Shop Around: Horror In Clay Puts the Lovecraft into Tiki Mugs and Merchandise

Posted on: Feb 27th, 2014 By:

The prototype for the Innsmouth Fogcutter mug, unglazed.

Trader Vic’s meets H.P. Lovecraft in the wonderfully weird tiki mug and accessory line of Atlanta-based Horror in Clay. Their fine-crafted ceramic green Cthulhu mugs have been raising tentacles among Lovecraft and Retro Hawaiiana fans alike, and if you’ve been to an Atlanta area con, chances are you walked away with a complimentary tentacled Pickman’s Cove cocktail stirrer. Their newest creation is the Innsmouth Fogcutter mug, which already has made its funding goal in another blockbuster Kickstarter campaign. There are plenty more stretch and social goals to unlock, and preorders are sure to be filled with all sorts of fun extras at different levels.

To find out more about the obscure origins of Horror in Clay, the Innsmouth Fogcutter, the Kickstarter campaign, and what terrifying tiki creations are down the dark road, we caught up recently with Jonathan Chaffin, mad mastermind of  the eldritch enterprise along with his lovely wife Allison.

ATLRetro: How did you personally discover H.P. Lovecraft?

Jonathan:  I wrote a term paper on Lovecraft in ’95. Pretty sure it was a combination of three things: #1  I read all the time, particularly short horror fiction – and when I don’t read I listen to audio podcasts like www.pseudopod.org. I have a particular fondness for Poe, Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson, so early horror and weird tales and those who write them are an easy sell for me. Love of literature and details – check.  I think that’s why I knew the name.

#2 Do you remember the cartoon THE INHUMANOIDS?  It came on alongside  JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS and BIGFOOT AND THE MUSCLE MACHINES  on Saturday mornings. I loved that show. One of the monsters was a giant tentacled beastie from the Earth’s mantle named Tendril.  Tendril was a big shambling green thing bedecked with tentacles, and unlike most of the other toys at the time, the Inhumanoids toy line was to scale; the monsters TOWERED over the good guys.  Giant tentacle monster toy beloved and embedded in my brain – check.  That’s why I wanted to learn more about Cthulhu.

#3 When I was on a bus-tour in England, I ran out of books, so I ran into a shop to get one – and what I found was HP LOVECRAFT OMNIBUS 3: HAUNTER OF THE DARK with a giant monster snacking on people on the cover. Giant monster, giant book of horror short stories, bus tour through the land of fens and lochs – good times and a lifeline affinity for old Anglophilic HP Lovecraft.

Cthulu-Elvis, Jonathan Chaffin, and the Horror in Clay'd Cthulhu mug.

How did you and Allison get the idea to design and market a Cthulhu Tiki mug?

I’m an avid collector of, well, everything, but especially of horror movie ephemera and Tiki stuff. Allison and I had a Tiki-themed wedding and have a lot of affinity for Trader Vic’s, the Mai-Kai [in Fort Lauderdale] and theme restaurants in general. Well, the thing about collecting a lot of Tiki stuff and horror autographs and such is it needs somewhere to live. In our old apartment we had a sort of Addams Family vibe in one room that was also our dry bar – artifacts and totems and monsters, oh my!  When you are a graphic designer, everything is a design problem to be solved, so for me the process went something like: This is a Tiki bar -> Tiki bars have signature cocktails and mugs -> What kind of mug should go here?  Given that Cthulhu sleeps his death away in sunken R’yleh in the South Pacific, that seemed a fun subject for a mug.

Were you surprised by its runaway success?

Surprised by the success doesn’t begin to cover it.  I probably wouldn’t have even attempted it except for a push from my friend Pauli [Vauxhall Garden Variety Players], who basically loaned me some of the money to have a prototype made and said, “Meh. Go see what happens.”  I was told we’d probably have hundreds of them living in our basement forever, but I decided to try anyway.

