Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2023 October 30 • Monday

Halloween is tomorrow! Will you see the Great Pumpkin? Has anyone ever? Vince Guaraldi's music for It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the 802nd Soundtrack of the Week.

It starts with the famous Peanuts theme, called "Linus and Lucy" here, before getting into the "Graveyard Theme", a very Halloweeny piece with eerie sound effects and moaning and diabolical laughter. As you'd expect, there's a killer groove from Guaraldi's group.

Solo flute starts out "Snoopy and the Leaf/Frieda (With the Naturally Curly Hair)" before piano comes in. You can also hear sound effects from the film, among which is apparently Snoopy doing the Snoopy dance.

"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" is sure enough a lovely waltz, similar to one of the pieces on the Charlie Brown Christmas record. It's a simple melody but deeply affecting. Guaraldi isn't exactly unsung but he's surely under-rated.

After a reprise of "Linus and Lucy" we get the "Charlie Brown Theme/Happy Linus", the former being a cue played twice, once happy and once sad, and the latter being a very short but happy and bouncy cue.

"The Great Pumpkin Waltz" is reprised next and then we hear "The Red Baron/Military Drum March", which doesn't actually sound like you might expect. There's some wonderfully textural piano playing over a swinging groove and then timpani for the drum part.

After a second reprise of "The Great Pumpkin Waltz" we move onto "Trick or Treat", a very cool jazz tune for flute, bass and drums that has kind of an exotica feel to it. It's immediately reprised in the next track but only after you hear "Fanfare" and "Breathless", the fanfare being just that, over in a second, and "Breathless" being an interesting flute and drums duet slightly buried under the sound effects.

The next two pieces are reprises, of "Charlie Brown Theme" and "Breathless" respesctively.

Then there's a solo piano medley of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary/There's a Long, Long Trail A-Winding/Pack Up Your Trouble in Your Old Kit Bag/Roses of Picardy".

After that the record wraps things up with reprises of "Trick or Treat", "Linus and Lucy" and "Charlie Brown Theme".

Happy Halloween!

2023 October 27 • Friday

Take a moment to ponder TV movies. I have a soft spot for them, probably as a result of growing up mostly without a television set but also going to the movies a lot.

The TV movie is an odd and neglected thing. It's not a medium or a genre. I suppose it's merely a format but that seems to fall short of the mark.

Such matters are easily waved away as not immediately relevant, especially when one of the perks of living in an often dismaying age is that one can watch TV movies on high resolution blu-ray.

Since it's Shocktober, why not curl up with made-for-TV Carrie imitation The Initiation of Sarah?

But it's totally different! Carrie was a high school student and Sarah is in college!

She and her sister are both starting out their first year, following in the footsteps of their mother who's excited for them to join her old sorority.

They should be accepted no problem except they're not actually biological sisters. Sarah's been raised as a member of the family but she's not a blood relation. She's kind of shy and awkward and she also has these telekinetic powers.

So when they get to college, evil sorority president Morgan Fairchild decides that Sarah is definitely out but her sister is definitely in.

Sarah ends up at the loser sorority, whose members actually do degrading things like play the violin.

That might be just barely endurable but this sorority also has an evil leader, Shelley Winters, who's obsessed with avenging some trauma from the past.

This leads to a very Carrie-like scene involving a nice handsome young man and lots of mud. But then there's a bit of a diversion into occult ritual.

Certainly the best way to see this movie would be in the 1970s, on TV with commercials and a lot of cocaine. But blu-ray and beer are pretty good and more suitable for middle age, I suppose.

I hope to see additional pleasant curiosities like this!

2023 October 25 • Wednesday

Horror movies tend to be short on car chases, don't they? That's why the 1977 movie Crash! is a good one to curl up with this Shocktober.

Wheelchair-bound Jose Ferrer is so annoyed about being old and in a wheelchair that he decides to kill his wife Sue Lyon by, uh, sending his dog to attack her while she's driving away from their house.

This is clearly a perfect plan but he had no way of knowing that she had earlier picked up a magic artifact at a flea market (in a drive-in parking lot!) and that this would possess her and allow her to possess her car and send it driving along committing numerous acts of vehicular homicide and also changing lanes without signalling.

