Halloween 2018 Part One

Every year for my Halloween post, I list several horror films that I have seen over the year that needs attention. Most of them are movies that either flew under the radar, or are the classic older films that many have forgotten about. This year I decided to do something different, and I hope, entertaining. The past year I have been able to review many books and have contact with many authors and publishers, including having the pleasure of emailing several of the writers on a normal basis. I thought that I would survey several people and ask them what films they suggest you watch during Halloween. Keep in mind, I did not ask them to list their opinion of the greatest of all time, just what films they would suggest to be good to watch, along with choosing any category-they could list all vampire films, all slasher films; whatever they wanted. Here are some of the responses I received. This is the first of two parts.

One of the first people I contacted is an author who has been featured on this page several times. Gary A. Smith gave me a great Q&A after reviewing his book “Vampire Films of the 1970s” (both you can find in the archives section). He has been a contributor to the magazine Little Shoppe of Horrors from 1980 -2013, and has written several books about various aspects of films. Smith and I started emailing each other frequently discussing the films we have seen in the past months. Smith, like me, makes it a habit to watch at least one horror film a night in October leading up to Halloween. Here are his picks when I asked him:

 

     Every year I watch a horror movie a day during October. My one rule is no science fiction, just horror. Here are a handful of movies that I seem to include every year for a variety of reasons.

1.) Halloween– I know, what could be more cliche but the original is, in my opinion, one of the best and most frightening horror movies ever made. It’s simple. It’s scary. And it has seldom been equaled. 

2.) Carrie– This movie holds a special place for me as I first saw it at a Halloween midnight sneak preview before it was officially released. As the remakes prove, you can’t top Brian DePalma’s brilliant direction. And that final scene! Wow!

1943’s Universal film “Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman” featured Lon Chaney and Bela Lugosi.

3.) Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man– More than anything else, Halloween means the original Universal monsters to me. In this film you get two of the best. It’s hard to pick just one Universal horror during Halloween but this one always is on the top of my list. 

4.) Brides of Dracula– What’s Halloween without Hammer? My favorite of all the Hammer Horrors is this film. Not your run of the mill vampire movie by any means. Tops in every department…acting, direction, story, sets, costumes. This one has it all. 

5.) Ghost Story– Sure, it’s not a patch on the original Peter Straub novel with it’s shape-shifting spirits, but don’t let that stop you from watching. This is a genuinely creepy film with the wonderful Alice Krige as a ghost bent on revenge. 

 

 

Who better knows what’s good for Halloween than horror hosts? I contacted the hosts of The Mummy and The Monkey‘s Janet Decay and Grimm Gorri from Cleveland, Ohio, and they picked these films:

 

Janet Decay’s Halloween Flicks:

Halloween 3 Season Of The Witch ( seems fitting) it has nothing to do with Michael Myers, but it gives you those Halloween “feels”

Hocus Pocus, a great 1990s family friendly Halloween movie about the Witches of Salem.

 Dracula, Starring Bela Lugosi. Classics never go out of style, and Bela was a dashing Drac. 

Trick R Treat, a more modern horror film with a nostalgic Halloween feel, that’s on the gory side. Make sure you leave Sam some candy.

The Great Pumpkin. Because, I have this stuck in my skull for all eternity. 

A family classic for youngsters and young at heart. 

Janet also stated that:

“3 things I learned to never discuss, religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin” 

Horror hosts Grim Gorri and Janet Decay of “The Mummy and The Monkey.”

Grim Gorri responded by stating:

What’s buzzin’, cousins?! Grimm Gorri, here, wishing everybody a Happy Halloween! There are too many great scary movies that would make for good watching on Halloween, but my top five are a great start! I chose 5 newer flicks that I found refreshingly frighteningly fun! 

  1. Trick r Treat
  2. Get Out
  3. Cabin in the Woods
  4. The Orphanage
  5. Drag Me To Hell

 

Eric Walker is a fan of not just horror films (and movies in general), but also runs a comic book store in Columbiana, Ohio, called Watchtower Heroes Comics LLC.   He has attended several comic conventions for his business (where horror celebs and comic icons are usually present). His favorite Halloween films to watch features comedy, family, and slashing:

Lon Chaney in 1941’s Universal film”The Wolf Man.”

       1.Young Frankenstein: This movie is by far my favorite movie to watch around Halloween. The nostalgia mixed with timeless comedy make this a “must-watch” every year

            2. Disney Halloween: This is just good old fashion family fun. The combination of the talking mirror, timeless characters, and catchy music are what truly make this a favorite.

            3. The Wolf Man: All of the classic Universal Monster movies are absolutely masterful. This movie, along with Frankenstein have that little extra bit of terror that put them above the rest.

            4. Frankenstein: See #3

            5. Friday the 13th Part 3: This movie serves up the usual dose of teenage angst and graphic murder scenes. This also marks the beginning of Jason’s trademark hockey mask.

 

Thanks to all the contributors that helped me.

For information on The Mummy and The Monkey Show at themummyandthemonkey.com or http://www.facebook.com/themummyandthemonkey

For comics and collectibles, visit http://www.watchtowerheroes.com , the facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/WatchtowerHeroesComics, or stop in the Columbiana, Ohio store at 6 S. Main St, Columbiana, OH 44408

You can find Gary A. Smith’s books at amazon.com, http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com, and at http://www.bearmanormedia.com

 

PART TWO COMING SOON!!

 

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Book Review: A Lively Look at the Death of 1980s Wrestling.

Cover design : David A. Gee

 

Tim Hornbaker’s “Death Of The Territories: Expansion, Betrayal, and the War that Changed Pro Wrestling Forever” (ECW Press, 2018) is a historical lesson covering how the end of the wrestling territories came to be and the reasons for the demise.

