Sandy Ferber

SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

The Clockwork Man: Sci-Fi’s first cyborg novel

The Clockwork Man by E.V. Odle

Just recently, I had some words to say about an English dystopian novel from 1920, The People of the Ruins by Edward Shanks. This book had been brought back into print in 2012 by HiLo Books as part of its wonderful Radium Age Science Fiction Series, the goal of which was to unearth neglected works from the period 1904 - 1933 for the modern generation. Now, I am here to tell you of another novel from this same series that I have just enjoyed. The book in question is The Clockwork Man, which was the creation of another British author, E.V. (Edwin Vincent) Odle. This novel was or... Read More

The People of the Ruins: A simply marvelous dystopian novel

The People of the Ruins by Edward Shanks

The publisher known as HiLo Books had a wonderful thing going back in 2012 with its Radium Age Science Fiction Series, the mission of which was to bring back into print the neglected works from the period 1904 - 1933. This reader had previously enjoyed several of the titles in this series via volumes from other publishers – novels such as Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague (1912), William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land (1912), Read More

Forgotten Worlds: A fantastic adventure

Forgotten Worlds by Howard Browne

I’ve always thought that if I were ever fortunate enough to get a novel written, and then even more fortunate to actually get it published, then that hard-created piece of work would most certainly – and proudly – appear under my own name. But there are any number of reasons why authors today choose to use pseudonyms for their work, and more reasons still for the creators of pulp fiction material 70 to 100 years ago. For example, an author might have used a pen name for fiction and reserved his given name for his main occupation (such as mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who wrote sci-fi under the name John Taine). In another case, a publication’s collective/house name was used when multiple writers contributed novels about one long-running character (such as the house name Kenneth Robeson, used by Read More

Inland Deep: Tooker times two

Inland Deep by Richard Tooker

Of the nine books that I have read over the last year or so from Armchair Fiction’s current Lost World/Lost Race series, which runs to 24 volumes, no fewer than three of them have involved the discoveries of hitherto unknown civilizations far beneath the Earth’s surface. In Rex Stout’s truly thrilling Under the Andes (1914), three unfortunate Americans go through a hellacious experience at the hands of a lost race of Incas beneath the mountains of Peru. In S. P. Meek’s The Drums of Tapajos (1930), a quartet of American adventurers discovers the descendants of both the 10 Lost... Read More

Two Thousand Miles Below: The Gor hole and the blowhole

Two Thousand Miles Below by Charles W. Diffin

In November 1951, the first feature film based on a DC Comics superhero was released. That film, Superman and the Mole Men, is fondly remembered today, especially since it was later transformed into the two-part episode that aired near the end of the first season of TV’s Adventures of Superman, and shown on television under the title “The Unknown People.” In this film, Clark Kent and Lois Lane travel to the small town of Silsby, TX, to cover a story about the world’s deepest oil rig … a story that becomes even more interesting when denizens from deep below the Earth emerge from that borehole and cause panic among the populace. However, if a certain novel from almost 20 years earlier is to be believed, this was not the first time that such an operation had disturbed our underground neighbors. The novel in question is Two Thousand Miles Below, which... Read More

Phalanxes of Atlans: A well-paired yet unconvincing double feature

Phalanxes of Atlans by F. Van Wyck Mason

A little while ago. I had some words to say about Capt. S.P. Meek’s 1930 novel The Drums of Tapajos, in which a band of American explorers discovers a lost civilization in the jungle wilderness of Brazil, comprised of the cultured and scientifically advanced remnants of the 10 Lost Tribes and Troy, uneasily coexisting with the barbaric remnants of Atlantis. The book was done in by a lack of convincing detail and exciting set pieces, as I reported. Well, now I am here to tell you of my most recent read, another offering from Armchair Fiction’s Lost World/Lost Race series; a book that suffers from one of the same problems that plague The Drums of Tapajos, even though its story line has been inverted. In this c... Read More

The Drums of Tapajos: A middling lost-world adventure

The Drums of Tapajos by S. P. Meek

As you may have noticed, over the past six months I have been dipping into Armchair Fiction’s current Lost World/Lost Race series of 24 novels, and with mixed results. One thing I have observed is that the best of this bunch — such as Frank Aubrey’s The King of the Dead (1903), Rex Stout’s Under the Andes (1914), John Taine’s The Purple Sapphire (1924) and Read More

