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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Stephen King still seething over The Shining

Stephen King's dislike of Kubrick's acclaimed movie based on his book The Shining is well known, and in his new book, The Outsider King takes a pop at the director. A character in The Outsider is watching Stanley Kubrick’s, Paths of Glory. The reason for this is  because she thinks it’s better than The Shining.

The Shining is widely considered one of the best horror films ever made, but King has never been shy about expressing his disdain for it. He’s referred to Shelley Duvall’s Wendy as “one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film,” Kubrick as someone who “thinks too much and feels too little,” and the film itself as “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.”

Cheyenne, will your heart stay free and light

Clint Walker, a true western icon, died this week at the age of 90. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Valerie Walker, who said the cause was congestive heart failure. Mr. Walker lived in Grass Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento.

For seven seasons from 1955-61, he played Cheyenne Bodie, a rambunctious wanderer in the post-Civil War West, on the ABC series Cheyenne.He also reprised the character in an episode of  Maverick.

Walker was also a singer. He sang a number of tunes on a 1957 episode of “Cheyenne,” issued a Christmas album in 1959, performed on an episode of “The Jack Benny Program” in 1963 and sang in the film “Night of the Grizzly.”

Next to his iconic role in Cheyanne he was probably most famous for his turn as one of the convict soldiers in Robert Aldrich’s star-packed 1967 classic The Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen were:

Charles Bronson - Joseph T. Wladislaw
Jim Brown - Robert T. Jefferson
John Cassavetes - Victor Franco
Trini Lopez - Pedro Jiminez
Telly Savalas - Archer J. Maggott
Donald Sutherland - Vernon L. Pinkley
Clint Walker - Samson Posey
Tom Busby - Milo Vladek
Ben Carruthers - Glenn Gilpin
Stuart Cooper - Roscoe Lever
Colin Maitland - Seth K. Sawyer
Al Mancini - Tassos R. Bravos

Rest in Peace, impressive body of work is left behind.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Shing light on Universal's Dark Universe

I'm a massive fan of Universal's  horror movies of the 30's and 40's - those halcyon days when Karloff, Lugosi and Chaney ruled the silver screen. And it was dissapointing when last year's The Mummy,starring that annoying hobbit Tom Cruise, intended to kick start the monster series again under the Universal Dark Universe banner flopped.

This was not the first time that Universal have tried to kick start their famous monsters for a modern audience - way back in 2014 the studio released, Dracula Untold but that too went belly up at the box office.

It seemed that Universal's monsters would remain a fond memory - though there may be hope for Dark Universe after all - this past week the  artist, Robert Vargas  posted on his Instragram account.

"Great meeting this morning with the amazing #DarkUniverse team. Thank you #Universal Exec, Holly Goline and Crash for the hospitality. Looking forward to contributing to the Universal Pictures legacy with my work. Monster things in the works ;) Stay tuned!"

So are Universal still interested in getting their shared universe series off the ground?

 It certainly sounds like Universal is still trying to get their monster-fueled franchise up and running. The nascent cinematic universe was slated to kick off with The Mummy in 2017, but the movie was a critical and commercial dud. It was reported recently that Universal would try to salvage Dark Universe with a movie based on arguably their finest moment, the Bride of Frankenstein.

I do hope that Universal stick with their plans for the Dark Universe. I don’t think having these monster movies star Hollywood’s A-listers was the right way to go. These monsters have persevered for decades now on the popularity of their characters alone. Fuck, Tom Cruise and cast  unknown names – that's largely what Marvel did with their cinematic universe. People like Tom Cruise bring baggage with them - he's no Jack Reacher and he's nowhere near Boris Karloff.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Fangoria returns from the grave

Some kids want to grow up to be star athletes, I wanted to be a horror novelist. That was the dream. I always knew I wanted to be some kind of writer but then, when I was thirteen, my mother bought me a paperback of The Shining from the drug store. I’d read those “Great Illustrated Classics” all throughout my childhood, but The Shining was the first unabridged, uncensored, honest-to-goodness adult book I read and when I was done with it I knew for sure, yeah, I want to be a horror writer. And now it’s happening.” Preston Fassel told Dread Central regarding the forthcoming publication of his first novel. Not only is he to see his book in print, but he is to have the honour of being the first author published under the new, Fangoria Presents imprint.

The book in question is Our Lady of the Inferno and although it was previously available as a eBook, the Fangoria edition will see it in the mass market.

