Archive for the People Category

A Tribute to Robert Z’Dar

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2018 by ranranami

I don’t think there is any actor with a more distinctive face than the late Robert Z’Dar. My first recollection of him wasn’t his melodramatic bit role in Tango and Cash, nor was it his most famous part of all as the titular character of Maniac Cop. It wasn’t even the super villain samurai in Samurai Cop (huh, just noticed a theme there.) It was an oddly-voiced side character in the MST3K take on Soultaker. Other than the forgotten Estevez (Joe), Robert just stood out. He always did. No matter the size of the role.

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Robert J. Zdarsky acted in 121 films before his unfortunate and sudden passing at the age of 64 from cardiac arrest shortly before he was supposed to appear at Pensacon, a multi-genre convention in Pensacola, Florida. He was a man of many faces (especially the large-chinned variety), a college football player, a musician (singer/keyboardist/guitarist), a Chippendales dancer, a police officer, and most importantly–an actor.

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He took his genetic condition (cherubism) and used it to his advantage. It didn’t hold him back in the least as a character actor, and in fact added something really fun to his roles. Robert could never be mistaken for the good guy or the typical henchman (even when he was), and he had such a fantastic voice. He fought and beat throat cancer, which changed his voice irreversibly, but there was still something about his delivery despite this when he spoke, and his enthusiasm in his interviews was truly charming. I haven’t found even one negative comment about Robert as a person, and I’m pretty sure he was probably a fun person to be around. Mister Z’Dar, you were one of a kind, and villain or not–you deserve to be remembered. Credit for the following tribute video goes to Vernon Williams.

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A Tribute to Peter Lorre

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , on October 4, 2018 by ranranami

 

The below video was created by Youtube user ZZ, and her channel is really worth checking out!

The nervous henchman and ‘doctor’ of a scarred maniac. The mentally deranged child killer stalking the streets of pre-WW2 Berlin. A conniving, greasy villain. A mad scientist fascinated with one woman and the macabre experiment he performs on her husband. An innocent victim of war driven to crime. Abusive alcoholic. Charming playboy. Most of these roles do not sound nuanced in a sentence which does little justice to a talent so often overlooked. Who am I talking about, ladies and gentlemen? None other than Peter Lorre himself. As if the video above and the title of the post didn’t make that painfully obvious.

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Leaving us at only 59 years old from an unfortunate stroke after years of alcoholism and morphine addiction due to chronic pain, Peter Lorre had more depth than any actor I can think of today – – and yet hardly any of his roles made this man the star. Even in his break-out role, where Lorre shined so brightly and darkly at the same time, ‘M’, most of the film was focused on the events surrounding his character. Only at the very end do we really get some wonderful scenes with Peter Lorre that drove home so beautifully how much of a talent he was. The film ‘The Face Behind the Mask’ (1941) is absolutely incredible.

Getting his start in experimental and improvisational theatre in Berlin. Hungarian-born under the name László Loewenstein, it wasn’t long after ‘M’ that Peter got his next great role in ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’. It is unfortunate that he was so type-cast, despite how well he played the roles. I would like to take a moment to thank Peter for giving the world so much with his performances, and to end this tribute with a lovely quote from Vincent Price upon hearing of his friend’s, passing:

Peter was the most inventive actor I’ve ever known. He was a great scholar, an accomplished dramatic actor and a masterful comedian. “Peter liked to make pictures which entertained people, not critics. He didn’t have any pretensions about conveying messages to the world.

A Tribute to Paul Naschy

Posted in Media, People, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2017 by ranranami

How best to describe Paul Naschy? Was he Lon Chaney with the face of John Saxon? Was he the Vincent Price of Spain? To tell you the truth, Paul Naschy was one of a kind. Actor, director, screenwriter, and even sometimes producer. He wore every mask at one point or another, and played ever role, from Wolfman to Frankenstein, to Dracula, and even Satan himself.

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Where Lon Chaney Jr played the American Wolfman, Naschy’s Casanova version of the role practically chewed the scenery. No matter the quality of a film, the poor dubbing, or awful edited versions that have been butchered a hundred times for American audiences, there’s no denying how compelling Naschy still is in those films. He was just that good. He was also known to be a fantastic, down-to-earth kind of person, too, which goes a long way in my book for any major star.

