Wednesday, January 16, 2019

TONY GOES TO FREELAND: PART TWO

Previously in Tony Isabella’s Bloggy Thing:

I flew to Atlanta/Freeland to attend the Black Lightning season two wrap party. It was sensational, which you already know from reading yesterday’s bloggy thing. I would be visiting the Black Lightning set on Monday and Tuesday, but Sunday was a day of rest for me and the fine folks who work on the show. We continue...

I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in midtown Atlanta. Although my room was comfortable enough, the best rating I can give to the Inn is...adequate. On the plus side, they had a room for me as soon as I arrived, which was a few hours before the stated check-in times. On the minus side, the hotel proceeded to text me at least once and sometimes twice a day to ask how I was enjoying my stay.

Pluses: My room was near the elevators and across from the vending machine with its one-dollar cans of Coke. Despite the proximity to the elevator and the intersections outside my window, the room was fairly quiet. The room was a decent size. The bed was comfortable.  The bathroom was clean and fit my needs. The room had a microwave, coffee maker and refrigerator. The housekeeper straightened up the room every day.

Minuses: Instead of a comfortable non-desk chair, which would have been nice for reading or watching TV, the room had a large ottoman that benefited me not in the least. There was no silverware, which would have made using the microwave more of an option. There was no safe in the room. The hotel restaurant had a limited, unimpressive menu and its hours of operation were equally limited.
                                                                            

Fortunately, the Chinese Buddha was just across the street from the hotel. I had lunch there on Saturday. Good food (and a lot of it) and a low price for the lunch special. One of my 2019 resolutions is to stop eating at the first sign I’m no longer hungry. The very nice server was concerned. I said I was trying to lose [redacted] pounds in the first two months of the year. She said I only needed to lose half that. She was already going to get a good tip, but she got a better one. Yes, I’m prone to the flattery of beautiful women and handsome men and just about anyone else. I’m exceptionally  needy. I’ll stop talking about this now.

Sunday was a day of rest for the cast and crew. When I experienced the long days they put in during the week, I understood this was a necessity. I slept in, something I almost never do and then kind of sort of lazed around all day. But not completely.

After a visit to the hotel’s less-than-stellar breakfast buffet, I went to work in a manner of speaking. A former Black Lightning crew member who had written a spec script for the show and gotten some positive feedback on it sent it to me for my thoughts. Normally, I do not look at such scripts. But he had contacted me in advance to get the okay to send it to me. He's also part of what I consider my extended Black Lightning family, so that was another factor in my agreeing to do what I almost never do. So, that morning, I read his script and accompanying character backgrounds.

For the most part, I liked the spec script. Since the writer lives in Atlanta, he came over to the Hilton Garden Inn. We talked about it for an hour or so, and also talked about his aspirations to do some comic-book writing as well. I gave him what encouragement and information I had to offer. It’s been a while since I had a chance to exercise my editorial chops.

I spent the rest of the afternoon reading Salim Akil's script for the second season’s premiere episode. That episode was so amazing I asked for and received a copy of the script to study. This is self-training. Someday soon, I hope to try my hand at writing TV shows, movies and cartoons.
                                                                            
I also took advantage of my “day off” to call Larry Lieber, one of the comics people I love most in this world. I’m a fan of his work, especially on Rawhide Kid, and a fan of the man himself. We talked for a half-hour or so and made plans to have dinner when I come to New York for March’s Big Apple Con. It's always terrific to spend time with Larry.

The rest of the day? I had a phone conversation with Bob Ingersoll on this and that. I did some work on the new albino super-hero I’ve been creating. This hero was originally intended to appear in the ongoing Black Lightning title I want to write, but, with DC Comics apparently not interested in my writing my creation, I’m working to upgrade the character into a headliner.

I spent way too much time watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit reruns, part of a marathon called “Special Vixen Unit.” Near as I can figure, what made episodes eligible for this marathon was that Mariska Hargitay or Kelli Giddish had to wear a sexy dress for at least one scene in each episode. Reaching much?

