Doctor Who: Peladon

Peladon is a planet that featured in two stories during the 3rd Doctor’s run during the 1970s. These Big Finish audio four stories carry on the drama on Peladon — the environmental issues, the political intrigue both on the planet and among interested parties elsewhere in the galaxy, and the lives of various characters seen in Curse of Peladon and Monster of Peladon.

Peladon

Just a note before I begin: I haven’t seen either of the two Peladon episodes in years and my memories of story details are vague. 

The Ordeal of Peladon

This first story is set near the end of the reign of King Peladon (David Troughton, who played the young prince way back in the 1970s). Aging, he’s  been in semi-seclusion for the past ten years and lets his chancellor Raarlan do most of the work of administration for the kingdom. Unfortunately, this enables Raarlan to do as he likes and keep things from the king. For example, the new mines that have recently opened up in the desert provinces.

King Peladon

King Peladon is worried about a holy man named Skarn who is also in the desert provinces and is developing a cult following due to his claims that the old gods are speaking through him. The king wants to know more about Skarn and wants to understand what the people see in him.

When a woman offers to take him to meet Skarn, the king is eager to go. This means leaving the citadel and taking a long walk out into the desert, with an adventure or two along the way. The meeting is not what the king was hoping for, but then Skarn’s new prophet-like powers aren’t what he imagines them to be either — as the surprise cameo appearance of a Doctor not appearing on the cover art makes clear when he pops up in a flashback and explains the situation.

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Peladon”

HP Lovecraft Film Festival, Best of 2020

After a long delay, I have finally obtained the BluRay for the best short horror films from around the world shown at the 2020 HP Lovecraft Film Festival (a streaming festival that year).

It’s an interesting batch, with only one film loosely based on a Lovecraft story, and a couple of others that might be called allusions to the works of HPL.

U14

A pretty good US-made film in an atypical setting. What starts out as the usual, boring night at work for a country and western DJ/radio talk show host named Rooster turns into a bewildering experience in recursive horror when several of his call-ins request that he play an oldie they call “U14”.

Rooster has no clue what U14 is, if it’s a song title or a juke box number, but since so many people are asking for it, he has a look in the store room. After digging through stacks of old 45s, he finds a box containing a set of cassette tapes labeled U1, U2, and so on. One is labeled U14, so he takes it back up to the control room along with some antique equipment that will let him broadcast tapes.

U14

Continue reading “HP Lovecraft Film Festival, Best of 2020”

Doctor Who: Out of Time 3

Wink

This is the third in a sort-of series of stories in which the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) runs into one of his previous selves and they have an adventure together. In the first Out of Time, he and 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) battled the Daleks in a transtemporal abbey. In the second story, he joined the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) jumping around different eras in Parisian history to stop a very long-term plot of the Cybermen.

This time, it’s the 6th Doctor (Colin Baker). The threat they face is the Weeping Angels.

The Tardis has been kicking up a fuss and, instead of taking the 10th Doctor where he wants to go, lands on Lucidus Silvara, a planet famed for being constantly in the blinding white light of its “thousand cold suns,” except for one day each year when there’s an eclipse and the beauty of the planet is visible briefly in the dim light. This is not that day. The Doctor cannot see the man who calls out to him from the bright light, but people who’ve watched the original Doctor Who series, or listened to these Big Finish audios, recognize that voice right away.

The 6th Doctor had dropped in to see the planet on its annual eclipse day, and doesn’t understand why it’s suddenly so bright again; the eclipse shouldn’t have ended for a few more hours. He’s lost his own Tardis somewhere around here, but of course can’t see where it is. But he soon realizes that he’s talking to the Doctor and not just a doctor, and who else would be in a position to lend a hand? (although he doesn’t care for the “grubby” look of Dr. 10’s Tardis).

The problem of what happened to Dr. 6 becomes apparent, when a Weeping Angel is discovered in the vicinity, coming toward them at “blink” intervals. The Weeping Angels can’t move when someone, even another Angel, is looking at them, but they can move very fast–in the blink of an eye–when that gaze is interrupted.

Actually, there are two of them, on either side of the Doctors.

Dr. 6: “Angel to the left us. Angel to the right.”

Dr. 10: “Here I am stuck in the middle with you.”

Dr. 6 [groaning]: “You’re not one of those Doctors, are you?”

Continue reading “Doctor Who: Out of Time 3”

The Lone Centurion: Camelot

The Lone Centurion 2

Big Finish continues the adventures of Rory Williams (voiced by Arthur Darvill), that unassuming modern lad from Leadworth who, by a remarkable set of circumstances, ended up as an ageless Auton in 120 CE in a shrinking universe without stars.

At the end the Lone Centurion, when Rory abdicated as Emperor and left Rome, he apparently made his way back to Britain. This second set of audio dramas picks up a few centuries later in Wales, where Rory is now living in Camelot and serving as an apprentice to Malthus, the court physician. Since Rory was a nurse in his human life, this is a job he feels more suited to than gladiator or assassin–although he wryly observes that nurses were underpaid even then.

Continue reading “The Lone Centurion: Camelot”

Dead of Night

Hugo attacksEaling Studios is best known for its sometimes dark comedies, but in 1945 they released this early example of horror anthology — the type of film that another British studio, Amicus, would turn out regularly 20 to 30 years later.

While it’s often remembered for its final segment, there are other good and spooky stories presented here, original material or adapted from writers such as EF Benson and HG Wells. Four different directors worked on the individual segments. And the implications of the framing story are even more unsettling.

Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns) is driving along a country lane somewhere in Kent. As he approaches a rather charming half-timbered house, he stops and stares at it for a moment before going on.

Eliot Foley (Roland Culver) is waiting at the gate to greet him, and the chatty dialog informs us that Craig is an architect whom Foley has invited down to his home, Pilgrims Farm, to have a look at the house with an eye toward expanding it.

While Craig says that “I’ve never been here before. Not actually,” he seems strangely familiar with the place. He knows already that they need more than the two bedrooms they currently have and another living room, and that the converted barn, where the Foleys are currently putting their guests, has central heating and modern conveniences. When they enter the house, he knows where to go to hang up his hat and coat before Foley points the alcove out. He also knows that the other guests for the weekend are having their afternoon tea before Foley takes him into the parlor, where Mrs. Foley (Mary Merrall), Eliot’s mom, is pouring out tea for the group.

Let’s meet the rest of the party:

  • Psychiatrist Dr. Van Straaten (Frederick Valk). In those days, psychiatrists were all Freudians and had foreign accents, and the good doctor is no exception.
  • Hugh Grainger (Anthony Baird).
  • The Courtlands, Peter and Joan (Ralph Michael and Googie Withers).
  • A teenaged girl named Sally O’Hara (Sally Ann Howe) who is a neighbor of the Foleys.

I’m familiar with most of these actors later in their careers, so it’s always interesting to see them so young.

As the group is introduced to him, Walter Craig seems to find them all as familiar as Pilgrims Farm. He even says that Dr. Van Straaten will treat him; he always treats him.

This baffles the doctor, since he’s never met Walter before, and Walter at last explains his deja vu:

“I’ve seen you in my dreams. Sounds like a sentimental song, doesn’t it? I’ve dreamt about you over and over again… Everybody in this room is part of my dream. Everybody.”

everybody in this room is part of my dream
Continue reading “Dead of Night”

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”