Mark McLaughlin

Apr 282012

Time Machine of Terror!

TIME MACHINE OF TERROR! 1943: The Year Death Gave Up The Ghost

by Mark McLaughlin


Professor Artemis Theodore LaGungo rarely leaves his shop of second-hand curios, PROFESSOR LaGUNGO’S EXOTIC ARTIFACTS & ASSORTED MYSTIC COLLECTIBLES. So, I was rather surprised to see him enjoying an ice-cream cone in the food court at the mall.


“Hello, Professor!” I took a seat at his table. “What flavors do you have there?” I asked, pointing to the two green scoops of ice cream in his waffle cone. They weren’t the same shade of green: one was light green and the other was darker, with a hint of blue.


“Pistachio and mint,” he replied with a big grin. The act of smiling crinkled the outer corners of his eyes into deep crow’s feet — more like pterodactyl’s feet, actually.


“This is the first time I’ve seen you at the mall,” I said, “or out of the shop, for that matter.”


“I had to go to the health food store to get some vitamins and herbal supplements,” he said, nodding toward a plastic bag on the table. The bag was filled with assorted bottles and jars of various shapes, sizes and colors. “I usually order these things by mail, but today I decided I needed a change of scenery.”


He reached into the bag and pulled out his purchases, one item at a time. “I have some zinc tablets … echinacea drops … vitamins C, D, and E … astralagus and goldenseal … calcium … fish oil … alpha-lipoic acid and L-carnatine … and of course, damiana and yohimbe bark.”


“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of those last two,” I said as I studied the label of the yohimbe bark bottle. “Says here this stuff enhances sexual performance…”


“I may be old but I’m not dead,” Professor LaGungo said with a wink. “These pills and whatnot aren’t the reason behind my extreme longevity, but they do help to improve my quality of life.”

“So what IS the reason behind your longevity?” I asked.


The Professor looked around the crowded mall. “It’s not the sort of thing one discusses in public. We’ll chat about it some other time, back at the shop. For now, let’s just say that I’m a lot like the year 1943.”


“In what way?”

The Professor raised a grizzled eyebrow. “Death gave up the ghost in the year 1943. And if you want a bit of insight into that fact, I suggest you jump into that Time Machine of Terror! that I sold you and find out more.”


After I finished my shopping, I went home and did exactly as the Professor suggested. But before I tell you about what I observed in 1943, let’s take a look at what was going on the world that year, back when World War II was in full swing:


On January 15, the world’s largest office building — the Pentagon in Arlington, VA — was dedicated.


On January 27, fifty bombers mounted the first American air raid against Germany.


On February 8, U.S. forces defeated Japanese troops in the Battle of Guadalcanal.


On February 20, American movie executives agreed to film censorship by the Office of War Information.


On March 2, U.S. and Australian forces sank Japanese convoy vessels in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.


On March 13, German forces sent more than 960 prisoners to Auschwitz, where they were either put to death or enslaved.


On March 22, the German militia burned alive the whole population of Khatyn in Belarus.


On March 31, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical OKLAHOMA! opened on Broadway.


On April 19, Albert Hofmann self-administered LSD – the first trip of its kind. He first synthesized the drug in 1938.


On May 11, U.S. troops invaded Attu in the Aleutian Islands.


On May 24, nasty Nazi Josef Mengele became chief medical officer of Auschwitz.


On May 29, Norman Rockwell’s now-classic illustration of Rosie the Riveter appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.


On June 1, British Overseas Airways Corporation Flight 777 was shot down during a passenger flight by the German military. The attack may have been an attempt to assassinate British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, since the Germans may have believed he was aboard.


On July 10, the allied invasion of Axis-controlled Europe started with landings on the island of Sicily.


On July 19, Rome was bombed by the Allies.


On August 17, General George S. Patton’s soldiers arrived in Messina, Sicily, followed by the British 8th Army under Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, completing the Allied conquest of Sicily.


On September 3, mainland Italy was invaded by Allied forces.


On September 8, General Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the surrender of Italy to the Allies.


On October 6, Americans and Japanese fought the Battle of Vella Lavella.


On October 13, Italy’s new government joined the Allies and declared war on Germany.


On October 18, Chiang Kai-Shek became president of China.


On November 15, German SS official Heinrich Himmler ordered that Gypsies and part-Gypsies should be placed in concentration camps in addition to the Jews already being victimized.


On November 22, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and China’s Chiang Kai-Shek met at the Cairo Conference to discuss strategies for defeating Japan.


On November 28, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Tehran to discuss war strategy.


On December 4, the Great Depression officially ended in America as President Roosevelt closed the Works Progress Administration.


On December 24, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.


Celebrities born in 1943 included actors Christopher Walken and Robert De Niro, actresses Sharon Tate and Lynn Redgrave, Monty Python comedians Eric Idle and Michael Palin, Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, directors Tobe Hooper and David Cronenberg, chess champ Bobby Fischer, singers Fabian and Barry Manilow, musician/Beatle George Harrison, athlete Joe Namath, reporter Geraldo Rivera, and rock legend Jim Morrison.


Celebrities and other noteworthy personalities who passed away in 1943 included scientist Nikola Tesla, critic Alexander Woollcott, composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, actor Conrad Veidt, Ford Motor Company President Edsel Ford, Bulgaria’s King Boris III, jazz pianist Fats Waller,

and children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter.


