Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Grim History: Deadly Make-up, from the 18th to the 20th century

Oh beauty, the fickle poison which stings the eye and fades to dust. A memory more pained by wither'd age, left to rot on life's cruel stage.

The greatest irony about beauty is that so many times the things we've thought to preserve it were the very things that destroyed it the fastest. White lead to obtain that pearly complexion, arsenic to preserve the skin, belladonna to enhance those gorgeous eyes, and so on and so forth. A volume could be written on corsets, of course, and many have. So, in the interest of time, today I'd simply like to focus on the cosmetics, and save bone training for another day.

Ann Thistlethwaite, Countess of Chesterfield. A slender, well-kept lady of her day. I'd like to imagine she was quite fashionable, given how nicely her hair was powdered, how pristine and white her skin was with just the faintest hint of rouge on her youthful cheeks. The early 18th century was hardly unique with their poisonous beauty treatments. You'd be surprised, but the danger was not in the hair powder, and only on occasion did a lady (or even man) with somewhat eccentric hairstyles happen to catch fire on low-hanging chandeliers.

The real killer in the mid-18th century was the white lead foundation so prized by the upperclass at the time, no thanks to fashions originating from the Elizabethan period (as I'm sure you're all aware of Queen Elizabeth's infamous bright red hair and ghostly complexion.) The opacity of the lead itself was what made it so popular, allowing every blemish or spot to be thickly disguised. It is little to no surprise that quite a lot of actresses especially died at young ages from lead poisoning, given that stage make-up had to be even heavier than the average lady's.

The lead didn't stop there, however, and despite the fact that it was known to be poisonous, there were even instances of lead in hair products, rouges, and all manner of cosmetics beyond foundation. In fact, when it came to rouge, they'd make some lovely combinations of lead and vinegar or lead and mercury for just the right touch of healthy, luscious pink. It was a pretty vicious cycle, the lead foundations, because the more one would apply the more their skin would break out into horrible rashes or open sores, so they'd apply even more to cover that up. Combine this with the mercury and copper to further agitate one's skin, and it really makes you begin to realize the truth in the age-old saying "you have to suffer for beauty."

Act now, ladies to redeem this ad, and get an extra dose of an agonizing and slow death! If you've still got hair left when you're through, we'll throw in a scalding hot fireplace iron so you can burn it off.

There was a time during Victoria's reign in which cosmetics were deemed improper, and I've no doubt that more men and women were spared from premature deaths by their own hands, if you'll of course ignore all of the horrible 'medicines', barbaric surgery, lack of proper hygiene, and various other dangers of the times. This couldn't last forever, though, and there were still plenty of people applying make-up like crazy.

Eventually, the a la mode of cure-all beauty treatments became arsenic. Of course there were safer options for freckle removal, such as honey and sand, or vinegar, buttermilk, and lemon juice washes. Still, basting their faces simply wasn't enough for women seeking true beauty. So, after all else failed, they always went back to arsenic. From better to worse, or maybe it's the other way around. I'll have to get back to you on that. 

Then, finally, as the Edwardian era was beginning to come to its end, we have something even worse than arsenic or lead. A cosmetic so awful, that routine use of it left people with honey-combed bones, tumors, and even disintegrating jaws. I'm talking, of course, about Radium.

It wasn't really something used for cosmetics alone. Once Radium was discovered, because it seemed so magical with its glowing qualities and seemingly mysterious characteristics, companies were throwing Radium in just about everything. Butter, paint, dishes, clothing, contraceptives, medicines, you name it. There was even Radiated water. One man was so convinced of its efficacy that he drank several bottles a day, and when he was buried, he had no jaw left so speak of.

The main belief was that Radium invigorated and revitalized. Funny how that seems to have been the same belief for mercury throughout history. If it burns, surely it must be working. It seems that France and England were the main victims of Radium marketing, though there was still some use of it in the American market. Shamefully, that didn't prevent the most famous disaster of Radium poisoning from happening on American soil, and maybe some day I may touch on the Radium girls. Because of their suffering, and the drawn-out legal battles that eventually resulted (though it did not prevent these young women from dying in the most painful ways one can imagine) finally made the world realize Radium was not to be trifled with.