While I was waiting for Chinese Buddha to open for dinner, I took a walk around the area. The hotel is near Georgia Tech so there are lots of students, lots of student housing, lots of restaurants and shops for students and lots of students riding rental scooters at breakneck pace. Fortunately, my spider-sense warned me if they came too close and thus I escaped injury.

I didn’t feel like eating alone in the restaurant, so I ordered a meal to go. After I told my server I had a microwave in my room, he was kind enough to give me extra plates, forks, spoons and napkins. The meal was large enough that I was able to have it for late-night snacks on both Monday and Tuesday.

After supper, I watched as much of the Golden Globe awards ceremony as I could stay awake for. For part of the show, I was on the phone with Saintly Wife Barb. I wish she could have been with me on this trip, but her own work schedule didn’t permit it.
                                                                            

Some quick notes: I was delighted Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won for best animated movie. It deserved that award and more. I’m hoping it brings home the Oscar.

I thought Sandra Oh and Andy Samberg did a pretty good job as the hosts of the show, but that the show itself was uneven. Less jokes about past Hollywood and previous/potential host scandals would be my call for next year. It’s not that I’m against calling out these scandals. I just want it done with better jokes.

I was disappointed Black Panther didn’t win anything and even more disappointed Black Lightning wasn’t nominated at all. As much as comics and especially super-hero comics drive movies and TV these days, our work still doesn’t get the respect it deserves from Hollywood and the critics.

One last general note about my time in Atlanta. I have mastered a new skill. I was able to use my Lyft app to get to the wrap party, the studio and the airport. Celebrate with me that this old dog has learned a new trick.

One last note. Due to some personal stuff - nothing bad - over the past few days, I’m running behind on the bloggy thing, some of the other things I post online and responses to people who have emailed me or sent me private messages. I’m determined to be all caught up by the end of the week and/or weekend, so, once again, I thank you for your patience.

I’ll be back soon with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

Monday, January 14, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #290

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...I wear the lightning. Plus: Legends of The Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle Volume 1; Dark Shadows: The Complete Newspaper Strips; Satoko and Nada by writer/artist Yupechika with Marie Nishimori script advisor: http://blog.talesofwonder.com/?p=1346

TONY GOES TO FREELAND: PART ONE

If it doesn’t get any better than right this minute, if I never get to write another Black Lightning comics story or any other comics story, if I never again stand in front of an audience to speak of the character and work that has defined my career, if I never again visit the home city of Jefferson Pierce and his family, if this is it, the finale, the slow walk away from the things I love about the comics industry, then, you know, it’s okay.

I’ve had success other comics creators dream of achieving. I have created iconic characters that entertain and inspire. I’ve written great stories and worked with great artists. I’ve seen my proudest creation turned into an amazing hit television series by actors and crew members and directors and producers and writers who embraced my vision for that creation.

We’ll swing back around to these semi-gloomy thoughts when I reach the last chapter of this multi-part series of columns about my trip to Atlanta to attend the Black Lightning second season wrap party and then two of the final days of shooting of that second season. Before that last chapter, there will be much joy to share.

I had hoped DC Comics would have brought me to the Black Lightning set long before this. I don’t know why I had that hope given that I pretty much had to publicly shame the company into bringing me to the Black Lightning premiere in Washington D.C. last January. But I held on to that hope for way too long.

Contrast. Without any prior communication from me, Marvel brought me out for the Luke Cage premiere in Harlem, the Ant-Man and the Wasp premiere in Los Angeles and other screenings in New York. My fondness for the company where I started my career continues to be part of me.

I looked at my bank account and decided I would do this thing. That I would travel to Atlanta on my own dime to spend some time with a group of people who mean so much to me that I consider them to be part of my family. I love them all madly. However, if they all come to Thanksgiving, I will need to buy a much bigger house.

I flew from Cleveland on a direct Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta. I didn’t get my preferred aisle seat, but I was in the middle of an exit row. The major pluses of that was I had more room for my tiny hobbit legs and the seat in front of me could not recline.

