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Sherlock Holmes takes center stage again with Rathbone and Bruce traveling to America to secure a secret document.

I am joined by Beth Morris and Troy Guinn for a detailed look at the third in the Universal Holmes series, SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON (1943). This is one of the few that we all dreaded as memory told us we were in for a weaker entry. Imagine our surprise to find a much better movie than we expected. Exciting!

We dig into the production with some neat information culled from my ever-expanding pile of reference books on the subject. Beth finds some highs and lows in the deductive reasoning the script gives Sherlock and Troy finds his first viewing of this one to be his favorite of the run so far. We talk about the excellent cast and spend some time on the great George Zucco’s career as well as heaping some deserved praise on the screenplay. This being the first of the series with a completely original story Universal was wise in its choice of screenwriter Bertram Millhauser who went on the pen four more Holmes scripts for the studio. We lament the limited screentime of Henry Daniell and question the steady cruelty of Holmes to Watson throughout the story. We were all pleased to see Clarence Muse given a solid supporting role as a train porter where he gets to play directly with Rathbone as the search for clues ramps up. And, because I have a dirty mind, I spot a subtle sex joke that was sly enough to get past the production code. Busy, busy!

We end the show with three emails from listeners one of which pushes us into a long discussion of favorite actors in the Watson role. The email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com and we’d love to hear from you too. Thank you for listening to the show and we’ll be back soon. 

Holiday Horrors returns for 2021!

John Hudson, Troy Guinn and I discuss the amazing French Christmas film DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS (1989). Although we had never even heard of this movie until Vinegar Syndrome released it on disc last year it has become a fast favorite for all three of us. It’s an amalgam of horror, action and coming of age stories that manages to hit nearly every emotional beat that it targets. On Christmas Eve, ten-year-old Thomas is determined to get evidence of Santa’s existence so he sets up his high-tech equipment to videotape him on his rounds. Unfortunately, the lad has accidentally gained the attention of a crazed man who dresses himself as the jolly old elf and makes the little boy the object of his homicidal curiosity. With his mother working late it is up to Thomas alone to protect his aged grandfather and stop the deadly St. Nick from killing all through the house. Who will survive?

Simultaneously beautiful to look at and tensely suspenseful DIAL CODE SANTA CLAUS is a worthy addition to the list of scary stories centered around the year end holidays. Filled with Christmas atmosphere and luminous visuals it checks all the boxes for candy colored feel-good sentiment but then drops its likable characters into a vicious home invasion scenario. The killer Santa’s motivations are never revealed which makes his actions all the more terrifying and unpredictable. And although this film plays out a story similar to 1990’s HOME ALONE, there are real consequences to violence in this movie and truly deadly stakes if Thomas fails to defeat his nearly silent adversary.

We talk about the film’s production taking note of the combination of real locations and elaborate stage work. The director’s ability to seamlessly meld the real and unreal allows the film to achieve some surprising moments and it’s not a shock to learn he went on to do high quality work in Hollywood. We have a good time discussing this great little movie with only a few short tangents about illegal VHS tape dubbing along the way. Oh! And at one point we are interrupted by a stack of my new Blu-Rays tumbling over into my chair. Sorry. I’ve been too busy to put them away.

The show winds down with an email from a fan of the show and a text from another co-host. They’re trying to wear me down, folks! If you have any comments or suggestions thebloodypit@gmail.com is the address. Thank you for listening! 

John Kenneth Muir has been writing about film and television for more than twenty-five years. His published works range in subject matter from the horror films of various decades and books focused on individual movie directors to in-depth tomes about several different science fiction television series. His first published book was about a much maligned Gerry Anderson produced science fiction show from the 1970’s called Space: 1999. The two seasons of that show have recently been released on Blu-Ray by Scream Factory, reigniting my interest in engaging with its highs and lows. Forgotten by most but beloved by many Space: 1999 has always been an odd series that is somewhat difficult for a broad audience to embrace, but its finer points are extraordinary, its special effects are superb and the production rarely lacked ambition. It is a television program ripe for rediscovery even in this age of endless streaming possibilities.

