More horror handbills and ephemeral oddities.

You may remember that I recently wrote about a small package my wife gave me for my birthday containing a fine selection of Spanish cinema handbills, the flyers that were given away to advertise the latest films. You can read it here:

El horror de los folletos!!

I mentioned in the previous piece that this might be the beginning of a new obsession for me so, of course, I’ve been online and purchased a few more.

First up, we have this rather magnificent piece of artwork for Polanski’s 1968 occult masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby. The design here is by the renowned illustrator  Francisco Fernández Zarza-Perez, who signed his work as Jano.

rosemary's baby - spanish handbill - whenchurchyardsyawn

Regular visitors to The Churchyard will know that I have a particular passion for the series of portmanteau films released in the 1960s and 1970s by Amicus Productions. Of course, it is highly unlikely that these films would have existed without their forebear, the 1945 Ealing horror, Dead of Night. So, I am particularly delighted to have these two beauties; both with the theatre details printed on the backs.

dead of night - spanish handbill 1 - whenchurchyardsyawndead of night - spanish handbill 1 back - whenchurchyardsyawndead of night - spanish handbill 2 - whenchurchyardsyawndead of night - spanish handbill 2 back - whenchurchyardsyawn

Naturally, to follow on from Dead of Night we shall travel forward 20 years to the first of Amicus’ foray into the horror portmanteau film, 1965’s Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors. Note the signature in this one, it’s another by Jano.

dr terror's house of horrors - spanish handbill - whenchurchyardsyawn

dr terror's house of horrors - spanish handbill back - whenchurchyardsyawn

For the next and final Amicus horror handbill we’re skipping forward a few films to 1972’s Asylum:

asylum - spanish handbill- whenchurchyardsyawn

And that’s it for the handbills for the moment but, all is not lost. At the same time as purchasing this selection I also discovered pressbooks!

For those who don’t know, a film’s production company would produce a pressbook to market their films. The pressbook, usually an A4(ish) size 4 page booklet, would contain all sorts of marketing information, including a synopsis of the plot, cast and crew, poster and advertising art, etc. etc.

Obviously, I couldn’t resist nabbing a few of these too and, sticking with the Amicus portmanteau theme, first up is their 1971 series entry, The House That Dripped Blood. The artist here is MONTALBAN.

the house that dripped blood - spanish pressbook - whenchurchyardsyawn

And to follow on from this we will go to yet another of the Amicus films, 1972’s Tales From the Crypt. This time, the signature is Mac, the sign-off of someone usually considered to be one of the greatest of the Spanish poster artists, Macario Gómez Quibus.

tales from the crypt - spanish pressbook - whenchurchyardsyawn

tales from the crypt - spanish pressbook back - whenchurchyardsyawn

We shall leave Amicus now and, for the final two pressbooks, turn to one of their contemporaries, the equally wonderful Tigon British Film Productions. Not only do we have a Tigon double-bill, we also have a Boris Karloff double-bill!

First, 1967’s The Sorcerers. A particular favourite of mine:

the sorcerers - spanish pressbook - whenchurchyardsyawn

the sorcerers - spanish pressbook back - whenchurchyardsyawn.jpg

And finally, we go to 1968 with The Curse of The Crimson Altar.

curse of the crimson altar - spanish pressbook - whenchurchyardsyawncurse of the crimson altar - spanish pressbook back - whenchurchyardsyawn

No doubt you will have noticed the wonderful black and white artwork in these pressbooks; this was intended for use as newspaper and magazine advertising. In the pre-digital age, these images would have been reproduced by means of small printing block stamps, exactly like the ones I pictured in the first post I published on handbills, which brings us nicely round in a circle.

So, where do we go from here? There are, of course, countless items of film ephemera I could add to this small but growing collection of handbills and pressbooks. The rest of the Amicus and Tigon films to begin with. Then perhaps a delve to see what’s available from Hammer.

The list is endless …

El horror de los folletos!!

