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....

Tomorrow’s Yesterday: Unearthing a true obscurity

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Tomorrow’s Yesterday  by A.M. Stanley

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb in making the following sweeping statements about a certain book that I just read, A.M. Stanley’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday: You have never heard of this book, or of its author. You’ve never read anything about the book, either in print or online. This, my friends, is a lost book; one that, since its initial publication in 1949, has plummeted stone-like to the bottom of the literary pool. Not just a book that is currently out of print but is easily researchable ― there are tens of thousands of those ― but rather, a book for which virtually no information is to be had at all. Even the usually infallible Internet Speculative Fiction Database offers no help when it comes to this volume, and indeed, I do believe that this review here may well constitute the only substan... Read More

Armageddon 2419 A.D.: Passing the buck

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Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan

I would imagine, at this point, that you have previously heard of the fictional character named Buck Rogers. And indeed, dating from his initial comic strip appearance in January 1929, and proceeding on to radio shows (starting in 1932, Buck Rogers was radio’s very first sci-fi hero), a 12-part film serial (starring the former Olympic swimming medalist Buster Crabbe), several TV adaptations, video games, and comics, the character has been fairly ubiquitous for almost 90 years now. To be sure, Buck’s comic strip was so very popular in the early ‘30s that it spawned, in January 1934, a rival sci-fi strip starring Flash Gordon, a character that Crabbe would also portray in three fondly remembered film serials.

But unlike Flash, Buck had, as his actual provenance, a literary background. That predecessor, you see, was one Anthony Rogers, who ... Read More

The Black Flame: Looooooooong live the princess!

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The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Although Kentucky-born sci-fi author Stanley G. Weinbaum is today considered a seminal writer in his chosen field, his actual career was, sadly, an exceedingly brief one. After making a huge splash with his short story “A Martian Odyssey,” featuring the truly alien, ostrichlike Tweel, in the July ’34 issue of Wonder Stories, Weinbaum shifted into high gear, creating some two dozen short pieces and three novels before succumbing to cancer in December ’35, at the age of 33. His entire career, thus, spanned a mere 18 months. I had previously enjoyed The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum... Read More

Golden Blood: Durand of Arabia

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Golden Blood by Jack Williamson

I’d like to tell you about a terrific book that I have just finished reading. In it, a 2,000-year-old Arabian woman, living her immortal existence in the heart of an extinct volcano after being endowed by a mysterious force of nature, waits patiently for the reincarnation of her dead lover to reappear to her. “Hold on,” I can almost hear you saying. “I know that book … that’s She!” And if that is indeed your reaction, a gold star for you, my friend, for being familiar with one of the most classic, and indeed seminal, works of fantasy literature of the past 150 years. But no, it is not to H. Rider Haggard’s 1886 classic that I refer to here, but rather to a work that came out almost a full half cen... Read More

When the Birds Fly South: Urge for going

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When the Birds Fly South by Stanton A. Coblentz

Never let it be said that you can’t learn anything from Facebook! It was on the Vintage Paperback and Pulp Forum there, for example, that this reader recently discovered his newest favorite author. Several of my very knowledgeable fellow members on that page happened to be discussing the merits of a writer who I had previously never even heard of before; a man with the curious name Stanton A. Coblentz. Very much intrigued, I later did a little nosing about, and managed to lay my hands on Coblentz’ highly regarded When the Birds Fly South. And I am so glad that I did. This novel, as the author revealed later, was his very favorite of all his many sci-fi/fantasy works. It was, appropriately enough, originally released in 1945 as a Wings Press hardcover (“wings,” birds, and flight ar... Read More

The Best of Richard Matheson: Maybe not “the best,” but still plenty good

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The Best of Richard Matheson by Richard Matheson

Almost precisely two years ago, I had some words to say about a then-new anthology that had been released by Penguin Classics: Perchance to Dream, a 300+-page collection of short stories by the author Charles Beaumont. Flash forward two years, and I am now here to tell you of a 2017 Penguin release that almost serves as a companion volume to that earlier book: The Best of Richard Matheson, a generous, 400+-page whopper that should come as a welcome treat for fans of the late, great author. I say “companion volume” for several reasons. The authors w... Read More

Sandy’s 2017 Film Year in Review

Anyone who knows me well could tell you that I don't see a lot of new films. As a matter of fact, of the 116 films that I saw in 2017, only 7 were new, and 109 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2017 was eligible for either list. If the film made me laugh, or think, or tear up, or sit suspensefully on the edge of my seat, or amazed me with something that I had not seen before, it had a good shot at being considered. On the other hand, for me, boredom is the worst thing that any film can be guilty of; I don't care if a film is cheaply made, but please do not torture me with tedium. Anyway, with no further ado, my Top 10 Best and Worst Lists of 2017. The films are listed in the order that I saw them...


