I discovered something incredibly cool this afternoon — it turns out that the good people over at Dark Horse Comics quoted me in their 2019 promotion of Matt Wagner’s superb Grendel: Devil’s Odyssey. The eight-issue limited series marked the return of the iconic Grendel Prime, who I last followed as a zealous young fan in the pages Grendel Tales (1993-1997), Batman/Grendel II (1996) and Grendel: Past Prime (2000).
Dark Horse quoted a review I wrote of Wagner’s Grendel: Omnibus Volume 1 (2012), which was a compilation of the writer-artist’s brilliant early work on the title.
I’m thrilled. Wagner’s a genius — and while Grendel’s dark, violent content is not for everyone, it’s always been a seminal title for the medium of comics. I remember greedily snapping up back issues when I was a college student in 1992 — I never thought the day would arrive when a review of mine would be referenced to attract new fans.
“Willard” (1971) and its sequel, “Ben” (1972), were another pair of 1970’s movies that got plenty of airtime on 1980’s television. I read both books when I was a kid too.
First I picked up Stephen Gilbert’s Ratman’s Notebooks at a yard sale, because that’s how you found cool horror books during summer vacations when you were too young to drive. (Sometimes adults had few compunctions about what they sold to minors too. I bought a vampire book in gradeschool that was full of nude photos, for some reason, and that led to what I’m sure was an interesting conversation between my parents and the neighbor-proprietor down the street.)
Anyway, I absolutely loved Ratman’s Notebooks (despite its lamentable absence of nude photos) and I finished it in a day or two. The novelization of the “Ben” film by Gilbert A. Ralston was somewhat less impressive, but I still enjoyed it.
If you’re a comics fan, like I am, then it might occur you that “Willard” and his army of trained rats seem to inspire a villain in Batman’s rogue’s gallery — Ratcatcher. Ratcatcher has been a minor league villain since he debuted in DC Comics in 1988, but he’s a pretty neat bad guy when placed in the hands of the right writer.
I feel certain that anyone will recognize Ernest Borgnine in the first trailer below– his face and voice are impossible to confuse with those of another man. If the disaffected, spooky, eponymous Willard looks familiar to you, that’s none other than a young Bruce Davison. He’s a good actor who’s been in a lot of films, but I think a plurality of my friends will know him as Senator Kelly from the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003).
You’ll note the presence of flamethrowers in the trailer for “Ben.” Flamethrowers were a staple of 70’s and 80’s horror films; it was just part of the zeitgeist. They were handy for heroes fighting any nigh-unstoppable nonhuman baddie — think of “The Swarm” (1978), “The Thing” (1982), “C.H.U.D.” (1984), “Aliens” (1986), and “The Blob” (1988), for example. Hell, 1980’s “The Exterminator” featured a vigilante using a flamethrower to kill criminals. It was a weird time.
Because I can’t sleep, and you’ve been dying to know. Here they are, in no particular order:
1) “Memento” (2000)
2) “Fight Club” (1999)
3) “American Psycho” (2000)
4) “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968)
5) “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)
6) “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
7) “Natural Born Killers” (1994)
8) Lucio Fulci’s “Zombi” (alternately titled “Zombi 2,” 1979)
9) “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
10) “The Big Chill” (1983)
And … worst of all … I’m kinda on the fence about the first two “The Evil Dead” films (1981, 1987), Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) and John Carpenter’s original “Halloween” (1978). I am hanging my head in shame here over those last two. I know Kubrick’s film is considered a masterpiece. I saw it twice when I was a college student (once in a psychology class!), soooo … maybe I just wasn’t mature enough to grasp it? Mea culpa, people.
I left “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “Ben Hur” (1959) off the list, because I haven’t seen them in their entirety. I was nonplussed enough to turn those off after 40 minutes or so, but I’m weird about never saying I dislike a movie unless I watch the whole thing. You can add 1979’s “Phantasm” to this category too.
I know, I know … there’s nothing wrong with any of these films (except “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” of course, which is terrible). There are just basic ingredients in them that I somehow fail to appreciate.
Now one of you needs to e-mail me a cure for insomnia.
This is not the complete sonnet. Neither is it necessarily the best translation of Dante’s original words. It is merely one of the more direct and literal translations that one can find online (and it’s therefore easy to read). Fans of Ridley Scott’s “Hannibal” (2000) might recognize this as being featured in the film.