Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Hitchcock Project-Henry Slesar Part Forty: "House Guest" [8.8]

by Jack Seabrook

There is an old hymn that goes:

Each day I'll do a golden deed,
By helping those who are in need;
My life on earth is but a span,
And so I'll do the best I can.

--William Golden, 1918

Golden lived in Mississippi and wrote most of his hymns while serving time in jail. In Andrew Garve's 1960 novel The Golden Deed, Frank Roscoe helps those in need but will likely end up sharing William Golden's fate.

The Golden Deed was first published, probably in condensed form, in the Toronto Star Weekly on September 5, 1959. The novel version was published in 1960 and it was televised as a one-hour live show on an NBC summer replacement anthology series called Moment of Fear on July 1, 1960. The teleplay was by Mel Goldberg and MacDonald Carey starred as Jim, with Nina Foch as Sally and Robert Redford as the stranger. The story was shown again on Moment of Fear on September 2, 1960; I don't know if it was another live performance or if it was a kinescope of the July 1, 1960 performance. In any case, I have been unable to locate a print of this televised version.

Two years later, The Golden Deed was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour by Henry Slesar and Marc Brandel under the title "House Guest." It was broadcast on CBS on Thursday, November 8, 1962.

Garve's novel is an exciting read. It begins as Sally Mellanby and her children visit the Somerset Coast for a day at the beach. They are accompanied by the childrens' nurse, Kira, an 18-year-old girl from Norway. Tony, Sally's eight-year-old son, paddles his raft too far out into the water. Sally tries to swim to his aid but begins to flounder; a man from the beach jumps into the water and rescues them both. He is Frank Roscoe, an ex-Army man of about 40 who is in the area after having been discharged and who is looking to buy land to start a poultry farm. Grateful for his aid, Sally invites Frank to dinner the next evening.

First edition
Sally and her husband John live in Bath, England, and are wealthy and well-liked in the community. Frank comes for dinner and soon they invite him to stay at their home while he looks for a place to live. Soon, his behavior changes and he is too familiar with Sally and too attentive to Kira. One day, while he is using the Mellanbys' car, Frank gets into a minor accident with a caravan driven by George Sherston who, with his wife Eve, is exploring the countryside. The next day, Frank makes a pass at Eve, which leads George and Frank to argue.

Frank receives a letter from a Colonel in the Army demanding that he repay a 7000 pound loan and he asks John to give him that amount as a reward for saving the lives of his wife and son. John does some checking and learns that Frank's story does not hold up. He confronts the house guest, who tells him: "I saved your wife and child, didn't I? I did my golden deed, and that's what it's damn well going to be--golden!" Frank threatens to harm Sally and the children if John doesn't pay up. Frank slaps John and George appears, furious. He gets into a violent scuffle with Frank and John hits Frank with a chair, knocking him out.

MacDonald Carey as John Mitchell
George insists on taking the unconscious Frank back to his caravan for the night. Later, George calls to tell John that Frank has died. John goes to the caravan and finds George in the process of burying Frank's body. George convinces John that it's the only way and that they can say that Frank left town suddenly. "Why should we risk ruining our lives for a man like Roscoe?" George asks. John and Sally decide to keep quiet because John fears that he would be convicted of manslaughter and spend five years in jail. They take Frank's suitcase to George to be buried and, after the Sherstons leave, John and Sally think the ordeal is over.

Four days later, a letter arrives for Frank from a London man named Charles Faulkner, who demands that Frank repay the 7000 pounds he owes or else he will go to the police. Fearing an investigation, John goes to see Faulkner in London and pays Frank's debt. John spends the ensuing weeks feeling terrible until an article in the newspaper reports that the place where Frank's body is buried is scheduled to be the site of a road-widening project. John and Sally resolve that they must dig up Frank's body and move it to a safe place. Under cover of darkness, they dig up and move his suitcase first, barely escaping being seen. Before they can move the body the next night, a storm soaks the area, preventing the deed from being done for a couple of days.

Peggy McCay as Sally Mitchell
The act of digging up the suitcase makes them realize that George did not have enough time to dig a hole and bury Frank between the time of the phone call and the time John arrived at the caravan. They begin to suspect that George killed Frank and kept the truth from John and Sally. With the help of the motor club, they track down the Sherstons' caravan and confront George and Eve with their suspicions. To their surprise, George admits having killed Frank when the violent man awoke and came at him. George apologizes to John and insists that he will go back to Bath and move the body himself.

John and Sally drive away but accidentally encounter Charles Faulkner, who claims to be on holiday in the area. They are suspicious and return to the caravan, where they see George, Eve, Faulkner and Frank Roscoe sitting and chatting together. There is a confrontation and the foursome admit to being con artists. The body in the grave was a dummy. Frank insists that John will not report them to the police because he fears scandal and, to seal the deal, Frank gives John a check for 8000 pounds. John and Sally drive away, with Sally upset at John, until he tells her that he has no intention of letting the crooks get away and that he plans to report them to the police. John and Sally drive home, happy to have nothing to worry about at last.

Robert Sterling as Ray Roscoe
Andrew Garve, who wrote The Golden Deed, was a pseudonym of Paul Winterton (1908-2001). Winterton began his career as a reporter but began publishing novels in 1938. He also wrote under the names Roger Bax and Paul Somers. In 1947, he retired from journalism "to become a full-time thriller writer." He published 40 books between 1938 and 1978. A few of his stories were adapted for TV or film, including two for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

The adaptation of The Golden Deed, "House Guest," was written by Henry Slesar and Marc Brandel (1919-1994). Brandel was born in London as Marcus Beresford and was active as a TV writer from 1951 to 1979. This was his only contribution to the Hitchcock series, which suggests that he wrote a first draft and that Slesar was brought in to make revisions.

The TV version is similar to the novel but has some important changes. The setting is moved from the southwestern part of England to the central coast of California, around Monterey. The Mellanbys are renamed the Mitchells and have only one child, Tony. John and Sally own a boys' school and live next door to it. In the beach scene, Roscoe, renamed Ray instead of Frank, is swimming in the ocean when Tony ventures in. Sally is negligent and turns her back on her eight-year-old son, who runs into the waves and quickly finds himself in too deep. Roscoe later reveals that he called to Tony to lure him into the deep water, giving his act of salvation a much different cast than the accidental event found in the novel.

Karl Swenson as George Sherston
Although the beach scenes are clearly shot on location, the shots where Tony is floundering and Ray swims to his rescue were obviously shot in a studio tank and do not look convincing. Another change made due to the transplanting of the story from Bath to Monterey occurs when Ray has his car accident with the Sherstons. In Bath, the vehicles become wedged between two stone walls along a narrow lane. In Monterey, Ray tries to pass George's car on the highway and clips the fender.

As the show progresses, the changes become more significant, much to the detriment of the televised version. The scene in the book where George and Frank fight in John's house and John hits Ray with a chair and knocks him out is handled much differently. On TV, Ray tells John and Sally that he wants $20,000 and then goes outside to let them talk it over. They hear a gunshot and rush outside to find Ray on top of George, choking him. John pulls Ray off and they tussle; John punches Ray and he falls, hitting his head on a car bumper and losing consciousness. Having John get into a fistfight with Ray seems out of character for John, especially compared to the way he is portrayed in the novel, where he walks with a limp and is very gentle.

