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....

Gray Lensman: Book 4 of one of the greatest space operas

Gray Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Although the events of Book 4 in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series, Gray Lensman, pick up mere seconds after those of its predecessor, Galactic Patrol, this latest installment actually first appeared over 1 ½ years later. Whereas Galactic Patrol had initially appeared as a six-part serial in the September 1937 - February 1938 issues of Astounding magazine, Gray Lensman had its debut as a four-part serial (even though it is a longer story than that in Book 3) in Astounding’s October 1939 - January 1940 issues, the first two issues featuring beautiful cover artwork for the serial by famed illustrato... Read More

Galactic Patrol: Book 3 of one of the greatest space operas

Galactic Patrol by E. E. “Doc” Smith

After almost 500 pages of back story … after a history of the conflict between the superraces of Arisia and Eddore that stretches back 2 billion years, and includes glimpses of Earth’s lost continent of Atlantis and the Holy Roman Empire … after at least six major space battles, explorations of any number of bizarre worlds, a look at how the Galactic Patrol was formed and how the mysterious, Arisian artifact known as the Lens was obtained by the Patrol … after campaigns against drug smugglers, dirty politicos and space pirates … after all of this and much more, E. E. “Doc” Smith’s legendary LENSMAN space opera finally begins in earnest, in Book 3 of the six-part epic, Galactic Patrol.

As I mentioned in my reviews of the first two books, Read More

First Lensman: Book 2 of one of the greatest space operas

First Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Although a fairly direct sequel to Triplanetary, which is now almost universally regarded as the opening salvo in E. E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series, Book 2, perhaps misleadingly titled First Lensman, was actually the last of the six books comprising this most famous of all Golden Age space operas to be written. As I mentioned in my review of Book 1, Smith had originally written Books 3 through 6 over the 13-year period 1934 - ’47, but then felt that something in the order of a prequel for his remarkably complex story line was needed. Thus, Triplanetary first appeared in 1948, with First Lensman eventually showing up i... Read More

Triplanetary: The opening salvo of one of the greatest space operas

Triplanetary by E.E. “Doc” Smith

In its article on the subject of “Space Opera,” my beloved Science Fiction Encyclopedia describes the genre thus: “…loosely applicable to any space adventure story, but particularly to those in which the scale of the action is extravagant…” It is as good a working definition as any, but had the authors of this scholarly tome wished to do so, they might just as easily have explained the term by showing pictures of the six book covers of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s famed LENSMAN series. Written over the 16-year period 1934 - 1950, it is the crowning creation of the man who has been called “The Father of Space Opera,” and a series that has been embraced by generations of readers. The six books that comprise the LENSMAN series have been sitting unread on my bookshelf for many years now, intimidating me by di... Read More

The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories: The successor to Robert E. Howard

The Thief of Forthe and Other Stories by Clifford Ball

If I were to ask 1,000 people what the words “Clifford Ball” meant to them, those to whom it meant anything, I have a feeling, would reply that the Clifford Ball was the first weekendlong concert bash that the jam band Phish ever held, back in August ’96, in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Fewer, perhaps, would know that the provenance for the name of that shindig was the aviation pioneer Clifford Ball, whose moniker the Phish folks thought would be a cool and punny handle for their event. But it is not of these two Clifford Balls that I would speak here, but rather of another: Clifford Ball the author, whose claim to fame today is his being the first writer to continue on in the sword-and-sorcery tradition after the suicide of Robert E. Howard in 1936. If you have not previously heard of Clifford Ball the w... Read More

The Sapphire Goddess: A very fine and long overdue collection

The Sapphire Goddess: The Fantasies of Nictzin Dyalhis by Nictzin Dyalhis

Unless you have perused the pages of the dozen or so Weird Tales anthologies that have been released over the past 50-plus years, odds are that you have not come across the name “Nictzin Dyalhis.” But during the 15-year period 1925 - 1940, Dyalhis was extraordinarily popular with the readers of that legendary pulp magazine, despite the fact that he only had eight stories published therein during that decade and a half. And of those eight, four were voted by the readers as the most popular of the issues in which they appeared, and five of them copped the front-cover illustration. This reader had previously encountered three of those tales in various anthologies, had loved them all, and was curious to read more. The only problem was, an anthology of Dyalhis’ work had never been compiled, until the fine folks at DMR released, this past summer, ... Read More