Since Tiki mugs generally come from somewhere, I decided to tell a story with ours; the Cthulhu Tiki mug is an artifact from the fictional Pickman’s Cove bar in Boston, run by Benjamin Upton and decorated with curios and painting inherited from his uncle. Ol’ Ben was eventually presumed dead – due to the amount of blood strewn about [but] there was no body). I created coasters, matchbooks, swizzles, and a nautiloid bar set to help tell the story of Pickman’s Cove. Then I learned about Kickstarter and figured it couldn’t hurt to try and get a production mug made. And life went a little crazy.
The first few days the first Kickstarter launched, pledges were coming in constantly.  We got picked up by Boingboing.net, IO9 and Laughing Squid, and all manner of places and backers jumped on the tentacled bandwagon.  We funded in 74 hours and had to scramble to come up with stretch goals and similar. It was nerve wracking, because what was going to be a small run of 500 became a run of 2000 – that’s three pallets of Tiki mugs! Fortunately, logistics are my wife’s strong point and she was able to get everything settled, but for a while there it was, quite daunting!  It’s been successful enough to become an ongoing thing, and we vend at a few events during the year, which is a whole new dimension we quite enjoy! ConCarolinas in Charlotte is our next outing as Horror In Clay.

Tell us about the Innsmouth Fogcutter Mug from the story to the craftsmanship behind it.

The Innsmouth Fogcutter mug started as an in-joke on the Cthulhu Tiki mug. If you look, dread Cthulhu has his own little fogcutter mug clenched in one tentacle, complete with umbrella and bendy straw. I wanted it to be a Fogcutter as an homage to Trader Vic’s Atlanta and to the long-defunct Atlanta Luau restaurant.  When the Cthulhu mug was blowing up and people were asking me what was next, I told myself I wanted to make that Fogcutter mug.

 

As mentioned, I try and create a total picture of the environment one of my mugs is from; much like a clothing line, each mug has complimentary artifacts that tell its story. I even have a “bible” like you would find for a stage play that lists facts and details I want the mug and artifacts to reference or adhere to.  The Innsmouth Fogcutter is intended to be from the Gilman House hotel, a locale made famous in Lovecraft’s THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH, but also has an original backstory I created that is revealed through digital artifacts and other physical pieces – some of which are available as rewards through the Kickstarter. The back story for the Innsmouth Fogcutter has to do with expectations and changes. As you rotate the mug you realize that what looks like a creepy monster hand reaching up for a beauty on a dock is actually the beauty herself changing into a hybrid, then monstrous form. Similarly, I refer to the mug’s backstory as a romantic tragedy. Really, what else would expect from benighted, ill-reputed Innsmouth?

 

Horror in Clay's bar line including Cthulhu mugs, tentacled double jigger, bar spoons, coasters and Pickman's Cove stirrers.

The concept for the design on the mug came about because I adore practical special effects. Any werewolf transformation sequence is a special treat to me, and I wondered what a transition to a Deep One would look like. Or perhaps I just played too much Altered Beast.  Also, the final form of our Deep One on the mug is inspired by Froggacuda and Sharkoss from the ARCO Other World toy line. What can I say?! I love me some toys.

 

Production mugs are awesome things; much like a sonnet they are all the more amazing for the structural limitations imposed by the process. That said, as a collector I will always love limited editions. For this mug the wonderous Wendy Cevola will be creating a mold from the production master and then producing a very limited number of hand-retouched and glazed variations from the basic design. She has done some amazing work. You should check out her Tiki Bob series of variations

 

You’ve made your Kickstarter goal, but there are more wonders to unlock. Can you tell folks why they should still throw in some money?

 

First off, because the mug is amazing, everyone needs at least two in case they want to drink out of it more than once. Also, it’s funded, so it is going to happen, and I’ve done this before with a high rate of satisfaction, so I’m pretty sure I can do it again. Additionally, I designed way more than I needed for this Kickstarter, and if we get enough funding, we can add some neat stuff to every level and bounce some other ideas into production sooner.  Things that I think will be awesome – like a shade parasol printed with still more backstory elements, or like the Horror Infused bitters we’ve had formulated.

 

Horror in Clay doesn’t just make mugs. What are some of your other products, including those high-quality fezzes?

 

Glad you like em! An IMPORTANT note about the fezzes!  We don’t make ’em! They are the brainchild and product of Jason Rodgers and www.fezorama.com. He’s been doing this whole artist/creator thing much longer than I. His work is amazing, and I’m really pleased he was game for collaborating on a design to match the Innsmouth Fogcutter Tiki mug.  Since the story features the Esoteric Order of Dagon, I thought that having a fez as part of our Innsmouth collection was a great thing – plus I collect Fez-o-rama fezzes. We are an authorized reseller of a limited selection of Fez-o-rama designs only at conventions, as he is an authorized reseller of Horror In Clay mugs.

