Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Hitchcock Project-Jerry Sohl Part Three: A Secret Life [6.33] and wrapup

by Jack Seabrook

James Howgill thinks that his marriage to Marjorie has grown dull, so he tells her that he wants out. She calmly responds that she does not believe in divorce, but he insists that he is leaving both her and their house in London. After a brief holiday in Italy, James returns to London and settles in a small apartment. A few months pass and he consults Johnstone, his lawyer, about a divorce. Finding no legal basis for one, Johnstone suggests hiring a detective to watch Marjorie to see if she is having an affair.

Howgill hires a detective named Bates, whose men begin to watch Marjorie. Soon, they report that she has an active social life, much to her husband's surprise. As the days pass and the reports of her dates, dinners, and shows pile up, James begins to feel jealous. Finally, when Marjorie is seen with notorious international playboy Lucio Ambrosini, James has had enough and confronts his wife.

"Secret Life" was
first published here
When he asks her where she has been, she claims that she took a holiday and stayed with friends in Scotland. James is certain that she is lying but will not confront her because he does not want to reveal that he hired a detective. Once again, he finds her tantalizing and feels protective of her. For her part, Marjorie decides not to tell James that she rented the house to a film actress while she was away, concerned that he is too strait-laced to understand.

"Secret Life" by Nicholas Monsarrat is a delightful short story with a surprise ending that is impossible to predict. As the reports from the detectives grow wilder and wilder, the reader wonders what is going on; is Marjorie really leading this busy social life? Is she doing it to win back James? Or is it some sort of plot concocted by the lawyer to make James jealous and push him back into his wife's arms? If so, why? The solution, that the detectives were reporting on the activities of an entirely different woman, is perfect, as is the final scene where both James and Marjorie hide the truth from each other and return to their prior state of happiness.

Ronald Howard as James
The challenge in adapting "Secret Life" for the small screen lies in how to show the woman living a busy social life and dating various men without revealing that she is not Marjorie. On the page, this is no problem, but on the screen, it presents difficulties. Do you avoid showing her face and cast two actresses who resemble each other at a distance? Do you delete the initial scene featuring James and Marjorie, so when the viewer sees her with other men, they don't realize that it's not her? Or do you portray the whole thing through the reports of the detective, without showing the woman at all?

Unfortunately, Jerry Sohl's adaptation of the short story for Alfred Hitchcock Presents removes much of its charm, resulting in a rather dull and unsatisfying episode. Musical stings set a comedic tone right away and the first scene follows that of the story, with narrative replaced by dialogue. Ronald Howard's performance as James is awkward, as if he doesn't know what balance to strike between pathos and humor, and this makes his character's behavior seem unreal and inexplicable.

Mary Murphy as Estelle
There is a dissolve to the second scene, which opens with a title card announcing that the location is Acapulco, Mexico; the London setting of the story has been moved to Los Angeles, so when James takes a short vacation, it's to Mexico rather than Italy. In the story, a brief affair with a French girl is mentioned, but in the show, this relationship is expanded. James is shown dancing with Estelle, a younger woman, and they end up lying together on the sand. Her youth and vivacity contrast with staid, older Marjorie and also with James: Ronald Howard was 43, Patricia Donohue (Marjorie) was 36, and Mary Murphy (Estelle) was 30. Sohl's teleplay consolidates James's affairs, both in Italy and in London, into one continuing relationship with Estelle, who mentions his wife. This spurs James to see his lawyer on returning home.

The scene with the lawyer is similar to the one in the story, but in the next scene, Bates meets James at the art gallery James runs; the detective assures his new client that he is a private investigator, not a private eye, remarking that "'you mustn't confuse the genuine article with what passes for him on television.'" Arrangements are made and we next see Bates standing watch outside the Howgill house, wearing a knowing smile as he observes a fancy convertible parked in front after dark. Bates reports to Howgill in person at the gallery, rather than in writing, and at this point, the show veers away from the short story.

Revealing for 1961 TV!
We next see James at Estelle's apartment, where he seems to be a regular visitor. Though his girlfriend is younger than his wife and is wearing as revealing a top as an actress could wear on TV in 1961, James seems bored and distant, as he did in the first scene with Marjorie. Instead of having James gradually become jealous as he reads report after report, he demonstrates that he is losing interest in Estelle as he becomes jealous in regard to Marjorie. In the story, he is alone and thinks his wife is seeing other men; in the show, he is carrying on an affair of his own.

James claims to have a late appointment at the gallery and leaves Estelle at her apartment to head to his house, where he sees many parked cars and hears loud music coming from inside. Before he can enter, Bates calls out to him and tells him that the convertible belongs to "'Niles Brandon, the actor'"--the short story's European aspects have been Americanized. James returns to Estelle's apartment and is distracted; she confronts him about his lie that he was going to the gallery. There is a brief cut back to Bates, who smiles knowingly as he sees the lights go out in the Howgill house, checks his watch and leaves, and we return to Estelle's apartment, where she is angry and James is preoccupied. He receives a phone call from Bates and Estelle throws him out and ends their relationship, though when he leaves without complaint, she looks both surprised and disappointed.

Patricia Donohue as Marjorie
In the morning, James returns home. Marjorie says that she was visiting a friend in San Francisco (not Scotland) and he kisses her passionately. On a subsequent day, flowers are delivered to Marjorie with a loving note from James and she answers the door to admit Miss Perry, the film actress who had rented the house. Here, Sohl's teleplay makes a fatal error in changing the events of the short story. Miss Perry, who has a similar build and hairstyle to Marjorie, comes to pick up a cigarette lighter that she left behind. As the women chat, James emerges and meets the actress. Marjorie tells him that Miss Perry sublet the house for the whole time she was in San Francisco and there is a musical sting as the truth dawns on James. Miss Perry leaves and James confirms the truth with Marjorie, agreeing that it was lucky that she was able to sublet the house while she was away.