That's no dummy!
The alterations continue. George calls John later that night to say that Ray stopped breathing just before he got him to the hospital. In the book, there was never any talk of taking Frank to the hospital; instead, George took him back to his caravan. Perhaps the most important moment in the book is botched onscreen: in the book, John arrives to find George burying Frank's body and John sees just a glimpse of the supposedly dead man's face before George shovels dirt over it. Onscreen, we see a long shot of the body in the grave and, knowing what happens in the book, it could be a dummy. But the camera then cuts to a closeup of Ray's head and torso and there is no doubt that he is a real person. This begs the question, which is never answered in the TV version, as to how Ray got out of the grave in which he was buried alive!

To streamline the story, the teleplay omits any mention of the burial of Ray's suitcase. John receives the letter from Charles Faulkner, but on TV he is an old sea captain and John visits him in a bar and gives him the check. The last section of the TV show is the most different from the novel. John and Sally never discuss digging up Ray's body themselves, nor do they do a dry run by digging up his suitcase. There is no search for George's caravan. Instead, John drives right up to the caravan, which has not left the area. As John drives away, we see Charles Faulkner peering out of the door of the caravan. This eliminates the need for John to run into him in town.

Ray reveals that he is alive
John then telephones Sally to tell her that he is suspicious of George. Though he instructs her to stay home, she heads out alone and goes to the place where the body was buried. She finds George there, having already dug up the body and nearly done filling in the hole. She is suspicious because he has done this before John's arrival and she follows him into the caravan, where she sees Ray's body laid out on the floor under a tarp. She spies a rifle propped against a wall and accuses George of having killed Ray. Sally says she will go to the police, but suddenly Ray's hand shoots out and grabs her ankle. She screams as he throws off the tarp and gets up from the floor.

Sally realizes that the whole thing was a trick done to blackmail her and John. Ray plans to kidnap Sally so that she can't tell John about them before the bank opens on Monday and he can cash the $20,000 check that John gave to Faulkner. Just then, the police rush in with guns drawn and arrest the four con artists. John had summoned them without telling Sally.

Billy Mumy as Tony Mitchell
The conclusion to "House Guest" falls flat, despite plot changes that were surely intended to make it more exciting. The "jolt" moment of Ray's hand reaching out to grab Sally's ankle is a good one, and the idea of having Sally venture into danger alone plays on the cliche of the helpless female, but the last-minute rescue by the police--who had not been involved in the story up to that time--recalls too many Saturday afternoon serials or Western TV shows. It also does not help that Robert Sterling, who plays Ray Roscoe, seems to do everything tongue in cheek. His character never seems particularly menacing and, at the very end of the show, as he is being led off by the police, he cracks a joke by asking if John knows anyone who wants to buy a used trailer!

"House Guest" is directed by Alan Crosland, Jr. (1918-2001), who did much better work on some of Slesar's half-hour episodes. He directed 16 half-hours and three hours in the Hitchcock series.

John Mitchell is played by MacDonald Carey (1913-1994), whose movie and TV career stretched from 1942 to 1994. He played Detective Jack Graham in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and appeared in one episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents in addition to "House Guest," but he was best known for his long-running role on the daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives, on which he was featured from 1965 to 1994.

Adele Mara as Eve Sherston
Peggy McCay (1930- ) plays Sally Mitchell. She was 17 years younger than MacDonald Carey but plays a part somewhat older than her real age. She has been appearing on TV since 1949 and is still active today. She was in three episodes of the Hitchcock series, including "The Magic Shop," and--like Carey--appeared on Days of Our Lives, beginning in 1983 and continuing to this day.

Ray Roscoe is played by Robert Sterling (1917-2006). Born William Sterling Hart, his acting career lasted from 1939 to 1986. This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock show but he was a regular on the TV series Topper (1953-1955), playing George Kerby, "that most sporty spirit."

Karl Swenson (1908-1978) plays George Sherston. His acting career lasted from 1935 until his death and he was frequently seen on episodic TV. He was on the Hitchcock show three times, including Slesar's "On the Nose," he had a small role in Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), and he was a regular on Little House on the Prairie.

His wife Eve is played by Adele Mara (1923-2010). Born Adelaide Delgado, this was her only appearance on the Hitchcock series. She was married to Roy Huggins, creator of Maverick and co-creator of The Rockford Files.

Robert Armstrong as Captain Charles Faulkner
Captain Charles Faulkner is played by Robert Armstrong (1890-1973), the veteran character actor whose greatest role was as Carl Denham in King Kong (1933). He appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Faith of Aaron Menefee."

Finally, the beloved child star Billy Mumy (1954- ) plays Tony. Mumy was on three Hitchcock episodes, as well as three episodes of The Twilight Zone and, of course, he was a regular on Lost in Space. He maintains a website here and he is still acting, making music, and putting out comic books!

"House Guest" is not yet available on DVD but may be viewed for free online here.

"CTVA - The Classic TV Archive Homepage." CTVA - The Classic TV Archive Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
"The FictionMags Index." The FictionMags Index. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
"Galactic Central." Galactic Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
Garve, Andrew. The Golden Deed. London: Pan, 1974. Print.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
"House Guest." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 8 Nov. 1962. Television.
IMDb., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
McCarty, John, and Brian Kelleher. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: An Illustrated Guide to the Ten-year Television Career of the Master of Suspense. New York: St. Martin's, 1985. Print.
Tooney, Mike. "Review of "House Guest"" MYSTERY*FILE ON-LINE. N.p., 29 Mar. 2010. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
"Tune: [Each Day I'll Do a Golden Deed]." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2014.

  • Antenna TV is airing back to back episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents nightly and will host a 28-hour marathon this "Hitch-O-Ween"! Check out the daily schedule here.
  • ME TV is airing The Alfred Hitchcock Hour every Saturday night! Find out this week's episode here.
  • Coming in two weeks: "What Really Happened," starring Anne Francis!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 39: August 1962

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Jerry Grandenetti
All American Men of War 92

"The Battle Hawk!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

"Ace on a String!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Double Ace in Double Trouble!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

Peter: Tired of leading his men into a never-ending battle against the terror-rockets, Johnny Cloud begins to take his frustrations out on his crew. A sudden infiltration of animal mascots gets on Johnny's nerves and he tells the men they can't have barnyard critters mucking up the cockpits. The men grumble but Cloud believes that his orders have been heard loud and clear. That is, until the next day when the squadron goes into a narrow crevasse that could be hiding the terror rockets and Tex's monkey, Top Banana, cheeps out a warning about a plethora of incoming enemy fighters. The little chimp saves the day but Johnny is furious and he grounds Tex. Of course, monkey mania isn't the real problem; it's Johnny's inability to cope with sending his men into certain death. When he decides to tackle the crevasse alone, with his canopy open, "The Battle Hawk" soars into the cockpit and gives Cloud directions on how to survive the crevasse and bomb the terror-rockets. Triumphant, Johnny Cloud returns to base to declare Animal in the Cockpit Day and searches for the Lysol. Your typical Johnny Cloud adventure, with all the teases set up to deliver in the end. Why did Johnny's guys suddenly decide they were superstitious and needed hamsters, iguanas, and cobras in the cockpit with them and, more tellingly, who believes those animals will still be around by the next installment? I'm absolutely convinced a young George Lucas read All American Men of War and thought "Some day, I'm going to incorporate the crevasse with the terror-rockets into one of my films."

"O Johnny Cloud had a farm... E-I E-I O"

Jack: What worries me more are the new nicknames Johnny gave to some of the Happy Braves--Young Ace? Kid Kansas? Does this mean we're going to get recurring characters now like Ice Cream Soldier and Blockbuster? And does Pooch know about these new animal co-stars? Can an Animal Labor Union be far behind?