Also in 1943, horror fans lost Dwight Frye, the marvelous character actor who played Renfield in DRACULA, Fritz the lab assistant in FRANKENSTEIN, and a variety of other rambunctious second bananas. He was never the romantic lead, but he always turned in fine, energetic performances. In fact, his performances were usually better and more memorable than those of the leads.


As I’ve mentioned before, the Time Machine of Terror! — or TMOT! for short — looks like a giant, batwinged, brass alarm clock and it can travel through the dimension of old movies and TV shows. Because I was traveling back through time, I had to pass through 1944 before I could get to 1943. So the first movie I visited was one that was released at the very beginning of 1944, but was made and originally scheduled for release in 1943. That movie was RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE, starring Bela Lugosi as vampire Armand Tesla — an interesting choice of names, when you consider that eccentric and highly innovative inventor Nikola Tesla died in 1943.


Armand Tesla is a scholar of the macabre whose passion for, and knowledge of, the occult transform him into a vampire when he dies. The vampire may be long in the tooth, but he still has an eye for the ladies. With the help of his werewolf assistant, he tries to convert a proper young British lass into his vampire consort for eternity.


The vampire’s efforts are thwarted by the combined efforts of his rebellious werewolf assistant and a Nazi bomb. Watching the werewolf in RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is a real treat, well worth the price of renting or buying the movie. His shaggy face has a gleeful quality reminiscent of both the Cowardly Lion and Disney’s Shaggy D.A.


The werewolf is quite eloquent when he speaks — no growling or howling for this cultured lycanthrope. He wears a suit, dapper fellow that he is, and throws punches when attacked. Just as the werewolf is unique, the vampire in this horror classic is also notably different from other cinematic bloodsuckers. In reflections he is invisible, but his clothes are still visible. He seems to be able to teleport himself sporadically, disappearing and appearing in a snap.


Plus, when Tesla has a stake (and a metal one at that) driven through his heart, his body doesn’t decay if he is stored in the dark, and he can come back to life if the stake is removed. Tesla plays fast and loose with the rules of life and death.


SON OF DRACULA also presents us with a peculiar vampire. While visiting America, this caped bloodsucker calls himself Count Alucard — an alias that doesn’t hide his identity all that well, since it’s just Dracula spelled backwards.


Played by Lon Chaney, Jr., the Count is stout, manly, gruff and easily irritated. He’s no effete European sophisticate, like the ones played by Lugosi. Count Alucard’s Southern bride, like Armand Tesla, becomes a vampire after she dies because of her morbid fascinations and obsessions. Her family plantation manor becomes a tomb of terrors where death doesn’t have to be the end. It can be merely a transitional phase.


Bela Lugosi is usually associated with batlike vampires, so his role as the headlining creature in THE APE MAN is a real departure for him. He plays a mad doctor who, like so many other horror medics from Dr. Frankenstein to Dr. Moreau, dares to tamper with the forces of Nature, the will of God, and basically, the grand scheme of things.


As a result, the doc experiences a shock. He turns into an Ape Man, and only the spinal fluid from regular folks can return him to normal. Like a vampire, his well-being depends upon the death of others.


In FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN (which should have been called FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER MEETS THE WOLF MAN, if they are referring to the creature and not his creator), we are shown that monsters simply cannot die. They can be incapacitated and immobilized, but life still lingers no matter what. The Wolf Man beseeches some sympathetic scientific types to help him to die — to no avail.


And while the Wolf Man’s fate seems a bit uncertain …a bit on the DECEASED side … at the end of the movie, deep down we all know: he’ll be back in yet another Universal monster movie sequel, and so will Frankenstein’s Monster.


Clearly the horror films of 1943 addressed the concerns of a world at war. Americans were being bombarded with messages of pain and death … bombings, concentration camps, torture, mass killings … and so they needed to absorb these macabre movies to help them to deal with all the world’s horrors.


In these movies, death was thwarted time after time, by both seemingly deathless monsters AND the mortals who managed to defeat those monsters. These literally death-defying scenarios gave the viewers hope … hope that death was not inevitable.


It was good for Americans to watch death give up the ghost.


And so, waving farewell to that fateful year of madness and monsters, I steered the TMOT! back to the here-and-now.

– ### –


Mark McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in almost one-thousand magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Black Gate, Galaxy, Fangoria, Writer’s Digest, Flesh & Blood, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books). Collections of McLaughlin’s fiction include Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, and Pickman’s Motel from Delirium Books; At the Foothills of Frenzy (with coauthors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight) from Solitude Publications; and Raising Demons for Fun and Profit from Sam’s Dot Publishing. Also, McLaughlin is the coauthor, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.

With regular collaborator Michael McCarty, Mark McLaughlin has written Monster Behind the Wheel, a supernatural ebook-novel from, and Partners in Slime, a collection of weird horror stories from He is also a successful marketing and public relations executive who regularly writes articles for business journals, newspapers, trade publications and websites.

You can find out more about Professor LaGungo at


Dec 252011

 Time Machine of Terror!


TIME MACHINE OF TERROR! 1971: Year of the Horny Europeans in Castles

by Mark McLaughlin

Welcome back to the Time Machine of Terror! — or TMOT! for short.