Arte Johnson as Bates
This change in the surprise ending removes the short story's charm. In the story, James believes that he has good reason to be jealous and possessive of the wife he suddenly finds desirable again, in part because he thinks that her personality is different from the one with which he had grown bored. Marjorie keeps the knowledge of the sublet to herself, not because she understands that it brought James back to her, but because she thinks that he would not approve. In this way, the married couple reunite and are happy once again. In the TV show, Marjorie has no concerns with telling James about the sublet and, when he discovers what was really going on at his house, he appears somewhat crestfallen but admits that it led to a reconciliation. The result is much less satisfying for the viewer.

"Secret Life" was published in the March 7, 1959 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Retitled "A Secret Life," it was adapted for television and broadcast on Alfred Hitchcock Presents on NBC on Tuesday, May 30, 1961, near the end of the show's sixth season. Nicholas Monsarrat (1910-1979), who wrote the short story, was an English author who served in WWII and who wrote novels beginning in 1934, including The Cruel Sea (1951) and The Tribe That Lost Its Head (1956). He also wrote short stories from 1943 to 1974. His works were adapted for film and television, including two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Addison Richards as Johnson
Don Weis (1922-2000) directed the TV version. He started in movies in 1951 but from 1954 to 1990 worked mostly in episodic television. He directed The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953) and episodes of The Twilight Zone, Batman, The Night Stalker, and many others. His five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents also included "Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid." An interesting article about Weis's career was published here.

Starring as James Howgill is Ronald Howard (1918-1996), son of British actor Leslie Howard (Gone with the Wind). Born in London, he was on screen from 1936 to 1975 and starred as Sherlock Holmes on a TV series that ran in the 1954-55 season. He was on Thriller three times and Alfred Hitchcock Presents twice; his other appearance was a superb performance in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."

Meri Welles as Miss Perry
Mary Murphy (1931-2011) receives second billing as Estelle. She was on screen from 1951 to 1975 and appeared in The Wild One (1953). She was in an episode of The Outer Limits and this was her only role on the Hitchcock show.

Playing Marjorie is Patricia Donohue (1925-2012), whose career on screen was mostly spent on TV from 1956 to 1984. Born Patricia Mahar, she was on the Hitchcock show twice ("Dear Uncle George" was her other appearance) and on Night Gallery twice, but her most memorable role was as the nasty wife on the classic Twilight Zone episode, "A Stop at Willoughby."

In smaller roles:
  • Arte Johnson (1929-2019) as Bates; he served in Korea and then had a long career on screen from 1954 to 2005. He was also on episodes of The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery and did voice work in cartoons, but he is most famous for his work on the TV series Laugh-In from 1967-1971, for which he won an Emmy in 1969.
  • Addison Richards (1902-1964) as Johnson, the lawyer; he had countless small roles in film and on TV from 1933 to 1964 and was in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Meri Welles (1939-1973) as Miss Perry, the actress; she was on screen from 1959 to 1970  and had a role in Little Shop of Horrors (1960) as the blonde whom Seymour meets by a park bench, accidentally knocks out with a rock, and then feeds to his carnivorous plant. She was in three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Madame Mystery."
Florence MacMichael is also credited with appearing in this episode; The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion says she plays Mrs. Hackett, but I see no such character in the show. Perhaps she has a bit part as the Howgills' maid, Nancy?

Read "Secret Life" online here, watch "A Secret Life" online here, or order the DVD here.

"Secret Life" was adapted once more for television by Ray Russell and broadcast as "The Reconciliation" on Tales of the Unexpected on September 16, 1984. This time, the teleplay follows the short story much more closely and the show is more entertaining than the Alfred Hitchcock Presents version. The humorous elements are almost completely removed, there is no character like Estelle, and the actress does not appear at the end to tip James off as to what has happened. Better still, the setting is England, as it is in the story, and James's actions are believable. In the final scene, his wife receives a telephone call and learns that James had a detective watching her; we hear the voice on the other end of the line and realize that another woman had rented the house. As in the short story, the wife keeps her counsel and is happy to reconcile with her husband without him being any the wiser. The entire episode is well done and clearly was adapted from the short story, not the prior TV version. Watch the Tales of the Unexpected version here and judge for yourself!



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


Monsarrat, Nicholas. "Secret Life." The Saturday Evening Post, 7 Mar. 1959, pp. 22-23, 90, 92.

"A Secret Life." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 6, episode 33, NBC, 30 May 1961.

Stephensen-Payne, Phil. Galactic Central,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

*  *  *  *  *

Jerry Sohl on Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Overview and Episode Guide

Jerry Sohl wrote four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that aired between November 1959 and May 1961, two in season five and two in season six. "Dead Weight" is a strong episode with a tight script, while "Not the Running Type" adopts a story by Henry Slesar and leans toward comedy. The clever twist may be why Norman Lloyd said this was one of the series' most popular episodes.

"The Doubtful Doctor" is also a comedic episode, where Sohl improves upon a very good short story by removing extraneous characters and focusing on the relationship between the two main characters. "A Secret Life" is a disappointment, in which Sohl added comedic elements to a more serious short story and made it less satisfying.

None of Sohl's four episodes are among the series' best, but "Dead Weight" and "The Doubtful Doctor" are worth watching.