Peter: Grounded after becoming four-fifths of an Ace, a young World War I pilot must improvise and attack the German ace, Count Graf, riding a kite. With a majority of these war pilot tales, the humanity gets pushed to the side and the thrust becomes the kill. Some of these funny book characters seem driven not to defend their country but to get that elusive fifth plane. We can chalk that up to the brevity of these strips but with the weaker ones, like "Ace on a String," it becomes glaring.

Just another day in the DC war universe

Jack: The Black Ace made me look up when Enemy Ace will finally get started and I was dismayed to see that it's not till 1965! In the meantime, how the heck did this guy get a giant kite to take flight with himself hanging onto it? I have flown kites at the beach and I always have to run around and play out the string. This gent just climbs aboard and up it goes. I guess DC war heroes have special skills.

"Double Scoop of Dopiness"
Peter: When he becomes too absorbed in his tenth kill, Mike doesn't come to the aid of his brother, Jimmy (also a pilot) in time and Jimmy's plane is shot down. Wracked with guilt, Mike finds he can't fly and requests another job. His C.O. assigns him to drive around to camps and boost morale. When he's visiting the area where Jimmy was shot down, his jeep hits a land mine and Mike wakes up to find Jimmy alive. His plane had been shot down and he'd been rescued by GIs. His mental block cleared, Mike teams up with Jimmy to blow the Commies out of the sky. "Double Ace in Double Trouble" is a predictable tale right from the moment Jimmy's plane goes down. You know there will be the big reunion and Mike will get his nerve back. All that's missing is the catch phrase. A very weak issue of AAMoW.

Jack: You can say that again! The best thing about this story is the cool Korean War jets. I knew Jimmy wasn't dead. The art by Andru and Esposito is passable, with decent panels showing Mike's freakout and the hands grabbing him out of the plane.

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 121

"New Boy in Easy!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"The Sergeant with the Borrowed Stripes"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Jack: There's a "New Boy in Easy!" and he's a bespectacled gent who loves to pore over a chessboard. As Rock and the combat-happy Joes fight off Nazi planes and tanks, the new guy "helpfully" points out that war is like chess and the men who are dying represent the pawns, sacrificed for the greater good. Rock is too much of a humanist to agree and so the new guy bets him that, by day's end, he'll see the validity of the comparison. As the casualties mount and the men of Easy Co. soldier on, they finally defeat the Nazis even though they should have fallen. Rock tells the new guy that men are men and soldiers are soldiers, and until pawns can stand back up from a chessboard and keep fighting, they'll never compare to real soldiers. This is a very cerebral story in a series that already tends to be thoughtful. Of course war is like chess--chess is based on war! But Kanigher, Kubert and Rock demonstrate pretty clearly that the human element has something the game lacks.

Easy Co. comes through again!
Peter: These stories of the new recruits can be samey - there's only so much spin you can put on the cliche of "the new kid in the co." - but I found this one to be really deep and well-written. I guess it helps that this is not a guy who just can't pick up a weapon and you know by the end of the story he'll be mowing those Nazis down. As Jack noted, this one is cerebral. Again, I have to wonder aloud whether Kanigher was forced to write dumbed-down series like War That Time Forgot and Gunner and Sarge by upper management in order to slip in the tales the kids had to think about. Let's give a 21-gun salute to the GIs we lost this issue: "Stretch Anderson, "Rubber-Knee" Roberts, "Penny-Ante" Watts, and "Jersey-Jack" Johnson. Boys, we hardly knew ya.

"New Boy in Easy!"

"The Sergeant with Borrowed Stripes!"
Jack: A Chinese tank attacks a small Korean village and kills the father of young Sung Chu, so the boy makes a run for it and is rescued by U.S. Sergeant Joe Smith. The tank returns and Smith fights it on his own as the boy watches from a safe place. Sgt. Smith climbs into the captured tank and uses its gun to fight off two more Chinese tanks, but he is injured in the battle. Sung Chu bravely picks up his machine gun and continues the fight, blasting the tank to Kingdom Come and saving the American sergeant. As a reward, Smith tells Sung Chu that he will adopt him and the boy receives a medal for heroism. Not a bad little story, despite shaky art by Jerry G. I'm glad that, in 1962, they could still differentiate between Asian friend and Asian foe.

Peter: One can't take seriously the story of a twelve-year old who picks up a machine gun and mows down a tankful of the enemy even if you'd like to. Jerry Grandenetti's art looks like it was reprinted from DC's Jerry Lewis comic book. And then there's that goofy final panel, where the sergeant exclaims that he's gotten permission to adopt little Sung Chu Smith (!) back to America and take him out to baseball games and ice cream parlors. Wait 'til Mrs.Sergeant sees little Sung Chu waddle in through the front door.

Joe Kubert
Our Fighting Forces 70

"The Last Holdout!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"Periscope Pigeon!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jack Abel

"Gunner and the Bird!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

Jack: Col. Hakawa pulls so many pranks on Gunner and Sarge that they wear themselves out trying to differentiate between real attacks and phony ones. Finally, the Marines announce that they have cleared the island of Japanese soldiers, and our heroes are headed home! They get a job at a gas station but jump at the chance to appear in a movie about WWII fighting. To their surprise, it's being filmed right on the same island where they spent so much time! They are even more shocked when their play-acting is answered by a real attack by none other than Col. Hakawa, who is "The Last Holdout!" on the island after the war ended! They blow him and his tank to bits, but wait--it's only a dream being dreamed by a weary Gunner. Sarge wakes him up and tells him it's time to get back out on patrol. I was getting excited about the end of the Gunner and Sarge series and I was all set to go to Wikipedia to confirm it when it all exploded in my face like a cigar from Col. Hakawa.

Peter: Obviously, Pooch had it in his contract that he could sit out "dream stories." You can chalk it up to it all being a nightmare but how did Hakawa's dummy throw the potato masher? Why does this "Imperial Practical Joker" put the rest of WWII on hold while he's making it a private hell for Gunner and Sarge? Shouldn't Hirohito be notified? I was assuming that, since they're on a Pacific island, G&S would eventually run into dinosaurs of the stone age but, 26 installments in, nothing yet!

More hijinks with the Marines!

Jack: When they were growing up as kids, Eddie's big brother Dan always saved him when he was in trouble. Now they're both in WWII, where Eddie flies a plane and Dan pilots a sub. They are brought together to destroy some island defenses, but Eddie's job as decoy goes awry when his plane is shot down. On a rubber life raft, Eddie becomes a "Periscope Pigeon!" and guides Dan's sub close to the targets until he can fire a torpedo and blow them up. This story seemed to strain credibility to me when Eddie started writing backwards on the periscope lens in crayon to send messages to Dan. Good thing he had a box of crayolas in his survival kit when his plane crashed in the ocean!

Peter: Yep, there's a lot to cry BS on in "Periscope Pigeon" but I thought the exciting bits outweighed the really silly stuff. If we have to have yet another "brothers-in-arms" tale, at least this one shows a bit of originality. I do like how a rubber raft saved Eddie from being blown to bits while the sea is aflame all around him!

More fun with crayons!

