LA ROSE DE FER (1973) – This film’s title was translated into English as The Iron Rose even though The Rose of Iron would be a more literal translation, but that’s just a tiny nitpick. La Rose de Fer was the fifth movie from Jean Rollin, whose horror productions can range from brilliant to So Bad They’re Good level.
The Iron Rose is possibly the greatest example of the “love it or hate it” nature of Rollin’s films. Personally, I love it and consider it one of his best works, but I can certainly understand why some viewers dismiss it as dull, pretentious and self-consciously artsy.
There IS a body count in The Iron Rose, but there is certainly no blood and gore. As our story begins, a beautiful woman (Francoise Pascal) lounges on the beach and regards an iron rose that has washed in with the tide. After tossing it aside she goes about her business, and before long is on a bicycling date with a young man (Hugues Quester).
Eventually the couple – listed as Le Femme and L’homme in the credits – end up taking a walk through one of those bizarrely scenic European graveyards which were tailor-made for this kind of atmospheric, artsy film. A creepy female clown and a sinister-seeming old woman are among the few other people our main characters encounter in the sprawling cemetery.
Viewers have had a few hints along the way that neither one of these young people are one hundred percent stable, but things soon go to the next level. Continue reading
For this weekend’s light-hearted, escapist superhero blog post we’ll do the DC characters called the Creature Commandos.
WEIRD WAR TALES Vol 1 #93 (November 1980)
Title: The Creature Commandos
Villains: Nazi soldiers
Synopsis: This story introduced Project M, a fictional 1942 War Department effort to unleash supernatural monsters upon the Axis armies. The members of these Creature Commandos:
*** Warren Griffith, an institutionalized teenager who irrationally thought he was a werewolf, so the scientists of Project M turned him into a real, biological man-wolf who could become his monstrous self at will.
*** Marine Private Elliot “Lucky” Taylor, who blew away much of his body by stepping on a land mine. Government scientists used patchwork body parts to reassemble him into a huge, yellow-skinned Frankenstein’s Monster figure.
*** Army Sergeant Vincent Velcro, who was given a choice of 30 years of hard labor for crippling a superior officer or being a human guinea pig for chemical injections derived from bat blood. The injections turned him into a science-spawned vampire.
*** Lieutenant Matthew Shrieve, Army Intelligence, a normal human placed in charge of the Creature Commandos.
In their first mission, the Commandos are sent into France to attack Castle Conquest, where the Nazis and French collaborators are designing android duplicates of high-level politicians from Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill on down. The plan is to use the nearly completed robots to replace the originals and surrender to the Axis Nations. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s recent looks at Eight Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season and Six More Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season were big hits with readers, so here are four more.
First Appearance: The Songs of Maldoror (1868)
Cryptid Category: Malevolent Unearthly Entity
Lore: Maldoror repeatedly lied about his nature and origins, casting doubt upon everything except the unspeakable vileness of … whatever he was. He/ It was possessed of greater than human strength, sadistic cunning and the ability to sprout tentacles, wings or other appendages from his shoulder blades.
This supernatural menace glided through the world with a serial killer’s mentality and viewed all other living things – even children and animals – as nothing but potential victims. Maldoror’s graphic violence against those he preyed upon was so disturbing that it would know no equal until the most depraved murderers of the 20th Century came along.
The monstrous entity encountered many other oddities like a hermaphrodite, a philosophical mad gravedigger, a large black tarantula, the Angel of the Lamp and others. Continue reading
Halloween month continues at Balladeer’s Blog with another look at a Gothic horror tale that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
KILLCROP THE CHANGELING (1828) – By Richard Thompson. Gothic horror stories always earn extra points from me if they spotlight a supernatural menace that is NOT a vampire or a ghost. This tale features a goblin child who changes places with a human child.
Killcrop the Changeling features the nearly forgotten version of goblin lore, which presented them as supernatural humanoid vermin who mystically inhabit old, uninhabited buildings. In this case the London building in question used to belong to an undertaker who also sold equipment for infants. The establishment was called Both Ends in reference to this cradle and grave specialization, NOT because it was a gay bar. Continue reading
For this weekend’s escapist superhero post Balladeer’s Blog will take a Halloween Season look at Marvel Comics’ character Lilith, the daughter of Dracula.
GIANT-SIZE CHILLERS Vol 1 #1 (June 1974)
Title: Night of the She-Demon
NOTE: In the 1970s Marvel Comics launched several horror titles, most of which I have reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog. One of those horror titles dealt with Dracula being on the loose in the present day. Lilith’s tales took place in that same continuity.
Synopsis: In England, Dracula visits one of his human thralls, Lord Henry, to order him to pursue diplomatic immunity for an alias that Drac will adopt.
The undead count’s presence in England has supernaturally triggered some stirring in a grave outside London. It is the grave of Dracula’s daughter Lilith, who was put there 30 years ago by vampire hunter Quincy Harker, Marvel Comics’ descendant of Jonathan Harker from the 1897 novel Dracula. Continue reading
With Halloween Month rolling along, Balladeer’s Blog presents a list of some horror films that are extreme with their graphic gore or their envelope-pushing themes.