Before the WWF took over wrestling in the 1980s, there were many different territories where wrestlers could go and , in some cases, get quality television exposure. If a wrestler’s appeal with the audience was wearing thin, they could go to a territory and either revamp their characters, or learn more skills before returning months or years later.

Some of the many states that had their own territories included Memphis, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, California, and St. Louis, which were all run by different promoters. Many of them bonded together as part of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), until divisions started when Vince McMahon Jr. bought his father’s company and started invading the territories for their stars.

Hornbaker’s book covers many of the different promoters like Bill Watts, Joe Blanchard, Leory McGuirk, Jim Barnett , and Verne Gagne. Other promoters covered in his history include The Poffos, The Sheik (Ed Farhat), Ann Gunkle , Don Owen, and the Fullers.

The book covers how each of the special territories ran their local television productions. Some of the main television programs were WCCW (from Texas) and the AWA (Minnesota) on ESPN, Jim Crockett Promotions and Georgia Championship Wrestling on WTBS, and the WWF’s syndicated programs, which started invading the other television stations with better deals for the advertisers by giving them bigger star names, which became a main reason the other leagues folded.

One of the interesting parts of the book is when the author details how some companies would try and enter the other’s area, and with the help of researched attendance numbers, show that some of the fans in certain areas of the United States did not accept the WWF when they ran shows. Memphis was one state that held better television and attendance numbers for their own stars, like Jerry Lawler, as opposed to lower numbers when the WWF tried to come into the area. There were areas where the WWF ran shows that barely drew at the time, as opposed to the myth that every state wanted the WWF in its town.

The story of Vince McMahon Jr’s rise to the wrestling empire by using business techniques such as banning other photographers from his ringside area, to his use of pay per view to help the product, and grabbing stars from other areas are all covered here, including when he aired WWF programming on WTBS. Georgia Championship Wrestling’s booker Ole Anderson’s counter to this time is also interesting, as well as how the other promoters and bookers handled the WWF invading their areas.

I was also intrigued when Hornbaker writes in 1983, McMahon Jr. took over the Ohio region with his show being on Channel 23 in Akron (one of the channels I watched WWF on when I started fully watching in 1986), and also held shows in East Liverpool and Struthers, Ohio (both not far from where I live). It was nice to see my local area covered in the book (mostly the WWF was big in Warren and Youngstown when I started watching and attending, although an occasional Struthers show would be held).

The book covers the rise of Jim Crockett Jr.’s taking over the Carolinas, which became so popular that most of the fans called his league the NWA, although there were many other members of the NWA, until Ted Turner bought out Crockett and renamed it WCW (World Championship Wrestling) to avoid confusion with the other NWA territories that were still running shows.

The history of the territories would not be complete without covering the AWA, Memphis, and World Class mergers in trying to keep their leagues afloat, with the WCW and WWF being the big two leagues. The AWA at one time was considered one of the big three leagues, but with Verne Gagne losing steam, the idea to try and co-promote was attempted.

Hornbaker’s writing is entertaining without having a bunch of dates confusing and boring the reader, and his research is wonderfully detailed, so those that want to know the historical dates won’t be disappointed either. He covers the events in readable chapters without bogging down the reader that they are reading a textbook. There is so much information on the topic, he could have easily have made it 300 pages long, but Hornbaker keeps it at a pleasant 241 pages of text (not counting the pages of book notes). The author also doesn’t become one of the “I hate the WWF for taking over” people, nor does join the argument that “All things WWF is great” either. He writes a nice non- judgmental book where the numbers and the research makes the readers decide for themselves.

Being a lover of the territory days (I am in the minority apparently who loved the AWA years after 1983 when they lost many stars like Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura, and Bobby Heenan- the Bockwinkle/Hennig matches are still some of the most underrated matches ever). This book is a must read for those who want to re-live the days, along with learning information that you may not have known (I for one did not know that Gagne once tried to negotiate a deal to sell out to McMahon Jr, long before he folded the league). “Death of The Territories” is a book that needs to be on every wrestling historian and fans’ book shelf.

 

This review copy was given courtesy of ECW Press.

 

“Death of The Territories” by Tim Hornbaker (ECW Press, 2018) IBSN: 978-1-77041-384-9 (softcover), 978-1-77305-232-8 (ePub) , 978-1-77305-233-5 (PDF) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com

 

For information on the author, go to twitter@TimHornbaker.

 

Book Review: Heavy Duty is A Mighty Tale

Looking for a wonderful rock and roll memoir? Look for “Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest” (Da Capo Press, 2018) by ex- Judas Priest guitar player K.K. Downing and writer Mark Eglinton. This book tells the rags to riches story of how Downing formed the legendary band, and helped lead the band to heavy metal immortality.

“Heavy Duty” starts by detailing Downing’s childhood with a father, who had what is now called OCD, along with being a hypochondriac. His father refused to let his children near other kids, due to the fear of them catching some illness. His father would also make the children help out in his gambling addiction by having them pick up paper receipts on the street (thrown away by people leaving shoe stores) to prove to the government he bought shoes for his children with government assisted money, while spending the money on racing bets.

Downing describes his early musical influences with bands like The Troggs, The Rolling Stones, Them , and Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix became his early idol, after seeing him in concert several times, which lead him to buy his first guitar. After quitting school at age 15, Downing worked at a hotel while attending many concerts, which created a deeper love for music, and also got him his stage nickname.

The book takes the reader through the early years of Downing’s guitar playing in many bands, ending up auditioning for the band called Judas Priest, who he auditioned for. The singer left Priest, and joined up with Downing and bass player Ian Hill, bringing the band name with him, which started the groundwork for the iconic band.

