Yet another collection of bits and pieces that in and of themselves aren’t enough to rate a column, but nevertheless are worth a mention. Mostly things I’ve been meaning to get to for years now: new mysteries and old, a couple of oddball movies, and a TV show I’ve procrastinated on for about three decades.
The Apocalypse Is Nigh! Long before Irwin Allen visited us with ‘disaster movies’ in the seventies, we saw the planet threatened with science run amok throughout the fifties and sixties. We tend to think of them more as monster movies because they usually involved some sort of biological threat– Them!, Tarantula, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, that sort of thing.
But sometimes the menace is non-organic. Such is the case with 1965’s Crack In The World.
For the longest time, this was a movie I thought nobody remembered but me, and MY memories of it were rather hazy; I’d only seen it once, in college, at a revival theater in downtown Portland. It was the bottom half of a double bill with Fantastic Voyage or Forbidden Planet or something like that. So when I saw it was actually available on home video for a couple of bucks, I picked it up on the theory that my wife the rock hound might get a kick out of it…. though I was careful to warn her that the science was INSANE.
My memories did not fail me– the science in this thing is more bonkers than anything Irwin Allen ever produced and that includes Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. But it’s actually a better movie than I remembered. If you can let go of, well, everything you know about physics and geology, it’s an entertaining ride.
But as usual, this purchase led me down something of a rabbit hole. I got to wondering how many other old-school SF disaster movies didn’t involve giant mutated monsters. The only other ones I could think of were the original Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and When Worlds Collide. We’ve had the first one here in the library for years, of course, but I’ve never seen the second. So another five dollar investment has that one on the way.
By this point Amazon had figured out that this was going to be A Thing for the Hatchers and it started recommending similar items. One of those was Five Million Years To Earth.
I had only the vaguest memory of this, but it was on TV back when I was eight or nine years old and it scared the living shit out of me.
I never knew the name of the movie, though. But when I saw the flickering bug image in the trailer it all came flooding back.
Here is the part where I have to admit that I don’t know everything about junk SF movies and TV, despite what some people say. Because I never put it together that this movie I sort of remembered was actually the one originally known as Quatermass and the Pit. Or that it was a Hammer, despite the huge array of Hammer films we have here.
Nor did I grasp that this was an entry in the classic Quatermass series Stephen King was rhapsodizing about in Danse Macabre. Ever since I read that book, I’ve been thinking I’d have to get around to Quatermass one of these days.
And–closing in on it now–I had no clue that the Hammer version was actually Nigel Kneale adapting his original screenplay to the 1950s BBC miniseries… but Amazon offered that too, and it was only six bucks. That one I snapped up, because everyone says it’s better than the later version.
Apparently there was a remake of the first one done for the BBC in 2005, as well, and we get that included with our Amazon Prime membership.
So that’s our Halloween sorted. After three decades of meaning to get around to it, I hope it’s worth the wait.
Virtual Bookscouting! Like Quatermass, this is another weird little itch in the back of my collector brain finally scratched. When I was in the sixth grade, there was a Scholastic paperback on the classroom shelf I read at least a dozen times over that school year.
It was the title that sold it, though The Case of the Marble Monster wasn’t actually a monster story at all. Instead, it was a repackaging of a collection of folk tales originally published as Ooka the Wise.
Every so often I do a quick search, but the original hardcover goes for hundreds of dollars on the dealer sites and even the Scholastic paperback edition runs thirty to fifty dollars. I certainly didn’t feel THAT strongly about it, and I resigned myself to never getting hold of one.
However, it occurred to me last week that I’d never looked on eBay for one. And by God, a nice lady from Illinois was selling hers for six bucks including shipping. It got here yesterday and I am delighted out of all proportion to the event. The tales are clever puzzle stories, about on the level of Encyclopedia Brown, but instead of a smartass kid they star wise old Judge Ooka, himself no slouch in the smartass department.
It’s every bit as much fun as I remembered. Julie was even more pleased about this acquisition than I was, despite the piles of books everywhere in this place. I definitely married the right girl.
New From Collins (and Clemens)… For a number of years now, Max Allan Collins has been collaborating with Matthew Clemens on all sorts of projects. I’d thought it was confined strictly to licensed stuff like Dark Angel and CSI, but apparently there’s a number of original stories they’ve done together as well. I know this because Mr. Collins kindly sent along the new collection from Wolfpack Publishing, Murderlized.
Short story collections are traditionally regarded as losers when it comes to book sales but I hope this one does well because I really enjoyed it, and it’s a very nice sampler of the kind of work the two of them do together. As usual, Mr. Collins provides a cheerful introduction telling us all about the process of collaboration and how the book came to be. The highlight for me was the title story starring Moe Howard, but there are a couple of shudderingly nasty noir pieces in here as well. Hugely recommended.
And finally, this is another one I was late to the party for. Ever since I learned that Captain James T. Kirk was supposed to be “Hornblower in Space,” I’ve meant to check out the actual Horatio Hornblower novels from C.S. Forester. We even acquired this hardcover collection on one of our bookscouting trips a couple of years ago but it’s buried in the stacks here and I have no idea where.
However, a couple of weeks ago I ran across this DVD collction at Goodwill and snapped it up.
We’ve been binging it the last few days and it deserves every award it got. I only knew Ioan Gruffudd from the FF movies and Forever, so this came as a revelation. He is so much better here than he was allowed to be in those other things.
I don’t know that I see much James Kirk in there, but whatever, we are liking it just fine for itself. A number of the episodes are up on YouTube. Check ’em out before someone official gets wind of it and they’re taken down.
And that’s it for this time out. Back next week with something cool. Possibly news about the new Sherlock collection featuring my The Adventure of the Man Who Died Twice, or as I like to call it, “Holmes in Rehab.” Here’s a taste, from illustrator Rob Davis.
Because the boss sent it to me and it’s too cool not to share.
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