First, the basics, for those of you who have not yet read the previous installment of this blog. I purchased the TMOT! at a quaint little shoppe of second-hand horrors known as PROFESSOR LAGUNGO’S EXOTIC ARTIFACTS & ASSORTED MYSTIC COLLECTIBLES.


The TMOT! resembles a giant, batwinged alarm clock. And while it can zip around with chronological ease, it can only visit the movies and TV shows of other time periods. It was already broken when the shoppe-keeper, Professor LaGungo, acquired it, and his attempts to repair it with parts from VCRs, TVs and film projectors only partially fixed it.


But then, he did the best he could. The TMOT! runs off of ancient Lemurian time-technology, and there aren’t any ancient Lemurians around to fix it.


Back in 1970, Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw starred in LOVE STORY, the tender tale of a young couple whose romance holds only one problem — the girl is terminally ill. Bummer! The slogan of that poignant melodrama was “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry.”


The next year, another movie came along with a poster that showed a beautiful woman smooching with a guy whose face resembled a dried-out skull partially covered with a scarred layer of leathery hide.


The movie was THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES and its slogan was “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly.” Let’s set the TMOT! for 1971 and find out a bit more about Dr. Phibes, and also see what else what going on that year.


Here are some notable dates from 1971:


On January 2, cigarette advertisements were banned from radio and television in the United States.


On January 12, the classic sitcom ALL IN THE FAMILY premiered on CBS.


On January 25, Charles Manson and three of his cult members were found guilty of the Tate-LaBianca murders of 1969.


On February 5, Apollo 14 landed on the Moon and returned to Earth on February 9.


On February 20, 74 people died when multiple tornadoes swarmed across Mississippi.


On May 12, an earthquake tore apart the city of Burdur in Turkey. On May 22, Bingöl, Turkey was also hit by an earthquake, killing more than 1,000.


On June 18, Southwest Airlines began flights between the Texas cities of San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston.


On June 30, the Soyuz 11 spacecraft sprang a leak and lost its air supply, killing the crew.


On July 3, rock star Jim Morrison was found dead in a Parisian bathtub.


On July 31, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin took the first lunar rover ride on the Moon. On August 7, Apollo 15 came home.


On September 4, a Boeing 727 crashed into an Alaskan mountain, killing 111 passengers.


On September 8, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened in Washington, DC. On October 1, Walt Disney World opened in Florida. But not all the world’s entertainment centers enjoyed good fortune: on October 28, Cairo’s Egyptian Opera House burned down.


On November 13, Mariner 9 became the first spacecraft to enter Mars’ orbit with success.


On November 24, the mysterious D. B. Cooper parachuted from a plane he’d hijacked, along with $200,000 in ransom money. He was never seen again.


On December 18, the world’s largest hydroelectric plant revved into action in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.


The top film of the year was FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. The latest James Bond adventure was DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, and the year’s top Disney film was BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS.


Before we peek in on Dr. Phibes, let’s visit a few other 1971 locales, shall we?


1971 was apparently a good year for imposters, if the movie THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE is any indication. It’s an Italian production with mostly Italian actors, but they’re all pretending they’re English. The dubbed-in voices won’t fool you – they’re all Italians speaking English and striving to sound like upper-class Brits. Couldn’t they have hired David Niven or even Mollie Sugden for a weekend to do some voicework?


This suspenseful horror-mystery concerns a wealthy, mentally ill young gent, Lord Cunningham, who is madly obsessed with his dead, red-haired wife, Evelyn. He cruises nightclubs looking for beautiful redheads so he can take them back to the castle for some psychotic love-games. These games soon turn lethal — or do they? Is he actually murdering any of these women?


He eventually meets and falls in love with a blonde, and soon proposes to her. She thinks she’s pretty lucky to have caught a handsome millionaire. But her luck takes a turn for the worse when she decides to try on a red wig for kicks.


THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE has loads of plot twists and turns, and also features the lovely Erika Blanc, a seductive redhead whose every expression and movement pulsates with smoldering sexuality. Today’s cinema would have you believe that Angelina Jolie and Anne Hathaway are hot stuff, but they’re just skinny, flickering birthday candles compared to the erotic lava-flow known as Erika Blanc.


Erika Blanc plays an erotic dancer who Lord Cunningham menaces for a while, but we eventually learn that this particular redhead is a formidable opponent and basically, the wrong lady to mess with.


Erika Blanc was pretty busy in 1971. In THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE, or LA TERRIFICANTE NOTTE DEL DEMONIO, she stars as a mysterious woman who is not only the daughter of a rich Nazi, but also a lascivious sex-demon, or succubus (wouldn’t you like to hear Daffy Duck trying to pronounce “lascivious Nazi succubus’?).


One night, a busload of tourists is stranded at her family’s ancestral castle, and she decides to send them all straight to Hades, with the help of a skinny little weirdo who is apparently the Devil. It’s odd to think of the Devil as skinny and little, but then, he was a snake in Eden, and that’s pretty darned skinny and little.


So, one by one, the tourists are killed off, all dying in the act of committing a mortal sin. That sort of thing guarantees each of them a one-way ticket to Hell. But then, as tourists, they should be willing to visit exciting new ports of call.


The henna-haired horror-honey is not unopposed in her efforts. One of the tourists is a handsome young seminarian, and it’s quite amusing, watching our diabolical darling try to bump and grind her way into his affections.


