Sunday, October 30, 2011

Name That Murderer!

As a Midwestern metalhead and true crime aficionado, it's no surprise that I'm a huge fan of Chicago's masters of murder metal, Macabre. Legends in the underground, the band is best known to non-metalheads for the Sgt. Pepper parodying cover to their 1993 album Sinister Slaughter. I've spent untold hours spinning this disc, studying the cover, identifying each of the infamous faces behind band members Corporate Death, Dennis the Menace, and Nefarious.

Now I need your help.

I've posted what I have so far, an incomplete key to the rogue's gallery. If you can fill in any of the blanks, or if you see a mistake, email me at mmonasty at gmail dot com. Please site your source, be it a book, scan of a book page, or website address. I will verify the information and update this page, crediting your contribution, in as timely a manner as possible.

Thank you all in advance and happy hunting!

1. Charles Manson
2. Andrei Chikatilo
3. Aileen Wuornos
4. Albert DeSalvo
5. Ted Bundy
6. Fritz Haarmann
7. Richard Speck
8. Edmund Kemper
9. Rev. Jim Jones
10. H. H. Holmes
11. David Berkowitz
12. Wayne Williams
13. Robert Hansen
15. Gary Heidnik
16. Ted Bundy
17. Kenneth Bianchi
18. Angelo Buono
19. Charles Whitman
20. Earle Nelson
21. Ted Bundy
22. Mark Essex
23. Peter Kürten
24. Charles Starkweather
25. Patrick Sherrill
26. Richard Ramirez
27. Harvey Glatman
28. Carl Panzram
29. Frederick Cowan
30. Adolfo Constanzo
31. Gilles de Rais
33. John George Haigh
35. Peter Sutcliffe
37. Juan Corona
38. Clifford Olson
40. Susan Atkins
41. Carlton Gary
42. John Linley Frazier
43. Henry Lee Lucas
44. Ottis Toole
45. Jeffrey Dahmer
46. James Huberty
47. Albert Fish
48. Ted Bundy
49. Patrick Purdy
51. Jeffrey Dahmer
52. Robert Berdella
53. Jack Gilbert Graham
56. Mary Bell
57. Howard Unruh
58. Ted Bundy
59. Zodiac
60. Charles “Tex” Watson
62. Nefarious
64. Corporate Death
65. Laurie Dann
66. Dennis the Menace
67. Charles "Tex" Watson
68. Charles Manson
69. Nefarious
70. Leslie Van Houten
71. Dennis the Menace
72. Corporate Death
73. Ed Gein
74. John Wayne Gacy
75. Marc Lépine
76. Ronald Gene Simmons
77. Ray Copeland
79. Richard Speck

Thanks to the following for contributing IDs to this page:

58. Carolyn from Shelfari's True Crime group
24, 38, 48, 67. Eileen M from Shelfari's True Crime group

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Man Who Fell To Earth

The Man Who Fell To Earth [1963]
Written by Walter Tevis

The Man Who Fell To Earth [1976]
Written by Paul Mayersberg
Directed by Nicolas Roeg

Here's a typical conversational exchange when two David Bowie fans meet:

Fan 1: "Have you seen The Man Who Fell To Earth?"
Fan 2: "Of course." or, alternately, "Yeah, a while ago."
Fan 1: "Did you 'get' it?"
Fan 2: "No, not really. But I got to see where the covers to Station To Station and Low came from. And I got to see Bowie's penis."
Fan 1: "Pretty much."

Every Bowie-phile worth his or her salt has to slog through The Man Who Fell To Earth. It's a rite of passage; it proves your love for the man and his art (and, yes, you consider what the man does to be art) is deeper than just shouting out "Wham, bam, thank ya ma'am!" when you hear "Suffragette City" on the radio. Oh, no. You're in this for the long haul. Your Bowie albums are the OOP Rykodisc remasters with the bonus tracks. Your favorite songs are deep cuts from the Berlin period trilogy. You roll your eyes when someone mentions "Modern Love." You are, let's face it, a total Bowie nerd.

