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....

All Flesh Is Grass: Flower power

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All Flesh Is Grass by Clifford D. Simak

In the 1966 3-D movie The Bubble, later rereleased as Fantastic Invasion of Planet Earth, an impenetrable and transparent dome of unknown origin encases a small American town, trapping its residents inside. Forty-three years later, in Stephen King’s doorstop best seller of 2009, Under the Dome, another American town, Chester’s Mill, is similarly and mysteriously ensnared. Beating both these projects to the punch, however, and a possible inspiration for both of them, was Clifford D. Simak’s 10th novel, All Flesh Is Grass. The book... Read More

They Walked Like Men: Simak bowls a strike

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They Walked Like Men by Clifford D. Simak

In the history of the science fiction novel, there have been any number of depictions of invaders from other worlds trying to conquer good ol’ Mother Earth, be it with brute force and death rays (as in H.G. Wells’ seminal novel of 1898, The War of the Worlds) or more insidiously (as in Jack Finney’s 1955 masterpiece of paranoia, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). But nowhere, I suspect, has the reader ever been presented with a takeover attempt akin to the one in Read More

Time Is the Simplest Thing: Fast-paced and imaginative, with an important message

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Time Is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak

Written s(i)mack-dab in the middle of the American Civil Rights Movement, Clifford D. Simak’s Time Is the Simplest Thing utilizes the tools of science fiction to make poignant comments on the issues of the day. The novel, the author’s sixth out of an eventual 29, was initially serialized in the May - July 1961 issues of Analog magazine with the equally appropriate title The Fisherman, and went on to be nominated for that year’s Hugo Award. (It lost, to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In a Strange Land Read More

Dr. Futurity: An underrated Dick outing

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Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

As I mentioned in my review of Philip K. Dick’s 1960 novel Vulcan’s Hammer, by 1959, the future Hugo winner was feeling decidedly disenchanted with science fiction in general, despite having had published some 85 short stories and half a dozen novels in that genre. The author, it seems, was still pinning his hopes on becoming a more “respectable,” mainstream writer, and had indeed already completed nine such novels: Return to Lilliput, Pilgrim on the Hill and A Time for George Stavros are considered lost, probably never to see the light of day, whereas Gather Yoursel... Read More

Vulcan’s Hammer: Minor Dick, but still very entertaining

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Vulcan’s Hammer by Philip K. Dick

According to Philip K. Dick authority Lawrence Sutin, in his well-researched biography Divine Invasions, by 1959, although Dick had already had some 85 short stories as well as half a dozen novels published, his interest in creating more sci-fi had reached a low point. The future Hugo winner was at this point hoping to become more of a mainstream author, having by this time already written nine such novels, none of which had been published … yet. Still, with bills to pay, a wife (his third of an eventual five) to support, and his first child on the way, economic necessities did, it seem, perforce drive him back, unenthusiastically, to the sci-fi realm. Tw... Read More

Eye in the Sky: Very early PKD

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.



Eye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

Jack Hamilton has just lost his job as an engineer for a government defense contractor because his wife Marsha is a suspected communist sympathizer. Having nothing better to do for the afternoon, he accompanies Marsha to the viewing of a new linear accelerator. An accident at the accelerator beams the Hamiltons and six other unsuspecting citizens into a parallel universe that at first appears to be their world but soon starts to evince subtle differences that become more and more obvious as time goes on. There is some sort of “corny Arab religion” at work — God is all justice and no mercy so, for example, telling a lie brings down an immediate curse such as a bee sting.

There are miracles here that can be taken advantage of, such as a cigarette machine that Jack, a darn ... Read More

Sandy’s 2016 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 143 films that I saw in 2016, only four were new, and 139 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 2016 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 2016. The films are listed in the order that I saw them...