Mr. Muir and I discuss the show from the perspective of a novel he wrote several years ago that uses the first season episode ‘Space Brain’ as a starting point. Along the way we talk about our own history with Space: 1999 and how our opinions have changed over time. The stark differences between the first and second season are debated and we certainly engage in the age-old conversation about favorite and least favorite episodes. The scientific implausibility inherent in the show’s set-up are hashed over with a number of details explained about how various writers acknowledged the biggest one within the body of their scripts. We discuss the philosophical approach taken by the show’s creators and how it differs from what people expected from sci-fi TV in the 70’s – and possibly today. We do get off track at one point and talk about a few horror movies, but we are soon back onto MoonBase Alpha – I promise! 

If you have anything to say about Space: 1999 or any other subject we talk about in the show thebloodypit@gmail.com is the place to send your emails. We’ll be thrilled to hear from you. Thank you for listening to the podcast. 

Troy and I rejoin the Universal Horror Films of the 1940’s, already in progress. 

With FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (1943) Universal’s monster films took off in a radical and cinema altering direction. For the first time the studio combined characters from two different series into one new story regardless of the things that have to be ignored to make this work. In what decade are we supposed to think this movie is happening? It’s a sequel to THE WOLF MAN (1941) which took place firmly in the 1940’s but it’s also a sequel to THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN (1942) which seemed to be happening in the early 1900’s. And dialog clearly states here that four years have passed since Larry Talbot was killed by his father, so mid-1940’s would seem to be accurate. But everything feels like WWI never occurred and certainly like WWII wasn’t a factor in anyone’s thinking. Welcome to the alternative world of Universal Land where several European decades are mashed together with bits taken from any time and place to create a habitat where monsters can come together to work toward shared goals. And then try to kill each other! 

We plunge immediately into our long-awaited discussion of this classic, pulling on every loose plot string we can find and marveling at the bizarre changes from the previous movies. Was the last film’s finale set in a modern hospital or an ancient ancestral castle? Who cares! We just need to get a massive amount of dynamite into the hands of the local hot-headed pub owner so we can drown everyone and a castle looks much cooler being ripped apart by water. Fire last time so water this time! How did they never end one of these movies using an earthquake? It seems like the obvious next step. And then a tornado. But, I digress.

In just under two hours we talk about the fine cast, the wonderful atmosphere, the decision to edit out all of Bela Lugosi’s dialog and some subtle moments that are often overlooked even by fans. To us it seems clear that the written work of Doctor Frankenstein must be destroyed if for no other reason that it has the power to turn even most mild-mannered physician into a mad scientist. I mean, damn! Has there ever been a faster turn to the dark side than Dr. Mannering? Were there any warning signs at all?

We hope you enjoy the show and thebloodypit@gmail.com is how we can be contacted. The next film in this series is another Sherlock adventure and we’ll have a new NaschyCast episode up soon too. Thanks for listening. 

I am joined by John Hudson and Bobby Hazzard to discuss another strange horror film from the 1980’s.

EVILSPEAK (1981) is an independently made supernatural tale of teenage bullies and the righteous revenge eventually visited upon them. It introduces us to poor charity case Stanley Coopersmith (the great Clint Howard) attending a California military academy where he is the target of verbal and physical abuse from most of his classmates. Oddly, he is also insulted and demeaned by the faculty as if he is somehow repulsive to their vision of who should be allowed in this school. What is a miserable misfit to do? Of course, any and all similarities to CARRIE (1976) are completely on purpose. But is it any good?

