The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu

I’ve heard the name of Fu-Manchu as a child, but as I had no means to know what the hell is that one about (talk about the availability of pulp literature under the Commies in Czechoslovakia during 1980s), it was only later in my life that I encountered the dreaded Chinese villain.
Only recently I have decided to ease my mind with some good ole pulp stories. I already have some (all?) Fu-Manchu movies in my movie collections (although I haven’t actually watched any of them, believe it or not), so the choice was quite clear.
To my pleasant surprise, I haven’t needed to browse the lists of second-hand dealers with pricy first edition copies, as UK publisher Titan Books has published – not so long ago, in 2012 – this first part of the complete Fu-Manchu series by Sax Rohmer. Talk about bookworm’s delight!
All 14 paperbacks have basically the same cover except the colour of the curtains and the illustration within them are different from one volume to another, and this creates a nice feel of a compact set one can’t help but get to his library. My fate exactly.
Now, for those of you who haven’t encountered this famous pulp fiction, let’s be brief. The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu introduces the aforementioned Chinese genius villain – compared to whom Professor Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame would be a mere apprentice – and two (well, three) of the main characters, Nayland Smith and Dr. Petrie, who do slightly resemble Doyle’s characters, and Karamaneh, the Oriental slave of Fu-Manchu turned Dr. Petrie’s helper (and, later, his wife).
The story is exactly what the pulp stories are. Straight to the point, no need to bore the reader with a myriads of characters (hello, Mr. Martin!) and gazillions of descriptions. The villain strikes (or is posing to strike) and our heroes run like hell to save the day and the whole White race from the Yellow Peril.
Yes, dear readers, this is a beginning of 20. century and nobody gives a damn about any political correctness. Far from being an offensive read, on the contrary, this novel provides an exact quasi-detailed look into the minds and enviroments of Britain in the dawn of the new era, and the reader is advised to have this in mind when reading this (and following) stories.
If you want to just relax with a great, gripping story and you are already familiar with the resident of Baker Street 221b (and who doesn’t, right?), you can’t go wrong with Smith & Petrie chasing Chinese arch-criminal.
Kudos to Titan Books for bringing these Rohmer’s stories back to print for a modern reader, and as for availability, you should grab them easily either from Titan Books web or from your local Amazon.

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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The Queen’s Conjuror (a book review)

The Queen’s Conjuror, subtitled “The Life and Magic of Dr. Dee” by Benjamin Woolley is a book about, well, Dr. John Dee. And it’s really true to the subtitle, as the whole volume tracks no only the life of the famous occultist and alchemyst, but we have also a chance to glimpse into the other spirit world through his adventures with skrying with the help of other famous person in this venture, Edward Kelley. Or do we?

Dr. Benjamin Woolley, the author of The Queen’s Conjuror

This book has caught my eye some time ago, and although I am not a follow of occultism or stuff like that, there are some borderline areas Dr. Dee pops in and out ocassionally, so after devouring a volume about the life and career of the Queen Elizabeth I.’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, I’d decided to give this one a chance.

By the way…how that all came about? Well, there is a nice series of documentaries about the mysterious and secret beginnings of America, where Sir Francis Walsingham was mentioned. Not only him (the series is quite full of persons and places worth of researching), but also Sir Francis Bacon and – surprise, surprise – Dr. John Dee himself as well! OK, quite a lot (if not everything) in those documentaries might be a pure speculation, but at least you know the trajectory I’ve taken.

Yes, so after that biography of Sir Francis Walsingham, for whom Dee might have served as a spy, the time was indeed ripe for this little volume.

One of Dr. John Dee’s portraits

The book could be roughly divided in two parts – the historical one and the part describing his experiences in sessions invoking spirits through skrying. Personally, I’ve preferred the former better, as I am already familiar with that historical period and the struggle between Catholics and newborn Reformation/Protestantism (and to this end the biography of Walsingham was quite excellent). To the author’s credit, Woolley didn’t try to go the way many sensationalist authors would with wild exaggerations and made-up conclusions about the spirit world. That’s why the book is at times dry.

For me, the story presented was interesting. As I am currently residing in the United Kingdom, some places mentioned I am familiar with and the same goes for Dee’s travels in Bohemia (what is now Czech Republic). One might feel the urge to visit those places just to follow the spirit of the old magus.

