All posts by Arnold T. Blumberg

SPECIAL: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s “Chilly Billy” Cardille (1928-2016) [UPDATED]

meavatarjessHi all, some sad news to share. Unfortunately, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille has died. While we mourn the loss of a horror icon, we’ve left our original post intact below, in which Cardille’s daughter had asked fans to show support during his illness. Fans did indeed get in touch, and surely his last days were at least partly brightened by the knowledge that he left behind a legacy we won’t soon forget.

[ORIGINAL POST]
This was posted yesterday to DAY OF THE DEAD star Lori Cardille’s Facebook page concerning her father, none other than Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille, who we all remember as the newsman in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD:

My dear father, Chilly Billy, Bill Cardille, received a cancer diagnosis that will be quite challenging to say the least. His spirits are tremendous which is not a suprise. I thought it would be nice for dad to know how you enjoyed him during your childhood years or any years for that matter. I want him to feel the love that he so freely gave during his lifetime. Even just a card. You can send it to Chilly Billy, c/o Century Communications 313 East Carson Street , Pgh. Pa, 15219.

Thank you friends. It will mean so much to dad. Please send this along to anyone you know that loved my dad. With a grateful heart, Lori Cardille

For all those of us who never tire of watching NIGHT again and again, and who appreciate Cardille’s indelible contribution to a cinematic classic, now is the right time to let Mr. Cardille know how we feel and that we’re thinking of him.

UPDATE: You can now read more about Cardille receiving the first good wishes from fans as well as hear from the man himself via video here.

Zombie #1 (July 2016)

THE PATIENTS

Publisher: Eibon Press
Script/Layout/Letters/Editor: Stephen Romano
Pencils/Covers: Michael Broom
Inks/Additional Art: Derek Rook
Inks: Gerry Coffey
Colors: Fatboy

This and the following photos give you a look at the unpackaging of this prestige comic book release. Here, front and back views of the comic in its sleeve and stickered shrink-wrap. Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
This and the following photos give you a look at the unpackaging of this prestige comic book release. Here, front and back views of the comic in its sleeve and stickered shrink-wrap.
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

THE PATHOLOGY

The legendary Lucio Fulci film ZOMBIE (ZOMBI 2/ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS) gets the graphic novel treatment, and I do mean “graphic!” In the first issue of this adaptation – which will then continue beyond the confines of the film’s plot – the carnage begins on page one as a horrific Voodoo ritual on the island of Matool unleashes a nightmarish horde of living dead. Meanwhile, reporter Peter West teams up with a distraught young woman seeking information about her missing father. Could they find their answers on that accursed, windswept isle?

Front and back view of the comic in its sleeve. Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
Front and back view of the comic in its sleeve.
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

THE PROGNOSIS

It’s always a delight to have a reason to write a comic book review again, having written hundreds of them over the years during my time in the comics industry. In the past, I always strived to highlight aspects of a comic not often discussed in a review, and in the case of Eibon Press’ ZOMBIE, it’s absolutely essential to praise the entire package – not just the sharp scriptwriting and art, but the evocative lettering, lavish coloring, and stunning graphic design; even the quality of the paper and printing is exceptional. This is a premium release intended for fans that want to collect a truly special tribute to a horror classic.

A look at the whole package (clockwise from top): The first issue of ZOMBIE, a folded insert, the outer sleeve, and a signature card. Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
A look at the whole package (clockwise from top): The first issue of ZOMBIE, a folded insert, the outer sleeve, and a signature card.
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

As Eibon Press’ Stephen Romano explains in a detailed and illuminating essay in the back of the first issue, this adaptation originally appeared in 2000 in an extremely limited black-and-white edition that failed to capture the attention it deserved. But now, it has risen from the grave like a Spanish Conquistador with all the lush, lurid color that Lucio himself would have greatly appreciated.

The morgue sequence gets a substantial uplift via extended dialogue and even more grotesque action.

But rest assured, it’s not just a slavish beat-for-beat retelling. Although the comic faithfully adapts the film for the most part (its only real omission during this issue is a short bit set on a docked boat), there are a few significant and brilliant additions that enhance the story at every turn. Insight into the thoughts of many of the characters via narration gives us added perspective on numerous scenes in the story, while the morgue sequence in particular gets a substantial uplift via extended dialogue and even more grotesque action. Perhaps my favorite new material provides a confirmation of a theory I’ve often shared, as recently as on the latest DOCTOR OF THE DEAD episode about this very film – that the spread of the zombies happened on two fronts, via the reanimated morgue doctors and the boat zombie. Great minds!

