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....

The Wild, Wild Planet: Colorato e fantasioso

The Wild, Wild Planet directed by Antonio Margheriti

The mid-1960s was a very interesting time for Italian sci-fi on the big screen. In September '65, future giallo legend Mario Bava gave the world the artfully done Planet of the Vampires, a film whose set design, it has been suggested, very possibly influenced the look of the movie Alien over a decade later. In December '65, director Elio Petri delivered the film that is, for this viewer, the best of the Italian sci-fi bunch to this date, The 10th Victim, based on the short story "Seventh Victim" by Robert Sheckley. Starring Marcello Mastroianni and Ursula Andress, the film remains a knockout more than half a century later. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, director Antonio Margheriti, once again working under his alias of Anthony Dawson, was working on a string of relatively low-budget fi... Read More

Bloodsuckers: When Peter Met Patrick

Bloodsuckers directed by Robert Hartford-Davis

Perhaps I should state at the outset that my only reason for renting out the 1970 British film Bloodsuckers is that it stars two of my very favorite English actors, Peter Cushing and The Avengers's Patrick Macnee, appearing in a theatrical picture together for the first and only time. Well, I suppose that helps to explain my double disappointment with this film, a horror outing without a single shiver, and moreover, one in which Cushing and Macnee share not a single scene together. A fairly incomprehensible, ineptly put-together goulash of a film, Bloodsuckers (aka Doctors Wear Scarlet and the title under which I saw it in its current Something Weird DVD presentation, Freedom Seeker, as well as Incense for the Damned) turns out to be som... Read More

The Lost Continent: Serendipity

The Lost Continent directed by Michael Carreras

There is a word, "serendipity," that Webster's defines as "an instance of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for," and I suppose that this would be the precise word to describe my experience with the 1968 film The Lost Continent. I had set my DVR at home to record a film that I thought to be the old Cesar Romero film from 1951, Lost Continent, a childhood favorite, and wound up getting this one instead. I was very disappointed when I discovered my error, but decided not to immediately delete what I'd recorded, and instead kept it in digital storage for a year or so. But when I finally sat down to watch The Lost Continent the other night, what a nice surprise it turned out to be! And no wonder! The film is a product of the always reliable Hammer Studios, featuring fine acting support, pleasing if cheezy special effects, and an action-packed story line. Hammer initiall... Read More

Green Mansions: Book vs. film

Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson

In my recent review of Frank Aubrey’s lost-race novel The King of the Dead (1903), which transpires in the jungle depths of Brazil, I mentioned that the author, in an attempt to add realism to his descriptions of the terrain, had quoted liberally from works by the famed Argentinian writer William Henry Hudson. And well he might! Hudson at that point was 62 years old, and well known for being both a naturalist and ornithologist, his specialty being the birds of his native South America; he’d already written any number of books on the subject, as well as his first piece of fiction, a dystopian novel entitled A Crystal Age (1887). One could hardly do better than quoting from... Read More

The Disembodied: See it for Allison

The Disembodied directed by Walter Grauman

Sometimes, all it takes is one decent, interesting and/or sexy performance to salvage an otherwise lackluster film from complete uselessness. To demonstrate the veracity of this statement, I give you The Disembodied, a rather silly and borderline confusing voodoo film that is of interest today solely for the performance of its leading lady, Allison Hayes. When The Disembodied was first released in August 1957, it was part of a double bill, playing alongside the now legendary From Hell It Came, now regarded as one of the worst films of all time, its walking tree monster Tabanga a source of jokes and derision for over 60 years now. In retrospect, though, From Hell It Came is a fun albeit campy experience, and one that this viewer enjoyed a lot more than he thought he would. It is surely the superior film as compare... Read More

Satan’s Blood: Earning its “S”

Satan’s Blood directed by Carlos Puerto

The death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in November 1975 meant not only the end of a 39-year repressive regime for the people of Spain, and the ushering in of democracy, but the dawn of a new freedom in the cinematic arts, as well. With the effective ending, in 1977, of the strict censorship laws that had hamstrung filmmakers for decades, a new looseness was engendered. Films could now be released that contained nudity, sexual themes, and violent and horrific elements ... provided, of course, that the film was tagged with the "Clasificada S" label, that "S," of course, standing for "sex." Released in 1978, Escalofrio (which opened in the U.S. with the title Satan's Blood) was one of the first pictures out of the gate to take advantage of the new freedoms.