“Heavy Duty” is full of great rock and roll stories, from how Judas Priest working their way through the music industry, to stories of being the opening act for many bands, along with their treatment by the headliner acts like Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and Foreigner . The book covers the several lineup changes of drummers, to the behind the scenes recordings of the legendary albums of the band.

There are many great aspects of the book, including Downing describing rejected names for album titles, the decisions of the cover art work (which defines the band to this day -during the times where artwork was key to the overall product of selling records), and his views on his strained relationship with the second guitar player in the band, Glenn Tipton. The book goes into the famous court case where the band was charged with the deaths and injuries of two teens , to the band having to deal with singer Rob Halford leaving (and coming back to) the band, and the band’s short tenure with replacement singer Tim “Ripper” Owens.

Another entertaining part of the book was how the band was approached to submit a song for an unknown movie called “Top Gun,” and the results which shaped the band’s views on giving songs to soundtracks in the future. The recording of the band’s famous album “British Steel” is also a great read, from how the groundwork for the song “Living After Midnight” was created, the original cover that was proposed, interactions with some of history of The Beatles in the building where it was recorded, to the use of cutlery on the record.

The best thing about this book is the heart filled honesty Downing and Eglinton add to the book. Downing’s book is not a bash-fest, but he states his views honestly, and still shows respect for the band members. Even though he had strained relationships with band members, he still acknowledges that the members were all a part of the whole in the early development of the band, along with his admittance to making mistakes in the career path of the band. When discussing reasons for departing the band in 2011, along with opinions of the band’s nomination of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to his thoughts of the band now, the writers show a man that worked hard to get where he was in one of the greatest metal bands , along with a grateful attitude. Downing and Eglinton describe a man who lived out his dreams of a musician.

Although there are some stories about the rock and roll lifestyle, this book is not a graphic detailed book (like some rock memoirs that are filled with stories of groupies and drugs). “Heavy Duty” is a book about a young boy who had struggles in his childhood, and overcame them for the love of music and to be on top of the world.

This book is for the die hard fans of the band, along with those that casually know the band’s work (I own 6 of the band’s CDs, and did not know how many drummers the band went through). If you like reading rock memoirs, or tales of overcoming obstacles to conquer the world, this is the book to read.

 

The Advanced Reading Copy was given courtesy by Da Capo Press

 

“Heavy Duty Days And Nights In Judas Priest” by K.K. Downing with Mark Eglinton (Da Capo Press, 2018 ISBN: 9780306903311 -Hardcover, 9780306903298- eBook) can be found at http://www.dacapopress.com.

 

For information about K.K. Downing, visit: http://kkdowning.net/steelmill/

For information on Mark Eglinton,  go to his twitter @MarkEglinton

 

 

Concert Review: The Oaks Still Shining

The Oak Ridge Boys

Sept 8, 2018

The Harv at Mountaineer Race Track and Casino

New Cumberland, West Virginia

 

There are few musical acts that can still perform and sound great after a certain age. Those that fall into this category are Alice Cooper, Sammy Hagar, and Barry Manilow.

Then there are The Oak Ridge Boys.

To say that these four singers can still go while in their 70s is an understatement, because even with a degree in English, I can not fully put into words how great of a show these legends put on. They combine classic country, gospel, pop, and mix it into a show filled with humor, pride, and excitement.

On this rainy day in West Virginia (it rained constant all day, and the forecast called for more rain next few days due to effects of a tropical storm on the way), singer Joe Bonsall mentioned that this year’s tour has been filled with so much rain that they are known as “The Soak Ridge Boys,” and was thankful that this show was indoors.

The show started with 1984’s “Everyday,” 1983’s “American Made,” and 1977’s “You’re The One.” The band fired off song after song , keeping the audience singing along, and with as many hits as the act has, the band doesn’t want to disappoint in not trying to get as many songs in as possible.

One of the rare aspects of seeing the Oaks in concert is that they embrace the whole history of the band, from their gospel roots, to the time when other members were in the band (they still play songs from the Steve Sanders years, when William Lee Golden left the band for a while). Unlike some other musical acts, who ignore their past, especially when it comes to member changes, The Oaks showed that they are not erasing their history by performing songs like “It’s Gonna Take A Lot Of River,” which Joe Bonsall took the lead parts that was originally done by Sanders, and the last time I saw them live two years ago when Duane Allen took on “No Matter How High I Get” (again from the Sanders years).

Photo by Casey Carman

The set list featured some of the classic songs older fans of the band know, such as the Rodney Crowell cover “Leaving Louisiana in The Broad Daylight,” “Y’all Come Back Saloon,” “(I’m Sittin) Fancy Free,” and “Thank God For Kids,” which ended with William Lee Golden stating not to forget “grandkids too.” Bonsall, when introducing the band, stated that drummer Austin Curcuruto “wasn’t even born yet” when these songs were hits, being the young guy on the tour. Nonetheless he, and the rest of the Mighty Oaks band, were given a nice response for their hard work.

Since the Oaks never do the same set list twice, rare gems were featured as well, including one of my favorites, “Dancing The Night Away.” I used my contact with the band on Twitter to suggest the song, since I’d never seen them do it live. Bonsall made a comment to the crowd to send their pictures of the show to their Twitter page, and the band embraces social media because “they are cool. ” Humor aside, Bonsall was like a twenty year old on this song, dancing and covering the whole stage, while the musicians brought an energy and fierceness to the song that was as rocking as any hard rock act I have seen.

“Come On In (You Did The Best You Could Do),” another rarer song that casual fans may not have known, continued the hard rocking segment, with Duane Allen showing his energy singing lead on the song. There was a guy sitting next to my girlfriend (wearing a Def Leppard shirt) who devil-horned his way during these two songs, which shows that hard rockers found something to be entertained with the show.