Shout Factory just released some epic collections of Naschy films I’d like to get my hands on, having settled for some of those more questionable releases I’ve mentioned, and it was about time too.

I couldn’t resist ending on this fantastic tribute video I found. I hope some day more of the world will really come to appreciate this brilliant man. Oh, and by the way, happy halloween!

Grim History: Leonarda Cianciulli, ‘The Soap Maker of Correggio’

Posted in Media, People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2017 by ranranami

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“I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”

A loving mother. The perfect neighbor. A friend. A pillar of the community. A woman so kind, that she thought nothing of giving away her lovingly-crafted bars of soap to any and everyone she knew. She ran a small shop, which I’m sure supported the family well enough.

Leonarda did not have an easy life. She’d attempted suicide as a young girl multiple times. As a young woman she committed fraud and landed in jail. After that, when she and her husband moved to another town, their home was destroyed in an earthquake. She had seventeen pregnancies, three of them being miscarried, and ten of them died as children. It’s no wonder she became so very protective of the four she had left.

She was a very superstitious woman. In her youth, she went to multiple fortune-tellers, desperate no doubt for some bright glint of hope in her future. One of them told her she would lose all of her children, and one can only wonder if the fear of this awful fate was self-fulfilling. Did she spend every waking hour in her pregnancy in fear? Did she fill her children with tonics or syrups to keep them well, only to poison them with the tinctures that were meant to save? We’ll never know what happened to all of those lost ones, but we do know that Leonarda desperately loved the remaining four.

It wasn’t long after the earlier fortune was told, that she had her palm read by yet another gypsy in almost Hollywood-esque fashion. Her reading would spell out a far worse fate than meeting a tall, dark stranger. She was told that in her right hand the gypsy saw prison, and in the left a criminal asylum.

I don’t doubt Leonarda spent her time crafting wards against the evil eye, tearing out her hair, and doing all manner of strange things one would expect of a madwoman behind closed doors. Somehow, after these two terrible fortunes in her life, and with the knowledge that her eldest son would be joining the army to fight in World War II, Leonarda decided she had to do something horrible to protect him.  But what could satisfy the blood-hungry fate that had snatched so many of her children from her?

Perhaps she thought she could simply swap one life for another. Appease death with someone else’s life. After all, she’d begun to dig into a bit of fortune-telling herself. It isn’t hard to believe a madwoman would give herself such a reading. So, Leonarda planned. She selected three friends, women who may very well have reminded Leonarda of herself. They were middle-aged, and ready to change their lives.

Her first victim, Faustina Setti, wanted companionship. She was lonely. Leonarda persuaded her that she would have to move to Pola, but there was the perfect man waiting for her there. Cleverly, she convinced Faustina to write several letters to be sent to her friends and family when she arrived. Then, on the morning Faustina was to leave, they shared some wine.

Faustina’s glass was drugged. One can only hope she didn’t suffer when that gleaming ax was hefted above Leonarda’s head, and that the death was quick. Poor Faustina’s body was cut into nine pieces and the blood was drained into a basin. Leonarda seemed to delight in recounting her story later after she’d been caught, likening her story to a recipe one would expect to find in an insane grandmother’s cook book:

“I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.“

Giuseppe was her eldest son. The one planning to enlist. Imagine the motherly delight she must have felt, serving up the remains of her former friend and client, while the death of that woman surely meant he would live that much longer. Still, it wasn’t enough, and after Leonarda’s first literal taste of death….

She wanted more.

The second victim, Francesca Soavi, suffered much the same fate. She’d been looking for a job. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong place to find it. This time, Leonarda told her to begin writing postcards to her friends and family, sending them while she was still in Correggio. Waste not want not, as they say. This time, however, Leonarda took a little money from her victim as well. 3000 lire, to be precise. Murder was becoming far more than a mother’s desperate acts of love, but something quite profitable to boot.