Grumpy old man pronouncement. I don’t think airplane seats should be able to recline. A passenger has little enough space as it is; they shouldn’t have it diminished further by the inconsiderate lout in front of them. Get off my lawn, you rotten kids.

From the airport, it was a quick yet still expensive taxi ride to the Hilton Garden Inn in midtown Atlanta. I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow. I’ll also tell you about a terrific Chinese restaurant less than a tenth of a mile from the hotel. For now, though, we’ve got a party to attend.
                                                                         

The Black Lightning wrap party was held Saturday night, January 5, at Le Maison Rogue@Paris on Ponce. The Paris part of that contains over 46,000 square feet of art, antiques, furnishings, ateliers, boutiques, and oddities. I was simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the Marie Antoinette piece located just outside party venue. I arrived around a little after the event’s 7 pm start time and soon realized that almost no one shows up at these things that early in the evening.
                                                                                

Folks started to trickle in with a few of them giving me the once-over until they realized who I was. I apologize for not being able to identify every person I met at the party and on the set. I made the conscious decision not to take notes and photos. Sure, I could have recorded my adventures, but I wanted to experience them fully. Next time I attend something like this, I’ll bring a plus-one to take those notes and photos for me.

Everything about the party was cool. The venue was twisted enough to be unforgettable. The DJ on the stage kept things hopping. The food was delicious. Best of all...the people.

China Anne McClain. Nafessa Williams. Christine Adams. Marvin Jones III. Jordan Calloway. William Catlett. Jennifer Riker. Sakim Akil. Oz Scott. Jamon Brown.

Jamon is a name you will be hearing a lot in the future. He's Salim's assistant and he's done me dozens of courtesies in the two years I've known him. He's also a writer who co-wrote episode ten of this second season.
                                                                           

Marvin and I chatted quite a bit during the evening. He is such a glowing beacon of joy. That he can somehow pull Tobias Whale out of  somewhere is incredible to me. I’ve said all along that Marvin is worthy of an Emmy nomination for his performances in that role.
                                                                             

Jennifer Riker, who has been playing the detestable Dr. Helga Jace  on the show, is also nothing like her character. She’s friendly and so much lovelier than the doc. Until she introduced herself, I did not recognize her. I told her she was (expletive deleted) evil and I loved her. Her response was a hug and a kiss. Some of the better photos in today’s bloggy thing were taken by her.
                                                                              

Series creator, director, producer and writer Salim Akil was there, as was director Oz Scott. As I’ve said online, the love and respect I received from everyone involved in the Black Lightning show has been as life-affirming as anything I’ve ever known.
                                                                                   
Oz got up on the stage to address the attendees and thank them for all they do to help the cast, directors and producers and make the show. It’s a mutual respect I would see over and over again when I was on the set Monday and Tuesday.
                                                                               

Then, much to my surprise, Oz announced that there were two Black Lightning creators in the house. Besides Salim Akil, the original creator of the Black Lightning comics was at the party. To my even greater surprise, he asked me to address the crowd.
                                                                                 

I hadn’t prepared anything, but how could I pass up the chance to tell this wonderful group of people how much they mean to me and to Black Lightning fans everywhere? Going from my doubtless challenged memory, here’s what I think I said:

Looking out over this group of happy, creative, talented, dedicated people and realizing you all have jobs because of something I wrote forty years ago is more surreal than I can describe. I see so much of myself in this show and cherish how much all of you have added to characters and stories that mean so much to so many. Every time my family and I watch a new episode, I feel like you have given me a wonderful special present. I consider all of you to be part of my extended Black Lightning family. I love you and I thank you for all your hard work. You mean the world to me.

I got a round of applause. Later that evening, China would tell me what I said was beautiful and thank me for it. So would Marvin and others. That’s when I first felt I was part of the show, a feeling that would be enhanced during my time on the set.