In the film, the viewer makes the acquaintance of two couples. Couple A, Andres and Ana (a lawyer with his four-months-pregnant wif... Read More

The Twilight People: Kalahati Tao, Kalahati Hayop

The Twilight People directed by Eddie Romero

The 1959 film Terror Is a Man was the very first horror picture to be made in the country of the Philippines. A very well done but uncredited reiteration of H. G. Wells' classic 1896 novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, the film was gorgeously shot in B&W, featured stylish direction by Geraldo de Leon and (again, an uncredited) Eddie Romero, as well as an intelligent script that was punctuated by interesting speculations on the nature of man and beast. Over the next 10 years, Romero worked at a fairly furious pace, eventually carving out for himself a place in the world's pantheon of great horror directors by coming out with his legendary Blood Island trilogy: Read More

La Nuit de la Morte (Night of Death): French toast

La Nuit de la Morte (Night of Death) directed by Raphael Delpard

OK, I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and make the assumption that any person who might be interested in reading a review of the 1980 French film La Nuit de la Morte! (Night of Death!) is already aware that it is very much a horror picture (as if that morbid title, capped with its exclamation mark, could possibly leave any doubt). And that's important, because any discussion of this seldom-mentioned rarity is almost impossible without divulging at least one key plot twist, which transpires around 20 minutes in. I was first alerted to the very existence of this Gallic obscurity by the excellent reference volume DVD Delirium 4, which describes the picture as "good, disreputable, down-and-dirty splatter with a unique French twist," and indeed, the film really might be a pleasant surprise for the jaded horror fan who is seeking out something different... Read More

The Night Digger: A stroke of very bad luck

The Night Digger directed by Alastair Reid

Not precisely a horror movie, a murder mystery, a slasher film, OR a domestic tragedy, The Night Digger, a British film that was initially released in May 1971, yet combines elements of all those genres into one truly sui generis experience. A largely forgotten film, The Night Digger (or, as it was originally released in the U.K., The Road Builder … an inferior title, as it turns out) is perhaps best known today — for those who know of it at all, that is — for its leading-role performance by the great Kentucky-born actress Patricia Neal, as well as for the contributions of screenwriter Roald Dahl and composer Bernard Herrmann. As the story goes, Neal, after suffering from a series of debilitating strokes, while pregnant, and following her appearance in 1965's In Harm's Way, was nursed back ... Read More

Blood Thirst: Maganda!

Blood Thirst directed by Newt Arnold

For those connoisseurs of foreign horror films who are desirous of seeing the 1965 Filipino obscurity entitled Blood Thirst, their only recourse, it would seem, is the DVD currently available from those maniacs at Something Weird. The picture in question shares the disc with another relatively unknown film, the similarly titled Bloodsuckers, and it was to see this British product of 1970 that I initially rented out this DVD. But Bloodsuckers turns out to be a terrible mess of a film, despite the participation of Peter Cushing and Patrick Macnee; an ineptly put-together head scratcher that suffers even more in comparison to Blood Thirst, a surprisingly good, well-made little chiller that manages to satisfy on all levels. Released in America six years after its Filipino debut, the film features gorgeous B&... Read More

The Mighty Peking Man: Hong Kong King Kong, OR Kraft cheese

The Mighty Peking Man directed by Meng Hua Ho

Well, I suppose I didn't do adequate homework before venturing into Meng Hua Ho's 1977 camp classic The Mighty Peking Man. For some reason, I had thought the titular protagonist was a man-sized survivor of the Paleolithic Age; a caveman type; a troglodyte displaced in time. But as most psychotronic-film fans have long since discovered, this is hardly the case at all, and the film in question turns out to be nothing more than a cheesy Hong Kong rip-off of 1933's King Kong ... or, perhaps, more specifically, a cash-in "homage" to the Dino De Laurentiis travesty of the preceding year. A production of the Shaw Brothers, whose Infra-Man of 1975 had proved to be so memorably jaw dropping, the film is a goofy, fast-moving and wholly enjoyable experience, with better production values than you might be expecting, and lovably ersatz sp... Read More

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror: Bark just as bad as his bite

Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror directed by Andrea Bianchi

The impact that George A. Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968) had on the future of the so-called "zombie film" was so enormous as to practically constitute a sea change. Up until then, in pictures such as White Zombie (1932), Revolt of the Zombies (1936), King of the Zombies (1941), I Walked With a Zombie (1943) and even as late as 1966's The Plague of the Zombies, these creatures had been presented as essentially harmless beings; hypnotized or drugged, living automatons who carried out the commands of their masters. The Romero film transformed the zombies into ravenous gut munchers; the revivified dead, hungry for human flesh. Since Night of the Living Dead, many films have played on this concept with varying success and degrees of imagination, the be... Read More