RABID GRANNIES (UNCUT VERSION) (1988) – We’ll start with the mildest one on this list. Yes, even in its original, uncut and graphically violent form it’s mild for this list. Those darn Belgians produced this Evil Dead-inspired movie which featured a pair of nonagenarian aunts being sent a birthday gift by their Satanist nephew.
When the gift is opened that night, it transforms the pair into hideously ugly demonoids who prey upon all of the relatives gathered to celebrate their birthday at their remote mansion home. Not even children are exempt from getting killed as the ever-mutating “grannies” slaughter the family members.
What the two demonoids do to the priest in the family is very, very dark. FOR MY FULL-LENGTH REVIEW CLICK HERE.
NOTE: The movies below this point tend to be very distressing for people with more conventional tastes in horror films. Turn back NOW if you do not like extreme violence and/or extreme themes. Continue reading
INVADERS FROM THE DARK (1925) – Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this horror story written by Fanny Greye Bragg aka “Greye La Spina” for her skill at weaving. Invaders from the Dark was first published in the iconic pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1925, then republished in revised form in 1960.
Regular readers may remember my review of the 1918 novel The Ghost Garden, in which a female ghost and a witch fight over a mortal man they both love. This 1925 tale features a similar love triangle among supernatural figures.
In 1920s New York City, Portia Delore marries a magic practitioner named Howard Differdale, but Differdale’s sorcery forbids the pair from consummating their marriage. Portia learns a great deal of magic from her spouse, but a lady has desires, and after Howard’s death (dare I say “Howard’s End?”) Portia’s are aimed at handsome Owen Edwardes.
She has competition from Russian Princess Irma Andreyevna Tchernova, a werewolf by choice. The ladies woo Owen, with Princess Tchernova even trying to lure the real estate man into becoming a werewolf himself via mystical plants and spells. The princess takes to preying on children and cops. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog’s recent look at Eight Neglected Monsters for Halloween Season was a big hit with readers, so here are more.
First Appearance: The Monks of Monk Hall (1844-1845)
Cryptid Category: Malformed Human
Lore: This deformed and depraved man-monster grew up in Monk Hall as the son of one of the Hall’s members and one of the prostitutes enslaved there. He was squat, incredibly strong and grotesquely ugly with one large gaping eye and one small, withered, empty eye socket on his face.
Devil-Bug – the only name he had ever known – worked as a combination doorman, bouncer and executioner in the vile mansion called Monk Hall in Philadelphia. He killed on command and secreted the corpses deep in the sub-basements of the sinister mansion.
The unwholesome figure slept in a chilly dank room with the body of one of his victims lying next to him. Devil-Bug even used coffins – both occupied and unoccupied – as furniture in his room. Continue reading
For this weekend’s escapist superhero post Balladeer’s Blog will go with a Halloween theme and examine the Marvel Comics character Gabriel, often called an exorcist and demon or devil hunter. Agatha Harkness shows up in his adventures.
HAUNT OF HORROR Vol 2 #2 (July 1974)
Title: Gabriel: Devil-Hunter
Villain: The demoness Catherine
Synopsis: At Saint Benedict’s Cathedral in Manhattan, Father Lazar realizes that his fellow priest Father Artemis has become possessed and has vandalized the site. When the invading spirit causes Father Artemis to spout blasphemies during his sermon and leap from a height sufficient to break both his legs, Father Lazar (I like to think his first name is Rem) seeks help from an enigmatic, unaffiliated exorcist called Gabriel.
Father Lazar goes to the Empire State Building and pushes the button for the 13th Floor, which does not really exist but IS the way to enter Gabriel’s other-dimensional office. That office is cluttered with occult tomes on exorcism and once Lazar enters, he is greeted by Gabriel’s sultry assistant Desadia.
She psychically sensed him coming and ushers him in to see Gabriel. Expository dialogue between Father Lazar and our main character makes it clear that Gabriel was once a priest under Lazar’s authority. Father Lazar hires Gabriel to exorcise Father Artemis despite some implied hostility between the pair in the past.
Gabriel and the priest arrive at the chamber where the broken-legged Father Artemis is being confined to his bed, like Regan in The Exorcist. Amid the usual hostile and taunting exchanges between the possessed and the exorcist, Gabriel learns that the invading spirit is Catherine, an old foe of our hero. She is the spirit of a woman burned as a witch in Europe centuries ago. Continue reading
Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this 19th Century short story about an Egyptian mummy.
MR. GRUBBE’S NIGHT WITH MEMNON (1843) – Written by Albert Smith and republished in 1857, this tale centered around one Mister Withers Grubbe, an elderly inhabitant of the western part of London. Grubbe is an enthusiast when it comes to ancient history among other topics and visits a London Museum to see their new exhibit of Egyptian antiquities.
After spending time marveling at assorted statues of various sizes and a mummy identified as Memnon, Withers finds a quiet corner to sit down for a rest. He falls asleep and when he wakes up, he discovers it is long past closing time and somehow he was overlooked when the museum was locking up.
Our main character tries all the doors and finds himself trapped until the next morning in the Egyptian wing. Grubbe is uneasy at the thought of spending the night among the ancient Egyptian relics and before long he realizes his uneasiness is more than merited. Continue reading