Saturday, October 31, 2020

"Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari" in two Midwestern U.S. newspapers

The 1920 German Expressionist horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is not something that most American audiences, especially those in the Midwestern United States, were ready for. 

It was among the first German films to be screened in the U.S. after World War I, and with its crooked sets and nightmarish imagery, I'm sure it caused much confusion and consternation. (Also, here's an interesting 2014 post on The Daily Mirror blog about protests and bans surrounding the film.)

Here are a couple of looks at how it was touted in two American newspapers in early 1921.
Above: Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 26, 1921

Above: Lawrence (Kansas) Daily Journal-World, March 28, 1921

Albertine the French witch will cure your maladies

If I'm interpreting the postmarks correctly (see below), these French postcards were mailed in 1903, when President Émile Loubet was running the show. They feature "Little Albertine," who I'm going to call Good Witch Albertine. She's here to provide great remedies for great ills. (Aux grands maux lea grands remèdes.)

There are all sorts of great props in these postcards: a dagger, a spider, an egg, an artichoke, a bottle of crocodile tears, a chalice, a funnel, a creepy bald mannequin, animal horns, what appears to be a deformed piglet and much more. Clearly, they had some fun shooting the photographs for these postcards back in the day.

The top postcard contains the remedy for contre les peines de coeur, which is heartache. It involves eating an artichoke picked at midnight on a moonless night and a white hen's egg. And also wearing a hangman's rope as a belt.

The second postcard is contre la chute des cheveux, an anti-hair loss remedy. This one's more bizarre, and I can't read all of it, because the text is obscured by the witch's hat. But it involves "a night vase that has only been used for a young girl," wolf fat, mouse blood, bat wings, oil ... and apparently the wearing of a hat made of rabbit hair. Do not try this at home, bald persons!  

Friday, October 30, 2020

Happy Halloween Eve!

Happy Hallowen Eve! This week went a little sideways at work (there's an election next week, y'all) and I didn't quite get to the full list of spooky midweek posts that I had planned for Mild Fear 2020. But I do have a couple cool Halloween posts lined up for tomorrow. 

In this meantime, I love this vintage Halloween postcard, with the blue, err, brownie? Can you have a blue brownie? Or should we call him a pixie? Or a hob, or maybe a domovoi?

There's no writing on the back of this embossed Whitney Made postcard from Worcester, Massachusetts. It certainly fits in more with a fun Halloween than a frightening one, and I'm OK with that. I'm also OK with that adorable caterpillar. Since it's a full moon Halloween tomorrow (which only happens about once every two decades) maybe you can find one of these blue brownies sitting on a mushroom in your yard, if you're very quiet about the search.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Vincent Price tells it like it is


The 1981 clunker of a horror film The Monster Club (not to be confused with 1987's The Monster Squad) has one good thing going for it: Vincent Price. In the framing story of the anthology film, Price plays a vampire who bites a writer (played by the equally iconic John Carradine) and takes him to a club where strange tales are told throughout the night. 

At the end, Price invites Carradine to become the first "hume" (as these monsters call humans) member of the club.

"But I'm not a monster!" Carradine protests.

"Nonsense!" says Price. "You're the greatest monster of them all!"

A few moments later, Price launches into this soliloquy:
"Can we truly call this a monster club if we do not host amongst our membership a single member of the human race? ... In the past 60 years, humes have exterminated over 150 million of their own kind. No effort has been spared to reach this astronomical figure. And the methods that they have used must demand our unstinted admiration. 

"You know, humes began with certain very serious disadvantages, but these they overcame with wonderful ingenuity, not having a fang or a claw or even a whistle worth talking about. They invented guns and tanks and bombs and aeroplanes and extermination camps and poison gas and daggers and swords and bayonets and booby traps and atomic bombs and flying missiles. Submarines, warships, aircraft carriers and motorcars. They have even perfected a process whereby they can spread a lethal disease on any part of this planet. Not to say anything about nuclear power. 

"During their short history you know, humes have subjected other humes to death by burning, hanging, decapitation, strangulation, electrocution, shooting, drowning, crushing, racking, disemboweling and other methods far, far too revolting for the delicate stomachs of this august assembly."

Sigh. The truth hurts.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Postcrossing roundup, Part 3
(Late Summer/Autumn 2020)

Above: From Penny in Taiwan: "I think you maybe will like cat postcard so I sent this card to you. ... Stay healthy and safety."

To finish out this short series, here are some of the images and messages from other Postcrossing cards I've received in my mailbox over the summer and the first half of the fall. (I featured the autumn-themed cards on Saturday.)

From Shuhada in Singapore (in August): "I read the news that there are many clinical trials for covid vaccines. I hope the 'perfect vaccine' will be found soon."

From Petra in Germany: "Today I'm enjoying my day off. Maybe I'll take a little stroll around town or I'll sit on my balcony and read a good book."

From Olga in Russia: "I have two children, boy and girl. They love animals. At home we have a cat, fish, a turtle. In the summer at the cottage we hae chickens. Health to you and your family!"