The term “The best presents are book shaped” has become something of a refrain here at When Churchyards Yawn. My wife, Samantha, always manages to seek out the best presents for my birthday and, more often than not, they are indeed book shaped. However, despite having a mild obsession with books, I’m not all about the books. I do have other interests you know.

Yes, when I’m not obsessing about books I love a bit of ephemera! And I particularly like it when Samantha buys me something that I’d never dreamed existed before. As an example, if you’re of a certain age you may recall those little black and white adverts you used to get in periodicals to advertise films; tiny little things, you used get several of them bunched together. Obviously, in the pre-digital age, these had to be printed from a printers block. It had never occurred to me before that these printing blocks may still be in existence and, as it turns out, they are! They’re extremely rare but my wife managed to find me these three for my birthday a couple of years ago:

Horror film advertising printing blocks - when churchyards yawn

Of course, on my birthday this year, there were plenty of remarkable book shaped presents to be opened, books which I will no doubt write about on future posts; but there was also a small box containing these wonderful little gems.

Spanish Horror Film Handbills - When Churchyards Yawn

These are Spanish cinema hand-bills. Like many countries, Spain had a tradition of handing out flyers, or hand-bills, to the public to advertise attractions and events such as the circus, stage productions and bullfights. With the advent of cinema in the early 20th century, Spain naturally continued this tradition. Tiny versions of film posters were produced and distributed to the public, the back of each was left blank for the theatre to print its own details. This system of advertising continued from the 1920s up to the early 1970s, so just imagine the vast range of 20th century classic films we have the possibility of finding in this format.

However, being true ephemera, these were not made to last. Just like modern flyers, thousands upon thousand of them would have been screwed up and discarded. Luckily for us though, some managed to survive.

These are the ones my wife purchased for me:

while the city sleeps - lipstick murders - when churchyards yawn
While the City Sleeps – 1956 – Fritz Lang
the body snatchers - when churchyards yawn
The Body Snatcher – 1945 – Robert Wise
planet of the vampires - when churchyards yawn
Planet of The Vampires – 1965 – Mario Bava
fanatic - hammer films - when churchyards yawn
Fanatic – 1965 – Silvio Narizanno
dracula has risen from the grave - when churchyards yawn
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave – 1968 – Freddie Francis
quatermass experiment - when churchyards yawn
The Quatermass Experiment – 1955 – Val Guest
quatermass experiment back - when churchyards yawn
Reverse of The Quatermass Experiment hand-bill

These are all in a remarkably fine condition considering their age and the use they were put to. The seller my wife purchased them from kindly added an additional one to the package to illustrate the usual condition they are found in:

the unvanquished - when churchyards yawn
The Unvanquished

Wonderful little things, as I’m sure you’ll agree. This could be the start of a new obsession.

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 5

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 5)

Well, here we are. We’ve arrived at the last post of the Amicus Cravatalogue, wherein we’ve looked at every single cravat in the series of portmanteau horror films produced by Amicus in the 1960s and 1970s.

For those Johnny- come-latelies amongst you, here are some links to the earlier episodes:

PART 1

PART 2

PART 3

PART 4

We’ve reached 1974 now and the final film in the series, the magnificent From Beyond the Grave. Sadly, 1974 was a grim year of political uncertainties in Britain. The first post-war recession hit, the three day week was introduced, there was an escalation of the Irish ‘Troubles’. There just didn’t seem to be any room for the humble yet extravagant fashion accessory in this world, the cravat was finally being sidelined.

Still, keep a stiff upper lip, on we go.

The linking story here is that of an antique shop called Temptations Limited run by who else but Peter Cushing (quite fitting that he should be the linking pyschopomp character in the first and last films of the series). People visit and procure certain objets d’art from the shop and once taken home these items hold a supernatural sway over their new owners. Interestingly, they up the morality tale odds in this final film as those with good intentions fare better than those with bad.