Her third, final, and most famous (or formerly famous) victim was Virginia Cacioppo. An opera singer who had passed her prime, but the passion for art lived on. Poor Virginia didn’t question why Leonarda apparently knew a powerful, mysterious ‘theatre impresario’ looking for a secretary. After all, she was a fortune-teller. A sweet, kind woman. A friend. A friend with 50,000 lire, and astonishing jewelry. Tokens of another life.

Instead of just stopping at tea-cakes, however, Leonarda decided to earn her infamous title…

“…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.”

Virginia’s sister-in-law reported her missing, and it wasn’t long before the police made inquiries with Leonarda. She confessed, unashamed, and judging by her accounts, seems to have gloried in it. Her first prophecy was happily fulfilled. Leonarda would spend the next thirty years in prison, and her final three in a mental asylum.

Grim History: Gilles de Rais

Posted in People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2016 by ranranami

Blood was flowing – in Bluebeard’s house, in the abattoirs, in the circuses where God had set his seal to whiten the windows. Blood and Milk flowed together.” – Arthur Rimbaud

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It is said that you can divide fairy tales into two categories, stories based on general fears and thoughts at the time, or apocryphal adaptations of historic fact. What can one say about the story of Bluebeard? A rich man who took many wives, locked them in his house when he left, and left them with a key and an egg just to make sure he could trust them not to discover all of the dead wives he’d slaughtered countless times before. Frankly, I don’t see why people Bluebeard could be associates with Gilles de Rais, but that’s what many people believe. Odd, considering a vast majority of the children he was purported to have slaughtered, if not all, were little boys…

Gilles was born in 1404-05, depending on your sources, precocious, titled, disgustingly rich, and destined to become orphaned at the age of 10. From then on, under the guardianship of his maternal grandfather grandfather, Jean de Craon, who was without a doubt one of the more interesting and dastardly schemers you may read about in history. The man desperately wanted to be the richest in all of France, and as any respectable person of his time would do, endeavored to earn this by wedding Gilles off to a toddler. He tried, anyway. The whole mess got immediately rejected by the Parisian Parliament, so he settled for kidnapping Gilles’ cousin, Catherine de Thouars instead.

But this isn’t Game of Craon, this is the history of Gilles himself. Ultimately, he ended up supporting the Dauphin in the Hundred Years War. He did quite well for himself, reckless, brave, just about everything you could imagine any model aristocratic soldier being. When Joan of Arc came to court, Gilles was to be her military advisor.

Following several successful battles, Gilles became Marshall of France.

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Things were looking up for our hero. Then, after a series of unfortunate events, not the least of which being the burning of Joan, and the death of his grandfather (who decided to leave the family title and respect to Gilles’ younger brother),  Gilles decided he’d had enough of being the typical good guy. Some believe the death of Joan may have been the major domino in his gruesome path later on, but really…a lost friend, or perhaps even unrequited love, does not account for psychopathic behavior. Otherwise the world would be far worse than it already is.

Gilles had one daughter with his wife, then it’s purported that he swore off women altogether. The man had spent a good deal of money investing in chapels, the church, and all things holy…suddenly decided to make a complete polar opposite shift in how he lived his life…

In 1432, the year after Joan of Arc’s death, Gilles killed his fist victim. His first documented one, anyway. A boy his cousin had sent to deliver a letter to him. Gilles, essentially went absolutely insane. He started to spend his fortune at an astonishing rate, to the point of having to sell of portions of the family lands and estate to support his activities. What’s more, his parties didn’t stop with boozing and debauchery. There are many claims that insist he raped, tortured, and cremated up to 200 small children by 1440. A majority of the murders took place in 1438-1439. These children were gathered for him by his closest servants, and there are even wild accounts Gilles himself described in his confessions at court of satanic rituals he would perform, very likely involving the remains of these children as well.

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His brother finally forbade Gilles from selling off anything else, and the family lands were kept intact by a court order, while the man practically threw money at his favored ‘magician’, an Italian man  who had once been a priest, named Antonio Prelati. Gilles’ ultimate goal was to restore the money he had squandered, and he spent it like water just to find out if he could somehow transform common elements into gold. He actually thought murdering the children would somehow aid in this, and it’s clear by the sheer number that no cost was too high for Gilles to maintain his wealth.

