis Dominguez
The House of Mystery 244

Story by George Kashdan
Art by Frank Thorne

"Your Epitaph is Only a Birthday Card"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Frank Reyes

Peter: Doug Moench gives us a little bit of the deep preaching he became famous for over at Marvel with "Your Epitaph..." Two men discuss reincarnation and the afterlife in a hospital waiting room while, unbeknownst to them, a barbarian's soul drifts through space, waiting to be reborn. In the end, one man's friend dies a peaceful death and the other becomes a father (to a very young barbarian, no doubt). The reason why Moench's near-sermon about how to live life works here whereas it never worked in, say, his awful contributions to the Frankenstein series in Monsters Unleashed, is that, by 1976, the writer had honed his skills. Sure, there's a bit of the pretentiousness found in his Marvel work but, seemingly, Moench had finally learned to rein in not only his purple prose but also his firm belief that the world was going to hell in a bucket and everyone was out to get the young man. I'm more open to listening to the message if I don't think the messenger is full of shit. The issue's opener, "Kronos--Zagros--Eborak," about a lawyer in the Public Defender's office who's assigned to investigate a satanic worship ring, sports nice visuals from newcomer Frank Thorne (whose work on Red Sonja is being discussed, as we speak, over at Marvel University) and a clever twist in the tale. Overall, a decent issue of House of Mystery.

Jack: I liked the Frank Thorne story and I, too, was surprised by the twist ending. The only laugh out loud moment for me was the disguise worn by the lawyer when he goes to investigate the satanic cult--he looks like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch! The Moench story seemed preachy and obvious to me, and the art made me long for the good old days when Gil Kane drew the sword and sorcery stories for the DC horror line.

Lawyer in

Huggy Bear

Luis Dominguez
Ghosts 48

"Showdown with a Specter"
Story Uncredited
Art by Tenny Henson

"The Phantom Head"
Story Uncredited
Art by Buddy Gernale

"The Girl Who Inherited a Ghost"
Story Uncredited
Art by Gene Ureta

Jack: In the summer of '68, Villem Kruger takes his wife and little boy to a remote part of South Africa, where he explores the rubble that remains of his late grandfather's diamond mine. Little does he know that he's about to have a "Showdown with a Specter!" The ghost is that of a laborer who died when the mine caved in, and he vows revenge on Villem, the grandson of the cruel mine owner. That night, Villem's son Jan disappears, and Villem follows him into the mine, where he is confronted by the specter. The boy volunteers to sacrifice himself in place of his father, but the ghost reveals that the boy is adopted and thus not a blood relative to the mine owner of long ago. Impressed by the boy's courage and by the father's willingness to adopt a child, the ghost decides to let bygones be bygones and heads off to his final rest.

This is one of several stores we've seen that are drawn by Tenny Henson, and it looks like the work of a young artist with a lot of promise. At this stage in his career, Henson's strength seems to be in portraying beautiful blondes! I liked this story a lot, especially the ending where the ghost changed his mind and respected the kindness and self-sacrifice of Villem and his son. This was my favorite story of this two-month period.

One other comment--I think "Gene Ureta," who signed the last story in this issue, must be a pseudonym. The art is very strong and has echoes of Gene Colan as well as some panels that look like Neal Adams stopped by to ink them. "Gene Ureta" has no other credits anywhere. Ever.

Peter: Other than the decent art of Tenny Henson, there's not a lot to get excited by in this issue of Ghosts. "The Phantom Head" is another of those stories I would imagine was scribed by the most prolific of Ghosts' writers, Leo Dorfman. I can imagine Dorfman, sitting in his office, opening Encyclopedia Britannica volumes with his eyes closed, and pointing his finger at some random subject. In this case, Leo's finger stopped on Michelangelo.

The Second Flight of
Enemy Ace!
Exclusively in the 71st Issue of
Star Spangled DC War Stories!
On Sale February 1st!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Hitchcock Project-Robert C. Dennis Part Fourteen: "Martha Mason, Movie Star" [2.34]

by Jack Seabrook

"Martha Mason, Movie Star," which aired in CBS on Sunday, May 19, 1957, was based on a short story called "Martha Myers, Movie Star" by Raymond Mason that was first published as the lead story in the second issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, dated January 1957.

Though Mabel is mousy and in her mid-thirties, she thinks she resembles a movie star named Martha Myers. Her husband Henry annoys her and she wishes he spent more than one night a week at the lodge. One evening, Henry calls her down to the basement to see his garden and she takes the opportunity to brain him with a hammer and bury him in the large hole he had dug. She disguises the area by burying potted plants and then types out a note from Henry in which he apologizes to her for running away with another woman.