The World of the Giant Ants: Bugging out

The World of the Giant Ants by A. Hyatt Verrill

In two novels that I recently read, Ralph Milne Farley’s The Radio Man (1924) and its sequel, The Radio Beasts (1925), engineer Myles Cabot accidentally transports himself to Venus and discovers a society of enormous and intelligent ants, the so-called Formians. But, it would seem, if a certain book of 1928 is to be believed, Cabot did not have to leave planet Earth to discover such gigantic and civilized creatures. The book in question is The World of the Giant Ants, which initially appeared in the p... Read More

The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy: A very fine collection

The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy by Francis Stevens

Up until recently, Minneapolis-born author Francis Stevens had been a very solid 3 for 3 with this reader. Her first novel, 1918’s The Citadel of Fear, had proved to be a mindblower, dealing as it did with the lost city of Tlapallan, nightmarish creatures, and battling Aztec gods. Her second novel, 1919’s The Heads of Cerberus, was a dystopian affair set in a totalitarian Philadelphia and is one of the first sci-fi offerings to feature a parallel time track. And in Stevens’ fourth novel, 1920’s Read More

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell: How do you say “fun stuff” in Japanese?

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell directed by Hajime Sato

On the first day of August 1968, Toho Studios in Japan released a film that would go on to be embraced by generations of monster-movie lovers around the world. That film was Destroy All Monsters, and was of particular interest to "kaiju-eiga" fans around the world by dint of the fact that it featured no fewer than 11 famous creatures in one mad monster mash-up, including Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah. Destroy All Monsters has today been accorded the Criterion DVD treatment, a recognized imprimatur of quality. But less than two weeks later, on August 14th, 1968, another Japanese film would be released that — despite the fact that it is more serious and more artfully produced than the Toho movie — has seemingly sunk into relative obscurity, even though it, too, has recently been given the Criterion ... Read More

The King of Elfland’s Daughter: Haunting and Lyrical

Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

After reading about Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter I went in search of it and found it at my university library. Reading it was quite a different experience for me, but people who aren't prepared for the style of writing like I was might be disappointed, confused or scorning of the slow, dream-like pace, archetype characters and poetical language. This might be especially true of fans of typical fantasy genre books (authors such as David Eddings or Terry Brooks) where a fantasy universe is deemed to be good only if it has a solid backing and an exhaustive array of facts and figures to add realism to the stories. Lord Dunsa... Read More

The Uninvited: Book vs. film

The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle

Although 1944’s The Uninvited has long been one of this viewer’s favorite spooky movies of that great filmmaking decade, it wasn’t until fairly recently that I learned of the special place it holds in cinema history. The film, apparently, was the very first Hollywood product to treat ghosts seriously. Here, at last, the specters on display were not hoaxes, not fakes, and not played for laughs. Rather, they were completely legit; supernatural survivors with unfinished business here on the material plane. Featuring first-rate acting by a cast of pros, impressive direction by Lewis Allen in his first feature-length film, a theme song that would go on to become a classic, remarkable (for its time) special FX, and stunning, noirish and Oscar-nominated cinematography by the great Charles Lang, the picture is a very solid entertainment, indeed, if perhaps a tad tame for today’s horror buffs … especia... Read More

Uncanny Stories: Not withholding affection

Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair

This is not the first time that I am going to say some nice things about London-based publisher Wordsworth Editions, and, more particularly, its Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural division, which, over the years, has brought forth dozens of reasonably priced books by many well-known writers, as well as many lesser-knowns. Previously, I have written here of two Wordsworth volumes by some (to me) known authors, Ambrose Bierce (Terror By Night – Classic Ghost & Horror Stories) and Robert E. Howard ( Read More

Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer: 8 marvelous tales featuring an Edwardian ghost buster

Aylmer Vance: Ghost-Seer by Alice & Claude Askew

As I have said elsewhere, this reader has long been a sucker for the Victorian/Edwardian ghost hunter. Previously, I had enjoyed the exploits of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence — who had tackled, in the author’s five-story collection of 1908, a haunted house, a French town peopled by shape shifters, an Egyptian fire elemental, devil worship, and a nontraditional werewolf — and William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnacki, who had gone up against, in the six-story collection of 1913 that was expanded to nine stories 35 years later, haunted abodes, a ghostly horse, weird noises, spectral daggers and maggots, a haunted ship, and a soul-sucking swine mon... Read More