Front and back of the folded insert and signature card. That is one truly awesome, frameable version of the stunning painted re-creation of Ol' Worm-Eye!  Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
Front and back of the folded insert and signature card. That is one truly awesome, frameable version of the stunning painted re-creation of Ol’ Worm-Eye!
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

But the biggest elaboration here is a new prologue that finally gives fans a glimpse of the terrifying Voodoo ritual that brought about the reanimation of the dead. It’s appropriate that this prologue and thus the entire comic starts on a close-up of an eye, not just because of the film’s iconic eye-stabbing scene but because later zombie films like 28 DAYS LATER and RESIDENT EVIL made it a reliable way into an apocalyptic story through a literal point of view. The connections to zombie stories past and present don’t end there, since the visual of a spiritual Voodoo presence also recalls Murder Legendre’s eyes from WHITE ZOMBIE. There are also some cute jokes centered on the Anne Bowles character played by Tisa Farrow in the film. For one thing, her name is repeatedly and presumably deliberately misspelled “Bowels” (zombies sure are interested in internal anatomy), and at one point Peter muses on her resemblance to a certain ROSEMARY’S BABY star.

The interior of the folded insert, with Stephen Romano explaining the development of the outer sleeve. Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
The interior of the folded insert, with Stephen Romano explaining the development of the outer sleeve.
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

The artistic style is loose, capturing the general look of the characters as we know them from the movie but with a quality that suggests everything can spiral into madness.

The artistic style is loose, capturing the general look of the characters as we know them from the movie but with a quality that suggests any moment everything can spiral out of control into madness. The coloring, as noted already, is rich and blood-drenched in all the right places, and the panel layouts are dynamic and inventive, rapidly propelling you through the pages. Pretty much the only thing you don’t get from this otherwise amazing adaptation is the film’s Fabio Frizzi score, so fire up iTunes or whatever music app you have (or if you’re old school, get out your soundtrack CD and player), and let it play along as you read!

And here it is, the front and back of ZOMBIE #1 itself!  Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg
And here it is, the front and back of ZOMBIE #1 itself!
Photo by Arnold T. Blumberg

This first issue ends as our heroes team up with a couple offering them a boat ride to Matool. The best is clearly yet to come, and I for one can’t wait to see what Eibon Press does with the rest of this iconic Italian zombie film. I highly recommend visiting the Eibon Press website for more on this debut issue, #2 arriving in October, and their plans for other Fulci Comics like GATES OF HELL (also known as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) as well as their VHS Comics imprint featuring LASERBLAST!

RATING

09brains

If you want to know more about my thoughts on the film itself, check out our DOCTOR OF THE DEAD episode on ZOMBIE!

Five Creepy Clowns – The New Pennywise and More

meavatarjessToday, horror fans are getting their first glimpse of the new Pennywise from the upcoming two-part feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s immortal IT, and it’s none other than Bill Skarsgard of HEMLOCK GROVE, son of Stellan “Erik Selvig” Skarsgard from the Marvel films and brother of Alexander “Tarzan” Skarsgard!

But while everyone cringes when faced with the terrifying new visage of Pennywise (first played in live-action form by the legendary Tim Curry in a 1990 TV miniseries), it’s worth noting that Skarsgard’s demonic clown is just one of several iconic figures that have smeared on the greasepaint to strike terror into the hearts of young and old alike. Herewith, five (plus one) creepy clowns from the annals of horror film and television!

PENNYWISE

pennywiseitstephenkingThis one’s a twofer, because in addition to Skarsgard’s brand-new monstrous incarnation, we have the Tim Curry original, and no one can forget him growling from the sewer that “they all FLOAT down here!” Wonder what Rocky would think about that…
tumblr_lxo7k4OyFC1qzi80do1_500

CAPTAIN SPAULDING

1-spalding-2As played by Sid Haig in Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, Spaulding headed up the Firefly family (at least, we learned that in the second film) and was definitely not someone you ever wanted to meet in the dead of night!

