Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!







Octopussy (1983) | Music



Maurice Binder's primary inspiration for the Octopussy credits was a new toy: lasers. Conceptually, the Octopussy sequence is similar to From Russia with Love or Goldfinger. Instead of the credits or scenes from the movie projected on women's bodies though, it's laser images of the 007 logo, an octopus, and the outline of Bond.

There are some cool extra bits too, like when multiple arms wrap around an image of Roger Moore (though there are only five, not eight). I also like the gun that emits a foggy light from its barrel while shooting women into the air.

Binder also uses plenty of his signature silhouettes, too. Naked women and suited men do what they usually do in these things, though Binder sometimes has their actions imitate the lyrics of the theme song. He does that with the models whose faces we can see too, like when a woman opens her eyes as Rita Coolidge sings about not wanting to waste a waking moment.

By the time Octopussy was made, John Barry had settled his tax debt with the UK and was free to work on the movies again. He wrote the Octopussy theme with Andrew Lloyd Webber's writing partner Tim Rice, who'd already done Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita by then, and who would go on to work on two of Disney's most successful animated musicals, Aladdin and The Lion King.

It was going to be impossible to write a song called "Octopussy" and have anyone take it seriously, so Barry and Rice came up with "All Time High," suggesting the romance between Bond and Octopussy and using imagery from the circus' trapeze act.

Cubby Broccoli initially wanted Laura Branigan to sing it. She was hugely popular at the time thanks to songs like "Gloria," "Self Control," and "Solitaire," as well as having songs on the Flashdance and Ghostbusters soundtracks. But Broccoli's daughter Barbara was a huge Rita Coolidge fan and was always playing Coolidge songs around the office. (Barbara was also involved in the family business and was assistant director on Octopussy). The story goes that her dad heard one of Coolidge's songs one day and asked Barbara who it was, saying that that was the sound he wanted for the theme song.

The song was pretty successful and spent four weeks at #1 on the US' Adult Contemporary charts. I remember it's being on the radio all the time in 1983 and even though I don't like it, it has nostalgic appeal to me because it reminds me of driving around my hometown at a time in my life when I had maximum freedom with minimum responsibilities. Thankfully, the trend of soft, easy listening ballads for Bond themes was going to take a major break after this one.

True to form, Barry uses the Bond Theme modestly for Octopussy. It shows up in the auto rickshaw chase, but only after Bond is seriously stabbed. I guess the point is that the mission has been fun and games up to this point, but now it gets serious. Although not really serious, because this is a typical Roger Moore film, after all.

The other couple of times the Bond Theme shows up, it's used more traditionally to highlight big action set pieces. It plays when Bond takes a car with no tires onto railroad tracks to catch a train, then again at various times during the final assault on Kamal's Monsoon Palace, including the arrival of Bond and Q in the Union Jack balloon and Bond's horseback chase to catch Kamal's plane.

Top Ten Theme Songs

1. The Spy Who Loved Me ("Nobody Does It Better")
2. On Her Majesty's Secret Service instrumental theme
3. Diamonds Are Forever
4. You Only Live Twice
5. From Russia With Love (John Barry instrumental version)
6. Live and Let Die
7. Dr No
8. Thunderball
9. Goldfinger
10. From Russia With Love (Matt Monro vocal version)

Top Ten Title Sequences

1. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
2. Dr No
3. Thunderball
4. Goldfinger
5. From Russia with Love
6. The Spy Who Loved Me
7. Diamonds Are Forever
8. Live and Let Die
9. Moonraker
10. Octopussy

Friday, July 03, 2015

Octopussy (1983) | Villains



The best thing about the recurring character of General Gogol is that he's not the typical, cliché Soviet general that used to be so ubiquitous in Cold War-era adventure films. As it turns out, the Bond series was saving that stereotype for General Orlov.

