Thanksgiving Day is always an interesting time for us. The Zombos and Zimba families, including those above and below ground, crawl, hop, fly (usually by plane), and drive to the mansion for the eagerly anticipated holiday festivities. Each year Chef Machiavelli outdoes himself, and this time prepared the three-tentacled octopus and turkeys with a wonderfully seasoned shrimp and yak-eye stuffing.
Speaking of stuffing, Aunt Vesta and Uncle Tesla were in their usually supercilious moods at the dinner table, spicing the repartee to new heights. Afterwards, dessert was taken in the grand ballroom and the conversations continued.
“I must agree with Zombos,” said Cousin Cleftus, adjusting the thick amber-colored monocle over his one good eye. Uncle Tesla raised his brandy, sniffed it with disdain, and sipped a little.
“Lovecraft's premise that mankind’s oldest and strongest emotion is fear,” he continued, “while essentially correct, is incomplete. Fear is merely the emotional energy. You must define those elements that instill fear, and once you do, you will find what makes us fearful today is greatly different from what made movie audiences frightened years ago."
“And today,” continued Zombos, “one fears not the supernatural unknown, but the loss of one’s authority over life. That theme is reflected more and more in this current Cinema of the Helpless. To have one’s life and death inevitably at the whim of forces beyond one’s control is essentially the basis of all horror, but those forces are no longer cosmic or alien in nature, but mundane and co-existing with us, and conspiring against us until they strike, leaving us helpless, or in pain, or dead. We live with the monsters and they are us.”
Uncle Tesla sipped his brandy as he listened. He looked very much like Renfield in Dracula; not as portrayed by Dwight Frye, superb as he was, but Bernard Jukes in his stage portrayal. He glanced toward the desserts buffet with longing.
“When would you like to screen Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural in the cinematorium?” I asked.
“Lemora?” said Uncle Tesla, ecstatic. “Why, I’ve not seen that movie since the seventies.”
“It is a wonderful anamorphic version,” said Zombos.
Cousin Cleftus’ monocle popped out and dangled across his vast circumference.
“No, no,” said Zombos, “anamorphic, as in taking the wide-screen movie aspect and retaining it for the home screen. You get to see all the detail of the movie as it was shown in the theaters without losing anything on a smaller screen.
“Oh, I see,” said Cousin Cleftus, popping his monocle back in place.
“It is a wonderfully unpretentious southern Gothic, set in the 1930s South. From the blue-tinted night scenes to the zombie-like cancerous decay makeup of the wood ghouls, it is a movie that surmounts its low-budget limitations,” reminisced Zombos.
“And let us not forget the beautiful vampiress, Lemora, herself. Her Lizzie Borden appearance, paired with her pallid, Countess Marya Zaleska look from Dracula's Daughter is superb,” said Uncle Tesla.
“And what about those irrational actions of the rat-like bus driver during the frightful night ride to that vampire-infested town of Asteroth," added Zombos, "wonderfully Lovecraftian in conception as the wood ghouls claw at the bus. The whole affair harkens to Lovecraft's story the Shadow Over Innsmouth.
“Yes,” continued Uncle Tesla, laughing. “How on earth any sane man, knowing that he’s surrounded by murderous vampires, gets out of a stalled bus after saying he can just coast down the hill to the town—to fix the engine, no less—boggles the mind.”
“And he leaves the rifle on the side of the bus, of course, losing it,” I added.
“Of course!” said Zombos and Uncle Tesla together. “He deserved to be attacked."
"The scene with the witch holding the red lantern and singing that weird folklorish song in close-up is unnerving," I added.
"What's even more unnerving is the sexual undertones running throughout the movie," said Uncle Tesla. "What with Lemora's amorous posturing toward Lila, the "Singin' Angel," and the ticket-taker's provocative "what do you like best now, soft or hard centers?" comment when he holds the box of chocolates up to Lila as she buys her bus ticket."
"The Catholic League of Decency condemned the movie, didn't they? That probably ended its limited distribution in theaters prematurely," said Uncle Tesla.
"Yes," said Zombos. "I hear it became a cult movie in France, though. They tend to appreciate the artsy fare more than we do."
"They restored the longer scene with the ticket-taker," I said. "The actor's wonderful, unctuous delivery, in close-up to show his creepy Peter Lorre eyes peering over the box of chocolates at the girl, is quite striking."
"The choice of vibrant colors is also striking, especially when contrasted with the shadows and dark lighting in the movie. It gives a dream-like air to the story as much as the slow pacing, and languid performance by Cheryl Smith as Lila," said Zombos.
"Let's see it," said Uncle Tesla. "I can't wait any longer."
Zombos told everyone to grab their desserts and follow him into the cinematorium. Uncle Tesla took his usual three and I pushed along the coffee and tea station behind him. As soon as everyone was settled comfortably, I began the movie; and enjoyed another helping of Chef Machiavelli's Turkish Delight.