This is one of the most psychotronic movies I've ever seen. It's even got John Carradine in it!

It actually starts with the car driving around by itself, which is a little confusing, but this is a movie that engages with confusion on a profound level.

And it's at this point that I should perhaps abandon plot synopsis, in case you'd like to read this book yourself some day.

It's a treat. The music is quite good and the location photography is wonderful to look at. It's a joy to live in a time when an obscurity like this is available as a terrific-looking blu-ray.
2023 October 23 • Monday

For the 801st Soundtrack of the Week, we had to bring the tape deck out of storage. From the Terror Vision label, here is the cassette release of the soundtrack to Copperhead, composed by James Mobberley and Gerald Kemner.

It starts with some electronic shriek/stab sounds for "Snake/Mouse". I've taken a look at the movie and can report that this accompanies real footage of a snake eating a mouse.

Then we get some ominous synth pads with a throbbing bass note, after which comes a beautiful piano piece for the "Main Title", followed by "Treasure Burying Music", which is electronic swoops and swirls with some piano flourishes and long tones.

High-pitched drones float in for "Creek", creating some cool textures and occasional dissonances.

Then there's a very pretty piano piece that's called "Schmaltz 1" here, though I think it's nicer than schmaltzy.

I can't argue with calling the next cue "Ostinato", though. It's a very effective and powerful ostinato played on the piano's lower notes with some effective electronic noises and musical figures popping in and out, creating a very strong atmosphere of menace and tension.

After that is another really nice piano piece but it's called "Schmaltz 2".

Flip the tape and you'll hear "Howard's 'Chase' Theme", a cool electronic piece with propulsive keyboard bass line and long droney electronic tones on top. It goes on for a while, modulating keys and changing timbres while building in intensity.

"Night Snake" starts out with very reverby piano that's soon joined by long synth tones for a creepy atmospheric cue.

This is followed by "Goodbye", a subdued but menacing collection of stacked synth notes, and then the tape concludes with "Music Box Theme", which does in fact sound like a music box being simulated by a synthesizer with some occasional evil-sounding embellishments manifesting nearby.
2023 October 20 • Friday

Walking in Chicago, minding our own business, and there's a sandwich board on the sidewalk that says something about soundtracks, records and horror.

It turns out to be a shop and museum called Graveface and its label Terror Vision, which releases horror movies and their soundtracks, on vinyl and cassette.

Of course Heather and I had to go in.

The museum part is focused on sideshow performers, serial killers and UFO abductions.

What makes it especially interesting is that its collection represents the personal belongings of its subjects. So there's a large collection of original art painted by a UFO abductee, representing his experience, the estate of a famous circus "freak", John "Alligator Boy" Williams, and, most chilling of all, the personal belongings of John Wayne Gacy, including his files and many original paintings, as well as enough material to replicate his jail cell.

And there's a lot more besides that. We were given the tour by the friendly young man who also minded the store and we learned a lot. I certainly learned more than I ever expected to about serial killers in general and Gacy in particular.

This Gacy painting, for example, we were told contains thirty-three stripes on the clown costume and two pairs of three lines for the knuckles on the fingers.

This isn't just any clown but specificaly Pogo the Clown, which was Gacy. And 33 is the number of his known victims, so he would often, apparently, work that number into his paintings. Did he ever paint a portrait of Larry Bird?

It was impossible to leave empty-handed and so there's a new t-shirt in circulation at Gutbrain Headquarters as well as a couple of new movies and a sountrack…

2023 October 18 • Wednesday

Roxanne Longstreet's The Undead is the next installment in my Shocktober reading. I found a used paperback copy at Chicago's Bucket o' Blood.

A lot happens in this book. It's basically one action scene after another, with the types of action varying somewhat.

Michael and Maggie, surgeon and police officer, respectively, are married but their professions keep them busy and on call and away from each other quite a bit.

It's their wedding anniversary when the book opens and the reader is dropped right into a steamy sex scene as they decide to make up for some of the lack of attention each has been giving the other.

