Friday, March 25, 2011

Dawn of the Dead: The Novel

1978, St. Martin's Press

by George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow
1978, 1st edition
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: Hardcover 9780312183936

1989; paperback edition

George A. Romero and Susanna Sparrow's novelization of the 1978 fright film classic, Dawn of the Dead, is a much sought after book by horror collectors and zombie fans alike... and for good reason! The novel takes us even further into the minds of the four protagonists (Peter, Roger, Fran, and Steve) attempting to survive an apocalyptic menace. The need to adapt both mentally and physically to the current situation, places a burdening strain on the very relationships within the group. When it comes to survival amidst a sea of flesh-eating corpses, being the weak link is NOT an option and what goes on through the minds of the individual four may even surprise and shock die-hard fans who have seen the movie numerous times.

What makes this novel special is Romero's involvement in writing the book. In many respects, this helps justify some of the minor differences from the movie, although, overall, it remains true to the U.S. theatrical release. Those who have seen the film may note that the character of Peter is less sympathetic to his former SWAT Team colleague, Roger, who is suffering severely from an infected injury caused by the cannibalistic walking dead. Additionally, we are also introduced to a fifth member of the group -- Adam! -- a young puppy Fran has managed to rescue and keeps as a pet.

Back cover - paperback edition

Comparatively, Romero and Sparrow's novel is much darker than the, sometimes, satiric humor on the screen. In fact, the zombies portrayed in these pages seem much more creepy as they silently watch their prey before they slink out of hiding and stalk their intended victims. The authors manage to escalate the zombie menace threat further by making them all the more vicious and deadly.

A particular scene that works better in the book than it did in the actual film, is Roger and Peter's attempt to hot-wire and move large semi trucks to use as barricades for the large shopping mall they're holding up in. At this point in the book, the living dead are at their most vicious and the suspense builds to such levels of intensity that the reader will find himself or herself greedily consuming page after page to find out what will happen next!

George A. Romero's film, Dawn of the Dead, was a direct sequel to his earlier film, Night of the Living Dead (1968). It should also be of interest to zombie fans that John Russo (co-scriptwriter of NOLD) also wrote his own literary sequel to Night, entitled Return of the Living Dead (1978; Dale Books). Return was the inspiration for the making of the 1985 hit movie of the same name, although the storylines are completely different from one another.

Sphere; paperback edition

2011; St. Martin's Griffin

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Commoneltha -- The Vampire Lady

Commoneltha the Vampire Lady, is an almost forgotten horror icon from the 1960's. The character was portrayed by the ever classy Marilyn Eastman and was constantly appearing in commercials for Commonwealth Plumbing and Heating. The commercials were written by longtime creative partner Karl Hardman (Santa Claws). Both Eastman and Hardman are, perhaps, best remembered for their roles as the dysfunctional couple, Mr. & Mrs. Cooper, from the 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead

These vintage commercials would air during the Chiller Theater movie nights on Pittsburgh's WIIC-TV (Channel 11), which were hosted by Bill "Chilly Billy" Cardille (who also had a role in NOLD)! Although very popular at the time, any images or media of this sultry vampire vixen has been extremely elusive for Sicko-Psychotic to obtain. Nonetheless, SP is proud to pay tribute to one of the first famous horror characters of television.

Included down below is a list of credits that span the modest career of the incredible Marilyn Eastman. And if anyone has photographs or video footage of Commoneltha, please feel free to share them. Many of her fans, including yours gruely, would love to see them!

Various regional theatre productions
Weather spokesperson
Television commercials
Popular local radio shows
Commonwealth Plumbing and Heating commericials (1960s)
Perry Mason "The Case of the Ominous Outcast" (1960, TV series)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Terror in the Aisles (1984, documentary)
Night of the Living Dead: 25th Anniversary Documentary (1993, documentary)
Houseguest (1995)
Santa Claws (1996)
A-Z of Horror (1997, TV mini-series documentary)
One for the Fire: The Legacy of 'Night of the Living Dead' (2008, documentary)
Autopsy of the Dead (2009, documentary)
Zombies: A Living History (2011, documentary)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Return of the Living Dead: The Novels

1978, Dale Books

John A. Russo, co-screenwriter to the most famous zombie film of all time -- Night of the Living Dead (1968) -- has written two novels sharing the title Return of the Living Dead! The first was published in 1978 as a dark and perturbing sequel to his novelization of Night. The second was a novelization of the 1985 horror-comedy movie Return of the Living Dead! Hopefully this SPEW (i.e. Sicko-Psychotic review) will help eliminate some of the confusion for those interested in getting your grubby hands on literary zombie filth! As always, Sicko-Psychotic is pleased that many of you share in the same taste for decomposing brainssss... so, without further adieu, here are the spews!

by John Russo
1978, 1st edition
Publisher: Dale Books
ISBN: Mass paperback 9780895590626

Ad for 1978 edition

It's been 10 years since that horrible night when the dead rose up to devour the living. Although the threat to mankind is over, there are those who still fear it could happen again. Such fears are founded when a tragic bus accident results in the deaths of all its passengers. Once again the dead begin to rise and seek out human prey to appease their cannibalistic appetites. But this time the living dead are not the only horrors that plague a small backwoods town. Looters, rapists, murderers, and the trigger-happy community also add to the ensuing deterioration of humanity's bleak future!

1979, Hamlyn Paperbacks

Author John Russo is back with this sequel to the novelization of the horror classic Night of the Living Dead (1974, Warner Publications). And make no mistake, this gritty and shocking novel is generous with its graphically descriptive acts of violence, which is sure to disturb and offend some weary readers! (But, hey... this is Sicko-Psychotic and you kind of have to expect a book of this nature to be reviewed here!)

1995, Commonwealth Publications Inc

This time the pacing is much quicker and the focus is spread out to a montage of characters, making it impossible to guess what will happen next and to whom. Those who have read Russo's previous book will notice that the author's abilities as a novelist has matured in strides with this effort, resulting in Return of the Living Dead being a much more engaging and entertaining venture for us readers.

Tying the two books together are the occasional chapters included in Return that reprint the Civil Defense broadcasts from Night. Also, the familiar character of Sheriff Conan McClellan is once again reintroduced to lead law officials in the fight against the second zombie uprising.

Return was actually Russo's novelization of a movie script he had been attempting to sell. But it was director George A. Romero who first managed to film his own sequel to Night. The highly successful film was called Dawn of the Dead and a novelization of that film was also released that very same year -- 1978! Producer Tom Fox did take an interest in Russo's script and planned to have it directed by Tobe Hooper of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist fame. Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Lifeforce) was brought in to help polish the script, but took the director's seat instead when Hooper backed off the project. O'Bannon did away with Russo's script, but kept the title. The new director proceeded to write his own story in a horror-comedy vain to help compete against Romero's third zombie film Day of the Dead (1985). The end result was that Return of the Living Dead (1985) became an even greater cinema hit than the long anticipated Day! Ironically, John Russo ended up writing a novelization of O'Bannon's movie script (see below)!!
Most recently, Kensington Publishing Corp. has republished John Russo's Night of the Living Dead and his original Return of the Living Dead in a single trade paperback edition entitled Undead (2010).

by John Russo
1985, 1st edition
Publisher: Arrow Books
ISBN: Trade paperback 0099426102

1985, Arrow Books