CD Review: The Colour out of Space

The Colour out of Space is closer to science fiction than horror than most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, although it certainly has its horrifying aspects. This 1927 short story considers what lies out there in the vastness of space, unknown and incomprehensible to humanity; like the narrator, one may feel “an odd timidity about the deep skyey voids above” by the end of it.

Arkham newspaper article about the meteorite

The story begins with a meteorite that crashes on the Massachusetts farm of Nahum Gardner in 1882.

Scientists from nearby Miskatonic University come out to examine it, and discover an object too soft to be metal but possessed of peculiar properties. Not that they have much time for testing. The meteorite shrinks rapidly and, after several lightning strikes during a storm, disappears completely.

Yet something remains behind. That autumn’s crops grow extravagantly large and glossy, tinted with an indefinable color that reminds everyone of the fragile globule found inside the meteorite–but all the fruit is inedible. The next year, the plants grow stunted and brittle. Tree branches seem to move even when there’s no wind. Wild animals near the farm behave strangely and appear to be subtly deformed. The livestock that isn’t able to flee becomes ill and starts to shrivel, turning grey and brittle like the plants. The whole farmyard glows faintly at night. And although the water from the well is obviously contaminated, the Gardner family continues to drink it.

At first glance, this could be an early story about the effects of exposure to radiation; this being Lovecraft, however, there’s more going on than a mere environmental hazard. An active and conscious entity has taken up residence in the farm well and is draining the life out of everything organic in the vicinity.

The text is online at

Continue reading “CD Review: The Colour out of Space”

CD Review: The Shadow out of Time

Original Astounding Stories cover of 'The Shadow out of Time' In 1908, a Miskatonic University political economics professor named Nathaniel Peaslee collapsed while giving a lecture to his class. When he regained consciousness, he had no memory of who he was, was badly coordinated, wore an odd expression, and spoke in a stilted, archaic style as if English were an unfamiliar language. His wife and children, convinced that this wasn’t Nathaniel at all, were horrified and had nothing further to do with him.

In his new personality, Peaslee pursued a very different sort of life, absorbing knowledge on a variety of subjects from the abstruse to the childishly simple. He made mysterious trips all over the world–Arabian deserts, the Himalayas, the Arctic–and contacted several occult leaders during his travels.

Then, in 1913, he built a small, strange machine in his Arkham home. An anonymous phone call requested that a doctor come to tend to him; when the doctor arrived, Peaslee was unconscious and woke slowly, speaking words from the lecture he’d been giving in 1908. The original personality had returned, with no memory of what he’d been doing for the last 5 years.
Continue reading “CD Review: The Shadow out of Time”

CD Review: At the Mountains of Madness

I’ve been meaning to go on with reviewing the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre dramas produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. I’ve had the boxed CD set for years, but time passed and other things got in the way… until I was doing a Matt Foyer-fest this past weekend and included A Shadow over Innsmouth; I realized it’d been awhile since I’d listened to any of the others, some of which Foyer also has smaller roles in.

At the Mountains of Madness is one of Lovecraft’s larger stories in length as well as scope. We’re no longer in the narrow streets of witch-haunted Puritan towns crowded with gambrel-peaked roofs, nor in the claustrophobic New England hills with their own ancient legends. This story is set in the vast, frozen wastes of the Antarctic. It’s about a team of explorers who discover what appear to be remarkably well-preserved specimens of an early but sophisticated form of life that lived on Antarctica millions of years before it was covered in ice. But in spite of their great age, these Elder Beings aren’t quite dead yet. In fact, they’re feeling much better.

It’s a story filled with adventure–dogsleds and aeroplanes, wind storms, monstrously high mountains, a lost city, giant penguins, and a thrilling chase scene with one of the usual Lovecraftian nightmare creatures. There’s been a recent attempt at a film version, but it seems to be lost in production limbo.

The story is available online at

Continue reading “CD Review: At the Mountains of Madness”

DVD Review: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again

The sequel to 2001’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra didn’t appear until 2009. One of the producers describes it as “The same people who made the first movie now have a little more money.”

Lattis and Kro-Bar leave their spaceshipThis second film follows the first as a tribute to the scifi movies of late 1950s and early ’60s, but it adds on a jungle adventure.