1) THE RACK (1956): I watched this one because it happens to feature my main gal, Anne Francis, in a supporting role, but as... Read More

Between Two Worlds: See it before your own ship sets sail

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Between Two Worlds directed by Edward A. Blatt

Featuring a raft of experienced Warner Brothers lead and character actors as well as one up-and-coming future starlet, 1944's Between Two Worlds reveals itself to be a pleasing supernatural fantasy, indeed, and one that should hold up very well for modern audiences, now almost 75 years since its release. The film was based on the 1923 play Outward Bound by British playwright Sutton Vane, which had been adapted to film once before, as an early-sound vehicle for Leslie Howard, under that original title, in 1930. I have not seen that first version — it does not seem to be screened very often — but can say that the remake is a most interesting offering, with many eerie touches and some wonderful thesping by one and all.

In the film, a disparate group is shown about to board an ocean liner in London, bound for New York. But just as the group ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Read More

Sign of the Labrys: Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered

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Sign of the Labrys by Margaret St. Clair

A pleasingly unique — indeed, possibly sui generis — combination of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and (of all things) Wiccan magic and craft, Sign of the Labrys initially appeared in 1963, as a Corgi paperback. Its author, Kansas-born Margaret St. Clair, was 52 at the time and had been writing short stories (well over 100 of them) since the late ‘40s. Sign of the Labrys was her fourth novel out of an eventual eight. And lest you think that the novel’s Wiccan elements were merely a passing fancy of its author, let me add here that St. Clair and her husband were indeed inducted into the Wiccan craft three years after this novel’s publication, when Margaret would adopt the Wiccan name Froniga.

Out of print in English since the year of its release, St. Clair’s truly bizarre nove... Read More

Dark Melody of Madness: The Supernatural Novellas of Cornell Woolrich

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Dark Melodies of Madness: The Supernatural Novellas of Cornell Woolrich by Cornell Woolrich

Because New York City-born author Cornell Woolrich so excelled at tales of suspense, crime, murder and noirish mayhem, there might be some who find it hard to believe that he could also excel in the arena of horror. But those who have read Woolrich’s truly frightening novel of 1945, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, which combines the occult, clairvoyance, death and predestination into one tasty chiller, already know how capable he could be in that field. And if any further proof were ever needed to bolster the argument, we now have a beautiful new collection from the fine folks at Centipede Press — Dark ... Read More

The Night of the Long Knives: Totally absorbing

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Night of the Long Knives by Fritz Leiber

Free on Kindle.

Murder, as you must know by now, I can understand and sympathize with deeply. But war? No.

After a nuclear holocaust, America is unrecognizable. There are a few cities left on the coasts, but most of America is now the Deathlands, where radioactive dust hazes the skies and radiation-scarred survivors try to stay alive another day. Besides devastating the land, the catastrophe has somehow warped the minds of the few remaining citizens of the Deathlands; they have all turned into murderers. They can’t help it — it’s a drive that can only be released by killing someone. Even when they band together for companionship, it always ends up in a bloodbath.

Ray ha... Read More

Night Has a Thousand Eyes: Pretty horrifying, after all

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Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich

On the cover of my Dell paperback edition of Night Has a Thousand Eyes (with a cover price of 25 cents), the author is listed as William Irish, with an asterisk next to the name. At the bottom of the cover, next to the footnote asterisk, is another name: George Hopley. This should not fool any prospective readers, though. Both names were pseudonyms of Cornell Woolrich, the author whom Isaac Asimov called "THE Master of Suspense"; whom his biographer, Francis Nevins, Jr., called "the Edgar Allan Poe of the 20th century" (hey, wait a minute ... I thought that H.P. Lovecraft was considered the Edgar... Read More

The Return: Mystifying and challenging, but not without its rewards

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The Return by Walter de la Mare