The next day, she calls Henry's boss and reads him the letter. For the next week, she entertains a string of sympathetic neighbors; Mabel enjoys the attention until she receives a visit from Officer Merkin, who invites her down to the station to fill out a missing persons report. At the station, Merkin receives a phone call and then tells Mabel that they found Henry's body. It seems a "cheap blonde" had gone to the police to inform them that Henry could not have run away with another woman because she is the other woman, with whom he spent every Thursday night when Mabel thought he was at the lodge.

Henry tells Mabel the truth!

Mason's story is very funny and the ironic twist ending is of almost secondary importance to the portrait of a delusional woman for whom murder becomes a means to gain attention. It features much more narrative than dialogue, which must have made it challenging to adapt for television. The FictionMags Index lists three short stories by Raymond Mason, all appearing in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine in 1957 or 1958. I also located five paperback originals by this author in the same time period:

And Two Shall Meet (1954)

Forever is Today (1955)

Love After Five (1956)

Bedeviled (1960)

Someone and Felicia Warwick (1962)

The back cover copy for Forever is Today states that Mason was "this generation's spokesman for the young and the damned," but what that means is anyone's guess. All of the novels but Bedeviled were in the Gold Medal series. I queried Bill Crider about whether Raymond Mason might have been a pseudonym, but he was not aware of it being anything but the author's real name. This was the only time a story by Mason was adapted for television or film, according to IMDb.

Robert C. Dennis adapted "Martha Myers, Movie Star" for Alfred Hitchcock Presents  and the title was changed to "Martha Mason, Movie Star," but the show falls flat. It begins as Mabel wakes up and Henry brings her coffee. Their conversation establishes their unhapy relationship and her homely night headwear stands in stark contrast with the lovely movie star whom she emulates.

In the next scene, we see Mabel come out of a movie theater where a movie called Forgotten Woman is playing; she mimics a pose of Martha Mason's in front of a poster outside the theater. Mabel later arrives home to find Henry working in his garden. In the show, his garden is in the yard, unlike the story, where it is in the basement, an odd place to try to grow things! She suggests divorce and he ridicules the idea, then she picks up a hammer and kills him. The scene tries to be comedic, or so it seems from the jaunty, inappropriate music that accompanies the violent murder--I call it violent even though her weak swing with the tool appears unlikely to harm anyone, much less result in the death of her large husband.

Robert Emhardt as Henry
As she shovels dirt on top of the corpse, Mabel speaks her thoughts in voice over in florid terms like those Martha Mason might use in a movie role. The next day, she wakes to the alarm and the phone rings; Henry's boss, Mr. Abernathy calls and she lies to him, telling him that Henry left a note. Unlike the story, where she has already forged the note and reads it to Abernathy over the phone, in the TV show she holds a blank sheet of paper and he tells her he'll be right out. She rushes to the typewriter and completes the fake note just as the boss arrives. A mild feeling of suspense is ruined by more inappropriate musical cues.

Abernathy comes in, reads the note out loud, and consoles her. He tells her to go shopping and cheer up. She returns at some later time to find Abernathy admiring Henry's garden. They go inside and he tells her that word is all over town about Henry. These two scenes with Abernathy visiting the house replace the scenes in the story where she receives visits from all of the neighbors--perhaps Dennis thought it was easier to limit the number of characters, or perhaps the budget was low for this episode.

Judith Evelyn as Mabel
When Abernathy suggests that Mabel's behavior might have contributed to Henry's decision to leave, she impetuously calls the police and demands that Henry be arrested for deserting her. The detective then comes to interview her, making his visit the result of her phone call rather than being unexpected, as it is in the story. She arrives at the police station and the show concludes as does the story; here, she swoons and is caught by a policeman, her pose mirroring that of the poster she had imitated outside the movie theater.

"Martha Mason, Movie Star" is dragged down by an average script and unimaginative direction. Judith Evelyn is not likable as Mabel and Robert Emhardt is not on screen long enough as Henry. The story by Raymond Mason is entertaining but the TV adaptation is much less so.

Not very threatening!
Director Justus Addiss (1917-1979) was at the helm of ten episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents; the last one examined in this series was another disappointing half-hour: "Nightmare in 4-D." He directed episodic TV from 1953 to 1968.

Judith Evelyn (1909-1967) was born Evelyn Morris and was on screen from 1946 to 1962. She appeared in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) and William Castle's The Tingler (1959) and she was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Guilty Witness," where she also played a woman scorned who murders her husband.

Robert Emhardt (1913-1994) was a wonderful actor who appeared on stage and screen from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. He was seen on the Hitchcock show seven times, including "Don't Come Back Alive," "DeMortuis," and "The Right Kind of House." It is always a treat to watch Emhardt at work.