The Moon Terror: A wonderfully pulpish double feature

The Moon Terror by A.G. Birch

During my first, recent visit to London, besides doing all the typical touristy things, I also happened to visit several of the very fine bookstores that the great city currently offers. The used-book stores on Charing Cross Road were especially interesting to me, but I also stopped in at Forbidden Planet (so much better than the Forbidden Planet store here in NYC), the mammoth independent bookstore called Foyles, and, of course, the Waterstones on Piccadilly. It was at this gigantic bookstore, supposedly the largest in Europe, where I found the volume in question, The Moon Terror, by A.G. Birch. It was not a hard sell for me; as soon as I read that this short novel originally appeared in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, I purchased it on the spot. As it turns out, this novel made its debut in the May and June 1923 issues of “The Unique Magazine”; th... Read More

The Monster and the Girl: A flabbergasting mix of film genres

Happy Halloween!

The Monster and the Girl directed by Stuart Heisler

I suppose that I owe director John Landis a huge debt of thanks, as he was the one who first introduced me to the movie in question, The Monster and the Girl ... a film that I may very well have never heard of, without his knowledgeable guidance. As the TCM guest programmer one evening recently, Landis — himself the director of one of the truly great modern-day horror films, An American Werewolf in London — told host Ben Mankiewicz that he had selected the 1941 film because he found it to be totally unique, and indeed, a viewing of the picture will surely leave the viewer thinking that this highly effective little "B picture" really is a sui generis experience. Conflating as it does the gangster film, the courtroom drama, and the mad scientist movie, The Monster and the Girl manages to surprise at every turn, and as Mankiewicz noted, the ac... Read More

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton: A masterful collection of chillers

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

Perhaps because she is one of the most esteemed writers of the 20th century, Edith Wharton may not be immediately associated with the genre of horror. Today, she is probably best remembered for her novels The House of Mirth (1905) and The Age of Innocence (1920), which latter book copped her the Pulitzer Prize, as well as for her classic novella from 1911, Ethan Frome, a staple reading assignment for all English majors. In novel after novel, Wharton examined the members of the upper crust in turn-of-the-century NYC, a society and a town that she knew well by experience. But as she would reveal in her autobiography A Backward Glance, the author was a big fan of the ghost story as well, a shivery pot in which she would ultimately dip her quill on any number of occasions. After ... Read More

Monster of Venice: Alla Salute!

Monster of Venice directed by Dino Tavella

Pop quiz: Can you name a film in which a serial killer stalks the byways and canals of Venice? If your answer is Nicolas Roeg's 1973 film Don't Look Now, a glass of Chianti for you! If you came up with the more obscure film Who Saw Her Die?, a giallo picture directed by Aldo Lado in 1972, well, you've just earned yourself two glasses of Marchesi Antinori! And if your response was the extremely obscure Monster of Venice, a B&W thriller directed by Dino Tavella in 1965, well, YOU deserve an entire bottle of Nero d'Avola! In this one, the titular madman's MO is to put on scuba gear and either abduct his teenage female prey right off their gondolas or as they're walking near the canals. When he isn't busy actually snatching his pretties, he can be found in his underground catacomb lair, injecting his latest catch with embalming fluid (the film's American title IS The Embalmer... Read More

Tomb of Torture: Anna-phylactic shock

Tomb of Torture directed by Antonio Boccaci

1963 was a very good year for the Italian horror film. In February, cinematographer-turned-director Mario Bava started the giallo ball rolling with the release of his seminal The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and he would follow up that August with back-to-back releases of two of his most beloved films, Black Sabbath and The Whip and the Body. Riccardo Freda's The Ghost, starring Barbara Steele, came out in late March, Alberto de Martino's The Blancheville Monster in June, and Antonio Margheriti's Horror Castle, featuring Christopher Lee, also in August. Lost in the shuffle, apparently, was the late March release of Tomb of Torture, a little-known horror outing that is certainly a lesser affair than those others, but yet one that has much to offer for the modern-day fan of Gothic Eurohorror. Originally released with the title Read More

The Hanging Woman: Igor vs. Gotho

The Hanging Woman directed by Jose Luis Merino

Paul Naschy, the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain," was apparently very proud of the work he turned in for Jose Luis Merino's 1973 cult favorite The Hanging Woman. In an interview taped for the Troma DVD release, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer in 2009, Naschy revealed that he initially turned the part down, only accepting after Merino allowed him to add some "dimensionality" to the small role of Igor, a grave digger who is murdered shortly after the film's midpoint. Naschy rewrote the part, making Igor a necrophilic grave digger (has there EVER been a "normal" character named Igor in the history of the horror film?) who still has a maximum of a dozen lines in the picture. Rather, The Hanging Woman centers around the character of Serge Chekhov (an unappealing performance by Stelvio Rosi), who comes to what I inferred to be an early 20th century Alpine village (although the IMDb say... Read More

