Tag Archives: Halloween season

MONSTER CEREALS FOR HALLOWEEN

monster crunch gameHalloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this nostalgic look at the Big Five monster-themed cereals from General Mills.

In a world that has seen an Emoji movie I have no idea why there’s no animated monster rally movie featuring this quintet. Or at the very least maybe some new monster cereals like Vanilla Witch or Grape Goblin or something.  

count choculaCOUNT CHOCULA

First Appearance: 1971

Voiced like Bela Lugosi, this cartoon vampire preferred his own chocolate-flavored, marshmallow-sprinkled cereal treat over sucking the blood of his victims. “I vunt to eat your cereal!” was, in fact, his tagline in contrast to the cliched vampire declaration “I vunt to suck your blood!”

Count Chocula cereal is still in stores seasonally – September and October.

The cartoon character’s imitation Bela Lugosi voice was a nice nostalgic nod to fans of classic horror films, especially in regard to the Count’s rivalry with another General Mills Monster Cereal Mascot. Continue reading

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LARAINE NEWMAN’S CANNED FILM FESTIVAL (1986)

ritzTHE CANNED FILM FESTIVAL STARRING LARAINE NEWMAN (1986) – Halloween Month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at a neglected Movie Host show, since Movie Hosts/ Horror Hosts are as associated with Halloween as are monsters and cosplay.

In this post I won’t be covering the entire history of movie hosting and the “So Bad They’re Good” film subculture. For that, there are my many other blog posts covering movie hosting from Vampira and her contemporaries, through Moona Lisa, then Son of Svengoolie, Elvira, and programs like Saturday Night Dead, The Texas 27 Film Vault and MST3K

canned film festival castTHE SHOW: The Canned Film Festival Starring Laraine Newman. From June 21st to September 13th of 1986 this 90 minute syndicated program sponsored largely by Dr Pepper aired on Saturday nights in various time slots around the United States. Elvira’s show Movie Macabre had run from 1981 to 1986 and was winding down. The Texas 27 Film Vault, which had debuted on February 9th, 1985 was still on the air and would run for roughly two and a half years in Texas and Oklahoma.

Along came The Canned Film Festival, which, with a nationally known name like Laraine Newman attached to it, may well have been the reason that one of the attempted syndication deals for T27FV fell through. Be that as it may, Laraine Newman’s show would – like The Texas 27 Film Vault – show more than just lame horror and sci-fi films and would cover the whole spectrum of bad and/ or campy cinema of the past.

laraine as the usheretteTHE HOSTESS: Laraine Newman may be best known for Saturday Night Live and for her character actress work, but she had been a member of The Groundlings improvisational comedy troupe … As had Cassandra Peterson aka Elvira. Newman was also known as an aficionado of horror and fringe cinema. Continue reading

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FAUST (1987): THE PRE-SPAWN VERSION OF SPAWN

faustFAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED (1987) – Written by David Quinn with artwork by Tim Vigil. Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this review of the 1987-2012 “adult” comic book series Faust. This series included very graphic and very unusual sex and violence while offering a twisted update on the story of Faust selling his soul to Mephistopheles. The year 2000 Brian Yuzna (’nuff said) movie version of Faust: Love of the Damned is pretty bad but does capture the blood-soaked, anarchic WTF air of the series.  

Before I get into plot details I’ll point out that, despite the criticism that Quinn and Vigil get for providing stories featuring extreme sex and gore in a purely sensational manner they never sold out their indy comic vision by watering down either the sex or the violence just for wider distribution and more money. Continue reading

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14 NEGLECTED GOTHIC HORROR STORIES

Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at some of the neglected literary horror tales I’ve reviewed.

ensouled violin picTHE ENSOULED VIOLIN (1880) – Written by THE Madame Blavatsky. A gifted Austrian violin player named Franz Stenio is drawn to occult studies while away at college. Hearing dark legends about how Niccolo Paganini supposedly acquired his otherworldly skill with the violin, Franz carries out some of the rumored rituals in real life, to bloody and deadly effect. The fallout is horrific. CLICK HERE.  

