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....

Exorcismo: For Naschy completists only

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Exorcismo directed by Juan Bosch

The notion has often struck me that one of the hallmarks of truly great screen stars is their ability to render even the most egregiously shlocky films highly watchable and interesting by dint of their very presence. This idea occurred to me again several months back, as I caught the 1957 film Voodoo Island for the first time; a picture that might be close to unwatchable, had it not starred the always fascinating Boris Karloff. And this thought struck me again the other night as I sat before the 1975 Spanish horror outing Exorcismo, which stars and was co-written by the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain," Jacinto Molina, who is more popularly known as Paul Naschy. A slow-moving, talky affair, the film is most assuredly rescued by Naschy's always interesting presence.

Here, for a change,... Read More

The Hunchback of the Morgue: Hot rats

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The Hunchback of the Morgue directed by Javier Aguirre

From the jaunty circus music that plays during its opening credits to the closing shot of a steaming, bubbling pit of sulfuric acid, The Hunchback of the Morgue, a Spanish offering from 1973, literally busts a gut to please the jaded horror fan. Co-written and starring "The Boris Karloff of Spain," Paul Naschy, the film is a wildly over-the-top, cheesy affair that yet succeeds in its primary intentions: to stun and entertain the viewer.

In The Hunchback of the Morgue, Naschy plays the title character, Wolfgang Gotho, a hunchbacked janitor in the morgue of the Feldkirch Hospital, in what the viewer must infer is Germany, in modern times (although the film, with very minor revisions, could just as easily have been set 200 years ago). Shunned, reviled and even stoned by the town's populace, Gotho's only joy in life is bringing flowers t... Read More

Vengeance of the Zombies: Naschy X 3

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Vengeance of the Zombies directed by Leon Klimovsky

Psychotronic-film buffs who watch the Paul Naschy films Crimson (1973) and The Hanging Woman (also 1973) may come away feeling a bit shortchanged regarding the amount of screen time allotted to the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain." In the first, Naschy plays a jewel thief who has been shot in the head following a botched robbery, and thus lays in a near coma for the film's first hour, while awaiting a brain transplant; in the second, he plays a necrophilic grave digger whose screen time is brief in the extreme. No such drawbacks for the eager Naschyphile crop up in Leon Klimovsky's Vengeance of the Zombies (1973 again ... quite a year for Paul!), fortunately; in fact, in this one, Spain's leading horror icon plays no less than three (3!) roles, and is marvelous in all of them.
... Read More

A Blade in the Dark: “I don’t want to hurt you … I only want your blood…”

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A Blade in the Dark directed by Lamberto Bava

Lamberto Bava's first film as a director, 1980's Macabre, was supposedly a bit too tame in the violence department to satisfy all the gorehounds out there, so in his next picture, 1983's A Blade in the Dark, the son of the legendary "Father of the Giallo," Mario Bava, created a bloodbath that might well have made papa proud. Filmed on the cheap in only three weeks at the country villa of producer Luciano Martino, the film is yet surprisingly effective and looks just fine.

The plot centers around a young composer named Bruno (appealingly portrayed by Andrea Occhipinti) and the four stunning-looking women in his life. Sandra, a film director (Anny Papa), has just hired him to compose the score for her latest horror film, and has ensconced him in a secluded country villa to get the job done. Bruno, as the viewer soon learns, in not untalented, a... Read More

Blood Sucking Freaks: Entertaining, but as sick as they come

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Blood Sucking Freaks directed by Joel M. Reed

A film that seemingly has no other goal than shocking and offending its audience, Blood Sucking Freaks (the lack of a hyphen is annoying) must be deemed a complete success. From first scene to last, this is a picture that gleefully parades its repugnant, gross-out set pieces and depraved characters for the viewer's questionable delectation. Initially appearing in 1976 under the title The Incredible Torture Show (a better, more apropos appellation, I feel; Blood Sucking Freaks suggests that a vampire type of story will be unreeling, which this film most certainly is not), it was later renamed by those wackos at Troma, which released the film on VHS and DVD with the memorable admonition "Warning: This film contains scenes of freaks sucking blood." Something of a legendary bad-taste cul... Read More

Beyond the Door: A mash-up of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist

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Beyond the Door directed by Ovidio Assonitis

“I am waiting for you inside the guts of this whore!”

A somewhat effective mash-up of Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, Ovidio Assonitis' Beyond the Door (1974) yet has little of the class and sophistication of the first or terrifying shocks of the latter. Released a year after The Exorcist kicked box-office tuchus (garnering $89 million; the No. 1 highest earner of 1973, if the book Box Office Hits is to be trusted), the film suffers from an aura of déjà vu, but still has much to offer to the dedicated horror fan.