Anyway, Benjamin Woolley did a great job bringing Dr. Dee from his relative obscurity to the knowledge of the masses. His meddling with the spirit world has certainly not brought him any favourable light in the scientific circles, nevertheless, he has a firm place in those circles.

For any history buff and a fan of occult/alchemy stuff, The Queen’s Conjuror might be well recommended.

Get it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Conjuror-Magic-Science-Dr-Dee/dp/0006552021/

Mike Hauss – Spaghetti Westerns, volume 2 (a publication review)

My friend and a true spaghetti western connosieur Mike Hauss published the second volume of his new publication by the end of November 2019, and this time, it took me quite a long time to get it, I am ashamed to admit!!! I can’t remember the reason though, as I usually order my reading material straight after it’s released for the public…but then, the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 was quite turmulous, so…anyway, just the other day I’ve received my order from Amazon and among other publications (of which I’m gonna write later), there was this nice addition to my library.

For a long time now I can’t really say I prefer one genre or another. I simply like movies as such and usually watch them without any regards of genres or directors, although I’d say it depends on the mood, for example, currently I am in old school kung fu movies’ mood, so, there you go. But I would never miss the opportunity to learn about movies as such, and I am definitely spaghetti-positive, therefore, it’s simply a no-brainer I am buying publications about this genre also.

I’ve already covered the initial Spaghetti Westerns volume 1, so…what the second one brings? Well, for one, I like the fact you can see Mike’s getting better in doing the DTP work. I still admire his courage to do this project in MS Word (although for his new stuff he’s switched to Adobe InDesign and the difference is evident), because if you ever did more than the simple formatting in MS Word, you know that the “pain in the ass” description is spot on. So, I am not gonna dwell on formatting at all, although there are some cases of formatting errors, but as I’ve said – sometimes you can’t correct those, so let it be.

But I am buying mags and books because of their content. And there is quite a lot to enjoy here, and I tell you straight away, I was little surprised to see Mike’s opening the publication with – according to his opinion – an atrocious Adios, Cjamango. Why would you open with this, I thought. Of course, this is Mike’s publication and he can write as he pleases, but for some strange reason I was uneasy with it… but then, the truth is, as with any other genre, there are exceptional, good, bad and atrocious flicks in spaghetti westerns too. So I’ve said to myself – why are you overthinking stuff? Shut it and enjoy the reading! And so I did (therefore, it’s not a negative comment, just in case you wonder).

Robert Woods

I’ve heard about a few of movies reviewed here, but never seen them, so if you are like me, you will learn a lot here. From reviews of movies like (aforementioned) Adios Cjamango, Adios Hombre (a.k.a. Sette pistole per un massacre), Bounty Hunter in Trinity, Tails, You Lose, Ruthless Colt of the Gringo, Blood Calls To Blood and quite a few more we’ll get to the interview sections – and this volume boasts of the interview with John P. Dulaney, Glenn Saxon, Ernesto Gastaldi, Javier Ramos plus the first part of a fantastic piece about (and by) Robert Woods!!! Plus another 2 interesting articles, a suggested bibliography and not a few illustratios through the text and few extra at the end of the publication, this will last you some time – and I am sure you’ll gonna end up researching the availability of a few movies!!!

Mike is planning to re-do those first publications (probabl in one double-issue format), so you can either order them stand-alone or wait for the latter option. That’s totally up to you.

Summed up – it’s better than the first one and that’s good, but at the same time, they both belong together. I am definitely conent with it. Good work, Mike!

Order here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spaghetti-Westerns-Two-Michael-Hauss/dp/1099497507/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=spaghetti+westerns+volume+2&qid=1587831704&sr=8-5

and if you want the more expensive color edition: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spaghetti-Westerns-Color-Michael-Hauss/dp/108308495X/ref=sr_1_4?dchild=1&keywords=spaghetti+westerns+volume+2&qid=1587831751&sr=8-4

P.S.: A fun fact – Did you notice a mention of yours truly in “Thanks” category? Tell you now…feels great! Thank you for thanking me, Mike!

