I have seven pieces due this week. The only way to make the week less of an annoyance is to write on the weekend, and that’s what I did - the last interval of sitting outside in the gazebo on warm days and tolerable nights. It may be the last great warm weekend, but you never know. So it never is.
Regardless of the weather, you know what it is. Right?
It is Fall Happiness Season, and as the full ad says: let’s enjoy every day of it. The ad meant "let's go to all the movies they are playing during this manufactured holiday period," but the idea still applies.
Saturday was a perfect day, and the end was quantitatively better than the beginning. Because the garage door was working again. Here’s how that played out:
Wife: The garage door is broken! I can’t get out.
Me: I will do something.
So I went down, pushed the button. It rose a foot and a half and stalled. I closed it. I pushed the button again, and this time I helped the door up. (The door weighs 800 pounds. Really. It’s massive.) I disconnected the chain, rolled the door back and forth; no obstructions. I got a can of Garage Door Roller lubricant and sprayed the rollers and the track. I checked the electric eyes to make sure everything was working. I reconnected the chain and tried it again. It rose a half a foot and stalled.
Went back upstairs.
Me: yes, it’s broken. I’ve done what I could. I’ll have to call someone.
Her: can we switch places?
Of course. We backed out and swapped bays.
That was June. Okay, late June. Well, middle June. Every day since I have gone down to the garage to go somewhere and thought oh, right, the door, and I’ve lifted it by hand. Push the button, help it over the hump, get in the car, forget completely about it until I get home, and then I remember: oh, right, the door. I’ll have to call someone.
Don’t want to call the guys who fixed the other door, because they did something with the wires and the manager wasn’t helpful and they put stickers EVERYWHERE. On the wall, on the doors. Didn’t want to call the guys who put in the controller the sticker-crazy guys had to remove, because they sold me a piece of crap that burned out after a year and a half. I’ll have to call someone.
Finally, at the end of September, I called someone. Looked at the various websites, all of which had specials. It’s amazing how lucky I was. What timing! All of them had great deals right now, because you know garage-door repair is such an impulse item, and you want to be competitive when someone gets the urge and decides oh, I should just treat myself.
The garage-door repairman showed up in an unmarked vehicle and he didn’t have a uniform. At first I thought, this is odd, but then I remembered that the other guys had a marked vehicle and uniforms and I wasn’t happy with them, at all. I asked him about this, and he said “we’re subcontractors,” and explained that the company was the nation’s largest, been around since 1980-something, and that you can get these guys with the marked vehicles who give you a lifetime guarantee but they’re out of business in two, three years. Anyway, what’s the problem?
I showed him how the door didn’t go up, and said “I lubed the -“
“Your spring’s broken,” he said. I looked up at the spring. Why, he was right. D’oh. Well, that’s $89, right? Saw that on the website.
“Wellll . . .” Here it comes. “That’s the basic spring. That’s 149. This is probably a 250.”
I do? OF COURSE I DO
“That’s a heavy door,” he said.
Sure enough, it took a 250. He showed me on the parts list what it cost. Criminey. AND his bid included replacing the other spring, because it would probably go within the year, and he could give me the 50% off coupon for the second spring replacement. My lucky day, they had a second-spring replacement offer going on.
But: he also oiled both doors, popped a roller back in the track (after bending it) and installed two ceiling lights while he had the ladder out, and I appreciated that. The previous guys who'd messed with the wires had been way too gung-ho and felt a bit scammy. This guy had his own truck and took pride in his work and didn’t put stickers anywhere.
So now the door works. And Fall is a bit happier. Poorer, but happier. A good reminder that such equations are possible, depending on your capability for using self-delusion to swallow tired cliches.
Hey, it's October! That means a month of this pumpkin crap. I'm not going the Pumpkinification of Things this year. Let's shake it up. So . . .
Monster magazine crap! There was a vogue for Monster magazines in the 60s and 70s, thick journals on cheap paper with the same - damned - monsters over and over again. Frankenstein. Dracula. Wolfman. Bug-thing from This Island Earth. Stories about the 394,203 Hammer Studio movies, shots of Christopher Plummer with bloody fangs. Over and over again. They added the post Inner Sanctum / Addams Family attitude that found humor in the macabre, and beat that idea into the ground like circus-tent pegs in each issue. This week we'll look at spooooooky recipes.