Salim followed me on the stage and also thanked everyone for their dedication and hard work. The cast members who were present did the same, emphasizing how their performances are enhanced because the crew and their fellow cast members lift them up.

That’s at the core of Black Lightning. Good people sharing values who lift each other up. I am so proud to have created the character and so proud to be a small part of this show. It’s a responsibility I will never take lightly, much to the annoyance of certain folks who don’t understand Jefferson Pierce as well as I do.

After the speeches, there was more delightful hanging out with the cast and crew. I stayed at the party until maybe eleven, exhausted by everything I’d had to do before I flew to Atlanta and the flight to the city. I called Lyft and headed back to my hotel.

Sunday was not a working day for the Black Lightning cast and crew, so I would have a day of rest before hitting the set. It will be a mite short on Black Lightning content, but tomorrow’s bloggy thing will tell you what I did that day. See you then.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

           

Thursday, January 10, 2019

TONY'S TIPS #289

This week in TONY'S TIPS at Tales of Wonder...A brief look back at 2018. Plastic Man by Gail Simone with artist Adriana Melo. Tony Stark: Iron Man Vol. 1: Self-Made Man by Dan Slott. Ne Ne Ne by Shizuku Totono. Here's the link: http://blog.talesofwonder.com/?p=1338
                                                                               
                                                                            


Friday, January 4, 2019

NORTH TEXAS COMIC BOOK SHOW

The North Texas Comic Book Show is my first convention appearance of the new year. It will be held on February 2 and 3 at the Irving Convention Center, 500 West Las Colinas Boulevard in Irving, Texas. This event prides itself on “putting comics back into comic cons” and will host a fantastic roster of comic-book writers and artists. That guest list includes a “Kraven’s Last Hunt” reunion of writer J.M. DeMatteis, penciler Mike Zeck and inker Bob McLeod. “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is one of the most renown Spider-Man sagas of all time. The story is available in several different volumes, which should make getting a copy of one of them before the convention a pretty easy task.

Neal Adams leads the rest of the guest list. Currently scheduled to appear are Joe Staton, Larry Hama, Keith Pollard, Al Milgrom, Randy Emberlin, Graham Nolan, Denys Cowan, Aaron Lopresti, John Beatty, Rudy Nebres, Larry Stroman, Scott Koblish, Michael Golden, Arthur Suydam, Tim Vigil, Amy Chu, Bill Reinhold, Linda Lessmann Reinhold, Elliot S! Maggin and Arthur Mangum. Also in attendance will be ace cosplayers British Pixie and Doctor Cosplay.

While I don’t have a panel schedule at this time, I suspect I may be one or two panels during the weekend. The rest of the time, at least when I’m not chatting with the many old friends on the guest list, I’ll be sitting behind my table signing Tony Isabella stuff and selling whatever Tony Isabella items I was able to fit into a suitcase or two. These items will likely include Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands, Black Lightning, Black Lightning Volume Two, July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella and an assortment of posters and prints. I do charge for my signature, but I think my prices are very reasonable:

Any items purchased from me: no charge.

Any one item not purchased from me: no charge.

Additional items: $5 each.

Items signed in front of a grading company witness: $10 each.

Photos are free.


As always, I can make myself available to be interviewed by local media and others. The same goes for comics editors or publishers who want to work with me. I ask you e-mail me well before the con to schedule any interviews and meetings.

The general admission hours of the North Texas Comic Book Show are 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday. Two-day tickets are $35. One-day tickets are $20 per day. Kids twelve and under are free. On Sunday, active military, police and firefighters get a $5 discount.

If you want to take advantage of the show’s early-bird admission on Saturday with entry between 9:15 and 9:45 am, that ticket will be $55 (including general admission). You can get the Saturday early-bird admission with two-day general admission for $65. Barring any unexpected circumstances, I should be at my table in time for the early-bird crowd.

This is my first appearance in Texas in decades. How many decades? I can’t remember. Maybe sometime in the 1980s? Your guess is almost certainly as good as mine. I’m looking forward to this event and to meeting my readers. Hope to see you there.

