Friday, July 11, 2008

Bava Book Nominated for IHG Award

Since returning home from the Saturn Awards, Donna and I thought we had seen the last of the award nominations for MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK -- so imagine our surprise when we learned today that the Bava book has been nominated in the Non-fiction category for the 2007 International Horror Guild Awards!

This is wonderful news, very exciting -- and we get to share our elation with cherished VW contributor Ramsey Campbell, who has been nominated in two important categories!

Here is the complete list of nominations (with VW-related nominees bolded) as found on the IHG website.

INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD NOMINATIONS for WORKS from 2007

LIVING LEGEND AWARD
Peter Straub

NOVEL
Grin of the Dark. Ramsey Campbell (PS Publishing)
Generation Loss. Elizabeth Hand (Small Beer Press)
The Missing. Sarah Langan (HarperCollns)
Season of the Witch. Natasha Mostert (Dutton)
The Terror. Dan Simmons (Little, Brown & Company)

FICTION COLLECTION
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories. Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
Plots and Misadventures. Stephen Gallagher (Subterranean Press)
Shadows Kith and Kin. Joe R. Lansdale (Subterranean Press)
Masques of Satan. Reggie Oliver (Ash Tree Press)
Dagger Key and Other Stories. Lucius Shepard (PS Publishing)

LONG FICTION
Procession of the Black Sloth. Laird Barron (The Imago Sequence: Night Shade Books)
The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story. Susan Hill (Profile)
Softspoken. Lucius Shepard (Night Shade Books)
The Scalding Rooms. Conrad Williams (PS Publishing)

MID-LENGTH FICTION
"The Janus Tree". Glen Hirshberg (Inferno: Tor)
"Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed". Steven Duffy (At Ease with the Dead: Ash Tree Press)
"The Bone Man". Fredric S. Durbin (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2007)
"Closet Dreams". Lisa Tuttle (Postscripts 10: PS Publishing)

SHORT FICTION
"Digging Deep". Ramsey Campbell (Phobic: Comma Press)
"Honey in the Wound". Nancy Etchemendy (The Restless Dead: Candlewick Press)
"The Tank". Paul Finch (At Ease with the Dead: Ash Tree Press)
"Splitfoot". Paul Walther (New Genre 5, Spring 2007)
"The Great White Bed". Don Webb (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 2007)

ANTHOLOGY
Inferno. Ellen Datlow, editor (Tor)
Summer Chills. Stephen Jones, editor (Carroll & Graf)
American Supernatural Tales. S.T. Joshi, editor (Penguin)
Strange Tales Volume II. Rosalie Parker, editor (Tartarus Press)
At Ease with the Dead. Barbara and Christopher Roden, editors (Ash Tree Press)

NON-FICTION
Frankenstein: A Cultural History. Susan Tyler Hitchcock (W.W. Norton & Company)
Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark. Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog)
Warnings to the Curious: A Sheaf of Criticism on M.R. James. Rosemary Pardoe & S.T. Joshi, eds. (Hippocampus Press)
Sides. Peter Straub (Borderlands Press)
The Science of Stephen King. Bob Weinberg & Lois M. Gresh (John Wiley)

PERIODICAL
Black Static
Dead Reckonings
The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction
Postscripts
Weird Tales

ILLUSTRATED NARRATIVE
Scalped: Indian Country. Jason Aaron (writer) R.M. Gu�ra (artist) (Vertigo/DC Comics)
The Nightmare Factory. Thomas Ligotti (creator/writer), Joe Harris & Stuart Moore (writers), Ben Templesmith, Michael Gaydos, Colleen Doran & Ted McKeever (illustrators) (Fox Atomic/Harper Paperbacks)
The Blot. Tom Neely (I Will Destroy You)
The Arrival. Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Wormwood Gentleman Corpse: Birds, Bees, Blood & Beer. Ben Templesmith (IDW)

ART
Didier Cottier for Exhibit at Utopiales, Nantes, France, November 2007
David Ho for his body of work
Elizabeth McGrath for "The Incurable Disorder", Billy Shire Fine Arts, December 2007
Chris Mars for "New Salem", Jonathan Levine Gallery, October 2007
Mike Mignola for cover & illustrations: Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire (Bantam Spectra)

My congratulations to Mr. Straub and ALL the 2007 IHGA nominees!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY Previewed

Selma Blair and Ron Perlman in HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY -- locked and loaded for a long-term relationship.

