TBT #14 – The Friend Zone; or, How to Stop Whining and Be a Man

So, this is a post that I made to Facebook on June 22, 2014.  It popped up on my feed yesterday, all as part of some sort of “Hey, remember the 80’s?!”-style initiative that Facebook is doing these days.  It was written shortly after I ended my engagement with an especially toxic cheater, and was single for a minute. 

The post tackles the mythical claptrap known as The Friendzone.  Some people (women) call The Friendzone a misogynist concept, but I personally feel that calling it such gives it too much credibility; the word “misogynist” implies a degree of manhood somewhere.

Feel free to disagree with me, but The Friendzone is a concept that only Millennials (sadly, my generation) could have conceived.  It’s whiny, entitled, and smacks of weakness and cowardice.  It’s really the other side to “ghosting”, which is a concept I will discuss later on at some point I’m sure.

Yes, I realize I call it the “friend zone” in the post. No, I don’t know which of these spellings of the word/concept/Atlantis-analog is correct, because I’m not a pansy.

And now this intro is longer than the post itself.

– Randall Malus, 06/23/2016

DEFINITION OF “THE FRIEND ZONE” (from Urban Dictionary):

When a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.

Friend1: Are you still with that girl?
You: We’re just friends.
Friend2: A moment of silence for our brother in the friend zone.

by rodjak October 11, 2012

To all those men who complain about being friend zoned:

Some companies send out mass mailings of free samples of a new product in order to drum up new customers. Typically, it’s only one sample. That one sample can only be used for a short period of time, because it’s a sample and samples run out eventually. If you like the product, chances are you’ll go out and pay for it once the sample runs out. If you don’t like the product, you’ll either stick with what you currently use or you’ll look elsewhere. Maybe what’s elsewhere or what you currently use are inferior products in the end to the sample you used, but that’s your problem; the company’s only sending out one free sample. If you want more, it won’t be free–because you won’t buy something that you can otherwise get for free.

In much the same way, let your patience, your kindness, your gentle nature, your understanding, your shoulder to cry on, your affection, your love–let those be nothing more than free samples. If a woman wants what you have to give, she will give you what you give her in equal measure, because the price of love is love in return. But if she places you in the “friend zone”, she’s not buying what you’re selling. So stop sending her free samples. Let her look elsewhere, or stick with an inferior product. Move onto other customers, and in doing so retain some of your dignity and self-esteem in the process.

Let no one take advantage of your better nature. Ever.

Universal Horrors Challenge – The (Preliminary) List

Well, no more putting it off.  The following is the (tentative) film list for the Universal Horrors Challenge.  There will likely be additions over the next six months (hopefully no subtractions).  Bolded items are considered lost.  Italicized items are those currently in my possession.