Steven Berkoff played this kind of character a lot in the '80s. Even when he wasn't directly giving us Soviet military officers (like in Rambo: First Blood, Part II), he was the go-to guy for instantly hateable villains like Beverly Hills Cop's Victor Maitland or Kristin Scott Thomas' bigoted father in Under the Cherry Moon. He even played Adolf Hitler in War and Remembrance. He's way over the top in Octopussy though and his zealous screaming of random words in hilariously cartoonish.

Orlov's biggest flaw though is that he's just so dumb. His plan sucks, to begin with. His end game is to get a nuke onto a US base where he can blow it up, but to do that he comes up with a bizarre plan involving replacing Soviet jewelry with fakes and smuggling the real stuff to Western Europe. It's not until late in this plan that someone realizes, "Oh, crap. What if there's an audit?" Which of course there is, leading to a clumsy fix that alerts MI6 to what's going on.

The plan is only one example of Orlov's stupidity though. Trying to keep Bond from preventing the bomb's journey to the US base, Orlov gets in his car and chases the train with Bond and the bomb on it. That's fine, but when the train crosses the border from East to West Germany, Orlov gets out of the car and chases the train through the checkpoint on foot, past the screaming guards with machine guns. I understand that he thought it was important to stop Bond, but how did he think that scenario was going to end?



I don't understand Kamal Khan at all. He's as stupid as Orlov, but even more overconfident. I mean, the guy cheats at backgammon with loaded dice that always roll double sixes. It doesn't get any more unsubtle than that. And while he's got Bond at the Monsoon Palace, he decides not to cancel or relocate his meeting with Orlov, but goes ahead and lets the general fly in on a big, Soviet helicopter, giving Bond his first clue about the Soviets' involvement in the smuggling scheme.

The thing I really don't understand about Kamal though is his motivation. His role in the smuggling is easy enough to figure out. Orlov provides the jewelry, Octopussy gets it over to the West, and Kamal sells it. But why is Kamal involved with the bomb? What reason does he have to help with that part of Orlov's plan?



Like I mentioned earlier, I have big questions about Mischka and Grischska, the knife-throwing twins from Octopussy's circus. They work for Octopussy, but aren't part of her cult. And they seem to take their orders from Kamal.

I wonder how separate Kamal and Octopussy's organizations really are. There's a lot of overlap in people who seem to answer to one of the leaders, but actually answer to the other. That makes it seem like the two groups have been working together for a long time. Long enough, say, for Kamal to plant Mischka and Grischska in the circus. But that makes it even less clear why Kamal is willing to nuke the circus and everything he's invested in it.

Not that the movie is thinking that hard about any of this.



Gobinda is my favorite bad guy in the whole movie. He starts off shaky though by deliberately calling to mind one of the most iconic henchmen in the whole series. Exactly like Oddjob, he vindictively crushes the equipment that his master was using to try to cheat Bond. That's a bold move.

But I like Gobinda better than Oddjob. We don't get to know Oddjob well enough to have a sense of his intelligence, but the fact that he doesn't show any sign of figuring things out is probably telling. Gobinda on the other hand is observant and smart. A lot smarter than his boss, anyway. There are a couple of times when Bond tries to outwit Gobinda and fails.

Incidentally, one of my favorite parts of the movie is when Bond is a "prisoner" at Kamal's palace and Magda turns Bond down for a drink in his room. Bond looks at Gobinda, who's escorting him, and says, "I don't suppose you'd care for a nightcap?" I always wish Gobinda would take him up on it and then they'd become buddies and fight Kamal together. Gobinda deserves a better ally than the one he has.