In Prague-born author Franz Kafka’s 1915 novella The Metamorphosis, a man named Gregor Samsa wakes up one morning and discovers that he has somehow been transformed into a cockroach. But this, it seems, was not the first time that a human being had undergone a baffling overnight transformation. I give you, for example, British author Walter de la Mare’s novel The Return, which was initially published in 1910, when the author was 37 and just recently retired, and which subsequently saw two revised editions, in 1922 and ’45. To tell you the truth, I’m really not sure which version of this classic tale of psychic possession I just experienced, but can say that it was in a Dover edition that came out in 1997, with a scholarly introduction by S.T. Joshi. And I can also say that my uncertainty as to wh... Read More

Dolly: Hell, oh, Dolly

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Dolly by Susan Hill

English author Susan Hill had recently been an impressive 2 for 2 with this reader. Last year, I was happy to discover that her 1983 ghost novel, The Woman in Black, is one of the scariest books that I’d read in quite some time, and just a few weeks back, her 2010 ghost novel, The Small Hand, had proved highly satisfying for me, if not quite as chilling as the earlier book. Curious as to whether Ms. Hill could possibly go 3 for 3 with yours truly, I dove into her 2012 offering, Dolly, which, like those other two, is subtitled “A Ghost Story.” So, you may reasonably ask, ... Read More

The Omen trilogy: Devilish good fun

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The Omen trilogy directed by Richard Donner, Don Taylor, Graham Baker

This viewer was a tad late in coming to the whole Omen phenomenon ... a good 30 years late, actually. But I have since eagerly made up for lost time and taken in the entire trilogy of films dealing with filmdom's favorite little Antichrist, and here, in these three short reviews, offer up some comments as to how they struck me. Consider this your one-stop shopping resource for all things Damien! And HAPPY HALLOWEEN to one and all!

The Omen: By the time I finally got around to watching it, I had a feeling that I might have been the only person in North America who had not seen the megahit The Omen. (Well, OK, maybe my Aunt Frici in the nursing home hadn't seen it yet either.) So permit me a moment or two while I "preach to the choir." Far from being just another Exorcist rip-off, The Omen is a... Read More

Devil’s Possessed: The Gilles man

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Devil’s Possessed directed by Leon Klimovsky

The real-life historical figure Gilles de Rais apparently inspired Paul Naschy — the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain" — to create two of his greatest characters. de Rais, a 15th century French knight who fought alongside Joan of Arc and later became an aspiring alchemist, Satanist and serial child killer, first prompted Naschy to come up with the necromancer/Satanist character Alaric de Marnac for his 1973 classic Horror Rises From the Tomb. Though beheaded in 1454, de Marnac (played by Naschy himself) returned to cause major-league mishegas 520 years later in the film, and even came back for an encore in 1983's Panic Beats, an even superior outing.

In 1974, though, Naschy wrote the screenplay for a more realistic look at the Gilles de Rais legend, for that year's Devil's Possessed (aka The Devil's Possessed.) Here, ... Read More

Satan’s Wife: Dirty demon daughter

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Satan’s Wife directed by Pier Carpi

Those viewers who believe Patty McCormack's Rhoda Penmark character, in the 1956 classic The Bad Seed, to be the nastiest, most diabolical little girl ever shown on film might change their mind after seeing the 1979 Italian offering Satan's Wife. This latter picture was originally released under the title Un'ombra nell'ombra, or Ring of Darkness, but for once, I prefer the American appellation, as it is both more memorable and more suitably descriptive. An engrossing though hardly essential example of Eurohorror, the film should certainly prove of interest to the jaded fan of such fare who is looking for something different.

In the film, the viewer meets a very attractive, middle-aged mother named Carlotta Rhodes. Thirteen years earlier, Carlotta and several other women had danced and participated in a Satanic ritual ... and even, s... Read More

Graveyard of Horror: Plenty of atmosphere and weirdness

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Graveyard of Horror directed by Miguel Madrid

There is a world of difference in what Spanish filmmakers could get away with before the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1975, and what they could get away with after the subsequent introduction of the infamous "S" rating (denoting sex and violence) two years later. A pair of Spanish films that this viewer recently watched has served to demonstrate these differences very clearly. The 1977 film Satan's Blood is replete with nudity (both topless and full frontal), orgies, rape sequences, beheadings and other gory carnage (as I have written elsewhere, it is a truly wild and memorable film, and I do commend it to your attention). On the other hand, the 1971 Spanish offering Graveyard of Horror (which originally appeared under the title Necrophagus and has also been released with the appellation The Butcher of Binbrook) is a much mor... Read More

Tragic Ceremony: When Luciana met Camille

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Tragic Ceremony directed by Riccardo Freda

