Archive for AWESOME-tober-fest

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: The Man in the Black Suit by Stephen King

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

I’ve been talking a lot about devils in movies and TV shows. So I want to throw another book into the mix. And I feel like I need to include something from Stephen King. And that something is going to be Stephen King’s short story, The Man in the Black Suit.

Man in the Black Suit Everything's Eventual

I think the story has been published in several places, but I know it from King’s short story collection Everything’s Eventual. I love King’s short story collections; Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, Nightmares & Dreamscapes. They are some of my favorite of his writings.  There’s just something about the stories being more concentratedly powerful and creepy.  Many years ago, say 2004-ish, I picked up the paperback version of this collection and started reading it.  I was traveling a lot at the time for my job, flying across the country.  I got about 3 stories in and accidentally left the book on the plane.  To this day I’ve not continued reading it despite the fact that the first two stories in the collection were terrific.  The Man in the Black Suit is the second story.  And it’s stuck with me all of these years.  When I decided to do The Devil for AWESOME-tober-fest this year, this was one of the first things that popped into my head.

The story is told in flashback.  Gary, old and dying in a nursing home, has decided to write down a story that he has never spoken to anyone.  Ever.  It happened back in the 1920s, when he was 9 years old.  He went fishing one day several miles from his house down Castle Stream.  He falls asleep waiting for a bite and is suddenly awoken by and sees what looks like a man in a black suit.  But upon closer inspection, it is so much more.  They start off having a conversation.  During this conversation, Gary comes to understand that this man is The Devil himself.  And the rest of their conversation Gary is trying to not let the man know that he has figured out that he is the Devil.

Yes, this story is creepy, but I’m bringing this story up because of King’s depiction of the Devil.  It’s one we don’t see that often.  The truly monsterous version of the Devil.  This Devil is pale and tall with skinny arms and legs.  He smells of burnt match sticks.  Gary notices claws at the end of his pale, thin hands and his mouth is filled with sharp fangs.  And where the man’s eyes should be, are flames.  Like a blast furnace with no door.  This Devil is truly terrifying.  He doesn’t speak in an English accent, say pithy lines, or make bargains or deals.  This Devil makes it clear to Gary that he intends to eat him.  For he is mighty hungry.

Since the story is told in flashback, you know that ultimately Gary escapes.  But it’s a harrowing escape.  I love this story, and I highly recommend you checking it out.  It’s available out there in several places by itself or in other collections.  And now that I’ve reread this story and it totally holds up, I think I may pick back up Everything’s Eventual and finally finish it.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Fantasy Island – The Devil and Mr Roarke Part 2

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 19, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

So last time I looked at a 1980 episode of Fantasy Island from the 4th season featuring an appearance of the Devil as played by Mr Roddy McDowell.  Ricardo Montalban’s Mr Roarke ultimately defeated McDowell’s Mephistopheles, but not without the Devil claiming they shall meet again.

It was a great episode of a great show, and was obviously popular because Roddy Mcdowell would return for another appearance in the second episode of Season 5, called The Devil and Mr Roarke.

So let’s take a look at that episode, shall we?


Watching the opening credits, I totally forgot about Julie. She was a second assistant to Mr Roarke.  She showed up for the majority of Season 5, but then disappeared by Season 6.  She was Mr Roarke’s goddaughter.


Suddenly, as the guests are getting off the plane, Mr Roarke gets a surprised but concerned look on his face. And we soon see why. We see a man get off the plane as a guest wearing a black suit and white tie (notice it’s the reverse colors of Mr Roarke). It’s Roddy MacDowell. As Mephistopheles. Julie is very concerned. She asks why Mr Roarke let Satan come to Fantasy Island. Great question, Julie.  Mr Roarke says evil exists in all the world and he has no power to keep it off Fantasy Island.  I did not expect this episode to bring back MacDowell’s Satan as a guest. Well played, Fantasy Island. Well. Played.


If nothing else we get the Devil sipping a cocktail in front of a tropical bird.

Unlike the last episode there are *two* other stories going on concurrently with the devil story. One has two old ladies wanting to relive their hey day in the Ziegfeld Follies in the 20s. The other is a character played by Arte Johnson (who was on the *last* Devil episode playing a completely different character!) wanting to go back to the Old West to meet his favorite gunfighter, Kid Corey, who disappeared after robbing a bank for $1 million. After setting up these stories, we return to the devil.