Top Ten Villains

1. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger)
2. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (From Russia With Love and Thunderball)
3. Ernst Stavro Blofeld (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
4. Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5. Dr. Kananga (Live and Let Die)
6. Doctor No (Dr. No)
7. General Gogol (For Your Eyes Only)
8. Karl Stromberg (The Spy Who Loved Me)
9. Emilio Largo (Thunderball)
10. Hugo Drax (Moonraker)

Top Ten Henchmen

1. Baron Samedi (Live and Let Die)
2. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
3. Grant (From Russia with Love)
4. Nick Nack (The Man with the Golden Gun)
5. Gobinda (Octopussy)
6. Naomi (The Spy Who Loved Me)
7. Oddjob (Goldfinger)
8. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me)
9. Irma Bunt (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
10. Miss Taro (Dr. No)

Octopussy (1983) | Women



I have vague memories of liking Magda at one point, but now I couldn't tell you why that was if you had a Walther PPK pointed at my head. She's arrogant, rude, and generally unpleasant. She's also unsubtle and incompetent. Her whole plan for stealing back the Fabergé egg is to wake up early and lift it out of Bond's jacket. And when he foils that by waking up too, she hides it behind her back while standing in front of a full-length mirror. The greatest deception of Bond's career is pretending not to notice so that she could escape with it and the hidden tracking device.

It's also Magda who tells Bond all about her octopus tattoo, which leads him to Octopussy. Bond wouldn't have otherwise had a clue about that part of the operation.



Maud Adams turns in a remarkable performance as one of the most compelling women in any of the Bond films. But enough about The Man with the Golden Gun.

She's not bad in Octopussy, it's just tough to get a handle on her character. The idea of her is great: the daughter of a Bond villain (although its super inappropriate and creepy that her dad gave her the nickname of Octopussy) who's formed her own cult of warrior women. She's very powerful at first and I love the way Kamal defers to her for a while. We ultimately learn though that Kamal's only patronizing her. He needs her criminal infrastructure and he's perfectly willing to betray and murder her once his objectives are met. As Kamal rises in importance to the story, Octopussy diminishes. She's just a tool in Kamal and Orlov's plan. Her own people (the knife-throwing twins in particular) seem to be actually taking their orders from Kamal.

The script isn't even sure what to do with her and Bond. There's potential for a great relationship and lots of drama when the daughter of a Bond villain becomes Bond's ally and lover. But the only tension the movie offers is a lame argument because he refuses to leave the Secret Service and come work for her. And even that feels manufactured so we can have them immediately go to make-up sex.

My Favorite Bond Women

1. Tracy Bond (On Her Majesty's Secret Service)
2. Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only)
3. Paula Caplan (Thunderball)
4. Tatiana Romanova (From Russia With Love)
5. Fiona Volpe (Thunderball)
6. Domino Derval (Thunderball)
7. Holly Goodhead (Moonraker)
8. Mary Goodnight (The Man with the Golden Gun)
9. Andrea Anders (The Man with the Golden Gun)
10. Honey Rider (Dr. No)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Octopussy (1983) | Bond

Actors and Allies



More than any other movie since Goldfinger, Bond is in full-on Blunt Instrument mode in Octopussy. He latches on early to Kamal Khan as the person behind the fake Fabergé, but doesn't know the whole story, so his tactic is to insert himself into Kamal's business and see what shakes out. I'd rather see him do more detective work, but that's very Fleming.

Roger Moore is right at his expiration date on playing Bond by this point. His being older worked well in For Your Eyes Only, but it's not addressed in Octopussy. The movie gets credit sometimes for casting an "older" Maud Adams, but she was only 38 at the time. Moore was 56. But he's still believable in the role and there's no sign of his getting tired of it like we saw in Sean Connery's last couple of films. Moore was getting tired of it, but he was too much of a pro to let it affect his performance.

Moore was only contracted for three Bond movies, so everything after The Spy Who Loved Me was negotiated on a picture-by-picture basis. He had no intention of coming back for Octopussy and the producers were already looking at Timothy Dalton (among other actors) when they got word that Kevin McClory was developing his own Bond film based on his rights to the Thunderball story. That, plus Sean Connery's returning to play Bond in it, made Broccoli and Wilson nervous enough that they didn't want to risk competing against McClory and Connery with an untested Bond of their own. They negotiated with Moore and got him back.