Of course, the only reason that I know all this nonsense is because it describes me personally and many people with whom I am a friend or acquaintance. Long ago I rented The Man Who Fell To Earth and suffered through it. I was totally put off and decided to write the whole thing off as a case of self-indulgent 70s movie making best appreciated by film students who could wank off to all the "avant" auteur flourishes gumming up the narrative works. Then I found out it was based on a book. And then it became a part of the Criterion Collection. I'm not necessarily beholden to Criterion's definition of the canon (remember, these guys released a special edition of Armageddon), but when a movie gets a CC spine number, I generally try to give it the benefit of the doubt. And, besides, I was just a high school junior when I first saw the movie. Maybe my more experienced and refined cinematic palette (which has since grown to acquire a taste for several self-indulgent 70s auteurs) would be more amenable to the film. And I wanted to see David Bowie's penis. But before I could dig the Thin White Duke's walking stick, I had to read the book that first introduced Thomas Jerome Newton, the extraterrestrial Icarus.

Walter Tevis's The Man Who Fell To Earth is a novel about sadness. Newton has traveled to Earth as part of a last-ditch effort to save the surviving members of his race. He will patent his native Anthean technology in order to build a business empire, which will, in turn, finance a mini-space program designed to transport his people from their dying planet. Newton is Anthea's last hope, a burden of which he is acutely aware. He is stranded on a beautiful but strange planet amongst creatures who constantly straddle the line between civilization and barbarism. If he is exposed, he will likely be killed, at the very least prohibited from completing his mission. Things are a bit bleak.

It gives nothing away to say that things don't get better. As Newton's plan progresses, he becomes more and more disillusioned. By the time he is found out, Newton is so mired in doubt that capture almost serves to put him at ease.

Throughout the narrative, Tevis soft-pedals the science-fiction elements. Much like Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land or Dick in The Divine Invasion, Tevis uses the extreme metaphors afforded in sci-fi to get at a very real and human condition. Newton himself makes the point to Dr. Nathan Bryce, a research scientist and the closest thing the alien has to a friend, that it's not necessary to be a spaceman to be alone.

In contrast, Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth is a film about corruption. Newton is an intergalactic innocent, perverted by Earth's savage ways. This second sort of "fall" (that is, one from grace) is visually evidenced by three repeated symbols: TV, alcohol, and sex. As Newton becomes more acclimated to Earth, and more successful, he watches more and more television. He also starts to hit the bottle, seduced into doing so by the sensuous (and frequently naked) harpy Mary-Lou. It's a standard Kulturkritik, and it might even have been a trifle effective were it not for the shrill tone with which it is broadcast.

How over-the-top is The Man Who Fell To Earth? It has a dramatic, slow-motion scene where David Bowie knocks a tray of cookies out of Mary-Lou's hand. Not enough for ya? How about a scene where Mary-Lou pisses herself when she finds out Newton's true identity? (Sidenote: Has dramatic urination ever been used well in a feature film? Every instance I've seen has been unintentionally comical at best.) Or how about how the character of Bryce has been changed into a total poonhound with a bad habit of banging his students? What about the ludicrous death of Newton's lawyer and his lover through defenestration? (Maybe it was supposed to be part of a "falling" thematic. Whatever it is, it doesn't work.) And let's not start on the Anthean love scenes; apparently physical intimacy on Anthea occurs by jumping up in the air and having marshmallow jizim sprayed all over you---like a Cirque de Soleil version of the final cumshot in Behind the Green Door. Behind this ridiculousness pounds an overbearing soundtrack which alternates from twangy country music to Holst's Mars - Bringer of War to harp music to what have you.

On the positive side of things, David Bowie was born to play the title role in this film. Rock star actors get a lot flack, think Sting in Dune, but Bowie is the exception that proves the rule. Plus, you get to see his penis.

As I explained above, if you're a Bowie fan, you're inevitably going to watch this movie. If you don't know Ziggy Stardust from the Thin White Duke, and if you only know the Criterion Collection from your Beastie Boys' DVD set, you can save yourself 2.5 hours and skip it. But if you have the chance to pick up the book, please do so. Don't let the pretentious film version or the science-fiction trappings scare you off. Alienation is universal, and Tevis's novel is a simple and beautiful evocation of this sad reality.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Island Of Lost Souls

The Island of Dr. Moreau [1896]
Written by H. G. Wells

Island of Lost Souls [1932]
Written by Philip Wylie and Waldemar Young
Directed by Erle C. Kenton

"The Island of Dr. Moreau is an exercise in youthful blasphemy. Now and then, though I rarely admit it, the universe projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time, and I did my best to express my vision of the aimless torture in creation." - H. G. Wells

The setup for The Island of Dr. Moreau has become a part of our cultural currency: a mad doctor performs horrific experiments on animals in order to reshape them as humans. The tale has grown in status in the age of genetic modification. In fact, in light of recent advances in technology, some of Moreau's early experiments don't seem too far beyond the pale. What is lost in the shuffle though is how exactly Moreau performs his work---he is a vivisectionist. Dr. Moreau combines creatures the old-fashioned way: he cuts them open (alive and without anesthesia) and excises the bad tissue and sutures in the new tissue (species match be damned). Wells never wallows in gore, but, like a Hitchcock murder, the reader gets enough information to, pardon the pun, put the pieces together. Moreau's assistant, Montgomery, tells the narrator, Prendick, how Moreau's work in London was exposed after a flayed dog escaped the doctor's laboratory and tore skinless through the city. That image alone disgusts me more than the ample flying viscera in the countless splatterpunk books I've read.

