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Duncan Eagleson
Writer, painter, sculptor, and digital artist
Writer, painter, sculptor, and digital artist

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I'll be here on the 10th, along with a bunch of other authors.

I wasn't actually Nano-ing in any formal sense, but I managed 30K words on the sequel to "Darkwalker," and between 10 and 20 on the weird western I'm collaborating on with Rev DiCerto, so I consider that a "win," (though I don't feel any need for a certificate).

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So, my partner decided that this month, instead of me interviewing one of our authors, she should interview me...

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Inktober: Sir Malcom Murray (Timothy Dalton)

One final Inktober piece, done in a new painting program I've been experimenting with called Rebelle. It provides natural media style tools that rival those of Corel Painter. Still getting used to it, but I think it's going to be a very useful tool.

I've never been a fan of Timothy Dalton, but I thought his performance as Sir Malcom Murray was excellent. And this character is a fine example of the way series creator and main writer John Logan finds inventive ways to re-tool the elements of his Victorian source material. Rather than do the obvious thing, and haul in Professor Van Helsing as the leader of this misfit band who oppose these supernatural horrors, Logan turns to a character who naturally must have existed, but is never mentioned in Stoker's Dracula - that of the father of Mina Murray Harker, the heroine of the novel. His absence from the original story Logan explains by making him an explorer and adventurer, probably modeled loosely on Sir Richard Francis Burton.

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Inktober:  Eva Green

Moving from the classic to the more contemporary:  I started watching Penny Dreadful with scant hope that it would be any good.  The premise of the show, bringing together the characters of the classic Victorian horror stories (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, Jekyll & Hyde, Dorian Grey) had been done several times before, from the Universal films of the 40s, to the abysmal Van Helsing of a few years back, and it's almost always been done badly.  Watching Penny Dreadful , I was pleasantly surprised.  Everything about it was top-notch, from the writing to the acting and production values.

I've always admired the work of Eva Green, and her turn as the protagonist of Penny Dreadful, the cursed psychic/witch Vanessa Ives, was outstanding.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives in Penny Dreadful (2014-16):

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Inktober: Sir Christopher Lee.

Later generations would come to know Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman the White in The Lord of the Rings, and Count Dooku in Star Wars. But Lee made his name originally playing Count Dracula.
Bela Lugosi established a standard for the interpretation of Dracula for the 30s and 40s, but at the end of the 1950s, Hammer Studios brought a new vision of Dracula to the public in the person of Christopher Lee with their groundbreaking version of Dracula  (called Horror of Dracula in America for copyright reasons). It was the first Dracula film to show blood (in Technicolor), fangs, and staking, and a Dracula who moved any faster than a snail on quaaludes. Lee’s approach to Dracula was far closer to the character as presented in Bram Stoker’s original novel than had ever been seen before.
Lee would go on to play Dracula for Hammer in seven more films through the 60s and 70s, and he grew to hate it more with every sequel. He had great affection for the original novel, and always wanted to play the part in an authentic and faithful version, but Hammer had other ideas. The studio wanted to update the Count for the “mod’ generation. People have wondered why in some of the later films, Dracula had no lines. Turns out he’d had lines in the original scripts, but the writing was so abysmally bad, Lee refused to say them, and instead went through the whole film without speaking. It says something about Lee’s popularity, how firmly he’d become identified with the part in the public’s mind, that the studio let him get away with this.

The picture here is from an indie production Lee did as a labor of love. 1978’s Count Dracula ( El Conde Dracula ) was intended to be a faithful rendition of the book, which was why Lee signed on. Good intentions went downhill fast, and though the opening scenes are taken from Stoker, after that, the film becomes an incoherent mess. But at least Lee got to do the appropriate costume and makeup, and play some of the film “right.”

As Karloff and Lugosi had dominated the horror films of the 30s and 40s, Lee, Peter Cushing (and arguably Vincent Price) would dominate the genre in the 60s and 70s. Lee and Cushing would appear together in 22 films, primarily from Hammer and Amicus, and if the quality of the scripts was not always sterling, their performances never fail to entertain.

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It's a two-fer today, since commercial deadlines meant I missed one over the weekend.