The first tale has a cravatted David Warner purchasing a mirror for his swanky apartment:

david warner 2

Whilst hosting a party his guests suggest holding that most ’70s of party pass-times, a seance. We just know this isn’t going to end well, don’t we? And indeed it doesn’t, after the seance a mysterious figure materialises to Warner in the mirror and begins to take control of him with murderous intent – the bizarre form of Marcel Steiner in 19th century attire, complete with a black silk cravat:

marcel steiner 2

The second tale concerns a frustrated middle-management chap (Ian Bannen) with a complete lack of control over his life who poses as a war hero to a down-at-heels ex-soldier scratching a living as a match seller (Donald Pleasence). No cravats here I’m afraid, but it does boast a wonderfully pyschotic performance from Donald’s real-life daughter, Angela Pleasence. The film is worth the entrance fee to experience Ms. Pleasance’s singing alone.

The third story gives us Ian Carmichael unwittingly taking an elemental spirit home with him after purchasing a silver snuff box. I know what you’re all thinking…”Ian Carmichael, surely he’ll be wearing a cravat?”…but, alas, no. He’s merely a sensibly dressed businessman in a suit and tie in this one.

In the final story Ian Ogilvy purchases an elaborately carved wooden door which he thinks will look splendid on his stationery cupboard. Unfortunately, Ogilvy is unaware that the door once belonged to a  17th century occultist (played by Jack Watson), which gives us the only glimpse in the Amicus series of an early lace cravat, as was the style in the Restoration period:

jack watson

In between the stories Cushing’s antique shop is being cased by an open-collared ruffian with felonious intent. But what of Cushing himself? Unfortunately no cravat, he opts for a bow tie and scarf combination in this one. But it’s Peter Cushing, he still cuts a dash whatever his choice of neckwear. I leave you with the final scene of the final film in the cravat rich series of Amicus portmanteau horror films:

peter cushing

 . . . A f t e r w o r d

Of course, although Amicus were arguably most famous for their portmanteau horror films they made other films, and not just horror, before, during and after the series.

I feel I should give a very brief mention to their two post-portmanteau horror films here.

The first is Madhouse which features the splendid pairing of Peter Cushing and Vincent Price, both renowned gentlemen of the cravat, although only Cushing can be seen in one here:

peter cushing

And the other, released in the same year, was The Beast Must Die. This was the funkiest werewolf tale ever told with its Shaft style electric wah-wah guitar soundtrack. Truth be told, I watched it again recently fully expecting there to be a glut of cravats but unfortunately it’s all flouncy shirts unbuttoned to the navel and hairy chests. The only cravat we get is one sneaked onto set by Peter Cushing (…of course), and then we only see the briefest glimpse of it peeping out from the neck of his extravagantly patterned pullover:

peter cushing

And that’s the end of our sojourn into the the world of horror portmanteau cravats. Let us put Amicus to bed now, tuck it up in its ’70s candlewick bedspread and say ” Goodnight, sleep well……..if you can!

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 3

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 3)

And so we arrive at the third part of our little odyssey. Remember when we first started back in the 1960s with Dr Terror and the Torture Garden? That was fun, wasn’t it? Picking out those few cravats amongst the more fashionable skinny ties?

No? Ok, here it is:

PART 1

And then we went onto the second part with 1971 and The House That Dripped Blood and the extravagance of cravats that we encountered there:

PART 2

Well, to be honest it gets a little embarrassing here. We’ve reached 1972 and it’s the turn of the film Asylum. I think they must have blown the cravat budget on The House That Dripped Blood because they’re very thin on the ground in this Asylum. We’ve entered the age of the kipper tie and not even Peter Cushing can save us now, here he is in a rather plain navy broad-bladed necktie:

peter cushing

In fact, there is only a single cravat in the entire film, worn by Richard Todd:

richard todd

And that’s if for Asylum. A single cravat! It’s madness, I tell you. Madness!

In the same year Amicus gave us Tales From The Crypt and it must have been due to the great cravat drought of 1972 or something because, again, they’ve virtually disappeared.

