Monday 25 November 2013

Donovan’s Brain
by Curt Siodmak
(Editions for Armed Services Inc.,
year unknown)

 So this is one of the more unusual items of acquired of recent. A miniature, pocket-sized US Services edition of Curt Siodmak’s brain-swap sci-fi epic ‘Donovan’s Brain’.

As you might expect, the paper this thing is printed on is veeery low grade - both covers are loose, and the pages feel like they’re practically falling apart in by hands. None of the usual copyright info, ISBN / Library of Congress numbers or year of publication info are present. Because, y’know, the army got better things to do than worry about that kinda shit.

Given that I’m primarily familiar with Curt Siodmak via his voluminous work as a screenwriter for ‘30s and ‘40s American horror films, I’d assumed that ‘Donovan’s Brain’ must be a novelisation (presumably based on his own screenplay) of the 1953 b-movie classic of the same name, directed by Felix E. Feist. My usual exhaustive research however reveals that Siodmak actually had no direct connection to that film. ‘Donovan’s Brain’ was an original novel, first published in 1942 and previously filmed as a Republic Pictures quickie entitled ‘The Lady and the Monster’ in 1944.

Despite having greatly admired a number of the films Siodmak worked on (every horror fan owes him a few moments of worship I think for his scripts for ‘The Wolfman’ and ‘I Walked With a Zombie’), I’ve never read anything by him in prose-form. The opening page here though makes me think that I’d very much like to try, but for the fact that this particular copy is on the verge of disintegrating;

Oh, and as an added point of interest, check out the selection of literature available from Editions for Armed Services Inc. during whatever period this book dates from. (WWII? Korea? – who knows). A varied library, to say the least.

Thursday 21 November 2013

The Three Day Alliance
by Howard R. Simpson

(Ensign, 1975)

 From a distance, this might look the very essence of ‘70s retro-cool spy movie chic, but the closer one looks, the shoddier it gets. That one-piece, full-body knitted romper suit the girl seems to be wearing? That horribly forced, unnatural pose against the blank photo studio backdrop? And just take a good look at our super-spy himself - jesus, how many sit-com bank manager and Hammer bartender auditions did that guy fail before he was reduced to this? See the hatred in his eyes, and shudder.

Still, love those bright-yet-muted colours, and the simple-yet-elegant design, I suppose. Loved it enough to drop an astonishing *£3* on it in a Herne Hill vintage emporium recently, anyway.

Sunday 17 November 2013

Starship Troopers
by Robert A. Heinlein

(Four Square, 1961)

Not sure there’s much I can say about this one that hasn’t already been said, except:

1. I picked it up for 50p in a Nottingham charity shop. Condition = WRECKED.

2. The book itself may be astoundingly disagreeable fascistic hokum, but this cover illustration is the very epitome of old school two-fisted sci-fi hoo-hah, and for that I love it.

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Out in the Great Beyond…

Since I went cold turkey on Tumblr last year (whoever called it the blogging equivalent of crack was on to something), I often stumble upon extraordinary imagery and text elsewhere that I instinctively want to re-blog at the touch of a button, before remembering that NO, I can’t do that anymore.

But since we’re already on back-up generator / emergency lighting mode here this month, might as well take the opportunity to share with you a few wonders currently available out there in the ether, all in the reassuring form of a nice, old-fashioned links post (the blogging equivalent of a gin & tonic out on the patio, perhaps).

First off, my ongoing investigation of the history of Japanese gothic horror movies was blown wide open by this rather tremendous poster gallery, courtesy of Pulp International. Who knew there were so many films about ghost cats lurking in people’s ceilings? Grow up in a nation that traditionally favours light-weight, single-storey construction for domestic buildings and that probably becomes an easier childhood fear to relate to, I suppose. Awesome were-chicken on the poster for 1958’s ‘Akadô Suzunosuke: Mitsume no Chôjin’(“Red-Armored Suzunosuke: Three-Eyed Birdman”) too. The hunt goes on!

Secondly: you remember The Witchmaker? I still really like that movie. I’ll have to put the effort in to actually find a watchable copy of it one day, but in the meantime, how about these complete scans of the film’s pressbook & promotional materials, via the And Everything Else Too blog? Definitely worth a look.

Next up, Au carrefour étrange gives us a set of illustrations for Jacques Sternberg’s C'est la guerre Monsieur Gruber (1968). What does it all mean? I don’t know, but as is so often the case with French culture, a state of blissful ignorance seems the best approach when faced with such extraordinary pop-arty beauty.

If reading highly detailed and insightful articles on the world of ‘70s British smut and soft porn sounds like your cup of tea, Gav Crimson is your man, with this recent write up on George Harrison Marks’ 8mm epic ‘Aphrodisia’ (1970) being particularly worth your while. It’s odd that whilst I have little interest in actually watching most of the films that emerged from this particular demi-monde, I find reading about the events and personalities behind it quite compelling; go figure.

Staying with the UK, you are all reading TV Minus 50, I trust? A great blog.

And finally, you no doubt heard about what befell The Philippines last week, so, if you've ever thrilled to the adventures of Agent 00, Cleopatra Wong, or, uh, that guy with the moustache in  ‘The Killing of Satan’ - or indeed if you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about - you know what to do.

Sunday 10 November 2013

The Clue of the Silver Key
by Edgar Wallace

(Hodder, 1961)

(Originally published 1930 / cover uncredited.)

So, I know he supposedly inspired all those zany German movies full of villains running around in frog-masks and old castles full of neurotics being murdered with spiked gloves and so on, but from the little Edgar Wallace I’ve tried to read over the years, I fear I may have achieved the impossible.

Great cover illustration though.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Nylon Nightmare
by Clayton Matthews

(Powell Publications, 1970)

  (Cover design by Bill Hughes.)

If I happened to see this posted somewhere on the internet, I’d be inclined to think it was a photoshopped piss-take or something. But I’m holding it in my hands right now and can confirm its reality: NYLON NIGHTMARE, ladies and gentlemen.

New life’s ambition: find a way to live in “an atomic age eyrie”.

Sunday 3 November 2013


I hate to disappoint loyal readers of my blather, but, as was trailed a few months back, life is busy right now. In particular, I’ve got a really thick pile of freelance work deadlines to plough through over the next month or so, and as such, I’m having to put the more time-intensive business of movie reviewing on hold for a little while. To tide us over, I’m going to be posting a bunch of random paperbacks I’ve picked up recently, all sourced from charity shops and market stalls in far flung corners of London and the UK, as per usual. I’m afraid I'm also going to be out of the country for much of January, but at least December and February will be Real Big Exciting Months here, I promise you that.*

*No refunds.