But then Michael gets a call about a patient who didn't make it and Maggie also gets some bad news about an informer so the happiness is cut short and they both eventually end up at the Dallas hospital where Michael works.

There we meet Michael's friend Adam, who works in the mortuary, assisted by crazy religious zealot Rebecca, whom nobody likes. Adam is also upset when the body of someone he knew and liked ends up in the morgue.

Everyone is pretty busy, as you can imagine, but Michael can't help noticing that Adam doesn't have a reflection. Turns out that night shift at a mortuary is a pretty good gig for a vampire.

Adam and Michael are friends so Adam tries the old memory wipe routine instead of killing Michael but it doesn't quite work so well.

And it's at this point that I should perhaps abandon plot synopsis, in case you'd like to read this book yourself some day.

There are lots of deaths, other vampires, blood drinking, sex, car chases, gunfights, a killer dog, gay bars, fires, torture, crucifixion, hearts ripped out, hair cut off, green eyes, red eyes, tombs, bullies, sadists, murderers, fun-house mirrors and, perhaps most terrifying of all, jazz.

It whips along at breackneck speed and piles events one on top of another.

And yet, while the pages turn very quickly, it's not really that exciting, perhaps because none of these characters seems like a real person and it's a bit hard to care about any of them, beyond a general opposition to the torture and murder of anybody.

But you could do worse!

The ending sure seems to set up a sequel and sure enough, there is one, called Cold Kiss. I'm not planning to read it but if I see it I might pick it up.

2023 October 16 • Monday

The 800th Soundtrack of the Week is an early work by a favorite Composer: James Horner's score for Humanoids from the Deep, presented by Intrada in a new expanded release.

The main title creates a beautiful and lyrical mood with an undercurrent of dread. Solo trumpet drifts through the cue, the only brass instrument used, according to the liner notes. There are some moments that anticipate Horner's Star Trek II music as well.

Swirling and stabbing strings in "The Buck-O" gesture more directly toward horror, followed by high-pitched keening strings punctuated by piano and Herrmannesque string stabs in "Surprise for Baron".

"Men Discover Dogs" is a very short cue with flute while "Peggy's House" brings listeners back to dread and suspense with long tones and dissonances.

The pensive and ominous mood continues in "Trip Up River" folllowed by aone of several quick blaster beam appearances for "Footprint".

There's a lovely and tender melody for "Jerry and Peggy" bu then it's pack to more shadowy territory, with low harp figures in "Borden Catches Something".

The harp kicks of "Jerry's Death", which is propelled forward by insistent string ostinati and stabs, followed by a percussive use of strings and queasy soaring and plummeting tones on the blaster beam for "Peggy's Rape".

Flute sets a pastoral tone for "The Tent", which also has harp and snare drum intriguingly combined, while the blaster beam steps forward for "Humanoid's Head".

Horner unleashes the power of his full orchestra for the intense "Tommy's Struggle", which builds to moments of great intensity.

After that, the more textural and relaxed "The Search", with haunting flute line and atmospheric backing from strings and snare, is a relief.

"The Underwater Boat By" is a beautiful and short harp feature that sets up the eerie and also lyrical "Night Swim".

Harsh attacks and sharp dissonances alternating with longer tones and bending notes create an unsettling mood for "The Grotto".

A gentle and peaceful atmosphhere is then evoked by all but the end of "Drake's Lab", after which listeners should be prepared for more horror movie dramatic underscore, chillingly constructed for "Hill House".

"Carol's Final Confirmation" and "Aftermath" are both longer cues that synthesize and sum up much of waht we've heard, with the latter in particular being especially dreamy and valedictorian.

The end title then reprises the opening theme, and the rest of the CD contains the original album presentation from 1980.

2023 October 13 • Friday

Talulla Rising, the second book in Glen Duncan's werewolf trio, introduced readers to a 20,000-year-old vampire and in By Blood We Live, the third book, the story centers around him and his connection to Talulla.

The world's vampire and werewolf populations have increased significantly and now the Catholic Church has assembled its own highly trained and well armed strike force to hunt them down and kill them.