Fangoria of course is the American horror magazine which was first published in 1979 and is arguably the most prominent horror title of them all. Over recent years it looked as if the title would vanish from print all together - It's last print issue, number 344, hit the stands in October of 2015, and .that it seemed was it for the magazine. However the news recently broke that the print magazine will return this coming October as a luxury quarterly publication. The Fangoria brand has been purchased by the Texas-based entertainment company Cinestate, and they have confirmed that the magazine will now be published quarterly, beginning in October of 2018, with subscriptions available at

There is more exciting news from the Fangoria camp - it seems  that not only are they coming back as a quarterly magazine but they’re also launching Fangoria Presents, a label dedicated to releasing branded books and films! To kick off this new venture, the label has announced Fangoria Presents #1 as Preston Fassel’s Our Lady of the Inferno, a novel that will be released this September.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Book Review: Lair by James Herbert

Lair is a sequel to Herbert's 1974 debut novel, The Rats and although it is more of the same it is very much a far more assured book than the excellent first novel. Between writing The Rats and Lair, Herbert published four other novels and his development as a writer is evident in the way Lair is structured.

The Rats simply powered along with no space for the reader to breathe but whilst Lair is also paced at a breakneck speed, it does offer several quieter character building moments. The slower build up to the mayhem is very effective, and the author teases the reader in several scenes in which characters glimpse the rats but they don't attack. Much more is made of the creatures intelligence this time around and it makes them all the more terrifying.

This time the action is moved from the London slums and takes place in and around Epping forest - there's a sub plot in which the forest gets the Amnity Island treatment when the authorities try to avoid closing down the forest to tourists when the mutant rats are first discovered, but as things escalate they have no choice and the forest is evacuated.

What follows is a tour de force of horror storytelling, leading to one of the most thrilling climaxes I've ever read. Excellent.

The Sickest Writer on the planet - Shaun Hutson interview

Shaun Hutson has always bucked the system - he's still doing it. After being expelled from school he fell into a number of jobs, none he could hold for too long - shop assistant, cinema usher and a barman. Indeed if he hadn't taken the plunge and become a full time author in 1983 then Shaun would probably still be on that treadmill of job after job. He's writtern in every genre imaginable westerns, war, crime and he's still bucking the system and where most of his contemporaries from the horror boom period of the 80's have vanished he's still here, alive and kicking and selling books.

Biographical details are scarce but there is some information on Shaun's official website.

According to Shaun's website.

He is a reformed alcoholic with diagnosed psychotic tendencies, is very unsociable and likes to shoot pistols for a hobby, he has appeared on stage with his rock band idols, Iron Maiden on numerous occasions, has received death threats in relation with his work, supports Liverpool and never misses a home game and a quote on one of his books once said, he (Shaun) has done for literature what Hitler did for Poland.

Before starting the interview Shaun was pleased to see I am published by Robert Hale and informed me that he started out with Hale many years ago.

" I used to be published Robert Hale (I’m sure I mentioned it). I did eleven war novels for them when I first started writing and will always have a soft spot for them as they published my first ever novel BLOOD AND HONOUR. Anyway, enough of that, on to your questions… "


TA: I've often heard you called the sickest writer on the planet. How does this make you feel?

SH: I have no objection at all to being called the sickest writer on the planet, just as I never objected to the other nicknames like The Godfather of Gore, the Shakespeare of Gore and stuff like that. I suppose it’s better to be remembered as something. It depends on your definition of sick really. Writing horror all these years I suppose I’d have been more pissed off if people had labelled me “a really nice writer”. So, feel free to call me sick.

TA: You're sick - seriously you have survived the horror boom years of the 80's when so many of the other once familiar names have vanished. Why is this do you think?

SH: It’s just a pity those horror boom years ever went away. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll keep saying it but I think horror is a dead genre (it certainly is as far as publishers are concerned). Stuff like Twilight has been successful but it all seems to be vampires and werewolves. The shelves are covered with shit that looks like it was inspired by the Underworld films which were bad enough anyway. There’s no traditional horror being published anymore, not by big publishers anyway. They’re all too busy with crime and serial killers. It’s almost as if they’re saying “see we were right all those years ago to turn our noses up at horror.” Bastards. I haven’t a clue why I survived and some other authors fell by the wayside. Probably because my fan base is so loyal. My readers are different. A cut above the rest and they’ve always supported me no matter what I’ve done and I’m grateful for that.