Jack: After Taggart's first flying mission in the Bustin' Buzzard is a flop he is grounded and the plane takes off without a gunner. The Buzzard goes down in the desert outside Bengazi and Taggart heads off alone in a jeep to try to find it. On his second day out in the scorching heat he finds a falcon with a broken wing. The falcon has a bit of the downed plane's aluminum skin stuck in its talon and Taggart decides to follow its tracks to see if he can locate the plane or an oasis for some water. He finds the oasis, but it's guarded by Nazis! Taggart blows them up with a well thrown grenade, then fights off a Nazi plane with the machine gun on his jeep. Finally, "Gunner and the Bird" locate the crew of the Bustin' Buzzard just in time, before they all die of thirst. When I saw the title of this story, I figured we were in for more antics with Gunner of Gunner and Sarge. Instead, Sarge was replaced by a bird and Gunner wasn't Gunner!

Peter: This one was a chore.  Grandenetti's pencils look almost unfinished this time around (and they never look all that good as it is), resembling the mess they'll become when the DC mystery line rolls around in about six years. These stories about GIs and the bonds they build with wildlife put me to sleep.

More fun with Jerry Grandenetti!

Peter: Several times during our journey I've read Sgt. Rock's Combat Corner letters page and thought "Well, I'll be damned, I didn't know that!" I'm not sure whether all these letters from eight year olds are legit but they raise several good points in their questions and shed light on some aspects of war that I've not read in all the WWII non-fiction I've devoured. Say, for instance, the question posed by Stan Woodling of Dallas. Instead of paraphrasing, I've reprinted the entire question and answer below. I think you'll find this fascinating:

An early example of bagged comics--save a penny!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Voices in the Dark: The Horrors of Dark Fantasy (1941-1942) Part Five

by Jose Cruz

18. Pennsylvania Turnpike

Original Broadcast: March 20, 1942
    Cast: Ben Morris (Ken Miner), Fred Wayne (Hank), and Muir Hite (Filling Station Attendant). 
      An old hitchhiker saunters into a filling station, the friendly attendant inquiring as to his destination. Their casual talk eventually brings to light some strange facts and habits of the hiker: he doesn’t know what a sandwich is and he tries to use an authentic 18th century gold coin to pay for it. The old man is undetermined as to where he is going but he has a definite plan in mind. “I always pay off my debts,” he tells the attendant, adding an extra odd note when he explains that he only takes rides from men with red hair.
        The hiker owes a debt to a red-headed man and thus seeks them out as his travelling companions in hopes of settling his score. Just then a motorist enters the station asking the way to Pine Knob, Pennsylvania. The old man offers his help but first asks that the motorist take off his hat. The attendant goads the man to humor the hiker, and not only does the old feller see that the man has red hair but he makes note of the initials in the hat: “K. M.” for Ken Miner.
          Miner irritably asks the hiker again for directions to Pine Knob. The hiker offers to point Miner in the right direction if he’ll drive him there and the two promptly depart. Picking up a bag of tobacco that the old man had used, the attendant marvels at the insignia on it that reads “King’s Choice, 1756.”
            Miner tries to chat pleasantly with the taciturn hiker, who points to a road for Miner to take off the turnpike. Miner is perplexed as he hadn’t seen the road there before. Driving along, he’s astounded that there aren’t tracks from any other passing automobile on the road, just the deep ruts made from wagons and stagecoaches. “Six coal-black horses,” the hiker chirps. “The pride of Pennsylvany!” 
              Ken grows uneasy as the buildings and highway shrink in the distance the further they drive out. “Nothing but open prairie land,” he mutters. “Trees. Hills. Tall grass.” The hiker starts to get a little cryptic when he asks Miner to imagine something incredible happening to him, to think of his immortal spirit swearing vengeance throughout the ages for this incredible incident. “What could you do but roam place from place?” he asks. He goes on to say that time is ever-fluctuating, but Miner won’t hear it. “What’s going to happen certainly isn’t taking place now,” the driver retorts.
                Seems he spoke too soon. Just then they pull to a stop in front of a miraculous scene. Ken witnesses two men, both of them dead-ringers for the hiker and himself, conversing in front of a covered wagon. They’re discussing the fate of a stash of gold they’ve just acquired. The Miner of the past tells his companion Hank that he plans on taking the gold for himself. Hank refuses so Miner shoots him down in cold blood for his troubles. The hiker explains to Ken that the two panhandlers are past versions of themselves. “Nine score years I’ve waited,” Hank’s spirit wails. Taking control of the wheel, Hank sends the car over the edge of a cliff onto the rocks below.
                  Bishop scores more points for delivering an efficient, well-told tale that uses the supernatural to push the narrative smoothly forward. A small but considerable sense of mystery is generated by the real-time opening, stirring up questions in the listener’s mind as to what the ultimate endgame of the enigmatic hitchhiker will turn out to be and what such a strange turning point as red hair has to do with the whole thing. 
                    The tale possesses a Twilight Zone atmosphere, especially with its preoccupations with the shattering of time’s barriers, travelers, and roadside stops, recalling most prominently “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” and “The Hitchhiker.” The latter was actually broadcast on radio for Suspense four months prior to Bishop’s play, relaying Lucille Fletcher’s famous story of a man on a cross country trip trying to elude the damnable presence of a persistent spirit asking the eternal question “Going… my way?” 
                      Fred Wayne manages to turn his character’s surliness into a maintained sense of menace, with Morris and Hite putting in their always-reliable characterizations to balance the oddity of the proceedings. In comparison to the high antics and glorious pulpishness of the last several episodes, “Pennsylvania Turnpike” serves as a nice breather but one that nevertheless holds its own with its straightforward narrative of paranormal vengeance on the highway.

                      19. Convoy for Atlantis 

                      Original Broadcast: March 27, 1942

                      Cast: Ben Morris (Harvey Adams), Murillo Schofield (Winston Everly), and Garland Moss (Siegfried, the Ruler of Atlantis).

                      Harvey Adams and his friend Winston Everly have been stranded on an open boat for nine days without food or water, each passing hour feeling like an eternity. Harvey is a reporter who was hoping to get the scoop on the recent string of mysterious boat disappearances that had occurred in the open sea. Three separate ships had all seemingly vanished into thin air with no sign of the passengers or indication of a distress signal. Harvey solicits the aid of Winston and his yacht to trace the final course of the vessels and perhaps discover some answers.

                      What Harvey only knows in hindsight is that by doing this they had “offered [them]selves as bait for some unseen devil.” Harvey and Winston bicker fiercely during the voyage, the reporter convinced that the ships disappeared within the exact same vicinity of each other and that they themselves are nearing this perimeter now. Winston finds it impossible that all three ships should be wiped out in the same spot. To add further bewilderment to the affair, news reaches them that every single passenger from the vanishing vessels have returned safely to the mainland aboard lifeboats, though none of them can recall what had happened to them.

                      Just then a weird figure enters the room. The man identifies himself as Siegfried, the one responsible for all of the disappearances. He tells the two men that he needed the boats for his own purposes, all of which he will gladly show them. “It will entail a trip to the bottom of the sea,” he adds and mentions that all of the passengers from the other vessels were given the same tour. And like them, Harvey and Winston will remember none of the awesome sights that they will witness.

                      To prepare them for the journey, Siegfried commands them to imbibe a potion. Winston tries to back out of the deed, but the centuries-old denizen of the sea hypnotically controls the rebel to carry through with the plan. Harvey and Winston wake up later in the undersea chamber. Siegfried says that they are now 50,000 leagues below land and that the formula they drunk induced their spirits to leave their physical bodies behind, thus explaining the men’s ability to still be able to breathe underwater. That’s when Siegfried drops the big news on them: this is no second-rate oceanic kingdom, but the lost continent of Atlantis itself!

