Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Hatcher’s Junk Drawer #20: Crossing Items Off the List

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.

Housekeeping note– if you should happen to click on one of the many Amazon links above and you end up purchasing an item– ANY item, not necessarily the one at the link — the Junk Shop gets a referral fee. If you feel a shopping spree coming on, please consider using our gateway. It helps to defray the costs around here and then we don’t have to put up annoying ads. Thanks.


  1. Shit I had the same Ooka book as a kid (and I’d read a couple of the stories in various folktale collections). It is indeed a delight.
    Crack in the World (which I blogged about a while back) is awful. Uninspired stock footage for the Disaster and too much of the dull romantic triangle.
    I have both the BBC version and Five Million Years to Earth. Really good.

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Man, it’s like the universe is reminding me that I really should get around to seeing Quartermass and the Pit; it was also mentioned last month by another blogger I follow over at Echoes from the Satellite.
    Otherwise, thanks for the tip on the Hornblower episodes. I’ll have to get around to watching those, too, although currently I’m slowly making my way through Space 1999 on YouTube.

    And congratulations on finding a reasonably-priced copy of that book. I love it when that happens! And yes, it’s always good to double-check on eBay. I can’t tell you how many times I stumbled on to a good deal on books/comics there that were outrageously overpriced everywhere else.

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    Yeah I saw Quatermass and the Pit (probably under the 5 Million title) when I was young (well, the early parts) and had vague memories for years, until I finally watched it last year, after acquiring the first two films (with Brian Donlevy) as manufacture-on-demand discs. I knew it was one of the Doctor Who inspirations and had read a little, in Starlog, years ago, when John Mills starred in a new (then) tv movie.

    Crack in the World if one I haven’t seen but have been meaning to watch.

    Hornblower is great. Forester was the master and was ripped off by everyone, from Alistair MacLean (well, similar stories, between HMS Ulysses and The Good Shepard) to Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series of Napoleonic naval adventures. Okay, maybe influenced is a better term. Of course, the African Queen and Sink the Bismark are two others that inspired classic films. He also worked for the British Ministry of Information, writing propaganda for the US to encourage us to aid the British. And, if it wasn’t for his inspiration, we might never have gotten Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as he encouraged Roald Dahl to write about his RAF experiences, that started him on his journey, as an author.

    Agree about Ioan Griffudd. I first watched a few of those in the mid-90s, either on PBS or A&E (can’t recall which), while I was also devouring both the Bernard Cornwall-penned Sharpe adventure novels and the tv series, with Sean Bean (before he died in everything).

    Looking forward to your Holmes story. Is his rehab in Vienna? 😉

    1. No, actually. I love The Seven Per Cent Solution but discarding Moriarty is a bridge too far for me. The rule at Airship 27 is that Doyle’s originals are inviolate. Plus I always wondered about the odd transition from world-famous detective to Sussex beekeeper to going undercover as Altamont for a year in America. So I figured out an answer. Just turned in corrected galleys so it should be out within a week.

  4. Darthratzinger

    If You like the Hornblower books (which is very likely), You should definitely check out the Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell. It´s basically the “land” version of the Hornblower stories. Some of the most addictive reading material ever. It is a bit of a commitment though, about 23/24 novels plus a handful of shorts.
    I do consider this suggestion payback on You. Because of Your columns I had to acquire a three digit number of novels, some of which I loved (Travis McGee, finishing the Matt Helm books probably next week, both series great but the misogyny is somewhat hard to take, Dracula by Saberhagen), some of which I liked (Fu Manchu), some of which i found meh (Wold Newton) and a lot of which I´m still looking forward to (Berserker by Saberhagen).

    1. The Sharpe books are fantastic. As is the Sean Bean TV series.
      Fu Manchu has come to fascinate me because by today’s standards he’s more anti-hero than villain: a Chinese patriot determined to break the back of Western imperialism and restore China to great-power status. Rohmer also has to shift the premise quite a bit to explain why Fu Manchu is waging war on the west in the 1930s instead of driving the Japanese out of Manchuria.

  5. John King

    Nigel Kneale was significant to horror and science fiction on UK TV noted not only for Quatermass but also the Stone Tape, the Year of the Sex Olympics and an adaptation of 1984 and more
    These were before I was born, though I did watch a short-lived sitcom he did in 1981 (Kinvig) about a man who runs an electrical repair shop who believes a new female customer comes from the planet Mercury.

    One unusual thing about the Quatermass serials is that each had a different actor playing Quatermass.
    Sadly the BBC wiped some of the tapes so not all of the first series remains.
    The 3 series made by the BBC in the 1950s each consisted of 6 half-hour episodes.
    the 1979 series was made by Thames (part of a network of independent regional channels – Thames broadcast to London on weekdays, programs were sold to other regions’ channels) and lasted 4 episodes – each an hour long (if you include the ad breaks) condensed to a TV movie for the international market.

    the 2005 remake of the first series was made as a live broadcast

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