Just look at all the stars in their utilitarian neckwear looking like butter wouldn’t melt:

tales from the crypt

Even Peter Cushing has been reduced to the status of a kindly binman with a bare collar (…all joking aside though, it’s a sterling performance from Cushing in this one):

peter cushing

At one point, he does seem to remember past glories with a napkin tucked into his collar, but it’s really not the same:

peter cushing 2

But then, just when you think it’s all over, we get close to the end of the final segment and, you have to be quick to catch it, but we get two cravats in a single scene. Nigel Patrick in the foreground wearing a rather limp affair, not much better than Cushing’s napkin, and the old blind chap right at the back.

nigel patrick

Well, I’m afraid that’s it for 1972. All I can do is offer my sincere apologies for today’s rather bleak installment. Join me next time for the final two films in the series and a promise of a more substantial cravat count.

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 2

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 2)

If you’ve accidentally stumbled across part 2 of the series then please go to the back of the class and study part 1. It can be found here:

PART 1

So then, as you can see, we dealt with the 1960s in the first post. This brings us slap bang into the cravat revival period of 1971.

3 ~ The House That Dripped Blood

Unlike the other Amicus portmanteau films, there is no central villain of the piece. The four tales revolve around the various inhabitants of a lodge house which is up for rent by A.J. Stoker & Co. (we don’t have to think too hard for that allusion).

As you will see, the cravats fly free in this film!

In the first segment, Denholm Elliott takes up residence as horror author Charles Hillyer. As he spends all of his time in the house he can afford to take it easy and dress in a casual manner. And nothing says lounging at home like a cravat:

denholm elliott

The second segment is a joy for the cravatier. It stars that unabashed cravatophile, Peter Cushing. No one carries off a cravat like Cushing! And no old knot will do for his characteristic silk, he threads his through a gold ring to hold it in place.

Here’s Peter wistfully flicking through old photographs of his lost love, in his cravat:

peter cushing 1

peter cushing 2

And here he is looking thoughtfully out across a river:

peter cushing 3

And browsing the antique shops in a small Surrey market town:

peter cushing 4

peter cushing 6

And, of course, Peter is very happy to welcome other cravat wearing guests to his house. Look! Here comes Josh Ackland with a less formal styling:

peter cushing and joss ackland

But imagine the embarrassment of entering the Waxwork Museum in the small Surrey market town to find the proprietor (Wolfe Morris) emulating your style of cravat fastening!

wolfe morris

This would be enough to give any chap a fit of pique.

peter cushing 9

Now then, I think I can say the following sentence without any fear of contradiction. This film stands alone in featuring a fight to the death between two middle aged chaps, wearing cravats secured with a ring, in a Waxworks Museum, with medieval weaponry, in a small Surrey market town:

Capture

As this segment closes, another unsuspecting visitor arrives at the Waxwork Museum…and the proprietor covets his cravat:

unknown

In the third segment, Christopher Lee rather lets the side down. We don’t often see Lee in a cravat at the best of times and in this film he’s playing a widower, so a sombre black tie is his neckwear of choice:

christopher lee

But Jon Pertwee more than makes up for previous cravatlessness with his turn in the final segment. Interestingly, this part was supposed to have been played by Vincent Price, but he was tied into a contract with another studio so we have Jon Pertwee instead. Sort of a Vincent Price light. Still, Say what you like about Pertwee, he can certainly pull off a cravat, especially when accompanied by  Ingrid Pitt:

jon pertwee

jon pertwee 2

Even when out cloak shopping on a foggy night:

jon pertwee 4

And, of course, who else would sell him a cloak? Why, it’s a cravatted Geoffrey Bayldon, later to play The Crowman against Pertwee’s Gummidge:

geoffrey bayldon

Even the supporting actors in this segment don’t miss out on the cravat wearing.

Bernard Hopkins in a fetching orange and green number:

bernard hopkins

And even a young Jonathan Lynn gives it a go:

jonathan lynn

And that’s it for this time, cravatiers. The House That Dripped Blood must be in the running for the most cravat saturated film of all time (not counting those period pieces set pre-20th century, that’d be cheating).

Join me next time as we continue our journey further into the 1970s with a visit to the Asylum!