John Hudson makes his case for this often-maligned horror movie with more than a little pushback from the rest of us. We all agree that the film is character actor heaven with R. G. Armstrong, Richard Moll, Claude Earl Jones, Charles Tyner, Joe Cortese and Hamilton Camp lending their skills to the slow destruction of Clint Howard’s sad loser, Coopersmith. But the film has a number of points of interest beyond the cast. For cinephiles curious about movies that present early 80’s computers being used to accidentally invoke a centuries dead Spanish Satanic monk so that hell on earth can be unleashed – this is your film! If you have ever wondered what an attack of satanic pigs erupting from the netherworld would look like – this is your film! If the sight of a sweaty Clint Howard makes you happy – this is your film! If you are working your way through a list of the British Video Nasties – this is one you have to see. And if you are curious to see what one million dollars and a three-week shooting schedule can give you in 1981 – here you are! We can’t promise a smooth ride or that you won’t spot the flying-harness wires but we do all agree that the pig and sword violence infused finale is well worth seeing. It’s debatable that this is good, but it certainly is EVILSPEAK good!

If you have any comments or concerns for our sanity thebloodypit@gmail.com is the address. Let know what you think! We’ll veer back into covering European films shot in America next time out. 

For your October listening pleasure here are a couple of spooky Sherlock Holmes radio tales!

Beth has chosen these two as representative of the scary end of the classic radio format featuring the great detective. The first is from the 1940’s and is titles The Adventure of the Carpathian Horror so you know it’s going to be fun – with a splash of vampires! It has Nigel Bruce continuing his run as Dr. Watson and Tom Conway taking over from Basil Rathbone as Holmes. The second features Kevin McCarthy in the role for the CBS Mystery Theater and was originally broadcast in 1977. I think it is a solid version of that tale of a spectral hound! You know – the one that haunts the Baskervilles. I’ve edited out most of the commercials from the show but I left in one to give you a taste of what radio sounded like in the late 1970’s. Forgive me!

If you have any comments or suggestions thebloodypit@gmail.com is the address to which you can send them. We’d be glad to hear from you! 

Join Troy, Beth and I as we check out the second of Universal’s Sherlock Holmes adventures. 

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (1943) is - as you might have guessed – another World War II tale full of intrigue and subterfuge. The story allows spy-master Holmes the chance for a few interesting disguises and the opportunity to match wits with his long-time rival Professor Moriarty! It seems that the Napoleon of Crime has hatched a plan to profit from the war regardless of the damage it will do to good old England. Is there nothing that villainous snake won’t get up to in his quest for monetary gain? Surely it is time to put an end to his nefarious plots. 

We dig into the film to examine the success the studio had converting the Victorian detective to a soldier in the fight against the Nazi. I have been reading two books that focus in different ways on this series and use them to broaden our discussion a bit. Amanda Field’s ‘England’s Secret Weapon’ is especially interesting, pointing us toward several topics that lurk under the surface of these fast, entertaining movies. We are repeatedly brought back to how fascinating it is to watch these movies with the knowledge that the filmmakers had no way to know how this devastating war would turn out or how dark the future might be. Of course, that doesn’t keep us from babbling praise for the fine actors including our last chance to see Basil Rathbone and Lionel Atwill paired together onscreen. What we wouldn’t give to have seen many more. 
As you might expect, our love for the movie doesn’t keep us from cracking a few jokes including our alternate title of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DANGEROUS PUB CRAWL. When you go hunting for Moriarty in London during the Blitz you end up doing some risky things! Thank goodness for Watson. 

If you have any Holmesian comments or suggestions thebloodypit@gmail.com is the place to send them. 

In this episode I welcome filmmaker Robert Tinnell and film historian Anthony Taylor to the podcast for a discussion of the 1996 movie FRANKENSTEIN AND ME, which was conceived and directed by Mr. Tinnell. The film is a funny, touching tale of a young monster obsessed kid with an active imagination and what happens when he accidentally gets his hands on the real Frankenstein Monster! Having the movie’s writer/director along makes for a different kind of show! 