  1. The Werewolf
  2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
  3. The Phantom Violin/The Phantom of the Violin (Novelization Obtained)
  4. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  6. The Phantom of the Opera
  7. The Cat and the Canary
  8. The Man Who Laughs
  9. The Last Warning
  10. The Charlatan
  11. The Last Performance
  12. The Phantom of the Opera (1929 Sound Re-issue)
  13. The Cat Creeps/La Voluntad del Muerto (Audio Obtained)
  14. Dracula
  15. Dracula (Spanish Version)
  16. Frankenstein
  17. Murders in the Rue Morgue
  18. The Old Dark House
  19. The Mummy
  20. Island of Lost Souls
  21. Secret of the Blue Room
  22. The Invisible Man
  23. Murders in the Zoo
  24. The Black Cat
  25. Secret of the Chateau
  26. The Man Who Reclaimed His Head
  27. Life Returns
  28. Mystery of Edwin Drood
  29. Night Life of the Gods
  30. Bride of Frankenstein
  31. WereWolf of London
  32. The Raven
  33. The Great Impersonation
  34. The Invisible Ray
  35. Dracula’s Daughter
  36. Night Key
  37. The Black Doll
  38. The Missing Guest
  39. Son of Frankenstein
  40. The House of Fear
  41. Tower of London
  42. The Phantom Creeps (Serial vs. Movie Comparison Special)
  43. The Invisible Man Returns
  44. Black Friday
  45. The House of the Seven Gables
  46. The Mummy’s Hand
  47. The Invisible Woman
  48. Dr. Cyclops
  49. Man Made Monster
  50. Horror Island
  51. The Black Cat (1941)
  52. Hold That Ghost
  53. The Wolf Man
  54. The Monster and the Girl
  55. The Mad Doctor of Market Street
  56. The Ghost of Frankenstein
  57. Mystery of Marie Roget
  58. The Strange Case of Doctor Rx
  59. Invisible Agent
  60. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror
  61. The Mummy’s Tomb
  62. Night Monster
  63. Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
  64. Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
  65. Sherlock Holmes in Washington
  66. Captive Wild Woman
  67. Phantom of the Opera
  68. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death
  69. Flesh and Fantasy
  70. Son of Dracula
  71. The Mad Ghoul
  72. Calling Dr. Death
  73. The Spider Woman
  74. Weird Woman
  75. The Scarlet Claw
  76. The Invisible Man’s Revenge
  77. Ghost Catchers
  78. Jungle Woman
  79. The Mummy’s Ghost
  80. The Pearl of Death
  81. The Climax
  82. Dead Man’s Eyes
  83. Murder in the Blue Room
  84. House of Frankenstein
  85. The Mummy’s Curse
  86. Destiny
  87. The House of Fear
  88. That’s the Spirit
  89. The Frozen Ghost
  90. The Jungle Captive
  91. The Woman in Green
  92. Strange Confession
  93. Pursuit to Algiers
  94. House of Dracula
  95. Pillow of Death
  96. Terror by Night
  97. The Spider Woman Strikes Back
  98. House of Horrors
  99. Night in Paradise
  100. The Cat Creeps
  101. She-Wolf of London
  102. Dressed to Kill
  103. The Time of Their Lives
  104. The Brute Man
  105. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
  106. Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff
  107. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man
  108. It Came From Outer Space!
  109. Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
  110. The Black Castle
  111. Creature from the Black Lagoon
  112. Tarantula
  113. Cult of the Cobra
  114. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy
  115. The Strange Door
  116. Revenge of the Creature
  117. This Island Earth
  118. The Mole People
  119. The Creature Walks Among Us
  120. The Incredible Shrinking Man
  121. The Monolith Monsters
  122. The Land Unknown
  123. Man of a Thousand Faces
  124. The Deadly Mantis
  125. Monster on Campus
  126. Curse of the Undead
  127. The Leech Woman
  128. Psycho

Universal Horrors Challenge – RIP Philip J. Riley

As though Father’s Day isn’t hard enough for me already…

It is with a heavy heart that I report to you that Philip J. Riley, film scholar, horror buff, and producer behind the MagicImage and Bear Manor Media publications of Universal horror film script books, has passed away at the age of 68.

Per a Facebook post by Michael Pestritto:

Philip J Riley, passed away this morning at 68years old. That’s so so sad and still so young. He was such a good man. Incredible, Amazing, Unbelievable, Genius..bass player, guitar player, singer, song writer, novelist talented person. That I ever had the pleasure and privilege to play the drums and create..America’s only 2 man Heavy Metal Rock and Roll band !!!!!! “GRANMA” original music to perform in front of a 100,000 screaming people at Fairmount Park Festival in Philadelphia. WOW !!!! What a unforgettable experience of my lifetime on planet earth !!!! He will be missed dearly my good friend Philip J Riley. This year 2016 in the heavens with, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Lenny Kilmister of MOTORHEAD and Prince. RIP

There are no words for me to describe how distraught I am over this. Phil and I communicated quite a bit on social media (he was mentor-like in his advice to me concerning a great many subjects), and though he was at times a controversial figure in the horror scholar world (I may talk about this at a later date), his contributions are not to be ignored. A warm, friendly, approachable individual who was always there to help a newbie out.  To date, he’s the only Phil I’ve ever known who hasn’t betrayed me.

You will be missed, Phil.