                                                                               *  *  *  *  *


Episode title-"Dead Weight" [5.9]
Broadcast date-22 November 1959
Teleplay by-Jerry Sohl
Based on an unpublished story by Herb Golden
First print appearance-none
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"Not the Running Type" [5.19]
Broadcast date-7 February 1960
Teleplay by-Jerry Sohl
Based on "Not the Running Type" by Henry Slesar
First print appearance-Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, January 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"The Doubtful Doctor" [6.2]
Broadcast date-4 October 1960
Teleplay by-Jerry Sohl
Based on "The Doubtful Doctor" by Louis Paul
First print appearance-The Saturday Evening Post, 2 April 1960
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Episode title-"A Secret Life" [6.33]
Broadcast date-31 May 1961
Teleplay by-Jerry Sohl
Based on "Secret Life" by Nicholas Monsarrat
First print appearance-The Saturday Evening Post, 7 March 1959
Watch episode-here
Available on DVD?-yes

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Better Bargain" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Flight to the East" here!

In two weeks: Our look at episodes written by Leigh Brackett begins with "Death of a Cop," starring Victor Jory!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Tales to Keep You Awake: Adapting Fredric Brown’s “Nightmare in Yellow” in Spain

by Gabriel Cubillo

The May 1961 issue of The Dude, a men’s magazine, featured Fredric Brown’s "Five Nightmares," a series of short shorts that included "Nightmare in Yellow," the story of a murder. In the story, a man awakens on his fortieth birthday, planning to kill his wife and run off with money he has embezzled. He takes her to dinner and he takes her home, where he kills her on the front porch. When he opens the door, he is shocked that his friends have staged a surprise birthday party; they are shocked to see that he holds his wife’s corpse in his arms.

"Nightmare in Yellow" was translated into Spanish in 1965 and published in volume six of Narraciones Terroríficas (Terrifying Stories), part of a series of anthologies of tales of terror that featured writers from different times and places. In this volume, Arthur Machen, Robert E. Howard, and Joseph Payne Brennan share space with Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and Fredric Brown, along with several Spanish authors, both classic and modern. I think it’s probable that Chicho Ibáñez Serrador picked up this book while looking for ideas for a new horror TV series he was developing at the time.

Chicho Ibáñez Serrador
Chicho Ibáñez Serrador (1935-2019) was one of the most successful creators in the history of Television Española, the Spanish public--and at that time, only--television channel. He was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and spent his early childhood in Spain, but he left the country in search of new horizons. He began a successful career in Argentinian TV before returning to Spain. Ibáñez Serrador specialized in genre fiction, mainly science fiction and terror, and when he arrived in Spain, he began to remake his Argentinian hits. After achieving success with a series titled Mañana puede ser verdad (Tomorrow it may be true), he started to develop a new series called Historias para no dormir (Tales to keep you awake). It was a big hit and is still well remembered by older viewers who, even if they have forgotten the details of every episode, remember the opening sequence that depicted the shadow of a door closing, with the sound of slamming and a cry. Chicho kept working in Spanish television for decades and produced some very successful shows, notably a quiz show called Un dos tres responda otra vez (One two three answer again), which ran for several seasons.

No doubt imitating Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he opened every chapter of Historias para no dormir with an introduction filled with humor and the macabre. In the first episode, he provided a statement of intent for the series: he wanted to give new life to the old terror genre. Instead of crypts, chains, and pits, he wanted a more psychological--and cheaply produced-- approach. The first episode was titled "El cumpleaños" ("The birthday"), an adaptation of "Nightmare in Yellow." It was broadcast on February 4th, 1966, and it was the shortest episode of the whole series, running just 12 minutes.

Rafael Navarro in El Cumpleaños
The star of the show is the husband, played by Rafael Navarro, a well-established supporting actor at the time, whose voice was better known to the public than his face (he dubbed in Spanish, among others, Charlton Heston, Robert Taylor, Glenn Ford, and Humphrey Bogart). Indeed, his voice is omnipresent from the disturbing first frame, which depicts an extreme closeup of an eye opening. The voiceover monologue is interrupted only by brief dialogue at the airport and a few words from the husband. The images illustrate and underline the narration. Only in the final scene are the visuals allowed to bear the weight of the story, while the voice is silent.

The eye is that of the husband, nameless, as in the short story, who tells us that it is Saturday, January 22, 1966, his 50th birthday (he has aged ten years from the short story) and the day of his liberation: he is going to kill his wife and run off with a pile of money. From this point, the script, credited to Luis Peñafiel (in fact, a pseudonym of Ibáñez Serrador), keeps most of the plot elements from Brown’s story but makes some changes and additions in order to extend a very short story and to emphasize the more sinister aspects of the plot, pushing the tale into darker shadows to chill the audience and make it fit more neatly into the terror genre. In the teleplay, the husband has not yet committed robbery but plans to do it today. He is a psychopath who hates his wife because she is boring and obsessed with order and tidiness. Navarro plays the part with a fake smile on his face and condescension in his voice. The wife and his colleagues are slightly distorted by the camera angles, which show the way he thinks of them while he continues to smile at them. He keeps a large knife in his suitcase and plans to use it on his wife.

The man is also looking for new sexual partners and lusts after sexy stewardesses he sees at the airport. He stands before his front door and tells the viewer that he plans to kill his wife on that spot; conveniently, the neighbors are away for the weekend. In Brown’s short story, the man insists on murdering his wife precisely at 8:46 p.m., the exact minute when he turns forty years old. In the TV version, this is less clear.
El Cumpleaños looks like it could be taking place anywhere, except for the presence of a Sereno, the character who walks alongside the couple when they are coming back after dinner; in some Spanish cities, a Sereno oversaw opening and closing the neighborhood gates at night.

