Forgotten Films: The Giant Claw (1957)

The Giant Claw

If only the creature in The Giant Claw was the one advertised on the poster.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 177th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

The other day on Facebook someone put up a picture that brought back interesting memories. The picture was a still from The Giant Claw.

I remember the events leading up to my seeing this film. I don’t remember the exact year. I know it was the summer of 1964 or 1965. My family was vacationing at the military park on Lake Texoma. We were visiting with my uncle Johnny and his family in the evenings and spending the day swimming at the lake. I am not a great swimmer and this may have been a reason why.

About ten in the morning, we were wading around in the water when my sister screamed bloody murder. She had stepped on a broken beer bottle and gashed open the sole of her foot. My mom grabbed a towel and wrapped up the foot. We got our stuff together and made the drive over to Perrin Field and the hospital. About an hour and a couple of stitches later, she was better.

We went back to the lake and had our lunch. In the afternoon, we went back into the lake (except my sister, who had a bandage on her foot). About 2 p.m. my brother stepped on a broken beer bottle and sliced open the bottom of his foot. Again, we grabbed up our stuff and headed back to town. I got dropped off at my uncle’s house, as sitting in the emergency room for the second time that day did not appeal to me. My cousin Ronnie was there. We were about the same age but of totally different temperaments.

While the family was at the hospital, Ronnie and I watched The Giant Claw. The family came back for me after about an hour and a half later and asked if I wanted to go back to the lake. I looked at my pale, flat and unscarred feet and said I thought I would stay at the house and finish the movie.

If you’ve ever seen The Giant Claw, you know what a hard choice that was.

Aeronautic Engineer Mitch McAfee (Jeff Morrow) is performing some tests in a jet when he witnesses a large shape coming toward his jet. He cannot make out the details but it is big and moving very rapidly. He narrowly avoids a collision and returns to the ground. Here, as he recounts his encounter, he is greeted with skepticism as the ground radar has not reported anything else in the sky. The military officer in charge threatens him over his prank. Even Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday), his girlfriend/mathematician, does not believe him.

Major Bergen (Clark Howat) is about to fight him when a call comes in about another sighting of a UFO and a missing commercial plane. Again, nothing else was seen on the radar, and the pilot had called in the sighting. Suddenly, Mitch and Sally are on their way to Washington. On their flight, the plane is attacked by the UFO and they end up in the area of the U.S./French Canadian border, where they are rescued by Pierre (Louis Merrill). When the authorities arrive, Pierre is outside and screams. He has seen la Carcagne, a French Canadian mythic creature, part woman, part giant bird.

In New York, the pair meet up with Generals Considine and Buslirk (Morris Ankrum and last week’s star of The Neanderthal Man, Robert Shayne). Mitch has found a pattern in the bird’s attacks, based on a giant spiral. More attacks are happening and they fit the pattern.

Up to this point, the The Giant Claw is a decent little B film. Then, we get to see the bird. Oh, my Lord! According to IMDB, Jeff Morrow stated that, up until the premier, no one in the cast had seen the creature. Morrow saw the film in his hometown and when the crowd started laughing, he got up and left, rather than be recognized for being in the film.

The producer ran out of money and contracted with a special effects group in Mexico. Their monster is one of the great laughing stocks in B movie history. The giant bird is a puppet with a deformed face. You can see the strings in a few scenes. It is unconvincing and horrid-looking and ruined what might have been a decent film.

Humanity wins against this extra-terrestrial being with an anti-matter screen which is bent on destruction. The method doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but by then, you don’t care. It’s a sad finish to a ruined film that had potential.

It had been more than 50 years since I saw The Giant Claw the first time. I had hoped my memories were incorrect or hazy. They were but not in a good way. It will be at least that long before I attempt it again. Unless I have to show it to someone as a lesson.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Book: Kitt Peak by Al Sarrantonio (1993)

Kitt Peak’s cover isn’t a much of a grabber, but its pages are packed with action.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 197th in my series of Forgotten Books.