Spaghetti westerns 1 cover

Michael Hauss – Spaghetti Westerns! Volume 1 (a book/zine review)

It’s a book, it’s a zine…it’s a bookzine!!! OK, I’ve gone a little too artistic on this, but the truth is – it’s a truly true statement! Hm…I need to stop trying to be funny now, let’s get serious. Because this publication deserves a serious treatment.

Spaghetti westerns 1 cover

I was stoked the moment Mike has announced releasing his own publication dedicated to the genre of spaghetti westerns, or, as some would prefer – Westerns all’Italiana. Why? Because Mike knows his stuff and is one of a few people I know to be so knowledgeable about the spaghettis who are available to give an advice or provide an info for people like me, who barely scratch the top of the genre.

I will digress a little, but I am so waiting for someone to put a similar publication about Italian action movies and especially peplums…but alas, I think I might never see any. But back to our review.

So, we’re talking spaghetti westerns. In recent years there were a few great books about the subject (I am still stuck and buried in the great genre tome “Any Gun Can Play” by Kevin Grant), but I have no doubt that lovers of exploitation/cult cinema will agree with me there are never enough publications dedicated to any particular genre. And because writing and reviewing movies is one thing, but self-publishing a thing completely different, Mike does get a lot of credit for his work on this publication.

Now, with the background in publishing (nothing massive, but it’s here), I can definitely sympathize with Mike’s efforts and I can’t be too harsh on him – but I’d like to offer this critical review as a help and advice with some stuff which, in my humble and honest opinion, could be done better. Not that it matters too much, I – for one – read genre publications for the wealth of information, not to contemplate on the headline fonts and such, so take this with a pinch of salt, OK?

That applies only on the graphic/design part of this book/zine. Content-wise, there’s nothing but a big applause from yours truly. As I’ve said, Mike knows his stuff, so there is no need to lecture him on that.

However, I prefer the use of the same font for the body text (along with bold, italics or underline variety), and the mixture of various fonts and sizes here it’s not the best here, but I am sure Mike will sort this out in the volume 2 (which is aleady out, and I need to get it asap).

Content-wise, no one can complain. Especially bringing to one’s attention more obscure (and ultra-rare) genre movies deserves all the praise one can heap on such an effort. Review of “Gunman of 100 crosses” is a really nice to see here, and I’ve just seen the movie the other day, so it’s good to see an expert’s take on it (and I am glad I actually agree with the review)

The interview section is, unfortunately, not the best one. However, it’s not Mike’s fault – whatever question you ask, it’s up to the other side to provide a nice answer. It’s true you can answer even with one-two words, but personally I consider that quite, well, unsatisfactory. Anyway, I am really interested in Robert Woods interview in the next volume, let’s see if it’s any better.

Not to drag this review for too long, I will state this: I wholeheartedly support this publication (I’ve bought my copy), and even with my critical remarks I applaud Mike’s efforts. In the end of the day, everyone needs to start somehow.

If you like spaghetti westerns, this one is your new publication to read.

Go and get it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spaghetti-Westerns-Michael-S-Hauss/dp/1692070045/ref=sr_1_10?keywords=spaghetti+westerns&qid=1581758646&sr=8-10

peplum movies book cover

Italian Sword and Sandal Films, 1908 – 1990 (a book review)

Although most of metalheads would class themselves as horror fans (and the gorier the better), myself – although I won’t refuse watching horror anytime – I am more of a general movie enthusiast. But I really like adventure movies, especially classic ones. So it was a no brainer to delve into so-called “peplum” movies (mostly produced in Italy) and to my surprise, there are not that many great reference books devoted to that genre. I’ve had a possibility to read Of Muscles and Men: Essays on the Sword and Sandal Film by Michael G. Cornelius and I’ve closed the book not even finishing the Introduction. Nope, if you are just a normal, movie loving person, stay clear of academic tomes. The other choice for my was this one I am gonna review for you today.

As with the aforementioned Of Muscles and Men, this also was published by McFarland & Co., which means a fucking high price tag, but also a quality content (and just to be clear, I’m not gonna bash Cornelius’ work just because I don’t appreciate dry academic writing, it’s just not a book for me, which is OK).

It’s a reference book, so you will get a short, encyclopedic entries about many Sword and Sandal movies from the era mentioned in the book title, but only about movies produced in Italy. That kinda narrows the scope, but it’s OK with me, to do this genre a justice, that would really takes quite a few books to fill.