Queen of Blood: A green-blooded gal on the Red Planet

Queen of Blood directed by Curtis Harrington

In November 1966, television audiences were introduced, via the two-part Star Trek episode entitled "The Menagerie," to a green-skinned, hypnotically beautiful alien woman, an Orion dancing girl played in an unforgettable manner by the great Susan Oliver; a character who made an indelible impression despite not having a single line of dialogue. (Indeed, the excellent, 2014 DVD biography of Oliver's life would be called The Green Girl, a tribute to one of her more fondly remembered roles.) But this was not the first such olive-toned alien siren to appear on screens that year! In March '66, in the Curtis Harrington-directed, AIP film Queen of Blood, audiences had been exposed to another such character, but this one was of a far, far more inimical variety. As the story goes, producer/director Roger Corman had acquired some footage from two earlier Russian sci-fi epics, 1959's Nebo Zovyot Read More

Let the Right One In: Bye, bye, Blackeberg

Let the Right One In directed by Tomas Alfredson

The winner of at least 50 international film awards and a popular and critical favorite, the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In is, as it turns out, highly deserving of all the many accolades it has received. Adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his best-selling novel of 2004, the film introduces us to a 12-year-old boy named Oskar, who lives with his mother in a suburb of Stockholm, and who is more than effectively played by newcomer Kare Hedebrant. Oskar's life as a friendless soul who is helplessly bullied at school takes a turn for the better when some new neighbors move into his apartment complex. Eli, who is apparently his age, initially tells Oskar "I can't be friends with you ... that's just how it is," but the two ultimately DO bond, although Eli later reveals that she has been 12 "for a long time." In point of... Read More

Beast of the Yellow Night: Not quite “walang kwenta,” but close

Beast of the Yellow Night directed by Eddie Romero

During the 10-year period 1968-'77, Filipino director Eddie Romero collaborated with American actor John Ashley on no less than 10 motion pictures. First up was the little-seen Manila, Open City, to be quickly followed by the so-called Blood Island trilogy (Brides of Blood, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island and Beast of Blood), and then the film in question here, Beast of the Yellow Night (AND, later on still, films with such titles as The Twilight People, The Woman Hunt, Beyond Atlantis, Savage Sisters and Sudden Death). Nowhere near as pulpy or as fun as the Blood Island trilogy, Beast of the Yellow Night is something of a labor to sit through, sports a confused and confusing story line, and never adequately an... Read More

The Frozen Dead: Elsa uses her head

The Frozen Dead directed by Herbert J. Leder

The film career of Mississippi-born Dana Andrews seemed to undergo some kind of metamorphosis as the actor entered his third decade before the cameras. During the 1940s, the characters that Andrews brought to life were in the main sympathetic and likeable, whether they were such all-American Joes as in The Ox-Bow Incident, State Fair and The Best Years of Our Lives, or troubled cops as in Laura and Where the Sidewalk Ends. He managed to maintain that sympathetic demeanor throughout the '50s (I particularly like him in the exceptionally fine 1957 horror film Night of the Demon), but come the 1960s, and as Andrews entered his 50s and his features coarsened a bit, his roles gradually segued into personages who were alarmingly less sympathetic.

In 1965, in the sci-fi thriller Crack in the World, his Dr. Sorenson character was s... Read More

The Head: Ood-les of Fun

The Head directed by Victor Trivas

No, this isn't the psychedelic Monkees movie from 1968; that one's just called Head. Rather, The Head is a West German horror production from 1959 – and a very good one, as it turns out – that tells a freaky story of a wholly different kind. As The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film so astutely reminds us, the film was released in the same year as the similarly themed American film The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and is just as way-out an experience.

In it, Michel Simon – French star of such classic '30s films as La Chienne, Boudu Saved From Drowning and L'Atalante – plays a scientist, Dr. Abel, who has devised something called Serum Z, which will allow human and animal tissue to survive independently of their donors' bodies, thus making possible organ transplants and other innovations (this, eight years ... Read More

Death Curse of Tartu: Good Grefe

Death Curse of Tartu directed by William Grefe

I see it every time I fly down to Ft. Lauderdale to visit my family: the dividing line between civilization and the primeval. As the plane banks west from over the Atlantic, one can view below the sprawling metropolis of the city and its suburbs ... until one's eye hits that dividing line. The line is drawn straight as a rule for as far as the eye can see, the line separating the habitations of Man from the greenish-gray expanse that is the Everglades. The demarcation never fails to impress, no matter how many times one makes the trip. And from my two personal experiences into the Everglades, as a casual tourist, I can tell you that I cannot imagine a more hellacious environment in which to be lost or stuck: almost 2,000 square miles of empty sawgrass prairie, freshwater marshland, mangrove swamps, pinelands, hardwood hammocks, and sloughs. But not quite empty, of course; the area just teems with all sorts of wildli... Read More