 

With that out of the way, we make all sorts of things, because I’m trying to make each collection tell a story using whatever makes sense.  Some things besides the mug that we’ve made that have gotten a lot of attention are our tentacled double jigger and bar spoon. People love the tentacle. Fun fact, the tentacled bar set is missing an icepick because it was used as a murder weapon. Since I have different stories to tell, I’m going to be developing different supporting artifacts to flesh out each story. The locale-based Tiki mug has been working out for us, and I have some more ideas in that vein, so I’d expect to see more of that.

 

What’s next for Horror in Clay?

 

Our next two drawing-board projects are the shade parasol and bitters to help fill in the gap while the next mug is developed. The idea for the next mug is already around. How quickly it sees life as a prototype depends on how the Kickstarter for the Innsmouth Fogcutter does. It was two years between the Cthulhu Tiki Mug and the Innsmouth Fogcutter.

 

What do you do when you aren’t crafting Horror in Clay?

 

Designing things and doing a little freelance, monitoring the media streams and watching movies. Just lately I’ve also been writing a little. I have some essays in “Monster Serials: Morbid Love Letters to Horror Cinema” from www.thecollinsporthistoricalsociety.com.  Ever more frequently I seem to be shipping orders, which is a great thing. Oh, and I love supporting my local tiki bars and theme restaurants!

 

Horror on Clay can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/horrorinclay and on twitter @CthulhuMug.

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Retro Review: Feeling Lifeless? Head to the Plaza Theatre for an appointment with Herbert West: RE-ANIMATOR!

Posted on: Feb 11th, 2013 By:

RE-ANIMATOR (1985); Dir. Stuart Gordon; Starring Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbot and Barbara Crampton; Starts Friday, Feb. 15; Plaza Theatre (visit website for show times and ticket prices); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre has become well-known for bringing new life to classic films. It makes sense, then, this week that the Plaza ins mot only making the dead return in FRANKENHOOKER, but also exhibiting the nefarious dead-raising actions of Herbert West: RE-ANIMATOR.

Prior to 1985, Stuart Gordon had been best known as a leading theatrical director in Chicago, having founded the Organic Theater Company with his wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon. Gordon had overseen such important productions as the world premiere of David Mamet’s SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO, E/R EMERGENCY ROOM, Gordon’s own three-part sci-fi epic WARP! and his adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s THE SIRENS OF TITAN. After 1985, however, Gordon became as inexorably linked with H.P. Lovecraft as Roger Corman once was with Edgar Allan Poe.

It all started with a desire to see a Frankenstein movie. Gordon had been discussing horror movies with a friend of his, who had asked if he’d read Lovecraft’s short story “Herbert West: Reanimator,” itself a parody of Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN. Though Gordon was familiar with Lovecraft’s fiction, this story had eluded him. He tracked down a copy at the Chicago Public Library, and was inspired to adapt the story for the stage. After struggling with the material, Gordon (along with his writing partners Dennis Paoli and William Norris) decided to update the setting and adapt it as a television series. After writing 13 episodes, the team was discouraged from pursuing a TV deal due to horror’s lack of success on the small screen. Instead, Gordon was introduced to producer Brian Yuzna, who was enthusiastic about turning the project into a feature film. Yuzna brought Gordon out to Hollywood to shoot the film and landed a distribution deal with Charles Band’s Empire Pictures.

The story, in short, is this: at Miskatonic University, Herbert West has arrived having already been driven out of Zurich for experimenting with a reagent that will reanimate dead bodies. He teams with fellow medical student Dan Cain to further test his reagent. First, Dan’s girlfriend’s cat is reanimated. Then it’s the school’s dean. And then the blood really starts to flow.

Lovecraft has long been a problematic author to adapt. His best-known tales are built on what has come to be known as the Cthulhu Mythos, which postulates that this world was once ruled by alien Elder Gods that have since either fallen into a deathlike slumber or have lost their access to this plane of existence. Because a glimpse into these other planes or even merely a quick glance at one of the Great Old Ones is often enough to cause insanity in Lovecraft’s characters, it’s got to be pretty hard to translate the mind-bending incomprehensibility of Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors to a visual medium with any chance of success.

Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West, RE-ANIMATOR (1985).

It stands to reason, then, that perhaps the most successful direct adaptations of Lovecraft are those not related to the Mythos. Which is where we find RE-ANIMATOR. Even though its sardonic humor and oceans of gore would seem to be far removed from the reserved and serious-minded attitude of Lovecraft’s fiction, the film hues remarkably close to its source material. The short story was written as a parody to begin with, so the film’s humorous tone is not a huge departure from Lovecraft’s intent. And as grisly as the film is, the events it depicts are largely taken directly from the first two chapters of the story and portions of the final chapter. None of this is to suggest that Lovecraft would have approved of the film, as he didn’t even approve of his own short story the movie is based upon, having unhappily written it purely for the publishing money. And even though the story is universally considered his least work, as an inspiration for a horror flick, it’s pure gold.

A lot is made of RE-ANIMATOR being a horror-comedy, but I think that what makes it work is that it’s more than just simply funny; it’s fun. It’s not a movie chock full of belly laughs, but it tells its story with such a perverse sense of glee that it’s hard not to get caught up in the movie’s charm. In addition, the screenplay never downplays the horror in favor of the humor, instead drawing the latter out of natural reactions to the former, and out of the well-developed chemistry between the film’s characters. And Gordon’s direction is surprisingly tasteful for such a bloody film. Every shot is composed thoughtfully, and his deft hand at pace and timing keeps things tightly-wound throughout. This may sound blasphemous to the devout film buff, but RE-ANIMATOR is precisely the kind of movie that James Whale would have made if he had made BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN in 1985.

Barbara Crampton and a disembodied head in RE-ANIMATOR (1985).

However, all of this would likely be for naught if it weren’t for the remarkable performance of Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West. Combs plays West as remarkably arrogant and self-important while simultaneously nervous, brittle and on the edge of psychotically unraveling. Combs’ performance was instantly memorable, crafting a variation on the “mad scientist” archetype that is strong enough to stand with any of the legends. And while Bruce Abbott as Dan Cain is a bland (yet likeably bland) co-star, Barbara Crampton stands out in what could have been a throwaway part as Dan’s girlfriend Megan. Thanks both to the screenplay and Crampton’s solid acting, Megan transcends the mere “damsel in distress” role and becomes a believable, human character. Moreover, Crampton’s smart acting choices in every scene make her come across as being game for whatever “WTF?” moment the film throws her way (and thanks to the inventive effects work, there are plenty). As a result, the viewer doesn’t get pulled out of the film, their suspension of disbelief shattered, by suddenly becoming concerned about what the actress (rather than her character) is going through.

RE-ANIMATOR, in short, captures what is fun about horror movies without looking down its nose at them. It’s smart, energetic, delightedly (and delightfully) wicked and full of inspired set pieces and visuals. It’s not just one of the top horror films of the 1980s. It’s one of the top horror films full stop.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Tis the Season To Be Spooky: Netherworld’s Billy Messina Raises Your Darkest Retro Nightmares and Treats You to Raw Meat

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2011 By:

By Angie Weiss
Contributing Blogger

Before I tell you about Netherworld, I must give full disclosure: I am easily scared. Like crazy scared. There can be the mere suggestion of something potentially frightening about to happen, and I curl up in a little ball. I can know that something lurks around the corner, but if said thing jumps out at me, I will scream like a baby anyway. So this post is not about whether or not Netherworld is scary. I’m certainly not the one to ask. But if you are looking for something that is psychologically thrilling, visually stunning and an overall can’t-miss Halloween experience, then I can tell you that Netherworld, open every night in October (and Nov.4-5), is the haunted house for you.

Now in its 15th year, Netherworld is divided into two attractions. “The Nightmares” is the main event, a huge haunted house that feels like it goes on forever, through hallways of old manors and gardens of gargoyles. “Raw Meat” is smaller, gorier and chock full of turn-your-stomach scenes.

In “The Nightmares,” a mix of illusions, animatronics and stellar actors work together to play off your worst fears. Monsters? Vampires? Voodoo priests? They’re all here to toy with your mind. The suspense factor in this one is quite strong, as the hallways wind through mirrors and tunnels and you never know what lies waiting around the next bend. Sure there are some jump-out-of-your-skin moments, but for me, this is more of an overall creeptastic experience that you’ll want to take time to enjoy. It may be tempting to run through the house out of fear, but slow down and absorb everything that’s going on. The intricately detailed sets alone are well worth the price of admission.