This new activity inevitably dovetails with the hungers of media and politics, making the world a much more dangerous place for monsters.

While Remshi, the previously mentioned 20,000-year-old vampire, searches fo Talulla, since he believes her to be the reincarnation of a woman/werewolf he loved 13,000 years ago¸—and in fact he and Talulla have been having the same dream every night, soaked in allusion to "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", and especially disconerting to Remshi because he has never dreamed since becoming a vampire—Talulla is lured by the discovery of a journal documenting werewolf origins—something Jake Marlowe had spent decades or a century or so trying to find—to the stronghold of another vampire who claims to have discovered a cure, a reversal for lycanthropy.

Considering the newly perilous reality for werewolves, and its assured intensification, the idea is that even if Talulla doesn't want to be cured, she might want it for her children.

These are the parallel story lines in the book but there's a lot more going on. Too much, perhaps. It's an odd complaint to have, but Duncan might be just a little too good at writing for this book to succeed. There are too many metaphors, too many descriptions, too many chapters that end in a way designed to keep you reading. He has so many darlings he can't even kill half of them.

Structurally, too, while I don't agree with Germaine Greer that multiple narrators are proof that a book is bad (her "evidence" that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein just isn't a good book), By Blood We Live does jump around from at least three, maybe four different points of view.

This doesn't have to be a problem but the book is stubbornly in one voice, and it's the same voice that was Jake Marlowe's as well. Remshi, the 20,000-year-old vampire, in particular is disappointing because of the ordinariness of his thoughts. Sure, he's extremely knowledgable and has quite the turn of a phrase as well as fluency in numerous languages, but I would have thought that a consciousness that old would have really, really different rhythms and connections.

And it's a very minor but still irritating mis-step when Duncan decided, in one unnecessary paragraph that could have been quite easily cut without affecting anything necessary to story, plot or character, to place Remshi, Forrest Gump-style, alongside famous people and events, quietly slipping some of history's best-known phrases to those who are recorded as saying them.

I guess it's cute and maybe it's harmless but I didn't like it.

As with the previous book, there's a lot of action, and as with everything else, maybe too much of it. The scenes of werewolf transformations and vampire or werewolf slaughtering and/or feeding, the chases and fights and unsettling situations are relentless. With the exception of Talulla, most of these characters are new enough for us not to care a whole lot about them, not beyond the standard curiosity, anyway.

Nonetheless, the trilogy as a whole is a considerable accomplishment—although The Last Werewolf is the book—and I'd check out some of Duncan's other books.

The first line is "It's better to kill people at the end of their psychology".

2023 October 11 • Wednesdayq

It's going to be hard to say a lot about Talulla Rising, Glen Duncan's follow up to The Last Werewolf, without spoiling some of the surprises in both books.

So… in this second volume of the trilogy, let's just say that the stakes are considerably raised and the world expanded.

There are more vampires in this one than there were in the first book, and the anti-supernatural forces a lot more active, as well as more evil, more sadistic.

Since werewolves and vampires have regenerative powers, they're ideal subjects for torture and experimentation. Cut off one of their limbs, for instance, and see how long it takes for it to grow back.

If that sounds bad, let me assure you that that's actually the least of it. That's level one. It gets much worse.

Sometimes they used anaesthetic, sometimes not. I healed 30 percent faster without it, they established. A particularly rigorous session with the acetylene torch and pliers revealed that up to a point—up to a point—rate of regeneration increased according to the increase in pain. They called that point the UPH: the Useful Pain Horizon.

There's a lot more action in this book, which also introduces connections between werewolves and wolves, as well as wolf pack behavior that applies to both creatures.

There's a build up to a big set piece at the end involving a vampire cult worshipping an ancient legendary vampire.

But really there isn't too much I can say without ruining it.

The first book was more enjoyable. But Talulla Rising is an engaging continuation and development of the story. Most gratifying is that the first book had a moment near the end that planted a question in the reader's mind. I even flipped back to re-read a section in the hope that I would find an answer.

I didn't find it but the question is answered in the second book and it's any exciting twist.

