Diaries of River Song: New Recruit

River Song: “You know, my favorite thing about this time period?”

Liz Shaw: “The discovery of Hawking radiation?”

River: “The boots! Look at them! My legs look amazing!”

River Song joins UNIT during the first part of the 3rd Doctor’s run! The concept of dropping that time-traveling archeologist into that vaguely 1970s/80s-era scientific and military alien-invasion milieu was too tempting to resist, although I was curious about how the Doctor, the Brigadier, and Liz Shaw were going to be portrayed, since Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, and Caroline John have all passed on and are not available for audio work.

New Recruit cover

Like most of these Big Finish audio drama sets, this one contains 4 separate adventures.

Continue reading “Diaries of River Song: New Recruit”

The Blood Spattered Bride

The Blood Spattered Bride

This was an extra feature on the Daughters of Darkness BluRay. I’ve been meaning to review it for years. I was under the impression that it was an English-dubbed French film, but now that I watch it again, I see that I was wrong; it’s Spanish.

The plots of the two films are similar–a newly married couple is beset by an ancient but chic lesbian vampire–but the former is based on the legendary Erzsebet Bathory and her atrocities, and the latter is one of many adaptations of Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla

We meet the newlywed couple in this film speeding along in a convertible. They are so newly married that the bride Susan (Maribel Martín) is still in her wedding gown with a full length veil. Her husband (Simón Andreu), who doesn’t seem to have a name, stops at a hotel so they can change. Susan doesn’t want to; she’d rather drive on “at 90 miles an hour”, she laughingly responds. But stop they do. Hubby leaves her on the front steps of the hotel with their luggage while he parks the car. No valet service here.

As she enters the hotel alone, Susan notices a woman seated inside a parked car, watching her.

A bellman shows her up to her room. As she starts to remove her veil and dress, a man with a stocking over his face emerges from the closet and attacks her. She lies in a faint while he tears open the front of her dress to rape her.

But when her husband comes upstairs a moment later, Susan is sitting alone on the bed. Her dress isn’t torn. The rape was some kind of terrible hallucination.

Susan tells her husband that she doesn’t want to stay in the hotel. “I don’t like it here.” And who can blame her, after that?

Bride

Continue reading “The Blood Spattered Bride”

The Beast Must Die

Who is the Werewolf?The opening voiceover and dramatic white-on-black text of The Beast Must Die sums it up nicely:

“This film is a detective story — in which you are the detective.

“The question is not ‘Who is the murderer?’ — But ‘Who is the werewolf?’

“After all the clues have been shown– You will get a chance to give your answer. Watch for the Werewolf Break.”

There we are then: Amicus is presenting us with a country house whodunnit featuring a werewolf. Lon Chaney Jr. meets Agatha Christie, with an audience-participation gimmick straight out of the William Castle playbook. The Beast Must Die is cheesy in a funky 1970s way, but it’s those same elements that make it fun.  

The story starts off somewhere in the remote Scottish countryside, with a black man (Calvin Lockhart) being hunted in the woods. A man in a helicopter reports on whether or not he has “visual contact” whenever he sees “the target” or loses sight of him through the trees. Another man (Anton Diffring) seated in a control station with a wall of monitors and 1970s big computers reports “scanner contact” when he detects the runner on cameras placed in the trees or via sensors buried in the ground. A bunch of armed men drive around in a jeep, following the directions provided by these two men to locate their quarry. Some of men get out of the jeep to pursue “the target” on foot.

When the black man hides in the underbrush, unfortunately near a microphone, he’s discovered. One of the armed men points a rifle at him, but the control-room guy–who seems to be in charge–orders, “Give him another chance. Let him go.” The man with the rifle withdraws. “The target” runs off. The hunt resumes.

This introductory action sequence looks like a high-tech version of The Most Dangerous Game, but it’s all a clever inversion of our expectations.

The pursued man has a few more close calls with the armed men, but eventually he makes his way out of the woods, sweaty, out of breath, clothes a bit tattered and muddy. He steps onto the well-kept lawn of a large country house. A group of people are having tea. The armed men catch up with him and, to the horror of the tea party, shoot him. As they gather around him, he laughs.

Tom Newcliffe and his country house

The man is millionaire big-game-hunter Tom Newcliffe. The house belongs to him, and the people having tea on the lawn are his wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and their guests for the weekend. The men who have been chasing him work for him, and the high-tech hunt is his idea of a fun way to check out his newly installed monitoring system.

I’d call Tom the hero of this story, since he’s the central character and the one who’s going to be playing detective, but he’s a self-centered, entitled jerk.

Continue reading “The Beast Must Die”

From Beyond the Grave

Amicus Studios was generally considered second-best in British horror after Hammer, but this anthology film is just the sort of thing they did so well during the 1960s and ’70s and are best remembered for: The House That Dripped Blood, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, and Asylum.