“Raw Meat” is, well, much like if you took a subway into a sewer and encountered THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Gone are the supernatural beasts of “The Nightmares,” and here come the cannibals and clowns. These earthly horrors make the situations in “Raw Meat” all the more real. The special effects are aimed at your senses, fully taking advantage of what sight, touch and sound can do to your psyche.

I had an absolute blast at Netherworld. I left feeling adrenalized, my mind racing with what I’d just seen. I had to find out more about what’s behind this brilliant haunted house, so I asked Billy Messina, Netherworld’s co-creator and co-owner with Ben Armstrong, a little more about it.

ATLRetro: This is your 15th year. How has your vision for Netherworld evolved over the years? If someone hasn’t been to Netherworld since its first year, what is the one big difference they would see? 

Billy Messina: The Scale! Netherworld has always been about intense scares and extreme detail, but now we have more resources to bring to the table. In the early years, we still did a pretty good job of creating cool stuff, but now the scale of what we are able to do each year is much greater!

“Nightmares” plays off fears that many have. I have to ask – after all this time in the business, does any of it scare you?

We have lots of things that come from above. If I am not paying attention, it is a natural reaction to duck when something is coming down on you!

There is a really cool Victorian/steampunk aesthetic in “Nightmares.” Can you talk a little about how that subculture has affected your design? 

We loved that entire steampunk look long before we ever heard the term! Fifteen years ago we talking about looking like the Nautilus or Jules Verne. A lot of what we do in Netherworld is influenced by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the progenitors of modern horror and science fiction.  I think we have always had sort of a more mythic, more literary focus than most haunts, and we also always loved the look of classic horror like the original James Whale BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN. Now that sort of thing is almost mainstream, it suits us just fine!

Your actors are incredible. Where do you find them? And who does their makeup? 

Many of our actors have been with us for years. Generally we don’t go looking for them any more, they sort of come to us, as most of them are former patrons. The makeup staff is lead by Roy Wooley who has been with us for 14 years, and this season on an average evening we have approx 8-10 make-up artists working.

“Raw Meat” is gory, dirty and downright disgusting. In other words, fantastic. Do you have more license to push the boundaries with the smaller haunt?

When we started Netherworld, we wanted to stay away from outright gore, but over the years that has obviously changed! The concept is to have the main show be something almost anyone can attend ( if they are not too freaked out) but to have the downstairs show be a little more nasty. If the upstairs show is THE LORD OF THE RINGS, the downstairs show is SAW. We wanted to have both haunts sort of work together to be a total package, so yes the boundaries are pushed further in “Raw Meat”!

The houses are so detailed and elaborate. When do you start planning for the next Halloween? Do you work in that space all year? 

We are always planning . Every day I have to push the new ideas away because we  have to focus on running the 2011 shows! You can bet we are already to get going on 2012.  Normally we don’t touch the physical haunt until about April, but this year we started in February. Of course, we begin at once on theming, planning, beginning complex effects, costuming and new creatures, basically anything that doesn’t require clearing any scenes. We like to keep it intact until we are 100% sure about what is coming down.

Speaking of next Halloween, can you reveal any details about what’s to come for Netherworld in the future? How do you continue to top yourself? 

Well, one thing we are planning in 2012 is a very expanded gift shop that is more like a themed walk-in store. It should be pretty cool when we are done and will be open year-round; at least that is the plan! As far  as the shows themselves, it is a bit too early to reveal anything, but you can be assured they will be way over the top!

Thank you so much for your time! If you have one piece of advice for attendees, what would you tell them?

Come see us this year because every year the shows change! We are open every night in October and the first Friday and Saturday in November, so come on down anytime, we will be lurking for you!

Netherworld is located at 6624 Dawson Blvd. in Norcross (30093). For tickets, hours and directions visit www.fearworld.com

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Retro Review: DIE, MONSTER DIE! Silver Scream Spookshow Invades the Plaza with Mutant Killer Plants and Karloff!