In it, Juliet Mills (daughter of John, older sister of Hayley, but perhaps best known to American viewers as Phoebe Figalilly from the early '70s sitcom Nanny and the Professor) plays Jessica Barrett, a wife and mother of two. She lives in Sa... Read More

Of Unknown Origin: Rat attack

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Of Unknown Origin directed by George P. Cosmatos

Speaking as a native New Yorker, I would hazard a guess that the two things my fellow residents here fear the most, when it comes to their apartment or dwelling place, are (a) bedbugs and (b) rodents. Those bloodsucking little insects were on the wane for many decades, but have unfortunately made a comeback in recent years, and while not disease carriers, are notoriously difficult and expensive to eliminate. As for the latter, well, the sight of a scurrying mouse in the house is surely enough to startle even the toughest of Big Apple dwellers. But the thought of a rat — the larger-size rodent that most New Yorkers only see on the subway tracks underground — getting INSIDE one's residence is one that is certain to engender nightmares. This fear was only made worse a little while ago, with the online emergence of a video showing how easily the whiskered horrors can clim... Read More

The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle: Sehe Es Wegen Karin

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The Strangler Of Blackmoor Castle directed by Harald Reinl

It was back in mid-June 1967 when I — and millions of other baby-boomer boys, I have a feeling — first developed a crush on beautiful, redheaded Karin Dor. With the opening of the fifth James Bond blowout, You Only Live Twice, Dor, already a long-established actress in her native Germany (although few of us realized it at the time), was revealed to an international audience ... one that could scarcely fail to be impressed by her turn as Helga Brandt, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. agent No. 11, whose demise in Ernst Stavro Blofeld's piranha pool is one of the series' most memorable moments. Over the intervening 47 (!) years, this viewer has endeavored to see a lot more of Dor, but with only scant success. Her role in Alfred Hitchcock's Topaz (1969), playing the brunette widow of a Cuban revolutionary, was easy enough to see, but other than that, I had to w... Read More

Madhouse: Mary, Mary, quite contrary

It's Shocktober! Sandy will post a horror movie review every day this month!

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Madhouse directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis

Not to be confused with the 1974 Vincent Price/Peter Cushing movie entitled Madhouse (a fun, underrated film, by the way) and certainly not with the 1990 John Larroquette/Kirstie Alley comedy sporting that same name, the 1981 Italian horror outing called Madhouse is another story entirely. I say that the film IS Italian, although the average viewer might never realize it. Despite being an Italian production, with an Italian crew and composer, the picture was shot in English, features an American cast, and was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, although the filmmakers could certainly have included more of that city's picturesque charm, had they chosen to do so.

In this film (perhaps inspired by Brian De Palma's 1973 classic Sisters Read More

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: Poe shines in his only novel

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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe

Note: This public domain title is free on Kindle.

In his short story entitled “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833), author Edgar Allan Poe told a tale of shipwreck on the high seas, following the mother of all storms. Along with one other survivor, our narrator drifts helplessly on the surface of the water, later encountering what seems to be a ghost ship, on which he climbs aboard, only to be swept toward the south polar regions and to an unknown fate. Flash forward five years, and Poe has now enlarged on some of this story’s set pieces and themes, and turned them into the long-form work known as The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Although Poe would ultimately write 50 poems (Poe-ems?), 68 short stories,... Read More

The Begum’s Fortune: Frankville vs. Stahlstadt

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The Begum’s Fortune by Jules Verne

I am by no means a student of world history, but as far as I can make out, the Franco-Prussian War, which began in July 1870 and ended some 10 months later, had some fairly significant and long-lasting aftereffects. As a result of its surrender, France had to cede over to Germany the bulk of the Alsace-Lorraine territory, while Germany emerged a unified empire, effectively altering the balance of European power. For Frenchman Jules Verne, the Germans would never be regarded in the same way again, and his sentiments toward the former enemy would be abundantly displayed in his novel The Begum’s Fortune. This was to be the 18th novel for the so-called “Father of Science Fiction,” out of an eventual 54 to be published during his lifetime; eight more w... Read More

The Cosmic Rape: “Bastits!”