                      Having been sent to a watery grave 11,000 years ago by volcanic disturbances, Atlantis was still able to survive through the tenacity and perseverance of its people. Siegfried has been commandeering the ships in order to salvage their metal. As they’re pulled along by a sliding panel, Harvey and Winston sees that the Atlantians are using the steel to fortify their continent against the crushing waves that imprison them. At the end of the tour, the men are shown a chamber packed with gold, silver, and other innumerable treasures. Siegfried has been giving all of the human visitors a small but generous portion of the treasure, enough to cover any losses they might have suffered from the boat-snatching and then some.

                      Winston, his mind overflowing with riches, sneaks back to the treasure room to snatch his own reward. Harvey comes in looking for him and confronts him over his greediness. Just then Siegfried enters and sees the treacherous scene unfolding. “You could not conquer the worldly desire to steal our treasures,” he criticizes. Enraged by this betrayal, Siegfried tells both men that he shall be sending them back in time to face their due torture.

                      This brings us back to the opening episode with Harvey and Winston delirious from starvation and exposure. A cache of the treasure from Atlantis lays at their feet, utterly useless now. Driven past his breaking point, Winston screams that all of the treasure belongs to him before he takes it and himself overboard and into the ocean.

                      Although the prospect of another “kingdom under the sea” story set this listener a little ill at ease, Bishop shows that he has grown since the time of his scattershot sophomore episode, “The Thing from the Sea.” The writer demonstrates this mainly by keeping any convoluted background concerning Atlantis under the rug, concerning himself more with the motivations and interactions of his characters. A wise move no doubt.

                      However, the script does still suffer from some of the logical inconsistencies that have plagued the show in the past. The most egregious of the lot is Siegfried’s “plan” that consists of giving his unintended victims a tour of home base. Firstly, why should he feel obligated to do this? No indication is given that Atlantis is going to be making a comeback or anything, so why couldn’t the continent just go on being perceived as a myth? Wouldn’t that make life easier for the Atlantians? This brings us to the second point: if Siegfried is doing this just to be a stand-up guy and show that there are no hard feelings by the work he does, then why in Neptune’s name would he erase the memories of all who found this out? Is he afraid that the world at large will rediscover Atlantis? If so, then why give people a Fast Pass to his homeland and show them what they’re all up to? And then on top of that he just throws money at them and tells them to buy themselves a new boat. Okay then.

                      It doesn’t help that “Convoy for Atlantis” suffers from some of the worst audio that has been heard thus far. Like “Curse of the Neanderthal,” there are some aural beats and clipping that make it difficult to discern the action, but this episode suffers from a persistent skipping that occurs during the opening and closing wraparound, making just about everything that happens complete guesswork. Does Winston (a great slimy portrayal by Schofield, by the way) jump into the ocean with the treasure? Is there a ship seen heading towards the men’s boat? Do both of them get eaten by a kraken? It’s anybody’s say.

                      20. The Thing from the Darkness

                      Original Broadcast: April 3, 1942

                      Cast: Ben Morris (Donald Thurman), Eleanor Naylor Caughron (Princess Ilana), Fred Wayne (King Tinasi), and Muir Hite (Eivan).

                      Donald Thurman is awoken from a fitful sleep by his ringing telephone. The caller inquires if the pilot will be able to make a trip to Mantilla. Don is uneasy about traveling through the desert and insists that he be paid six hundred for the flight. During the voyage, a terrible sandstorm blots out all sight from the aircraft, Don commenting that the whirlwind is “thick as pea soup.” Hoping for a soft landing, Don noses the plane toward the ground.

                      The pounding of war drums is what arouses Don next from his slumber. A hulking native tells Don that he will be brought to King Tinasi, but he may be sacrificed to the leopard pit if it is seen fit. The native, Eivan, explains that when the moon is full the leopards become maddened and rabid until they are placated with human flesh. Don has been temporarily blinded by the sandstorm. “You have come where white man is forbidden,” Eivan tells the felled pilot.

                      Don also finds out that the tribe’s Princes Ilana is due to be married and that it was she who brought Don back to health. Eivan and the King believe that the man’s blindness was induced by gazing at the beauty of the princess. Guiding Don to the main camp, Eivan becomes highly excited when he sees leopard tracks in the dirt, convinced that evil spirits are loose.

                      At Tinasi’s court, the King accuses Don of rendezvousing with Ilana, despite the pilot’s denials. Don later finds himself left in the middle of the jungle as opposed to the prison hut that Eivan was supposed to lock him into. Seeing a “great star” coming over a ridge he realizes that it is the full moon and his sight has been restored. Don is met by Ilana, who tells him that Eivan did disobey orders and left him to die. Ilana is due to marry the brute but she can’t stand him. The nuptials are put on hold when they hear a leopard groaning in the bush and find Eivan wounded from a feline attack.

                      King Tinasi forbids the two from helping the warrior, though he is quick to blame Don for the attack due to the blood on his hands, stains he only got from trying to carry Eivan off to safety. Tinasi passes judgment that both he and his own daughter shall face death in the leopard pit. The couple are brought to the hole and forced down the stone steps to face furry death.

                      Ilana is hopeless, telling Don that once the full moon shines over the pit the “tenemahasi” will be driven to slaughter them. In the adjoining, gated room inside the pit they can see Tinasi cooing to the animals. Legend has it that if the prisoners are in fact not guilty the cats will not harm them. With just a few iron bars separating them from fangs and claws, Don and Ilana are prepared to meet their doom when suddenly a bank of fog passes over the sky, covering the moon’s rays. Disappointed by the change in weather, the leopards decide to make a meal out of the screaming King instead.

                      “The Thing from the Darkness” comes close to reaching the overzealousness of “The Thing from the Sea” as it details the intricacies of the foreign tribe’s superstitious beliefs involving possibly shape-changing wereleopards, but it’s mainly kept at a lively pace thanks to its E. C. Comics flavor that’s made when the romanticized jungle adventure meets a particularly nasty conclusion. The leopard feast foregoes any squelchy sound effects for the nerve-rattling screams of poor Fred Wayne.

                      The episode is also a touch confusing at times. At one point we hear a man that we eventually come to find out is King Tinasi speaking to his pet leopards: “Tonight is the night we hunt!” We imagine this is somehow tied to the sighting Eivan has of the leopard tracks that transform into human footprints, but the connection is unfortunately tenuous and not clearly defined.

                      Bishop also sticks in a rather unnecessary plot point delivered close to the conclusion where Ilana tells Don that she is actually white but is not Tinasi’s real daughter. Neat, I guess? Do you have any information about how to keep from getting eaten by wild jungle cats, Princess?

                      21. The Edge of the Shadow

                      Original Broadcast: April 10, 1942

                      Cast: Ben Morris (Steven Fuller), Eleanor Naylor Caughron (Martha Fuller), Muir Hite (Hank Marsh), and Georgianna Cook (Stewardess).

                      Steven Fuller is perturbed by the discovery he has made in the stables of his farm: one of his prize cows has been wounded by barbed wire. This is especially strange since Steven has no barbed wire fences anywhere on his property. He asks his farmhand Hank Marsh if he let the animal out, but Marsh says that he kept all the cows within the pasture. Stranger still is the bottle of disinfectant and the clean rags Steven finds in the stables, items he knows were stored elsewhere. Surmising that someone must have intentionally injured the cow and attempted to treat it before being interrupted, Steven has his suspicions confirmed when he finds the bloody link of barbed wire hidden in a stack of hay… and Hank holding a gun on him.