Posted on: Aug 25th, 2011 By:

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965); Dir: Daniel Haller; Starring Boris Karloff; Sat. Aug. 27;  kids matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Originally released by American International Pictures in 1965 on a double bill with Mario Bava’s  PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, DIE, MONSTER, DIE (aka MONSTER OF TERROR) is another ’60s fright-fest loosely based on an H. P. Lovecraft story, in this case “The Color Out of Space.” The movie marks the directorial debut by former art director, Daniel Haller, who worked extensively with Roger Corman in the 50s and 60s, his distinctive design work adding to the atmospherics of  Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960),  THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961), THE PREMATURE BURIAL and TALES OF TERROR (both 1962), and a whole slew of other great old Corman/Vincent Price/AIP flicks we love here at ATLRetro.

Like the Corman/Poe films, DIE, MONSTER, DIE! follows the familiar narrative format of a stranger arriving in a strange town – in this case, Lovecraft’s infamous Arkham, transposed to a rural English setting – only to encounter hostility from the locals who shun the inhabitants of the Whitley estate. The stranger in question is Stephen Reinhart (THE GREEN SLIME’s Nick Adams), an American coming to visit his fiancé. Unable to rent even a bicycle to get to the mysterious house, Reinhart notices there’s something wrong with the vegetation the closer he gets to the Whitley place – and discovers a strange crater.

Managing to get into the grounds of the permanently fog-shrouded estate, Reinhart is rebuffed by Whitley patriarch, Nathum (Boris Karloff), but as soon as his daughter (and Reinhart’s love), Susan (Suzan Farmer, who went on to appear in Hammer’s DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and RASPUTIN, THE MAD MONK, the following year) learns Stephen has suddenly shown up, the old man agrees to let him stay. Reinhart, it turns out, was summoned to the house by Susan’s mother, Lettia, who is dying a a strange disease which is making her waste away. The mother, played by Freda Jackson, another Hammer veteran (1960’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA), confides that Helga, the housemaid, has disappeared, that there’s something strange growing/lurking in the greenhouse, and, fearing, for her daughter’s safety, begs Stephen to take her away. Of course, he agrees…by deciding to stay for a few days. Big mistake! And what about that mysterious meteorite Nathum has hidden in the basement?

DIE, MONSTER, DIE! is a fun film and a competent debut by Haller. It’s not the best Lovecraft adaptation (Haller’s  1970 THE DUNWICH HORROR is a much better H.P.- inspired film), and it’s not a great Karloff flick, either. But it’s always fantastic to see Uncle Boris on the big screen, especially at The Plaza, and particularly in the presence of Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow gang!

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Retro Review: Splatter Cinema Opens the Gory Gates of Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

Posted on: Aug 8th, 2011 By:

US poster for CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, released here as THE GATES OF HELL.

By Philip Nutman
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (Paura nella città dei morti viventi) (aka THE GATES OF HELL) (1980); Dir: Lucio Fulci; Screenplay by Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti; Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl; Tues. Aug. 9; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Regurgitated guts. A drill bit to the head. A pick axe in the eye…

Welcome to Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, one of the most memorable – and shocking – “gore” films of the 1980s, presented in all its uncut, gruesome glory this Tuesday night at The Plaza Theatre, brought to you by those celluloid-lovin’ maniacs known to Atlanta residents as Splatter Cinema.

This may look like Christopher Lee, but it's actually the suicidal priest in THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, now available also on Bluray DVD from Blue Underground.

For this month’s gut-wrenching, retro bloodbath, it’s spaghetti splatter with lots of weirdness on top. The late Italian director has been variously reviled by film fans as either one of the worst movie-makers of all time (he’s definitely not) or hailed a horror visionary and unique director. Honestly, there was no one quite like Lucio, but he would never have won an Oscar or its Italian equivalent. A distinctive director, yes; talentless, exploitive hack, NO!

For ATL Retro readers who only know his name in regards to his pasta horror flicks of the late ‘70s through the mid-‘90s (Fulci died of a heart attack in 1996), it should be noted that he made dozens of films over a 30-plus year career, which spanned comedies, costume dramas, spaghetti westerns, giallo thrillers and many more. Like acclaimed director Roman Polanski, who started out making absurdist dramas, weird thrillers (KNIFE IN THE WATER [1960]), became known as a “horror” director because of REPULSION (1965), THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) and ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) before making one of the greatest movies of all time, the retro noir CHINATOWN (1974), Fulci escapes classification; he is sui generis.

One of the LIVING DEAD in Fulcio's zombie classic.