After the fabulous bass man Richard Sterban sang his rendition of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” (Sterban shines on this song), the set turned to a gospel revival, with songs from their latest album “17th Avenue Revival.” The song “Pray To Jesus,” a humorous song from the album (and one of my favorites) has a different feel to it live, with a more rocking side to it, and was interesting to hear how the band interpreted it in concert. The lead single “Brand New Star” continued the session, with Bonsall stating that it was a positive take on dealing with death, which got a great response from the crowd. Allen continued the new music with “There Will Be Light.” Anytime I can sit and listen to Allen’s soulful vocals, it’s a treat. The Oaks performed five songs off of the new album, and did not lose their audience; one of the few bands that can pull off that many songs of new music without the audience heading to the concession stands.

Photo by Casey Carman

The beginning of “Let It Shine On Me,” the song the tour gets its name from, was Allen and the piano player taking the revival to it’s climax, with “The Ace” Allen taking me back to my early days of playing in black churches with his vocal range singing “Let It Shine On Me” soulfully and with the feeling that made it seem like the only person he was paying attention to was Jesus himself, singing with all his heart. When the other singers joined in, much like the whole night, the harmonies of these icons proved their worth to any critic that may had any doubt left that the gang could still hit the notes after a 90 minute show. The urban gospel feel at the end of the song, was similar to the scene with James Brown in the movie The Blues Brothers , where not only Bonsall was leading the praise fest with his ad-libs, but the band was backing the power like a locomotive glory train. The only thing missing was people doing cartwheels in the aisles like John Belushi did in the movie, but the same energy was there.

One can not end an Oaks show without “Elvira” and Bobbie Sue,” the two hits that made the pop charts in 1981 and 1982. The crowd was on their feet the whole time these two songs were played, singing and dancing along with the band. A highlight of the song is the crowd trying to compete with Sterban’s famous bass line, which the crowd has a fun time attempting. When Bonsall asked the crowd at the beginning of the night who were first time attendees, the majority of the crowd raised their hands. After the two biggest hits, many of the people were still singing on the way to the parking lot and to the casino, leaving happy while venturing back out into the rain.

Photo by Lance Lumley

One thing that I’d like to state here (I pride on this page being honest reviews) is how professional the crew was at the event. Two years ago, I had a problem with the T-shirt I got when I got it home (it shrunk to the point it was un-wearable when I was told it wouldn’t- my review of that show can be found in the archives). With no disrespect to that situation, the people at the merchandise table this time were friendly, telling jokes, and were overall wonderful and pleasant. Not only were the people at the table nice to deal with, but right before the show, they announced that those of us in the bleachers were allowed to come and sit in any empty seats on the floor to fill in the areas. Not many acts would let the fans do that, so we started in the bleachers before the show, and ended up towards the middle section of the floor. These people, from the tour bus drivers, sound technicians, lighting directors, and those working the merchandise table are some of the unsung heroes that many do not see or think of (for non musicians or those that have never played in bands), but the courtesy of the band allowing people to move up was not only great kindness, but a lasting memory for some of us. The underrated on stage band is just as enjoyable to watch as the guys in front singing. From a business aspect, The Oaks are as wonderful and professional at the same time.

To compliment The Oak Ridge Boys on putting a top-notch concert, while mentioning their age, is a double edge sword for fans like me. In one way, I like to show that these guys still put on one of the best shows in ANY genre of music, while combining country, pop, gospel, and American pride all in one show. However, the fans that have followed the band throughout the years already know what this act can do on stage (I have only seen the band live 3 times, so I missed the major 1970s-1980s live act).

The 90 minute (or so) set was pure entertainment and pleasure, with no slow spots, which can be rare in today’s musical events. This concert showed why Duane Allen, Joe Bonsall, Richard Sterban, and William Lee Golden are one of America’s finest treasures in the music industry.

 

Set List:

  1. Everyday
  2. American Made
  3. You’re The One
  4. Come On In
  5. Louisiana Red Dirt Highway
  6. This Crazy Love
  7. Gonna Take A Lot Of River
  8. Y’all Come Back Saloon
  9. Leaving Louisiana in The Broad Daylight
  10. Roll Tennessee River
  11. (I’m Sittin) Fancy Free
  12. Thank God For Kids
  13. Dancing The Night Away
  14. Come On In (You Did The Best You Could)
  15. Boom Boom
  16. Pray To Jesus
  17. Brand New Star
  18. There Will Be Light
  19. I’d Rather Have Jesus
  20. Let It Shine On Me
  21. Elvria
  22. Bobbie Sue

To see where the Oak Ridge Boys are touring next, visit http://www.oakridgeboys.com

 

Classic Book Review: The Golden Years Covers Classic Movie Studio

Cover: Sandra Harrison in Blood of Dracula. Photo courtesy of Mark McGee.

 

Gary A. Smith’s “American International Pictures: The Golden Years” (Bear Manor Media, 2013) looks at the interesting films the classic movie company has made throughout the years.

Smith’s book starts by discussing the formation of the company American Releasing Company (ARC) in 1954, by Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson in California. The duo announced that the first film released would be by producer Roger Corman, who would be well known with making films for the company throughout the years. The book goes through the renaming of the company in 1956, after another company closed business, to the more known American International Pictures (AIP).

The film company used some unique business techniques in their career, starting in 1956, by decided to give the theaters two inexpensive films with similar themes on one bill for the same higher fee that the major studios were charging for one film. The company didn’t not always stick to this idea throughout the years, but they kept it going when they could.