Vinton Hayworth
Playing Mr. Abernathy is Vinton Hayworth (1906-1970), who started on radio in the 1920s, moved into movies in the 1930s and then began a long TV career in the 1940s. He was the president of AFTRA from 1951 to 1954 and the uncle of both Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers. He was a regular on I Dream of Jeannie from 1968 to 1970 and may be seen in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Night of the Execution."

Finally, Rusty Lane (1899-1986) plays the detective. Lane got his start in movies in 1945 and was often on TV beginning in 1950; his nine appearances on the Hitchcock show include "None Are So Blind," "The Test," and "I Saw the Whole Thing."

Rusty Lane
"Martha Mason, Movie Star" is available on DVD here or may be viewed online for free here.

Thanks to Peter Enfantino for providing a copy of the original story!


"The FictionMags Index." The FictionMags Index. 7 Jan. 2016.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001.

IMDb. 7 Jan. 2015.

"Martha Mason, Movie Star." Alfred Hitchcock Presents. CBS. 19 May 1957.

Mason, Raymond. "Martha Myers, Movie Star." Alfred Hitchcock's A Mystery By the Tale. Ed. Cathleen Jordan. NY: Davis Pub., 1986. 123-131.

Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 8 Jan. 2015.

In two weeks: "A Little Sleep," featuring Vic Morrow and Barbara Cook!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Classic Film Spotlight — William Castle's "The Night Walker" (1964)

by Peter Enfantino, Christine Scoleri, John Scoleri and Jack Seabrook

The Night Walker (1964)
A Universal Picture
Directed by William Castle
Screenplay by Robert Bloch
Music by Vic Mizzy
Starring Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Judith Meredith and Lloyd Bochner.

John: William Castle. Robert Bloch. Vic Mizzy. I know we're here to celebrate Barbara Stanwyck, but man, what a lineup! I'm sure many of you are thinking--what gimmick did Castle have up his sleeve this time? Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you. The Night Walker is not only gimmick-free, it also lacks an introductory appearance from the jovial director. Instead, we get an interesting and somewhat surreal prologue about dreams narrated by none other than the great Paul Frees, which ends with a bizarre image of an eyeball in a closed fist.

Peter: That intro goes on and on and... I thought we'd never get to the film itself. Little did I know, once we got to the film, that was about as good as it gets.

Christine: Perhaps the gimmick was to get Barbara Stanwyck and ex-hubby, Robert Taylor, together for this film.

Jack: They seem pretty chummy--you wouldn't know they had been divorced in real life.

John: I think you’re right. In his autobiography, the fantastic Step Right Up! I’m Gonna Scare the Pants off America, Castle said, “I felt the declining box office on my next picture, The Night Walker, co-starring Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, both big stars that I felt would be strong enough to pull customers in. The picture played to almost empty theaters.”

Christine: I have seen many of Barbara Stanwyck's movies from the 1930s and '40s and it's great to see that she retains the same energy and acting talent here in her last feature film that has always made her a pleasure to watch. Including Stanwyck in a film automatically elevates its potential. Some sources state that Castle originally offered the part of Irene Trent to Joan Crawford, though I have not found much evidence to support the veracity of that claim. Although Crawford made an excellent axe-murderess in the previous Castle-Bloch feature, Strait-Jacket, I think that Stanwyck is the better choice for this role. Get a load of the way this lady screams. Yowza!

Jack: Does the five-note musical phrase that plays over and over remind anyone else of "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver!? I kept waiting for Barbara Stanwyck to ask for more.

John: It didn't until you mentioned it. I'm just glad I had already watched the film!

Peter: Actually, Jack, the guitar bit reminded me of the intro to "2000 Light Years From Home" off Their Satanic Majesties Request by The Rolling Stones. Perhaps Mick and Keef were William Castle fans?

Christine: So, right off the bat, in creepy Castle fashion, we've got a milky-eyed guy, who looks like something bad happened to his face, leering over the bed of a woman while she whispers sweet nothings to her dream lover in her sleep. Shortly thereafter, we find out it's her freaky husband who also enjoys making recordings of her intimate vivid dreams. I love the way Stanwyck delivers the line, "My lover is only a dream, but he's still more of a man than you!" as only she could when he confronts her on her somnambulant infidelity. Now I've just got to wonder, what is this important work he's doing up in his lab, and why would a blind man go exploring the cause of a smoky explosion? We can surmise the cause of his blindness and disfigurement.