Cats have 230 bones. A great deal of trial and error must have gone into discovering this trick. Perhaps the local magician farmed out the work to villagers desperate for a pence: I will give you a bone, and you will put it in your mouth and tell me what happens. Nothing ever happened, but one of them moved away to another village before he reported his findings, and the magician concluded: ah hah! The bone makes you invisible!
Let's say it's true, though. I think this wouldn't be the sort of knowledge that would be lost to antiquity. If true, lots of people would have known about it. History would have been changed by the people who used the skill -
- but that suggests that sucking on a cat bone could alter the way a physical substance reacts to light. So no.
Like that? I do. Of course Black & White World has to do horror for the month, and this week it's a classic.
Doesn't everyone know that you never, ever move into a place like this, if the movie starts with a voice-over?
You have to admit: this is one of the creepier matte shots you'll see. It looms, overscaled, unreal:
In 1937, London music critic and composer Roderick "Rick" Fitzgerald (Ray Milland) and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) fall in love with Windward House, an abandoned seaside house, during a holiday on Cornwall's rocky coast. They purchase it for an unusually low price from Commander Beech.
It's not unusual at all that the siblings buy it and move in together. Nope! But soon enough Ray Milland meets an extremely young woman and falls madly, and so that ookyness is taken off the table and replaced with a different sort of ookyness. The siblings also go into a LOCKED ROOM, which is cold and leaves them feeling drained - and if that wasn't enough, they should hear a theremin in the distance, which is your clue to get out of this movie and into another one as soon as you can.
"In 2009, director Martin Scorsese placed The Uninvited on his list of the 11 scariest horror films of all time." Eleven? It's #3. Scarier than "The Shining." Scarier than "The Exorcist." Or "Psycho," which is #1.
It's not. It's atmospheric, as they say. Gothic, in the sense that there's an oppressive mood of dread, or a dreadful mood of oppression. It's familiar now, but only because countless movies have replicated the formula over and again.
But they don't have Victor Young scores. The movie had a theme that gave it a romantic mood of sadness and hope.
Little bit of Howard Hanson in there.
That's high Forties, right there. Anyway: here's something that had to be plausible in 1944. The old house lacks electricity, I guess; everyone's using candles.
Well, maybe it's a kerosene powered radio. But it's not that. It's not even the reading by candlelight. It's the radio going off the air, which apparently means you had to go to sleep.
Our hero is awakened in the night by the sound of a sobbing woman. When I heard this as a radio play, it was absolutely chilling. Then it gets . . . stupid. They hear an unmistakable human voice, a woman, sobbing. The sister says "yes, I've been hearing it every night. It stops at dawn." They conclude it's just "an echo from a cave," which is nonsense - but we are required to believe that everyone else in the movie says they believe it. But we know they don't, so we don't. But if they don't believe it, why are they walking around with smiles on their face in a strange house with a sobbing voice and a room that's cold and makes flowers die?
Then we meet Stella, the Tragic Young Gir. She's very young, but not so young that Ray Milland's interest in her is ooky and criminal. Like all fascinating troubled heroines in these strange romances, she does peculiar things,= - like running out of the house towards the cliff at night, stopped only a second before she falls to her death.
Okay, she's not well. But in these movies that means she is special and our hero must love her even more, because something's wrong, and darling we can fight this thing. You're just tired. Or you're confused about your gender:
All that said, it's worth it. Forties culture at its best - exquisitely made, moody, full of effortlessly fine performances. About halfway through I just gave up and gave in. It has great haunted-house shots:
Dorothy, who was born in Dickinson, North Dakota, studied acting in Minneapolis. After several years in summer stock and vaudeville, she made her debut on Broadway in 1926 in "The Squall," and achieved notoriety in a Her father, Victor Hugo Stickney, was a doctor who made house calls on horseback; he was among the first 10 elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Different times, different places. A real treat is Gail Russel, spunky and bright - but the story says she was so crippled by worries during the filming she started drinking, and she never climbed out of the bottle.
You can listen to the Screen Director's Playhouse adaptation here, with Ray Milland. It's a much leaner version - only 27 minutes - but it's a story well-suited to lights-out radio.
And we're off! A good week of interesting things to come, but I would say that, wouldn't I. See you around.