I suspect Chicho chose "Nightmare in Yellow" to adapt because he thought that it could be easily and cheaply done, because of its great twist ending, which fit the tone he intended for the series and, of course, because it was a delightful story. The episode can be viewed on YouTube. In the photo to the right, the two diamonds shown briefly in a corner after the title were used to display the rating of the program: one diamond meant that the show was appropriate for viewers over 14 years old, while two diamonds meant it was for viewers at least 18 years old. Historias para no dormir was for adults only!

Thirty years later, viewers were more visually sophisticated, and it took more to surprise them. The short film Esposados (1996) was almost certainly influenced by the 1966 TV show. Brown’s influence remains, however faint. The 24-minute film was written by Jesús Olmo and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and fails to credit Fredric Brown or Chicho Ibáñez Serrador. Fresnadillo also directed the film, which was an instant success and which was nominated for an Academy Award. This short film, which was followed in 2001 by his first feature film, Intacto (2001), aroused the interest of the American film industry; Fresnadillo went on to direct 28 Weeks Later (2007) and Intruders (2011), among others.

Pedro Mari Sánchez in Esposados
IMDb calls the film Linked, but Esposados has additional meanings in Spanish: it can mean "married" (esposo and esposa are Spanish for husband and wife), but the main meaning is "handcuffed." Fresnadillo calls the film a "black story… a husband who wants to kill his wife and run away to Brazil with the money she won in the lottery."

The only elements of "Nightmare in Yellow" that remain in Esposados are a husband who wants to kill his wife, a celebration on the last day, and the surprise ending, here with an added twist. While El cumpleaños added sex and the lure of Brazil as motivating factors, Fresnadillo uses those bricks to construct a different building. He acknowledges these sources through the black and white cinematography, the music in the first scenes, a closeup of an eye as the film’s first shot, and even the mustache that Antonio, the husband, wears. Yet he constructs another kind of story. In El Cumpleaños, as in the short story, everything builds up to the final surprise. Esposados, on the other hand, takes its time telling a more complicated tale in a different way.

"Nightmare in Yellow"
was first published here
The characters, nameless in both short story and 1966 TV episode, are now named Antonio and Concha, and they are played by Pedro Mari Sánchez and Anabel Alonso, well-known actors in Spain. As a child, Pedro Mari Sánchez appeared in the TV series Mañana puede ser verdad and Historias para no dormir, both of which were produced by Chicho.

The wife, voiceless in El cumpleaños, becomes the dominant figure in the short film. The story is told visually and the minimal dialogue adds little to the understanding of the plot, as viewers not fluent in Spanish can confirm. Antonio and Concha are not the well-to-do couple of El cumpleaños but rather working-class people dreaming of a better life. The husband is unemployed and the wife works as a cashier in a supermarket. Despite its background of social realism, the short film features a series of episodes of cartoon violence; like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the roadrunner, the man is trying to catch the woman’s savings. Then the quintessential Spanish dream of a better life comes true: winning the Christmas Lottery.

All social classes buy and share Christmas Lottery tickets; it is one of the biggest Christmas traditions in Spain. The draw is a media event that runs for hours and is broadcast, both on radio and TV, all over the country. In homes, bars, offices, and workshops, one hears the monotonous ditty sung by children as they read the numbers and the prize. When people win a big prize, they run to the Lottery Shop where they bought the ticket to open champagne or cider to celebrate with others. TV crews arrive to interview the winners, asking whether they have shared the ticket or kept it for themselves, and what they are going to spend the prize money on. These interviews are broadcast on prime-time television! When our couple’s turn comes, Concha answers that they are going to buy a house with a garden; Antonio wants to go to Brazil, to the beaches of Rio.

In the next scene, Antonio is dreaming of beaches and beautiful women--again the allure of sex--until Concha enters his dream. In Brown’s story and the TV version, the husband’s desire to kill his wife is separate from the way he gets the money. In Esposados, Antonio must kill his wife to get the money.

"Lo justo."
From here, the film closely follows the classic narration of the crime. The screenwriters enrich the plot with a new character, a recently retired policeman, and the nightmarish looks of suburbia help keep the events feeling like a dream. The two new elements help flesh out the final surprise and make it more resonant. This time, the story does not end with the guests yelling "surprise" as the husband opens the door; instead, the film ends by completing Antonio’s dream. Just before his wife dies and the sand engulfs her body, Antonio says, ¿Duele? ("It hurts?"), which is the same word his wife had spoken earlier in one of the sequences of cartoon violence when she burned his feet with an iron. She answers, "lo justo," which means "in the right measure," and I leave it to the reader to judge this ending.

Read "Nightmare in Yellow" here. Watch "El cumpleaños" here. Watch Esposados here.

Gabriel Cubillo was born in Spain and still lives there. He works as a computer programmer, has a degree in Spanish Literature, and is very interested in ancient history and archaeology. An avid reader of mystery and science fiction, Gabriel is a compulsive compiler of bibliographies and has a lifelong fascination with the life and work of Fredric Brown.