There will be no list today.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part Two)

So, by all accounts, I didn’t have a normal childhood, but I did have a happy one.  I was fortunate enough to have an immediate family that fostered my horror film hobby, and when the Universal Monsters Classics Collection came out on VHS in the early 1990s, it was like a revolution.  Finally, all in one place–or, at least, in the Saturday Matinees or Suncoasts in one of the many local malls–were (what I thought to be) every single horror film produced by Universal during their golden age.  Minus the silents, of course.  I don’t recall how I rationalized that, but know now of course that Universal doesn’t seem to offer much consideration to any of its properties that has fallen into the public domain.

At any rate, over three waves (and a fourth unofficial wave–a name-change to “Classic Horror Collection” or something like that), Universal opened new doors to me with regards to their horror catalog.  The acquired Paramount horrors that found themselves among the Universal releases (which, truth be told, often shared casts, crew members, directors, etc. with the Universal classics) helped me spread my wings a bit and search other studio horrors from the same time period (1930s and 1940s): Columbia, MGM, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox.  I hit the ground running and haven’t stopped since.

Over the years, I’ve gobbled up as much information as I could on the various players and characters related to these works.  Novels, script books, biographies–you name it.  In 2009 (though I don’t know why it took me quite that long), I tripped over the Classic Horror Film Board, a hub for film freaks and monster kids like me.  It’s insane how much a person can learn from the scholars at this place (who are often those writing the books on these films, or recording the various commentary tracks used on the commercially released DVDs)–right down to the technical aspects of a particular type of camera used for a handful of scenes in King Kong.  It’s a resource in and of itself, and during this challenge, I will be using it as much as possible.

There’s more to my background, but those are the broad strokes.  Likely Mike Podgor and I will do a podcast fleshing out some of the things I’ve talked about already (and some he’s likely to talk about on his own blog).

Okay, so I’ve put it off long enough.  What everyone wants to see is the list.  Keep in mind, I don’t have a final list available just yet–only a preliminary.  But I suppose I can share that with you folks…

…tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Universal Horrors Challenge – Personal History/Qualifications (Part One)

So, I love movies.  They’re in my blood, in my DNA.  To paraphrase (badly) TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, the flicker of the projector is like a heartbeat to me.  Movies are my life, to the extent that any hobby can be such.

I’m also a fan of horror.  Horror films, horror novels, horror comics.  I love the genre–especially the gothic aspect of the genre, the myth and folklore and supernatural elements to it.  It scratches an itch in my brain that other genres come close to scratching but never quite reach for whatever reason.  And if one is a fan of horror and a fan of movies, one cannot ignore Universal Studios.

During the first half of the last century, Universal Studios was a name synonymous with the horror genre of film production.  From Universal came some of the most classically recognizable names and images in monster pictures: Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein’s Monster (Boris Karloff), the Phantom of the Opera (Lon Chaney Sr.), the Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.), and a literal ton of others.  If you’ve ever heard someone use a psuedo-Hungarian accent when pretending to be a vampire (“I vahnt to sahck your blahd!“), you have Universal to thank for that.

Indeed, Universal’s time as the undisputed king of horror was a golden age, and, it can be argued, helped to prompt other studios to put forth their own offerings (King Kong and the Val Lewton horrors of the 1940s by RKO, MGM’s various takes on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Laird Cregar chillers from Fox).  To say the studio was historically significant is the understatement of the century (this one or the last), and without Universal’s foray into horror, we might not have the horror genre as it exists today (a potential double-edged sword, depending upon what you think of the state of horror today).

Now, I’m a what one in the community of horror film aficionados would consider a “third-generation monster kid” (I guess that makes me a monster grandkid).  I wasn’t around for the initial theatrical run of many or any of these films, and I wasn’t even around for the resurgence these films experienced on television in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I didn’t come around in any substantial (or existential) way until the early 1980s–but, what I missed in theatrical releases and in television broadcasts, I made up for in VHS and BetaMax tapes.

And I was lucky enough to be born into a family of people who, from a ridiculously early age, fostered and encouraged my hobby.  One of my earliest memories, for instance, is of my grandmother watching the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera with me when I was, like, three or four years old–at which point she commented on how she herself saw the film in theaters back in the 1920s.  My mother soon followed by showing me the 1931 Dracula (though her own fascination fell to the slasher movies of the early 1980s), and my father followed that by showing me the 1931 Frankenstein (though his own fascination fell to the atomic age sci-fi horrors of the 1950s).  I loved them all.