During my Spring Break this year, Sandi and I met with our friends Ed and Sam who came out to Alpine to see us. Among the many things we did was make a trip to the army post at Ft. Davis, about 25 miles away. That trip made me want to check back in on a previous Forgotten Book.

In February of last year, before I knew I was coming to this area, I wrote about the first book in this series, West Texas, a western mystery novel featuring former buffalo soldier Thomas Mullin who uses the methods of his literary idol, Sherlock Holmes, to solve a crime. The book was amazingly good and should be known by a larger reading group. But being published in hardcover by the minor publisher M. Evans as a Western with a non-descript typographical cover in 1993 does not lead to impulse buying and rave reviews,

Still, I knew Al Sarrantonio and I heard from those in the know that I should get that book. So I did. And when the sequel, Kitt Peak, came out, I picked it up also.

Kitt Peak is not an immediate sequel to West Texas. Thomas Mullin, the hero of the first novel, has inherited his aunt’s home in Boston and some 10 or 15 years have passed. The prejudice he experienced before is still present, though not as overt. Mullins misses the regimen of Army life and his horse. The civilization of Boston is not to his taste.

When he receives a letter from an old friend, Bill Adams, asking for his help in finding a missing daughter, it does not take much effort to start him moving. Knowing he cannot do things alone, he contacts his old companion, Lincoln Reeves, in Birmingham, Alabama, and asks to meet him in Tucson. The two are not quite sure what to expect. Adams was one of the few white men assigned to Ft. Davis and one of the few they both Mullin and Reeves respected.

But all is not sweetness and light in Arizona. Mullin could smell the aroma of alcohol on the letter and saw rings where a drink was placed on the letter. Mullins had heard that Adams had a fondness for drink, and with his daughter missing, it was not a large leap to see that fondness had grown.

The missing girl is half white and half Indian, specifically Papago Indian. The Papago name means “bean eater” and the tribe hates that name. They refer to themselves as Tohona O’otam. They worship the eagle that rules the sky. But the eagle is unhappy with the conduct of the peaceful tribe and begins to demand blood sacrifices. Le Cato is their leader, the Keeper of the Smoke, which includes the use of peyote.

When Mullin arrives, he meets up with the local hotelier, Cates, who has no use for him. The Marshall in town, Murphy, saves him from a bad encounter and tells him that not only is Abby Adams missing, but also her father Bob.

Out in the deserts south of town, Lone Wolf, an Apache leader, has plans for the area that are secret but involve lots of death.

Action swirls through this novel. Mullin and Reeves have bad encounters with the Papago and with miners. Bodies are found. Their guide is unreliable… maybe. And President Teddy Roosevelt is coming to Tucson on his way to California, seeking votes.

I enjoyed Kitt Peak quite a bit. It is short, just 143 pages, and that’s always a plus in my book when I’m trying to get one read and reviewed each week. The writing is crisp and evocative. I got a great feel for the area and the cultures. I like the first book slightly better, but that’s not a criticism of this one. Try to find it and check them both out.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Films: The Neanderthal Man (1953) 

The poster should clue you in that The Neanderthal Man is standard B-movie fare.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 176th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Sometime over the last year, I DVR’d a bunch of old movies I had never seen. I do this frequently. Sometimes I watch the films, other times I decide that my initial interest has faded and pass them up.

This last week, I was skinning through the recorded shows and I saw the title The Neanderthal Man and thought, “Why the heck not?”

It begins with Professor Clifford Groves (Robert Shayne, mistakenly credited as Robert Shane) living in the mountains of California, where he conducts experiments and formulates theories about Man’s ascent up the evolutionary ladder. He is working at home when he hears a loud noise and a crash. Something has happened in his laboratory.

Local hunter Wheeler is out looking for game and he runs across a saber toothed tiger, which he calls a “big cat,” even though it’s three times the size of a mountain lion and has tusks. Even though he is armed, Wheeler elects not to take a shot. Instead he goes down to Webb’s café and tells his story. No one believes him. Nola the waitress (Beverly Garland) is sympathetic but that doesn’t help. The local game warden George Oakes (Robert Long) decides to investigate and finds the spoor of something big. He makes a plaster cast of it. He takes the cast to Dr. Ross Harkness (Richard Crane), the zoologist at the local university. Harkness thinks it is a manufactured piece, rather than something authentic.