As I have said elsewhere, my abiding love for Italian actress Luciana Paluzzi has, cinematically, led me to some fairly unusual places. From my initial enthrallment with her Fiona Volpe character in 1965's Thunderball and on to such disparate fare as the British comedy Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959), the Japanese sci-fi shlock classic The Green Slime (1968), the Jess Franco WIP flick 99 Women (1969) and the blaxploitation actioner Black Gunn (1972), I have always found that a little Luciana makes any film go down easier. My most recent confirmation of this: the 1972 Italian supernatural cult item Tragic Ceremony (or, as it was called originally, Estralto Dagli Archivi Secreti Della Polizia Di Una Capitale Europa, or From the Secret Police Files of a European Capital), in which Paluzzi's role is ... Read More

Dead Eyes of London: My first krimi

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The Dead Eyes of London directed by Alfred Vohrer

As distinct a film genre as the American film noir of the 1940s and '50s and the Italian giallo of the 1970s, the German krimi pictures that flourished throughout the 1960s are almost exclusively based on the works of one remarkably prolific author: British novelist Edgar Wallace. The creator of around 175 (!) novels of mystery, crime, and detection, Wallace and his gigantic oeuvre supplied the German film industry of the late '50s to the early '70s with a superabundance of material to draw on. Though a huge fan of noir and giallo, this viewer had never seen a krimi film until very recently, and the film in question, 1961's The Dead Eyes of London, would seem to be a nice introduction to the genre. Based on Wallace's 1924 novel The Dark Eyes of London, the picture is supposedly a remake of a 1939 British filmiz... Read More

Suicide Club: Honshu: The dessart island

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Suicide Club directed by Shion Sono

There are two types of film review that I find it particularly difficult to write. The first is for a movie that I have fallen head over heels in love with, with fear that my gushing words of praise will do little to do the picture justice. And then there is the review for a film that, despite repeated watches, I just cannot wrap my poor aching cerebrum around; in short, one that I just cannot fully understand. Shion Sono's 2001 offering, Suicide Club, is, sadly, of that latter ilk. And that's a real shame, because for the film's first 2/3 or so, I was wholly involved, slack-jawed, and keeping up very nicely, indeed. And then come those final 30 minutes or so, which, judging from some other comments that I've read, have served as a stumbling block of sorts for many other viewers besides myself…

The film opens with as memorable and horrifying a spectacle as an... Read More

The Sinful Dwarf: Eurosleaziest

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The Sinful Dwarf directed by Vidal Raski

Film buffs who are curious as to what the whole Eurosleaze genre is all about could not find a better exemplar than The Sinful Dwarf. A 1973 picture from Denmark, of all places, the film conflates soft-core porn elements, deformed characters, scenes of ultracamp, and considerable doses of drugs and depravity into one of the sleaziest confections any viewer could possibly hope for.

In this truly one-of-a-kind outing, the viewer meets Lila Lash, a drunken, scar-faced ex-entertainer (played by Clara Keller), who, with her grotesque dwarf son, Olaf (the remarkable Torben Bille), runs a boardinghouse in what we must infer is London. The Lashes' main source of income, however, comes from somewhere else. Olaf, using windup toys as an enticement (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!), lures young women back to the house, where they are knocked out, locked in ... Read More

City Of The Living Dead: “Things that will shatter your imagination…”

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City Of The Living Dead directed by Lucio Fulci

The second installment of Lucio Fulci's so-called Zombie Quartet — coming after 1979's Zombie and preceding 1981's The Beyond and The House By the Cemetery — City of the Living Dead (1980) finds the Italian director near the very top of his form, confounding his audience with borderline senseless plots and repulsing viewers with an array of awesome gross-out effects.

In this one, a priest named Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine) hangs himself, for reasons never explained, in the cemetery of small-town Dunwich, Massachusetts (an homage here to the fictional town created by the great H.P. Lovecraft; the picture would more accurately be entitled Village of the Living Dead). T... Read More

The Small Hand: I’m giving it a big hand

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The Small Hand by Susan Hill

Susan Hill’s first ghost novel, 1983’s The Woman in Black, had recently surprised this reader by being one of the scariest modern-day horror outings that I’ve run across in years. Thus, I decided to see if lightning could possibly strike twice, and picked up her more-recent The Small Hand (2010). This latter title is the fourth of Ms. Hill’s five ghost novels to date, following The Mist in the Mirror (1992) and The Man in the Picture (2007), and preceding her recent Read More

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