The Compleat Amicus Portmanteau Cravatalogue, part 1

(The Amicus Cravatalogue was a short, five part article I wrote for another blog a few years ago. As the other blog will disappear shortly I thought I’d include them here. This is Part 1)

For the uninitiated, Amicus was a British film production company which began life in 1962 and ended in 1977. Those fifteen short years took in the best parts of the ’60s & ’70s.

The company was run by Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg and, being inspired by the 1945 Ealing horror film Dead of Night, they produced several of their own films in the same style. It was these ‘portmanteau’ films that they became most famous for.

What interests us here though, apart from how utterly brilliant the films are, is the preponderance of cravats we see through the seven films. Ok, their appearances start off slowly but they build to quite the crescendo in the early ’70s…as we shall see.

This is Part 1, in which we shall examine the first two films.

1 ~ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

We’re in 1965, the era of the sharp Italian suit and the slim tie, as can be seen by this photograph of the main characters in the train carriage in which the linking story takes place. Note Roy Castle as the fashionable young jazz trumpeter, there’s a man with no interest in a cravat:

group

However, we do still have the occasional glimpse of a cravat.

Peter Cushing for example, as the eponymous villain of the piece, dons a very Baudelairian cravat in black silk (…what else would you really expect someone called Dr. Schreck to wear?)

peter cushing baudelarian

We then have a bit part cravat on Peter Madden as a rather surly manservant. Quite a drab affair befitting a man of his status. I think we’re seeing a theme here, that the cravat is befitting of the lower classes and the untoward; not the neckwear of a hero.

peter madden 2

And finally for this film, we do have one of the heroes briefly attempt a cravat. But only briefly, and safely tucked away in a darkened room. But we applaud Alan Freeman for his bravery (though the bespectacled chap doesn’t seem too impressed).

alan freeman

2 ~ Torture Garden

Next, we spring forward to 1967 for Amicus Productions second film in the series. Again, we have rather scant pickings here and, again, it’s the villain of the piece with the cravat. This time it’s Burgess Meredith as another doctor (though I’m not sure either of them were medically trained), Dr. Diabolo.

Dr. Diabolo is a seedy little sideshow owner and it’s in his Torture Garden where the stories take place. Seedy he may be but he does offer us two different cravats:

burgess meredith 1

burgess meredith 2

And that’s about it for cravats in this one, except for the last story in which the wonderful Peter Cushing more than makes up for it as this dapper collector of all things Edgar Allan Poe:

peter cushing

Tune in next time, cravatiers, to see Amicus really go to town with their neckwear.

Doesn’t time fly when a life-size Victorian ventriloquist dummy becomes your lodger?

Typical, isn’t it? Everything’s rolling along nicely, you’re reading; writing about what you’re reading; you’re four books into a forty-five book blog series and it’s all going swimmingly and then you turn round and three months have disappeared. A quarter of a year, flown by without you even considering writing an entry on the blog.

In fairness, I have been extremely busy in the day job (which is, weirdly enough, making custom leather-bound books for other people to write in!).

But the main thing which has been keeping me busy is . . . errr, how do I put this?

Well, for my birthday last year my wife presented me with a large box with a head in it. This is what greeted me when I opened it:

ally-sloper-head-in-a-box

This is a life-sized, Victorian/Edwardian, fully working ventriloquist dummy head of a character called Ally Sloper. Naturally, we couldn’t let this old gent live out the rest of his days as a head so we set to building him a body.

And we now have a 6′ 6″ Whitechapel born, ne’er-do-well living in the house. He’s over there now, in the corner, watching me write this. Just look at him sitting there!

p1030574-a

The problem is that Sloper was hugely (in)famous in his day. Massively popular for fifty years or so, he even had his own top-selling weekly comic journal entitled Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday. Now though, he’s faded into obscurity and no one has heard of him. So, he’s set out to rectify that by starting his own blog  and the fact that I’ve been helping him out with that has meant that I’ve been neglecting my own work here at When Churchyards Yawn.

I do have a sneaky suspicion that, in the great tradition of Maxwell and Hugo from ‘Dead of Night’ and Corky and Fats from ‘Magic’, I’m sure the old sod Sloper is trying to take over.