The book is filled with humorous stories about crazy advertising schemes, to bad movies, and just strange happenings on the set, like when a real life rat got stage fright and died when looking at the camera during a take, to taking previous released foreign films and renaming them for the U.S. audiences. Gimmicks like “Hypo-Vista,” which demonstrated and explained hypnosis before showing a film, and a “talking coffin” trick used to get people into the theaters are a few more used by the company. Sometimes I wonder if using these old tricks could possibly get more people back into the movie theaters today, but with the skyrocketed prices of going to the theaters, these tricks may not work, but it’ll be interesting to try out.

“The Golden Years” covers many of the famous movies that AIP was known for, from the goofy monster films, to the Vincent Price/Corman Edgar Allan Poe classics, biker films, and the beach movies with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. The company was also one the leader in the Blaxploitation films such as Jim Brown’s “Slaughter,” “Blacula,” and more. Films that included music acts like Fats Domino, The Platters, and Waylon Jennings are covered also in the book.

The unique thing about Smith’s collection is that it is not written as a normal biography of the company. Smith adds notes here and there to help explain to the reader facts or mistakes that are detailed, but the book is mostly press releases and suggestions from the company to the movie theaters on ideas for publicity. The book is compiled by the year dates, along with some nice black and white photographs from the film or movie posters added.

The research of finding all of these press releases, along with the suggestions for publicity, is wonderfully put together. Some of the stunts suggested by the movie company for the theater owners are comical , yet would get me into the theater to see the movie. The book shows many movies that I did not know the company released; I thought the company was only horror based, but they released dramas, biker films, westerns, and sword and sandal films. Smith’s comments are helpful as well, written in bold, so you know who the speaker is on the page. Movie lovers would love the 481 page book (not counting the Index and Appendix), especially horror fans.

Another interesting read is where some critics for the press state their opinions on some of the films. A few of the comments are laughable, stating how a certain actor (like Price) or a film would be bashed and yet ended up doing really well at the box office, or the actor would go on to have a legendary career. Every one has their opinion , but some of my favorites from the studio were not well received by the press at the time, have now become people’s go to for horror (like the Poe series and Price’s Dr Phibes character).

Gary A. Smith has become one of my favorite writers, especially in the movie genre, due to his research and knowledge of the topic, along with his own love for the films he writes of in his books. Smith adds comments throughout the book from Arkoff’s autobiography, and other sources, to help create a nice story of movie history.

Although it is mainly compiled information, Gary A. Smith’s collection doesn’t take away from his editing and writing skills.

 

This review copy was given courtesy of Bear Manor Media.

 

“American International Pictures: The Golden Years” by Gary A. Smith (Bear Manor Media, 2018 ISBN : 1-59393-750-4) can be found at: http://www.bearmanormedia.com

 

 

Retro Book Review: Book Entertaining for Back to School Teens.

 

#Sponsored by Jimmy Patterson Books

 

 

“Expelled,” by James Patterson and Emily Raymond (Jimmy Patterson , 2017), combines mystery with a little bit of The Breakfast Club, where a group of high school students try and uncover who hacked a student’s Twitter account, which caused them to get expelled from their school.

The main character, Theo, is an average high school student, who anonymously posts comments and pictures on his Twitter account, until someone hacks his account, posting a photo of a wild situation that causes several students to get expelled from the school, thanks to the school’s “zero policy” rule. The star athlete Parker, Theo, his friend Jude, and a girl named Sasha all get expelled at the same time. Theo decides to unravel the mystery of who posted the photo on his account, along with why someone wanted to do this to him, which has ruined his future.

Several times during the book, the reference of the 1985 movie “The Breakfast Club” is mentioned where, like Theo’s situation, involves a bunch of stereotypes meeting together after a school punishment. Since most of the target audience for this book probably do not know the 1985 film, the similarities may not hit the targeted audience.

While trying to figure out who posted the photo on Theo’s page, he deals with his feelings for Sasha, a girl who was the unattainable girl in his opinion, but now becomes friends with her after she gets expelled for an alleged incident, separate from Theo’s situation (NO SPOILERS HERE). Theo decides to film his interviews while trying to play the sleuth, with the help of a boy in the school who is known as a computer hacker. Although Theo is not sure what he will do with the filmed footage in trying to prove his innocence, he goes through meeting several students, and even going back to the school via trespassing to get his answers, including confronting the assistant principal. Not only does Theo try to find out the secret hacker, along with his feelings for Sasha, but he also has to deal with the death of his father, while his mother works two jobs to keep the house bills paid.

“Expelled” is a nice read, with very short chapters (which is something this reviewer loves in books), where most are only 3-4 pages long. The 296 page book (My copy is an ARC copy, where several poems are omitted in the book) keeps the reader engaged enough to keep the page turning to find out who the secret hacker is, and why did the person do it to Theo. The ending has a small twist concerning Sasha and some of the other characters, which the targeted audience for the book might find shocking, but older readers may figure it out, along with revealing the person who hacked into Theo’s Twitter page.

Although some of the Jimmy Patterson books can be read for all age groups, “Expelled” would be suggested to older teens, due to some of the language and some adult themes. The suggested age would probably be around the 15 and up range. The book is overall a decent read, but older readers may like the other selections the publisher has released. The book is great for the targeted age group, and shows the Patterson Young Adult genre has something for everyone. The book is part Breakfast Club and part Hardy Boys , all while using language and situations that is modern in today’s society.

 

This review book was given courtesy of Jimmy Patterson Books/Little Brown & Company, and Hatchette Book Group.

“Expelled” by James Patterson and Emily Raymond ( Jimmy Patterson Books/Little Brown and Company, 2017 ISBN: 978-0-316-44039-4 hardcover, 978-0-316-44040-0 Ebook, 978-1-4789-8802-1 audiobook) can be found at http://www.jimmypatterson.org .

