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....

Reptilicus: Blood and tundra

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Reptilicus directed by Sidney Pink

I never got to see the 1961 monster outing Reptilicus when I was a child, and so have nothing in the way of nostalgic attachment as regards the film. Thus, when I watched the movie for the first time a few nights back, it was with the cold, hard objectivity of an aging baby-boomer adult. The result was an entertaining evening, but one that would have been infinitely more enjoyable had I been watching within the pleasant aura of a fondly remembered youth. Reptilicus is today perhaps best known as the only giant monster movie to have ever come out of Denmark, of all places. As it turns out, the picture is decidedly inferior to the giant monster movies that had been all the rage ever since the U.S. released the granddaddy of all such films, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (one of this viewer's all-time faves) in 1953, and Japan released the seminal Gojira... Read More

Chocky: Wyndham goes out on a high note

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Chocky by John Wyndham

Following the publication of 1960’s Trouble With Lichen, fans of the hugely popular English sci-fi writer John Wyndham would have to wait a good solid eight years for his next novel to be released. During that time, the author limited himself to the shorter form, coming out with 10 stories. One of those short stories was “Chocky,” which initially appeared in the March ’63 issue of the legendary American magazine Amazing Stories, which had been started by author and editor Hugo Gernsback back in 1926. Wyndham later expanded “Chocky,” and the result was his final book to be published before his untimely passing. As had so many other of the author’s previous works, the no... Read More

Trouble with Lichen: Complications of eternal youth

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

Trouble with Lichen by John Wyndham

Published in 1960, John Wyndham’s Trouble with Lichen tells the story of Diana Brackley, a revolutionary, a feminist, and a scientist.

Diana is considered odd because although she is attractive, she does not want to marry. Instead, she is dedicated to her career in the lab, and it is there that she makes her amazing discovery: a type of lichen that slows the aging process. Diana decides to use the lichen to empower women, and she sets up a beauty clinic that caters to rich and influential women (more ... Read More

The Chrysalids: Forbidden post-apocalyptic telepaths

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Chrysalids by John Wynhdam

It’s no wonder that David dreams of a distant and wondrous city at night: life in the post-apocalyptic settlement, Waknuk, is difficult. Waknuk’s people are descended from the survivors of the Tribulation, which everyone knows was sent by God to punish the Old People. Though David and his community are lucky to have any land to live on, they must always guard against Deviations — in their crops, in their livestock, and in their children.

Deviations are not made in God’s True Image. Children that, say, have six toes, have the Devil in them, so they are either destroyed or else sent to the Fringes after they are sterilized. Though these exiles may later return as raiders, life in Waknuk is — if not always peaceful — still much better than life in the Badlands.

David Str... Read More

The Mindwarpers: An oddball addition to Russell’s canon

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The Mindwarpers by Eric Frank Russell

For his ninth novel out of what would ultimately run to 10, English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell pulled a bit of a switcheroo on his readers. The book in question was initially released in the U.K. in 1964 in a hardcover edition by British publishing house Dennis Dobson, sporting the title With a Strange Device. A year later, it was released here in the U.S. as a 50-cent Lancer paperback (the edition that I was fortunate enough to acquire at Brooklyn bookstore extraordinaire Singularity), as its author was turning 60, but with a new and perhaps catchier title: The Mindwarpers. Written at the height of Cold War tensions, and at the peak of the world... Read More

The Great Explosion: One of the funniest sci-fi novels that I’ve ever read

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The Great Explosion by Eric Frank Russell

In his 1955 collection entitled Men, Martians and Machines, English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell told, via one short story and three novellas, some of the adventures of a starship crew that strongly suggested nothing less than a proto-Star Trek ensemble. The collection featured visits to three very different sorts of planets, in which the men, Martians, and robot of the starship Marathon came up against a world of mechanical devices; a world of green-skinned inhabitants, lethal trees and giant snakes; and a world of ropy creatures with the power to induce hypnotic hallucinations. Apparently, Russell liked the episodic nature of the collecti... Read More

Wasp: Phase 9 From Outer Space

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Wasp by Eric Frank Russell

There seems to exist some very real confusion as to just what English sci-fi author Eric Frank Russell did during WW2. Some sources would have us believe that he worked for British Intelligence during the war years, while others claim that he was merely an RAF radio operator and mechanic. Whatever the real story may be, the writer put his war experiences to good use over a decade later, when he wrote what would be his sixth novel out of an eventual 10, Wasp. Initially released as an Avalon Books hardcover in November 1957, when Russell was already 52, Wasp has been called one of its author’s finest works. This reader was fortunate enough to acquire the 35-cent Perm... Read More

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

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