Swimming in Oatmeal for Satan!

Though I can by no means afford ‘em all, I’ve been a long-time fan of Mike Vraney and his bountiful Something Weird Video output. Mike was inevitably my favorite table at the Chillercon of yore (I haven’t been for years), and most often reaped the bulk of my $$$ during those twice-a-year sojourns to the Meadowlands of New Jersey.

Since the arrival of DVD and Mike‘s innovative deal with Image to springboard Something Weird into the mass market, he’s detoured even more of my $$$ into the SW stable. It’s to the point where I’ll purchase a SW DVD out of idle curiosity, since even the “least” of the catalogue on DVD offers a bounty of extras I’ve never heard of — and believe you me, I’ve been scouring for these films since childhood, in whatever venue presented itself, from 8mm cutdowns from Castle and Ken Films to our contemporary DVD overload.

Among my recent SW late-night viewings was the Asylum of Satan package. This is one I picked up on impulse and a whim, having always been a fan of director William B. Girdler‘s films (e.g., Death Curse of Tartu, Sting of Death, Day of the Animals, Stanley, Grizzly, The Manitou, etc.) and curious about Asylum for its grotesque newspaper ads (featuring a Haxan-like demonic visage that seemed to be made of clay). The lead feature lived down to my utter lack of expectations — it’s among Girdler‘s least entertaining efforts, though still fun for a Girdlerphile like moi — but its surprise made-in-Florida co-feature Satan’s Children was the real delight. I was completely unprepared for the lunacy of this 1973 opus from “who’s this?” director Joe Wiezycki — this was apparenty his first and last film — helming a generation-gap psychodrama shot in and about Tampa Bay by a local TV station crew expanding their horizons.

It’s a genre mix of post-Manson JD/counterculture/biker/satanist fear-mongering, in which a callow teen youth who hates his spoiled older stepsister and his home life (they make him — gasp! — mow the lawn) bolts away to immediately fall into the clutches of a biker who offers him a place to crash. That night, said biker and his gang gang-sodomize the kid for laughs and dump him in a ditch. He’s found and “rescued” by a nomadic pack of flower-children who turn out to be (cue music) Satan’s Children! Typical of the post-Manson cinematic landscape, these hippie space-cadets are depicted as a free-wheeling, torture-lovin’ pack of misfits, only our rescued protagonist becomes the favorite squeeze of the coven matriarch while its patriarch is away. Of course, when head honcho warlock returns, things go south: the protective coven matriarch is buried in sand up to her neck and left for the ants (after her head is covered in syrup to allure the insects) and our young hero flees with the coven in pursuit. Some drown in an oatmeal-like pit of “quicksand,” others are fried on a fence, and junior jail-bait indeed makes his way back home — and then the film really slides off the deep end. The finale is a corker, even if its most transgressive act (incestuous rape) is kept off-screen.

For its era, the paths this low-budget youth-gone-astray flick pursues are pretty out-to-lunch, from the homosexual gangbang to the patricide-fueled excess (including the revenge-rape and crucifixion of sis) of the final act. Sodomy was a big-screen no-no in the 1970s, though I suppose Straw Dogs and Deliverance broke that cinematic ass-cherry. Still, among rural drive-ins, biker pederasts ass-reaming a long-haired teen boy would have driven most redneck yokels into a homophobic rage and out of the drive-ins all together. The climactic melee might have prompted salutary honking-of-horns from those who stayed the course (though our androgynous hero’s method of murder — smashing bottles over Dad’s head until he croaks — is hilarious, and as badly staged as the rest of the homicidal “action”), but those would have been either the heartiest souls, those who were distracted from the first act, or those incapable of driving themselves home earlier.

The story is told with that seamy, impoverished flat-footedness of similar first-time-out 1970s drive-in era fare, defined by its maladroit acting, clumsy staging of mayhem, and lack of any real energy. For me, though, the clash between Wiezycki‘s flaccid direction, the cast’s high-school-theater theatrics, and the lethal ire of the film’s narrative content proved strangely intoxicating. If you view it in the context of That ’70s Show, it’s even more disorienting: view it as “Eric’s Big Night Out,” ending with Eric‘s murder of Red and rape & crucifixion of Laurie (hey, is that Tommy Chong as the coven leader?), and you’ll see what I mean.

By any yardstick, this is a pretty weird flick, and it’s all the more delightful for having been essentially a lost film until SW rescued it from oblivion.