The Radio Beasts: A perfect sequel

The Radio Beasts by Ralph Milne Farley

At the tail end of my recent review of Ralph Milne Farley’s first novel, The Radio Man (later retitled An Earthman on Venus), I mentioned that I had so enjoyed this opening salvo in what soon turned out to be a series that I certainly wouldn’t have minded reading the next entries … if I could only lay my hands on some copies of these currently out-of-print books. Coming to my rescue was a reader and friend of this FanLit website, one Chuck Litka, who made me an uncommonly generous offer. He’d just moved to a new home and had discovered an old edition of The Radio Beasts, Book 2 in the series, in some packed boxes. Would I like him to send me this copy, ... Read More

Under the Andes: Rex Stout shines in his second novel

Under the Andes by Rex Stout

Because author Rex Stout is so closely associated with his most famous fictional character, housebound detective extraordinaire Nero Wolfe, fans may find it hard to believe that the Indiana-born writer ever wrote anything else. And that, I suppose, is understandable, seeing that between 1934 and 1975, Stout came out with no fewer than 33 novels and 40 or so novellas featuring one of crimedom’s most well-known sleuths. But just as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in many other genres besides the one featuring Sherlock Holmes, so too did Stout: 13 non-Wolfe novels and 44 short stories in the thriller, mystery, historical adventure, lost world/lost race, and even romance genres, to be precise. And thanks to Armchair Fiction’s current 24-volume LOST WORLD/LOST RACE series, readers may now expe... Read More

The Temple of Fire: An exciting Lost World novel for younger readers

The Temple of Fire by Francis Henry Atkins (Frank Aubrey/Fred Ashley)

As I mentioned in my review of English author Francis Henry Atkins’ third novel, The King of the Dead (1903), this was a writer who chose to hide behind a number of sobriquets, all of which featured the initials “F.A.” Those pen names were Frank Aubrey (which he used for that 1903 novel), Frank Atkins, Fenton Ash and Fred Ashley. I had hugely enjoyed the third novel by this seldom-discussed author, so eagerly jumped at the chance to try my luck at another. Fortunately, Armchair Fiction’s current 24-volume Lost World/Lost Race series has now made another of this unjustly neglected writer’s works available, namely The Templ... Read More

The King of the Dead: Brazil nuts

The King of the Dead by Frank Aubrey

As I have written elsewhere, Armchair Fiction’s current 24-book Lost World/Lost Race series is a godsend for all readers who enjoy this particular subgenre of fantastic literature, as jump-started and popularized by English author H. Rider Haggard in the mid-1880s. I’ve recently written about two of these 24, David DouglasThe Silver God of the Orang Hutan and John Taine’s The Purple Sapphire, and now would like to offer some words about another of these terrifically en... Read More

The Purple Sapphire: The great race

The Purple Sapphire by John Taine

In the Rare Book Room in NYC bookstore extraordinaire The Strand there has resided, for quite some time now, a volume that I have greatly wanted to acquire. The book in question is Scottish author John Taine’s very first novel, The Purple Sapphire, which was first released by E. P. Dutton & Co. as a hardcover in 1924 … the same year that Dutton released Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin’s now-classic dystopian book We. The Strand edition is this very Dutton original, made even more collectible due to its nicely preserved dust ja... Read More

An Earthman on Venus: Formian follows function

An Earthman on Venus (aka The Radio Man) by Ralph Milne Farley

Sometimes, it seems, a man must go through any number of occupations before hitting on the one for which he will be best remembered. Take, for example, the case of Massachusetts-born Roger Sherman Hoar, who, before he turned 37, was an assistant attorney general and state senator, taught classes in engineering and math, and wrote books about patent, tariff and Constitutional law; after moving to the Midwest, Hoar would also become a state senator in Wisconsin. An impressive enough career for any man, to be sure, but today, Hoar is undoubtedly best remembered for the science fiction novels that he somehow found the time to write, hidden behind the pen name Ralph Milne Farley.

The first novel of Farley’s to see the light of day, Read More

SHORTS: Heller, Moore, Hamilton, Bradbury, Asimov

SHORTS: In this week's column we review several of the Hugo-nominated short fiction works, including four of the Retro Hugo nominees.

"When We Were Starless" by Simone Heller (2018, free at Clarkesworld, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). 2018 Hugo award nominee (novelette).

In a fallen, future version of our Earth, Mink’s tribe of nomadic, intelligent lizards wanders the land, living at a bare subsistence level and frequently threatened by physical dangers, like giant verminous creatures called rustbreed. One of the tribe’s treasures is their weavers, eight-legged technological artifacts from a prior time that can turn raw materials into useful items for the tribe, like pots and tents.

Mink is both a scout ... Read More

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