The above quote from Wells comes from his introduction to a collection of his early science-fiction novels (The Time Machine, Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, The Food of the Gods). Within the same essay, Wells acknowledges the influence of Jonathan Swift on his work. Upon closer inspection, once you've made it past the rank smells of animal-men and spilt blood, The Island of Dr. Moreau is revealed as a Swiftian satire along the lines of "A Modest Proposal." Wells was an atheist; Moreau is a nasty display on the use of religion as societal control. In the novel, Moreau and Montgomery keep order amongst the beast people with The Law. The Law governs the conduct of the beast people in all facets of their lives. The Law prohibits the eating of certain foods (flesh and fish). The Law requires absolute monogamy. The Law prohibits killing. And those who break The Law will be punished! Sound familiar? Like it maybe came for the Torah, Bible, or Koran perhaps? Even better, when Moreau dies, Prendick and Montgomery tell the beast people that he (Moreau) left his earthly body behind and had gone into the sky to watch over the beast people eternally. Subtle, I know....

The first film adaptation of Moreau, Island of Lost Souls, shies away from the religious satire (though Moreau opines at one point that he now knows how a God feels), but replaces it with more outright kinkiness. In the novel, Moreau had created creatures both man and woman; in the film, he has only recently created the irresistible Panther Woman...and he needs a hot young stud to take his handiwork out for a test drive. The Prendick analogue, here called Edward Parker, seems like a perfect male specimen for the interspecies hijinks, but he's engaged and won't cheat on his sweetheart with some hot feline jungle bimbo. (This is quickly becoming a Joe Bob Briggs-styled review: "We've got beast man-fu, whip-fu, and even some hot feline jungle bimbo-fu." ) Of course, Parker's girl ends up on the island just in time for the whole place to go apeshit, literally. The animal men revolt and drag the evil ole' Moreau into the surgical theater, aptly known as the House of Pain, for some poetic justice. The engaged couple and Montgomery flee as the island burns.

Although not that faithful an adaptation, Island of Lost Souls holds up today as an above-average pre-Code Hollywood horror flick. The makeup is good for the time; worthy of particular praise is the work done to create the beast man M'ling. The glimpses we get of Moreau's demise are chilling without being over the top grotesque. And Bela Lugosi is priceless in full furface getup as the Sayer of the Law. You might not recognize his face, but that cat's accent jumps right out with every line he gets (and, considering his character, he gets some great lines).

Definitely read the book; check out the movie if you can find it (it's not on DVD just yet, but the VHS seems to be readily available). Both movie and book seem to be key influences on two American New Wave bands. Devo took the repeated chant "Are we not men?" from the Sayer of the Law's liturgy. Oingo Boingo wrote an entire song about the novel: "No Spill Blood" on the album Good For Your Soul. Got that, ya Hot Topic shoppin' little babybats? Danny Elfman thinks it's cool. So put down your Johnen Vasquez comics and read a muthafuckin' book!

Monday, January 7, 2008


Slugs [1982]
Written by Shaun Hutson

Slugs [1988]
Written by Ron Gantman
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón

Well, I'm back, and I'm ringing in the new year with Slugs. Yup, Slugs, "a novel of mind-shattering horror" (at least according to the paperback cover). Apparently, through the magically abhorrent wonder of evolution (alternately, through the sadistic machinations of delayed intelligent design), some of the black slugs of Merton, England have grown to eight inch lengths...and they're hungry for flesh! Using the town's sewers as a spawning ground, the slugs begin making raids on the human population. Town Health Inspector Mike Brady is the lucky schmuck who pieces the whole nightmare together and who must somehow combat the slithering menace before either the black beasties eat everyone or their mucoid secretions saturate the town's water supply, poisoning everyone. Luckily, he is aided by Merton's young museum curator (and Iron Maiden fan) John Foley, who comes up with an "it's so crazy it just might work" plan just as things look to be at their worst. I won't ruin it, but suffice it is to say that said plan involves a highly explosive chemical compound and a descent into the slugs' lair.