Professor Groves’ evolutionary chart shows Cro-Magnon man prior to Neanderthal and has the hoaxed Piltdown Man on the list. No wonder the local scientists group at the Naturalist’s Club thinks he is loony. And a mad scientist in the California woods is not to be fooled with.

Harkness is aware of some of Groves’ theories, having disputed with them in the past. He has a confrontation with him at Groves’ house when he brings the Professor’s fiancé, Ruth Marshall (Doris Merrick), up from the café where her car has broken down. Harkness is looking for Oakes, who parks his car at the Professor’s house since the roads end there. Groves throws Harkness and Oakes out when he confronts them. The two go out looking for the saber toothed tiger and find it. They kill the beast and go to get Groves so they can have another person verify the kill. They have to wait for Groves to emerge from his lab and when they take him to the spot, the dead body has disappeared. The Professor loses his temper over the wasted time and throws them out again.

Ruth notices changes between the man she fell in love with and the current Professor. And, no wonder! The Professor has run out of test subjects other than a small cat which he injects with an experimental fluid. We can now guess where the tiger has come from.

With his big cat dead, the Professor does what any sane man would do. He injects the serum into his own body. Within minutes he has grown lots of hair and bad teeth. He runs out into the woods and attacks Nola who is posing for photos with her boyfriend. The boyfriend dies in the scuffle.

I don’t think I need to tell you much more of the plot. You know the drill.

The Neanderthal Man is standard B picture fare, nothing startling, nothing revelatory. The acting is OK to poor. The special effects budget was somewhere between $5 and $20. The saber toothed tiger looks amazingly like a real tiger (occasionally on a not-unseen leash) though the tusks are only seen in close up shots. In other words, the saber toothed tiger walking looks like a tiger walking without the saber teeth. The Neanderthal make-up looks like it’s from a bad werewolf movie, replete with the time lapse fur-growing scenes.

But for 1953 drive-in fare, the movie is palatable. Robert Shayne overacts the mad scientist part quite well and slings erudite insults at his Naturalist Club members with ease. And, Beverly Garland is a young Beverly Garland and well worth the attention.

This is not a film to make great effort to see, but if you have 78 minutes with nothing better to do, you could do worse.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

Forgotten Book: Musrum by Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw (1968)

The cover of the surreal 1968 book Musrum.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 196th in my series of Forgotten Books.

This week I have decided to share with you one of the oddest books in my library. Back in the late 70’s I was living in San Antonio and my friend, noted collector Willie Siros, showed me the oddest book from his library. That book was called Musrum. About a week later, I found a copy of it at the long gone and lamented Et Cetra Books near San Antonio College.

I read through it then and was fascinated. The authors, Eric Thacker and Anthony Earnshaw, did one other book, Wintersol, which I have hunted for ever since and have never even seen a copy for sale. ABE (Advanced Book Exchange) has a couple of copies, both of which are over $50.

How to describe Musrum? It’s not a novel; it is more a collection of odd ramblings about a lot of subjects with numerous bizarre illustrations and typography. They love to hide the name Musrum in the illustrations, sometimes pretty abstractly, other times in shadows.

A sample page from Musrum

I’ve included some photos to give you some idea. I have also excerpted the section titled “Columbus” below:

Columbus 

  • Christopher Columbus often related a singular childhood memory, in which he was stopped, in a Genoan street, by a man who asked the way to Chicago.
  • Columbus had a left eye of solid gold.
  • He had been credited with the invention of Faraway Places.
  • There is a religious reason for this.
  • On his voyage across the Atlantic, Columbus discovered several (some say six) mid-oceanic islands. The secret of their location died with him.
  • Included amongst his baggage as a generous bale of feathers – a gift for the birds of America.
  • On landing in the Bahamas, Columbus met a native chief with a left eye of chalcedony. They did a straight swap.
  • In the Bahamas, he frequently held converse with his kindred in Europe. They could hear each other quite clearly over this immense distance.