Meanwhile, the Devil is sitting in a throne watching droves of young adults dance to a rock band and a weird sparkly statue of a devil. It’s kind of ubsurd, but I love it.  Mr Roarke shows up with Julie to find out what is the Devil’s game. The Devil claims he isn’t there on business. That he’s taking a few days off.  Mr Roarke offers to set up his full retirement.  The Devil says he would *love* to step down but his services are too much in demand.  Roddy McDowell is so great here.  So is Montalban, honestly.


Tired of the chit chat, Mr Roarke tells Mephistopheles to come off it.  He knows what’s going on. The Devil wants Roarke’s immortal soul. The Devil looks surprised and says, “Your soul? What ego, Roarke. There are other souls here worth having too.” It becomes clear he means Julie.  Roarke looks concerned at this, so does Julie.


After returning to the other two storylines we then see Julie meet up with Mephistopheles in the jungle. One of the island girls shows up and the Devil makes her fall into quicksand. Julie begs the Devil to help and he does. He leaves saying he’ll see her later, they have “business” to discuss.  Oh snap.  Julie just entered into a deal with the Devil.


Let’s break here to admire Tatoo in the Old West. Playing a jaunty tune on the squeeze box.


So the Devil does return to talk to Julie. He tells her Roarke is not her master anymore. He is. Concerned, Julie goes to talk to Mr Roarke.


So Julie goes to see Mr Roarke.  He gives her a wood box and tells her never to open it. She asks what’s in it, and he says it’s something that will help in outwitting the Devil. After Roarke leaves we then see Julie look in a mirror and see the Devil looking back. He tells her he’s always with her now. Later on, Julie returns the box to Mr Roarke and reveals that she knows that there’s nothing in it but a brick. Mr Roarke now knows Julie is being controlled by the Devil as his goddaughter would never have broken her word and looked in the box.


The Devil possesses Julie for a bit and Roarke gets him to get out of her. Roarke realizes this is serious business. Now Roarke has got to step in and help Julie by tricking the devil.


Roarke and Julie go out into what looks like the same woods as the first Devil episode. They have their confrontation, and Roarke pulls a fast one on the Devil…AGAIN. However, there’s a swerve. Roarke’s fast one doesn’t work. And Roarke has to offer his own soul to save the soul of his goddaughter. The Devil is ecstatic. He finally won.


Roarke asks if he’s going to Hell. The Devil says he has much loftier goals in mind.  Mr Roarke will continue to run Fantasy Island, but he’s going to cater to much darker fantasies. Fantasies of evil. Fantasies of lust. Fantasies of corruption. The Devil says, “Your lovely island will become the gateway to Hell!” But then, they pull *another* fast one on the Devil. A double fast one.  And it is orchestrated by Julie.


Again, the Devil is furious over losing. And like the last time, he reverts to his horned form.  Then he disappears amongst a lot of smoke and fire back into Hell. Which is unfortunate, because I wanted to see the Devil get back on the plane at the end of the episode in the farewell.


Islandmobile!


Btw, I just thought you should know, the name of the actor on the right is Dack Rambo. Carry on.


And that’s the end of another successful weekend defeating the Devil at Fantasy Island.

This was another great episode featuring the great McDowell in an awesome portrayal of Satan. I really enjoyed this. I actually really like this show. I’m going to have to binge a few other episodes from now on.

Cheers from the Devil
Cheers!



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Fantasy Island – The Devil and Mr Roarke Part 1

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 16, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Fantasy Island was on for 7 seasons starting with 2 TV movies, one in 1977 and one in 1978, followed by a 14 epiosde first season. It finally ended after its 7th season in 1984.  It starred Ricardo Montalban as Mr Roarke, and Herve Villichaize as his assistant, Tattoo.

I’ve been a big fan of Fantasy Island for a long time.  I used to watch it in its hey day.  Ricardo Montalban is fantastic as Mr Roarke and Herve was so much fun as Tattoo.  I remember loving this show.  It always hinted at supernatural events on the island, many of them mysterious and dangerous.   But I didn’t learn, until this year, that the Devil himself came to the Island to do battle with Mr Roarke.  Not once, but twice!

Today I’ll look at Roarke’s first encounter with Satan in the first episode of Season 4, titled The Devil and Mandy Breem.  It first aired on Friday, Oct 25, 1980, which would have put it right around Halloween.


The episode opens up with Mr Roarke and Tattoo getting in their custom Islandmobile and heading over to greet this episode’s incoming guests.  I’ve been fascinated by this Islandmobile ever since originally watching the show.  Look at it, it’s awesome.  Sort of a station wagon crossed with a Jeep with the ceiling cut off and replaced with a picnic table.