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The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon

In Theodore Sturgeon’s International Fantasy Award-winning novel of 1953, More Than Human, six extraordinary young people with various extrasensory mental abilities blend their powers together to create what the author called a “gestalt consciousness.” And in his next novel, the Staten Island-born Sturgeon amplified on this idea of shared consciousness, but upped the ante quite a bit; instead of a mere half dozen souls forming one hive brain, Sturgeon posited the notion of a mind containing the thoughts and experiences of the life-forms of 2½ galaxies! The book was The Cosmic Rape, which followed More Than Read More

The Emperor and the Maula: Laylah, you’ve got me on my knees

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The Emperor and the Maula by Robert Silverberg

As of this writing, in September 2017, Grand Master Robert Silverberg has come out with no fewer than 78 sci-fi novels, almost 450 short stories and novellas, around 70 books of nonfiction, and around 185 novels of, um, “adult fiction,” in addition to having edited over 130 anthologies. He has garnered for himself four Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards in the process. The man’s prolific work pace is understandably legendary. Thus, it might strike some that his fans’ clamoring for more, yet more, is wholly unreasonable. After all, the man is currently 82; doesn’t he deserve a break, and a restful retirement? (The author, to his loyal readers’ chagrin, has not released a full-length novel since 2003’s Roma Eterna, wh... Read More

The Greatest Adventure: Dinosaurs and dynamite

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The Greatest Adventure by John Taine

In the 1957 Universal film The Land Unknown, a quartet of men and one woman discover a tropical wonderhell 3,000 feet below sea level in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, replete with killer plants and savage dinosaurs. But, as it turns out, this was not the first time that four men and one woman had battled prehistoric monsters and inimical flora in a surprisingly balmy valley on the frozen continent. That honor, it would seem, goes to a book called, fittingly enough, The Greatest Adventure, written by John Taine. In actuality, “John Taine” was the pen name of Scottish mathematician Eric Temple Bell, who used his own name only when he authored books on science and math, reserving the pseudonym for when he wrote works of science fiction, of ... Read More

Dragon’s Island: Part noir, part jungle adventure, all great fun

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Dragon’s Island by Jack Williamson

The five-year period from 1948 – ’52 was one of superlative productivity for future sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson. Although he’d already written some 75 short stories since his first sale at age 20, in 1928 (“The Metal Men,” in the December issue of editor Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories magazine), that five-year stretch saw him produce some of his most fondly remembered longer pieces: the novels Darker Than You Think (1948), The Humanoids (1949), T... Read More

The Currents of Space: “It’s a rather complicated story”

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The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov

The Currents of Space, the third entry in Isaac Asimov’s loosely linked GALACTIC EMPIRE trilogy, is a prequel of sorts to book 1, 1950’s Pebble in the Sky, and a sequel of sorts to book 2, 1951’s The Stars, Like Dust, and if you by any chance find that statement a tad confusing, trust me, that is the very least of the complexities that this book dishes out! The Currents of Space originally appeared serially in the October - December 1952 is... Read More

The Stars, Like Dust: Asimov’s least favorite of all his novels still offers much

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The Stars, Like Dust by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov’s very first novel, Pebble in the Sky (1950), was the opening salvo in what would later be known as his GALACTIC EMPIRE trilogy, and was set some 50,000 years in Earth’s future. It may surprise some potential readers to learn, then, that book 2 in the series, The Stars, Like Dust (the use of a comma after the word “Stars” is not present anywhere in my 1963 Lancer paperback, but Asimov’s later autobiography, I. Asimov, does present the book title with the comma, so don’t ask me!), takes place a mere 10,000 years in the future, or a good 40,000 years prior to the events in book 1!... Read More

Indestructible Man: 300,000 volts of fun

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Indestructible Man directed by Jack Pollexfen

Oh, what a wacky film experience I had over the weekend: the 1956 Lon Chaney, Jr. outing Indestructible Man! This movie was originally shown as part of a double feature for the kiddies back when, paired with one of my favorite sci-fi shlock adventures ever, World Without End, for one truly mind-boggling afternoon at the movies. In the film in question, Chaney plays a criminal named Butcher Benton, who, after a botched robbery, has been sentenced to the gas chamber. He is indeed put to death, but soon after, his body is sold to a scientist (Robert Shayne, who most viewers will remember from his role of Inspector Henderson on TV's Adventures of Superman, and whose work I recently enjoyed in the 1953 film The Neanderthal Man) who is doing experiments regarding a cancer cure. Read More

Pebble In The Sky: One down, 500 to go…

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Pebble In The Sky by Isaac Asimov

In a now-famous interview, sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov once revealed how he avoided getting stuck with writer’s block. The hugely prodigious author would often be working at four or five books at the same time, with five typewriters arrayed side by side, and when he would get inextricably bogged down with one book, he’d simply move to the neighboring typewriter, and recommence work on that one! Thus, one can almost understand how it was possible for Asimov — who claimed, in his later years, to do nothing but write, eat, sleep, and talk to his wife — to rack up the almost superhuman tally of just over 500 books written before his death in 1992, in every subject category of the Dewey Decimal System (does anybod... Read More

Mad About Men: Miranda returns for another fish-out-of-water adventure

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Mad About Men directed by Ralph Thomas

When we last saw the mermaid Miranda, in the 1948 British fantasy film that bears her name, she was sitting on a rock in the middle of the ocean, bearing on her lap an infant merbaby, the sight of which was apparently meant to stun and amuse the viewer. Although the charming Miranda had almost caused the breakup of no fewer than three relationships in that film, she had not been intimate with any of the men involved (and really, how COULD she be?), and so ... just whose baby was this? In hindsight, the baby was apparently hers as the result of a previous underwater fling, casting a whole new light on just why the frisky mermaid wanted one above-water adventure before becoming a mermom herself. Or perhaps she was merely merbabysitting in that final scene?