Well, I’ve read a 1 star review on Amazon saying this information is readily available on internet (Wikipedia) and for the most part it’s true – but, seriously, do you have the time to research it all for yourself? I doubt it. Therefore I am glad Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich did that work for me. The amount of movies here is quite surprising and I’m gonna have a helluva time getting some of the more obscure ones, but as some wise person said – the journey is also a goal.

For that reason there is a nice help in the form of a note about the availability of movies on home video market, obviously, not all of them are readily available, but those wanting to get those more elusive titles might check some not so official ways (Youtube) or grey market sellers.

So, if you’re not into that kind of movies, this title would be a waste of time for you. But if you are a fan, then you have to obtain this title for your library and perusal.

I find it indespensable in my quest of watching Italian peplum and I am sure you’ll agree with me here. And I am not gonna lie, it’s gonna get used with my peplum reviews!

Get it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Italian-Sword-Sandal-Films-1908-1990/dp/1476662916/

FilmBRAWL (a book review)

When it comes to culture, one just can’t get enough. And I’m not gonna argue about it. You either are mad about it or not. There is no middle ground. At least not with me.

If you follow my reviews of Weng’s Chop cinema megazine (I know, I am way behind, but it’s gonna change soon, I promise!), you are now aware of the names of those responsible for that great reading.

Brian Harris, the author of filmBRAWL and other stuff.

Among those there is this interesting chap named Brian. Brian Harris.

I am quite sure I’ve visited his old webpage (Wildsidecinema.com, if I am not mistaken) back in the days of my browsing the old Net (remember Netscape Navigator, anyone?), haven’t been around his Joe Horror blog, but Brian is not just a writer for Weng’s Chop (and Monster! magazine).

He is also an author of a few books. And today I’m gonna talk about the one named filmBRAWL. Long overdue, but everytime I’ve started to read it, I’ve got lost (and it happens not only with this book, I just fucking love to read reference books and then searching the stuff out of the Net).

filmBRAWL book cover

What is filmBRAWL, you ask? Well, it’s a big compendium of short reviews of movies. More precisely, 595 pages full of reviews of movies going alphabetically, from # to Z (in other words, from 4Bia to Zombie Town), and on top of it, 50 more pages full of interviews with these nice folks: Allan Rowe Kelly (director of I’ll Bury You Tomorrow and The Blood Shed), Andre Gower (actor, The Monster Squad), April Burril (actress, Chainsaw Sally), Christopher Alan Broadstone (director, Scream For Me & My Skin), Fabrice Du Welz (director, Calvaire & Vinyan), Giovanni Lombardo Radice (actor, City of the Living Dead & Cannibal Ferox), Herschell Gordon Lewis (actor, director, Blood Feast & Two Thousand Maniacs), Mike Mendez (actor, The Covenant & The Gravedancers), Raine Brown (actor, Barricade & 100 Tears), Rodrigo Gudino (director, The Eyes of Edward James & The Demonology of Desire), Ted V. Mikels (director, Astro-Zombies & The Corpse Grinders), Tom Holland (director, Child’s Play & Fright Night), Rob Hauschild (owner, Wild Eye Releasing) and Keith Crocker (director, The Bloody Ape & Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69).

Hell yeah, that’s something I like. So, let’s have a better look at it.

As you can expect, Brian doesn’t write about your blockbuster, mainstream movies you might find talked about everywhere else. OK, he ocassionally does, but he firmly stays in the limits of cult cinema, exploitation, action, Asian, adventure, horror… you know, the good stuff.

Every mini-review is accompanied with the year of release (which, you know, helps when dealing with movies with the same name), star rating (from 0 to 5) and information about releasing company and year of DVD release, if available).

This is nothing new, of course, such reference books abound, but I have to say the reason I’ve bought it in the first place (and why I am talking about it in the second place) is exactly the author, Brian. Although filmBRAWL doesn’t really bring forward his funny and to-the-point-with-style writing we are delighted to read in WCH and M!m (which is not really a critique, try to write a capsule review of a movie and cram into it all the shit you would write in 2 pages long article…see? Not easy!), but it’s nice to see the progress. Brian, the author, is definitely evolving with his writing style, but what’s unchangeable is his taste for cinema.