Some day, we may look back on the beauty products we wear now and wonder what grandma was thinking greasing her face down with -INSERT UNKNOWN DEADLY POISON HERE-, which is a great case for product testing, but there's no turning back the clock now for the many who had to suffer and die so that we could learn from their vanity. Victims of beauty in the cruelest sense of the word.

Monday, October 16, 2017

5 More Horrific Soundtracks

This Halloween season has been pretty quiet. Oh, there's plenty of screams to wake you up at night, along with those pesky bumps. Then, of course, you've got the cackling witches in your backyard (why they can't get their own damned giant cauldron to chant Shakespeare quotes, I haven't a clue), but where's the music? The carols? The mood-setting tunes? They are, as always, in the movies. Bringing you back around once more for even more epic horror OST's, and here's hoping you have an awesome Halloween.

Oh, by the way, I did finally get around to watching Mephisto Waltz. It was good, but the score was better.

1. Suspiria

It would be a crime to forget Goblin on another one of these OST horror lists, and an absolute tragedy to forget Suspiria. Chilling, beautiful, and packed with atmosphere. There could have been no artists to rival the beauty of the movie and pair so well with Argento's masterpiece than Goblin.

2. Return of the Living Dead

Maybe I'm in a metal mood. A punk mood. An 80s mood. Or, maybe, just maybe--Return of the Living Dead has not only one of the most epic title songs in cinematic history (well, maybe not traditionally epic, but definitely awesome), but it's an arrangement of some of my absolute favorite music artists to boot.

3. Near Dark

Tangerine dream. There's just something about them. Even though synthesizers aren't generally my style, they somehow manage to take the style and create something absolutely beautiful. Another excellent example of a band that paired so well with the atmosphere of the movie, I can't imagine anyone else being quite so perfect.

4. A Nightmare on Elm Street part 3: Dream Warriors

Okay, so why didn't I pick part 1? That's where the original title song came from, isn't it? Yes, however, part 1 didn't have Dokken. Part 3 did. They have a lot more fun with rock in this one than the earlier two did, and it definitely shows in the somewhat 'metal' moments of the better character deaths.

5. 28 Days Later

When this film came out, my mom immediately rushed out to buy the cd. Neither of us had heard anything like it before, or seen a film quite so groundbreaking. Yes, say what you will about 28 Days now, but there's no denying that it transformed the genre of zombie films. I'd say maybe the same way Sam Peckinpah changed westerns. The music is jarring, gritty, and yet--absolutely beautiful, beginning to end.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Halloween Bath Bomb Recipes

There are two times you'll find yourself routinely soaking in boiling water: when you're in the process of becoming a delicious stew for your friendly neighborhood cannibals, and when you're just in the mood for a nice bath. Me, personally, I like my baths hot enough to turn me lobster red. As far as being prepared for a meal goes, I'd like to at least thing I didn't get the same kind of crustacean treatment, but you can't always pick and choose. Cannibals probably don't like the taste of bath salts, bombs, or soaps. Even if the smell is incredible. Then, when it comes to having an amazing soak in your bathtub, those things can get so darn expensive! 8-12 dollars just for a bath? Surely you want something more out of it than a half hour soak. That's where these awesome crafty recipes come in, just in time for Halloween season....they may only last for a couple of minutes, but they sure are fun to make.

Be sure to check out the other amazing videos from these creators if you liked their spooky selections. They really are all pretty awesome.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Drive-in Trailers: Melt Movies

Back once more to the silver screen. Or perhaps the green screen. There's a bit of yellow there, too...wait, what part of your body was yell--you know what? I don't need to know. The point is, you're a puddle of goop on the floor now with nowhere else to go but down.

Melt horror, probably one of the most obscure subgenres out there, I didn't even know it existed until I got a little too much into a Street Trash streaming group the other night. Man, the 80s were jam-packed with some of the best physical effects. Melt horror is the goriest, grossest, and best of the lot, incorporating puppetry, fake slime, blood, you name it...all in the most gruesome, entertaining ways. So, without further ado, let's pay tribute to these awful cult classics with a list of trailers (and maybe start off with a fake short film I think you'll enjoy).