But splatter and zombies, and madness and more zombies and splatter (and the disgusting THE NEW YORK RIPPER [1982]) are what have seemingly become Fulci’s legacy. That said, he made two of my favorite Italian movies, the sprawling, hysterical historical costume drama, BEATRICE CENCI [1969]) and the insane psycho-thriller, DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING [1972].

The story, with a vague nod to H.P. Lovecraft, starts in the small New England town of Dunwich, where a priest commits suicide by hanging himself in the church cemetery which somehow opens the gates of hell, allowing the dead to rise. Peter (Christopher George), a New York City reporter, teams up with a young psychic, Mary (Catriona MacColl), to travel to the town where they team up with another couple, psychiatrist Jerry and patient Sandra, to find a way to close the gates before All Saints Day or the dead all over the world will rise up and kill the living.

Bleeding eyes were the tamest effect in Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD>

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD was Fulci’s second foray into “undead” territory after 1979’s ZOMBI 2, a quick cash-in on the success of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The first of his unofficial “undead” trilogy (CITY was followed by THE BEYOND and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY in 1981), this is one of the director’s best horror films. According to the fine folks at The Plaza, the print also is one of the most complete, good quality prints you’ll see on the big screen at this time – uncut, with all the infamous scenes intact. A must-see for all lovers of ‘80s horror and spaghetti splatter, and a primer for would-be filmmakers, CITY is loaded with atmosphere, shocking moments and typical Italian weirdness which unfolds like a fever dream. In other words,  park your left, logical brain hemisphere at the door and just go with the demented flow…You have been warned!

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Weekend Update April 29-May 1, 2011

Posted on: Apr 28th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 29

Inman Park Festival launches from noon to 4 PM with day one of its Tour of Homes, quite possibly Atlanta’s oldest ongoing annual peek behind the doors of private residences. The fun of this tour is not just the historic Craftsman and Victorian structures but the interior decor which often reflects that quirky artsy character of the neighborhood’s residents. Also launching today is the Druid Hills Tour of Homes (10 AM to 5 PM) which this year features houses built from 1918 to 1955 in the city’s first driving suburb originally designed by legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

Flashback to the ’80s with Brazilian heavy metal/death metal band Sepultura at Masquerade. Wauchope Krewe plays a mix of New Orleans funk and R&B, along with blues, jazz, Latin and original music, at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXJoe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up The Mansion on PeachtreeLittle G Weevil brings the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack,and Electromatics fuse blues, jazz and soul at Northside Tavern.

Saturday April 30

The Inman Park and Druid Hills Home Tours continue, and the Inman Park Festival shows why it’s Atlanta’s most creative street festival from a bodacious artist and vendors market through the Victorian neighborhood to a one-of-a-kind parade at 2 PM. Plenty of live music, too, with today’s Retro highlights including Zydeco T at 1 PM, crime-fightin superhero Falcon Lords at 4:45 PM, 17-piece big band Usual Suspects at 5:30 PM, and ’20s ragtime-inspired Blair Crimmins & the Hookers at 6:45 PM.

In an extra terror-ific treat, Professor Morte and the guys and ghouls of the Silver Scream Spookshow screen the 1958 Ray Harryhausen monsterpiece THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD at the Plaza Theatre with a kids matinee at 1 PM and adult show at 10 PM. Read the review by Mark Arson here. Reviving another type of vintage performance, the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company presents Thomas Fuller‘s THE DANCER IN THE DARK, inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft mythos spawned in the 1920s and ’30s with a flavoring of New Mexico, at 2:30 PM at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates.

It’s Rockabilly/Redneck Underground heaven as Southern Culture on the Skids headlines the Star Bar with Ghost Riders Car Club opening. Brush up on your GRCC with ATLRetro’s Kool Kat interview with Spike Fullerton from back in February. TheBlues Barons play Fat Matt’s. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday May 1

The Inman Park Festival offers up a final day of fun, including old-time-Western-inspired Cowboy Envy at 2:15 PM and Whole Lotta Dixie, a traditional Dixieland band with a knack for applying that sound to  ’60s and ’70s hits, at 3:30 PM. Six-piece string band The Groundhawgs fuses bluegrass, old-time, jazz and swing, poetry and blues, classic country and a little bit of Southern rock during “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

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