For more information on the event, go to the official North Texas Comic Book Show website: https://www.comicbooksdallas.com

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This will be the last bloggy thing for a while. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be on the road for several days. When I return home, I’ll be devoting most of my energy to various matters that have been on the back burner for far too long. While I will write and post the odd bloggy thing here and there, you won’t see a return to full-scale blogging until February.

I’ll be back as soon as possible with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

           

Thursday, January 3, 2019

BLACK LIGHTNING BEAT 1/3/19

Black Lightning is on its holiday hiatus, but will return on Monday, January 21 with “The Book of Rebellion: Chapter Three”. I know from advance publicity photos that Jennifer Pierce [China Anne McClain] is getting her own super-suit, but I don’t know in which of the seven remaining episodes of the season she’ll be getting it. That leaves poor Lynn as the only member of the Pierce family sans a suit. Hmm...I had interesting plans for the Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands version of Lynn. I wonder if I could talk show runners Salim and Mara Brock Akil into using them on the TV show.

As regular readers of my bloggy thing know, “Black Lightning Beat” is where I try to give you news and views and even the occasional review on all things Black Lightning. All opinions expressed here are my opinions and should not be considered as views of either DC Comics, Inc. or Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Especially since I am not working for either entity at the present time. Which, lest anyone think I have abandoned by proudest creation, isn't remotely my doing. Moving on...

I love this Bryan Abrams article on and interview with the wondrous Cress Williams, who plays Black Lightning/Jefferson Pierce on the hit Black Lightning series. You can read it here:

https://www.mpaa.org/2018/11/black-lightning-star-cress-williams-on-tvs-most-human-superhero/

If you’ve been watching this second season of Black Lightning, you know Jefferson Pierce and his family are dealing with some serious matters. Jeff isn’t always making the best decisions. Having said several times that the younger Jeff in Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands is the smartest version of the character, I was asked by one of my friends what I thought about those not the best decisions on the TV show. It’s a fair and good question.

First thing you need to know is that there’s a lot of me in Black Lightning and has been since I created the character. Second thing you need to know is that parenthood changes everything. If you’re a good parent, as Jeff and Lynn are, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your kids. You always worry about them. You always want to protect them, even when they are grown and out on their own.

When my kids were young, I developed a guardian instinct. If there was a noise at night, inside or outside, no matter how deeply I was sleeping at the time, I would wake up instantly. Most of the time, it was nothing. Heck, almost all of the time it was nothing. But I still woke up instantly to check it out. Even today, that instinct is muted but still active.

So when Jeff does something stupid on the TV series because of his concerns for his children, it’s perfectly in character for him. And me. And I am knocked out by how terrific Cress is at portraying that emotional roller coaster.

Let me state that I am absolutely in awe of how well my creations are portrayed on the TV series. The TV series Peter Gambi is a much better character than my comic-book version. The same is true for Tobias Whale, Lynn Stewart and Inspector Henderson. Yes, TV allows for further exploration of these characters in a more seamless way than comic-book stories. I’m still in awe.

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In October, I was a guest of the Baltimore Comic Con. While there, I was interviewed by my friend Bob Greenberger on Black Lightning and other aspects of my life and comics career. Michael Major did an article on the panel for Game Industry News and you can read it here:

https://www.gameindustry.com/event-coverage/baltimore-comic-con-hunting-for-black-lightnings-creator/

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Did you know...that in late 1978, Black Lightning appeared in the DC  “The World’s Greatest Superheroes” newspaper comic strip by Martin Pasko, George Tuska and Vince Colletta? This particular story also featured Batman, Robin, Superman and Black Canary. Comics historian and super-fan John Wells is posting the story on a daily basis on his Batavia Funny (and Not So Funny) Pages group on Facebook. He’s posting many other great vintage strips as well, so you might want to join his group.