Revolt of the Zombies: Dead on arrival

Revolt of the Zombies directed by Victor Halperin

Released in July 1932, White Zombie, the original zombie picture, starred Bela Lugosi, one year after his Dracula success on screen, and was a moderate box office success. Hoping for another profitable and artistic coup, its filmmakers tried their hand at another zombie outing four years later, with infinitely fewer rewards, both artistically and financially. Revolt of the Zombies, released in June '36, was created by many members of the team responsible for the previous film — including director Victor Halperin, his brother/producer Edward Halperin, and composer Hugo Riesenfeld — but sadly, lightning failed to strike twice, and the film, as it turns out, is hardly as memorable as the original picture, and is actually something of a labor to sit through.

As in White Zombie, the picture transpires in an exotic locale; Haiti for the former, Cambodia fo... Read More

The Blancheville Monster: “Everything seems morose and deathlike…”

The Blancheville Monster directed by Alberto de Martino

The shadow cast by Mario Bava's seminal 1960 film Black Sunday was indeed a long one on the Italian horror industry. Three years later, in Alberto de Martino's The Blancheville Monster, we find its cousin, a Gothic-tinged, B&W horror outing with a familiar tone but nowhere near as much artful impact.

In the film, beautiful Emily de Blancheville (Ombrella Colli) returns to her ancestral castle, in Brittany in the year 1884, after finishing her years in college. She is accompanied by her American school friend Alice (Iran Eory) and Alice's brother John (hunky Vanni Materassi), her soon-to-be fiancé. But it is a tough homecoming for Emily, as it turns out. Her brother Rodrigue (Gerard Tichy) is now in charge, following their father's disfiguring injuries in a recent abbey fire; two new presences in the castle, Dr. Lerouge (Leo Anchoriz) and the housekeeper, Miss E... Read More

The Wild, Wild Planet: Colorato e fantasioso

The Wild, Wild Planet directed by Antonio Margheriti

The mid-1960s was a very interesting time for Italian sci-fi on the big screen. In September '65, future giallo legend Mario Bava gave the world the artfully done Planet of the Vampires, a film whose set design, it has been suggested, very possibly influenced the look of the movie Alien over a decade later. In December '65, director Elio Petri delivered the film that is, for this viewer, the best of the Italian sci-fi bunch to this date, The 10th Victim, based on the short story "Seventh Victim" by Robert Sheckley. Starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress, the film remains a knockout more than half a century later. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, director Antonio Margheriti, once again working under his alias of Anthony Dawson, was working on a string of relatively low-budget fi... Read More

Bloodsuckers: When Peter Met Patrick

Bloodsuckers directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

Perhaps I should state at the outset that my only reason for renting out the 1970 British film Bloodsuckers is that it stars two of my very favorite English actors, Peter Cushing and The Avengers's Patrick Macnee, appearing in a theatrical picture together for the first and only time. Well, I suppose that helps to explain my double disappointment with this film, a horror outing without a single shiver, and moreover, one in which Cushing and Macnee share not a single scene together. A fairly incomprehensible, ineptly put-together goulash of a film, Bloodsuckers (aka Doctors Wear Scarlet and the title under which I saw it in its current Something Weird DVD presentation, Freedom Seeker, as well as Incense for the Damned) turns out to be som... Read More

The Lost Continent: Serendipity

The Lost Continent directed by Michael Carreras

There is a word, "serendipity," that Webster's defines as "an instance of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for," and I suppose that this would be the precise word to describe my experience with the 1968 film The Lost Continent. I had set my DVR at home to record a film that I thought to be the old Cesar Romero film from 1951, Lost Continent, a childhood favorite, and wound up getting this one instead. I was very disappointed when I discovered my error, but decided not to immediately delete what I'd recorded, and instead kept it in digital storage for a year or so. But when I finally sat down to watch The Lost Continent the other night, what a nice surprise it turned out to be! And no wonder! The film is a product of the always reliable Hammer Studios, featuring fine acting support, pleasing if cheezy special effects, and an action-packed story line. Hammer initiall... Read More

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