From Beyond the Grave is Amicus’s final horror anthology. It showcases four  tales written by R. Chetwynd-Hayes–who is not an author I’m familiar with, so I can’t say how these segments compare to his original short stories.

The framing story features a dusty little antique shop named “Temptations, Ltd.” in an obscure back street in London, run by a mild mannered, equally dusty  proprietor (Peter Cushing, playing it in a very understated manner). The premise connecting each story is that the type of customer you are determines your ultimate fate.

Mirror Man

The Gatecrasher

Our first visitor to the antique shop is Edward Charlton (David Warner), dressed in the mod style of the late ’60s. He is immediately attracted to an old gilt-framed mirror. The elderly proprietor  wants £200 for it as a genuine antique, but Edward questions its authenticity and says he’ll give 25 quid for it. The proprietor accepts this offer without bargaining.

A little later, at a party in his flat, Edward boasts to his friends about how he cheated the old man by making him believe that the mirror was a reproduction. Edward estimates that it’s really about 400 years old.

One of his friends observes that “It looks like it belongs in a medium’s  parlor– so let’s have a séance!”

In spite of some qualms by Edward’s girlfriend Pamela,  they do. The rest of the party is keen and Edward claims certain mediumistic gifts.

His séance produces interesting results. Blasts of blue flame shoot up from the single candle on the table, and Edward rather incautiously invites whatever spirit he’s contacted to “come in.”

Neither he nor his friends notice that the mirror seems to be fogging over, as if the reflected room on the other side of the glass is filling up with mist.

A man’s face appears.

Continue reading “From Beyond the Grave”

The Horror in the Museum

Horror in the MuseumThe Horror in the Museum was a story  that H.P. Lovecraft either co-wrote with Hazel Heald, or ghost-wrote based on an idea of hers (her version of events versus his). It appeared in Weird Tales coincidentally around the same time as the 1933 film Mystery of the Wax Museum came out; the two have similar settings, although the “Horror” is a bit more horrible.

Like The Curse of Yig, this is one of those Lovecraft stories I know that I’ve read, but can’t say I’m extremely familiar with. In some ways, that gives it an advantage over stories like Rats in the Walls or Haunter of the Dark that I practically know by heart; I first listened to this Dark Adventure Radio Theatre audio adaptation without expectations or close comparisons to the original text, although I did  give the text a quick refresher read online after listening to it a couple of times.

This adaptation does stay fairly close to the original story, with the addition of one new prominent character and a bit of a twist at the end–neither of which is unusual for Dark Adventure. It also has one or two interesting things to say about achieving immortality through works of art. Not a unique sentiment, but in this particular case…

The audio drama begins with two Americans from Chicago visiting Madame Tussaud’s famous Wax Museum in London. Madame Tussaud’s is not the Museum of the title, where the Horror occurs, but it does introduce our two protagonists to it.

Steven Jones is an entrepreneur looking for a terrific new show to bring to the States. He isn’t very  impressed with the historical waxworks he sees, but his publisher friend and potential business financier, Eleanor Patterson*, notices that the queue for the Chambers of Horrors is very long.

Then they see one wax figure that does intrigue: Dr. Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, astrologer, occultist, and reputed magician. In Lovecrafty circles, Dee is best known for his Latin translation of the Necronomicon. There’s something in the lifelike look and craftsmanship of this particular figure that leads Steven and Eleanor to inquire about the artist. They are given directions to the more obscure waxwork show of one George Rodgers.

Wax Museum souvenirs

Continue reading “The Horror in the Museum”

Doctor Who: Out of Time 2

Not quite a sequel to Out of Time, the previous Big Finish audio drama with the same title. There’s no continuation of the plot from that story, but the idea is the same–a matchup of the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) with one of his predecessors. And since I never can resist Doctors meeting Doctors, here we are again.

Out of Time 2

Paris 1809.  The story begins with the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) on a tour of the Barrière d’Enfer (that is, the Gates of Hell), the catacombs under the city where the bones of the dead are stored.  He was aiming at London 1851, but some kind of time anomaly bumped the Tardis and he ended up here instead. The tour guide, Joseph Delonne, is an aged man who has lived above the subterranean catacombs all his life and claims to know more about them than anyone else. His own father, he says, was killed when their family home collapsed into the vaults beneath in the late 1700s.

Also on the tour is a 51st-century Time Agent, Tina Drake, who seems to know exactly who the Doctor is without being introduced. “Blue box, robot dog.” She’s tracing the same paradoxical time anomaly that disrupted the Tardis back to its source in this particular time and place.

The two break away from the tour group to do a little exploring on their own. Their attention is drawn by an anachronistic flashing red light at the end of tunnel which turns out to be a button to open a secret door.