This post is definitely going in the Oddities & Ephemera category!

Anyway, click on this link or the picture and it will take you to Sloper’s very own blog:

https://allysloper.wordpress.com/

ally-sloper-at-home

Dracula Annual, 1972, N.E.L.

Today we’re taking a bit of a diversion in The Churchyard. We’re taking a stroll away from the usual, neatly aligned shelves of horror paperbacks over to that dark corner, the one we rarely venture into, the one with the untidy shelves, the one we vaguely refer to as ‘miscellany corner’. There are all sorts of oddities lurking there, mostly things that are best left hidden.

The tome I’m liberating from the darkness for today’s post is Dracula Annual, published in 1972 (I think, it has no copyright page) by the legendary New English Library.

I found this one in a jumble sale when I was around 10 years old. It’s was in a sorry old state with the spine all broken and torn and the covers loose; it’s obviously still like that today, with the scraps of sellotape, now crispy and yellowed, hanging from its battle-wounds.

cover

 

In truth, I had trouble connecting with it when I was ten years old. The contents weren’t exactly as advertised by the title, there being only one brief mention of Dracula in the whole thing, which was a huge disappointment for a child with an obsession for Hammer films. Instead there were just all these weird, brightly coloured images illustrating stories which didn’t seem to make much sense at all. So, the book was relegated to the back of a drawer and later, when I left my parent’s home, to a box.

I rediscovered it in my late teenage years when I learnt to appreciate the *ahem* psychedelic nature of the contents. I spent many a happy hour getting lost within page after page of hallucinatory imagery. Ah yes, it all seemed to make so much sense now!

This annual is actually a series of twelve Spanish comic books collected into one issue. And I’ve only just noticed that in my edition issues nine and ten seem to be published the wrong way around, the Wolff and Agar-Agar serials don’t follow the correct sequence! Anyway, each issue contained four stories, the lead story in every issue being the serialised Wolff. The full contents are:

Issue 1
Wolff ~ Path of The Dead (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ Thing From The Lake (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ Rendesvous with Aquarius (Alberto Solsona)
Eleonor ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 2
Wolff ~ The World of Witches (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ Thing End of a Legend (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ The Village In The Sea (Alberto Solsona)
Krazy ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 3
Wolff ~ The Sorceress of the Red Mist (Estaban Maroto)
The Snake (José Beá)
Eloise ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 4
Wolff ~ The Night of The Werewolf (Estaban Maroto)
The Mummy (José Beá)
Alice ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 5
Wolff ~ The Lady of The Wolves (Estaban Maroto)
Invasion (José Beá)
The Viyi (Estaban Maroto)
Karen ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 6
Wolff ~ The Manuscript of Rep-Tah (Estaban Maroto)
The Messenger (Carlos Giménez)
Agar-Agar ~ The Harem of Bacchus (Alberto Solsona)
Squadron-Leader Braddock ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 7
Wolff ~ Mother of Waters (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ The Sea of Blood (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ Even Heroes Get Tired (Alberto Solsona)
Lisita ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 8
Wolff ~ The Daughter of The Witch (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ The Cat (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ The Fairest Of Them All (Alberto Solsona)
Minim ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 9
Wolff ~ The Return of Sadya (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ The Mark of Death (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ The Martian Visitors (Alberto Solsona)
The Face ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 10
Wolff ~ The City In The Clouds (Estaban Maroto)
Sir Leo ~ The Closed Room (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ The Forest of Life and Death (Alberto Solsona)
Boutique ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 11
Wolff ~ The Lair of The Witches (Estaban Maroto)
A Story of The Stars (José Beá)
Agar-Agar ~ Over The Rainbow (Alberto Solsona)
Again Highway 61 ~ (Enric Sió)

Issue 12
Wolff ~ The Beginning of The End (Estaban Maroto)
Waiting (José Beá)
The Curse (José Beá)
Marian ~ (Enric Sió)