Friday, October 13, 2017

Vintage Comics: Nightmare, Issue #3: The Werewolf of Washington Square, Cup of Moonglow (Cover - Pg. 13)

Whew! Almost mid-October (happy Friday the 13th, and I hope you're enjoying a bit of Jason slaughter today!) The posts are warming up, and so is my grad school homework. Still, I've found time to upload yet another vintage comic. This one is in far worse shape than the others I've managed to scrounge up, but the art is - - well, how should I put it? Cartoonier? A little more offbeat? Somehow, at the same time, certain elements of these stories are also pretty detailed towards realism. In fact, the werewolf face is remarkably similar to Dr. Hyde in the '31 film. 21 years after the fact, I can't help but wonder if the artist sourced a lobby card or old poster, perhaps?

Following on the tail-end of the glory days (pre-code horror comics), I sort of appreciate the pulp-ish inspiration they clearly drew from on the cover art. It's also a victim of radio-style dialog, per usual for the earlier stuff, but there's a certain charm to that too. The first story is...well...I mean it's a basic werewolf plot. Incredbly basic. Bare bones down to the character name (Eric Lupin.) The second story proves yet another age-old fact. You can't trust men. You can't trust women. You definitely can't trust gigantic Amazonian witch snakes.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book of the Week: Evil Ernie - Youth Gone Wild, by Brian Pulido

It's not pretty. It's not happy. Hell, it's not even cute, but you can't deny this one simple fact: Evil Ernie rocks. For those of you familiar with The Mask series of comics, you know, the dark one, I'm sure your appetite for violence and animated gore is fairly intense. So why not give Evil Ernie a shot?

It's not really about the plot. A young man driven mad by a combination of severe child abuse and a bizarre dream machine that links him to lady death (either death incarnate, or just a really crazy bitch who likes to wake up to a pile of corpses in the morning). One thing leads to another, and he gets killed with yet another experiment, only to come back with mental powers. Every person he kills becomes a bloodthirsty zombie, intent on helping Ernie create an army of 'friends'.

That's really all there is to the plot, to be honest, but it's a fun ride there, and this issue only left me hungry for the rest of them.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Horror Flick of the Week: The Final Girls (2015)

I have a confession. I'm a movie snob. I've got a strict 'no insult/putdown' rule on this blog for movies, because no matter how bad the picture, a film always has a lot of work put into it, and there's going to be an audience for just about everything. Still, I am a movie snob. It's tough for me to put on a lot of new things, because I have this desperate fear I'll waste ten or more minutes of my life on a film I may hate. Even after hearing rave reviews about this one, listening to an interview with the director, and adoring the description...the poster had me convinced I just wouldn't like it...

This movie, my friends, is why I have to remind myself NOT to judge anything by its cover. I loved it. Every shot, every second, every line. As a not-so-subtle tribute to everything camp slasher (literal summer camp slasher), and a clear nod to the Friday the 13th series, it was perfect. Do yourself a favor this week, and if not now, then definitely on this Friday the 13th...watch some F13...and then pop in The Final Girls. You will love it.

On another note, best striptease scene ever. EVER. Yes, my friends, even Dusk Till Dawn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Vintage Halloween Postcards

Do you smell the pumpkin spice? The perfumes of the melting wax? The crisp, clean folds of fresh envelopes? No? Well, it's no wonder. Most of these pumpkins are far too old to smell, and whoever heard of putting a postcard in an envelope? Nevertheless, tis the season, and just in case you'd like to send a love one some carefully penned spells for 'All Hallows Eve', here are some fantastic old postcards to scrawl them on. Note that a vast majority of this art is by the very talented (late) Ellen Clapsaddle, one of the most magnificent postcard and greeting card artists of all time.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Grim History: Leonarda Cianciulli, 'The Soap Maker of Correggio'

"I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them."

A loving mother. The perfect neighbor. A friend. A pillar of the community. A woman so kind, that she thought nothing of giving away her lovingly-crafted bars of soap to any and everyone she knew. She ran a small shop, which I'm sure supported the family well enough.

Leonarda did not have an easy life. She'd attempted suicide as a young girl multiple times. As a young woman she committed fraud and landed in jail. After that, when she and her husband moved to another town, their home was destroyed in an earthquake. She had seventeen pregnancies, three of them being miscarried, and ten of them died as children. It's no wonder she became so very protective of the four she had left.