Does our titillating Teutonic terror-tart triumph? Does our sizzling succubus succeed when confronted with Holy Roman chastity? It would be a mortal sin to give away the ending.


I do want to mention this, as a side note: The last frame of the movie is an art-card of the words ‘The End’ in Italian: FINE. So if you don’t like the ending, that’s FINE by me!


More sultry Seventies devil-women spice up the silver screen in another sexy Euro-potboiler, THE WEREWOLF VS. VAMPIRE WOMEN. Paul Naschy stars as a rich, horny werewolf with a crazy sister and his very own castle. Apparently, the economy and people’s libidos were both great in Europe in 1971, because as you can see from the movies so far, everyone back then was sex-crazed and had their own castle.


Two pretty lady travelers happen upon the castle of the werewolf, and they soon become his guests. One becomes the werewolf’s lover and the other is turned into a vampire when she is bitten by Countess Wandesa Dárvula de Nadasdy, the local version of Countess Bathory.


At one point, the werewolf (in human form during the day) has to bury his sister, who is a victim of the vampire. To make sure his sister doesn’t become a vampire (as vampire-victims so often do), he drives a stake through her heart and cuts off her head. I can just see him at the bar later that night: “What a day! I had to dig my sister’s grave, drive a stake through her heart AND cut off her head. I’m always doing things for other people — I never get any ‘me’ time!”


The finale is a battle royale between the werewolf and the corpuscle-craving countess. This scene is worth sitting through all the movie’s more boring stretches (mainly, scenes of people explaining the matters-at-hand to each other, thus providing the audience with exposition). And after all, when was the last time you saw a really good fight between a werewolf and a vampire in a mantilla? For that matter, when was the last time you saw anyone in a mantilla, let alone a vampire?


The title character of LADY FRANKENSTEIN is also horny and lives in a castle, and she even goes so far as to create a composite lover out of a mentally challenged hunk and an aging scientist who helps her with her experiments. You have to admire her resourcefulness in working with the resources at hand, with minimal waste. Now that’s one environment-conscious insane lady scientist.


This movie stars veteran actor Joseph Cotten as Dr. Frankenstein, and his matter-of-fact action-hero voice sounds odd, coming out of a German doctor’s voice in a dubbed Italian horror epic. They didn’t dub his voice, but should have.


In LEGACY OF BLOOD, an elderly millionaire, played with relish by John Carradine, passes away and leaves his fortune to his adult children — with one stipulation (but then, the last will and testament in any horror movie always has a catch to it). The heirs have to spend a week in his mansion to collection the fortune, and pretty soon a mysterious murderer begins picking them off, one by one. Of course, they have sex with their various partners to pass the time — in an American mansion instead of a European castle, but still, it’s a pricey piece of real estate.


In the horror classic DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, we have another vampire Countess Bathory — and unlike the one in the werewolf movie, this one doesn’t wear a mantilla. This one wears a red sequined evening gown and furs and red, red lipstick. This one also has wavy blonde hair, a coy smile and no fangs. She is accompanied by a younger lesbian lover/companion, who is profoundly tired of the jet-set vampire lifestyle her more experienced lover has enjoyed for centuries.


The Countess and her companion check into a huge, grand hotel which is practically empty since it is located in a remote location (in Europe, of course) and it is the off-season. Soon the Countess starts eyeballing a young married couple, the only other guests staying there.


The vampire and her vixen play cat-and-mouse with the couple through most of the movie, and we soon learn that the husband is not only a sex-fiend, but also a psychological train-wreck. Can this marriage be saved? Don’t bet on it. Kinky lovemaking in a lavish setting strikes again — and soon, everything changes for the Countess, her companion, and the newlyweds.


And now, let’s look in on THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES. There’s no sex in this one, but the good doctor, played by Vincent Price, is totally in love with his wife — and he does live in a beautiful mansion in England. Unfortunately, Mrs. Phibes dies during a surgical operation, and Dr. Phibes gets his face burned off when his limo crashes as he hurries to get to the hospital to be with her. He gets better and learns to how to rebuild his facial features with putty, make-up and wigs, and as you can well imagine, it’s a major understatement to say that he’s pissed off at the doctors and nurse whose efforts failed to keep his wife alive.


Dr. Phibes begins killing off the medical team one by one, using the ten curses of the Old Testament as his weapons. Bats, boils, hail, rats, locusts … the body count climbs as the curses tally up.


Because of the injuries he received in the car crash, Dr. Phibes now speaks through a tube in his neck, which means that Vincent Price plays the part without opening his mouth once. Surely this was a cinematic first for Vinny, who was always eager to chew up the scenery. The doctor has an assistant — Virginia North as the beautiful, mute Vulnavia — and her graceful presence adds elegance and sultry allure to the proceedings.


THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES is stylish, suspenseful, and fiendishly clever. Every detail is perfect. The English detectives are entertaining in their befuddlement, and the jazzy soundtrack is quite enjoyable. It’s even fun watching the clockwork musicians as they perform with mechanical precision in Dr. Phibes’ grand ballroom.


Speaking of clockwork, the TMOT! is sounding a little creaky, so I’d better steer it back to the present day and oil it up. It really was amazing to see how many rich folks were knocking boots in their European castles back in 1971. The economy has sure gone downhill since then! People aren’t buying castles any more — but hey, at least love is free (and if you’re paying for it, I don’t want to know).