ZOMBIE CLOWN

zombieland-clownI don’t know much about this happy fellow, only that he tried to get in the way of a climactic rescue in the final act of ZOMBIELAND. Driven by primal forces like many reanimated corpses, this one seemed to take some delight in threatening a living victim. Must be that deeply ingrained sense of mirth from his days at the circus.

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE

killer_klowns_from_outer_space_by_scrabcakes-d5i506sEveryone of a certain age remembers this colorful collection of alien antagonists bent on harvesting human beings. They may look like fun-loving, delightful…oh, who am I kidding? They look like friggin’ mutant monsters! RUN!

TWISTY THE CLOWN

American-Horror-Story-Twisty-the-ClownNow I’m really going to lose sleep! As played by John Carroll Lynch of THE WALKING DEAD fame, Twisty was a macabre highlight of anthology horror series AMERICAN HORROR STORY‘s fourth year, FREAK SHOW. Smile!

Did I miss your favorite horror clown? Let me know what your favorite (or least favorite) creepy clown is in the comments below, and remember to always leave them laughing…or crying!

CONVENTION REPORT: WALKER STALKER CON NEW JERSEY 2016

meavatarjessI’ve been appearing at Walker Stalker Conventions since 2014 (even though I was introduced as a newcomer at the start of this one, but what can ya do), but never before have I had as much fun or been as delighted to be involved in programming as I was this July 9-10 at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, New Jersey for the 2016 Walker Stalker Con New Jersey! Let me tell you all about it…

Time for the Doctor of the Dead to head into the apocalypse! Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
Time for the Doctor of the Dead to head into the apocalypse!
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

In past years, I’ve only been able to appear for one day, but fortunately this time I had the chance to work both days of this sprawling show. Having moved the New Jersey event to this location for the first time, the convention clearly benefitted from the increased space, and they had no trouble packing in crowds on Saturday and Sunday. Of course, the number one draw was none other than Daryl Dixon himself, Norman Reedus, but there were many other fellow THE WALKING DEAD cast members in attendance as well as FEAR THE WALKING DEAD cast, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD‘s Russ Streiner, other actors, artists, vendors, and even a certain world-renowned zombie expert known as the “Doctor of the Dead!”

Can you see Norman Reedus in this picture? No, we mean the real one. Well neither can we... Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
Can you see Norman Reedus in this picture? No, we mean the real one. Well neither can we…
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
...and this was as close as Natalie could get in order to get the previous pic! Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
…and this was as close as Natalie could get in order to get the previous pic!
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

DAY ONE: Saturday kicked off at 10:45am with a roundtable panel in which several of us, including a random fan chosen from the audience, discussed the TWD Season 6 finale and what might lay ahead for our heroes in Season 7. When asked to sum up the series in one word, I mused about it for a moment then realized what it had to be: “humanity.”

IronE "T-Dog" Singleton and Scott "Hershel" Wilson joined the Doctor of the Dead for an hour of fun and fans. Photos by Natalie B. Litfosky
IronE “T-Dog” Singleton and Scott “Hershel” Wilson joined the Doctor of the Dead for an hour of fun and fans.
Photos by Natalie B. Litfosky

That was supposed to be my one and only panel for Saturday, but I was asked to step in and handle some on-stage interviews when original moderator Jason Cabassi was unable to make it to the show until Sunday. First up, a delightful chat with IronE “T-Dog” Singleton and Scott “Hershel” Wilson at 11:30am. Probably the best part of this panel was discovering what a strong bond these two actors had forged in their short time together on the show.

IronE Singleton and the Doctor of the Dead! Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
IronE Singleton and the Doctor of the Dead!
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

My next panel wasn’t until 4pm, so until then G2V’s newest contributor Natalie Litofsky and I did a turn or two around the floor, checking out some vendors and discovering just what a huge crowd Norman Reedus had drawn; no shock there. I caught a glimpse of Elvira herself, Cassandra Peterson, and I also had time to say hi to DOCTOR OF THE DEAD guest Roger Ma, author of THE ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL.

The Doctor is reunited with Roger Ma of the ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL! Ready for battle! Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
The Doctor is reunited with Roger Ma of the ZOMBIE COMBAT MANUAL! Ready for battle!
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

By the time we returned to the stage area, we caught the end of a phenomenal live art presentation by Rob Prior, who dazzled the audience with a dynamic two-handed painting style as he crafted a deadly accurate rendition of Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.