Coincidentally, my friend Steve Twiss (who had no idea I had this DVD, and likewise had never heard of the film) sent me the link to a website for

  • Big 13 WTVT Channel 13
  • of Tampa Bay, that area’s CBS affiliate from the year of my birth (1955) to 1994.

    There’s a multi-page overview of WTVT’s “Shock Theater” horror host,

  • ‘Shock Armstrong,’ The All-American Ghoul
  • Better yet, though — lo and behold! — the site also features a complete diary of the making of Satan’s Children by assistant cinematographer Marc Wielage, dishing the dirt amid the behind-the-scenes story of the film’s production! It’s all waiting for you at

  • Satan’s Children: The True Story!
  • There’s a fully-illustrated synopsis of the film, in case you feel the need to know more before tracking this DVD down for yourself, but best of all are the details behind the film’s inception and production. This gem was shot in part on short ends leftover from The Sting, which is as close as this curio ever got to an Academy Award.

    And to think it all happened in Gibsontown and Lutz, Florida. Someone should write the definitive tome on Florida filmmaking, as it’s peppered with masterpieces like this among the stratos-fear of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘s splatter classics, Girdler‘s pantheon, one-offs from The Mermaids of Tiburon to Zaat!… and countless others.

    My favorite revelation: according to Marc Wielage — who oughta know ‘cuz he was there — that was indeed oatmeal those satanist suckers are floundering in. “$178 worth of oatmeal,” to be exact, and that’s 1973 dollars-worth-of-Quaker-Oats.

    See, it pays to study special effects from a tender age — and eat Maypo.

    Anyhoot, Marj and I are off to see Harry Potter tonight — but I can’t see where it’ll hold a candle to Satan’s Children.

    Sometimes, less is more. Waaaaaaaaaaay more.


    Swimming in Oatmeal for Satan!

    Though I can by no means afford ‘em all, I’ve been a long-time fan of Mike Vraney and his bountiful Something Weird Video output. Mike was inevitably my favorite table at the Chillercon of yore (I haven’t been for years), and most often reaped the bulk of my $$$ during those twice-a-year sojourns to the Meadowlands of New Jersey.

    Since the arrival of DVD and Mike‘s innovative deal with Image to springboard Something Weird into the mass market, he’s detoured even more of my $$$ into the SW stable. It’s to the point where I’ll purchase a SW DVD out of idle curiosity, since even the “least” of the catalogue on DVD offers a bounty of extras I’ve never heard of — and believe you me, I’ve been scouring for these films since childhood, in whatever venue presented itself, from 8mm cutdowns from Castle and Ken Films to our contemporary DVD overload.

    Among my recent SW late-night viewings was the Asylum of Satan package. This is one I picked up on impulse and a whim, having always been a fan of director William B. Girdler‘s films (e.g., Death Curse of Tartu, Sting of Death, Day of the Animals, Stanley, Grizzly, The Manitou, etc.) and curious about Asylum for its grotesque newspaper ads (featuring a Haxan-like demonic visage that seemed to be made of clay). The lead feature lived down to my utter lack of expectations — it’s among Girdler‘s least entertaining efforts, though still fun for a Girdlerphile like moi — but its surprise made-in-Florida co-feature Satan’s Children was the real delight. I was completely unprepared for the lunacy of this 1973 opus from “who’s this?” director Joe Wiezycki — this was apparenty his first and last film — helming a generation-gap psychodrama shot in and about Tampa Bay by a local TV station crew expanding their horizons.

    It’s a genre mix of post-Manson JD/counterculture/biker/satanist fear-mongering, in which a callow teen youth who hates his spoiled older stepsister and his home life (they make him — gasp! — mow the lawn) bolts away to immediately fall into the clutches of a biker who offers him a place to crash. That night, said biker and his gang gang-sodomize the kid for laughs and dump him in a ditch. He’s found and “rescued” by a nomadic pack of flower-children who turn out to be (cue music) Satan’s Children! Typical of the post-Manson cinematic landscape, these hippie space-cadets are depicted as a free-wheeling, torture-lovin’ pack of misfits, only our rescued protagonist becomes the favorite squeeze of the coven matriarch while its patriarch is away. Of course, when head honcho warlock returns, things go south: the protective coven matriarch is buried in sand up to her neck and left for the ants (after her head is covered in syrup to allure the insects) and our young hero flees with the coven in pursuit. Some drown in an oatmeal-like pit of “quicksand,” others are fried on a fence, and junior jail-bait indeed makes his way back home — and then the film really slides off the deep end. The finale is a corker, even if its most transgressive act (incestuous rape) is kept off-screen.