Until next time!




Mark McLaughlin’s latest books are the ebook novel, MONSTER BEHIND THE WHEEL from and PARTNERS  IN SLIME, a story collection from Both books were co-written by Mark’s frequent collaborator, Michael McCarty. You can befriend Mark on Facebook at


Oct 182011


by Mark McLaughlin


A Visit to 1963: Madmen, Monsters and Mushrooms


Welcome to the Time Machine of Terror! — or, TMOT! for short. I purchased the TMOT! from an elderly shopkeeper named Professor Artemis LaGungo, proprietor of a quaint little shoppe of second-hand horrors known as PROFESSOR LAGUNGO’S EXOTIC ARTIFACTS & ASSORTED MYSTIC COLLECTIBLES.


The TMOT! is powered by spinning mystic gears from an ancient Lemurian time-temple — evil, twisted gears lubricated with the blood of the damned, the tears of the innocent, and peppermint oil. The peppermint oil makes it smell nice. I have to travel in it, ya know.


The TMOT! resembles a giant, old-fashioned brass alarm clock with bat wings. Fortunately, it’s invisible to anyone outside of the machine, so it doesn’t scare anybody. It came with a tracking device (which looks like an ordinary wristwatch), in case I forget where I’ve parked it. People often ask, “Mark, will traveling in the TMOT! doom your soul forever?” — to which I reply, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”


The TMOT! does have one problem. It was broken when Professor LaGungo acquired it, and since he didn’t have access to an ancient Lemurian hardware store, he had to improvise on some of the replacement parts. He used various parts from a film projector, a VCR, and a couple old TV sets, and as result, the TMOT! can no longer visit actual locales from the past.


It can only visit old movies and TV shows. But hey, fiction is usually more interesting than reality anyway, so it’s still a sweet ride.


I’ve always enjoyed James Bond movies, so before you arrived, I set the TMOT! for 1963 — the year that the first James Bond movie, DR. NO, appeared on movie screens across America (on May 8, to be exact).


Before we go time-traveling, let’s see what else happened in 1963:


On February 21, 900 died when an earthquake destroyed the village of Barce in Libya.


On March 16, 11,000 were killed when Bali’s Mt. Agung erupted.


On March 22, The Beatles released PLEASE PLEASE ME, their first album.


On June 16, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova blasted off in the Vostok 6 and became the first woman in space.


On July 1, ZIP Codes were introduced inAmerica.


On July 26, 1,800 died during an earthquake inSkopje,Yugoslavia.


On August 28, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech to an audience of about a quarter of a million people.


In September, the first X-Men comic book was released by Marvel Comics.


On October 4, Hurricane Flora killed almost 7,000 people.


On November 6, General Duong Van Minh took over South Vietnam.


On November 14, a volcanic eruption created the island of Surtsey.


On November 22, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as his successor.


On November 23, England enjoyed the first episode of the BBC TV series, DOCTOR WHO.


On December 25, Walt Disney released THE SWORD IN THE STONE, his eighteenth feature-length animated movie.


Pretty crazy year! Okay, TMOT!, make with the time travel!


Geez, those gears make a lot of noise. Since they’re lubricated with the blood of the damned and the tears of the innocent, their mad grinding sounds a lot like damned folks screaming and innocent folks crying. The peppermint oil doesn’t make a sound. Smells nice, though!


And here we are: 1963, right in the middle of DR. NO. Bond, James Bond, is in the Caribbean, trying to stop a mad scientist from sabotaging America’s space program. Ursula Andress co-stars as Honey Ryder, the original (and in the hearts and minds of many fans, the loveliest) Bond girl.


This was the movie that set the stage for a movie franchise that has never died, and in fact, is more popular than ever. Bond is handsome, debonair, and witty; his ladies are sexy and intelligent; his colleagues are stuffy and always shocked by his naughtiness; and the villains–!


The villains are always evil, ruthless, cruelly handsome masterminds. Ian Fleming, author of the original Bond books on which the movies are based, modeled Dr. No after Sax Rohmer’s Asian super-badguy Fu Manchu. Dr. No has artificial hands — the originals were lost in a lab accident. The Doc built his NASA-style tropical-island lab with ten-million he’d stolen from the Tong. Back then, you could really do a lot with ten-million dollars. These days, that paltry sum wouldn’t even pay for a single measly secret missile.


I do find it pretty funny that in the big finale, a flashing sign goes off in Dr. No’s secret lab that reads, ABANDON AREA. Boy, talk about planning ahead! Apparently, Dr. No said to himself, “You know, on the off-chance that Bond defeats me someday and causes all my plans to screw up, I’d better put in an ABANDON AREA sign so my stupid henchmen will know what to do.”


So as Dr. No sinks slowly into a pool of boiling radioactive water (what secret lair is complete without one?), we bid a fond adieu to the Caribbean and steer the TMOT! toward….


Nathaniel Hawthorne!


Our next stop takes us right into an eerie cinematic costume epic. TWICE-TOLD TALES is an Old World horror anthology-movie featuring three stories by old Nate himself. His specialty was weird domestic melodramas (but then, all domestic melodramas are weird — just watch any episode of any daytime soap opera).