W o l f f

This is the main serialised story of the book and the only one which features in every issue. It’s a Sword & Sorcery romp which follows the adventures of the titular hero, a scantily clad barbarian with a penchant for furry boots and decorative pants. The story opens with Wolff returning to his tribal home after a hunting trip to find his village ransacked by The Witches. The young and the beautiful, including Wolff’s own wife, have been captured and all the rest left for dead. Of course, this sets in motion a tale of revenge as Wolff attempts to rescue his wife from the clutches of the enemy. It all borrows very heavily from Robert E. Howard’s Conan series and they don’t even hide the fact; on the second page we see Wolff invoke the name of Crom, a deity familiar to anyone who has read Conan.
The artist, Maroto, went on to considerable success with Warren Publishing, having work published in their horror titles Creepy and Eerie.

wolff 1

wolff 2

wolff 3

wolff 4

S i r   L e o

Sir Leo Wooldrich is a late Victorian English aristocrat who has rejected his social postion in favour of a life of adventure, a life of seeking out mysteries, a life of battling inhuman forces. He is very much in the mould of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki and Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence, those early occult detectives we all love so much.
These tales are mostly stand alone shorts and we see Sir Leo battling a variety of evils, including a hint of Lovecraftian terror when we see our hero consulting The Necronomicon in preparation for battle with one of the ‘Dwellers Beyond Space’ (an unnamed creature but possibly supposed to be Yog-Sothoth?).
Sir Leo’s mentors are a pair of occultists with an expertise in Demonology, their names are Haining and James. The author doesn’t seem shy of dropping allusions in here and there (I’ve already mentioned Lovecraft, there’s also an obscure reference to an early comic strip when he mentions Mehitabel and he even speaks of Charenton Asylum, the last resting place of The Marquis de Sade). So bearing this in mind, I wonder if he’s referring to others in the realm of supernatural fiction with mention of Haining and James!
The creator of Sir Leo is José Beá, another stalwart at Warren Publications. As you can see from the contents list, he also produced a few one off Gothic horror stories for this book.

leo 1

leo 2

leo 3

leo 4

leo 5

A g a r – A g a r

Now then, where do we start with Agar-Agar? I just can’t put into words how much I loved this story in my teenage years. She is a psychedelic sprite who lives on a star called Xanadu, one of the smallest in the galaxy of Agramente. Oh yes, and her name, Agar-Agar, it means love. Each episode sees her entangled in some adventure or other and making the male of a species fall in love with her. She, of course, falls in love with them too, but only for a short time because in her own words:

“I cannot promise to wait for you for we sprites are too fickle, too fragile. Like butterflies.”

Or, this pearl of wisdom:

“And so Agar-Agar and her blue prince ride into the cloud land of tomorrow, lit by the gold of the stars against a purple backdrop of the night. They are happy, but the sprite knows that a state of bliss lasts only like the dew on an early morning rose. It is soon gone, but it is pleasant while it lasts!!”

So, it’s free love all round in this surreal, hallucinatory and mind-expanding world. And while she’s travelling the psychedelic byways she also finds time to complete her task of saving her homeland from the evils of consumerism. In the final climactic battle she defeats (or rather talks her Blue Prince into defeating) the Seven Headed Dragon of Consumerism, each head representing one of the evils, Pollution, Inflation, Tobacco, Alcohol, Cars, Money and Misery.
And once the Dragon of Consumerism is defeated:

“From now on this land will be a land of happiness, where everyone can lie on the grass and think beautiful thoughts.”

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E n r i c   S i ó

In contrast to the low-fantasy of Wolff, the slightly camp Gothic horror of Sir Leo and the…errr…whatever it is that Agar-Agar is, we have a single story in each issue by Enric Sió. These are surreal and disturbing tales made all the more creepy by his unique graphic style of inking parts of his illustration over his own photographs which adds a starkness to their terror. The visually bold world he creates is one of Giallo style horror with a slight hint of eroticism; a bleak world of strange and unnecessary deaths where nothing is resolved and nothing is explained.

Rather than a few choice pages, let us have a complete story to give you a taste of the oddness.