Sandy’s 2018 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 80 films that I saw in 2018 (a paltry total for me … maybe I’ve been reading too much?), only eight were new, and 72 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and 5 Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2018 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 5 Worst Lists of 2018. The films are listed in the order that I saw them…

TOP 10 BEST:







1) Crisis... Read More

Deliver Me From Eva: A flabbergasting thrill ride

Deliver Me From Eva by Paul Bailey

Once again, I am indebted to Stephen Jones and Kim Newman’s excellent overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books for alerting me to the existence of a great read that I probably would never have run across without their assistance. In this case, the novel in question is Paul Bailey’s Deliver Me From Eva, which was chosen for inclusion in that volume by no less a figure than Forrest J. Ackerman — former editor of the beloved magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, renowned literary agent, and legendary collector of horror and sci-fi movie memorabilia — himself. The book, Ackerman tells us, was one that he first read upon its initial publication in 1946, but had never forgotten, and any reader of this absolutely flabbergasting thrill ride will surely understand why.

Paul Bailey, I should perhap... Read More

Fear: Hubbard’s classic horror thriller demands to be read at a breakneck pace

Fear by L. Ron Hubbard

The professional reputation of Nebraska-born writer L. Ron Hubbard, it seems to me, has taken a double hit since his heyday in the 1940s. Hubbard, of course, was the founder of the cultish sect known as Scientology, and ever since the release of his initial article on Dianetics in the May 1950 issue of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science-Fiction, and the founding of the group two years later, his name has been unavoidably linked to this oft-maligned pseudoreligion. And then there was the notorious film version of Hubbard’s 1982 doorstop of a novel Battlefield Earth, featuring Scientologist John Travolta in a picture that most viewers seem to have found dreadful, if not laughable. (Full confession: I have never read the... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: What’s your favorite SFF TRILOGY?

It is not so simple a question as you might at first blush think, although some decades ago, the answer may have come to mind a bit quicker.

So what IS your favorite sci-fi or fantasy trilogy?

Many years back, one might automatically have responded “Isaac Asimov's FOUNDATION trilogy" to the first and "Ursula K. LeGuin's EARTHSEA trilogy" to the second.

But those are not quite valid answers any longer.

The FOUNDATION trilogy was later expanded to include no fewer than seven books, while that EARTHSEA three-parter currently stands at five books, all told. Even Tolkien's MIDDLE EARTH trilogy was intended by its author to be ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

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 Hill’s 1983 novel of the sam... Read More

Some Must Watch: Book vs. film

Some Must Watch by Ethel Lina White

There is a word that film buffs like to use to describe a type of motion picture that, because of its tautness and high suspense quotient, almost seems as if it had been directed by the so-called “Master of Suspense” himself, Alfred Hitchcock. The word, naturally enough, is “Hitchcockian,” a term that might be fairly applied to such wonderful entertainments as Gaslight (both the 1940 and ’44 versions), Charade, The Prize and Arabesque. But of all the pictures that have been honored with the adjective “Hitchcockian” over the years, none, it seems to me, is more deserving than the 1946 RKO film The Spiral Staircase, and indeed, after 40 years’ worth of repeated watches, I have come to deem the picture the greatest horror outing of the 1940s … at least, that wasn’t a product of Universal Studios or producer Val Lewton.

Featuring impec... Read More

The Loved Dead and Other Tales: The story that saved Weird Tales

The Loved Dead and Other Tales by C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Sometimes, it seems, a little notoriety can be a good thing. Take, for example, the case of the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales. Though famously cash strapped for most of its 32-year run, during its earliest days, in 1923, things looked especially bleak for the nascent publication. On the very brink of bankruptcy, editor Edwin Baird decided to purchase, against his better judgment, a story by a Providence, Rhode Island-born writer named C.M. Eddy, Jr.

Eddy had already had a few of his weird tales released in the pages of Weird Tales, but this latest one was a real envelope pusher, dealing as it did with the highly distasteful and borderline taboo subject of necrophilia. But Baird did indeed print the story, the now-classic tale “The Loved Dead,” with the result that the Richmond, Indiana PTA tried to shut the magazine down completely! The ... Read More

Psycho: The modern horror era begins

Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock

It is not every filmmaker who can manage the difficult trick of coming up with four consecutive masterpieces, but that is just what British director Alfred Hitchcock was able to do as the late 1950s segued into the '60s. His 1958 offering, Vertigo, took time to find its audience but today is recognized by the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine as the single greatest motion picture ever made; 1959's North by Northwest is surely one of the all-time great entertainments; 1960's Psycho practically jump-started the modern-day horror industry all on its own, and remains the director's most well-known film; and 1963's The Birds is still a baby-boomer favorite to this day.