CITY OF VAMPIRES (1867) – Written by Paul Feval. This criminally neglected story depicts a fictionalized young version of the Gothic horror writer Ann Radcliffe when she was still Ann Ward. To try to save some friends she trails them to the Belgrade city of vampires called Selene as well as the Sepulchre. In that perpetually gloomy and overcast village Ann and company must deal with vampires of varied abilities from back in the era before vampire lore was as set in stone as it later became. CLICK HERE

werwolvesTHE WERWOLVES (1898) – Written by Honore Beaugrand. A pack of werewolves prey upon victims in Canada. Plenty of unusual takes on lycanthrope lore with a north of the border touch. These particular werewolves are of Iroquois extraction which, along with the cold and snowy backdrop, helps to make this Canadian horror tale stand out from the rest. CLICK HERE. Continue reading

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TALES OF HOFFMANN: A HALLOWEEN OPERA

Halloween month is here! As usual the next 31 days will be filled with my usual topics PLUS neglected horror films, novels, operas, etc.

Tales of Hoffmann

Tales of Hoffmann

TALES OF HOFFMANN (1881) – Yes, as if I wasn’t boring enough already I’m also into opera! Now, I know traditionally “the” Halloween Opera has always been Don Giovanni , but I’ve never bought into that notion since there’s really only one scene in the whole opera that qualifies as spooky and supernatural.

At this time of year I prefer Offenbach’s Tales Of Hoffmann. Not only is it full of appropriately eerie and menacing elements, but it’s also the perfect opera for you to share with someone who’s seeing their very first opera.

One of the reasons for that is that it’s in short segments, surrounded by a wraparound opening and finale. Offenbach adapts short stories written by E.T.A. Hoffmann, who in real life was a pre-Edgar Alan Poe author of eerie short stories in his native Austria during the 1800s. At any rate since this opera’s in short segments novices to the artform won’t have time to get bored.

Another reason is that, though the climax of these tales no doubt seemed shocking to the people of Hoffmann’s (or for that matter, Offenbach’s) time period, modern audiences are so used to anthology series’ like The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt, etc that today’s viewers will spot the “twist” endings coming from a mile away. This combats another common complaint of opera novices: that they have trouble following the story. Continue reading

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MALDOROR 2:6 – THE JUSTICE OFFERED BY THE LAW IS WORTHLESS

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOT FOR THE EASILY UPSET.

THE JUSTICE OFFERED BY THE LAW IS WORTHLESS

Tuileries gardens at nightThe supernatural being Maldoror, fresh off his sadistic murder of a 10 year old girl in the previous stanza, this time around turns his attentions on an 8 year old little boy. Our vile protagonist first spots the child sitting on a bench in the Tuileries Gardens. Maldoror sits down next to the boy and engages him in conversation. 

The conversation consists of the monstrous figure peppering the child with questions about his beliefs and his dreams for the future as well as his barely-developed notions of right and wrong.  Continue reading

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MALDOROR 12: THE PHILOSOPHICAL GRAVEDIGGER

Balladeer’s Blog resumes its examination of the macabre 1868 French language work The Songs of Maldoror. NOTE: As always, the Maldoror blog posts are not for the squeamish. 

THE PHILOSOPHICAL GRAVEDIGGER

Maldoror gravediggerThe supernatural being Maldoror, here referring to himself as “He who knows not how to weep”, found himself in Norway in his wanderings. While in the Faroe Islands he observed men who hunt for the nests of sea birds in mountain crevices hundreds of feet deep. He mused that if he was in charge of such an expedition he would have knicked the strong rope the mountain climbers use, weakening it so he could enjoy watching at least one of them plummet to a bone-shattering death far below.  

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This image of a human body fatally falling into a massive hole in the earth put him in mind of freshly-dug graves. Thus inspired, Maldoror indulged in a nocturnal exploration of the area’s graveyards. In one in particular he passed a band of necrophiliacs violating beautiful corpses and stopped to chat with a nearby gravedigger.

With typical vanity Maldoror told the gravedigger to consider himself lucky to be interacting with him. He (Maldoror) fancied himself a figurative “great whale” momentarily raising his head above the waters of the Sea of Death in which he made his home, granting a mere mortal like the gravedigger the privilege of seeing him in his dread majesty.    Continue reading

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THE MONKS OF MONK HALL (1844-1845): HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Halloween! Balladeer’s Blog marks it with a neglected work of American horror.

Monks of Monk HallTHE MONKS OF MONK HALL aka THE QUAKER CITY (1844-1845) – Written by George Lippard, this strange and macabre story was originally serialized from 1844-1845 before being published in novel form. This bloody, horrific work was America’s best-selling novel before Uncle Tom’s Cabin

I always refer to this book as “Twin Peaks Goes To The 1840s.” On one level The Monks of Monk Hall deals with crime, corruption, drugs and sex-trafficking among many supposedly “respectable” citizens of Philadelphia the way Twin Peaks did with residents of the title town.