The first line is "Talulla Demetriou, you have been a Very (pause) Bad (pause) Girl".
2023 October 09 • Monday

For the 799th Soundtrack of the Week we have something more unusual: The Real Tuesday Weld's Songs for The Last Werewolf, which is sort of a soundtrack for Glen Duncan's novel of the same name.

The first track, "It's Time", is a short piece that does sound like it's from a film score, moody and suspenseful, before the record changes gears with the post-Stooges howler "Wolfman". The lyrics mention full moons and danger and the blistering electric instruments are joined by strings.

"The Lupine Waltz" is a simple and pretty solo piano piece in waltz time with some Satie-like harmonies, while "(I Always Kill) The Things I Love" is more of a cross between swing-era small jazz combo and Beach Boys love song, with tender vocals and clarinet playing.

Then it's a return to shadowy long tones and gentle but insistent electric percussion for "Time of the Month", another very soundtracky piece.

Club beats, what sounds like synth horns and the occasional bit of sung/spoken words make up "Love Lust Money", after which comes "The Ghosts", a song in 3/4 with lyrics sung by a male vocalist and delicate accompaniment by piano and other instruments.

"Room Service" is a short jazz instrumental for acoustic guitar and violin with bass and drums, with a Django/Stephane sort of feel.

The same guitar opens "The Hunt", which is a brisk vocal number that combines swing jazz sounds and rhythms with electro-dance elements and harmonized vocals a la Andrews Sisters.

A real dance pop number comes next for "Tear us Apart", a title that presumably has at least two meanings for werewolves. It actually does sound a tiny bit like the famous Joy Division song.

A slow, moody, piano-drive song comes next, "Save Me", which has a female vocalist singing to someone that they can save her anytime.

"I Don't Lik It, I Love It" is a another very short atmospheric cue with an upper register ethereal ostinato, followed by another swing jazzy pop song, "Me and Mr. Wolf", this one a duet for the male and female vocalist.

An airy and slightly melancholy piano waltz, "A Moment Allowed", comes next, followed by "Come Around", a slow and sad vocal number that begins with the sounds of morse code being tapped out before gentle guitar, violin, piano, rhythm section and some other more atmospheric sounds drift in.

Then there's another short "mood" cue, "What You Are", which isn't too far from Angelo Badalamenti territory.

"You're Going To Live" is a straight up indie pop song with a lush texture to it.

A mixture of samples and electronic instruments create a kind of post-Vangelis landscape for "The Cruellest Month" and then the record concludes with the seven minute-long mid-tempo pop song "Let It Come Down", which mixes elements of a few different genres with enchanting results.

2023 October 06 • Friday

You're going along minding your own business and you walk into a bookshop. Perhaps it was Little Ghosts in Toronto, or Bucket o' Blood in Chicago. Those are the likely suspects. I think it was Little Ghosts.

Anyway, you see a book called The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan and you think, of this looks kind of interesting, so you buy it and bring it home.

It sits on top of a stack of books on your dresser, the stack occasionally reminding you of the word "ziggurat".

Finally you can stand it no more and you remove The Last Werewolf from its position in the tower, managing not to bring everything else crashing down, and you read it.

And then, if you're me, you have an absolutely wonderful time.

Jake Marlowe has been a werewolf for about two hundred years and he's sick of it. There's a group of anti-occult zealots who are going around hunting werewolves and, as the book opens, they've just killed the second to last one.

Now it's Jake's turn. But they don't just want to kill him. That would be easy, especially when he's in human form. No, they want a real hunt, a challenge and a well-earned victory. Especially since Werewolf Jake had killed and eaten the leader's father a while back. This time it's personal, as the saying goes.

But Jake is really not interested. He's tired of life, tired of living, bored of everything. He has nothing to live for and nothing to gain by playing this game with these people.

And this is when things take the first of many satisfying turns.

It would be a crime to give away the incredibly satisfying plot. Suffice it to say that there are also vampires in this world and they very much need Jake alive for their own nefarious reasons. The hunters also come up with a plan to give Jake a substantial incentive to come after them, to want to kill them.