                      The laborer admits to the crime, his motive to get Steven out of the way so that he can be with his wife Martha who detests her husband and wishes for a divorce. Steven is confused as he knows nothing of this, but Hank is convinced Fuller has been savvy to the affair the whole time. Hank’s devious plan entails him shooting Steven through the heart and, once startled by the sound of the shot, the loose cow will rear up and trample the corpse past recognition, making the true cause of death undeterminable!

                      Thinking fast, Steven splashes the disinfectant into Hank’s eyes and wrestles the gun away from him. Steven’s a pretty forgiving sort, chastising Hank like a child as he guides him to the well to wash the burning fluid off of his face. As the sputtering Hank washes himself, Steven points out the airplane to New York that regularly flies over the farm at evening. But Steven realizes too late that the low aircraft is ablaze and on a crash course with the farm!

                      We find out Steve has been dreaming this whole episode. He is quite shaken by the night terror and convinces himself that it must have been real. When he runs to Hank’s bedroom and sees that he’s gone, he only becomes more ill at ease. He explains the crazy dream to Martha and she convinces him to go out to the barn to ascertain if there was any truth to it.

                      By the light of a lantern, Steven finds the very same cow with an identical injury, the barbed wire and the gun hidden in the hay just as they had been in the dream. Thinking Martha had somehow missed the plane crash, Steven rushes out but sees that there are no signs of fire or rubble anywhere. The airport later confirms that the New York plane had a safe flight, but even this and Martha’s insistence that all the other occurrences were mere coincidences does not sit well with Steven.

                      When Hank enters reporting on the cow’s injury, Steven’s fears are fully kindled. He becomes a hysterical mess, accusing both Hank and Martha of conspiring against him. They claim innocence and try to speak to Steven’s reason, but he isn’t having any of it. “You can burn together!” he roars before using the same gun to shoot both of them where they stand.

                      Later, Steven is on board the plane bound for New York. “They won’t find me there,” he tells himself. His nerves are calmed once the plane takes off, though he is a little jumpy when the flight attendant greets him. He tells her of his strange dream, including the bit about the plane exploding in the air! He glances out the window and sees the familiar farm below. “Look how close it seems…” he muses, just before seeing the wing of the plane on fire and feeling the vessel hurtling toward the earth.

                      The strength of its ominous opening scene is just about enough to carry “The Edge of the Shadow” over the finish line. It’s one that puzzles the listener, leaving them wondering as to just where the story is going to go next. Is this going to be a crime thriller? A ghost story about the executed hubby coming back from the grave? When the first scene ends with the airplane crash, we don’t even know if the only two characters in the play have just been wiped out altogether!

                      Once it is revealed that we’re dealing with a tale in the “nightmares come true” strain of horror, things seem to settle into a more identifiable pattern, but even then Scott Bishop manages to keep the proceedings fresh and engaging. Not even the actors tip their hands here. Maybe I’m getting rusty, but I honestly couldn’t foresee hardly any of the events in the show until they were actually happening, barring when it is revealed that our hapless “hero” Steven has boarded a quick plane to immolation. (Strange, by the way, how the flight attendant and the rest of the passengers are all incredibly silent during the accident. Another dream perhaps?)

                      A nebulous little curiosity, “The Edge of the Shadow” delivers some of the series’ best surprises.

                      Here's where you can listen to most of the Dark Fantasy programs.

                      Don't miss the sixth chapter of Jose Cruz' look at Dark Fantasy in two weeks!

                      Monday, October 20, 2014

                      Do You Dare Enter? Part Thirty-Eight: August 1973

                      The DC Mystery Anthologies 1968-1976
                      by Peter Enfantino and
                      Jack Seabrook

                      Nick Cardy
                      Unexpected 149

                      "To Wake the Dead"
                      Story by Leo Dorfman
                      Art by Ernie Chua

                      "The Slayer Wore Skirts"
                      Story by Carl Wessler
                      Art by Rico Rival

                      "Deadmen Do Tell Tales!"
                      Story by George Kashdan
                      Art by E.R. Cruz

                      Jack: The neighbors complain that the noise coming from old Mr. Hobart's house is enough "To Wake the Dead," but when two police officers check it out, all they see is elderly Mr. Hobart and some very peppy ghosts! Senior Officer Corrigan tells young officer Matt about the weirdest mystery in the department's records. Three years before, rich Mr. Carson wanted to build a 50-story office building on old Mr. Hobart's land, but Hobart refused to sell. Carson bought up all the land surrounding Hobart's house and began to build, but when he bulldozed the family cemetery he went too far, and the family ghosts rose up and sabotaged the project, ending in Carson's death. To this day, the rotting frame of the skyscraper stands behind Hobart's house. This story was more palatable when it was Bugs Bunny's rabbit hole that they were building around. Leo Dorfman should stick to Ghosts.

                      "To Wake the Dead"
                      Peter: How many times have we seen this old plot line taken out of mothballs? It's harmless fun and the art's pretty good but the finale, when the young cop looks up and sees the half-finished "skyscraper" next to Mr. Hobart's house as if for the first time, is a hoot.

                      Jack: Someone is murdering men in the streets of Paris and the police think it's a woman, since one of the victims was able to report that "The Slayer Wore Skirts" before he breathed his last. Louis Blanc shares a flat with his mother ever since Dad ran out on them years ago, and Louis likes to take to the streets wearing a dress. But when the police arrest him, it turns out that the real killer is his mother and he was trying to take the rap for her. Now that's a devoted son! Too bad his crazy mother doesn't appreciate him.

                      "The Slayer Wore Skirts"
                      Peter: So, does that mean Louis would dress up like a woman, follow his mother to her kill sites, watch her commit murder, and then hang around until a witness would pop up, just so he could run away and give the appearance of a fleeing old lady? Do I need to point out that doesn't make much sense? Oh, it's Carl Wessler? Never mind.

                      Jack: Intrepid reporter Mr. Craig manages to get inside the mansion of reclusive magnate Mr. Belson for a rare interview, so Belson agrees to talk to him. Craig is one of many to suspect that Belson is really dead and that his death has been covered up, but he learns that "Deadmen Do Tell Tales" when he discovers that Belson is a reanimated corpse, kept alive by a computer. Craig is held prisoner but Belson's corpse tries to help him escape, wanting to get away from his own prison. They are caught in the act and, when a photographer comes looking for Craig, he finds him sitting alongside Belson and looking equally corpse-like. Boy, he sure rotted fast! This was a dreadful issue, something not altogether unexpected.

                      "Deadmen Do Tell Tales!"
                      Peter: I thought the climax was pretty cool, very downbeat (an innocent man suffers a nasty fate), but don't think about it too long as it doesn't hold much water. Is that a bullet hole in Mr. Craig's forehead? Won't the newspaper eventually wonder why Craig won't leave Mr. Belden's house?

                      Luis Dominguez
                      The House of Mystery 216

                      "Look Into My Eyes... And Kill!"
                      Story by John Albano
                      Art by Tony deZuniga

                      "Graveyard Shift"
                      Story Uncredited
                      Art by Bernard Baily

                      "Special Sale: Canned Death 1/2 Off"
                      Story by Doug Moench
                      Art by Abe Ocampo

                      Peter: Willie "Doc" Salem has an unusual gift (well, not so unusual for the DC mystery line): he can persuade his victims to do his bidding with just the few whispered words, "Look Into My Eyes... and Kill!" When he falls for a rich beauty named Alicia, she tells him the only competition he faces is a handsome race car driver. Very soon, with that obstacle driven into a wall, Doc convinces Alicia to marry him and he wastes no time attempting to eliminate Alicia. He parks on a high cliff wall and commands her to jump. To his dismay, Alicia gives Doc a shove and he falls to his death, leaving the beauty to remark that Doc's special powers don't work on a witch. Another one of those plots I swear we've seen before and a twist right out of left field. The reveal doesn't really work because nothing we've seen from Alicia would point to witchcraft. If she knew about Doc's powers, she must have known he killed her race car lover so why would she consent to marry the guy in the first place? None of it makes sense but the art is gorgeous.