    Musrum a catalogue of banners

  • Similarly, being a historical figure of great stature, he was able to display to his waiting sponsors in Europe many native artifacts and treasures. He merely needed to hold the objects high above his head.
  • Columbus discovered a unique group of islands one hundred and thirty-two miles due south of New York. (See Fig. 1.)
  • His cartographer made a chart of this group, using invisible ink – whereupon the islands themselves vanished.
  • Fear dissuaded him from entering New York harbor. The place was infested with sponge-cats.
  • Musrum had fled the city some days previously,
  • Kneeling down by the waters of Lake Huron, Columbus kissed the clear reflection of the Queen of Heaven; then, scooping up a gobletful of her gentle visage, he dashed it against a rock. A small amethyst dropped to the ground. Picking this up he screwed it deftly into his right eye.
  • Gott strafe Isabelle!
  • Columbus dropped swiftly down to the sea and oblivion.
  • He kept a sponge-cat with no eyes at all. He was terribly afraid of it.
  • A page detail from Musrum

    A.D. 1505. God noticed the existence of America for the first time.

  • A,D. 1933. A carrier pigeon released by Columbus arrived in Lisbon; nobody recognized it for what it was.
  • For a keepsake, Columbus gave his flagship to a Native Chief. He remained marooned in America until 1502.
  • Any European rulers commissioned Columbus to discover new continents so as to enhance their prestige; but he was a monomaniac… He discovered America in fifty-seven slightly different versions.
  • It pleased him, in his old age, to converse with other mariners. A wide range of subjects included the sites of sea battles, undiscovered continents, and the repair of ancient islands.
  • Crabmeat; wishwater; hard sunshine; milkwet silvershard; Christobus smiling remotely.”

So, that’s three pages out of 160. Surreal and fascinating stuff. Enjoy the pictures. (The one with the flags reads “Musrum, A Catalogue of Banners.” If you stare at it long enough it makes sense.

I know Musrum will not be for everyone, but I find it a fascinating thing to dip into on odd occasions. Sort of like The Codex Seraphinianus. But you can read it and, in the right frame of mind, understand it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

Forgotten Films: Reaper, Episode 1 (2005)

Reaper is a short-lived CW series you may have missed.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 175th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

During Spring Break and late March, my friends Ed and Sam came out to Alpine to visit.  During the four days (unlike dead fish, they did not stink after three) they were here, we watched a large number of films and TV shows.

Fortunately, I had lots of things they had not seen. In one of the periods when a full-length movie was too much, I pulled the first season of Reaper off the shelf and said, “I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Forty-five minutes later, they agreed. It was odd and irreverent and wonderful.

Reaper’s pilot episode concerns Sam Oliver (Brett Oliver), who’s about to turn 21. He still lives at home with his folks (Andrew Airlie and Allison Hossack) with his younger brother Kyle (Kyle Switzer). Younger brother is an overachiever while Sam is not. He works at a Home depot clone and dropped out of college after two weeks. The dictionary definition of “Loser” has his picture.

On his birthday, his parents are acting weird. His mother starts to cry; his father hugs him. Odd behavior. His best friend Bert “Sock” Wysocki (Tyler Labine) comes over for breakfast as he does every day. Sock is one of those for whom the position of Loser is a monumental promotion. Burnt-out slacker with no plans for anything past tonight’s activities. He also works at the hardware store, where his goal is to make it through his shift without actually doing anything.

On the way to work, vicious dogs seem to want to attack Sam’s car. At work, he is attracted to Andi (Missy Peregrym) a college student who works alongside him. During the day, a pile of air conditioners starts to fall toward her and Sam is, somehow, able to deflect them away. But Sam says he never touched them.

Suddenly evil dogs appear in the store, along with a mysterious white-haired man (the amazing Ray Wise). The man introduced himself as Satan. Confused, Sam goes home, where he learns that as a young couple his father had been really ill. To the point that his parents made a deal with the Devil. In exchange for a cure, the Olivers had to promise that Satan could have their first son on his 21st birthday.