 

 

Book Reviews: Two Books, One Author, and Tons of Horror

Cover photo courtesy of Ingrid Pitt

“Ingrid Pitt, Queen of Horror; The Complete Career” (McFarland, 2017) by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter, is a nice reference book for the fans of one of horror film’s famous actresses.

Pitt was one of the famous actresses in the Hammer Studios films in the 1960s and 1970s, appearing in films such as 1971’s “Countess Dracula,” and “The House That Dripped Blood,” and 1973’s “The Wicker Man.” She was also known for her role as Carmilla in the famous 1970 Hammer film “The Vampire Lovers,” which was part of the Karnstein Trilogy. She was also in episodes of “Doctor Who” and her voice was heard in one of the James Bond films.

The book is nice because it features not just the author’s writings on the films, but he also takes quotes from other sources by Pitt herself in commenting on some of her films. Pitt also wrote the introduction to the book as well.

Cotter takes the reader through Pitt’s early acting career from her stage roles, her first films, and her appearance in “Doctor Zhivago.” More of her earlier roles including films with Clint Eastwood, until she got major attention for her role as Countess Elizabeth in “Countess Dracula,” based on the legend of Elizabeth Bathory (which I discovered the story in Gary A. Smith’s “Vampire Films of the 1970s,” which is a must have book, also through McFarland). Cotter gives a full cast and crew listings, along with a short summary of the movie, before giving his take on the films. At the end of some of the sections (when needed) is Pitt’s quotes from her time on the set from interviews and other sources. There is a chapter on her television appearances, and her appearances in horror magazines, and her authoring several books. The collection also has some nice black and white photographs throughout from Playbill covers from her stage shows, to ads from her television shows, to on set movie pictures.

I didn’t know much about Pitt’s work before this book, but since reading the book, I have gotten to watch several of her films, including “The House That Dripped Blood” and “Countess Dracula.” I will hopefully seek out her Doctor Who appearances, being a fan of the show. My horror film knowledge of the actresses are limited, namely being a fan of Universal Studios horror films, and not much knowledge of other actresses except Barbara Steele (who I think is great) and Joanna Lumley.

The book is an easy read at 230 pages long. Cotter’s book, much like many of McFarland’s books I have gotten to review, gives a nice collection to an actress who I was not very familiar with, and this book should be added to the collection of movie horror films.

Front cover: Maila Nurmi as the host of The Vampira Show on KABC-TV in Los Angeles, 1954-1955.

Cotter’s second book  looks at some of the many female horror hosts in “Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era (McFarland, 2017).

This encyclopedia format lists the many female hosts, including co hosts, that have been featured in the horror television history, where horror fans would stay up late on weekends to watch on their local access television, which was popular before Cable TV took over. The book covers the hosts who dressed up as vampires, mummys, and even Zombie looking cheerleaders. “Vampira” has a forward by host Penny Dreadful, who also gets her section later in the book, and has many question and answer interviews throughout, not just a listing of the hosts and where they were shown.

The Introduction section has a nice commentary where Cotter links the horror hosts back to the radio days, up to the current list of hosts on Youtube and other online sites. The book covers many hosts from 1970s hosts Doctor Shock and his young daughter Bubbles, to Marilyn The Witch (who appeared on many other television shows like Green Acres, Hart to Hart, and played one of the mothers in the original Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory), to the more famous characters like Elvira and, of course, Vampira.

Cotter’s research is intense, which includes hosts where he could not find any footage or information on, but they are still listed here. He covers hosts that had different actresses play the same person (like Misty Brew), and details a few interesting information about the actresses and how the created their gimmicks.

The Elvira and Vampira sections were a nice read, since everyone my age was a fan (and still is) of Elvira’s Cassandra Peterson, but was uninformed of the way she got her name (rumored to be because of the Oak Ridge Boys’ hit), and the lawsuit on her by Vampira over copyright issues. Cotter mentions that Vampira was the inspiration for Disney’s villain Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, which I never heard before.

This book is cover newer horror hosts, such as Roxsy Tyler, who has a rock and roll look, as opposed to just a vampire character, which became the norm for the female hosts, to Cleveland’s The Mummy and The Monkey host Janet Decay.

Fans of horror and television history would like the easy to read collection Cotter has put together, including the photographs and interviews that is added. It is nice to see that Cotter included former WWE and current Impact Wrestling’s Katarina Waters in the book, who is not only an actress and wrestler, but also has written some short stories in the horror genre. He even includes former Saturday Night Live actress Laraine Newman and her contribution to horror and USA’s Rhonda Shear. Although I hardly consider Shear a horror host, nor had a gimmick of anything horror related. The Newman part (where Cotter throws in a unnecessary jab calling Dan Aykroyd “ovearrated”) and Shear is oddly placed in the book, it does show that Cotter intensely researched his subject.

 

Both review copies were sent courtesy of McFarland Publishing.

Vampira and Her Daughters: Women Horror Movie Hosts from the 1950s into the Internet Era by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter (McFarland, 2017 ISBN:978-1-4766-6434-7 print and ebook:978-1-4766-2656-7)   can be found at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com or ordered at 800-253-2187

 

“Ingrid Pitt, Queen of Horror” by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter ( McFarland, 2017 ISBN: 978-1-4766-7230-4 eISBN: 978-0-7864-6189-9) is available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and can also be ordered at 800-253-2187, along with their other titles.

Book Review: Experience The Album History of Alice Cooper

Cover photo by Rex Features via AP Images.

“Experiencing Alice Cooper: A Listener’s Companion” by Ian Chapman (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) is a track by track description of every album by the Hall of Fame Godfather of Shock Rock.