CVC. Rinconete. Cine Y Television. El Terror En Casa: Historias Para No Dormir (1), Por Javier Moral.,

"El Cumpleaños (1966)." La Madraza - Centro De Cultura Contemporánea UGR,


Lady Filstrup (3ª Época),

Mererlo, Alfonso. "Lo Fantástico En Los Albores De Televisión Española. Las Adaptaciones De Luis Peñafiel." Lo Fantástico En Los Albores De Televisión Española. Las Adaptaciones De Luis Peñafiel,

"Rafael Navarro - Ficha" Doblaje,

Virino, Concepción Cascajosa. "Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, an Early Pioneer of Transnational Television." Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 27 May 2014,

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Journey Into Strange Tales Issue 76: Atlas/ Marvel Horror


The Marvel/Atlas 
Horror Comics
Part 61
March 1954 Part I
by Peter Enfantino

Adventures into Terror 29

“The Vampire Man” ★★

(r: Dracula Lives #3)

“From Out of the… Grave” (a: Gene Colan) ★★

(r: Tales of the Zombie #2)

“The Man Who Walked the Plank” (a: Werner Roth) ★★

“The Faceless Ones” (a: Myron Fass)

(r: Fear #25)

“The Horrible House” (a: Al Eadah) ★★1/2

(r: Beware #5)

Hunchback Tom Malverne has had just enough of the human race and their daily torture. Especially the women! So, when Tom witnesses a vampire murdering a young woman, Tom decides that’s the way to live (or die) and he follows the bloodsucker back to his cemetery hideout. There, Tom discovers there is a whole family of vampires living beneath the crypts. Initially, the den of vampires want the hunchback dead but their leader takes pity and makes Tom a proposition: if he can kill and drink the blood of his victim by New Year’s Eve, then he’ll be given the title of “The Vampire Man.” If, however, Tom changes his mind and does not meet the requirement, the vampires will hunt and kill him.

Tom agrees and heads out onto the street the next night, where he stalks and stabs to death his first victim. Unfortunately, our hapless protagonist discovers he can’t stand the sight of blood. Though he murders eight more times, Malverne just can’t down that precious fluid and New Year’s Eve arrives quickly. Months later, Scotland Yard wonders what the heck ever happened to that Jack the Ripper fella who knifed nine women and then disappeared. Some really substandard graphics (comic book historian Michael J. Vassallo puts forth that the culprit might be Larry Woromay and, based on a cursory glance at some of Woromay’s work, I’d say that’s a good guess) mute what is actually a very clever script. Based on a reading of the Atlas pre-code Universe, Europe must have been swarming with hunchbacks.

Body snatcher Grimm brings fresh corpses to Uni professors, five pounds a shot, until the bodies team up to beat Grimm at his own game. “From Out of the… Grave” features some great Colan work but the climactic surprise is anything but. In “The Man Who Walked the Plank,” a sadistic pirate captain, who gets off on feeding hostages to the sharks, gets his when a ship’s crew rises from the murky waters and turns the plank on the scurvy dog. As with the previous tale, there’s some pretty sharp visuals but not much more than a cliched script for reading material. “The Faceless Ones” is a dreadfully dumb sci-fi tale about a deep space exploration team that makes a wrong turn somewhere (“…thrown off our course when we hit the haze and smoke!”) and somehow end up in Hell. That is one incorrect left at the big barn on the corner!

Mr. Belding believes the human race will A-Bomb themselves out of existence and that’s just fine as far as he’s concerned. Just as long as he can have his peace and quiet. To that end, Belding buys a big plot of land out in the countryside and hires a contractor to build him a huge house. The contractor warns Belding that the land is unstable and dangerous to build on but the nasty old scrooge is not one to be told no. “The Horrible House” is built and, one night not too long after, Belding is visited by spirits from the grave. Yep, a la Poltergeist, the house was built on top of a graveyard and these walking corpses are not a welcome wagon. The house sinks into the ground and Belding has all the peace and quiet he needs. Despite Al Eadah’s loopy pencils, I had a good time with “Mr. Belding Builds His Dream House”…. er, “The Horrible House.” The promised atomic attack never materializes but there’s a really funny final panel that shows the grass has already grown over Belding’s sunken house!

Adventures into Weird Worlds 27

“The Man Who Wasn’t” (a: Mort Lawrence) ★★1/2

“The Dwarf of Horrormoor” (a: Sid Greene) ★★★

“The Thieves” (a: Matt Fox) ★★★

“The Invaders! (a: Bill Benulis & Jack Abel) ★★

“Half-Human!” (a: Robert Q. Sale) ★★1/2

Professor Paul Brainard is working on the most important experiment in the history of mankind: the secret of life. Yes, the would-be Frankenstein is cooking something in a beaker and Brainard is convinced that, in four hours, a living form will emerge from the glass womb. But first, a nap! The nutty professor heads home, kisses his wife and kid, and settles down for a few well-deserved hours of sleep. But when the egghead awakens, everything is changed: his academy lab is now a pub, his wife is married to another man, and his kids run in fear from the perv who is eyeing them. As Paul realizes it’s all because he has “come too close to the unknown, beyond which no man must step,” the man disappears as if he was never there. “The Man Who Wasn’t” is a bit of a variation on It’s a Wonderful Life, without the happy ending. There’s some very evocative penciling here by Mort Lawrence; in particular, the eerie splash depicting Brainard and his bubbling baby.

“The Dwarf of Horrormoor” offers up a pure pulp plot: “Legend has firmly decreed that there shall always be a dwarf at Horrormoor, or evil will befall it…” How can you go wrong with that set-up? Seems the dwarf at said Horrormoor castle has gotten to be a real pain in the ass, enjoying his role as jester a bit too much. Knowing none dare kill him, he’s taken to pranking his master, the Duke, and the various guests who come to stay. You know, the typical funny jokes like a bed of nails or a human arm under the bed? Well, the lord and master of Horrormoor has had enough. Sure, he can’t kill the little bastard but two can play the prank game. 