Each story stars Vincent Price as a different character, and he also narrates this supernatural shindig. Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French from the old FAMILY AFFAIR sitcom) is Vinnie’s co-star in the first story, which concerns two old coots who discover, springing from a nearby tomb, mineral water with the miraculous power to turn them into young coots.


They use this earthborn energy drink to revivify the lovely dead lady sealed up in the tomb, but then jealousy reveals its ugly head, with gruesome results.


In the second tale, Vinnie is an overprotective father who turns his lovely daughter into a poisonous (but still lovely) creature whose touch is deadly — just to keep her from doing the horizontal mambo. Geez, Papa, lighten up already!


The third segment is a haunted house tale so crammed full of nasty family secrets that it makes the JERRY SPRINGER SHOW look like a quaint Victorian tea party. Clearly the producers of this movie sensed that the Sixties were going to get pretty raunchy, and so they tried to tell the world, “Behold the wages of sin: pain, death, and rampant over-acting! Repent! Repent!”


But did the world listen? No. Decadence ensued, paving the way for an even greater horror: Disco.


Now let’s steer the TMOT! over toEurope and see what’s happening there. Ah, we’re just in time to celebrate BLACK SABBATH.


1963 was an excellent year for anthology horror movies. Just as Vincent Price hosted TWICE-TOLD TALES, so Boris Karloff hosts this Euro-horror trilogy directed by Italian terror-maestro Mario Bava. Unlike camera-hog Vinnie, modest old Boris only stars in one segment.


Telephone calls from nutty stalkers have been a staple of cheesy horror movies for years, and the first segment of BLACK SABBATH may have started the trend. A beautiful woman keeps getting calls from a mysterious, murderous presence. Why is it that young ladies victimized by krazy-killer-kallers never just LEAVE THE HOUSE AND DRIVE TO THE POLICE STATION? No, they stick around, waiting for the next loony call.


They usually don’t even call the police — although when they do, the police are apt to tell them, “The calls are coming from inside the house!”


A nurse with sticky fingers gets what’s coming to her in another segment. She steals a ring from a dead medium — and as all horror fans know, you never steal anything from a dead witch, warlock, vampire, or other supernatural sort — not even a pixie. If you do, you can pretty much count on the icy talons of death creeping forth to reclaim the loot. This segment is especially atmospheric and creepy, with a sharp twist ending.


The segment featuring Boris proves that the family that slays together, stays together. One by one, the members of a rural peasant-type family succumb to the seductive horrors of vampirism. Perhaps Mario Bava was trying to remind us of the wholesome family values of an earlier time. Ah, those were the days. The tyke from LEAVE IT TO BEAVER never chopped up anyone with a cleaver. OUR MISS BROOKS never tortured anyone with hooks. MR. ED never trampled anyone dead.


Bye-bye, Boris. Now the TMOT! is taking us to the imaginary country of Mandoras, where THE MADMEN OF MANDORAS keep Adolf Hitler’s head alive and insanely happy inside a cheap special effect. The severed Nazi noggin is leading the titular loonies into a hare-brained scheme to take over the world. A few years later, some tepid new scenes with boring (and disposable) new characters would be added, creating the TV movie, THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN.


It would seem that folks in the early Sixties were worried that the dead dictator was still up to his old genocidal tricks. Apparently Hitler was planning to remove color from the world, because the movie is in black and white — which neatly matches the hues of Adolf’s pale skin and uber-sable hair.


After countless boring chase scenes and loads of tedious exposition, the fearsome Fuhrer’s brain-box is trapped in a burning car — and, in what is surely the movie’s most expensive bit of footage, it begins to … melt. I guess decapitated despots are made of bee’s wax. Who knew?


Now let’s find a foreign locale with a bit more color — namely, the lush, full-color South Pacific island of MATANGO: ATTACK OF THE MUSHROOM PEOPLE.


MATANGO features a yachtful of jaded Asian young folks, looking for kicks on the high seas. Unfortunately, they share the fate of the GILLIGAN’S ISLAND gang and end up stranded on an unknown island, wondering what the heck they’re going to eat.


Before you can say portobello casserole, they find a big batch of tasty mushrooms. They’re pretty proud of their discovery — in fact, they all get a swelled head over it. A swelled mushroom head, that is. One by one, they all start turning into mushroom people — but then, I’m guessing you already figured that out, since the title of the movie makes a clear reference to mushroom people.


Clearly, the folks at Campbell’s missed out on a brilliant movie tie-in promotion by not releasing a new line of Cream of Matango Soup. Oh, if only the TMOT! could travel in time through the real world — I could go back to the Campbell’s boardroom, make my pitch to the corporate honchos and watch the money come pouring in! But, then I’d be changing the path of the space/time continuum, and when I returned to the present day, three-eyed koalas with tentacles would probably be ruling the Earth. I hate when that happens!


MATANGO boasts excellent special effects and a lot of super-creepy moments. Who’d have guessed that oversized, ambulatory produce could be so scary? I’m guessing this movie might have inspired ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. (Note to self: Start work on the script for ATTACK OF THE ZUCCHINI CREATURES — if Hollywood doesn’t buy it, add sex scenes and sell it to the porn industry.)


My cat’s probably getting hungry back at the house, and I could sure use a cup of coffee, so I’ll set the TMOT!’s coordinates for home. We’ve covered a lot of ground today, haven’t we? Well, you know what they say. Time flies when you’re traveling in a giant bat-winged alarm clock!