The production values have also taken a couple of steps up with the addition of a new production manager, Tony Tremblay. While his props retain a certain goofy period charm, they don’t have the same found-objects look as the props in the first film.

Another noteworthy change is apparent in writer/director Larry Blamire’s wonderfully inane dialog, which has becomes more polished, and his characters’ names. In the original Lost Skeleton film, the “Earth names” the aliens picked out for themselves–Bamen and Turgasso–seemed more than a little weird. In this movie, they would fit right in.

The Lost Skeleton Returns Again begins with stock footage of the Capitol building, so it’s presumably in Washington DC that Federal agent Reet Pappin (Frank Dietz) meets with General Scottmanson and receives his assignment: Import/export king, Handscombe Draile, a man who deals in government secrets, is after a newly discovered element called Jerranium 90; Reet’s job is to locate the only source of Jerranium 90 in South America before Draile does. The discoverer of Jerranium 90, Dr. Jerry Calvern, is sick but the General tells Reet that there is one other scientist “that smart about rocks.”

Before we follow Reet on his mission, we visit the humble suburban home of a TV repairmen named Peter Fleming (Brian Howe), who is going over the personal effects of his late twin brother, evil Dr. Roger Fleming. The thing that most puzzles Peter is the skull–Roger always felt inferior to skeletons and believed they hated him. Why would he keep “the top part of something he felt didn’t care for him one little bit?”

Peter soon receives an answer to this mystery, when the Skull begins to speak to him in that familiar, arrogant and obnoxious voice. Its skeletal body was destroyed at the end of the last movie, which somewhat limits its ability to act for itself, but it still has its mind-control powers and soon has Peter doing its bidding.

The Skull announces that to restore its body, it will need to be exposed to “an idol called the Dalp of Anacrab” in an unexplored region of the Amazon basin named Menalusa (aka, the Valley of the Monsters). The next thing you know, Peter tells his wife that he has to go to South America on TV-repairmen business and packs a suitcase.

Reet Pappin calls at the home of well-known Rock Scientist Dr. Paul Armstrong and is greeted by Paul’s lovely wife Betty (Fay Masterson, wearing the same dress from the previous movie, but now with longer and darker hair). She invites Reet in for coffee and cookies and tells him that she hasn’t seen her husband since he left for the Amazon jungle 2 years ago; he sent a telegram when he arrived, and that was it. She doesn’t seem very worried–she is, after all, a scientist’s wife and used to this kind of thing–but when Reet says he’s going to South America to look for Paul, she insists on going with him.

They fly to South America, as shown on the map.

Flying to South America At a warehouse belonging to Draile Import Export, Handscombe Draile himself meets with a cheap hood named Carl Traeger (Kevin Quinn). After very slooowly checking Carl’s identification, Draile tells him that he’s sending an expedition to the Amazon to find the source of Jerranium 90, and Carl is to join it.

Peter flies to South America with the Skull. Carl also flies to South America. Different flights, same passengers boarding.
Continue reading “DVD Review: The Lost Skeleton Returns Again”

DVD Review: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra

After I reviewed Trail of the Screaming Forehead a few weeks ago and spoke highly of the other films of Larry Blamire, I started rewatching them all and decided to say something more about them. The Lost Skeleton first.

This film was made in 2001 as a parody and tribute to the low-budget, black-and-white scifi films of the 1950s. I always think that parodies work best when the people creating them are knowledgeable about their subject, have an affection for it, and most important of all, understand the appeal of it. We have a good example here. The Lost Skeleton is extremely goofy with its mash-up of several B-movie plots and use of low-budget props. With it’s Ed Wood-style wooden dialog, it’s also frequently and hilariously stupid. These are its charms. Watching it, I feel certain that Larry Blamire has seen even more of these type movies than I have, and he loves them.

Paul and Betty Armstrong

Our story begins with a typical-looking 1950s couple driving a (1961) Thunderbird through the countryside. They are Dr. Paul Armstrong (Blamire), a Man of Science, and his lovely wife Betty (Fay Masterson), heading for a cabin they’ve rented in the woods. Betty is hoping that Paul will take a break from doing Science for a romantic weekend, but Paul’s main reason for this trip is to find a meteor that landed in the area. He believes the meteor is made of atmospherium, a radioactive element that could mean actual advances in the field of Science.