If you want to catch up all the already-posted strips in this tale, you’ll find them on my Flickr page:

https://www.flickr.com/people/10485008@N03/

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The SYFY WIRE staff recently ran a nice article on genre television shows they felt deserved a lot more love from audiences. A show of which I’m quite fond made their list.

Black Lightning (The CW)

I know, another superhero show from the CW's Arrowverse. But I challenge you to watch a few episodes and then come back telling me you feel the same. Black Lightning might have taken a little while to truly find its footing, but this is a series with a strong point of view. Jefferson Pierce isn't just meting out vigilante justice for some vague sense of honor, or to right the wrongs of his past. He is fighting for his community and taking on system issues of race and class that plague our very real nation.


My thanks to Tricia Ennis for her comments. If you’d like to check out the WIRE’s entire list, go here:

https://www.syfy.com/syfywire/the-best-under-the-radar-genre-tv-shows-of-2018

                                                                                
                                                                 
I am frequently asked if there will be a Black Lightning movie in the near future. Annoying scallywag that I am, I tell them there’s already a Black Lightning movie. It just doesn’t feature Jefferson Pierce. Indeed, this other Black Lightning isn’t even human. It’s a flying car.

Here’s what I wrote about this movie in 2010:

Chernaya Molniya (2009) is the Russian title for this entertaining super-hero movie.  It was directed by Alexandr Voitinsky and Dmitry Kiseliov, and produced by Timur Bekmambetov. My spell checker just surrendered.

The hero of the film is Dmitry Maykov (played by Grigori Dobrigin). He’s a college student and he’s pretty much a Russian Peter Parker. His hard-working father is a tram driver who frequently helps out people just because it’s the right thing to do.  His mother seems to work as well and he has a young sister.  Their means are modest, but you can feel the love.

At school, Dimi falls for new student Nastya (Ekaterina Vilkova) as soon as he lays eyes on the blonde beauty.  Unfortunately, his best friend Max (Ivan Zhidkov) also falls for Nastya and, unlike Dimi, Max has money and a Mercedes.

Dimi learns from his excited sister that their parents are giving him a car for his birthday.  His own excitement is dulled when he sees the car: a black 1966 GAZ 21 Volga.

What neither Dimi nor his parents know is that the car was salvaged from a defunct secret government laboratory and that the vehicle is capable of rocket-powered flight.  He also doesn’t know really evil billionaire Viktor Kuptsov (Viktor Verzhbitsky) has been searching for the car, planning to use its engine to power a drill.  Kuptsov wants the enormous diamonds that are deep under the foundations of Moscow and isn’t at all concern that drilling for them with destroy the city and millions of its citizens.

In one of those comic-book coincidences we all love, Kuptsov gives a lecture at Dimi’s university.  He imparts his Ayn Rand-like credo of “I’ve got mine, Jack!” to Dimi and the young man unfortunately takes it to heart.

When Demi learns his “Black Lightning” car can fly, he chooses to use it to make money delivering flowers faster than any competing drivers.  The thought of using it to help people never crosses his mind.  Though no one else knows what the vehicle can do, Demi’s new cold attitude creates a riff between him and his father.


And that’s all the specific plot details you’re going to get from me.  Things change for Dimi in tragic fashion and that changes how he uses “Black Lightning.” His new direction doesn’t change all the other problems he has in his life.  All it does is bring him to the attention of Kuptsov.

Flying car, flying car, does whatever a flying car can...

I had a blast watching this movie.  The special effects are pretty good without dominating the story.  The acting - I watched this in the original Russian with English subtitles - is terrific.  After watching it, I ordered the Blu-ray version.  This is a movie I’ll be sharing with family and friends.

Black Lightning may not be my Black Lightning, but it has the heart of a true super-hero. I recommend it highly.


That’s a wrap for this edition of “Black Lightning Beat.” I would like to update Black Lightning fans on the various toys and other Black Lightning merchandise out there. As I know some of these have fallen under my radar, I’m asking my readers to help me out on this sacred mission.