TA: In recent years you seem to have branched out into crime. Do you prefer writing crime or horror?

SH: Lots of people have told me I’ve been writing crime but I can’t say as I’ve noticed. I just write my new book every year, I never think which category it’s going to fall into. I write about what interests me at the time, what grabs me as a writer. I never think about current trends or stuff like that. I just do what I want to do and hope that people will like it. That’s what I’ve always done. If I had any sense I’d be trying to write fucking detective novels or books about forensics and serial killers because that’s all publishers seem to want but I’ve never made that cross over into the thriller genre because bookshops are too intent on putting authors into their ready made categories. The book business is so regimented as far as defining authors goes. Once you write two books in one genre that’s you stuck there for all time in the eyes of the book business.

TA: One of your most successful books, Slugs was turned into a movie. It was dire and I'v
e heard you've disowned it. Why?

I don’t think I ever disowned SLUGS the movie but I always made sure that people knew I had fuck all to do with it. The thing is, when you sell film rights you know that what turns up on the screen is going to be nothing like what you originally wrote (unless you’re fucking J.K. Rowling) so you just accept it. Or you should. It makes me sick when I hear authors moaning about how bad adaptations of their books are. I just think, they paid you shit loads for the rights, shut the fuck up and enjoy it. Having said that, the company that made SLUGS didn’t even pay me enough to soften the blow but what can you do?

TA: During the Eighties you cut quite a flamboyant image for a writer, what with appearing on stage with rock icons, Iron Maiden. Are you still Maiden's biggest fan?

SH: I’m pretty sure that Iron Maiden have got lots of fans more devoted than me. I love their music though. I have since their very first album and getting the chance to meet them and work with them on and off over the years has been wonderful. We’re all about the same age and they’ve managed to survive all the trends that have come and gone, just doing what is so recognisably their style and I’d like to think that there are similarities between the two of us (apart from the fact that they’re multi-millionaires…) in as much as they’ve remained faithful to their audience and never sold out.

TA: When I was in my late teens, the Eighties again, shops were full to the rafters with horror novels but these days the genre is far less visible. Where do you see the future for horror?

SH: I’m not sure the horror genre has got a future to be honest. Not with big mainstream publishers. It’s weird because there are so many horror films at the cinema and yet, for the only time in my life as a writer, that trend hasn’t been adopted by the publishing business. Horror films appear by the dozen every year and yet the publishers still cut back on their horror and bookshops stock less and less of it. It’s very depressing. They obviously need more shelf space for all the crime novels and the truck loads of ghost written fucking celebrity books that now pollute our bookshops. When Jordan can have the number one selling novel and Chris Moyles autobiography is a best seller then you know how deep in the shit the book business is. And how bad a state society in general is in for that matter…but anyway

TA: Writers you yourself admire?

SH: I don’t read fiction so I can’t really say. Well, not new fiction anyway. If I read new books then it’s non fiction but as for fiction, other than Thomas Harris, I can’t be bothered (as he only writes one every seven years it’s not too much of a stretch). I’ve just re-read LEGION by William Peter Blatty who was a wonderful writer and I’m reading a novel by Jim Thompson at the moment (written in about 1954, I think). I read Raymond Chandler sometimes and occasionally some older short stories but other than that I don’t read fiction unless it’s something that really leaps out at me, like something I notice in the review pages of the paper (I started reading a book called The Chatelet Apprentice around Christmas but never finished it) I never, if I can help it, go in bookshops either so most of the stuff that’s on my shelves is about seven or eight years old.

TA: Slugs is a total gross out novel, great fun and at the time it was published we had already been terrorised by rats, crabs, cats and seemingly every creature under the sun. What made you chose to write about slugs?

SH:To be honest, it wasn’t me who chose to write about Slugs. I wanted to do it about leeches (because of the vampire possibility too) and my agent of the time who’d read a novel I wrote called Deathday that featured a giant slug said why not do a novel all about slugs. I couldn’t see the mileage in it until I started researching and, happily, as usual he was proved right and I was wrong. The slugs novels were great fun to write and Slugs will always be very dear to my heart because it is the novel I’ll always be remembered for. I could win the Booker Prize (well, not really, I’m joking but you know what I mean) and I’d still be known at the bloke who wrote slugs but like I said before, it’s nice to be remembered for something. I’ve got nothing against them in real life by the way but I do find them pretty revolting. But so do lots of people. Maybe that was why the book worked.