Although I might disagree with some of the ratings or choice of movies, you can be sure that most of the time the cinema lover will struck the same chord with Brian. And good thing is, he’s not talking about obscure stuff you would be hard-pressed to find, or sell your kidney to afford. Nope, the movies discussed here are pretty available.

The seasoned movie geek might scoff, but if you are new to that darkened corner of the cinema world (and although I’ve grown in knowledge over the years, I still would consider myself pretty much a newbie still), this one will serve you as a trusted guide, believe me.

Available through Lulu.com, as far as I know, Brian is working on an updated version of the book, so if you look for the original version – it’s time to act now!

Dr. Gregory L. Reece – Weird Science and Bizarre Beliefs ~(a book review)

One has to agree that “suggested” stuff on Amazon has its advantages when it comes to spending your hard earned moolah on things you just have to own. And that’s how I’ve came to own this nice book about, well, weird science and bizarre beliefs! No kidding, the title says it all and it’s correct.

I, for one, am still a big fan of conspiracy theories, cryptozoology, UFO stuff and the like. Not too deep, though, so I don’t do New Age energy amulets or psychic readings, but I like to read some of the stuff. Why not, some of it it’s quite challenging and even the totally WTF stuff at least makes me laugh (or scratch my head in awe).

Dr. Gregory L. Reece

Dr. Reece is a sceptic and he explores the stuff with a good dose of scepticism, although, and that’s bringing good points to him, he’s not harshly critical or putting people down for what they believe or claim. Of course, that being said, a lot of people in these circles are full of shit (either for boosting their egos or – and that’s more like it – to make money out of the naive and gullible) or totally out of their mind, there’s no doubt about that.

So, what you can find in this book? I’d say, one can view it as a short intro to the field of the weird, and not badly written. Part I deals with the cryptozoology and particularly with the Bigfoot (or Sasquatch, if you prefer) and I have to say, because it’s not that much of an interest to me, I’ve skipped over some parts. Don’t get me wrong, I like to read about the cryptids, just don’t find Sasquatch/Bigfoot that fascinating to dedicate quite a large part of the book to this subject, talking about Bigfoot, Sasquatch, The Abominable Snowman and the related stuff. But there surely are people who are on the opposite side of it and love to read about it, so don’t take it as a criticism. You just can’t make all people happy, right?

That big hairy guy from the woods, Sasquatch

Still, well written stuff, and although nothing extra revealing (if you are familiar with the cryptozoology stuff, you already know a lot of what Reece writes about, be it Chupacabras, Skinwalkers etc.), but as I’ve said, if one views it as a nice intro to the field of the bizarre, then no one can actually complain.

Part 2 is still my favourite. Lost Worlds and the Hollow Earth? Where do I sign, please? Again, there are books dealing with some of it in more detail (for example, David Standish’s book on the Hollow Earth), but Reece does a great job here presenting all you need to know about the subject without going too deep into details and getting boring. I liked that part, for some reason I never get tired of reading about Atlantis, Lemuria or Mu and if you haven’t read anything else on the subject, you will get acquainted with Koreshanity, Symmes, Edmund Halley and others. Although, I have to say, I pretty much doubt Hitler was a fan of the Hollow Earth, but hey, what do I know, right?

Nikola Tesla (1857-1943)

Part 3 deals with Ancient Wonders and Tesla Technology. And what’s there not to like? Although one can think, whatever he/she wants about various ancient descriptions, pyramids and the like, Nikola Tesla is still not so distant in the future and his stuff is fascinating to this very day. And because this book was published in 2009, Reece also mentions the Mayan calendar and 2012 date, and because we’re here in 2019, you know it was pretty much a hogwash (hello, Graham Hancock!).

The book itself is easy to read (another plus) and the author doesn’t appear as the almighty-I-know-it-all and that’s another plus for him.

Most valuable part of the book for me? 6 pages of the Bibliography sources. That’s a treasure I just couldn’t stop perusing. If you are a fan of this kind of stuff, there’s no reason not to read it, even if it might bring only a few things not so common. And if you don’t like bizarre and weird stuff, give it a try. At least, it’s informative and interesting.

For anyone interested, you can find it on Amazon.

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