The Duke and his buddy, the Baron drug the dwarf and, while he’s sleeping, switch out all the furniture. When the little joker awakens, he becomes convinced a miracle has occurred and he is now normal-sized. When he exits the room and the two pranksters guffaw at the dwarf’s insistence that he has magically grown, it’s apparent the trick has snapped his little brain. The Duke realizes he has to find a new dwarf and heads off to bed. When he awakens, the bed and all the furniture are much larger than before. Chuckling and admitting the little guy pulled a good one on him, the Duke exits his room only to find the dwarf, hung from the rafters. It’s then that the Duke realizes that Horrormoor has a new jester. A very entertaining (if mean-spirited and obviously un-PC) little gem, one featuring a cast of characters devoid of good; they’re all rotten to the core and reveling in that glory. Where does one find a severed arm that late at night? Sid Greene’s art is suitably sleazy.

Earth receives word that the aliens of Polaris are heading our way. “The friendly planets” inform us that Polaris is a world of thieves; the creatures will arrive, steal something from under our noses, and then leave peacefully. The President of the United States decides the best plan of action is to avoid mass hysteria and tell the Polarians up front that they can have anything they desire. Bad idea. A clever riff on the Red Scare (the Polarians are obviously thinly-veiled commies), “The Thieves” won me over right from the first Matt Fox-penciled panel. If you can’t have Wolverton, then Matt Fox was your man for weird, reptilian aliens.

“The Invaders” has been done to death: an army general awaits the opening of a space ship that has landed, fearing the worst. When the ship doors open, we see that the crew are from Earth and they have landed on Mars. Equally predictable is our final story, “Half-Human!” Keller has made a fortune manufacturing androids but he’s gotten word that someone has violated his patent and is producing the robots in another factory. When he confronts the competitor, he is dismayed to discover the man is actually one of Keller’s own androids (the “Acme Android Company” stamp is right across the robot’s chest!) who’s decided to pump fake humans out for the inevitable conquest of mankind. 

Realizing he has to do something, Keller creates a gas that reduces all androids to ashes and he has jet planes gas the entire world (!), thus destroying the plague he had visited upon his fellow man. The only problem is: he didn’t know his beloved wife was an android as well! Even the naive kids of 1954 must have realized there was no way Mrs. Keller could have hidden that big bold statement across her lovely torso. The concept however is a good one, doubtless stolen from a science fiction novel of the day, and the Robert Q. Sale art is creepy as hell. The final panel, of Keller rummaging through a smoldering pile of ashes in the bed where his wife slept, is genuinely disturbing.

Astonishing 31

“Fangs of the Vampire” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★★

“The Room That Vanished” (a: Al Eadah) ★★

“The Man at the Grave” (a: Vic Carrabotta)

“The Dummy!” (a: Bill Savage) ★★★

“The Atomic Man” (a: Bob Forgione) ★★1/2

Poor Clyde is convinced he’s becoming a vampire and the only man that can help him is famed lecturer on the vampire myths, Dr. Anton Klaus. Though Klaus tells Clyde the affliction is in his mind, the doctor agrees to see him professionally at the weekend. Alas, bloodlust overcomes Clyde that night and Dr. Klaus is his victim. “Fangs of the Vampire” is an odd, almost psychological study of vampirism, with Clyde not really knowing whether he’s a bloodsucker or not. We’re not given much information (such as “how did this man become a vampire?) other than a visit to the home of Clyde’s girlfriend, but the reader becomes very sympathetic to this poor man’s plight. Joe Sinnott avoids the typical giant wings and fangs until the climax, which leaves us wondering if this character is just a nut or really a blood-drinking beast.

Frank Kelly thinks he’s going mad. First his cellar disappears, then his bedroom. When he exits the house to find the police to tell them about “The Room That Vanished,” he discovers his family and the whole house have vanished as well. Turns out there’s a nutty scientist living in town who’s been messing with 4th-dimensional travel and he picked Frank’s house to experiment on. When Frank threatens to wring the professor’s neck, the egghead promises to reunite Frank with family and home. And he does, but in an Atlas science-fictional way. 

A grave-digger becomes curious about the strange man who always seems to be present at funerals. “The Man at the Grave” turns out to be a corpse who had no one present at his funeral and wants the newly-dead to know someone cares. Department store owner Clem Hardy is a penny-pincher but, worse, he’s not a nice guy. After a particularly brutal meeting with a window dummy salesman wherein he fires the man, Clem argues with his partner and conks him over the head. Elated that now the business is 100% his, Clem dumps the body at a nearby landfill and exits stage left, unaware that the body is whisked away by a creepy guy who lives in a shack at the dump. This guy is not only scary, he’s obviously a genius, as he’s taking dead bodies and making them into window dummy zombies!

The guy calls Clem and tells him he can sell him dummies for a quarter of the going rate, plus he’ll throw in “an extra one for nothing as a bonus!” As expected, the cheapskate murderer jumps at the chance to save a few extra dollars but when he gets to the store after the dummies are delivered, he gets one hell of a rude awakening. If you have to stock your horror story with one of the biggest cliches in comics, the murdering partner, at least do it with your tongue firmly in your cheek. As with the best of these goofy, imaginative fantasy/horror tales, nothing is explained. We have no idea who this brilliant guy living at the dump is (and why isn’t he using his incredible resuscitating formula to get himself a pile of diamonds like all the other Atlas Academics?), or how he invented his serum, or why he goes to all this trouble for a few bucks (which he then doesn’t collect on in the inevitable climax). But the beauty of “The Dummy” is that it’s so entertaining (and well-visualized, with a rare appearance by artist Bill Savage) and so WTF? that we don’t give a rat’s ass that it makes no sense. Just give us more!