Along the way, they stop to ask for directions from a farmer who happens to be standing at the side of the road. The farmer sets the tone for the rest of the film by telling them:

“Stay on this road here, past Dead Man’s Curve. You’ll come to an old fence, called the Devil’s Fence. From there, go on foot `til you come to a valley known as the Cathedral of Lost Soap. Smack in the center is what they call Forgetful Milkman’s Quadrangle. Stay right on the Path Of Staring Skulls `til you come to a place called Death Clearing. Cabin’s right there–you can’t miss it.”

Continue reading “DVD Review: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra”

DVD Review: X the Unknown

When I was watching the first episode of Nigel Kneale’s second Quatermass series for the BBC, I had the feeling I’d seen something like it before although the rest of the story didn’t progress the way I thought it would. What I remembered involved an indestructible blob monster coming up out of the ground.

This was the movie I was thinking of. It does look like a sequel to Hammer’s version of The Quatermass Experiment–but it’s not. It’s more a sort of Quatermass wannabe. Hammer originally intended it to be another tale in the continuing adventures of Professor Bernard Quatermass until Kneale objected to their unauthorized use of his character. The studio went ahead with their story idea, but with certain names and other details changed.

Up in the rocky Scottish Highlands, a group of soldiers is conducting an exercise using a Geiger counter to scan for and locate a harmlessly small amount of radioactive material buried out on the heath. The sergeant (Michael Ripper, not playing the same sergeant he was in Quatermass and the Pit) is about to call it a day, when a young man named Lansing chirps up that he hasn’t had a turn. The other soldiers moan and groan, but the sergeant goes out to rebury the little canister so Lansing can find it.

Soldiers search for radioactive material... and find more than they expected.

Lansing takes awhile and the company’s lieutenant goes out to join him to see what the problem is. The Geiger counter is picking up a very strong signal, much higher levels of radiation than the canister contents would emit.

The ground beneath their feet begins to tremble and a long crack opens up in the earth. The rest of the men retreat to safety, but when the crack widens into great fissure, poor Lansing and one other man are caught in the blast that shoots up out of it.
Continue reading “DVD Review: X the Unknown”

DVD Review: Trail of the Screaming Forehead

Sheila and the creeping forehead

Trail of the screaming forehead.
What can a body do?
‘Cause when your forehead’s screaming,
It isn’t really you…


First, a few words about the films of Larry Blamire.

I discovered The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra when I purchased the DVD second-hand a few years after its 2001 release and thought it was clever and cute. The film was made on a pocket-change budget in the style of the even more low-budget sci-fi films of the 1950s and early ’60s which it lovingly parodies. Much of it was filmed in Bronson Canyon and features that same cave in which Ro-Man made his lair in Robot Monster, the giant space-brain Gor hid in Brain from Planet Arous, and Roger Corman used in a half-dozen other movies of the era.

What impressed me most was Blamire’s talent as a writer for mimicking the stilted, overblown, and frequently inane dialog of such movies. You have only to watch The Lost Skeleton in conjunction with Plan 9 from Outer Space to appreciate it.

The Lost Skeleton was eventually followed by a jungle-adventure sequel, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again and Dark and Stormy Night, the latter of which has become one of my favorite films; it started me off on a search for the Old Dark House movies it parodies and eventually led to my addiction to Dark Shadows.

But something was missing.

Coming Soon,,, Trail of the Screaming Forehead At the end of The Lost Skeleton is the promise of the next film, Trail of the Screaming Forehead; in the DVD commentary, Blamire assured the viewer that this wasn’t a joke, but a real movie he planned to make.

I learned later that it had indeed been made, but that there was trouble with its distribution; a cut version had been shown, but no DVD released in the United States. Only in this past year, I found that a director’s cut was available from the UK and pounced on it. (It’s also available in several places online if you care to search.)