As with most Fantasy Island episodes, there are multiple concurrent fantasies happening at the same time (sometimes even three) and you jump back and forth between them.  I’m only going to focus on the Devil part of the story.


During the opening we meet Mandy Breem.  We learn her husband got into a terrible accident about a year ago and she miraculously nursed him back to health.  Mr Roarke only knows that she’s here to save her own life.

c
Roarke tries to get Mandy to explain more, but she can’t at this time.  After Roarke leaves, we see a mysterious figure appear and talk to Mandy.  It’s here we learn that Mandy has made some sort of deal for the life of her husband.


And we also figure out that this mysterious figure, played by Roddy MacDowell, is possibly the Devil himself and has made the deal for her immortal soul.  And he’ll let her out of their agreement, if she uses her fantasy wish to obtain the rare Queen Omega Orchid.  Potted, not cut.  Blooming. It seems odd that the Devil would trade her soul for some mysterious plant, but that plant may get him something we don’t want him to have.  Don’t do it Mandy!


Quick shot of another one of the Islandmobiles.  I love them and I’ll never stop putting up screenshots of them.


Anyway, when Mandy makes obtaining the orchid her fantasy request to Roarke to “save her life”, it, of course, confuses Mr Roarke, but he acquiesces.  Oh, look, Mandy’s husband is Bruce Wayne!


Mandy gives the Devil the orchid to save her soul, but, as guessed, the Devil tricks her and she still must give up her soul. So, she goes to Mr Roarke for help.  Mandy tells Roarke and her husband all about the deal she made.  When Roarke hears that she made a pact with the Prince of Darkness, he is the opposite of surprised.  Actually, he’d already figured it out.  Mandy asks Mr Roarke for his help.  Mr Roarke tells her rather non-chalantly that she entered into the contract of her own free will.  And Satan has certain rights as anyone else.  But Roarke suggests that he will appear on her behalf as counsel for the defense.  The devil will grant them a trial.  This sounds like it’s going to do The Devil and Daniel Webster, which, now that I say that, I just realized the significance of the title of the episode; The Devil and Mandy Breem.  Anyway, Roarke speculates that the Devil wanted this the whole time.  That he is provoking this confrontation with Mr Roarke.  Roarke reveals that this is not the first time that they have done combat.  I love that Mr Roarke has occasionally battled the Devil as the proprietor of Fantasy Island.


Mandy Breem, her husband, and Mr Roarke confront the Devil in the woods.  Roarke demands a trial and offers that if the Devil wins, he’ll have all three of theirs souls.  But if the Devil loses, he gets nothing.  The Devil accepts.  I was kind of hoping the Devil would bring in a murder’s row of nasty famous bad people to be the judge and jury like in the original story, but no, Mr Roarke argues with the Devil alone.  And while he’s fighting for Mandy and her husband’s very souls…

…they sneak off into the woods to try to escape.  COWARDS.


Another Islandmobile


Ultimately, Mr Roarke pulls a miracle and outmaneuvers the Devil in the negotiations.  This causes the Devil to become so enraged he changes to his horned form.  He accepts his defeat but he assures Roarke that they will meet again.


And then Mandy, her husband, and his plaid jacket board the plane back to civilization free and clear of the devil’s influence. All thanks to Mr Roarke being a complete bad ass.

This was a *really* good episode.  Roddy McDowell is fantastic as Mephistopheles.  And I love that McDowell’s Devil and Roarke have a history.  It’s totally believable.  McDowell plays the Devil as a sort of refined gentleman.  He rarely gets upset, until the end when he loses.  This is a portrayal of the Devil that I really like.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Satan and the Incarnations of Immortality

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 14, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Let’s continue my “Devil’s Walk” this month with a look at another fascinating incarnation of the Devil. And this one is a literal “incarnation” from an 80s fantasy series.

My senior year in high school, I had an awesome English teacher named Mrs West. She had a reputation as being tough, and she was, but she was also an awesome English teacher. At several points in the curriculum she would give us book choices and actually let us vote on the ones we wanted to cover which is why we ended up talking about books like Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon and Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  I was introduced to several things that year that I wound up loving that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thanks to Mrs West.  One other choice that we talked about that year was a fantasy book by Piers Anthony called On a Pale Horse.  We only talked about that one book, but come to find out, that book was the beginning of a fantasy series called The Incarnations of Immortality.