    For its era, the paths this low-budget youth-gone-astray flick pursues are pretty out-to-lunch, from the homosexual gangbang to the patricide-fueled excess (including the revenge-rape and crucifixion of sis) of the final act. Sodomy was a big-screen no-no in the 1970s, though I suppose Straw Dogs and Deliverance broke that cinematic ass-cherry. Still, among rural drive-ins, biker pederasts ass-reaming a long-haired teen boy would have driven most redneck yokels into a homophobic rage and out of the drive-ins all together. The climactic melee might have prompted salutary honking-of-horns from those who stayed the course (though our androgynous hero’s method of murder — smashing bottles over Dad’s head until he croaks — is hilarious, and as badly staged as the rest of the homicidal “action”), but those would have been either the heartiest souls, those who were distracted from the first act, or those incapable of driving themselves home earlier.

    The story is told with that seamy, impoverished flat-footedness of similar first-time-out 1970s drive-in era fare, defined by its maladroit acting, clumsy staging of mayhem, and lack of any real energy. For me, though, the clash between Wiezycki‘s flaccid direction, the cast’s high-school-theater theatrics, and the lethal ire of the film’s narrative content proved strangely intoxicating. If you view it in the context of That ’70s Show, it’s even more disorienting: view it as “Eric’s Big Night Out,” ending with Eric‘s murder of Red and rape & crucifixion of Laurie (hey, is that Tommy Chong as the coven leader?), and you’ll see what I mean.

    By any yardstick, this is a pretty weird flick, and it’s all the more delightful for having been essentially a lost film until SW rescued it from oblivion.

    Coincidentally, my friend Steve Twiss (who had no idea I had this DVD, and likewise had never heard of the film) sent me the link to a website for

  • Big 13 WTVT Channel 13
  • of Tampa Bay, that area’s CBS affiliate from the year of my birth (1955) to 1994.

    There’s a multi-page overview of WTVT’s “Shock Theater” horror host,

  • ‘Shock Armstrong,’ The All-American Ghoul
  • Better yet, though — lo and behold! — the site also features a complete diary of the making of Satan’s Children by assistant cinematographer Marc Wielage, dishing the dirt amid the behind-the-scenes story of the film’s production! It’s all waiting for you at

  • Satan’s Children: The True Story!
  • There’s a fully-illustrated synopsis of the film, in case you feel the need to know more before tracking this DVD down for yourself, but best of all are the details behind the film’s inception and production. This gem was shot in part on short ends leftover from The Sting, which is as close as this curio ever got to an Academy Award.

    And to think it all happened in Gibsontown and Lutz, Florida. Someone should write the definitive tome on Florida filmmaking, as it’s peppered with masterpieces like this among the stratos-fear of Herschell Gordon Lewis‘s splatter classics, Girdler‘s pantheon, one-offs from The Mermaids of Tiburon to Zaat!… and countless others.

    My favorite revelation: according to Marc Wielage — who oughta know ‘cuz he was there — that was indeed oatmeal those satanist suckers are floundering in. “$178 worth of oatmeal,” to be exact, and that’s 1973 dollars-worth-of-Quaker-Oats.

    See, it pays to study special effects from a tender age — and eat Maypo.

    Anyhoot, Marj and I are off to see Harry Potter tonight — but I can’t see where it’ll hold a candle to Satan’s Children.

    Sometimes, less is more. Waaaaaaaaaaay more.


    Ah, at last –

    At about 4 PM, our favorite carpenter/contractor Olivier Flagollet of Rise Up Builders wrapped up work on the office/studio/library.

    The shelves are all in, and they are mighty and plentiful; the new wall-mounted computer work station/desk is in, and it’s a beaut and large enough for my needs; the drawing table will tuck neatly by the doorway, with room for a pegboard above (and a two-shelf unit just above that is already in place).

    I’ll be preoccupied for the next couple of days — I have wall touch up and painting to do, and some other odds and ends. The carpet measurements are being taken tomorrow, and Sunday my stepson Mike Bleier (without whom this project would never have approached completion as yet) will be in to install the lights and electrical fixtures.

    The space is about the size of my old 1940s trailor studio, wherein I worked in the late ’80s to 1993. That’s where Taboo, Aliens: Tribes, We Are Going to Eat You, the 24 Hour Comic, and portions of 1963 (primarily the Hypernaut) and the initial pages of Tyrant (some of which saw print in Tyrant #3) were created.

    This new space feels marvelous: it smells of wood, which I love.