That history probably explains what's going on with Moneypenny's new, young assistant, Penelope Smallbone. On its surface, it seems like a real jerk move: keeping Moore, but phasing out Lois Maxwell who's the same age. It's creepy to see Bond hitting on a much younger person as a resigned and disappointed Moneypenny warns that a bouquet of roses (originally meant for her) are "all you'll ever get from him." But once you know that plans were already being made for Moore's departure, transitioning in a younger admin for the new Bond to play against makes sense. That didn't take though (maybe because Moore came back yet again for the next one?) and Octopussy is Smallbone's only appearance. The actual reasons she was introduced, but didn't stick around are mysteries.

We talked a little about the new M yesterday. I miss Bernard Lee and there's no replacing him, but I also like Robert Brown. He's less cranky than Lee was usually written. I get the sense that he's not going to put up with a lot of nonsense either, but he looks like he won't take it as personally as his predecessor. He's kind of a bureaucrat that way, for better or worse. It's refreshing in this movie, but I imagine that I'll soon want an M who's more emotionally involved.

The Minister of Defense seems shockingly okay with Bond after the Prime Minster/parrot fiasco at the end of For Your Eyes Only. Even though these movies don't reference each other that directly, it's still weird seeing the MoD welcome Bond to a briefing without grumping at him.

Q's assistant Smithers is back, played again by Jeremy Bulloch. This is his last appearance in the series, which is sad, because I like the possibilities he brought. He's always testing one of Q's contraptions and Bond seems to like him. He could have become a fun ally for Bond within Q-Branch who's able to recognize and comment on the silliness of that department. A nice foil to Q's self-seriousness.

Bond also has allies in the field, starting with Bianca, the agent he works with in the cold open. We don't know much about her, but I like how she conducts herself. She has a relaxed relationship with Bond. She's not infatuated with him and he's not condescending to her. She's cool and professional.

We also spend some time with 009, the first time another Double-O has been on screen this long. In fact, the only time we've seen another one except for the brief, not-really look at the whole group during the Thunderball briefing. 009 is a tough agent, but he doesn't seem that smart. Why does he hold onto his balloons when he's running through the forest and trying to sneak away from a pair of killers? The only person who's surprised when one of them pops is him.

Finally, we come to Vijay. I don't know why I'm not ranking Bond's allies, but Vijay would be near the top of the list. That's partly personal. When I was growing up, our family was close friends with a family from India who was somehow related to tennis star Vijay Amritraj. I didn't know who he was until I saw Octopussy, but they were very proud of him and I can see why. He's totally casual and charming. When he dies, it pisses me off and it's one of the few ally deaths in these movies that seems to mean anything to Bond. (Amritraj also plays the captain of a stranded Federation ship in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, so that's two of my favorite series that he's part of.)

Vijay also has the single best line in the whole movie. At the start of the auto rickshaw chase, Bond yells out the old cliché, "We've got company!" and Vijay responds, "No problem! This is a company car!"

Best Quip



"Hmm?" to Magda's comment that she needs "refilling."

Worst Quip



"Toro? Sounds like a load of bull."

Gadgets



Bond uses a few gadgets in this one. The first time he tries to blow up the weapons facility in the cold open, he sneaks a bomb inside a briefcase with a secret compartment inside. And of course there's the mini jet and the fake horse trailer that carries it.

The crocodile submarine is the goofiest one and probably my favorite, but Bond gets most use out of the wristwatch/pen combo that lets him track and listen in on the bug implanted in the Fabergé egg. And for extra kicks, the pen also shoots acid.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Glastron CV23HT speed boat (Moonraker)
5. Acrostar Mini Jet (Octopussy)
6. Crocodile submarine (Octopussy)
7. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
8. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)
9. Ski pole rocket (The Spy Who Loved Me)
10. Magnetic buzzsaw watch (Live and Let Die)

Bond's Best Outfit



He shoulda worn this the entire movie.