But of those four films, all of which reside on my personal Top 100 Favorite Films list, it is the third, Psycho, that remains my favorite after all these years, and indeed, I person... Read More

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Pretty potent stuff

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer directed by John McNaughton

Loosely based on the real-life exploits of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to the slayings of over 600 people but who was ultimately convicted in the homicide of a "mere" 11, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer changes some of the established facts around, yet remains a very strong experience for the viewer. As revealed on a certain Wiki site, the film was shot in just four weeks in 1986, at a cost of around $110,000, but was not released until four years later. Despite its great reputation, it is a film that I had long put off watching, having a suspicion that it would be a rather unpleasant experience for me overall. But lately, I have been exposing myself to a bunch of previously dreaded films (such as Blood Sucking Freaks and 1978's Read More

The Happening: Respectful awe

The Happening directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Following the inanity of the borderline train wreck that was 2006's Lady in the Water, writer/producer/director M. Night Shyamalan rebounded in a very big way with his next film, 2008's The Happening. His contribution to the type of eco-horror film that was all the rage in the 1960s and '70s — I’m thinking of such films as 1963's The Birds, 1972's Frogs, 1977's Kingdom of the Spiders and 1978's The Swarm ... not to mention the little-seen 1976 Spanish classic Who Can Kill a Child? — the film seems to have divided his fan base and resulted in a bona fide critical flop of sorts. Indeed, the woman who I sit next to at work, a big admirer of film auteur Shyamalan, hated the film, although she professes a love for Lady in the Water, a picture that I found to be ... Read More

Brides of Dracula: Even without Lee, a very fine Hammer offering

Brides of Dracula directed by Terence Fisher

The title is something of a misnomer. As the story goes, following the worldwide success of Hammer Studios' The Horror of Dracula in 1958, star Christopher Lee decided that he did not wish to participate in any possible sequel, fearing that he might be later typecast in the vampiric role. Thus, despite the sequel's title, Brides of Dracula not only does not feature Lee's participation at all, but the world's most famous neck nosher is nowhere to be found. Rather, what the viewer gets here is another Transylvanian vampire, an acolyte of Dracula's dark religion, if you will. But the results, even without Lee, are still most impressive, and even though Lee would later return in the following decades to appear in no fewer than six Dracula films for Hammer (Dracula, Prince of Darkness in '66; Dracula Has Risen From the Grave in '68; Taste the Blood of Dracula and Sc... Read More

Split: A dude with TOO much personality

Split directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Over the years, there have been any number of films that have dealt with lead characters who suffer with what the layman might term "split personality." Putting aside all the many iterations of the Jekyll & Hyde story, in 1957, audiences were given both Lizzie, in which Eleanor Parker played a woman with three distinct personalities, and, five months later, the more well-known The Three Faces of Eve, in which Joanne Woodward played a woman with the exact same predicament. In 1960, theatergoers were shocked out of their showers via their introduction to Tony Perkins' Norman Bates, a young man who was also his own mother, in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The situation was played for laughs in 1963's The Nutty Professor, with Jerry Lewis portraying the hapless Prof. Julius Kelp AND his alter ego, the Dean Martin-like Buddy Love. But you would have to take all the preceding alter egos... Read More

Witch House: Sarai, Sarai, quite contrary

Witch House by Evangeline Walton

Ever since British author Horace Walpole kick-started the haunted house genre with his seminal short novel of Gothic romance, The Castle of Otranto (1765), there have been hundreds of short stories and dozens of novels centered on this most shuddery of literary subjects. But for this reader, the two novels at the very top of the ectoplasmic heap have long been Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959), still the most spine-tingling book that I have ever read, and Richard Matheson’s ubercreepy Hell House (1971); perhaps not surprisingly, those two were later adapted into exquisitely scary cinematic fare, in, respectively, The Haunting (1963) and Read More

The Mysterious Doctor: Eleanor shines in her second film

The Mysterious Doctor directed by Benjamin Stoloff

A seeming meld of fog-shrouded Universal horror and the rah-rah wartime propaganda films that were so prevalent during the era, the Warner Brothers offering The Mysterious Doctor turns out to be a minor concoction that should just manage to please modern audiences. Released in March 1943, during the darkest days of World War II, the picture provides some chilling escapism while at the same time inspiring its target audience to greater productivity in the war effort. For today's viewer, the film works as an efficient little chiller and as a showcase for its ingénue female star, Eleanor Parker, who here evinces great charm and ability (and beauty, natch) in this, her second role on screen.