– End –


Mark McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in almost one-thousand magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Black Gate, Galaxy, Fangoria, Writer’s Digest, Flesh & Blood, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books).


Collections of McLaughlin’s fiction include Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, and Pickman’s Motel from Delirium Books; At the Foothills of Frenzy (with coauthors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight) from Solitude Publications; and Raising Demons for Fun and Profit from Sam’s Dot Publishing.


Also, McLaughlin is the coauthor, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry.


With regular collaborator Michael McCarty, he has written Monster Behind the Wheel, a supernatural ebook-novel from, and Partners in Slime, a collection of weird horror stories from He is also a successful marketing and public relations executive who regularly writes articles for business journals, newspapers, trade publications and websites.


McLaughlin is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association. To find out more about his work, visit

Aug 202011

Time Machine of Terror


A Salute to the Furious Red Planet


by Mark McLaughlin


The other day, I visited my favorite little shoppe of horrificness, a mysterious emporium of first-class curios and second-hand terrors known as PROFESSOR LAGUNGO’S EXOTIC ARTIFACTS & ASSORTED MYSTIC COLLECTIBLES. I was surprised by one of the store’s most recent acquisitions. It was a dusky-red rock inside a Lucite case with a stainless-steel base. A little bright-red plaque on the base read, in bright yellow letters, WARNING! MARTIAN ROCK. DO NOT OPEN! DO NOT EVEN STARE AT ROCK FOR MORE THAN 15 SECONDS.
Professor LaGungo, the mega-elderly but still bright-eyed proprietor of the store, rushed with surprising speed to my side. “Stop staring at that rock!” he said.
I looked away from the stone. “Don’t worry, I only stared at it for about five or six seconds,” I said, “so there’s no problem, if indeed that is a Martian rock with some kind of staring-related hazard attached to it.”
“Oh, it’s a Martian rock all right,” Professor LaGungo said. “And it has an absolutely gigantic staring-related hazard attached! You see, if you stare at it for too long, it will get mad, burst out of its case, hit you in the forehead and kill you!”
What? How and why would it do that?” I said.
“The rock would kill you because it is furious with you – and all Earthlings! Mars is the furious red planet, and even the littlest piece of it is more irate than the largest of Earth boulders, which cannot express any feelings at all.”
“So what makes that Martian rock so angry?”
“There are great quantities of living silicone crystals on Mars, and every rock has at least a few bits of that crystal in it – but those wee bits are enough. More than enough! Those crystalline life-forms have come to hate the non-crystalline life-forms of our planet.” The Professor pointed to the rock in the case. “That particular rock is upset because it is here on Earth, a planet it abhors. Plus, it misses all of its crystalline buddies on Mars.”
Needless to say, I was a little skeptical of this explanation, even though I’ve learned that one should never doubt anything the Professor has to say. The old shopkeeper me a shrewd look. “The expression on your face,” he said, “tells me you still have questions. Two more questions, I’m thinking.”
“True!” I said. “You’re quite perceptive. Question No. 1: How did that rock get to Earth, and Question No. 2: How do you know all this stuff about Mars?”
Professor LaGungo smiled. “The rock came to earth in quite an unusual way. Back when Orson Welles did his WAR OF THE WORLDS radio stunt, it made a lot of Earthlings mad at Mars during the broadcast. Mars could actually feel that anger, making the furious red planet even more furious. So it fired that rock into space, all the way to Earth, to kill Orson Welles. As luck would have it, an Orson look-alike was shopping in my store at the time and the rock almost hit him as he was walking out the front door.”
“Astounding!” I said.
“Quite so,” the Professor agreed. “The rock was extremely hot from its sizzling voyage through space, so I used some tongs to drop it into a bucket of water. That made the water boil instantly and the resulting steam swirled around my face and up my nose. That remarkable steam seeped into my brain and provided me with all this Martian knowledge.”
The Professor rummaged around behind the counter, pulled out a notebook and quickly scribbled out a list, which he tore out of the pad and handed to me. “If you want to see how Mars has captivated the imaginations of movie-making Earthlings over years,” he said, “get into the Time Machine of Terror! and go check out these movies. These aren’t all the movies that have been made about Mars, of course – that list would be longer than my arm. But I consider these to be among the most imaginative and well-known.”
For those of you reading this column for the first time, let me tell you a bit about the Time Machine of Terror!, or TMOT! for short.
The TMOT! is an ancient Lemurian time machine which resembles an alarm clock with big bat-wings. It was broken when the Professor found it, and he didn’t have access to a supply of its original parts, so he fixed it with parts from old movie projectors, TV sets and VCRs. As a result, it can now only travel in the dimension of old sci-fi and horror movies and TV shows. But I like that kind of programming, so I travel in the TMOT! all the time.
I decided to start with the most famous Martian movie on the list – WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953). In this epic production, the Martians are completely inhuman creatures with froglike bodies, spindly limbs and monstrous eyes. Their streamlined doomsday machines glide over the Earth, firing deadly beams and killing without mercy.
The Martians make no attempt to communicate with humans – as far as they’re concerned, we are just pests that must be eradicated. Fortunately, the Martians hadn’t figured on the deadly voraciousness of Earth germs – weensy killers against which humans had already developed immunities.