No problem. They had no kids, and Mr. Oliver got a vasectomy. But then Mom showed up pregnant. Seems the doctor had some gambling debts he needed gone, so the Devil asked for one ineffective surgery.

Here’s the twist in Sam’s dilemma: the Devil doesn’t want his soul. He’s got plenty of those. What he needs is someone to help capture the souls that have escaped Hell. It’s a simple deal. Sam is shown the soul in its current manifestation. He is given a specialized tool to capture the soul, which he then has to deliver to a portal that is literally Hell on Earth. For this mission, the soul collector is a dust buster hand vac. And the portal is the local DMV, where a minion is disguised as a clerk, though she does have tiny horns hidden under her bangs.

Oh, and the soul is an arsonist working as a local firefighter who looks like a MMA champion who could smash Sam with this eyelashes. Needless to say, the first mission does not go well. Sam and Sock go after the firefighter and miss, expending the energy in the dust buster.

They need to find a way to recharge their special tool and a plan to figure out where the soul will be.

They eventually succeed and the deal is done. Or so Sam thinks. Satan has other ideas. There are more souls to be captured. And the deal isn’t done until he says it is.

The ensemble works well together and the fun is clearly present. Life at the hardware store is certainly Hell and Sam and Sock still have to try and survive there. Ray Wise is so well cast as Satan, debonair and not be fooled with.

Reaper survived for two seasons on the CW. I missed it when it was on. The amazing Kimm Antell introduced me to the show later and I loved it. Just as K. D, Wentworth had introduced me to Wonderfalls and Point Pleasant, I have to try to pass the love on. Give it a try. The episodes vary in quality. The pilot was directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Comic Book Men fame, who knows quirky humor.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  

You Got It Wrong: We Don’t Do Freudian Psychoanalysis — What Authors Get Wrong About Psychotherapists

Mike McMahon: Portrait of a metal-loving therapist.

From Dennis Lahane’s Shutter Island to Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, psychotherapy frequently pops up as an important element in genre fiction. But authors don’t always get it right. Often they  draw on an outdated vision of what psychotherapy entails or otherwise manage to distort the process. My guest blogger, Mike McMahan, a licensed psychotherapist and  heavy metal music blogger, helps set the record straight.

By Mike McMahan

When asked “what do fiction writers get wrong about therapy?” the temptation is to say “everything.” But since no one wants a dissertation, I’ve narrowed it down to two key observations.

One: If you’re in the counseling field, you learn about Sigmund Freud. Period. He is the father of the field and his influence is not to be understated.

That said, almost no one practices in what might be considered in a Freudian fashion. We all know the cliché. You go into a therapist’s office, they have you look at some weird inkblots and nod and mutter when you respond to “tell me what you see.” You then free associate about your mother and whatever prompts the therapist gives you. He rubs his beard and then gives you probing insight into your psyche and whatever underlying, twisted, psychosexual traumas are driving your current challenges.

Except it’s nothing like that. Generally speaking, therapists these days are behaviorists, though there are many specific schools of thought. A therapist will generally draw from one philosophy, which is said to be their theoretical orientation. Most clinicians these days will help you consider behaviors in your life, and ask you to think about how feelings about events impact your reaction to those events. The key figure of behaviorism is B.F. Skinner.

I often use the example of a cube. If that cube in a sequence of events, a therapist should help you put that cube on the table in front of you and help you look at all six sides. You might have been seeing one or two sides, but there are probably more (six, in fact, to force this example).

Two: A good therapist will not give you advice. I often hear/read characters uttering the phrase “my therapist told me to do such-and-such.” A therapist’s job is to help you consider a problem from multiple angles and to collaborate with you to help you make your own decision. I have encountered situations where a client says to me “you told me to do this,” but that is rarely the case. Generally, they have misunderstood something I’ve said or heard what they wanted to hear.

Think of it this way: a therapist’s (somewhat contradictory) job is for you to have no need to come back and see them. If a therapist is telling you what to do, they’re doing you a disservice. Therapists are not like accountants, who see you once a year on April 14 or so. If you rely on a therapist to tell you what to do, you could become dependent on them, thus making the goal farther out of reach.