Bond's Worst Outfit



Duh.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Octopussy (1983) | Story



Plot Summary

A rogue general uses forged jewelry to increase Soviet control over Europe. His plan is as dumb and convoluted as it sounds.

Influences

Combining two Fleming short stories worked well in For Your Eyes Only. It was the second-highest grossing Bond film to date, behind Moonraker. Broccoli and Wilson returned to that formula for the next one, this time with "Octopussy" and "The Property of a Lady." Sadly, it wasn't as artistically successful this time around. That's partly because the silliness of earlier Moore films pushed its way back in, but it's mostly due to the felt need for bigger stakes than the short stories had to offer. "Octopussy" is a very personal story and it's smart of the movie to just use it as background.

"The Property of a Lady" is also a very small tale, but it has wider ramifications concerning a mole in MI6. It's too bad Octopussy didn't go that direction instead of making the auction part of an easily discovered plot by a zealous and dim-witted Soviet general.

There's a dinner scene in India that feels inspired by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but Octopussy came out the year before Temple, so I guess that's coincidence. Apparently, we all thought Indian food was nasty in the '80s. I've got some great restaurants I'd like to take '80s Us to.

There's also a Tarzan reference, but as CT brings up on Nerd Lunch's Return of the Jedi discussion (available for download next week), there's a federal law stating that any movie partially set in a jungle or forest has to include someone swinging through the trees and screaming like Tarzan.

How Is the Book Different?

The main character (other than Bond) from "Octopussy" is Dexter Smythe, a British soldier who murdered an innocent man for some Nazi gold. The movie's title character turns out to be Smythe's daughter. When she and Bond tell the story, the details of the murder are mostly the same except that it's been moved from post-WWII Europe to Southeast Asia.

And again, the auctioned Fabergé egg isn't paying off a mole in MI6 like in "The Property of a Lady," but is financing... actually, I'm still not clear on what it's financing. The relationships between the three criminal groups in the movie don't make sense and I'm never sure who's getting what out of the deal.

Moment That's Most Like Fleming



Bond catches Kamal Khan cheating at backgammon and teaches him a lesson a la Fleming's Moonraker and Goldfinger. Unlike those scenarios, Kamal is lousy at cheating (loaded dice? really?) and the game lacks any tension, but it's at least trying to evoke Fleming, so points for that.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming



It's a tie between the Tarzan yell and the gag where Vijay is whacking bad guys with a tennis racket while onlookers look from side to side like they're at a match.

Cold Open



For Your Eyes Only had gotten away from the trend of using the teaser to set up the movie's plot, but at least it had a thematic element in common with its film. Octopussy doesn't even do that. Instead, it's just a mini-adventure with no connection to anything else.

It opens at a horse show in what looks like Cuba. They never really say, but there's a military dude with a big black beard and a cigar, so let's go with that. Bond shows up at the horse show with a fellow agent named Bianca, disguises himself as a colonel, and sneaks over to the military base next door to blow up some high-tech looking weapons. He's caught, but Bianca helps him escape and he uses an Acrostar Mini Jet to buzz the base, get them to shoot a heat-seeking missile at him, outrun the missile, and lead it back to the base to blow the whole thing up. Seems like a weird, convoluted plan where tons of things could go wrong.

On second thought, it does have a lot in common with the rest of the movie.

That mini-jet is pretty impressive though, so it's still going to crack the Top Ten.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. Moonraker
3. Thunderball
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Goldfinger
6. The Man with the Golden Gun
7. For Your Eyes Only
8. Octopussy
9. From Russia With Love
10. Diamonds Are Forever

Movie Series Continuity



The hat rack trick is back for the second time in a row. This time, Bond almost throws his hat on the rack, but stops when he notices Moneypenny's new assistant, Penelope Smallbone.