John: What was it exactly that brought these two lovebirds together? The explosion in the lab might have been the best thing to happen to Howard Trent (Hayden Rorke). Fortunately, it’s well-isolated, so a quick padlock on the door and the house is A-OK for the new widow, Irene. Unfortunately, she wants out of the place, pronto.

Peter: I like when the arson detective says the blast created a temperature so intense it melted everything beyond recognition... all while he's surrounded by damaged but still pretty recognizable equipment.

John: Howard's attorney, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor), informs her that while she’ll inherit Trent’s fortune, she can’t sell the house just yet, so she chooses to shack up in the apartment behind the old beauty shop she used to manage (Irene’s — natch!).

John: Fortunately for Irene, the literal man of her dreams (Lloyd Bochner) is not turned off by her newly-claimed widowhood. It gives him the perfect opportunity to pop the question.

John: Aside from the Vic Mizzy score, to me the creepiest thing about the movie was their dream wedding sequence with a mannequin priest and witnesses. And rather than just relying on the voiceover dialog, Castle had the characters shaken when they were speaking, which added to the eerie effect.

Peter: Though I liked the Mizzy score (of course, it doesn't hold a candle to his themes from Green Acres and The Addams Family), I thought in several scenes (most notably when Irene is explaining her dreams to Barry), the music is intrusive and threatens to distract the viewer from the dialogue. Of course, considering that the dialogue isn't all that good, that may be the point.

Christine: Nothing says bad dream like wax figures at a wedding. The dramatic organ music helps create the nightmarish atmosphere. This is my favorite part of the whole film.

John: The shot of the organ playing while the unmoving hands hovered above the moving keys reminded me of another Vic Mizzy favorite, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken! Sadly for Irene, her former (toasted) husband also received an invitation to the nuptials.

Christine: Do you think William Castle may have seen "The Cheaters"?
"The Cheaters" episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller
John: Hmmm... that episode of Thriller was based on a Robert Bloch story. Can you believe that behind that make-up, Irene's dead husband is Dr. Bellows from I Dream of Jeannie? Hayden Rorke also played a role in another Robert Bloch penned episode of Thriller, "The Devil's Ticket."

Jack: Barbara Eden later wrote that Rorke was "unashamedly gay" and his partner was a TV director named Justus Addiss. I never suspected! He wasn't campy like Paul Lynde or Charles Nelson Reilly.

John: There’s nothing like your ex showing up at your wedding to send you off into a strange psychedelic dream within a dream sequence… a screenshot doesn’t even do this one justice!

Christine: Heads spinning, candelabra spinning, melted ex-husband...obviously someone drugged the champagne.

John: Scream and scream again! I don't think I ever thought of Barbara Stanwyck as being a scream queen, but she certainly pays her dues in this film.

Christine: She was warming up for this in Sorry, Wrong Number. She has an impressive lung capacity for someone who had reportedly been smoking since she was nine years old.

John: Joyce (Judith Meredith), the new gal at Irene’s beauty shop, has an interesting technique to make Irene feel better… but it turns out she’s more involved in the plot than even Irene knows.

Jack: Judith Meredith spiced up the movie for a few minutes but never had much of a career.

John: Of course, that results in her ending up in Irene’s bedroom in the middle of the night with a knife in her back!

Christine: Irene was apparently all out of screams by this time.

John: This is where things sadly fell apart for me. All of the build-up to this point leads to a revelation straight out of Scooby Doo, and while there are a few twists in the final minutes, it basically amounts to everyone being ‘in on it’ with the exception of Irene. 

Peter: I thought, aside from the set-up scenes which were tense and showed promise, The Night Walker was a sloooooow burn that never went anywhere. I sure liked it when I was a kid. Scared the hell out of me, but then so did my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Stack. Difference is, I don't have to revisit him forty years later to find out he was just a big pussy cat.

Christine: Despite William Castle's warning, I don't believe many viewers will be forced to dream of secret desires they're ashamed to admit as a result of watching this movie. It is a bit of a let down after the way it was built-up, but I enjoyed the unexpected twists at the end, and Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor make it an entertaining ride that's worth watching. Vic Mizzy's music makes it all the more delightful. The Night Walker's lack of success may have had something to do with Stanwyck's decision to work exclusively in television henceforth. Apparently she complained that she was only offered parts thereafter about "grandmothers who eat their children."

John: When all was said and done, The Night Walker reminded me of one of those episodes of Boris Karloff's Thriller that led you to believe something supernatural was at play, only to reveal at the climax that it was not supernatural at all. That said, I still think it’s a fun entry in William Castle’s filmography.

Peter: Not Robert Bloch's finest moment.
Legendary poster artist
Reynold Brown's art for The Night Walker.
Michael Avallone's tie-in paperback.
Note that Robert Bloch's name is highlighted