Carl Hurtz, handy man in Frenchman Flats, gets caught in the desert during an A-Bomb blast but, despite soaking up enough radiation to destroy a city, Carl survives the explosion and walks away as “The Atomic Man!” If Carl concentrates hard enough on something, he can melt it, no matter how dense the object. Ignoring the high road taken by the similarly blasted Glenn Manning (of The Amazing Colossal Man fame) and Robert Bruce Banner, Carl turns to robbing banks for fun and profit. Now the most powerful man in the world, Carl decides he wants something else and that would be pretty Helen, who’s promised to GI Joe Allen. Carl challenges the soldier to a duel and Joe accepts. The next day, the two stand alone in a city street. They approach each other and there’s a terrific explosion, leaving a huge crater in the middle of the street. It’s up to the local Army colonel to explain what happened:

“Joe came to us last night and begged us to girdle his body with atomic charges more powerful than the Atomic Man’s force… so that when the Atomic Man exploded him… Joe in turn would explode him! Joe gave his life so that the world would be free of the evil of the Atomic Man!”

Imagine that! Talking your colonel into making you into an atomic bomb in the name of chivalry. The story has a wonderfully featherbrained set-up and makes its own rules as it goes (for some reason, Carl’s radioactive energy is only unleashed when he wills it so he can approach others without turning them into a puddle of goo), but its climax is rushed and Carl’s fixation on Helen comes from out of the blue. An interesting, but flawed, science fiction yarn.

Journey into Unknown Worlds 25

“The Castle of Shadows!” (a: Doug Wildey) ★★

“When Death Comes A-Calling” (a: Al Luster)

“The World Within” (a: Robert Q. Sale) ★★

“One Extra Head” (a: Dan Loprino) ★★★

“From Under the Earth!” (a: Chuck Winter) 1/2

Count von Buhslein returns to the castle where he was born, only to be told by the locals to leave. Should he stick around, the curse of the werewolf will fall upon the young Count as it did his mother. Unable to leave without knowing the truth, he walks up to the castle on the mountain and is greeted by Gustaf, the caretaker, who informs the Count that his dead mother is interred in her room upstairs. When questioned about the werewolf curse, Gustaf informs him that if the corpse is a wolf, then the woman was a werewolf. They head upstairs and discover… a really dumb twist! Which is too bad, as the atmosphere in “Castle of Shadows!,” enriched mostly by Doug Wildey’s pencils, is nicely gothic and the script seems to be heading to an interesting denouement. Alas…

“When Death Comes A-Calling” for little Jerry, the precocious kid has a way with words and the Grim Reaper gives him a reprieve. Al Luster’s art is too cartoony to generate any suspense and the script is pure sentimental saccharine. 

When the Nazis break into his house and rough up his grandmother, a Polish man kills one of her murderers but is captured and taken away to a camp where he is tortured and disfigured. The man escapes and is shunned by everyone he meets. With the storm troopers hot on his trail, he hides in a cave. Exploring, he discovers “The World Within,” a community of blind people who accept him with open arms. “The World Within” is like two different stories soldered together. The first part is a grueling and violent action-thriller but the second is a silly fantasy that doesn’t mesh well with its build-up. Robert Sale’s art is gruesome and unattractive, much like the Nazi monsters who torture our protagonist.

Harry, the two-headed man at the carnival sideshow, has had enough of the smirking faces and the nasty remarks; he’s a man deep down inside despite having “One Extra Head.” Then one day, Harry sees a pretty girl smiling at him and his heart lights up; could there be someone out there for him? After the show, Harry approaches the blonde but is beaten by her brothers, who inform the two-headed man that their sister is blind. This pushes Harry over the edge and he gets his gun, with an eye to ending his troubles right then and there. Suddenly, the tent flap opens and Harry’s boss tells him that he’s got someone for Harry to meet. A two-headed woman! Harry is so overcome with disgust, finally seeing why people hate him so much, he puts the gun to his ear and hopes the bullet will travel through both heads.

“One Extra Head” is a really creepy, almost sickening four pages, filled with despair and hopelessness. No happy ending for Harry, who’s done no wrong in the world aside from being born different. Dan Loprino’s art is rudimentary and yet, at the same time, perfect for its subject matter. A nice Russ Heath sheen might have taken away some of the despondency.

The finale this issue, “From Under the Earth!,” is a ridiculous science fiction tale about Clem Martin, who has dug miles under the ground looking for gold. One day, the wall he’s working on begins to crumble and a group of “mole men” burst forth and overpower Clem, informing him that they’re heading for the surface world to forage for valuables and he’s in the way. Thinking quick. Clem tells the monsters he’ll show them to the most valuable place on Earth: Fort Knox! The creatures dig a hole down to the vault and burst in, but are disappointed with the “yellow stuff.” They were looking for grass and weeds to take back to their underworld city for food. As punishment, they seal Clem up in the vault with his “yellow stuff.” 

Marvel Tales 121

“The Voice from the Grave” (a: Gene Colan) ★★★★

“The Cannibals” (a: Mac Pakula) ★★★1/2

“The Gamble!” (a: Chuck Winter) 1/2

“Appointment with Death” (a: Bill Savage) ★★

“Down Down Down” ★★★

Ruby’s a beauty but she’s also rotten to the core. She’s murdered her first six husbands for their dough and the latest, “Old Man” Clifton, is about to be buried alive. Ruby and her henchmen throw the last shovel of dirt on the screaming man and hightail it. Luckily for Clifton, a man has been watching from the shadows and, once the coast is clear, he digs down into the freshly dug grave to unearth Clifton. The old man is naturally grateful to the stranger and welcomes him into his plan for revenge. 

The duo nab Ruby and bury her in the same plot of Earth Clifton was to spend eternity. Clifton can’t handle the scream so he fires his revolver into the ground and then asks the stranger if what they’ve done is murder. “She was a real bad one,” says the man, and then he tells Clifton that he was Ruby’s first husband and she did the same to him. Clifton laughs the statement off and invites his new friend to have a drink with him.