We have a new M, played by Robert Brown. The movie doesn't call attention to it, so he might be playing Sir Miles Messervy or a completely new character. I like to think he's a new character, but it doesn't matter. As I've said before, there's no theory, however nerdy or implausible, that will let the Bond films work as a consistent continuity.

Bond isn't quite a know-it-all, but he knows more than the average person about Fabergé eggs. Maybe because he's not obnoxious about it, M seems impressed, but he also takes some pleasure in telling Bond something he doesn't know: that the egg is a forgery. That looks like it's coming more from M's own appreciation of dramatic reveal though than from wanting to show Bond up.

The Minister of Defense is still here for the briefings and frankly I'm getting a little tired of him. It feels like micro-managing by now and Fleming's M wouldn't have appreciated it.

Gogol is also back, but I love him and welcome him any time he wants to show up. I especially love how he contrasts with the villainous General Orlov.

Q and M are still in the field quite a bit. Especially Q, who's practically Bond's sidekick in Octopussy, but M also shows up in Berlin at one point.

And finally, there's the question of Bond's notoriety. Kamal Khan has never heard of him, which is a change from the way the series has been playing this angle so far. On the other hand, Vijay first gets Bond's attention by playing the Bond Theme on his pungi. So that tune actually exists in Bond's world and is associated with him? Maybe Kamal is just clueless. That's a distinct possibility considering the rest of his actions in the movie.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Unused literary Bond scenes that need filming, Part 002



A couple of months ago, I told you about how I teamed up with the Artistic Licence Renewed site to discuss our favorite scenes from the Bond novels that haven't yet shown up in the movies. Then I totally forgot to mention when the second half of that article came out. So go read that!

Jump Tomorrow, Happy Idiot



When I posted my White Elephant Blogathon review of Jump Tomorrow, I had no idea that Tunde Adebimpe (the lead in that movie) is also the lead vocalist for TV on the Radio, which makes me like that band even more. The Speed Racer-inspired video for "Happy Idiot" is almost as awesome as the song itself. Enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2015

What's your favorite comics character makeover?



Which comics characters do you like one of their later looks better than their initial look?

A bunch of comics readers (including me) answered that question on the Comics Reporter site a while back. Curious to know what you think.

The Yellow Nineties [Guest Post]

By GW Thomas

I'm loving the second season of Penny Dreadful, which is set in that glorious decade known as "The Yellow Nineties." I doubt many horror fans understand the significance of the color yellow in turn-of-the-century horror. We've all heard of The King in Yellow because Lovecraft praises Robert W Chambers as: "very genuine, though not without the typical mannered extravagance of the eighteen-nineties." We also know HPL appreciated Arthur Machen: "Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal." He even points out Oscar Wilde's masterpiece: "Oscar Wilde may likewise be given a place amongst weird writers, both for certain of his exquisite fairy tales, and for his vivid Picture of Dorian Gray." So what happened in the 1890s that was so important? And why yellow?

To understand this you have to know that the Victorian world was crumbling, slowly, but surely. Technology like the rail system gave us the need for magazines, something to read on the train, but it also opened many doors that the Victorians feared. Doors like women's rights, workers' rights, looser sexual practices, more foreigners in England as trade expanded, and new ideas around aesthetics. Technology and commerce came from Germany and America, while artistic and sexual ideas came from France. Here's where the yellow comes in.

French novels of an explicit nature were sold in yellow wrappers, the color version of the letters XXX today. Vincent van Gogh painted a still life called "Parisian Novels" displaying a pile of yellow-covered books. This should not be surprising, for Impressionism in painting, like Naturalism in writing, were the enemies of Victorian bourgeois Romanticism. These radical approaches, along with the Pessimism of Oscar Wilde and the Fin-de-Siecle school (whose ideals included perversity, artificially, egotism, and curiosity) under Aubrey Beardsley, also attacked traditional forms, but from different angles. The Old School was under attack on many fronts and the banner of the enemy was yellow.