On a Pale Horse was the first book, and it was released in 1983.  It takes place on an alternate Earth in the near future.  Humans have developed magic alongside science.  You can do things with magic, but it’s hard, there are a lot of rules, and sometimes it’s just easier to flick on a light switch.  Or light a match.  So both exist simultaneously and both are ubiquitous on this Earth.  We meet poor, down on his luck Zane, who has a bad experience trying to purchase a magic “wealth stone” that we ultimately learn only finds pocket change.  Despondent, Zane, with no prospects, decides to kill himself, but as he does, a giant black robed figure enters the room.  Zane, without thinking, turns the gun he had on himself, to the black robed figure and pulls the trigger.  Yes, Zane kills Death.  We are then thrust into the crux of the series.  Zane learns that by killing Death, he must assume the office of Death.  We learn here that the afterlife runs just like any government office.  And each aspect of the afterlife is headed by an Incarnation.  We learn that the main Incarnation offices are Death, Time, Fate, War, and Nature.  All the offices are held by people that have assumed that aspect of the office and they are the ones that carry out its duties.   There are also Incarnations for Good (God) and Evil (Satan).  It’s discussed, but you don’t really see the Good Incarnation until the end of the series.  However, the Incarnation of Evil is the antagonist for pretty much the entire series.  He’s constantly popping up and causing problems for each incarnation.  In fact, each Incarnation has to have their own confrontation with Satan after they take over the office as sort of a rite of passage.  So, this version of the Devil is heavily involved in the entire series, even getting his own book.

But before I get there, the original series included 7 books that started in 1983 and finished in 1990.  Anthony did write an 8th book in 2007, but I haven’t read it, and I’m not entirely sure I’m going to just yet.  Ok, I say that, but I’ll probably fold like a deck chair and read it.  If I haven’t already.  Like I said, I read the first book back in high school and I liked it so much I picked up the second book, Bearing an Hourglass, and read it that year as well.  For some reason I stopped there, and I’m not sure why.  Then, in 2001, a co-worker heard I’d never finished the series and said I should get on that.  So, thinking back fondly on those first two books, I decided to re-read the first two, then I continued to read the entire series through book 7.  The overall concept of the series is GREAT.  The entries themselves are mostly hit with some misses.  So, when thinking about using this series’ Satan as one of my AWESOME-tober-fest picks, I didn’t want to re-read the *entire* series, so I picked a few of my favorites to re-read before reading Satan’s book.  The books I decided to re-read in the series are Books 1 (Death), 2 (Time), and 4 (War).

Death Time War

Aside from Book 6, which was all about Satan, these are the three books I remember liking the most (the last time I read these were back in 2001).  The concept, again, is really good. Satan is the antagonist in all three. He’s a schmoozer, a wheeler and dealer. He is the Father of Lies, so he is always speaking in half and veiled truths. But he’s very charismatic and in many cases, on the surface, he makes a lot of sense. It’s why this Satan works. He greets new incarnations, he never shies away from his bad reputation, explaining it away as misunderstandings, and tells his version of things in an engaging way. It’s only after the new Incarnation has gained some experience that he sees Satan for what he is. These three books are great setups for that, and it sets the expectation that Satan is the ultimate antagonist for the series.

Then you get to book 6, For Love of Evil.

This is the book that focuses on the office of Satan.  After having been conditioned through five books to see the Incarnation of Evil as the villain, this is the book that shifts things around a little and adds all of this unexpected context to the idea of Satan, as he pertains to this series.  This book starts hundreds of years before the first of the series.  We meet Parry.  The book follows the established formula of the series.  You start off and meet the human characters before they become incarnations.  Some more than others.  Zane from On a Pale Horse, we only meet for a few pages before he becomes Death.  Norton, who becomes Time, we see a LOT of him before he becomes Time.  Same with Mym before he becomes War.  And especially Parry.  There’s nearly 100 pages before we even get to the point of him taking the office.  That time is well used, though.  He starts off as the son/apprentice of a powerful sorcerer.  He meets and courts a woman.  There is a sudden attack on his father which puts Parry on the run.  He realizes he has to hide and stop using magic as his pursuers have another powerful magician waiting for Parry to use magic so it can be tracked.  So Parry hides in an order of dominican monks.  He becomes a very canny searcher of evil and increases the influence of his monk order many fold.  It’s in this position Parry is approached by Lilith, a minion of Lucifer, the current office holder.  She is there to tempt him, and this is where the story really begins.  Parry winds up taking the office, becoming Satan, and ruling for hundreds of years.  We see his domain of Hell and how, when he takes the office, disorganized it is.  While Parry is the Incarnation of Evil, he does seek to make the punishment and redistribution of souls a more efficient process.  He even creates a mini-Heaven within Hell to hold souls who have been mis-classified and are awaiting release to Heaven.  ‘