“The Voice From the Grave” might not have one of the best horror comic titles ever but its mood and ambience are thick enough to be cut with a dull blade. Though she’s not in the strip for more than a cameo, Ruby proves herself to be one of the most chilling of the Atlas bad girls with her almost gleeful demeanor at graveside. What is the stranger’s secret? If he’s Ruby’s first husband, is the man implying that he’s a ghost? We never find out, thanks to a gloriously ambiguous climax where Clifton shrugs off the man’s confession and turns his attention to enjoying life. A marvelous story!

Cabot, the African guide and hunter, is hired by Mark Day, who’s looking for his father who went missing in the jungle years before. Stephan Day was a doctor who entered the jungle to help the Jivaro head-hunting tribe become a part of 20th-Century civilization. Whether Day accomplished that feat is anyone’s guess, and the only way Mark will be able to recognize his father is that the man is missing three fingers on his right hand. As they’re drifting down the river, the two men are attacked by and taken hostage by the Jivaros, who lug them back to their village for dinner.

Mark and Cabot are staked and the tribe’s medicine man comes out with a machete. Cabot tells Day that they are sunk and that they should both go out like men. As the medicine man raises his gleaming blade, Mark Day loses it, screaming until he’s sliced open and vivisected. Cabot soon learns why Mark went out with a scream: the medicine man is missing three fingers on his right hand! A deliciously gruesome yarn, “The Cannibals” leaves you thinking about that grisly climax for several minutes after you’ve finished. Has the senior Day gone crazy, living with cannibals? Does he even recognize his own son? Chilling to think that maybe he does. Pakula’s art is perfectly gritty and an added attraction is that the entire affair is being narrated by Cabot’s decapitated skull, staked to a tree like a trophy. 

Harry Higgs has a gambling problem and it’s cost him his job. But now Harry has a new way to bet on nags: his son loves to play with letter blocks and lately he’s been spelling out the names of horses. Harry plays the hunch and wins a bundle but then his kid refuses to pony up. A good beating and Harry gets a name. It’ll be his last. “The Gamble!” is a really uncomfortable and decidedly un-PC tale (Harry calls his “retarded” son an “idiot” amongst other niceties) with an abrupt and ambiguous finale. We never do find out what’s up with the kid’s precognitive powers.

Having been told he will die of a brain tumor should he not opt to go under the knife, a man questions the meaning of life as death stands in the shadows. “Appointment with Death” is not a bad read but it is quite sappy. Laughably, the protagonist comments that his “life is over at the age of 25, yet artist Bill Savage pencils the poor sap as a guy perhaps double that age.

Professor Gran is convinced he can capture one of the sea creatures he saw in his bathysphere far below the surface of the sea, but he needs a vehicle that can withstand the pressure of the lower depths. Once the new bathysphere is complete, the professor dives “Down Down Down” but it turns out the sea creatures are looking for specimens as well. There’s a fabulously sick sound effect in the final panel where one of the monsters pulls the lid off the little sub, and the Prof. and his aide go “PLOP!” 

Menace 10

“Half Man, Half…?” (a: Robert Q. Sale)

(r: Crypt of Shadows #5)

“The Night Crawlers” (a: Tony DiPreta)

“The Fake!” (a: Al Eadah)

(r: Monsters Unleashed #1)

“The Plotters!” (a: Sheldon Moldoff) 1/2

“In the Cardboard Box” (a: Joe Sinnott) ★★1/2

The devolution of Menace from one of the best titles to one of the worst, virtually overnight, continues with “Half Man, Half…?,” a needlessly complicated and undeniably stupid thriller about a scientist, working on a Cobalt bomb, who sells his secrets to the Commies and then discovers something in the radiation is turning his colleagues into man-eating monsters. “Half Man, Half… Assed Story?” is more like it. The Sale art is simply awful; the anatomy on the lead character contorts and bends in ways no gymnast could pull off. Depressingly bad.

Goofball Dennis loves to dig up earthworms and feed them to fish. It’s not even that Dennis likes to eat fish; he just likes to torture worms. His wife gets fed up, threatens to leave him, and receives the two-handed refusal around the neck. Dennis buries her out in the swamp and, later that week, is attacked by “vengeful worms… coming out of the grave of (his wife)!” I’ve always had a problem with the protagonist whose only goal in life is to torture animals, be they dogs, cats, birds, or ex-wives, but Dennis’s passion pushes us well into the realm of sheer idiocy. 


    Once believability is gone for the reader of “The Night Crawlers,” the narrative is doomed. I’ll add that, apropos of the title’s dimming brightness, this is one of the worst DiPreta contributions I’ve yet seen. The art on “The Fake!” by Al Eadah is just as awful, amateurish in the extreme. An impossibly ugly woman makes herself up into an illusion of beauty and then heads out on the town to find herself a rich husband. She lands the dope, marries him, and then comes clean with her masquerade. He laughs and takes off his fake skin to reveal he’s a robot. Nothing about “The Fake!” makes much sense so just forget about it quickly.

“The Plotters!” is a three-page quickie about the end of mankind brought on by a new generation of ants that can withstand DDT. Wheelchair-bound and helpless, Mr. Winters begins to suspect that his new male nurse is the axe murderer terrorizing the city. “In the Cardboard Box” is a silly whodunit, filled with red herrings and a dead end climax, but it’s the best story in the issue by default thanks chiefly to Joe Sinnott’s creepy, noirish artwork. Just don’t try to work out that final reveal.

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