E-mail me photos of Black Lightning swag with any information you have on them. If you have such items for sale, include that info as well. If I don’t have the items, I’ll likely offer to buy them from you. When I’m gone, hopefully, not any time soon, all of my Black Lightning papers and such will be donated to a worthy university.

I’m also and always interested in Black Lightning art beyond what has been published in the comic books. Likewise, Black Lightning or Black Lightning-related cosplay. Or pretty much any photos of Black Lightning, the Black Lightning cast and so on. The more material I have, the more often I can post new “Black Lightning Beat” columns in this bloggy thing of mine.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella

           

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

HOLIDAY HORROR

Sometimes I think there’s a horror movie for every holiday of the year. According to one online source selected at random, today has several holidays going for it:

55 MPH Speed Limit Day
Happy Mew Year for Cats Day
National Buffet Day
National Cream Puff Day
National Motivation and Inspiration Day
National Personal Trainer Awareness Day
National Pet Travel Safety Day
National Run Up the Flagpole and See if Anybody Salutes it Day
National Science Fiction Day
World Introvert Day


Sure, I could research these “holidays” and see if I can find some horror movie that fits them. But that’s more work than I can handle after staying up all night on Monday to ring in the New Year. But I do have a pair of holiday horror movies for today’s bloggy. One is for New Year’s Eve and the other is for Christmas.

Warning. After you read my comments on these movies, you might be more inclined to consider them Thanksgiving horror movies. Gobble, gobble, my fiends. Gobble, gobble.

Our double feature commences with New Year’s Evil. The 1980 slasher film stars Roz Kelly, who is best known for playing Pinky Tuscadero on TV’s Happy Days. She plays Blaze/Diane Sullivan, an aging disc jockey hosting a televised New Year’s Eve countdown. Kip Niven is her husband Richard and Grant Cramer is their son Derek, who just landed the lead in a TV series. The movie was directed by Emmett Alston, who also contributed to the story, and written by  Leonard Neubauer. The movie is rated “R” for various reasons, including a few bare breasts not seen in the Comet TV version of the movie that I watched. They wouldn’t have helped the film.

Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

During a New Year's Eve celebration, a Los Angeles disc jockey receives a phone call saying that when New Year's strikes in each time zone, someone will be murdered - and she will be the last one.

SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD
SPOILERS AHEAD


Before the disc jockey has any idea there’s a killer on the hunt, her assistant is murdered in her hotel room. The assistant’s head will make an appearance in an elevator shaft. It will not look like an actual head, living or dead.

Underplayed family issues come to the fore early on. Hubby Richard isn’t there yet. Son Derek is not getting the attention he expects from his mom. Mom Blaze is incredibly self-absorbed. Even the cop in charge of the case, who shows after the first murder, is kind of a dick. There’s exactly one likeable character in this movie, a cop assigned to be Blaze’s bodyguard and who talks about his wife and kids. That he survives the movie may be the only good thing about  this slasher shit show.

Blaze’s television party is not up to Dick Clark standards. It’s a small auditorium with what looks like a high school stage. The live music is performed by two bands - Shadow and Made in Japan - that I never heard of and couldn’t find online. Not that I looked hard. They kind of blew chunks.

The slasher calls himself “Eee-vil.” He records his murders on a cassette player and plays them when he calls the phone-in line at the televised countdown.

Eee-vil dispatches a few extraneous individuals, but his midnight slayings are all women. He kills a blonde nurse at a sanitarium and then a pair of women he picked up at a bar. He attempts to kill a teenage girl making out with her boyfriend in a car, but she escapes. There is no mention by any character that Eee-vil missed his eleven o’clock murder. Everyone is focused on either killing or protecting Blaze, who, by the way, is doing a terrible job hosting the show.

Hubby Richard is revealed as the killer. We don’t learn this until he gets past the police to sneak into Blaze’s room. He pretends to be the dutiful husband. Blaze asks him to find their son who she’s finally figured out is upset. Up to this point, the scenery-chewing Derek had been my pick for the slasher.