Inktober:  Carolyn Jones

Considering the impact Carolyn Jones as Morticia had on my young mind and libido, it's a wonder I never developed a Pavlovian response to French like Gomez had.  "Goth" style hadn't been named yet, but she had it in spades.  And her marriage to Gomez had to be one of the healthiest on 60s television - certainly it was the only one with any passion in it.

Carolyn Jones had quite a career both before and after The Addams Family.  She appeared many times on Dragnet, and had parts in both Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the original '56 version) and Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.  She was the Queen of Diamonds on the 60s Batman series, and played Hippolyta, the mother of Wonder Woman, on the Lynda Carter 70s series.

Irony Department:  Jones' last gig was on a soap called Capitol, and when she was dying of cancer, she was subbed in the series by an actress named Marla Adams.  Only one "d," but still...

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Inktober:  Peter Cushing

Peter Cushing was perhaps my all time favorite horror star, and a bit of a role model when I was young.  It was his performances in Hammer's films of the 50s and 60s, as Professor Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Baron Frankenstein, and others, that gave me hope that a skinny, bookish fellow could also be dynamic and admirable, and that one didn't have to be a muscle bound hulk to be a hero (and, yes, even Baron Frankenstein seemed a to my young mind to be a hero, albeit a misguided one.  Come on, he was trying to conquer death, fercryinoutloud).

Cushing was also the un-numbered Doctor.  He starred in two Doctor Who films in the early 1960s, which apparently are not considered canon by Whovians, and his Doctor is not considered an official incarnation.  In later years, he would become known to new fans as Grand Moff Tarkin, the creator of Darth Vader in the Star Wars films.

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Inktober:  Evelyn Ankers (1941)

I understand there are entire conventions these days devoted to "Scream Queens" - women who act primarily in horror films.  But in the thirties and forties, few women specialized in horror.  Male actors like Karloff, Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Dwight Fry, Lionel Atwill and others might be typecast, or choose to specialize (if you're falling anyway, you may as well make it a dive, right?).  But the women who played opposite them in the drafty castles and foggy moors of Hollywood's back lots tended to do one or two such films, and then go back to more "normal" roles.  Dracula's Helen Chandler, Frankenstein's Mae Clarke, Zita Johann of The Mummy, Rose Hobart of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, all returned to playing ingenues in dramas, romances, and mysteries, and supernatural monsters troubled them no more.

During this period, only two leading ladies acted in more than one or two horror films, and one of those was Evelyn Ankers.

Ankers appeared as Gwen Conliffe, the love interest in The Wolf Man (1941), and went on to become the reigning "Queen of the B's,"  playing in  The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Son of Dracula (1943), The Mad Ghoul (1943), The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944), and other similar films.  She also appeared in several of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films.

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Inktober:  Boris Karloff

Boris Karloff is most famous, of course, for his first big role as the creature in James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein.  In choosing a source pic of him, though, I wanted to show him with a little less makeup - his craggy face is a fascinating character study.  This shot came from one of my favorite films of his, The Black Cat, in which he co-starred with Lugosi.  Karloff plays Hjalmar Poelzig, the leader of a Satanic cult, supposedly loosely based on Aliester Crowley.

As a teenager, I memorized the Latin invocation Karloff gives during the black mass, and recited it for my Latin teacher, who helped me translate it.  Turned out to be a random assemblage of cliche adages (like "take it with a grain of salt," and "Judge a tree by its fruit, not its leaves").

True story:  just out of high school, a friend of mine was into LaVey Satanism.  He had met those ghost chasers and "exorcists" Ed and Lorraine Warren, on whom the characters in "The Conjuring" were based, and they wanted to attend and tape one of his rituals.  Being short on attendees, he asked me to join them, and do a piece in the ritual.  I was an aspiring actor at the time, and did it as a lark.  The joke is, the piece I did in that ritual was a Latin "invocation" - Karloff's nonsense recital from The Black Cat.  The Warrens duly taped the whole thing, and for years afterward, the tape of my sonorous recital of a bunch of Latin cliches was a part of their lectures, presented as part of a legitimate "Satanic Ritual."  I've often wondered if there wasn't ever a Latin scholar or a film buff in one of their audience who got the joke.
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