I wouldn't go so far as to call any of it mind shattering, but Slugs is actually a pretty good little chiller. The descriptions of death by slug ingestion are plentiful and convincingly gruesome. You would be surprised how easy it is for hundreds of eight-inch black slugs to sneak up and surround a person. The final slug hunt through the sewers is a tense bit of writing. In this naturally slimy environment, the slugs are able to amass enough speed to actually chase our heroes! The image of thousands of slugs hurtling through the shit-smeared pipes like a massive, throbbing carnivorous embolus is bloody fantastic.

The same cannot be said for the film version, which is something of a disappointment for two major reasons. First, the film was directed by Juan Piquer Simón, who is also responsible for the splatterific slasher Pieces (watch for a special edition DVD from Grindhouse sometime in the next decade...hopefully). The man knows gore and has no qualms about applying it nice and thick. Sadly, Slugs (subtitled "The Movie" during the opening credits, which makes me think of Spaceballs) isn't nearly gross enough. Sure, you get a couple of decent slug attacks, particularly the scene at the dinner table, but not enough to push us into Street Trash/Re-Animator/Bad Taste territory. Oh, and I can tell the difference between a living carpet of flesh-eating black slugs and a garbage bag. I mean, I love watching naked women scream and writhe in fake blood (don't get me wrong here), but, dude, seriously, you're not fooling anyone---that's a garbage bag she's screaming and writhing on. I mean, on which she is screaming and writhing.

Also of note is the score. Some of it sounded like the music from Airplane. Nothing kills the intensity of a thrilling moment like thoughts of the oeuvre of Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker.

The second disappointment comes from the sheer badness of the script. For reasons beyond my comprehension, scriptwriter Gantman decided to make every character both stupid and a jerk. In the original novel, Mike Brady was a pretty likable guy. Even at his most stressed out and pissed off, he kept his cool (very British of him I guess, stiff upper lip and all that rot). In the movie, which takes place in the US and A, Brady's kind of a dick. After awhile, I started rooting for the garbage, I mean the slugs. Anthropophagus as they may be, at least they weren't rude....

All told, I might have given the film a pass had I not read the book. It's not terrible; it just suffers from severe wasted potential. If you get the chance to read the book or see the movie (or do both), I would recommend it, previous caveats notwithstanding. Iron Maiden fans in particular will get a kick out of the novel. Author Shaun Hutson obviously loves the band; according to his website, he's been onstage with them thirteen times. In Slugs, an old woman lives on 22 Acacia Avenue (alas, she's not Charlotte the Harlot). Later, a doomed couple listens to The Number of the Beast album (yes, they listen to the LP) before being devoured by the killer garbage bag.

Actually, if you haven't listened to Maiden's Number of the Beast, you need to do that now. Set down whatever you're doing and fucking listen to that album. It's one of the greatest records ever. EVER! Listen now and let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human's number is six hundred and sixty-six....

The Number of the Beast!
The one for you and me!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fiend Without A Face

"The Thought-Monster" [1930]
Written by Amelia Reynonlds Long

Fiend Without A Face [1958]
Written by Herbert J. Leder
Directed by Arthur Crabtree

When legitimate critics deign to examine the gutter genre of science-fiction, they are often interested with the examined text's political undertones. How would Robert Heinlein vote based on Starship Troopers? What does Star Trek's multiculti Federation say about 1960s liberal social optimism? Battlefield Earth---what the fuck? The journey of Fiend Without a Face from page to screen serves as an interesting footnote to such investigations.

Long's short story, originally published in Weird Tales---the greatest of the sci-fi pulps, has do with mysterious deaths in a small town. Thanks to the title, we know that they are being caused by a (get ready for it) THOUGHT MONSTER! The titular beast is an invisible being who is scaring people to death. A psychic investigator comes to town to investigate. He starts getting close, so the scientist who unwittingly unleashed the creature decides to sacrifice himself in destroying it. Trapped in a room with violet lights, the thought monster is destroyed, but not before robbing the poor scientist of his sanity.

So far, nothing special. The story reads like second-rate Lovecraft. By the time a film was made, atomic energy was all the rage. Radiation was waking up dinosaurs (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla), enlarging invertebrates (Them!, Tarantula), and luring spacemen to our planet (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Plan Nine From Outer Space). Oddly enough, there's an odd sort of ambivalence that runs through many of these pictures. When blame is placed, it's usually on the scientist...and most of the time it was an accident. The problem isn't atomic power, we just need to be more careful with how we use it next time. Coming towards the end of the 50s radioactive monsters cycle, Fiend Without a Face reads almost as an apologia for nuclear power.