TA: And finally will the mutated slugs ever return?

SH: I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another Slugs book. Not unless we could all get in a time machine and go back to the 80’s (not a bad idea…). It was always intended as a trilogy…(sorry..) but I can’t see the third one ever being done now, certainly not with the demise of the horror genre in general but I must admit, it would be nice to do it. I think I’ve still got the plot lying around somewhere….Or maybe I will get around to doing that one about leeches eventually…Actually, I wrote a scene in my new novel the other day about a guy having a nightmare about slugs…maybe it was an omen….

Watch this space as they say - The Tainted Archive thanks Shaun for his time.

Shaun's website can be found HERE

Duffle Coats, Double Features and Dracula invades South Wales

Duffle Coat Manor doesn't have that much of a ring to it and yet that was the locally used name for the manor house that Hammer films turned into Bray Studios.

The house had been used immediately following the war to store duffle coats -  but the roof leaked and the coats took in so much water, swelled to blob like propotions, that the weight caused the entire inside of the building to collapse, and when Anthony Hinds visited the building it was little more than a shell.  The film company  took over residence of the manor house in 1951 - Initially the building was rented for studio space but a year later it was purchased and became world famous as the home of Hammer Films. The colourful nickname of Duffle Coat Manor has now been largely forgotten, a footnote in the history of this remarkable studio.

When I was growing up - I was ten years old in 1975 and during this period the movies were regularly shown on late night television, usually as a double bill - my parents took their parental responsibility seriously and I was never allowed to stay up to watch the movies. Maybe they considered the movies too scary, too graphic for my young mind. Though I think the real reason was that they didn't want me staying up after they had retired and munching  all the chocolate biscuits. The reason matteres not but it resulted in the movies taking on the status of forbidden fruit. And we all know that forbidden fruit taste better than any other kind.

BBC2 was the channel and  usually on a Saturday night they would start a horror movie double bill - the channel regularly ran a double bill horror season from 1975 until 1981. The show would start somewhere around 11pm and go on until 1am - then we would get the test card as the station closed down for the night - I shit you, not. TV used to close down in those days. The days of 24 hour TV were still some years away. Often it would be a double bill of the old black and white Universal horrors, and I loved those too, but on times they would select films from studios such as Hammer and Amicus. These two British studios produced films where the blood dripped impossible red and the heaving breasts were bared. I reckon I saw my first pair of tits in a Hammer movie and believe me that leaves a lasting impression - thank you Ingrid Pitt.

'Critical opinion doesn't really concern us at Hammer. We judge our films at the box office. We're a perfectly commercial company. We turn out films we think are fairy tales.' Michael Carreras, Hammer Films.

Hammer movies were my faves - the company had started out during the Thirties, and produced a spooky thriller, The Mystery of the Mary Celeste in 1935 which starred Bela Lugosi - in a sense this was the studio's first brush with Dracula given that Lugosi was Hollywood's best known Count Dracula.During the war Hammer were largely inactive. The company was reformed in 1947 as the production arm of Exclusive Pictures. There's an interesting story there, of how Hammer transfomed from a low budget studio, producing cheap comedies and thrillers to a name that became synonymous around the world with horror movies.

That's a post for another day,though - for now let's go back to those double features.

This LINK will take you to a You Tube video from 1977 of Kenny Rogers talking about the Horror Double Bills.

Now I vividly remember sneaking downstairs one Saturday night after everyone else had gone to bed, and switching on the TV. I kept the volume low and didn't dare turn on the lights and this was my first experience of Christopher Lee as Dracula. Checking back in BBC listings I think this must have been the 14th September 1976, I was two months aways from my 12th birthday, and I think the movie was Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This was the first Hammer movie I'd ever seen and I was transfixed to the screen, which often ran blood red. The reason this sticks so clearly in my mind is because that night I had the most vivid nightmares and my father had to run in when I woke up screaming, pointing, yelling - 'He's behind the door.'  True story that, not a word of a lie and I'm sure my father remembers it. After all he went bat shit crazy the following day when he discovered the dent I'd made in the packet of chocolate biscuits.

Of course today the films have dated, but there's a certain something to a Hammer film that makes them so watchable. Horror films today are far more graphic, the special effects more realistic but give me a Hammer movie over the adventures of Jason or Freddy any day of the week.