    The sole window in the room faces out onto our side lawn, right where a black bear occasionally passes. I’ve found deer tracks out there, too, though I’ve never seen the deer themselves; they no doubt pass in the night.

    Here, much new work will take shape.

    Here, many long-in-the-works projects will be completed.

    Here, things I can’t as yet imagine will emerge.

    Wish me luck!


    Ah, at last –

    At about 4 PM, our favorite carpenter/contractor Olivier Flagollet of Rise Up Builders wrapped up work on the office/studio/library.

    The shelves are all in, and they are mighty and plentiful; the new wall-mounted computer work station/desk is in, and it’s a beaut and large enough for my needs; the drawing table will tuck neatly by the doorway, with room for a pegboard above (and a two-shelf unit just above that is already in place).

    I’ll be preoccupied for the next couple of days — I have wall touch up and painting to do, and some other odds and ends. The carpet measurements are being taken tomorrow, and Sunday my stepson Mike Bleier (without whom this project would never have approached completion as yet) will be in to install the lights and electrical fixtures.

    The space is about the size of my old 1940s trailor studio, wherein I worked in the late ’80s to 1993. That’s where Taboo, Aliens: Tribes, We Are Going to Eat You, the 24 Hour Comic, and portions of 1963 (primarily the Hypernaut) and the initial pages of Tyrant (some of which saw print in Tyrant #3) were created.

    This new space feels marvelous: it smells of wood, which I love.

    The sole window in the room faces out onto our side lawn, right where a black bear occasionally passes. I’ve found deer tracks out there, too, though I’ve never seen the deer themselves; they no doubt pass in the night.

    Here, much new work will take shape.

    Here, many long-in-the-works projects will be completed.

    Here, things I can’t as yet imagine will emerge.

    Wish me luck!


    “Because It’s Moooooooooving Day, Mooooooooving Day –”

    “– rip up the carpets off the floor/get on your overcoat/you’re out the door/because it’s mooooooooving day–”

    The process that began in March 2004 and should have been done November of 2004 is finally wrapping up this weekend, with crucial but relatively quick labor (final installation of carpet, heating baseboard, electric and lighting fixtures) to soon follow. The completion of the studio/office/library is in reach at last, and I couldn’t be readier for the move. Despite the work left to be done, once the shelving is in place and my cleanup/touchup/painting touchup chores are done before I fall down this evening, I’m beginning the momentous task of organizing and moving a vast portion of my library and collection into place, while setting up the computer and writing work area and a long-needed corner for drawing and art production.

    Shambling about through 30 years of accumulated material — art, books, files, papers, etc. — has been one of the great obstacles week-to-week, though I’ve managed to do so with enough effectiveness to complete a multitude of projects. Pitiful attempts to lend some order to all this since Marj and I moved into our present abode (the first I’ve owned rather than rented) in March of 2002 have been sporadic at best: whenever the next feat of construction or renovation was necessary, I’d have to shuffle it all about anew, and it’s pretty hopeless at this point. Some of these projects have been research-intensive, leaving heaps of discards and relevent materials in various corners once a given project is done and on its way. It’s a process any writer or artist dependent on access to research fully understands, and laypersons can only shake their heads at.

    I’ve managed to wade through some staggering tasks amid all this chaos, and have had pretty solid luck finding all I’ve needed when I’ve needed it. Still, much of what I sometimes need is still boxed and sealed and stored in the second floor of our garage (like my entire paleontology book collection), and I’ve turned down some attractive work offers for lack of anywhere to execute such gigs. For those I have taken on and completed, the void of a dedicated organized workspace has been crippling at times, and the chore of shifting and sifting through the increasingly discumbobulated collection to complete research has become since September a weekly ordeal as I prep my CCS sessions (the average lecture incorporates over 200 images, scanned from various comics, books, and documents scattered — and I do mean scattered — over three floors of our home).

    Soon, that will all be behind me, and I’m eager to claim the new space and use its abundance of storage, shelving, and work space to reorient literally two floors of my debris and spread-like-a-madwoman’s-shit chaos.

    That all this is coming together in our little corner of Vermont within a week or two of displaced Hurricane Katrina receiving their December 1st eviction notices from various FEMA-financed shelters (hotel rooms, etc.) leaves me mortified at how much fucking space I fill with my accumulated career/collection shit. I’m feeling criminal, claiming all this turf — but still, Marj and I worked hard for it, we’ve ended up paying through the nose for it (no thanks to the original contractor who effectively stiffed us when he abandoned the job), and I’ll nevertheless savor the process of moving at last.