Thursday, January 17, 2019

Celebrating the Big Show: Haunts of Showbiz


Haunts of Showbiz



          Horror and show business are often intertwined by devilishly inventive creators . . .

           The Phantom of the Opera, familiar in novel and film form, concerns a cast-off fellow named Erik.  After a stint with gypsies in their freak show, Erik moves into the catacombs below the Paris Opera and begins a reign of terror as he searches for the owner of the perfect female voice.


          “Return to the Sabbath,” by horrormeister Robert Bloch, first appeared in 1938.  In this creepy little tale, a film producer tracks down the star of a disturbingly realistic horror film and signs the fellow as his next acting discovery.  Trouble ensues as we discover that the devil worshippers in the original film are real, and want their revenge.  
          The story was adapted in 1964 as “The Sign of Satan” for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, starring Christopher Lee as the horror actor whose death’s-head role becomes all too true.


          Fritz Leiber’s 1965 story “Four Ghosts in Hamlet,” first printed in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, concerns a traveling company that accrues an extra ghost in the cast while performing Shakespeare, due to some too-successful Ouija board sessions.


           While the trail of deaths that followed Karidian’s Shakespeare Troupe in Star Trek’s 1966 “The Conscience of the King” were decidedly non-supernatural, the uncertainty and suspense conjured by Barry Trivers’s story make for a fun and unsettling hour of sci-fi TV.



          The 1980 horror film Fade to Black features a psychotic movie buff who is spurned by a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.  He decides to take revenge on his boss and other enemies, dressed as early movie starsKarloff’s mummy, Cagney’s Cody Jarrett, and Lugosi’s Dracula, among others.


           Perhaps the ne plus ultra of showbiz horror is Bradford Tatum’s 2016 novel Only the Dead Know Burbank.  It tells the story of Maddy Ulm, an adolescent German girl whose death in the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic is only the beginning of horrors.  She rises, undead, in a Berlin ravaged by WWI.  After joining a German film company, she singlehandedly creates the templates of film horror as she journeys to Hollywood and Universal Studios.  She cuts the final version of Chaney’s Phantom; her traveling partner, a wounded WWI soldier, inspires Jack Pierce’s design for the Frankenstein Monster.  Maddy also inspires the writer of The Wolf Man, and in other unbelievable ways lays the foundation for the horror-media industry.



Perhaps now, through your knowledge, some of these ghosts have been laid …
  

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