The compilation is one in a series of “Experiencing” titles, where the writer walks the reader through each album , song by song, and puts their opinions on the songs. Even though the opinions in this book is kept to a minimum, Chapman details the songs, its run time, and a small bit of information about the tracks.

The writing, as told in the beginning, is not a biography of Alice Cooper, or the band members; the author leaves that to the respected autobiographies by the band members, but it is a nice go to book for those that want a quick reference of the albums or songs. Each album covered has the year released, the track listings, and the U.S. and U.K. chart position of the album. There is also a nice timeline at the beginning of the book detailing the history of Alice Cooper.

The albums covers Cooper’s whole career, from the band’s first album, “Pretties For You” in 1969, all the way to 2017’s “Paranormal.” The chapters are set into two or three years of the albums, for instance Chapter 2 covers the years 1971-1973, and Chapter 6 details 1986-1989 (Chapter 3 is the only one covering one whole album, which is 1975’s “Welcome to My Nightmare.”)

Even though the writing is not a historical biography, Chapman’s take on some of the songs and albums are interesting, especially since he is from New Zealand, which shows the worldwide appeal of Alice Cooper. It is interesting to read a person from another country’s take on Cooper’s work, where an album may have sold better in that country as opposed to North America.

Chapman adds in the book the two times he saw Alice Cooper in concert; during the “Nightmare” tour in 1977, and when Cooper opened for Motley Crue in 2015, including the set list for both concerts. He writes that the 2015 show was filled with all of Cooper’s hits (including compliments for the great Nita Strauss playing guitar for Cooper) , while Motley had some filler songs in it. Seeing Cooper twice in concert myself, in 1996 (opening for The Scorpions, which Cooper blew the headliners off the stage) and in 2003 on his “Bare Bones” tour, I can attest to how awesome a show Cooper and his crew puts on.

Another nice aspect to the book is how Chapman gives props to some of my favorite Alice Cooper albums, 2000’s “Brutal Planet,” (which he calls Cooper’s heaviest album ever), 2003’s “The Eyes of Alice Cooper” (which he states the “songwriting is tight and concise,” along with the music is “refreshingly raw and direct”), and 2005’s “Dirty Diamond’s” album, which Chapman says that “for anyone looking to discover a relatively unknown gem by the artist, one need look no further than ‘Dirty Diamonds'” (Chapman, 158). These are some of my favorite later Cooper albums, and mostly underrated that many fans here in the U.S. seemed to forgot about.

“Experiencing Alice Cooper” is a book that will not educate the reader on the history or insight of Alice Cooper. This book focuses just on the music. However, throughout the writing, the reader can see that Chapman is a true fan of Alice Cooper, and for those that want to add to their Cooper collection a handy reference for track listings on the albums, this is a book to add. It is an easy read, and has a nice glossy hardback cover to it, which will not easily wear and tear. The die hard Cooper fans may not seek this book out for inside information that they may not have already known, but Chapman’s collection is a nice piece of writing.

 

 

The review copy of this title was given courtesy of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group

 

“Experiencing Alice Cooper: A Listener’s Companion” by Ian Chapman (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-4422-5770-2 eISBN: 978-1-4422-5771-9) can be found at http://www.rowman.com, or calling 800-462-6420.

 

For information on Ian Chapman, go to : http://www.ianchapman.co.nz/

Book Review: Nature and Unity Combined in Book

#sponsored by faithwords.com

Jacket design by Edward A. Crawford. Jacket photography by Getty Images.

The dictionary describes the word murmuration as a flock of starlings. Other science sites define the word by a bunch of starlings that flock together, darting through the sky in unison. However the definition is used, it is a unique site in nature, with the birds all together in the same direction.

“Designed For More” (FaithWords, 2018) by Lucas Ramirez with Mike Devito, takes the theory of murmuration and applies it as a symbol for the Christian church as a call for unity and direction.

This Christian Living book takes one of the fascinating parts of nature, and encourages Christians to be more like the starlings, mentioning that if everyone is united , like the starlings, the focus and goals can be achieved for a better church. The book also looks into how the starlings approach murmuration, in regards to all being on the same goal and being unified, which helps prevent predators from invading the group.

Other concepts that Ramirez uses in his writings is the theory that even though members of the church have different opinions, they can still be a united front in the overall goal of the church, without fighting amongst each other. He encourages others to use these tools in the local communities , using some business techniques like “creative tension,” along with discussing egos and competition that creeps into the church, which divides the overall goal. “Designed For More” then goes in depth on 7 Principals that will unleash the movement of the church to become more united.

Ramirez’s and Devito’s book is an interesting and educational read. The word unity is used so much in today’s culture, especially in politics, that I almost was going to skip over this book when I was approached to review it. However, the creative symbolism of using the murmuration by the writers made the book appealing to me. Although it is a Christian Living book, that included Biblical verse in it (both writers are in the ministry), there are ideas in here that could be used for organizations and businesses as well. There are many good ideas in this writing, including the writers explaining the differences between discussion and dialogue, and other concepts that a person can use in any aspect in life, without having to be a church going Christian.

The publication includes bold type sentences to enforce the main parts of the section, along with Devito’s contribution to the work in a separate box on the page (both are nicely packaged for the book to make it easy to read and understand). There is not a bunch of deep Bible jargon as well, which the reader easily can apply the suggestions (and remember them), without being boggled down with in depth religious text that by the time the chapter is done, the reader can’t remember what the points were.

The only suggestion that I questioned from the authors dealt with what they called “Creating Seven Influential Neighbors.” The total idea is not a bad concept, but the writers make it out that the reader has so much free time in their world throughout the week or month that this is achievable. I understand changing priorities to help make the church and communities a better place to create unity, but this section, the suggestions are not possible to achieve between a person’s work, family, and church life to have that much time to spend monthly-something has to give. This is not a knock on the idea or the writers, but when reading the suggestion, this reader was questioning “How can all of this possibly be done in a month?” However this small part does not deter from the point of view the authors try to convey.