The film manages to engender a chilling mood from its very opening moments, in which the viewer beholds a very tall AND HEADLESS personage stalking through a mist-enveloped woodland. We soon meet the mys... Read More

From Hell It Came: Kimo therapy

From Hell It Came directed by Dan Milner

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a young lad and when there were only three major television stations to contend with, The New York Times used to make pithy commentaries, in their TV section, regarding films that were to be aired that day. I have never forgotten the terse words that the paper issued for the 1957 cult item From Hell It Came. In one of the most succinct pans ever written, the editors simply wrote: "Back send it." Well, I have waited years to find out if this hilarious put-down was justified or not, and now that I have finally succeeded in catching up with this one-of-a-kind cult item, have to say that I feel the Times people may have been a bit too harsh in their assessment. Sure, the film is campy, and of course, its central conceit is patently ridiculous, but does the film give the viewer that one necessary ingredient — namely, fun — that all good movies should provide? Oh... Read More

The Dunwich Horror: A pleasing Lovecraftian adaptation from AIP

The Dunwich Horror directed by Daniel Haller

Having enjoyed great success with a string of some seven pictures based on the works of the writer who has been called the greatest horror author of the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe, American International Pictures (AIP) soon turned its attention to the horror author who has been called the greatest of the 20th, the so-called "Sage of Providence," Howard Phillips Lovecraft. For their first Lovecraft attempt, the studio came out with the Boris Karloff outing Die, Monster, Die, loosely based on the author's 1927 story "The Color Out of Space." And five years later, the film in question, The Dunwich Horror, was released, in January 1970 (just weeks before the studio came out with the Peter Cushing/Vincent Price/Christopher Lee outing Scream and Scream... Read More

Creature from the Haunted Sea: For Corman completists only?

Creature from the Haunted Sea directed by Roger Corman

On the front cover of Ed Naha's indispensable book The Films of Roger Corman there is a subtitle that reads "Brilliance on a Budget," and a look at Corman's working schedule and method of production will surely bear out that statement. Take, for example, the background for his 1961 film Creature from the Haunted Sea. As the story goes, Corman and crew were in Puerto Rico in 1959, where Corman was executive producing the film The Battle of Blood Island at the same time as he was directing his own film The Last Woman on Earth. Realizing that if he had another week on the island he could just manage to come up with still ANOTHER picture, Corman instructed his oft-time screenwriter Charles Griffith (who had previously worked on no fewer than seven Corman films, including such immortal classics as It Conquered the World, Not of This Earth, Read More

The Night Visitor: Terror… to the max

The Night Visitor directed by László Benedek

In 1968, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman released what might be arguably deemed his closest attempt to create an outright horror film, Hour of the Wolf, starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman. The three would go on to work together several more times in the coming years, and although the following pictures that they made together (such as Shame and The Passion of Anna) WERE fairly emotionally devastating, none could be termed outright horror.

Viewers desirous to see Max and Liv together in another film that is indisputably in the horror domain, however, may be confidently steered to a picture that they made together in the early '70s, entitled The Night Visitor. Released in February '71, this was a Swedish production (its Swedish title is Papegojan), filmed in English by Hungarian director László Benedek (of The Wild One fame) and co-starring Brit... Read More

Invisible Invaders: Attack of the invisible no-see-ums

Invisible Invaders directed by Edward L. Cahn

Offhand, I can think of few actors (other than perhaps Richard Denning) who have gone up against so many 1950s sci-fi horrors and monstrosities as Chicago-born John Agar. From 1955 - '58 alone, the former husband of Shirley Temple battled The Creature in Revenge of the Creature, a giant arachnid in Tarantula, a lost subterranean race in The Mole Men, a floating alien cerebrum in The Brain From Planet Arous, and a mad scientist in Attack of the Puppet People, all of which I had hugely enjoyed. There WAS one film of Agar's from the late '50s that I had never seen, though, to complete this list of sci-fi menaces, and that film is Invisible Invaders. Fortunately, I have at long last caught up with this one, and can report that it is yet another fun (although undeniably shlocky) outing to add to Agar's roster. The film was released in May 1959 and thus has bee... Read More

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