Inside, they find a troop of about 100 Cybermen in suspended animation. One who seems to be the leader immediately awakes and tells the Doctor that they have been expecting him for some time.

Tina escapes by jumping out with her vortex manipulator, but the Doctor ends in a vault where he is frozen in time. As he sums up the adventure later:

The 5th Doctor

“Catacombs, Cybermen, trapped in a stasis cage for 135 years, this.” 

Paris 1944. The 10th Doctor was aiming at 1922, but ran into that same anomaly “bump” and ended up in the midst of the Nazi Occupation. Fleeing the Gestapo, he seeks a hiding place in the French Resistance underground HQ in the catacombs. As he later describes it: 

“Nazis, Josephine Baker, catacombs, this.”

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Out of Time 2”

The Lone Centurion

Like the Paternoster Gang and the Diaries of River Song, this is another set of Big Finish audios based on a secondary but popular character from Doctor Who.

First, a bit of backstory.

Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) was traveling with the 11th Doctor when he was not merely killed, but his entire existence erased so that no one but the Doctor remembered him. Not even his fiancée Amy Pond, although she was sometimes very sad without knowing why.

But Rory wasn’t gone very long. A couple of episodes later, when the Doctor and Amy were at Stonehenge in 120 AD waiting for a large and mysterious box called the Pandorica to open, Rory returned as an Auton in the form of Roman centurion–plastic body, but looking just like the old Rory and containing a human mind that remembered being a British man in the 21st-century. Let’s not go into the hows and whys of that. It’s a bit complicated.

The fatally injured but not-quite-dead Amy ended up being placed inside the Pandorica for more than 1800 years, held in stasis until the giant box was opened by her younger self and she was healed. The Doctor jumped straight on ahead to arrange this event in 1996, but plastic Centurion Rory opted to remain with the Pandorica in Roman Britain and protect Amy through the passing centuries. By the time they met again in 1996, the Lone Centurion had grown into a figure of legend.

So, what was Rory up to between 120 and 1996? This trio of comedic audio stories fills us in on the early days of his adventures, beginning in Rome.

Continue reading “The Lone Centurion”

Doctor Who: The End of the Beginning

Not to be confused with The Beginning of the End, which is a film about giant grasshoppers crawling on photographs of Chicago. This Big Finish audio drama is about the Doctor in four regenerations in four different time periods,  but all of them eventually facing the same cosmic crisis.

The End of the Beginning

A brief prologue introduces us to the Kethlar Death Lords—an “ancient order of ruthless warriors”—who were engaged in a great war eons ago. Only one survived their final battle and, while floating aimlessly through the millennia, he “declared war on the Universe.” This survivor, Vakrass, is the narrator of this opening piece, and provides occasional bridging comments between the three short dramas that follow.

Continue reading “Doctor Who: The End of the Beginning”

Ginger Mayerson

GingerLast night, I received news that my very dear friend, as well as my editor and publisher at Wapshott Press, Ginger Mayerson, died on March 26.

It was only in February that I learned she was seriously ill with lung cancer. She told me then that she didn’t expect to live out the year. Even so, I’m stunned that it came so soon.

I spoke to her last in February. I’m sorry we didn’t get to talk again, but I am glad we had that last conversation.

Ginger and I first became online friends in 1996. We met on alt-startrek-creative, both of us writing fanfic for Deep Space 9.

When Ginger published the online zine for the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, I wrote articles and book reviews for her. When she moved on to found the Wapshott Press and was looking for authors, I gave her a few short stories for anthologies, and later my fantasy novels and mysteries. She was always one of the most ardent supporters of my writing, and she brought a number of other writers and poets to public attention.

We only met a few times in person. She came to Maryland to visit me when other business brought her to the DC area and we met in Windsor when we were both traveling in England. We went to the castle, had tea at the Crooked House, watched a game of cricket, and walked along the Thames.

I’m going to miss her.

Ginger is admonishing the geese and swans

Doctor Who: Expiry Dating

And two other audio stories featuring River Song (Alex Kingston) and the 10th Doctor (David Tennant). It’s especially noteworthy that this set was recorded during these months of social isolation. Each of the actors involved recorded their own part from a “studio” set up in their own homes.

Expiry Dating

Expiry Dating

Given the method of recording, it seems appropriate that much of this first story in the CD set is in the epistolary style. It’s a delightful follow-up to the 10th Doctor’s first encounter with River Song in Silence of the Library.

After receiving a “message in a bottle” from River on a piece of psychic paper — which allows for immediate response — the Doctor engages in a correspondence/conversation with this mysterious woman who claims to know him so intimately even though he’s only just met her. He’s interested in finding out who she is, without giving away “spoilers” regarding her fate at the Library.

10th Doctor

“Who are you? How do we know each other? How do I know I can trust you?”

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Expiry Dating”