Ever since his first studio picture, MIMIC (1997), writer-director Guillermo del Toro has adopted a well-known game plan, alternating his "serious" independent projects (like CRONOS, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and the much-celebrated PAN'S LABYRINTH) with more "commercial" studio work (like MIMIC, BLADE II and HELLBOY). While this checkerboard approach has always been obvious, del Toro has always rebutted any such simplification of his approach to career, insisting that he always gives 100% of himself to whatever film he happens to be making at the time and that he regards his studio projects as much a part of himself as his more critically acclaimed personal work. This much is usually self-evident, given the consistently high quality of his assignments-for-hire, but his latest film HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY is the first pitch-perfect hybrid of the personal and professional del Toro. On one hand, it is a marvelous, highly accessible entertainment; on the other, it is consistently stimulating to the mind and appealing to the eye. It meets all the requirements of summer blockbuster fast food, but it's actually nourishing.
Doug Jones, this generation's Man of a Thousand Faces, returns as "fish stick" Abe Sapien.
There is so much happening on the surface of HELLBOY II that it is possible to overlook the almost classical simplicity of its storyline: the prince of a nearly-extinct race thriving underground, hateful of the humanity which has driven his people there, sets out to reclaim the various separated components of a crown which, once reassembled, will enable him to reactive a dormant Golden Army of thousands of biomechanical warriors and reclaim the surface world for his own kind. The crown, a marvelous living jigsaw of interlocking gears, recalls a long line of biomechanical gizmos in del Toro's work, dating all the way back to his first feature, CRONOS. He and his gifted cameraman Guillermo Navarro plant numerous visual references to other classic fantasies (for example, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice") as well as to other cultural touchstones (John Landis fans will notice a theater marquee showing SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY) and their own past collaborations. Some may notice that one character's fate here visually resonates with that of Ophelia in PAN'S LABYRINTH, but in truth, del Toro and Navarro are old hands at self-referencing: Ophelia's fate echoed that of a character in the original HELLBOY. Just as a master like James Brown had the almost singular ability to cut deeper with each repetition of a groove, del Toro's sourcing of recurring visual tropes and themes seems not at all redundant, nor does it suggest a lack of invention; instead, these things accumulate to enrich the overall complexity of his oeuvre.

Some will inevitably disagree, but I prefer HELLBOY II to the original: it's true that Hellboy himself is less the center of attention, but he and all the characters are more fully realized here, and the world (or should that be "worlds"?) they inhabit seems infinitely more byzantine. The entire cast is at the top of their game, sporting some truly amazing makeup; while Ron Perlman and Doug Jones continue to delight as Hellboy and Abe Sapien, Selma Blair in particular mines appreciable new depths as firestarter Liz Sherman, now secure in her otherly domesticity with the big lug she calls "Red." In addition to some new key characters (like the ectoplasmic Johann Krauss), the film introduces a legion of new monsters and creatures so numerous and inventively designed that their burgeoning presence lends luster to the opening Universal logo, the family crest of the most iconic movie monsters.
Doug Jones again as the film's most awe-inspiring monster: the Angel of Death.

If the film has any shortcomings, they mostly concern a developing synonymity between Hellboy's Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense and the likes of THE X-FILES and particularly MEN IN BLACK, as well as some of the same "Mutant vs. Mankind" themes found in the X-MEN series. Similarly, the Golden Army finale was inadvertently telegraphed at the advance screening I attended by a preliminary trailer for Rob Cohen's forthcoming THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR, which also involves the climactic reactivation of thousands of undead soldiers -- perhaps likewise inspired by the true worldly wonder of the Terracotta Army of the Emperor of Qin. Universal has a lot of money at stake with both of these films, so it might be to their mutual advantage to keep this trailer and feature separated.