On another level the novel deals with supernatural horrors that lurk behind the Quaker City’s murders, vices and sexual perversions, again like the David Lynch series. The center of the darkness is Monk Hall, an old, sprawling mansion with an unsavory history and reputation. Many have disappeared into the bowels of the building, never to be seen again. The power players and criminals who mingle at the Hall in bizarre orgies, secret murders and drunken debauches are known as “Monks” – Monk Hall’s exclusive membership.

Monks of Monk Hall 4Think of Monk Hall as a combination of Twin Peaks establishments like the Black Lodge, One-Eyed Jacks and the Great Northern all rolled into one. The vast, multi-roomed Hall is honey-combed with secret passageways and trap doors. Beneath the mansion are a subterranean river plus several levels of labyrinthine catacombs filled with rats, refuse and the skeletal remains of the Monks’ many victims from the past century and a half.   

The sinister staff of Monk Hall are happy to provide their members with all the sex, opium and other diversions that they hunger for behind their public veil of respectability. Throw in the occult practices of the members and there’s a sort of “American version of Sir Francis Dashwood’s Hellfire Club” feel to it. Among the novel’s more horrific characters:

Monks of Monk Hall 2DEVIL-BUG – The deformed, depraved and deranged bastard offspring of one of Monk Hall’s members and one of the many prostitutes who are literally enslaved there. Devil-Bug has spent his entire life in the Hall and has no other name. He is squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty socket on his face.

This monstrosity works as Monk Hall’s combination door-man, bouncer and executioner, gleefully murdering on demand and secreting the corpses away in the sub-basements beneath the mansion. Just to make him even more unwholesome, Devil-Bug sleeps next to the corpse of one of his victims and uses occupied coffins as furniture in his creepy rooms.

RAVONI – Interchangeably referred to as a sorcerer, mad doctor, astrologer and anatomist, this handsome but sinister man pulls the strings behind the supernatural evils of Philadelphia and vicinity.

Monks of Monk Hall 3Master of an occult method of eternal youth, Ravoni has been alive for over two hundred years. (The novel repeatedly says just two hundred years, but the villain refers to having been present at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which happened in 1572, so it has to be longer)

Ravoni has powers of mesmerism, prognostication and can even raise the dead. He was the original owner of Monk Hall under another name long ago. Readers eventually learn the kind of dark rituals the man performed at the Hall but don’t learn the full extent of his evil plans until the climax of the novel.          Continue reading

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THE WRAITH: HALLOWEEN SUPERHERO

Halloween month hurls toward its conclusion as Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at another vintage superhero ideal for the season.

Wraith rising picTHE WRAITH

Secret Identity: Gary Kennedy, dead policeman

First Appearance: Mystery Men # 27 (October 1941). His final Golden Age appearance came in 1942.

Origin: When police officer Gary Kennedy and his brother are shot to death by Silky Weaver and his subordinate gangsters, Gary dies swearing by Heaven above to avenge his and his brother’s deaths. He returns from the grave several nights later and makes good on his vow.

Afterward, the newly-christened Wraith continues to rise from his grave to deal out justice to evildoers on behalf of their dead victims, whose souls beg him to take action.

Powers: Continue reading

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RAPPACCINI’S DAUGHTER (1844): HALLOWEEN STORY

Halloween Month continues with this neglected femme fatale from Nathaniel Hawthorne. FOR THE OTHER CREATURES IN THIS MONSTER RALLY CLICK HERE 

Rappaccini's Daughter 2BEATRICE RAPPACCINI

First Appearance: Rappaccini’s Daughter (1844)

Cryptid Category: Human-plant hybrid.

Lore: Beatrice Rappaccini, also called the Poison Woman, had been experimented on by her mad scientist father since infancy. Some dark rumors even held that the father – Doctor Giacomo Rappaccini – had spawned her from a seed-pod and that his tales of a wife were lies.

Beatrice was so toxic that she was the only one alive who could come into contact with the monstrous and deadly plants in her father’s courtyard garden. The Poison Woman’s beauty drove men wild, tempting many admirers to brave the dangers of her father’s mutated plant life.

The dark beauty’s flesh was a toxic poison and her breath could kill insects, snakes, rats and small children. Dead creatures made the ideal fertilizer for the creations of Beatrice’s father. It was hinted that Beatrice fed on the vermin killed by her breath, just like Venus Flytraps and other carnivorous plant-life. Continue reading

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