                      Jack: Tony deZuniga's is the best art I've seen so far this month. Doc is a little freaky since he has one green and one yellow eye! The ending came out of nowhere and didn't work at all for me. There's a difference between a twist ending and a surprise ending, but I'm not sure this qualifies as either--more like a dumb ending!

                      Peter: Cabby Harry Baxter is one mean son of a gun, to his fares and to his co-workers. The guy won't lift a finger to help a poor soul unless there are dollar signs attached. One night, Harry hears one of his fellow cabbies, Old Gus, tell how he picks up one rider every night in the same place and the guy tips enough to keep the bills paid for a week. Harry locks his comrade in a supply room and heads out to pick the guy up. Turns out the passenger is a vampire and so was Gus. They met every night to "exchange blood." Harry becomes his latest victim. Since the "surprise" is given away on the splash page, I was waiting for the big reveal of "Graveyard Shift" and it didn't disappoint. Well, I mean the story disappointed me in that there's really nothing to it. Why would the old man tell his fellow cabbies about the rich passenger when they all know what a creep Harry is? And to make it even stupider, we learn that the cabbie knew his regular was a vampire because he's a bloodsucker. And what does the vampire mean when he tells Harry that he and Gus meet every night to "exchange blood?" I know I'm thinking too much.

                      "Graveyard Shift"

                      Jack: Baily's art in the '70s doesn't always work but it works here and looks suitably creepy. I love the giant vampire bat with the somewhat human face! The NYC taxi driver setting is nice and seedy and, for once, I was surprised that the rider was a vampire, especially since the cover made me think he would be a monster!

                      "Special Sale..."
                      Peter: Sheila Barker decides she's had enough of her husband, George, and his damn grocery store, so she places a roller skate on their stairs and becomes a widow. A week later, Sheila re-opens the grocery store but the lights go out and she's attacked by food cans and milk bottles. Could it be the ghost of George? She dies, buried under a mound of Spaghetti-Os, not knowing that the area had been hit by a major earthquake. To fully enjoy these things, one has to not only suspend the disbelief of the supernatural but also to believe that these characters can be such monsters. Take Harry, the cab driver, who won't stop for a woman who needs to get to the hospital or Sheila, who thinks nothing of breaking her husband's neck because his love for the grocery took precedence over her. I know there are people out there in the real world like this but I haven't run into any yet so when I come across them in our mystery stories they feel artificially enhanced. We have to hate them to cheer for the nasty things that, inevitably, happen to them. In some cases the writer does a good enough job without going overboard. Not so with "Special Sale: Canned Death 1/2 Off."

                      Jack: Kind of a riff on "Eyes" from Night Gallery, don't you think? The woman thinks the groceries are attacking her in the dark but it's really an earthquake. Those must have been some angry soup cans to cause a death! And what's Doug Moench doing at DC?

                      Peter: The same kind of writing he perpetrated over at Marvel, it seems.

                      Luis Dominguez
                      The House of Secrets 110

                      "Domain of the Dead"
                      Story by Jack Oleck
                      Art by Fred Carrillo

                      "Safes Have Secrets Too"
                      Story by Mike Pellowsky and Maxene Fabe
                      Art by Flor Dery

                      Story by Jack Oleck
                      Art by Gerry Talaoc

                      Peter: Tom Akins has always wanted to live in a castle so he convinces his wife, Lisa, that they must rent the old Hargri estate despite the rumors that the old owner, a vampire, lives in the neighborhood. Their first day there, they're startled by the arrival of Father Xavier, a priest who only adds to Lisa's fears that the legends are true. Xavier talks the couple into allowing him to stay with them a few nights just in case. Sure enough, Lisa is attacked by the monster in the courtyard and the only thing that saves her is the Father's crucifix. Xavier talks Lisa into acting as bait for the vampire so that they can track him to his lair and then kill him. The plan goes perfectly and the pair find the creature in its coffin. Xavier explains to Lisa that she'll have to stake Hargri as a man of God can't get blood on his hands. She does the dirty job but Tom scoffs. After they discover the coffin empty, Tom tells his wife they're going to the police to stop the superstitious harassment, only to be told by the constable that Tom must believe there was a vampire since the young man acknowledged the presence of Father Xavier, a man who had died ten years earlier. I must admit I never saw the twist, that the priest was actually a ghost, coming. As Jack notes, "Domain of the Dead" has a very 1960s Hammer Film feel to it, an atmosphere I enjoyed. Good story!

                      "Domain of the Dead"

                      Jack: This story had a neat vibe to it, kind of like a Hammer Films adventure. I learned another lesson--never rent a castle in Transylvania as a summer vacation home. That Lisa sure was one game gal, wasn't she? But her hubby was a dud.

                      "Safes Have Secrets Too"
                      Peter: Kent Tryton has been embezzling from his safe company and his partner has found out. Not wanting to end up with his name on the social pages, Kent does the natural thing: he brains Ralph and hides his body in a safe that he has moved to his own house. Very quickly, Kent learns that "Safes Have Secrets Too" when his house catches fire and he's drawn into the safe by unseen hands. This was a really dumb one. Why would you want your partner's dead body at your home? At one point in the story, the guys moving the safe see blood leaking from the door. When the police come out to investigate, Kent opens the door to reveal a mound of ash. These cops don't even question him as to why he'd have a safe full of dust. Kent turns to us and lets us know that the night before, he'd burned Ralph's corpse in the furnace and then put his ashes in the safe. Now, that sounds rational, doesn't it?

                      Jack: "There is only so much horror the human organism can bear," writes Maxene Fabe midway through this story. Too bad it wasn't on the page. Despite decent art, this one was too unfocused to make much sense. Where did the blood come from that the workmen saw? And what about the blood at the end? Who knows? Not Maxene.

                      Peter: Adam Tolliver has only wanted to give his wife, Rachel, the best things in life but since they are near-penniless, that's been a tough mountain to climb. While in the village one day, they witness the burning of a witch and the rumors of a book of spells to be buried with the body. Adam convinces Rachel to help him dig up the book but the print is in Latin so it's useless to them. While the grave is open,  the witch's spirit escapes. The next few nights see the murders of those who stood against the witch. Adam becomes convinced Rachel is "Possessed" by the evil spirit and, when the townsfolk come to the door, crying "murderer," he kills Rachel so that the mob won't get to her. Unfortunately for Adam, there were witnesses to the latest murders and they all ID him as the killer. Right from the get-go, Rachel is too obvious to be the killer so that leaves only her husband. Surprise, exit stage left. The art by Gerry Talaoc, fast becoming one of the best pencilers in the DC mystery bullpen, saves "Possessed" from obscurity.

                      Jack: Best art of the month goes to this story! Oleck's tale is fairly straightforward and the twist ending is no great surprise, but the art is so strong that I was swept along in this tragic tale.