But such small matters fade into insignificance in the light of HELLBOY II's well-balanced package of action, horror, spectacle, warmth (even where its cold-blooded characters are concerned) and humor. Highlights include an attack by a terrifying new breed of monster called Tooth Fairies (feeding on calcium, these cute little devils go for your teeth first); a visit to the Angel of Death; Hellboy's midtown encounter with a towering Lovecraftian monstrosity called an Elemental, a descent into a Troll Bazaar under the Brooklyn Bridge (I couldn't help comparing this sequence to the cantina scene of STAR WARS, not my favorite film series, and thinking to myself "I would even watch a STAR WARS film by this guy!"); and an instant-classic scene in which the lovelorn Abe Sapien and Hellboy cry into their beer while binging on sappy love songs. No one who has ever been a teenager can fail to feel the subtext as these two outsiders grit their teeth and purge their hearts to a Barry Manilow number. And when the song reappears to guide us through the end credits, we feel in the presence of a gifted filmmaker who has also become a great showman.

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY opens in theaters across America on Friday, July 11.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Harald Reinl at 100

Dr. Harald Reinl, as he was sometimes billed, was born one hundred years ago today in Bad Ischl, Salzburg, Austria. His doctorate, belatedly awarded in 1938, was actually in physical education; he was an expert skiier in his youth and used this talent as his entré into cinema: he stunt-doubled for Leni Riefenstahl in such films as STORM OVER MONT-BLANC (1930) and WHITE ECSTASY (1931). In 1937, he made his first film short, WILDE WASSER ("Wild Waters"), which he wrote, co-directed and edited -- it might have been the start of a promising career, but the second World War intervened. He finally directed his first feature film, BERGKRISTAL ("Crystal Mountain") in 1949, and had his first international success with a nod to his earliest work in films: 1951's NIGHT TO MONT-BLANC.

Comedies, romances, war and adventure pictures followed in quick succession, preparing Dr. Reinl for his rendezvous with destiny. In 1959, he directed the first of the West German Edgar Wallace krimis, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE FROG. Many of the basic tenets of the krimi were established by Reinl in this film and his subsequent contributions, THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE (1960) and THE FORGER OF LONDON (1961) -- particularly those in the realms of casting and atmosphere. Beginning with THE TERRIBLE PEOPLE, Reinl usually cast his second wife, Karin Dor, whom he had married in 1954, as the leading lady in his thrillers; she quickly became known as "Miss Krimi" to theater goers. It would seem that Reinl's personal hero was Fritz Lang, as he was lured away from Rialto Film's Wallace series to helm the best of CCC's Dr. Mabuse sequels: THE RETURN OF DR. MABUSE (1961) and THE INVISIBLE DR. MABUSE (1962). He also made an odd non-associated German thriller, THE CARPET OF HORROR (1962) around this time, which actually had more to do with poison gas than carpeting.

While Rialto's Wallace directors generally stayed faithful to the studio and series, Reinl prefered to remain a free agent and drifted freely from CCC back to Rialto (where he inaugurated their successful Karl May Western series with 1962's wonderfully entertaining THE TREASURE OF SILVER LAKE) and back again to CCC, where he contributed to their competing Bryan Edgar Wallace series with the outstanding THE STRANGLER OF BLACKMOOR CASTLE (1963). Between 1963 and 1965, he made another oddball krimi starring Klaus Kinski (THE WHITE SPIDER), returned to the Wallace series with the violent ROOM 13 and series standout THE SINISTER MONK (which in many ways foreshadowed Argento's SUSPIRIA), and then directed the three films that collectively compose what is arguably the pinnacle of his career and the Karl May series: the WINNETOU trilogy starring Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. Reinl's sweepingly romantic, unabashedly heroic view of the Old West was a significant influence on the operatic Italian Westerns of Sergio Leone. The final film in the WINNETOU trilogy, released in this country as THE DESPERADO TRAIL, has the personal distinction of being one of only two Westerns that have ever brought me to tears -- though I can't be sure the English dubbed version would affect me the same way.