She was a very superstitious woman. In her youth, she went to multiple fortune-tellers, desperate no doubt for some bright glint of hope in her future. One of them told her she would lose all of her children, and one can only wonder if the fear of this awful fate was self-fulfilling. Did she spend every waking hour in her pregnancy in fear? Did she fill her children with tonics or syrups to keep them well, only to poison them with the tinctures that were meant to save? We'll never know what happened to all of those lost ones, but we do know that Leonarda desperately loved the remaining four.

It wasn't long after the earlier fortune was told, that she had her palm read by yet another gypsy in almost Hollywood-esque fashion. Her reading would spell out a far worse fate than meeting a tall, dark stranger. She was told that in her right hand the gypsy saw prison, and in the left a criminal asylum.

I don't doubt Leonarda spent her time crafting wards against the evil eye, tearing out her hair, and doing all manner of strange things one would expect of a madwoman behind closed doors. Somehow, after these two terrible fortunes in her life, and with the knowledge that her eldest son would be joining the army to fight in World War II, Leonarda decided she had to do something horrible to protect him.  But what could satisfy the blood-hungry fate that had snatched so many of her children from her?

Perhaps she thought she could simply swap one life for another. Appease death with someone else's life. After all, she'd begun to dig into a bit of fortune-telling herself. It isn't hard to believe a madwoman would give herself such a reading. So, Leonarda planned. She selected three friends, women who may very well have reminded Leonarda of herself. They were middle-aged, and ready to change their lives.

Her first victim, Faustina Setti, wanted companionship. She was lonely. Leonarda persuaded her that she would have to move to Pola, but there was the perfect man waiting for her there. Cleverly, she convinced Faustina to write several letters to be sent to her friends and family when she arrived. Then, on the morning Faustina was to leave, they shared some wine.

Faustina's glass was drugged. One can only hope she didn't suffer when that gleaming ax was hefted above Leonarda's head, and that the death was quick. Poor Faustina's body was cut into nine pieces and the blood was drained into a basin. Leonarda seemed to delight in recounting her story later after she'd been caught, likening her story to a recipe one would expect to find in an insane grandmother's cook book: 

       “I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make                soap, and stirred the mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into            several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank. As for the blood in the basin, I waited until          it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk           and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of                 crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also           ate them.“

Giuseppe was her eldest son. The one planning to enlist. Imagine the motherly delight she must have felt, serving up the remains of her former friend and client, while the death of that woman surely meant he would live that much longer. Still, it wasn't enough, and after Leonarda's first literal taste of death....

She wanted more.

The second victim, Francesca Soavi, suffered much the same fate. She'd been looking for a job. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong place to find it. This time, Leonarda told her to begin writing postcards to her friends and family, sending them while she was still in Correggio. Waste not want not, as they say. This time, however, Leonarda took a little money from her victim as well. 3000 lire, to be precise. Murder was becoming far more than a mother's desperate acts of love, but something quite profitable to boot.

Her third, final, and most famous (or formerly famous) victim was Virginia Cacioppo. An opera singer who had passed her prime, but the passion for art lived on. Poor Virginia didn't question why Leonarda apparently knew a powerful, mysterious 'theatre impresario' looking for a secretary. After all, she was a fortune-teller. A sweet, kind woman. A friend. A friend with 50,000 lire, and astonishing jewelry. Tokens of another life.

Instead of just stopping at tea-cakes, however, Leonarda decided to earn her infamous title...

"...her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbours and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet."

Virginia's sister-in-law reported her missing, and it wasn't long before the police made inquiries with Leonarda. She confessed, unashamed, and judging by her accounts, seems to have gloried in it. Her first prophecy was happily fulfilled. Leonarda would spend the next thirty years in prison, and her final three in a mental asylum.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vintage Comics - Baffling Mysteries, Issue 5 : The Lady Was a TIGER, Baffling Mystery 1, Underwater Mystery, Baffling Mystery 2, Terror in the Coal Pits (15-End)

Bringing you the second half of Baffling Mysteries, Issue 5, I realized this was actually a fairly short issue compared to some of the other comics I've shared. It was one story too short to split into three entries, but a couple too long to really be an average length post. Still, 'tis the season, so here's a few extra pages for your enjoyment.

What I liked most in this issue was the coloring. A lot of wonderful vibrancy. Most of the stories fell short of being satisfyingly dark. To tell you the truth, it felt like reading a diet version of Hand of Fate, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.