We again have the scientist and his attempts to make thoughts flesh. He begins siphoning energy from the local radar station (built in Canada to spy on the Russkies). The atomic kick proves enough to solidify his thoughts, but they become "evil" (his stated scientific opinion) and start murdering townsfolk (by sucking out their brains and spinal cord through two holes in the back of the head...neat!). The "superstitious" (the film's description of them) locals think that fallout or something to do with radiation is causing the rash of mysterious deaths. And maybe it's also affecting the cows and their milk production. No, no, the US Army assures the local Canuck bumpkins, it's nothing atomic, you uneducated fools. You would have to be superstitious to think anything bad could come from the atom! (Well, the atom in freedom-loving American hands, at any rate. Not to sure about those atheist Commies though....)

This drags on for about fifty or so minutes. There's a love interest and a great sucking noise whenever one of the invisible monsters is about to attack. Finally, the fiends take over the power station and overload the system, making them visible. And they're BRAINS! Brains that creep along using their spinal cords as tails. The hero Army Joe has the brilliant plan to BLOW UP the reactor as a means of stopping the monsters. (Apparently blowing up a nuclear power plant wouldn't cause some sort of nuclear disaster...whew...someone tell Homeland Security not to worry about that one.) The plant is blown and the monsters melt into goop and the Army Joe gets to kiss the girl while everyone looks at him and knows he's totally gunna get some hot Canadian poon. The End.

You really need to see Fiend Without a Face. The final attack of the stop-motion brains is jaw-dropping. Our heroes shoot them, causing them to rupture and gurgle out something the consistency of Smuckers jam. And there's an absolutely revolting noise that accompanies said gurgling that is too wonderful for words. And this is all part of The Criterion Collection, the people who restore and present definitive editions of Kurosawa, Bergman, and other respectable directors! It's Psychotronic Heaven---rent this now!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

They Live

"Eight O'Clock In The Morning" [1963]
Written by Ray Faraday Nelson

They Live [1988]
Written and Directed by John Carpenter

The modern (North) American horror film, whose origins lie within the socio-political upheaval of the 1960s, has frequently been used as a venue for debating social concerns. George Romero's Dead quartet is the most obvious in its critique of American society (consider the mall zombies of Dawn of the Dead). David Cronenberg's early work is a pulsating examination of the breakdown of the family unit, particularly in 1979's The Brood. Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may be seen as a Swiftian take on the generation gap: the younger generation is literally being eaten by its forebearers. Although no less politically inclined than his peers, John Carpenter would take longer to make a cinematic statement. The result was 1988's They Live and it was worth the wait.

The premise of both Nelson's original short story and the film is that aliens (called the Fascinators in the story, unnamed in the film) have taken over the world by lulling humanity to sleep. They use subliminal orders in the mass media to keep us numb while they harvest us like cattle. Nelson's story is a masterwork of economy. The edition I read was only five pages long, but had enough ideas and interest for a much larger work. A man named Nada is accidentally "awakened" by a hypnotist and sees the invaders for who they really are. He is given the order to die (on the titular eight o'clock in the morning) and must do anything he can to awake the rest of humanity before he is either captured or dies at eight.

Carpenter removes the death at eight and makes the aliens visible though sunglasses. He compares the alien's plans to a twisted version of big 80s capitalism: the aliens are merely exploiting the savages of their local third world. The galaxy is, after, all just an infinite free market. For a fun poke in the eye, one of the first things Nada sees is an alien on TV (possibly the President of the United States) quoting Regan's "morning in America" maxim. Carpenter also adds a significant group of human collaborators to the mix. Not every evil yuppie is a Fascinator; some are just assholes who've decided to sell out their own species for a life of privilege.

Nada is not alone in Carpenter's film. There is already a resistance movement by the time Nada is awakened (they created the sunglasses). The shootouts between the resistance and the Fascinator-led police provide the requisite 80s action sequences. Of course, this is a satire, and as such even action is up for parody. The fact that Nada is played by professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (giving a fun and believable performance) constantly reminds us of the artifice of the whole construction. (Yes, that's right, I just said that the star of Wrestlemania III contributes to an overall Verfremdungseffekt in a late-80s sci-fi movie. Deal with it.) The film contains a jaw-dropping fight between and Nada and Frank (Keith David---earlier of Carpenter's The Thing) that drags on for a comedic five plus minutes.