Reinl was rewarded for this success by being permitted to indulge himself in a fantasy assignment: a lavish, two-part, color and stereo sound remake of Fritz Lang's DIE NIEBELUNGEN, featuring Uwe Beyer as Siegfried and Karin Dor as Brunhilda. (Sadly, I have never seen it, but some have called it a masterpiece.) By this time, Reinl's marriage to Dor was turning rocky; they made one last film together, DIE SCHLANGENGRUBE UND DAS PENDEL ("The Snake Pit and the Pendulum") before divorcing in 1968. This horror film, heavily influenced by Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and one of the most eerily atmospheric of its period, also starred Christopher Lee, Lex Barker and krimi favorite Dieter Eppler -- and it is known here in America by many other lurid titles, including BLOOD DEMON, CASTLE OF THE WALKING DEAD and THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM.

The remainder of Dr. Reinl's career is an intriguing conglomeration of trivia. He made another Karl May film (1968's IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH), three of the best Jerry Cotton thrillers starring George Nader (DEATH AND DIAMONDS, CORPSE IN A RED JAGUAR and DEADLY SHOTS ON BROADWAY), a film in the "Dr. Fabian" comedy series, and in 1970, he directed the film based on Erich von Däniken's best-selling CHARIOTS OF THE GODS. In a career highlight, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. Six years later, he helmed a sequel of sorts, MYSTERIES OF THE GODS, also based on a book by von Däniken. It was in the year of this last international success, 1976, that Reinl met and married his third and last wife, Daniella Maria Dana, who reportedly stabbed him to death on October 9, 1986. One last film, a documentary about Sri Lanka, was issued to theaters posthumously.

As a young viewer discovering Reinl's work on video, I always imagined -- from the doctorate he so often insisted on attaching to his name -- he must have been a humorless, Kissinger-like fellow and a tyrant on the set, rather in the mold of his hero, Fritz Lang. However, more recently, the TOBIS/UFA DVD import discs of the Edgar Wallace krimis have included archival interviews with Harald Reinl that show him to have been an outgoing, gregarious and quite humor-driven man, well-liked by his cast and crews. I'm happy to honor him today as an outstanding contributor to the fantastic cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, a chief architect of the krimi and the post-Lang Mabuse thriller, and as something he is too seldom acknowledged as being: one of the great Western directors of all time.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Guillermo del Toro at the Saturn Awards






Here, as promised, is Guillermo del Toro's acceptance of the George Pal Memorial Award at the 34th Annual Saturn Awards, preceded by a short video prologue and introduced with what I believe are universal sentiments by writer-director Frank Darabont.

I photographed this material myself, and I should forewarn you that the picture goes black for a short time between Guillermo's introduction and his first words onstage. That's because I had to put the camera down and pay the man his due by clapping my hands together.

Not included in this clip is my relevant after-party banter with Guillermo, which went something like this...

TL: Guillermo, did you ever meet George Pal?

GDT: No, I never did, I am sorry to say.

TL: I met George Pal once.

GDT: Do you want me to hit you over the head with this fucking award?

Bava Book Blog Enters the Video Age

Photo by David J. Schow.
Now playing over at The Bava Book Blog: footage of Donna's and my Saturn Award acceptance speech, and John Saxon's introduction of us, which you can access directly here. Press the play button and wait a few seconds for playback to begin. Mind you, this is no Academy Awards speech, where the band chases the speakers offstage and mid-word after 30 seconds. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films encouraged us to speak our peace, so I wrote and delivered a speech that, along with John's introduction, runs in the neighborhood of 12 minutes or so -- a running time slightly longer than what is allowed by YouTube. Enjoy.

We also recorded Guillermo del Toro's speech upon receiving the George Pal Memorial Award, and Frank Darabont's extraordinary introduction of him, which I'll be posting here anon. The version on YouTube is only a fragment of the actual speech.