We dig into Bob’s inspiration for the film’s story including his childhood monster fandom and his dreams as a young director. The production of FRANKENSTEIN AND ME is examined as well as the original version of the story and the freewheeling times in which an independent Canadian film like this could come together. We talk about the great cast that includes Burt Reynolds, Louise Fletcher and the first film role for a teenaged Ryan Gosling. The conversation turns into what you might find after hours in the bar at a monster movie convention with topics such as Robert McCammon’s novel ‘Boy’s Life’, the writing skill of Peter Straub and the joys of comic books as a medium. We dart off onto several barely related tangents with one of the most satisfying being our mutual love of the DVD of Monster Kid Home Movies put together by the great Joe Busam.  That collection of Super 8 homemade films of Monster Kids showcasing the mad energy of the childhood creative impulse shows the clear beginnings of Bob Tinnell’s path to this film. And finally, we discuss the fact that the film has never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray and the possibilities of that happening one day soon.

If you have any questions or comments thebloodypit@gmail.com is the place to send them. We’ll be thrilled to hear from you. Thanks for listening to the show! 

I have talked about this film on many occasions and on several different podcasts but never on my own show. After all, there are hundreds of films I want to discuss and this one has had some attention around the podcasting dial.  But Mark Maddox loves this one almost as much as I do so he insisted that we make time to praise it as it deserves! Who am I say no? 

We start by relating our history with WILD, WILD PLAMET (1966) and first impressions from our younger days. After some fumbling with the titles of the other three Gamma One films, we talk about the relative merits of the various Antonio Margheriti science fiction films and even loop in THE GREEN SLIME. Part of the discussions revolves around the character stereotypes that the film uses and what they represent both as tropes and storytelling shortcuts. Mark makes note of a 1960’s German television series (Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion - literal translation: “Space Patrol – The Fantastic Adventures of the Spaceship Orion”) that reminds him of some of the better attributes of space opera stories and this film too. I have to find English subtitled versions of that show!

The film’s strong body horror elements are put under the microscope as we relate it to the public fascination with the then emergent field of organ transplantation. This leads us into dissections of several of the special effects and especially the variable quality of the miniatures. Fire gives the game away nearly every time! And then we point out the several threads the movie leaves dangling including the fate of the room of mad scientist experimental mistakes. Were they drowned in the blood flood? We may never know. 

If you have any questions or comments thebloodypit@gmail.com is the podcast’s email address. Thank you for listening! 

134 - 1941 (1979)

We don’t cover many comedies on The Bloody Pit for various reasons but 1941 (1979) ticks off many boxes for genre fans that makes it nearly perfect for discussion. Toshiro Mifune and Christopher Lee as bickering military leaders trapped together in a submarine? Is this a humorous variation on HELL IN THE PACFIC (1968) hiding in plain sight? 

Mark Maddox joins me to dig into our mutual fascination with this much criticized epic of American madness and wartime paranoia. Told before production that they should make a serious World War II film on the subject instead of a comedy, Spielberg and his team forged ahead with their warped vision of post-Pearl Harbor attack fears. It’s an ambitious tale with dozens of characters and multiple storylines that slowly escalates into a long December night of chaos and violence. I’m sure that a serious movie about this historical incident could be made but I’m so glad that this farce exists in its place. 1941 is one of my favorite comedies of all time and I never cease to laugh at the insanity every time I watch it. 

Using the sprawling template of IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD (1964) we are given a scenario ripe with potential sparks while the plot scatters metaphorical open barrels of gasoline around to how they explode in flames. Combining oddball comedic characters with characters that are taking the spiraling events seriously keeps the entire affair grounded enough to seem believable and suspenseful enough to be thrilling. The nutty folks’ antics never overpower the forward momentum of the wild story even in the extended version of the film that Mark and I discuss. We talk about our first encounters with the film, its effect on us at the time and how popular opinion of it has changed over the years. We dig into the huge cast of amazing actors and debate some of the performances. The topic of the John Williams score is broached with a snippet or two of the music inserted into the show and we marvel at the amazing miniature work in the film’s climax. We do get off-track at least once trying to decide what Spielberg’s worst movie might be. As usual, Mark is wrong! 

If you know which Spielberg film is the weakest the email address is thebloodypit@gmail.com where we’d love to hear from you. And if you think Mark and I should just bash in each other’s heads and call it a day – let us know that too! Thanks for listening to the show. 

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