While They Live was a seminal 80s release for those growing up at the time (such as your humble blogger here), the film has lapsed into a state of semi-obscurity. No longer do we hear cineastes quote Piper's immortal line: "I have come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I'm all out of bubble gum." In fact, for those who don't remember the 80s, the film is best known because the Nada and Frank fight was restaged line for line and shot for shot by Timmy and Jimmy in the "Cripple Fight" episode of South Park.

If you haven't seen They Live, you should. It's fun, funny, and no less dead on almost a decade later. In fact, the idea that the Fascinators are disrupting the environment (a throwaway line in the film) cuts deeper now than at the time of the film's initial release. Ultimately, you get a liberal message movie hidden beneath the facade of a macho 80s action pic. How can you go wrong? I mean, if you haven't watched a professional wrestler take on the defleshed zomboid aliens responsible for global warming, don't you think now's a good time? If not for yourself, for future generations....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

The Screaming Mimi [1949]
Written by Fredric Brown

The Bird With The Crystal Plumage [1970]
Written and Directed by Dario Argento

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is an excellent example of a film adaptation that strays from its source text, but does so to the point of becoming its own autonomous work of art. The film stands so well on its own that many have completely disregarded the book. In all of the work on Argento that I've read, there is little to no comparison of novel and film---usually just an aside noting that Bernardo Bertolucci gave Argento a copy of the book and that Dario wrote his script shortly after finishing it. Such oversight is unfortunate, because, as loose an adaptation as the film is, elements of the books pop up in the film in interesting ways.

The plots of both works center on a man who witnesses an attempted murder. In Mimi, alcoholic newspaperman Sweeney only catches the aftermath: a bloodied (and quickly denuded) exotic dancer being guarded by her faithful dog Devil. In Bird, writer Sam is caught in the glass doors of an art gallery and witness a woman being attacked by a black trench coat-wearing assailant (the standard villain of the giallo). In both cases, the protagonist is unable to lend any kind of support to the victim.

The men's motives for investigating the attacks differ. Sweeney wants to catch the Chicago ripper so he can get closer to (read: bed) dancer Yolanda Lang. Sam is initially considered a suspect by the Italian police, but is soon removed from suspicion. Something about the attack lingers in his mind, demanding he solve the crime before returning to America.

Both works revolve around an esoteric clue referenced in the title. In his investigation, Sweeney comes across a terrifying statue of a screaming nude woman which is dubbed Screaming Mimi. He believes that it served as the trigger for the ripper on at least one occasion. Argento keeps the "activation through art" motif (so much so, in fact, that aesthetics and bloodshed have become completely entangled throughout his oeuvre), this time in the form of a rather macabre landscape painting. In both book and film, the hero journeys to meet the artist, who turns out to be somewhat crazy himself (but not ripper material). The bird of Crystal Plumage, despite its mineral name, is an actual animal who's location serves as the final clue to the killer's lair (sort of).

Sweeny is a significantly less put-together character than Sam. Our newspaperman is just coming off of a two-week drunk when he gets a flash of bloody Yolanda. He drinks throughout the story just to stave off the shakes. Sam, on the other hand, is getting ready to leave Italy with his Italian girlfriend. He does a great job in his sleuthing, especially considering he's an amateur and that at one point he's almost decapitated.

Both works even share the same twist ending. The motives are slightly different, Argento's not surprisingly being the more nonsensical of the two, but arrive at the same conclusion.

Checking out The Screaming Mimi provides a new frame of reference for analyzing The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. I think this angle has been ignored in Argento scholarship (upon writing that, I could hear a thousand critics snort with disdain at the phrase) mostly due to the relative obscurity of the novel. Thankfully, the book is in print again and readily available for order. The committed Argentophile will want to check it out to see what originally got Dario's fevered directorial imagination going. Fans of the pulp detective novel should get a kick out of the book's strange characters and punchy, often self-referential, prose. Mimi is by no means a classic, but it's a really fun read. Residents of Chicago will dig the literally street-by-street descriptions of their city pre-1950.

Newcomers to Dario Argento, or the giallo genre in general, will find as easy a point as any in The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. As his career progresses, Argento becomes less and less interested in the basic structure of narrative, which tends to confuse and sometimes irritate the novice. While Bird's not bad, my favorites by the maestro are Suspiria (his acknowledged masterpiece) and Opera. Watch either one and see just how absolutely beautiful the splatter film can be.