I didn’t spend much time visiting the 2005 remake of WAR OF THE WORLDS because it doesn’t add any impressive new insights. The special effects are better, but that’s about it.
Next to the Martians of WAR OF THE WORLDS, the lead alien in DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS (1954) is friendly and vivacious, and chattier than a Hollywood gossip columnist. She looks like an aristocratic woman in a sleek, S&M-inspired space outfit. Her plan, basically, is to find Earthmen to help perpetuate her alien species. The Earthlings do not take well to that plan, even though she’s only looking for an interplanetary roll in the hay. Is that so wrong?
In THE ANGRY RED PLANET (1959), we meet a lot of chintzy, outlandish monsters who reeeeally hate Earthlings. They may be especially mad because they had such a small budget for special effects!
MARS ATTACKS! (1996) was based on some surprisingly graphic bubble-gum cards from the Sixties, in which mega-brained, bug-eyed Martians fired deadly ray-guns and used monsters and torture devices to destroy Earth real estate, cattle and especially citizens.
Turning that card series into a feature film must have been a dream project from director Tim Burton, whose creations are always macabre and yet darkly whimsical. You can tell he truly relished the task. The whole production revels in its dark humor like a huge, happy pig rolling in slop. And really, that’s not a bad thing. But while many sci-fi and horror aficionados loved the movie when it came out, it proved to be a bit much for family audiences.
The Martians in MARS ATTACKS! are reminiscent of an unholy three-way cross between Bus Bunny, Marvin the Martian and the Marquis de Sade. They are skeletally thin, incredibly agile, selfish, wildly imaginative in their malice – and adorable!
In FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (1967), British scientists discover a Martian spaceship buried underground, right in the path of some subway construction. Inside are the remains of the crew: locust-like Martians about the size of large dogs. When Earthlings start fiddling with the spaceship, they accidentally turn it on – or more accurately, bring it to life. The spaceship, apparently, is filled with the souls of its former passengers.
This is a development that does not bode well for humanity. But, plucky Earthlings figure out a way to settle the hash of these pushy red-planet grasshoppers – who may have been the inspiration for the Devil, if the image of the towering Martian mega-soul at the end of the movie is any indication.
Martians are also brought back from the sleep of centuries in GHOSTS OF MARS (2001). Colonists from Earth open a Martian temple and unleash the disembodied souls of ancient aliens. These souls promptly take up residence in Earthling bodies. The Martians then customize their new bodies, making them more savage in appearance, with plenty of gashes, piercings and other decorative injuries.
In THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT (1962), those jolly yet dysfunctional comedians (they just can’t stop hurting each other) make the acquaintance of an absent-minded scientist and his daughter. The scientist has invented the ultimate war machine, which is really just a submarine with tank treads and helicopter blades. Martian spies are pestering the scientist, eager to steal his weapon, and so it is up to the Stooges to save the day. The Martians look like Frankensteinian monsters in space jumpsuits and capes, whose heads feature extremely wrinkly eyes and oversized craniums.
In the made-for-TV movie MARS NEEDS WOMEN (1967), as in DEVIL GIRL FROM MARS, we learn that Martians are humanoid like us and in desperate need of breeding stock. That’s a problem? I fail to see the dilemma in either movie. What’s wrong with expanding Earth’s dating options to include the nearest planet? If either of those movies had been more of a success, perhaps Mars wouldn’t be quite so furious at the Earth…
As I examined the movies suggested by Professor LaGungo, it soon became clear why Mars is so angry at Earth. Clearly, Mars is jealous of our abundant resources. Earth has more food, more oxygen, more water – and more potential sex partners! Martian movies make it pretty clear that life on the red planet is a constant, desperate struggle for survival. So how can we get Mars to like us more…?
Well, Martians in general seem to be pretty smart and ambitious, so we should offer them jobs, nice new apartments and plenty of food on Earth! Then they might even share their superior Martian technology with us – they do have a lot of fancy ray-guns and other neat techno-goodies.
It is possible to get along with Martians – Bill Bixby managed to do it in the classic TV sitcom, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN (1963-1966). He gave the Martian kindness, understanding and a place to live, and the Martian gave him friendship and wisdom.
By sharing, communicating and cooperating, our two cultures would get along famously. An excellent solution, yes? And who knows: maybe someday, us Earthlings will learn to initiate that foolproof peace plan with each other!


– End –


MARK McLAUGHLIN is part Greek and part Irish and so may be related to both satyrs and leprechauns, clearly making him a satyrechaun. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award many times and has won once. McLaughlin’s fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in hundreds of magazines, anthologies, and websites, including The Living Dead 2, Cemetery Dance, Dark Arts, Midnight Premiere, Fangoria, Horror Garage, FilmFax, Shroud Magazine,, Galaxy, The Best of All Flesh, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories (DAW Books). Collections of his fiction include Raising Demons for Fun and Profit, Slime After Slime, Pickman’s Motel, Motivational Shrieker, and At the Foothills of Frenzy (with co-authors Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight). He is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Poetry. His collaborative novel with Michael McCarty, Monster Behind the Wheel, was a Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Best First Novel, and will be reissued by Medallion Press in 2011.

His latest project is Partners in Slime, a story collection co-written by Michael McCarty, which can be found at Visit Mark online at