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So, if you don’t have a copy of this book you could get a similar effect by dropping a few tabs of acid, putting Barbarella on one telly and Suspiria on another, Pink Floyd’s Relics or perhaps some early Gong on the stereogram and reading through some old copies of Weird Tales.

If you do have a copy of this book then you’ve probably already done all of the above at the same time as reading it. A fun way to spend an afternoon or an eternity, wasn’t it?

p.s. We at When Churchyards Yawn do not condone the use of hallucinogenics in any way, shape or form.

p.p.s. That last disclaimer may not strictly be true.

An unexpected parcel

For this post we’re taking a bit of a break from the horror fiction.

Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago I received a strange package through my letterbox, I wrote about it here:

The Shadow Over Soddenham

Well, reality slipped again this morning and I received another, slightly larger, unexpected parcel. All wrapped up in brown paper and tied with string, with a quote from Confucius in place of the usual postage stamp. This had to be from the good folks at Soddenham, Norfolk.

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I carefully placed it on the table (after listening to it to make sure it wasn’t ticking) and gently teased open the knot in the string. As the brown paper unfolded I was confronted with, what I thought at first to be, a beautiful handbound notebook with an oxblood cover. A paper label adorned the cover bearing the Soddenham crest.

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Along with this was a beautifully typed letter from, no less than, the chairman of the Soddenham Historical Society and Curry Club himself, Mr. Les Taret!

On opening the notebook I discovered that – no, it wasn’t a notebook at all! but a beautifully made presentation case containing samples of genuine Soddenham lichen, one piece of Extra Virgin, pre-harvest lichen (still on the branch) and another of pure ground lichen powder in a tiny glass phial.

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Perhaps I should explain a little about the importance of lichen to the economic history of Soddenham. Soddenham was once a major centre for lichen farming in the UK, their lichen orchards were famed for the quality of their produce and they exported it all over the Empire for the manufacture of spume. You can read more about it on this fascinating article on the Soddenham website here:

Lichen and The Decline of Spume

Sadly, due to the decline of the spume industry, Soddenham now has only one lichen orchard left, which is also the last one in England, as attested by the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity.

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In conclusion, I would just like to say a huge thankyou to Mr Taret and the other members of the SHSACC, Mssrs. Pardow, Drewery, Dengue and Thule and to the treasurer, Ms. Smokepipe. Also to Mr. Furcleby, the last remaining lichen husbandman. Thankyou all, I shall treasure this artifact; myself and Mrs Nash may well brush off our old Pashley tandem this summer and take a trip across to visit your wonderful village to experience the orchard for ourselves.

The Shadow over Soddenham

I do enjoy it when reality slips sideways just a little bit. A few days ago I commented on this excellent blogpost from this excellent blog:

Click here to see the excellent blogpost

Yesterday I came home to find a small and peculiar brown paper package laying in my hallway, looking very out of place, otherworldly even, amongst the regular post. I carefully opened it to find my very own edition of the very same pamphlet courtesy of Mr Les Taret & Mr Eric Nullbrigg of the Soddenham Historical Society and Curry Club.

What a beautiful thing it is, too! Gorgeously tactile paper bound with linen cord, the ends of which have been dipped in red wax or dye? At least I hope it’s wax or dye! It’s certainly deep red in colour!!

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The contents are an assortment of children’s rhymes which have been, and possibly still are, popular amongst the children of the small Norfolk village of Soddenham. Many of these rhymes, as children’s rhymes tend to be, are of a rather sinister nature, pertaining often to the village’s troubled history with witchcraft.

To highlight the nature of the verse we also have a series of woodcut illustrations with suitably dark overtones.

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I also received an invitation to visit the village of Soddenham. I may well take them up on the offer at some point although I will try to avoid the major festival dates as I understand that some locals in villages such as this can get a bit excitable with their bonfires, especially with those outsiders that arrive ‘of their own free will’.

I will of course also practise thinking of brick walls. Just in case there are bands of fair-haired children with staring eyes roaming the streets. One can never be too careful.

If anyone else out there wishes to visit the small village of Soddenham then more information can be found here:

Click here to visit Soddenham