So here we are at last!
Continue reading “DVD Review: Trail of the Screaming Forehead”

DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 6

Episode 6: The Destroyers

"All your rocket base are belong to us."At the end of Part 5, Captain John Dillon, missing since the second episode, returned under the aliens’ influence. He and a group of zombified soldiers have taken over Quatermass’s rocket base to stop the rocket from being launched.

Quatermass wants his daughter to leave the Rocket Group offices right away, but Paula refuses to go and abandon him.

They’re too late in any case, since Dillon comes up from the base just then. He shows them his written orders to take over–“from the very top,” which shows how high the alien influence has reached up into the British government at this point.

Leo notes that these orders were issued before the explosion at the plant and tells John to send the soldiers with him away. And John does.

Quatermass and Paula try to reach the man they knew before the aliens got to him. Quatermass brandishes a fragment of that first meteorite at Captain Dillon, reminding him of how this all began only four days ago. He explains what happened to Dillon… and what will happen to the rest of humanity if the ammonia-breathing aliens succeed in taking over their world: submission first, then suffocation as Earth’s atmosphere becomes more noxious to accommodate the invaders.

As he appeals to Dillon to find whatever’s left of the individual human being, the scene recalls the lost ending of the original BBS version of The Quatermass Experiment, in which the professor talked to the monster Victor Carroon had become and brought him back to his humanity.

It does seem as if John Dillon struggles with his identity as Paula and her father plead with him, but it isn’t until Leo Pugh tells him bluntly “The rocket must go” that Dillon is really influenced. After a moment of confusion, he agrees to speak to his men down at the base and tell them there’s been “A change in plans. Withdraw all troops. Stand down.” However, he hasn’t shrugged off the aliens’ control over him.

Astute viewers may have noticed that Leo’s been a bit odd since Quatermass found him sitting outside the destroyed factory, but Quatermass himself won’t notice for awhile.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 6”

DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 5

Episode 5: The Frenzy

Professor Quatermass stands stunned by the ammonia-breathing alien he saw at the very end of Part 4, when one of the guards finally notices him and demands to know why he opened the “investigation window.” When he doesn’t answer immediately, other guards with guns drawn converge upon him… but before they surround the professor and shoot him down on the spot, they are abruptly called away. There’s an emergency situation at the entrance gate.

Villagers storming the factory.

Remember the men from the pub in the pre-fab village, who were at last convinced that they’d been duped into assisting the aliens? Well, they’re out there now.

They don’t have pitchforks, and the only torches they carry are the kind that Americans would call flashlights, but they’re angry and determined. They want some answers about what’s really going on at the plant. The union shop steward, the elderly man who was celebrating his 25th anniversary, wants to see the manager. The others want to know what the projectiles they call “overshots” actually are and if the things are dangerous.

When the guards try to clear the gate and force them back, a fight ensues. Men on both sides are killed, but the workmen get hold of a couple of guns and make their way into the central control room for the plant.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 5”

DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 4

BBC Logo Before this episode begins, the BBC warns us that what we’re about to see may not be “suitable for children or those of you with a nervous disposition.”

So brace yourselves!

Episode 4: The Coming

The story picks up where it left off at the end of Part 3, with Dr. Leo Pugh locating the asteroid in its hidden orbit; it’s coming closer to Earth and will be at its nearest point in about 3 hours. Everybody expects that more of those fake meteorites containing ammonia-breathing entities will be launched then.

Quatermass expounds further on his theories about the “colonial minds” of these creatures and what they’ve been up. The UFO scare/meteorite shower a year ago tells him that this invasion has been going on for at least that long. The first “showers” to hit Earth were more-or-less at random, but the creatures in the little projectiles took over enough of the local population in places like Winnerden Flats to get themselves organized. Their plans are moving into the final phase now.

He tells Fowler that the secrecy surrounding Winnerden Flats must end and the danger it presents be made known to the public. Fowler heads back to the Ministry to do what he can.

Paula has also been speculating about the asteroid that’s on its way toward Earth. It’s too small to hold any kind of atmosphere, so it can’t be natural. Her dad has also figured that much out. The Quatermasses agree that the source of the asteroid and the creatures on it must be one of the outer planets; the professor favors Saturn’s moons.
Continue reading “DVD Review: Quatermass II, Part 4”