We also see many of the events of the previous books from Parry’s point of view.  His confrontations with the previous Incarnations Zane, Norton, Mym, which I just reread, as well as his interactions with the other incarnations I didn’t reread; Orb (Nature), and Niobe (Fate).  Like I said, the events in those other books are addressed here.  I really like how we see this whole series from a new perspective.  Parry isn’t evil.  He runs an office that is evil, but he himself is not evil.  There’s even a point where he goes to meet with Heaven to stop the ridiculous race for souls between the two of them.  It’s inefficient and it harms more souls than it helps.  This was a really good book and I really enjoy how it absolutely fits within the framework of this whole series, but also sort of turns it all around and looks at it from behind.

If you remembver up top, I mentioned that an eighth book was released a few years ago, and that I never read it.  It was a small printing and it’s hard to find.  The character in that book is Nox, the Incarnation of Night.  She appears in this sixth book.  A few times, actually.  I really enjoyed this reread.  I enjoyed it enough to say that, yes, I’ll probably wind up reading that eighth book, just to see how it ties in.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Betty Boop in Red Hot Mama (1934)

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, cartoons, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , , on October 12, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Today I wanted to look at another vintage cartoon to sort of echo the Silly Symphony cartoon I showed you last week.  So let’s go all the way back to the 30s and a Betty Boop cartoon.  Yes, at one point, Betty Boop met the Devil.

Betty Boop as a character began in 1930 in one of the Fleischer Studios‘ Talkartoons shorts.  Betty Boop actually started off as a French poodle character, then slowly transitioned into a caricature of a Jazz Age flapper.  By 1932, Betty was the sole star of Talkartoons and she became one of the most recognizable characters in the world.  In 1934, Fleischer Studios released Betty Boop in Red Hot Mama.  In this short, Betty was voiced by Bonnie Poe, who would also voice Olive Oyl in the Fleischer Popeye series.

In this cartoon, Betty Boop travels to Hell and confronts the Devil and his minions.  Like in Disney’s Hell’s Bells, the Devil here isn’t really fleshed out much more than “he’s the ruler of Hell”.  No negotiations for souls, no pranky shenanigans, and he doesn’t really do anything evil that we get to see.

It’s a mostly musical cartoon that relies on the visuals to tell the story.  Let’s take a look at the cartoon “Red Hot Mama” from 1934.


Title cards. As you can see, this short was presented by Max Fleischer and directed by Dave Fleischer, owners of the famous Fleischer Bros Studios.


And it stars, of course, the adorable Betty Boop.


The short starts with Betty, for some reason, sleeping with the windows WIDE ASS OPEN in the middle of a blizzard.  At first, she just adjusts her blanket.  THEN she decides that maybe she should shut the windows.


Betty decides to throw a bunch of logs and coal into the fireplace and start a fire. She then moves to right in front of the fireplace.


Suddenly the room becomes blazing hot. You know it’s super hot because the thermostat rises all the way to the top and then explodes.


Betty has a picture of an Eskimo posing with a fish in front of an igloo. Not exactly sure why, but it’s there.  Well, the room is so hot that the Eskimo takes off his jacket and the igloo melts.


Suddenly the fireplace becomes overrun with flames and a PORTAL TO HELL opens up within.


Betty, seemingly not concerned about the open portal to Hell, just walks right in. We get a cheeky shot of her in a sheer nightgown walking in front of flames. She trips and falls and, like AC/DC, rings “Hell’s Bells”.


Betty sees new souls coming into Hell. They are called “Freshman”. They drop down the chute, land in a devil suit, then have their tail and horns attached.  Notice the new guys are white, while all the other devils are black.



The white Freshman are led into “Freshman Hall”, which looks like a giant Viking helmet.  A devil fire brigade shows up and, using a dragon hose, they set fire to Freshman Hall and turn all the white devils black.  Lots of imagery going on here.


Next, we finally get to meet the Devil himself, wearing a crown, surrounded by flames, and eating a flame cone.  Then he walks over to Hell’s Furnace and cranks up the heat from “warm”, to “hot”, and finally to “hotter”.


Once they spot her, all of the devils become fascinated by Betty. They surround her and it looks like their intentions aren’t good.


However, Betty’s been in this situation before. She turns and gives them a cold shoulder so ice cold it freezes all the devils solid.  You can see the block of ice on her shoulder in the picture.


Then the devil comes swaggering over like a big dog to take his turn, but Betty just gives him the cold stare and freezes him solid.


And then all of Hell freezes over from Betty Boop’s cold stare. *Mic drop*