From Betty in Germany: "In a few days I'll become a mom of a baby princess. We're so afraid about it. All the best and stay healthy." (Daughter Luise was subsequently born in June.)

From Dasha in Russia: "I am 20 years old. I am engaged in needlework and studying as a designer. I love extreme. I ride a bake [sic] (downhill) and rope jumping. I like animals. At home there: 8 cats, a dog, 2 turtles, a snake, 2 crabs and fish."

From Adéla in Czechia: "I am inspired by my mom (hard worker), my sister (empathetic), my best friend (creative), my boss (smart)..."

From Yuki in Japan (in early August): "This month it's been really hot. Kids here have a shorter summer vacation & more school days so that they can catch up on their studies. Are masks mandated where you live? It's quite hot/difficult to go out wearing one under the scorching heat here. Take care & stay safe!"

From Minna in Finland: "I live with my husband and our 8 years old Japanese chin, whose name is Sulo, in a city called Kajaani. It's nice to live here because the city is peaceful. Now that corona virus is roaming, we can't travel. Luckily, I have postcards, which help me travel all around the world and hear and see new things about different places." 
Above: From Donna in St. Marys, Ontario
Above: Valeria Docampo illustration, sent by Uta in Germany.
Above: From Victoria in Russia (eastern Siberia): "I work in the library but it's temporarily closed due to the coronavirus. I hope this card will make you smile."

It did, Victoria. Thank you.

Worst eBay copy of "The Shining"?

For the "Buy It Now" price of just $18.99 (plus shipping), you can have this silver Signet paperback edition of Stephen King's The Shining. It comes complete with decorative additions to the front and back covers! What a deal! 

In the product description, the seller notes, without any apparent attempt at irony: "Condition is 'Good' but there is some wear. The faces on the book covers have been drawn on and the books a bit bent. The pages themselves are in good condition."

Better idea: Check out your local used bookstore, where you almost assuredly get a copy of Danny Torrance's first adventure for much less, and without the doodles.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Remembering "Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful"

Earlier this year, at the York Emporium, I stumbled upon another nearly forgotten book from my childhood. It's the anthology book Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful. It was first published in hardcover in 1961 (shown above), and I think that's the edition that I received as a gift, probably around 1980 and possibly, if memory serves, from my Uncle George and Aunt Susie

It's a hefty-sized book, 7¼ inches by 10¼ inches. Published by Random House, it contains stories by Manly Wade Wellman, Constance Savery, Walter R. Books, Jack Bechdolt, Elizabeth Coatsworth, John Kendrick Bangs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and Donald & Louise Peattie.

And of course there's an introduction (ghostwritten?) by Alfred Hitchcock, in which he writes:
"Why am I publishing a book when I can haunt millions of houses simultaneously each Tuesday night? Certain types of stories make perfect television fare. In the realm of the ghost story, however, I think the printed page has some advantages and I want you to discover them. When you read, you can be alone. — Absolutely alone. Television gives you the comfortable illusion of associating with all those actors. Worst of all, it bathes the entire room in light. Under such circumstances it is amazing that commercials can be as frightening as they are."

Also making the book memorable are the creepy illustrations by Fred Banbery (1913-1999). All of the interior work is done in blue and black, as shown in these fantastic endpapers...


I think I'm of the same mind about the nostaglia and reality of Alfred Hitchcock's Haunted Houseful as Amy, a Goodreads reviewer who wrote this in January:
"This book was a huge part of my childhood. It was on a shelf at my grandparents house when I was growing up and I'd read from it every time we visited. The inside cover illustration is especially inspiring and I used to make up crazy and complex stories just from looking at the picture. When I finally read it all the way through as an older reader, I found that the stories were only mildly spooky and not nearly and scary as the stories I had made up from the pictures. But it's still so charming and fun. My grandmother's copy lives at my house now and my kids have loved to read it, too."

And there's this. By sheer coincidence, Seth Smolinske, who runs The Three Investigators Mystery Series Facebook page and website (oft-mentioned on Papergreat), wrote about these Hitchcock anthology books earlier this month. Here's an excerpt:

"If you grew up reading Three Investigators books, there's a good chance you also read some of the Alfred Hitchcock juvenile anthologies published by Random House.  And this is the perfect time of year to pull one of these off the shelves and dive into some of the dozens of spooky, shuddery, chilling tales that they offered.  No doubt you have a fondly-remembered favorite or two or more! ... Like the original T3I hardbacks, a hallmark of these Hitchcock anthologies are the beautiful internal illustrations — especially the first three volumes which were illustrated by the incomparable Fred Banbery. As with The Three Investigators series, Alfred Hitchcock had virtually nothing to do with the production of these books, his name and likeness were used to help sales and the Hitchcock introductions were all written by the editor of each volume."

Smolinske goes on to note that, starting with the second anthology, the editor was Robert Arthur Jr., who would go on to start The Three Investigators series (also Hitchcock-themed) in 1964. Everything ties together!

Bonus photograph with Banjo