TOP 10 BEST:



1) Our Relations (1936): One of Laurel & Hardy's most hilarious films, in which the boys meet their long-los... Read More

Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror: Another wonderful collection from “The Unique Magazine”

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Weird Tales: Seven Decades of Terror edited by John Betancourt & Robert Weinberg

This is the seventh anthology that I have reviewed that has been drawn from the pages of Weird Tales, one of the most famous pulp magazines in publishing history. Each of the previous collections had employed its own modus operandi in presenting its gathered stories. Weird Tales (1964) and Worlds of Weird (1965) had been slim paperbacks featuring previously uncollected stories. The Best of Weird Tales: 1923 (1997) had spotlighted tales solely from WT’s very first year. Weird Tales: A Selection In Facsimile (1990) was a generous hardcover offering photocopied pages from the original magazine. Read More

Heu-Heu, or The Monster: Another great Quatermain tale

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Heu-Heu, or The Monster by H. Rider Haggard

Heu-Heu, or The Monster is one of the 14 novels that the great H. Rider Haggard wrote that deals with the life of Allan Quatermain, an English hunter in South Africa. This is a stand-alone novel. Unlike the first two novels in the series, King Solomon's Mines and its sequel, Allan Quatermain; the so-called Zulu trilogy (Marie, Child of Storm and Finished); and the loosely linked series of books that I like to call the Taduki quartet (Allan and the Holy Flower, Read More

Mythago Wood: Dreamy and strange

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

After his post-WWII convalescence in France, Steven Huxley is returning to his family's home on the edge of Ryhope Wood, a patch of ancient forest, in Britain. For as long as Steven remembers, his father, who recently died, had been so obsessed with the forest that it destroyed their family.

Upon returning home, Steven finds that his brother Christian is quickly following in their father's footsteps — both figuratively and literally — for he has also discovered that this is no ordinary forest! It resists intrusion from Outsiders, time and distance are skewed there (so it is much larger inside than the 6 miles it covers in modern Britain should allow, and time seems to expand), and strange energy fields interact with human minds to create mythagos — the idealized forms of ancient mythic... Read More

Night Train Murders: Stunning horror, and the darkest Christmas movie ever made

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Night Train Murders directed by Aldo Lado

Since watching Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972) more than 30 years ago, I have abided by my promise to never see this film again, it being truly one of the most repugnant that I've ever sat through. And yet, I didn't as much mind Aldo Lado's homage/remake/pastiche of three years later, Night Train Murders. As in the original, the film deals with the brutal rape and murder (inadvertent, in the Italian picture) of a pair of college girls by a trio of brutish thugs (in the latter film, one of the trio is an upper-class woman with sexually depraved tendencies) and the retribution taken on them by the father of one of the girls.

Lado's film starts out with a lighthearted, almost comical tone, which shades gradually into one of unease and finally sickening horror. His pictu... Read More

The Chessmen of Mars: Fun and lively

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Editor's note: This title can be purchased free on Kindle.

The Chessmen of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs' fifth JOHN CARTER novel out of eleven, first appeared in serial form in the magazine Argosy All Story Weekly from February to April 1922. It is easily the best of the Carter lot to this point; the most detailed, the most imaginative, and the best written. Carter himself only appears at the beginning and end of the tale. Instead, our action heroes are his daughter, Tara, who gets lost in a rare Barsoomian storm while joyriding in her flier and blown halfway across the surface of the planet, and the Gatholian jed Gahan, who goes in search of her.

In the first half of this novel, Tara and Gaha... Read More

Mr. Meeson’s Will: Half adventure novel, half legal thriller

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Mr. Meeson’s Will by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Mr. Meeson’s Will is free in Kindle format

Mr. Meeson’s Will was first printed in book form in October 1888, after having first appeared earlier that year in The Illustrated London News. It was H. Rider Haggard’s 11th novel (out of 58), and one in which his experiences as both a writer and aspiring lawyer were given vent. The novel is at once a tale of adventure, a critique of the publishing industry in late 19th century England, and a satire on the English legal system.