Artist Rob Prior bringing Negan to life on paper. On the left, Prior at work; on the right, the final piece backstage. Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
Artist Rob Prior bringing Negan to life on paper. On the left, Prior at work; on the right, the final piece backstage.
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

Then at 4pm, it was time to head back on stage to interview Deanna Monroe herself, the incredibly energetic Tovah Feldshuh. From anecdotes about wearing zombie make-up in her final TWD appearance to stories of family and famous career highlights, she kept the audience in rapt attention and even gave them a rendition of “Neverland” from PETER PAN. And then it was time to head out and rest up for Sunday!

The Doctor and Tovah "Deanna Monroe" Feldshuh fielded questions from the audience and paused backstage for an all-smiles pic afterward. Photo Natalie B. Litofsky
The Doctor and Tovah “Deanna Monroe” Feldshuh fielded questions from the audience and paused backstage for an all-smiles pic afterward.
Photo Natalie B. Litofsky

DAY TWO: Although shorter, my Sunday schedule was a perfect capper for a great weekend. At 2pm I took the stage with Jason Cabassi for my very own panel on the “State of the Zombie” in 2016. Talking about ZOMBIEMANIA, my University of Baltimore zombie college course, DOCTOR OF THE DEAD, and my opinions on the current state of zombie film, TV, and beyond, we had a great time chatting about all kinds of zombies living and dead, as well as fielding questions from the audience.

Jason Cabassi joins the Doctor for a talk about - what else? - zombies! Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
Jason Cabassi joins the Doctor for a talk about – what else? – zombies!
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

For my final panel of Walker Stalker New Jersey 2016, I couldn’t have picked a better interview subject than Tyreese himself, Chad L. Coleman. It was an all-too-short hour of discussion about the craft of acting, the deeper meaning of a show about zombies and post-apocalyptic survival, and even conversation about how artists provide meaningful reflection on our culture in troubled times like these.

Chad L. Coleman shared some inspirational anecdotes with the Doctor and the Walker Stalker crowd. Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
Chad L. Coleman shared some inspirational anecdotes with the Doctor and the Walker Stalker crowd.
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

It’s also worth noting that Michael “Abraham” Cudlitz and the Walker Stalker team have turned a growing social media fan reference to Abraham’s “Bisquick” quip on the show into an impressive charity drive that encourages fans to bring Bisquick and other non-perishable food items, which are then distributed to local food banks at convention’s end. And as Cudlitz himself tweeted, the drive is doing very well indeed:

https://twitter.com/Cudlitz/status/752309569917943808

Having spent many years in the comics industry working conventions like the San Diego and New York Comic-Cons, and appearing as a guest at DOCTOR WHO shows since 2001, I can definitely say that in such a short time the Walker Stalker team has distinguished itself as capable of putting on events that are a delight for everyone involved. I look forward to the next time I get to slip on the ol’ skull shirt and see everyone again…perhaps Philadelphia in October? Until then!

The Doctor posed with the Suicide Squad's own Harley Quinn. Because...why not? Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky
The Doctor posed with the Suicide Squad’s own Harley Quinn. Because…why not?
Photo by Natalie B. Litofsky

Escape from New York

This column examines sci-fi films of the past that tried to predict a future that has now become the present…or perhaps the past (still with me?). We break down each film into categories (many of which recur from one installment to the next) and see how well or how poorly these prognosticating photoplays predicted those futures that were never meant to be. We’ll cover everything from the exceptional to the excruciating. So here’s to the future…all of them!

ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
RELEASE DATE: 1981
FICTIONAL DATE: 1997
TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT: 16 years

The man that embodied "cool" in the 1980s.
The man that embodied “cool” in the 1980s.
SET UP: Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is a former war hero recruited by a militaristic police state to find and rescue the President (Donald Pleasance) after Air Force One is forced down into New York City by terrorists (where’s Harrison Ford when you need him?). Simple enough? Not quite. You see, New York has been a maximum-security prison for incorrigibles since 1988, when a massive 50-foot wall was erected around Manhattan island. After the crime rate in the U.S. doubled 400%, the United States Police Force was assigned to contain the criminal element in the confines of the city. “Once you go in,” the sign says at Liberty Island Security Control, “you don’t come out.”