Richard chains Blaze up in the aforementioned elevator shaft. He plans to drop her to her death at the stroke of midnight. The cops show up and, in the exchange of gunfire that ensues, disable said elevator. Richard runs to the hotel roof. Rather than surrender, he throws himself off it. His body looks pretty good for someone who just fell several stories to his death. Son Derek cradles his dad’s body while looking around for more scenery to chew.

Blaze is put into an ambulance to be taken to a hospital. When we get a look at the driver, it’s Derek. The actual driver is dead on the floor next to him. Apparently, he takes after Daddy. I suppose we were supposed to be concerned about his mom’s fate, but, despite my respect for Happy Days, I wasn’t. I was more relieved that there was never a sequel. Because, demented as I am, I would have sought it out and watched it. I need help.

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New Year’s Evil was one of countless holiday-themed horror movies that followed the success of Halloween. It isn't a good film. It's not even a watchable movie. Its Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” rating is 14%. Its audience score is 14%. I think those might be on the high side.

                                                                                  

Only marginally better is To All a Goodnight (1980). This Christmas slasher film is directed by David Hess, who only directed one other film and who has a more lengthy resume as an actor. It was written by Alex Rebar. It stars Jennifer Runyon as Nancy, a first-year student at a girls finishing school where another girl died two years prior to the start of the movie. Runyon has been in several horror films - you’ll recognize her as the lovely student Bill Murray is hitting on in Ghostbusters - and was a regular on TV’s Charles in Charge. Here’s the Internet Movie Database summary:

A group of teenagers at a party find themselves being stalked by a maniacal killer in a Santa Claus costume.

More accurately, several finishing school students are going to be spending Christmas at their school. Some boys, including the very rich boyfriend of one girl, break the rules and show up. Also there for the holidays are the housemother and a creepy landscaper. If you’re thinking it sounds a little bit like Black Christmas (1974), you wouldn’t be wrong.

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“Marginally better” might be a little harsh, but To All a Goodnight is so by-the-numbers it never engaged my interest. Recognizing Runyon from Ghostbusters was a highlight for me. When the student in the flashback goes over a balcony and dies, the body that hits the ground is so obviously a dummy that it lowered my exceptions from the start.

Promiscuous teens die as they must. Their fellows assume they are off being promiscuous and barely worry about them. Landscaper Ralph is set up as a red herring; it’s not until Nancy stumbles on his dead body that the presence of a vicious killer becomes known. The housemother calls the police. The chief of detectives arrives with two other detectives to investigate and protect the students. Which protection does not include the logical step of getting them out of the finishing school.

None of the kills are remotely original. Porn star Harry Reems, who plays the rich kid’s pilot, and a student get chopped to itty bitty pieces when “Santa Claus” starts the engine while they are working on it. This is portrayed by blobs of mushy wet meat splattering the plane. Yummy.

“Santa” is the housemother. It was her daughter who died two years earlier. To the movie’s credit, it tips this off by the presence of a photo of the girl on the housemother’s mantle. The twist ending is that there are two killers at work. The chief of detectives was the dead girl’s father.

Mom goes over the same balcony as her daughter and they didn’t use an obvious dummy this time. Dad gets skewered by a crossbow arrow, shot by the nerdy “final boy.” Nancy survives, as does another girl who has been driven mad by the sight of a classmate’s head stuck on her shower head. That mad girl dancing around in a nightgown while singing insanely is a pretty cool image.

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To All a Goodnight is watchable. Once. It was rated “R” for some nudity - not seen in the Comet TV version I watched - and the usual gore and violence.

The IMDb users gave the movie a 4.8 rating, which I think is very generous. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 16%, which I think is somewhat unfair. This isn’t a movie I would recommend, but it’s not completely terrible.

I’m going to attempt to watch and review holiday horror movies on as regular a basis as I can manage. If any reader has suggestions for January and February, please e-mail them to me.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2019 Tony Isabella