Almost from birth, then, I was hooked on old Hollywood, and on Universal and horror specifically.  After my introduction to the horror film as a concept, I requested biographies written about the Chaneys (both Lons), Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi, among others, to be read to me in place of bedtime stories.  When I learned to read myself, I did so with a healthy mix of children’s books and several of the (then brand new) Random House monster movie books.  When I discovered video games, one of my favorites quickly became Castlevania, a game whose enemies pull from the pantheon of Universal and Hammer horror movie monsters.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.

Universal Horrors Challenge – What’s in a Name? (Part Two)

So, I have my starting and ending points, and the catalog from 1931 up through 1946 will be decided by Universal Horrors, a book by Brunas, Brunas, and Weaver.  How will I fill in the rest of the mammoth marathon list?

  • As previously mentioned, there’s quite a bit of genre-relevant content produced between The Werewolf (1913) and Dracula (1931).    Those commonly accepted as silent screamers from Universal’s vault will thus be included on the list.
  • Those Abbott and Costello comedies that contain either significant genre elements or feature the comedy duo meeting a classic monster will be included on the list.
  • Any Paramount horror from this period that was acquired by Universal and released as part of the old VHS “Universal Monsters Classics Collection” series, or released as part of the “Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection”–which includes many of Universal’s atomic age horrors–will be included on the list. (EDIT: Removed from the list, to find themselves elsewhere later – 12/03/2016)
  • Universal’s atomic age horrors, including The Creature From the Black Lagoon trilogy, among others from this era of film history.
  • A few surprises here and there.

Now, Universal Horrors is extensive, but it isn’t all-encompassing (especially considering the scope of the challenge I propose is outside the scope of the book).  To help me learn a thing or two about the other titles that will be on the list (but not covered in Universal Horrors),  I’ll be using the following books:

  1. American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films: 1913-1929 by John T. Soister and Henry Nicolella, with Steve Joyce, Harry Long, and Bill Chase (as Researcher/Archivist)
  2. Of Gods and Monsters: A Critical Guide to Universal Studios’ Science Fiction, Horror and Mystery Films, 1929-1939 by John T. Soister
  3. Horror in Silent Films: A Filmography, 1896-1929 by Roy Kinnard
  4. Golden Horrors: An Illustrated Critical Filmography of Terror Cinema, 1931-1939 by Bryan Senn
  5. Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren and Bill Thomas, with a foreword by Howard Waldrop

I’ll also be using and referencing Philip J. Riley’s MagicImage and Bear Manor Media script books, assorted blog articles from legitimate film scholars, and the Classic Horror Film Board–which is one of the coolest places to hang out if you’re a classic horror film fan.

But, still, why Universal?  And what makes me so qualified to do any of this?  Tune in tomorrow to find out!


Universal Horrors Challenge – What’s in a Name? (Part One)

So, a few years ago, I picked up (or digitally picked up, since it’s an e-book) a copy of a book entitled Universal Horrors, written by film historians Tom Weaver, John Brunas, and Michael Brunas.  The book is among the most seminal surveys of Universal’s horror film cycle from 1931 until the end of 1946, and it was while reading this book that I first got the idea of doing a super-marathon of Universal horror films (hence the name, “Universal Horrors Challenge”).

Now, back in the old days of cinema, the genres weren’t as neatly defined as they are today.  As a result, you’d see a lot of mysteries and thrillers being billed as “horrors”, simply by virtue of featuring elements that are “horrific” or “terrifying”.  The authors of the book have taken it upon themselves to parse which of Universal’s output of films have a preponderance of horrific elements and, thereby, earn a place on the list.

And so my starting point was and is the list concocted by Weaver and the Swiss Family Brunas.

But, the book doesn’t cover enough in terms of time; that is to say, it can be argued (and indeed has been argued) that Universal’s horror cycle started in the silent era, officially with Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  But even this doesn’t take into account the earlier Universal horror milestones, such as 1913’s The Werewolf (the first monster movie made by Universal through its subsidiary Bison Film Company, and starring a female werewolf) or one of the only two Universal outings with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (also 1913, with the other being Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde made at some point in the 1950s).  And the book also doesn’t go beyond 1946, and so can’t cover such powerhouse monster films as The Creature From the Black Lagoon (again, from the 1950s), nor does it take into account the horror-comedies of Abbott and Costello (who, during the 1950s, met almost every monster in Universal’s pantheon).  Even so, it’s easy to pick out the starting point–but if not 1946, where should the cycle end?