In the book’s first half, Augusta Smithers — our heroine and a successful author, who has unwittingly entered into an unfair contract with Meeson’s pub... Read More

A Wrinkle in the Skin: A gritty, post-apocalyptic winner

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A Wrinkle in the Skin by John Christopher

Although most of us probably deem earthquakes to be relatively infrequent phenomena, the truth is that, as of this writing in late November, almost 150 such seismic events, ranging from relatively minor to completely devastating, have transpired somewhere in the world in 2016 alone. That’s an average of one earthquake every two or three days! But although these events are not only, uh, earth-shattering for those in the areas directly affected, few would deem them a possible concern for long-term, apocalyptic scenarios, as might be the case with, say, an asteroid collision ... except, that is, British author John Christopher, in his 1965 novel A Wrinkle in the Skin. Christopher, who was born in Lancashire in 1922, had already pleased this rea... Read More

Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories: Exquisite, gruesome

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Haunted Castles by Ray Russell

Thanks to the ongoing Penguin Classics series, this reader was finally able to purchase and enjoy Chicago-born author Ray Russell’s classic novel of modern-day exorcism, The Case Against Satan (1962), which the publisher rereleased in late 2015. Now, Penguin Classics has followed up by giving the world a beautiful new edition of the 1985 Russell anthology entitled Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories, which consists of three novellas and four shorter pieces ... and this new edition comes complete with an impressively erudite introduction by famed Mexican director Read More

Deep Red: Gulp down some deep-red Chianti and prepare to be stunned

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Deep Red directed by Dario Argento

Following his so-called Animal Trilogy — 1970’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage and 1971's The Cat O'Nine Tails and Four Flies on Gray Velvet — and immediately before creating what turned out to be his most popular picture as of this date, 1977's Suspiria, Italian director Dario Argento released, in March 1975, one of his most critically acclaimed films, Deep Red (or, as it is more sonorously known in Italian, Profondo Rosso). All these decades later, the picture is still considered, by fans and critics alike, to not only be one of the most impressive in Argento's still-growing oeuvre, but one of the finest gialli ever made; the excellent reference book DVD Delirium even goes so far as to call it "one of the highlights of Italian cinema as a whole." And now that I have finally caught up with the fil... Read More

The Woman in Black: A surprisingly great spine tingler

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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 Susan ... Read More

Horrors of Malformed Men: Butoh on the Noto

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Horrors of Malformed Men directed by Teruo Ishii

Based on the 1926 novel The Strange Tale of Panorama Island by Edogawa Rampo — the so-called Edgar Allan Poe of Japan — as well as at least two Rampo short stories, "The Human Chair" (1925) and "The Walker in the Attic" (also 1925), and also conflating Rampo's most famous detective character, Kogoro Akechi, the 1969 film Horrors of Malformed Men obviously has a lot of ground to cover. The picture was co-written by its director, genre favorite Teruo Ishii, an old fan of Rampo's work in boys' detective magazines in the 1920s, and so shocked and scandalized viewers upon its initial release that it has been a sort of taboo product ever since; indeed, the film has never been made available for home viewing in Japan! I suppose that given its central theme of willful and calculated human mutations, coming a scant 25 years after the atomic ... Read More

The Skin I Live In: Holy Toledo!

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The Skin I Live In directed by Pedro Almodovar

I am probably not the best person to comment on a film by the hugely popular Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Of the man's 20 or so films to date, I had only seen precisely one — his seventh, 1988's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and that many years ago. But that film had struck me as being wildly funny and entertaining, I recall, so it was with great enthusiasm that I popped Almodovar's 18th offering, The Skin I Live In, into my DVD player the other night. Originally presented in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011 under its Spanish appellation La Piel Que Habito, the picture, as it turns out, is just remarkable; one of those films that makes you want to start checking out/checking off all the other items in its creator's oeuvre. Very much a modern-day horror classic, the film takes a healthy dose of Alfred... Read More

Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism: Dor jam

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Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism directed by Harald Reinl