On top of that, a therapist only knows your life via what you tell them. How can we tell you what to do? You’re the expert on your own life. We’re just here to listen.

Mike McMahan, LPC, is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Texas. He posts regularly on his pop culture/psychotherapy mash-up blog Therapy Goes POP. He is also a contributor to the music blog Heavy Blog Is Heavy.

 

Forgotten Book: Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe (1955)

The lurid-looking core of Peter Rabe’s Stop This Man!

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 195th in my series of Forgotten Books.

Recently I ordered some paperbacks from a Facebook acquaintance. I got 11 books, which included four Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer, two Fredric Brown novels (one science fiction, one mystery and both great!), and five novels by Peter Rabe.

Peter Rabe is one of those forgotten mystery writers of the ’50’s and ’60s. He’s not quite in the John D. MacDonald, Ross McDonald, Jim Thompson, Charles Williams or Donald Hamilton class, but he is not far behind them. When the box with the books arrived, I was immediately drawn to Stop This Man! because I loved the cover, the blurb from Erskine Caldwell, and because I had not previously read it.

So, it found its way into my hands and my recliner.

Stop This Man! Is an odd novel. It deals with the theft of a 36-pound gold bar and the cross country chase to recover it. Tony Catell is a three-time loser who has just gotten out of prison. He is acquainted with Otto Schumacher, a quiet man who has a gift for planning robberies. Tony has stolen the gold bar based on Otto’s plan. Otto and his girlfriend Selma are waiting for Tony when he arrives with the bar. But, of course, there’s a problem. None of them knew the bar was radioactive. People who get near it suddenly don’t so hot. While the bar doesn’t seem to be affecting Tony, others are dying.

Otto wants to wait but Catell doesn’t. Selma is attracted to Tony’s style and decides to hang with Tony. The FBI have fingered Schumacher as a possible accessory in the crime, but when they confront him, they find only a corpse. Radiation has done its job.

With the heat turned up, Tony decides to by-pass an intermediary and go straight to the buyer, Mr. Smith, in Los Angeles himself. He dumps Selma and tells her to meet him in LA, though he has no intention of keeping that date.

Along the way he tries to keep a low profile, stealing and changing cars frequently. In Arizona, he meets a small town bully with a badge who hates him at first sight. Tony is beaten and jailed and the prospects don’t look good, but he is an experienced felon and soon has the drop on the sheriff.

In LA, Tony meets up with an old friend, the Turtle, at just the right time. He’s got less than a dollar and looks like hell, so the Turtle spots him some money and helps him find the way to Mr. Smith. On his way, Tony makes some enemies – Mr. Smith’s right hand man Topper being the worst of them. He makes a good friend in Topper’s young girlfriend Lily. He makes some corpses. And he meets Selma again. Need I mention the Feds are now breathing down his neck?

Of course, things get worse from there.

Stop This Man! is a good, short read that was reprinted in 2011 by Hard Case Crime. Thank you Charles Ardai for all that you’ve done there!

While it’s enjoyable, the book is odd. Most of the real action takes place off stage. Both the robbery and the initial meeting between Schumacher and Tony have happened before the book starts. Even so, there’s a lot of action in the 160 pages in this novel.

I’ve not read a ton of Rabe. Not like those other writers I listed earlier. What I have read, though, I really enjoyed. I know Ed Gorman was a big fan of Rabe’s work and we discussed it once on the phone for quite a while. While reading this, I thought of Ed a lot. Gone, but not forgotten.

Rabe wrote quite a few books but they are a little hard to find. If you find one, read it. Then look for more. You’ll find some of the oddest tiles on his books. Titles like Benny Muscles In, Murder Me for Nickels, Dig My Grave Deep, A Shroud for Jesso and Kill the Boss Goodbye make his books memorable.

Check him out. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.  This week, however, Patti is, hopefully, accepting an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best paperback novel and the beautiful and talented Todd Mason is hosting for her.

Moment of Wonder: Earth Seen Through Saturn’s Rings

Earth as seen through Saturn’s rings, as photographed by NASA’s Cassini space probe.