Internet personality James Rolfe (many know him as the Angry Video Game Nerd) posited in a video posted at Cinemassacre.com that the true end to Universal’s black and white monster cycle should be Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.  I agree with this assessment, and so I’ve set my parameters for this challenge with the starting point being the aforementioned The Werewolf–or 1913–and the ending point being Psycho–or 1960.  What lies between those parameters?  What’s in the book Universal Horrors, of course–but also some items not covered in the book.

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow.

Universal Horrors Challenge – The “Challenge” of the Challenge

So, what exactly is the Malus and Mayhem Universal Horrors Challenge, you ask?  “Daunting,” is my answer.  “Okay,” you reply with frustration, “but what is it?”

Ah, now I understand.

Quite simply, the Universal Horrors Challenge is a year-long watch-and-review event whereby I watch and review (in podcast form, vidcast form, written form, or any and all of a mix of the above) every film in the Universal Studios horror library from 1913 (The Werewolf) until 1960 (Psycho).  Yes, even the lost ones (because some of the earlier Universal horrors are, indeed, lost).  How can I watch the lost ones?  Well, I can’t, but in many cases, enough information exists regarding them to at least prompt a thoughtful discussion.

At this point I’m still taking pains to finalize the list (all these years later), but a preliminary list will be forthcoming by the end of this week.  By my estimation, we’re looking realistically at an endeavor encompassing over 100 films (probably closer to 120 or 130 films when all is said and done).

The challenge itself will have the following rules:

  1. Each film on the list must be watched and reviewed in list order.
  2. There must be at least one review per week posted.  Since there are more than fifty-two films on the list, I will likely have to do more in a given week–but I cannot do less than one.
  3. The challenge must be completed in a year’s time.
  4. The viewing of a given film must be accompanied by the reading of an article on the film from either a well-regarded film book, blog, forum thread, etc.  Something that adds crunch to the creaminess that is the film.

So, what inspired the challenge originally and how will I choose what will be on the list?  Tune in tomorrow to find out, true believers!


Universal Horrors Challenge – Official Announcement

So, I’ve been talking the challenge over with my fellow Fictospherians, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the endeavor is absolutely insane, but perfectly attainable.  It’s something that’s been in the works since 2012–or, at the very least, it’s been talked about as a possibility since 2012.  I haven’t attempted anything like it yet.  Originally I intended a few warm-up watch-and-pod/vidcast marathons, but those didn’t happen due to various reasons related to real life.

Well, there’s no time like the present.  Or, the near-future-present.

The year of 2017 will thus be the year of the Malus and Mayhem Universal Horrors Challenge, sponsored by the Fictosphere.

More to come this week regarding the challenge (what it is, what it entails, why I’m doing it, why you should care, etc.), but for now, I just wanted to get this out there.  It’s going to be a-happenin’.



Fictosphere/Podcast Update – 06/09/2016

So, I have a multi-podcast update for you folks today.

For the FictoCast, which is a podcast concerning the inner workings, inspirations, and thoughts behind the creation of our creative multiverse:

EPISODE 001: Birth of the Fictosphere
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss, well, the Fictosphere.

EPISODE 002: Brachiosaur Incorporated
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss Brachiosaur and his company.

For the FictoRant, we’re looking at episode two…which is truly me ranting for almost a solid 40 minutes (somewhat incoherently) because Jeff was ill and Mike was just sort of letting me go off the rails.  Not my favorite of the podcasts so far, though if you like hearing the sound of my voice, this one’s for you:

EPISODE 002: Indie Games Playin’
In which the men behind the Fictosphere discuss the obtuse nature of indie games. (EXPLICIT LANGUAGE)

Be sure to sign up for the Fictosphere email newsletter, as  well, to keep up to date on updates to our comics, blogs, podcasts, and updates.  UPDATES!