Arguably, what ultimately did him in, was the kidnapping of a cleric. Though many people suspected Gilles of murder, kidnapping, and all sorts of crime, his military history and standing with the king had given him a great deal of protection from any persecution…the church, however, was just a little too powerful for him to get away from (at the time.) He was finally brought to trial, and after several witnesses (his own servants who had actually aided him in many of his crimes) spilled the beans.

Gilles at first insisted he was innocent, but quickly caved, and described in detail many of the horrible rituals he committed with Prelati, to the point of even trying to summon Satan himself. Gilles was put to death, but because of his standing he was allowed to be strangled/hanged (some accounts differ) before his brief burning, and even so, given a Christian burial on church grounds.

It is said that many testimonies given by witnesses and Gilles himself of the crimes he committed against his victims were so terrible, that they were stricken from the record so people could be spared ever learning of the horrid details.

A Tribute to The Ramsay Brothers

Posted in Media, Movies and shows, People, Uncategorized, Videos and Clips with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2016 by ranranami

I am a film buff. Beyond horror, Indian cinema in particular is one of my great passions, which is why I think it’s time to call attention to a group of men (seven in all) known mainly for their schlock, as well as the fact that they are some of the rare filmmakers to actually create legitimate (‘legitimate’) horror cinema…in Bollywood.

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Starting with ‘Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche (1972)‘, which actually isn’t a bad movie at all, the Ramsay brothers didn’t come from cinema royalty, as quite a few actors/directors/etc in Bollywood in particular tend to, but they actually got into film after their father (F. U. Ramsay) opened a couple of electronics stores. DGZKN was their first (and possibly only) notable movie that really helped them get into the swing of budget horror.

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Thanks to that movie, they were able to finance quite a few low budget horror flicks, a vast majority of them in the 80s. India wasn’t, and still isn’t known for their horror. This is perfectly understandable, when you remind yourself that a lot of Bollywood cinema does have musical numbers. It’s almost impossible to make a terrifying picture in the midst of that element, and a lot of times it does take away from the very little horror that is available there in a big way.

The Ramsay brothers essentially ruled the roost in Bollywood horror in their hay day, because they were tapping into something nobody else really was. There was an odd film here or there, but really, the vast majority of even the more horrific Indian films tend to leaned towards noir. There were, of course, plenty of copycats to follow, but the Ramsays were the first. They also tended to do a lot of ‘screen-stripping’, the art of watching one movie, writing down your favorite bits, and throwing it into a new script with a different title and enough of your own flare to technically call it a different movie.

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The introduction of the action boom in the early 90s saw their schlocky horror fare taking more of a backseat, as audiences simply lost interest in reincarnated demon-werewolf babies produced from the seeds of vengeance, promiscuous behavior, and murderous ancestor husbands. Their last true film they made in the genre was a Bollywood answer to Nightmare on Elm Street, ‘Mahakaal’…which, like most of their movies, took your basic popular Hollywood film and applied a cultural wash. But, after that, they did the ‘Zee Horror Show’, which as a popcorn muncher…can be pretty fun. Afterwards, at least on the small screen, there have been countless different horror anthology series who I’m not afraid to say were and are heavily inspired by the Ramsays.

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These brothers built a mini-industry with what they did. They blazed a trail. Essentially, they created an entire genre, and their movies still have a pretty massive cult following today all around the world. Essentially, they made fun films. Sometimes fun is the most important part in a horror movie. Without further ado, I think it’s time to share a bit of music from the Ramsay Dracula, ‘Bandh Darwaza‘…which both illustrates how well they adapted stories for the Indian screen, but also why sometimes music just…doesn’t work when you’ve got a monster in the room.

Pics from Terror Expo ’16

Posted in Media, People, Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 23, 2016 by ranranami

Working on a podcast episode, will probably have it up within the next week. In the mean time, here’s some pictures with myself (the tall one in blue) and my best friend, Audra, who will also be a future co-host on the podcast as well. Enjoy! Yes, that is Robert Englund’s autograph on my torso tattoo.

 

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