And as good as all this, the quality of Duncan's writing is what elevates it to an unusually high level.

Marlowe is world weary, intelligent, witty and absolutely charming company. He's fairly indifferent to his murdering. It's just what he does when he's a werewolf. Certainly the number of his victims would never reach the heights attained by countless heads of state. And he also channels massive amounts of money to various charities.

But his greatest gift to us is his writing. The book itself is presented in the form of journals, and while this is a very effective structural device, the writing sometimes seems too good to be anyone's journal.

But it's certainly not too good to read. It's just wonderfully entertaining and thrilling. It's also quite moving in places. And beware of getting too attached to, well, anyone. Because this game is played for keeps.

I didn't know what to do with myself when I got to the end. And then I found out that it was the first book in a trilogy…

The first line is "'It's official,' Harley said".
2023 October 04 • Wednesday

If you love monster movies and have a special interest in the "classic" Universal monsters, Mallory O'Meara's Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick should be at the top of your reading list.

The phrase "Hollywood monsters" in the subtitle is doing double duty here. While Patrick created the design for the titular Creature from the Black Lagoon, as well as the Metaluna from This Island Earth, her life was also occupied by real-life monsters, men in the industry who stifled her, sidelined her, harrassed her and mistreated her.

This was simply a fact of life for any woman working in the film industry. Also for any woman working in any industry. Also it still is. The positive changes, while certainly worth celebrating, are depressingly inadequate.

O'Meara makes all this clear with both passion and precision, citing both her own personal experiences as a woman in the industry as well as statistics that she often had to compile herself, since sexism and misogyny aren't even worth most people's time to look into, let alone actually do something about.

She's written a book about a brilliant woman who could have and should have been an inspiration to a huge number of people, if her achievements hadn't been mostly erased by a powerful man who always took credit for everyone else's work in his department, men and women both.

The balancing act of an author writing a biography in parallel with a personal account of his or her own life is tricky but O'Meara has done it superbly.

While the seriousness and dedication of her pursuit of the mysterious Milicent Patrick, who had many names and left several false trails, is indefatigable, O'Meara charms and disarms readers with humor, particularly in her footnotes, which are always entertaining and usually educational.

In addition to being a call to arms against discrimination and oppression and the rescue from near obscurity of a great artist, The Lady from the Black Lagoon is also a celebration of the "horror nerd".

If you are such a person, or know and like one, this is a book you should acquire immediately.

The first line is "In 1954, Milicent Patrick was an artist working for the world-renowned special effects shop at Universal Studios in California, the movie company famous for its monsters".

2023 October 02 • Monday

It's Shocktober again! Therefore the 798th Soundtrack of the Week is Akira Ifukube's magnificent score for Frankenstein vs. Baragon.

The main title theme starts with prepared piano stabbing out a warped ostinato with a vibraphone sting in the middle. Then a slab of symphonic Godzilla sound comes crashing in, to be followed by some amazingly eerie and atmospheric writing for flute, organ, percussion, strings, woodwinds, etc., all weaving in and out.

From the very first track, the impression is that this is Ifukube at his best.

A slightly exotica-shaped melody snakes its way through music for a U-boat, and then [track 3] is similar to the famous Godzilla march.

“Hiroshima” is only about half a minute long and a pensive piece for the orchestra playing a melodic line in unison, punctuated by what sounds like vibes and perhaps xylophone in unison.

Then there’s a groovy shake, complete with electric guitars but with Ifukube having the brass somewhat disrupt the playful mood with some harsh textures, for “TV Music”. It’s a bit like a damaged “Let’s Twist Again”.

Then there’s kind of a surf instrumental number but again with horns crowding out the electric guitar for [track 18].

A true guitar-driven rocking instrumental comes a little later in “Hette Music”. I’d love to know who the guitarist is.

The main title theme and a few other Godzilla-adjacent (track 21 identical?) themes are reiterated in slightly different versions. They’re all really strong, though, and pure pleasure to listen to.

There are some alternates and extras at the end, including a couple of the surf guitar pieces and also some sound effects as well as what seems to be a cue from King King vs. Godzilla.