I have written elsewhere about my longtime love for redheaded Italian actress Lucianna Paluzzi, who captivated this viewer back in 1965 by dint of her portrayal of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent Fiona Volpe in the James Bond outing Thunderball. Two years later, another redheaded S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent also caught my fancy: Helga Brandt, Agent No. 11, in the Bond blowout You Only Live Twice. Brought to indelible life by German actress Karin Dor, she remains, 45 years later, one of the sexiest of the Bond "bad girls," and her death in archvillain Blofeld's piranha pool is a 007 classic. Well, despite admiring Dor's performance in this film dozens of times over the years, I have been hard pressed to see her in anything else, other than Alfred Hitchcock's 1969 film Topaz, in which she plays Juanita de Cordoba, the widow of a Cuban revolutionary ... and a ... Read More

Blood Is the Color of Night: Filipino Sumisipsip Sa Leeg

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The Blood Drinkers (Blood Is the Color of Night) directed by Gerardo de Leon

Though he had started his career as a medical doctor, Gerardo de Leon went on to become not only a movie director, but the most awarded director in the history of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (seven awards, in all). He helmed film projects in many different genres, but this viewer had, until recently, only been familiar with three of his pictures, all in the horror category. His 1959 effort Terror Is a Man, generally cited as being the first Filipino horror film, was an excellently done reworking of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau, while the two films he directed with Eddie Romero in 1968, Read More

Zinda Laash (The Living Corpse): Lahore horror

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Zinda Laash  (aka The Living Corpse aka Dracula in Pakistan) directed by Khwaja Sarfraz

For proof positive that the fearsome vampire scourge continues into modern times and is truly international in scope, one need look no further than the 1967 Pakistani film Zinda Laash, otherwise known as The Living Corpse (and, less imaginatively, Dracula in Pakistan). Infamous for having received the first "X" rating for a Lollywood film (and no, that is NOT a typo; apparently, that is the accepted name for the Lahore film industry), as well as for giving one poor woman a heart attack (!) during an early screening, the film is nevertheless little known today, a state of affairs that this great-looking DVD from Mondo Macabro will hopefully correct. Though based on Bram Stoker's Dracula, ... Read More

The Shores of Space: Matheson X 13

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The Shores of Space by Richard Matheson

The four novels that I had previously read by New Jersey-born Richard Matheson  — namely, 1954’s I Am Legend, 1956’s The Shrinking Man, 1958’s A Stir of Echoes and 1971’s Hell House — all demonstrated to this reader what a sure hand the late author had in the fields of science fiction, fantasy and Read More

Beyond the Darkness: Sado-Massaccesim

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Beyond the Darkness directed by Aristide Massaccesi (Joe D'Amato)

Hooo, boy, is this a sick one! Jaded fans of Euro horror, lovers of the outrageous, and gorehounds in general might find their mouths opening in awe and their eyes widening in shock as they get deeper into the Italian cult item Beyond the Darkness (1979). Conflating as it does elements of voodoo, necrophilia and deep, deep psychosis, and mixing in some truly stomach-churning blood-and-guts scenes along with multiple bizarre sequences, the film is one guaranteed to impress the viewer — one way or the other. The even better news here is that the film has been very well put together by a group of genuine pros. Despite the repugnant visuals and decidedly outré subject matter, this IS a quality film, and hardly the shlock experience you might be expecting. I generally try not to include spoilers in these mini-reviews, but feel I must do so here, as... Read More

Frankenstein 1970: “Torch, scorch, unforch…”

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Frankenstein 1970 directed by Howard W. Koch

Horror icon Boris Karloff, during the mid-1950s, significantly slowed down his prodigious output of the '30s and '40s. After 1953, fans would have to wait a full four years before his next horror picture, Voodoo Island, was released, and that one is generally acknowledged as one of Boris' few stinkers. The British actor seemed to rebound a bit in 1958, however, with the releases of Frankenstein 1970 — a shlocky yet entertaining picture — and the very-well-done British film Grip of the Strangler. Frankenstein 1970 was the fifth Frankenstein film that Karloff had participated in, following the classic original in 1931, the eternal glory that is 1935's Bride of Frankenstein, 1939's excellent Son of Frankenstein and 1944's House of Frankenstein, but — no surprise — the film in question is any... Read More

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