“Designed For More” is a book that should be read by church leaders, and even community organizers. Although it is a Christian book, there is great sections in here discussing the science (along with interviews with people who study starlings) that make it educational. The reader can take many things from this book, especially if they are struggling with where the goal of their church is heading.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of FaithWords and Hatchette Books.

 

“Designed For More” by Lucas Ramirez with Mike Devito (FaithWords, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-5460-3298-4 ebook: 978-1-5460-3296-0) can be found at : http://www.faithwords.com, @Faithwords (Twitter), @FaithWordsBooks (Instagram), and Facebook.com/FaithWords.

 

For information about these authors, check out: http://www.Lucasramirez.org, http://www.DesignForMoreBook.com, and social media: @thelucasramirez @mike_d_devito, and @DesignedForMoreBook.

 

Book Review: Creating An Inside Look Into Wrestlemania

Cover Design :Franco Malagisi

Being an honest reviewer, I admit I am skeptical of books released under the WWE brand. The books (at least in the past) have been mostly written with the wrestlers in character throughout, or sometimes, without the wrestlers’ involvement in the telling of their own stories. However, Jon Robinson’s  “Creating The Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life” (ECW Press/WWE Books, 2018) is an enjoyable book that dispels this notion of past WWE related books.

This book interviews many of the top WWE wrestlers, film producers, and other WWE employees to give an inside look at all the work that goes into the Wrestlemania card, including the events during the week that have grown beyond just having a wrestling show, which made its debut in 1985.

Vince McMahon Jr, who created the Wrestlemania concept, is interviewed early in the book, telling the story how he created the idea of Wrestlemania when he started to turn his then WWF league into a national, and eventually, world-wide extravaganza. Robinson interviews people such as John Saboor, the Executive VP of WWE Special Events, who details how the city of the event gets picked, and how the WWE wants the city’s community to be involved since Wrestlemania is full of events all week, including the Hall of Fame Ceremony, WWE Axxess (that includes fan events and meet and greets with some of the stars), and how the WWE expects to work with the city chosen for years to come, not just a one time deal with the big event. Saboor also states that the WWE plans their major PPV events three years in advance. This part was especially interesting when Saboor states a group of WWE executives meet every three weeks with the city officials, holding meetings that last as long as 8-10 hours a day. Most fans think that the WWE just shows up to the city and puts on the show, which is far from the truth. The planning and execution is extremely detailed and time consuming. The people behind the scenes are just as much champions as the talent seen in front of the cameras.

The book involves many of the WWE stars and their thoughts on Wrestlemania, their favorite Mania matches (as a fan or participant), along with some encounters that they have had, such as wrestlers getting knocked off the card, or matches being switched at the last moment due to injuries or the signings of new stars or celebrities.

The surprising part of this journey is how the writers and wrestlers discuss their involvement with other leagues. In the past the WWE would never mention that a wrestler was a part of another company, but this book mentions Ring of Honor, TNA, and Japanese leagues, which makes it a refreshing read. Another area that is surprising is that the people interviewed for the book talk about how some of the storylines were changed, and bring out subjects that fans may not have known about; such as Braun Strowman being scheduled to win the Andre The Giant Battle Royal before the WWE got football player Rob Gronkowski involved (which switched the ending) and how the creative team did not know if Brock Lesnar was going to beat The Undertaker until McMahon finally made the call during the day of the show. Proposed matches were set like Jason Jordan vs Kurt Angle, Kane vs Finn Balor, and how UFC star Ronda Rousey was going to be used in her first match are covered.

Interviews with Elias, Jeff Jarrett (right before his Hall of Fame Induction), and producer “Road Dogg” Brian James, who informs the reader how The Royal Rumble is planned, are informative, along with the Alexa Bliss/Nia Jax friendship turning into an on screen storyline. There is also a touching story about announcer Corey Graves, and how he had to learn the skills needed to be an announcer after his career ended by injury (His describing all the voices he hears in his headset during a program gives a new respect to the position for those that may not know what goes on during the televised parts of the shows).

“Creating The Mania” has great insights of the wrestlers stating their opinions on future storylines that they’d like to be a part of , or would like to see, including a possible Reigns vs Rock match. This was entertaining, and who knows a possible tease, for fans to converse.

Overall the book has insightful interviews by people in front and behind the screen, with plenty of photographs throughout the book. It takes the reader right before Wrestlemania. The last chapter has a summary of the WrestleMania 2018 results, so the reader can see what happened from the planning stages to the final product. “Mania” also has an interesting section where some of the wrestlers list their all time favorite Wrestlemania match, which is worth the read. The behind the scenes from planning storylines to how the television production is handled is refreshing compared to past WWE sponsored books. “Creating The Mania” is a different approach covering the WWE Universe. Robinson writes well and engages the reader, so much that the reader may go through the whole book in a few days (like I did). The interviews are wonderful, and the reader does not have to be a die hard fan to understand the topics, because it is easy to follow the flow of the stories. Do not let previous stereotypes of past WWE books prevent you from checking this one out. This is worth your time.

 

This review copy was sent courtesy of ECW Press and WWE Books.

 

“Creating The Mania: An Inside Look at How Wrestlemania Comes to Life” by Jon Robinson (ECW/WWE Books, 2018 ISBN: 978-1-77041-450-1 hardcover, 978-1-77305-271-7 ePub, 978-1-77305-272-4 PDF) can be found at http://www.ecwpress.com and is available August 7, 2018.

 

For information about the author, Jon Robinson’s Twitter account is  @JRobAndSteal.