                      Nick Cardy
                      The Witching Hour 33

                      "Four Funerals"
                      Story and Art Uncredited

                      "Cold Ashes--Hot Rage"
                      Story by George Kashdan
                      Art by Alfredo Alcala

                      "A Choice Seat for... Doomsday!"
                      Story by Carl Wessler
                      Art by Jerry Grandenetti

                      Jack: Ned Phelps thinks everyone is out to get him. He worries constantly about the safety of his daughter Nancy. When careless driver Frank Nolan runs her over and kills her, Ned snaps and vows that there will be "Four Funerals." He picks up his rifle and murders Nolan and his family, one by one. He then goes to his office to kill some more people but just tears up paperwork when he finds no one there. He is caught and taken to the psychiatric hospital, where he gradually discovers that everything was a figment of his imagination. He never killed anyone and, in fact, he doesn't even have a family! At the end, he is cured and sent home, alone and lonely. The art is obviously by one of the Filipino artists, but I can't place which one. Abe Ocampo? Rico Rival?

                      Peter: I'd put my money on Ruben Yandoc. "Four Funerals" has an interesting premise and I like that a story that appeared to be just another revenge tale switched boats midstream and became a different animal altogether. I thought the final panel came up short but it's still a much better story overall than anything else this month.

                      "Four Funerals"

                      To this day, Marva's skirt is illegal in 12 states
                      Jack: Morton reads a prediction of his own imminent death in the Sands of Satan and his friend Thomas obliges by strangling him on the spot in a case of "Cold Ashes--Hot Rage!" Thomas begins spending a lot of time with Marva, Morton's widow, who keeps listening to the urn that contains Morton's ashes. Before his death, Morton told her that the ashes would tell her the identity of his killer. Thomas proposes to Marva and she accepts, then he intentionally drops the urn and it smashes, freeing Morton's spirit. Marva tells Thomas that the ashes told her a month ago that he killed Morton, but she refused to let Morton's spirit free because she wanted to protect Thomas. Morton's spirit kills Thomas and gets revenge. Alcala's art here is much better than we'll see in Ghosts this month, and Marva wins the prize for shortest skirt in a DC comic in recent memory!

                      Peter: Nice twist, with marvelous Marva admitting she ignored Morton's spirit in order to marry into money. Even though Alfredo Alcala is my favorite horror artist of all time, I will admit that most of his women (Marva included) were cut from the same cloth.

                      We can't make this stuff up!
                      Jack: Dan Jones's old grandpa tells Dan and a couple of visiting friends a story from long ago. Old Dan Jones was riding his horse and carriage along the road outside of town when the way was blocked by large rocks. The rocks rose up in near-human form and commanded Dan to follow them to an underground cavern, where they told him that their ancestors had been driven underground and had eventually turned into rock people who now want their revenge on the descendants of the villagers who tormented them. Looks like Dan had "A Choice Seat For . . . Doomsday!" The rock people give Dan a blue stone as a pass to escape safely when they come to attack on his birthday and tell him not to warn anyone. Dan disobeys and tries to warn everyone but they don't listen. On the fateful day, the rock people come a-marchin' but, right before they arrive, an earthquake wrecks the town. They march back to their underground cavern and find that it has caved in as well. Back in the present, Old Dan discovers that his guest is one of the rock people, still waiting for revenge. Too bad Jack Kirby didn't draw this one! This is such a crazy story that I ended up liking it. Kirby really could have gone to town with this.

                      Peter: Exactly the vibe I got from this one, Jack. It's a Kirby/Lee homage (something we don't see too much of in the 1970s mystery titles outside of reprints) sunk by typically bad Grandenetti visuals. It reminds me a lot of that classic Kirby/Lee " I Was the Man Who Released the Monsters Who Would Become the Menace from Easter Island" (way back in Amazing Tales to Suspend Astonishment #63, March 1961), complete with the "my old friend was actually an alien the whole time" climax.

                      Jack: Hey! That's not a real story!

                      Nick Cardy
                      Ghosts 17

                      "Death Held the Lantern High"
                      Story by Leo Dorfman
                      Art by Alfredo Alcala

                      "The Specters Were the Stars"
                      Story by Murray Boltinoff
                      Art by Gerry Talaoc

                      "The Devil's Ouija"
                      Story by George Kashdan
                      Art by John Calnan

                      Jack: Carl Ventriss and his family are vacationing in Cornwall when they see the ghost of a young woman walking the beach with a lantern. They learn from the locals that she is the specter of a mother whose children died a century before in a boat accident and she kept searching for her lost ones night after night until she died of grief. A week later, Carl and Donna leave their two kids alone in the vacation house while they go shopping. A terrible storm comes up and the parents can't make it home. The kids are frightened as the waters rise but they are led out of the house by a ghostly woman with a lantern. Next day, Carl and Donna find the house destroyed and think the worst, but soon they discover that the kids were led to a safe perch by the ghost and all ends happily. This is a rare story where the writing is more interesting than the art. I think Alcala must have drawn "Death Held the Lantern High" with his eyes closed!

                      This is what happens when Alfredo Alcala
                      holds the pencil with his toes.
                      Peter: Gotta disagree with you on this one, Jack. I think art and story are equally good. The story is really creepy (and could have been even creepier if it had gone where I thought it was going) and Alcala's art perfectly compliments it. An unnerving story in Ghosts? That's Unexpected!

                      Jack: An American movie company making a topical film in Northern Ireland learns that "The Specters Were the Stars" when the dailies are ruined by the ghosts of the Irish freedom fighters from 50 years before. This starts out as a very interesting story but then falls apart. Talaoc's art is strong, as usual, but Boltinoff's story goes nowhere. The first scene seems to be an emotional one involving a British soldier who shoots and kills an Irish boy, but then it is revealed to be a scene in the movie. A second scene finds the soldier killed by an angry mob at the funeral, but again it's a movie scene. Then the director watches the rushes, sees the ghosts, and scraps the project. 1972 was the worst year of the bloody period in the late '60s and early '70s in Northern Ireland, and it's great that DC Comics tried to do something so topical, but this story just doesn't make much of a point, except to suggest that it's all been seen before.

                      "The Specters Were the Stars"
                      Peter: Wow! You are spot on with this one. I thought we were in for a rare bird: a comic story that actually had something to say about important issues in the early 1970s rather than the usual "Fight the Power" crap that the Marvel hippies were coming up with. Weirdly, the interesting stuff is the "fake" story, the film within the funny book, which I'd have liked to have seen more of. The silly "oh my gosh, there are ghosts in this film" finale is simply a tacked-on excuse to get this into the pages of Ghosts rather than an organic extension of the story. There are no haunts, no spectre sightings, nothing, so the sudden climax feels like what it is: a cheat. I'd still give it a big thumbs-up for both script and graphics. Two winners in one issue? Could we score the hat trick?

                      "The Devil's Ouija"
                      Jack: In Hungary, Count Ritzky is angry that gypsies are on his land. He confronts them and is introduced to "The Devil's Ouija," which predicts that he will die from drowning in three days. He scoffs at this, since he's headed for the Arabian desert! On a train ride along the way, he has a vision of the train being underwater and fears his own death is near, but he snaps out of it and finds that all is well. Or so he thinks, since he promptly drops dead of pneumonia, a sort of drowning in itself. Moral: never ignore a gypsy fortune!

                      Peter: Curses. Foiled again. Just when you think you've got the best issue of Ghosts ever, you get this lousy bit of humdrum. Let's forget "Ouija" ever happened and declare this issue a winner, Jack!

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