The Secret Of Terror Castle ( The Three Investigators #1) by Robert Arthur

First published in the mid 1960’s, this mystery/adventure series of approximately forty books were written for 8-15 years olds and would be hard to beat if you want to find thrilling and original tales that don’t talk down to kids. Some of the plots pertain to ghosts, whispering mummies, talking skulls and other spooky or eerie themes although the stories always climax in some scheme in which a band of thieves, rustlers, con men or other non-supernatural element are attempting to snatch a lost or hidden treasure. I loved reading them as a child, and find that after all these years, they are still entertaining and packed with adventure.  [Read more…]

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It! (United Kingdom 1967)

Roddy McDowell is at his paranoid best in this typically insane, typically 1960s, horror picture. Most fans of these flicks know this one is about a Norman Bates–like character who uses a monster named the Golem, (from Jewish folklore) to do his bidding. And the bidding is not nice. The Golem itself is a burnt but creepily imposing–looking statue. The rest of the cast pale beside Roddy and his chum so what do we get here for our attention? It has no great cinematography, direction, script or anything conventional to recommend it. It’s hard to explain but this movie is worth a watch if you like the offbeat, the original etc. You just have to see…it (I can’t stop typing the word!). C’mon, how many other films have a two letter title?
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Dr Strangelove (USA 1964)

Overrated mis-fire by the overrated, rather soulless, Stanley Kubrick. I have seen most of his output and find them cold and uninvolving with the exceptions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining and The Killing. Well, they are cold too, but quite involving. But, as entertainment, Dr Strangelove falls down badly (and movies should be entertaining even when thought-provoking). So what exactly is wrong with this waste of celluloid? (I wildly disagree with Elvis Presley, who reportedly thought this was the best flick he’d ever seen.)
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Nightmare In Pink (John D MacDonald)

Nightmare in Pink is the second book in John D. MacDonald’s 21- novel Travis McGee series. Although McGee gets involved in mysteries, he is not a police officer or a private investigator. Instead, he is a “salvage consultant” who lives on a houseboat (“The Busted Flush”) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He prefers to be a beach bum, get a tan, reel in some fish, drink some beer, etc and seems a little uncomfortable in the big city. He is also a ladies’ man. [Read more…]

Noble House (James Clavell)

Ignore the “New York Times Bestseller” blurb on the cover. That is like an Oscar. Very annoying and no guarantee of quality. (But this is a good novel, despite the New York Times endorsing it) It’s rare for a book of this size to maintain its pace, but this one manages it. A great business novel with a large cast of larger than life characters from governors to coolies in the cauldron that is Hong Kong. The plot twists and turns with many unexpected turns and stories within stories. The characters themselves are far removed from anyone I have ever met and operate in a moral framework that is utterly alien. Yet one can’t help but sympathize with them as every one of them goes about achieving their own aims with ruthless rationality. [Read more…]

The Blood Beast Terror (1968 UK)

A Hammer imitation from Tony Tensor’s Tigon films, only made on a lower budget and with noticeably less enthusiasm, this is actually a lot more entertaining than it really ought to be. The film is obviously made on a lower budget than Hammer had to play around with at the time and this occasionally shows through, particularly in the creature’s costume. However, a fine British cast do the job and veteran director Vernon Sewell puts in a solid if unremarkable job. The script is literate, the locations good and the movie well-filmed. A load of old mothballs this may be, with too much dialogue, but I had low expectations beforehand. [Read more…]

Dementia 13 (USA/Ireland 1963)

Public domain titles from the golden age of schlock, like Dementia 13, tend to live an unloved life in the bargain bins of any self-respecting dvd store. Price will vary from fifty cents up to maybe five bucks if the merchant is feeling lucky. Why this has such a I’m cheap buy me status is baffling to a lover of old schlock like me. This film owes much of its terror from its setting, its imagery and surreal circumstances that have a hint of something otherworldly. [Read more…]

Tales Of Terror (1962 USA)

The fourth venture into Poe adaptations for Roger Corman and Vincent Price sees them taking on the portmanteau format with a trilogy of creepers.  Somewhat a turning point in the series. Tales of Terror implements a wicked sense of humour for the first time that’ll become more and more a trademark in the later movies. It is usually very difficult to try to adapt Poe stories to film–similar to the difficulty of attempting to adapt H.P. Lovecraft to film. Both authors write very dense, poetic, often abstract prose, and Poe, especially, is sometimes not very plot-oriented. Although each segment in Tales of Terror succeeds in its own way. [Read more…]

Journey To The Far Side Of The Sun (1969 United Kingdom)

Intriguing sci-fi entry has enough going for it, that it deserves to be better known. Conceived and produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of ‘Thunderbirds’ fame, it has a pace so slow that it’s not going to be to all tastes. But patient audience members should appreciate the excellent, colourful visuals and the vibrant cinematography. The special effects are pretty good & the music score is an enjoyable one. This flick provided what the audience of 1969 wanted: a detailed look on the astronauts, their training, preparation, the technical means available to them – make everything as realistic as possible. That was the thing to do, I suppose, if you wanted to entertain people who were witnessing the landing on the moon. [Read more…]

The Owl Service (Alan Garner)

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this book until now. I read it when I was little, and it scared me quite a lot at the time. Now that I am not as much of a scaredy cat I can see it for what it is: an impressive novel originally intended for a juvenile readership but, as these things tend to do, ended up being just as popular with adults. A remarkably subtle and complex fantasy that could also be classed as weird fiction for young adults. The style is fast-paced, sparse, and doesn’t patronize the reader with pages, or even paragraphs of scene-setting. (By the way– it may be bad luck to gaze at an owl. That’s why I chose such a bland cover above instead of the more striking ones featuring our nocturnal feathered friends. Don’t want to tempt fate…) [Read more…]

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