from the jazz age to the space age

Category Archives: horror

Coppola and Eiko on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, part 1.

This movie introduced me to the work of Eiko Ishioka, costume designer extraordinaire. Coppola’s Dracula has problems, mostly stemming from the stilted acting of Reeves and Ryder (I still remember the horror of realizing that Ryder had limited range. Up till then, she was my favorite actress), and the intentional hamminess of the rest of the cast. It also introduced me to Gary Oldman. Although I had seen “Sid and Nancy,” Oldman’s submersion into Vicious’s persona was so complete I overlooked him (I was a Johnny Rotten fan anyway). But with Dracula, I sat in the theater spellbound. A quarter of the way through the film I looked at my sort of boyfriend sitting next to me and realized that our relationship wasn’t going to be long term. He was a total Harker and I wanted Dracula. I wanted a consuming love that would cross oceans of time for me. That level of craziness would characterize all of my subsequent relationships. I’m an emotionally reserved person and it takes serious devotion to lure me into expending any actual emotion.
“The luckiest man who walks on this earth is the one who finds true love.”
Coppola wanted Eiko’s costumes to be the scenery. Her artistry tells more about the characters than script.

photo (4)“What devil or witch was ever so great as Attila whose blood flows through these veins?”

photo (5)“I was betrayed. Look what your God has done to me!”

photo (6)“I shall rise from my own death, to avenge hers with all the powers of darkness.”

photo (7)

“The basic color scheme for Dracula is red, white, black, and gold. I wanted to depict him in his armor as a cross between man and a beast.” -Eiko

photo (8)“For the dead travel fast.”

photo (9) “Listen to them- the children of the night. What sweet music they make.”

photo (10)

photo (11)

“The enormous train… was designed to undulate like a sea of blood.”- Eiko

“I never drink… wine.”

photo (12)

calling Gustav Klimt.

“Do you think you can destroy me with your idols? I who served the cross, I who commanded nations, hundreds of years before you were born?”

photo (13)


beautiful rainy day in socal so it’s time for some E. A. Poe illustrated by the endlessly talented Arthur Rackham. These are from 1935. Rachkham shows that his use of line is more beautiful than most other artist’s command of color, as well as his mastery of large areas of black and a skillful employment of silhouette.
the ocean appears alive with menace.

rachkam’s silhouette technique used to great effect. note the body shoved up the chimney. {from “murders in the rue morgue.”}

my favorite Poe story, “Ligeia.” {pronounced, btw, as “lye-JEE-uh” according to both the vincent price movie “The Tomb of Ligeia” (1964)as well as this site: libraryalchemy.

if you love japanese ghost stories, you cannot live without Kwaidan {kaidan}.


from the beautiful Yuki-onna, spirit of snow, to the bewitched Hoichi singing for a ghostly emperor and his court, these tales enchant as much today as they did over a century ago.


the volume features stunningly dark  ukiyo-e set in gilded backgrounds





these storeies inspired the beautiful film “kaidan.” direscted by Masaki kobayashi~

kaidan~ yuki-onna {part2}


published in 1968, “more tales to tremble by,” illustrated by gordan laite, is full of surprising creeps. although a children’s book, the selection of stories are anything but childike. 

boasting stories such as, “the red lodge,” by h. russell wakefield and “the extra passenger,” by weird luminary august derluth, the stories are sure to frighten children and most likely frighten adults even more.

“sredni vashtar,” by saki is my favorite in the collection. 10 year old conradin lives with his oppressive cousine and guardian, “mrs. de ropp.” a sickly boy, his every possible joy and excitement is suppressed by his guardian, whom he feels is hastening him to his death. secretly he obtains a large polecat-ferret. as the embodiment of life, he imagines it a vengeful god and he its faithful supplicant. eventually mrs. de ropp discovers the animal and enters the shed where it’s hidden to dispose of it. conradin, from the window above, watches helplessly.
“and in the sting and misery of his defeat he began to chant loudly and defiantly the hymn of his threatened idol: ‘srendi vashtar went forth; his thoughts were red and his teeth were white. his enemies called for peace, but he brought them death. sredni vashtar the beautiful.’
“… and presently his eyes were rewarded: out through that doorway came a long, low yellow and brown beast, with eyes a-blink at the waning daylight and dark wet stains around the fur of his jaws and throat.”
contentedly, conradin proceeds to eat toast and drink his afternoon tea with enjoyment.

gordon laite’s art is beautiful. all of his art i’ve seen prior to this has been full color so it was a delight to see his linework. sadly, due to the wonderful painted cover, this book is often “reused” to make journals so pick one up while you can.  


the short stories comprising “the lottery” concern evil. not grandiose evil or glamorous evil, but mundane, petty evil- a distinctly human evil despite the ivy trails of the supernatural twisting through her writing.
taking the ballad, “the daemon lover” for her inspiration, she explores marriage, fidelity, domesticity, hypocrisy, and the nuances of small town living and mind set. despite their mid 20th century settings, her characters could have been any of the dull, showy, self-important people i’ve met in places such as orange county, riverside county, or even my home town of cardiff.
variations of the name “james harris” pop up in the stories, always signalling impending disquiet or disaster. where he’s unnamed, his blue suit flits from story to story alerting us to danger.
shirley jackson’s stories are restrained. often nothing overt happens, but you’re left with a feeling of general unwellness. the supernatural blends seamlessly with our world until we ourselves are not sure who is who or what is what. a man wearing a blue suit may be a respectable commuting businessman or he may be a witch spreading his evil plans among our children, sowing murderous thoughts in their fertile minds before we’re fully conscious of his actions.
and that is shirley jackson’s most insidious gift. the insight that the most obviously respectable people are often the agents of evil. we trust them because they cast themselves as the voices of tradition and realize too late that tradition favors the strong and merciless.
<— this is just because i love pete campbell and his beautiful blue suits.