See that dot in the middle of the picture? That’s Earth as photographed through the rings of Saturn.

A recent image from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows our home planet as a tiny speck of light between the icy rings. To me, it kind of looks like a speck of dust caught in the grooves of a vinyl record. Whatever your individual interpretation, it’s a reminder that we’re one tiny bright spot floating in a sea of stars.

Makes you feel kind of insignificant, doesn’t it?

Cassini shot the image on April 12, when it was 870 million miles from Earth. The robotic spacecraft — a joint mission between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana — has been orbiting the ringed planet and studying its system in detail.

That mission, however, will end later this year.

After a close pass by Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini is beginning a final 22 orbits around the planet, which will terminate with a dramatic final descent. Dubbed the Grand Finale by NASA, the probe will take a “science-rich plunge” into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15.

Forgotten Films: The Night of the Lepus aka Rabbits! (1972)

The original poster of Night of the Lepus actually makes it look scary.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 174th in my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Hey, let’s try for two weeks in a row on the Forgotten Film. What a concept!

And speaking of concepts, this week’s film has one. Well, maybe half a concept: Ecology tampered with by man runs a little wild in the Southwest.

Since we just finished Easter, I thought Night of the Lepus might be a suitable tie-in film.

I remember when Night of the Lepus came out. I was a very broke college student who could do an occasional film and I thought about this one. For about two days anyway, which was when I got the report back from friends. As one put it, “This dog won’t hunt.” It was bad. For a horror film, it was not scary — a kiss of death.

And, until this weekend, I had kept that nearly 45 year streak alive.

So the plot involves rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun) whose property is being overrun with rabbits. He loses one of his best horses when it steps into a rabbit hole and breaks a leg while he is riding it. He wants the varmints gone, but he did not like previous pest control efforts which utilized poisons.

Hillman contacts the president of the local university, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), for assistance. Since Hillman is a big-time contributor to the university, Clark wants to help. So he contacts Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh) who have been working with bats but respect Hillman’s request not to use poisons. They have an experimental serum which they hope will disrupt the animals’ hormones and mating habits. They also have a precocious daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who has become attached to the rabbit given the injection. She secretly switches it out with another rabbit. Then, being precocious, she takes this infected rabbit to Hillman’s ranch, where it escapes and joins the rabbit population. Bunny breeding and mutations occur with astounding rapidity. Giant mutant rabbits begin attacking the animals and local population.

The film had good stars — some of my favorites. Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, DeForest Kelley and Paul Fix all had major roles, along with a million or so rabbits. But the human actors seem to have seen how the film was going to turn out. Their hearts must not have been in it, because their acting is marginal at best.

The screenplay, based on the novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon, a 1964 comic horror novel set in Australia, was written by Don Holliday and Gene R. Kearney. Kearney did some TV work and was nominated for an Emmy. Holliday appears to have this one credit and nothing else. The dialogue for the film is dreadful. But it’s better than the special effects. Being 1972, we have no CGI or computer assists. So we see lots of regular-size bunnies running rampant over miniature sets while costumed actors got the job of trying to appear to be giant mutant rabbits killing regular folk.

I had trouble staying with the film. I got distracted by solitaire games or pretty much anything. So, sorry for this one. Maybe I will have a better film next week. I know some people like this one for a camp effect or some such reason. I’m not going to be one of them.

Series organizer Todd Mason host Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.

“Burma Jukebox” gets a third play

The latest place you can read “Burma Jukebox.”

“Burma Jukebox,” a short story I first sold in 2010, has received its third publication, this time in Big Pulp Annual 2016.

It was also picked up last year in M – Murder, Magic & the Macabre, another publication in the Big Pulp empire, which produces a variety of magazines and themed anthologies focused on genre fiction and poetry.

The supernatural tale — I’m still not sure whether it’s better categorized as quiet horror or dark fantasy — is a favorite of mine to read at conventions. It focuses on how easy it is to lose ourselves in music, especially during tough times.

The most recent sale brings to mind Golden Age sf writer James Gunn’s first rule of writing: “If it’s worth writing once, it’s worth selling twice.”

Or three times for that matter.