I suppose that we will never know for sure, as the... Read More

Miranda: An absolutely charming fish-out-of-water tale

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Miranda directed by Ken Annakin

Back in the early '60s, when I was a very young lad, there were two television programs that held a great fascination for my young mind. One was the part live/part animated kiddie show Diver Dan, which featured the undersea adventures of the titular hero, and showcased one very beautiful blonde mermaid, called Miss Minerva. The other program was one that I have a feeling not too many remember, for the simple reason that it only lasted 13 episodes in the fall of '63. That show was simply called Glynis, and featured the exploits of its star, Welsh actress Glynis Johns, playing a kooky mystery writer. As a child, I was fascinated by this lovely heroine, with her cracked and husky voice (Glynis' voice has always been as distinctive, in its own way, as that of Jean Arthur, Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn), and my liking of her only increased over the decades, as I got to see... Read More

Doomstar: Hamilton goes out like a pro

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Doomstar by Edmond Hamilton

As I have mentioned elsewhere, sci-fi pulpmaster Edmond Hamilton, during the early decades of his career, destroyed so many planets in his stories that he managed to acquire for himself the nickname “World Wrecker.” But in his final novel, Doomstar, the destruction of a mere planet seemed to be small potatoes for the Ohio-born author, and nothing less than the death — or, in this case, the poisoning — of a solar body would suffice! Doomstar was initially released as a 50-cent Belmont paperback in January 1966, almost 40 years after Hamilton’s first story had appeared in Weird Tales magazine. (I was fortunate enough to acquire the 1969 Belmont paperback, also with a cover price of 50 cents.) Hamilton was 62 when he... Read More

City At World’s End: Going Vegan

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City At World’s End by Edmond Hamilton

Written near the dawn of the Cold War era and soon after mankind first became aware of the fearful possibilities of the atom bomb, City at World’s End yet remains both highly readable and grippingly entertaining today, more than 65 years after its initial appearance. Edmond Hamilton’s book initially as a “complete novel” in the July 1950 issue of the pulp magazine Starling Stories, was released in hardcover the following year, and, in ’53, appeared again in the pages of Galaxy. (Personally, I just finished reading the 35-cent Crest Giant paperback from 1957.) Hamilton, who was already 46 when he wrote this tale, had been a published author since 1926, and already had countless hundreds of short stories, novellas and n... Read More

The Return of Doctor X: Citizen Quesne

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The Return of Doctor X directed by Vincent Sherman

As a result of his breakthrough role as Duke Mantee in the 1936 gem The Petrified Forest, Humphrey Bogart made no fewer than 25 films for Warner Brothers over the course of the next four years: five in 1936, seven (!) in 1937, six in 1938 and another whopping seven in 1939! Talk about paying your dues! For the most part, Bogart was second or even third billed — and even lower — in these films, typically playing gangsters but also some very unlikely roles, and these from the man who, just a few years later still, would be the highest paid actor in Hollywood. But of all the unusual roles that the great Bogart ever essayed, it is the part of Marshall Quesne (pronounced "Kane") in The Return of Doctor X that just might be his strangest. Bogart would go on to claim that this film, along with 1938's Swing Your Lady, was his absolute wor... Read More

Return of the Fly: “The Thriller-Chiller That Will Really Bug You”…

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Return of the Fly directed by Edward Bernds

Sometimes, it's just NOT a good idea to continue on with your father's business. Take Philippe Delambre, for instance, in the 1959 sequel to the previous year's The Fly, the perhaps inevitably titled Return of the Fly. When we last saw Delambre, he was a little boy living near Montreal, aggrieved over his scientist father's death, a man who had been turned into a humanoid with the head of a giant fly, AND a little insect with the head of a man! When the sequel picks up, it is a good 10 years later at least, and Delambre is a young adult, attending his mother's funeral in the pouring rain along with his uncle, Francois (Vincent Price, the only actor returning from the original, and who, that same year, starred in one of this viewer's all-time favorite horror films, The Ti... Read More

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