The men who led the charge in England along with Beardsley were American editor Henry Harland and John Lane, co-founder of the Bodley Head publishing house. Together they created The Yellow Book, a magazine of supposed illicit nature that has a reputation that is much bigger than its actual contents. The publication ran from April 1894 to April 1897 (the complete run is in PDF). Beardsley was "let go" partway through the run,but the contents are pretty uniform despite this. John Lane was willing to exploit the title's supposed evil reputation to sell copies, but he never really allowed Beardsley to go wild. Lane had to peruse every Bearsdley illustration for hidden naughtiness. The artist defied his critics (especially in Punch) by publishing three images in the third issue, two under pseudonyms. The critics attacked the drawing with his name on it, but praised the other two.

So where does horror come in? The Yellow Book published no great amount of horror stories, though it did publish works by authors who have written in the genre, such as Henry James, AC Benson, HB Marriott Watson, R Murray Gilchrist, John Buchan, Vernon Lee, WB Yeats, as well as fantasy writers E Nesbit, Max Beerbohm, Richard Garnett, and Kenneth Grahame. Perhaps the most strongly identified was Oscar Wilde, who never appeared in the magazine at all. Wilde had published his horror/art thesis, The Picture of Dorian Gray five years earlier. At his trial in 1895, he appeared in court holding a yellow book and many thought it was the magazine of that name. But it was actually a French novel. He was released in 1897 before becoming an exile on the Continent, living under the name "Sebastian Melmoth," after the Gothic character.

1895 was a most important year for horror. John Lane published Arthur Machen's "The Great God Pan," which was both a high-water mark for horror fiction as well as a mini-sensation when critics tore at it for its sexual content. It established Machen, but also tied him to the "Yellow Nineties." In America, in the same year, Robert W Chambers published The King in Yellow, a collection of weird stories and sketches from his travels to Paris. One story in particular resonated with horror fans, "The Yellow Sign" (there's that color again!) and would inspire HPL in creating his Cthulhu Mythos. The King in Yellow is supposedly a play that shows up in the different stories. The play is so terrifying and bizarre that it drives readers mad. Can there be much doubt that The Yellow Book played some part in Chambers' creation?

The tempests of the 1890s passed along with much of the Victorian Age as the Boer War, then World War I, smashed expected norms to pieces. The Jazz Age found HP Lovecraft and his friends writing horror tales for amateur magazines, and just a little later, for the pulps. The Cthulhu Mythos acquired the classics of the past from these Yellow Nineties authors along with others like Algernon Blackwood, HG Wells, and Lord Dunsany. HPL gave us the yellow-wrapped priests of Leng as well as the terrible book filled with cursed knowledge. I should think, if credit was due, The Necronomicon would come in a yellow wrapper.

GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

7 Days in May | Inside Out



Didn't get a lot in this past week, but I did go see Inside Out. Although I have to admit that I wasn't excited about it after that trailer with the dinner table scene.



Ninety minutes of stereotyped dialogue between emotions didn't interest me. But enough people raved about it that I decided to give it a look. I'm usually not as crazy over Pixar films as a lot of my friends are, so I kept my expectations low, but I also understood that maybe that was just a lousy trailer that focused too much on one, out-of-context scene. And yep, that's the case.

Inside Out is wonderful. I don't want to have to rank my favorite Pixar films, but it's as great as anything they've done. It's not only funny and has a lot of heart, it's also very wise about the value of emotions. All of our emotions. We're often tempted to want to cheer up people we care about when they're feeling sad, but Inside Out points out that sadness isn't just a useful feeling, it's also a beautiful one. If you've ever seriously grieved and experienced well-meaning people trying to put a positive spin on whatever you're mourning, you know what I mean. Sometimes, you just need to allowed to feel freaking sad.

There's a lot else to be said about the movie, but just go to Rotten Tomatoes and read some of the many positive reviews. They all dissect and praise it better than I can. Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus.

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