Please welcome guest blogger Paul Stansfield, author of Kaishaku.
Horror Author/Movie Trivia
by Paul Stansfield
Since my ebook, released today, is horror, I thought it’d be appropriate to throw out some tidbits about some other horror authors and movies.
1) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley showed her talent at an early age. She wrote the classic Frankenstein at ages 18-19, and it hasn’t been out of print since its debut in 1818. According to family lore, when her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley was cremated, his heart wasn’t consumed. A friend, Edward Trelawny, retrieved it and gave it to Mary. Her family found the ashy heart remains in her desk after she died. They were later interred with her son, Percy Florence Shelley.
2) Director Stanley Kubrick was notorious for being a perfectionist on the set, and during the filming of The Shining he was evidently at his most extreme. Guinness credits the scene where Wendy (played by Shelley Duvall) swings the baseball bat at Jack (Jack Nicholson) while ascending the stairs as having the most takes of a single scene, 127. However, the assistant editor and Steadicam Operator for the movie claim that this is an exaggeration, but that another scene when Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers) explains what the shining is to Danny (Danny Lloyd) was shot in 148 takes. But either way, the movie holds the record. Also, both the young actress (Lia Beldam) and the older actress (Billie Gibson) who played the naked, homicidal ghost in Room 237 never appeared in a movie before or since.
3) During his lifetime, Dracula author Bram Stoker was better known as being actor Henry Irving’s personal assistant, and the business manager of Irving’s London-based Lyceum Theatre. The original typed manuscript of Dracula turned up in a barn in northwestern Pennsylvania in the early 1980’s.
4) The prequel to The Exorcist was actually made twice in succession. While it’s not uncommon for studios to fire a director during a shoot, they usually do it early on, for obvious financial reasons. However, director Paul Schrader completed his version, only to see the studio shelve it, and bring in director Renny Harlin to shoot the movie again, using many of the same actors, sets, etc., but with a different, more violent and bloody script. The second version, Exorcist: The Beginning was released in theaters in 2004. Schrader’s version, Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist was later release in 2005. On a personal note, I thought Harlin’s version was ridiculous and stupid, while Schrader’s was decent.
5) Speaking of The Exorcist, the author of the original 1971 novel (and writer of the original movie’s screenplay as well as being the writer/director of the third Exorcist movie), William Peter Blatty, made his name first as a writer of comedies. These included Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (novel), Johnny Goldfarb, Please Come Home (novel and movie), and cowriting the movies A Shot in the Dark ( the second Pink Panther movie), What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, and the musical Darling Lili. Blatty was inspired to write The Exorcist based on an alleged real possession case in the Washington, D.C. area in 1949.
6) Distinctive actor Michael Berryman, who appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Weird Science, Star Trek IV, The Devil’s Rejects, and most memorably, in the original The Hills Have Eyes, has a rare genetic condition called hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. Individual symptoms can vary, but most sufferers have no hair, sweat glands, fingernails, or teeth.
7) As a young child, author Stephen King witnessed a friend being struck and killed by a train. He returned (understandably) in a mute and shocked state. King himself has no memory of this—his family had to tell him about this.
8) David Hess, for my money one of the very best movie villains in films like the original Last House on the Left and The House on the Edge of the Park, was an accomplished and prolific musician. He wrote songs for Sal Mineo, The Ames Brothers, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley, along with the soundtrack to Last House and his own successful solo albums.
9) Edgar Allan Poe, who essentially invented (or at least perfected) the horror genre, had a huge beef with fellow writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He even publicly accused Longfellow of plagiarism, a charge to which Longfellow never responded. Poe’s death in Baltimore still remains a mystery, as his death certificate has disappeared and the newspaper accounts were vague, listing “congestion of the brain,” and “cerebral inflammation” as the causes, which were polite codes for unsavory causes like alcoholism. Modern theories of the actual cause include delirium tremens, heart disease, syphilis, menigeal inflammation, epilepsy, cholera, rabies, or even “cooping.” “Cooping” was a nasty 19th century political crime where gangs would kidnap people and keep them in rooms called “coops,” give them alcohol and drugs, and force them to vote for a particular candidate, using changes of clothes and disguises to enable them to vote numerous times. It wasn’t unheard of for them to beat up or even kill their victims, too. Finally, using a questionable transfer of power of attorney from Poe’s aunt/mother in law (yes, she was both these titles), Poe’s enemy Rufus Wilmot Griswold was able to become his literary executor. Griswold used this to release a biography filled with scandalous lies and exaggerations about his deceased foe.
10) Movie studios started experimenting with subliminal messages in the 1950’s, most famously via subliminal suggestions to buy theater concessions in advertisements before the show. Studios later developed a process called “Psycho-Rama,” where subliminal images would be present throughout an entire feature, designed to elicit the appropriate emotions they wanted. The first movie to be put out using this process was 1959’s My World Dies Screaming (also known as Terror in the Haunted House ). Subliminal images included snakes to inspire hate, skulls to inspire terror, two hearts to symbolize love, and the word “blood” written in huge letters to cause fear. Due to controversy over the process, the movie had a limited distribution, and was apparently banned until the 1980’s. By now, tests have indicated that the power of subliminal images has been largely overblown. I got a chance to see Terror in the Haunted House, and the only thing it inspired in me was boredom.
After receiving a DUI, Dustin Dempster is working off some community service hours at a hospital. While there he’s asked to do some amateur counseling of sometimes difficult patients. He thinks this a waste of time, but he reluctantly agrees.
One of these difficult patients is Levon Howard, a man paralyzed from the neck down because of a car accident. He’s initially uncooperative, but after being charmed by Dustin’s brutal honesty and willingness to break some small hospital rules, he agrees to participate. Soon he’s revealing his biggest secrets to Dustin…
For Levon is an obsessed and unrepentant killer of the worst sort, only with a personal quirk. Despite his revulsion, Dustin finds himself intrigued by Levon’s story. Soon he finds himself doing what was once unthinkable, and realizes that he’s being affected by what he’s learned. Will Howard’s madness claim yet another victim, or even another perpetrator?
Dustin pulled up his chair, and listened intently.
“For starters, my name is Levon, so call me that. Not big on ‘Mr. Howard.’ Fort is right in a way—I do want to talk. Just not to someone like him, or his flunkies, or a nurse. What I’m going to tell you I’ve never told anyone—but I figure, why not? My life—my real life—is over.
“You never told anyone? Why not?”
“Shut up and listen! You’ll see. But anyway, the most important thing in my life is that I’m obsessed with killing. With a catch—I’m not a murderer. I’ve never been arrested, never went to jail, and never even broke the law.”
Levon paused to catch his breath, and Dustin just stared at him, and resisted the urge to laugh. Come on! This guy’s gotta be fucking with me! Or was he? He looked pretty sincere—could he be serious? Maybe he would have been better off not talking to him. But, on the other hand, Levon could hardly attack him even if he wanted to, and besides, Dustin was a little curious. So he waited for the paralyzed man to resume.
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