The rest of the film takes us on a journey through the ruins of a once-proud city as Snake searches for and eventually rescues the President. During the course of this adventure, we glean a bit more information about this 1997, meet the Duke of New York (played with considerable understatement by the late Isaac “Chef” Hayes), and learn the true power behind Adrienne Barbeau’s cleavage (she was married to Carpenter at the time). But just how different is this vision of the ’90s from the one we lived through?

I can guess where you're looking right now.
I can guess where you’re looking right now.
POLITICS OF PREDICTION: As we are told in the film, Snake flew successful missions over Leningrad and Siberia. In this 1997, America is involved in a long-running conflict with China and the Soviet Union. The President’s rescue is vital since he must attend a crucial peace summit in Hartford to determine the future of this world’s stability. Obviously no one in 1981, in the peak of our Reagan-era nuclear phobia, could ever dream that by 1997 the Soviet Union would be a memory. Similarly, whatever we may think of the government, the United States is not the repressive imperialist police state portrayed here, with its admonitions against talking and smoking and other forms of freedom. Thankfully, they were way off on this…weren’t they? Hmm, maybe we should ask smokers about that one.

You have a few lights out, you might want to replace those bulbs.
You have a few lights out, you might want to replace those bulbs.
TECHNOLOGICAL TIMING: Here, as we will soon see with many films that try to project the future, is where ESCAPE shows its age. Granted, this 1997 has been at war, so technological advancement may have frozen earlier in the 1980s (see how I try to give them a way out?). Still, the movie gives us officials “tel-ex”ing Washington while walls of yellow bulbs blink in sequence (you know, those ubiquitous computer banks of colored lights that appeared in WONDER WOMAN and every other ’70s TV series). Snake is even given a red LED display to wear on his wrist (when was the last time anybody used one of those?)! There are a few interesting innovations, from the capsule bombs implanted in Snake’s neck (vulnerable to X-rays) to the tiny Gulf Fire plane, a one-man craft with a decidedly dated push-button, red and green raster graphics read-out. Meanwhile, in New York, prisoners have made the most unbelievable leap yet – they’ve successfully retrofitted 1970s cars to operate on steam.

Perhaps the most glaring omission, however, is the Internet. Back then, absolutely no one but the most die-hard techies could have predicted the escalation in use let alone the existence of the Internet, and the myriad ways in which it affects everything in our daily life. From the simplest forms of communication to the most complex search and control functions, virtually everything seen in this film might have been completely different.

When troll dolls attack!
When troll dolls attack!
FASHION FLASH FORWARD: The totalitarian black worn by the United States Police Force (adorned with their omnipresent logo, a stylized eagle) is pretty similar to all-too-familiar riot gear worn in almost any other decade past or present. But the most obvious examples of extremely dated fashion appearing in this 1997 are the mohawk-wearing ’80s punks that litter the streets of New York. I doubt even the most down-and-out crook in Manhattan would have been caught dead wearing spandex and a spiky hairdo in our late ’90s. In Russell’s case, his outfit doesn’t exactly contradict any ’90s realities, and it is one of the more memorable “cool” ensembles worn by an action hero (Russell was proud of the fact that he could still wear the identical sprayed-on gear in the sequel).

"What do you mean, 'no talking in the library?'"
“What do you mean, ‘no talking in the library?'”
IN CONCLUSION: As we can see from just a few examples, predicting the future is a tricky business, and it’s the job of science fiction to speculate about what the years ahead hold for us, good or bad. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK is a rather bleak view of where our country may be heading as freedom is slowly curtailed and crime spins wildly out of control. There are the clichéd images certain to place any film firmly in the post-apocalyptic genre, such as the ever-present ‘car-b-ques’ and the mobs of disheveled wanderers pelting newcomers with rocks (a scene that takes place on Broadway, so it’s fairly accurate) and prowling the night looking for food (incidentally, these night raiders are referred to as “crazies;” together with characters named “Cronenberg” and “Romero,” Carpenter maintained a tradition of paying homage to friends and fellow filmmakers).

Most importantly, we see a blend of a possible future mixed with the fears and sensibilities of the time in which that future was conceived. In this case, our 1997 was worlds better than the one seen in ESCAPE, which is merely John Carpenter’s twisted view of 1981…or was it a glimpse of a future we just hadn’t quite reached yet? Take a look around in 2016 and you tell me. Oh, and put out that cigarette.

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