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Updated: 2017-11-14T20:13:42.927-08:00

 



Do What You Enjoy: Sell Video Games

2017-11-14T20:13:42.937-08:00

Hi, all. I'm not ashamed to say that I love video games. I've been playing them since I was a kid, which covers a lot of ground. It's not just that video games are fun and challenging, but they allow you to have fun within the comfort of home. And the video game companies make a killing, to the tune of $68 billion a year.

So why not do like I do and make money with them. I don't mean some nonsense about buying a whole mess of games you'll never play and trying to sell them at a profit. Who has time for that? And who wants the aggravation? 

That's where the concept of dropshipping comes into play. So as not to give anybody any wrong ideas, I'll give you a quick rundown of what it means:

As a dropshipper, you take customer orders, then pass them along to an outlet. They handle all the real work from there.

--You don't keep any stock yourself, so there's no mess or clutter. You only sell what is asked of you.

--You get paid immediately.

--You set the time and amount of work to devote to it.

And this is how you do it:

Click Here!





JonBenet Books and Information

2017-10-04T18:46:55.988-07:00

This coming December marks 21 years since Colorado child beauty pageant princess JonBenet Ramsey was found dead in her home. Last year, there was a great renewing of interest in the case. It looks as though that interest has petered out and everyone's back to business-as-usual. That's sad, because most people don't understand just how messed up our legal system has become and how it affects all of us, even if we are not currently "before the judge."

There have been a lot of books written on this case, and I do mean a lot. And one of them was written by me, your humble author:

frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=arkraider-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=1618977083&asins=1618977083&linkId=5765db8bf11f1ba04e787eea20b30a90&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">

I wrote it to give an account of the case from a quarter no one has heard from before: the common man. And to that end, I wrote it so anyone could pick up and read it, no matter what they know about this case, novice or master.

I wrote it to make people angry, because when it comes to this case and our system of "just-us," I say that if you're not angry, you're not paying attention.

In that spirit, as I proceed to list my picks for best books and other resources on the subject, I'm inviting you, the readers, to contact and question me any time and on any point you wish.

Happy Trails to you until we meet again!



War Games Wrestle War 1992

2017-09-07T19:50:28.060-07:00

I'm going to take a different path for a while. More accurately, I'm going back to the beginning.

War Games was probably the greatest "gimmick" match in wrestling history. At least, it was the best one in WCW history. Hatched from the fertile imagination of the late "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes, two wrestling rings were set up side-by-side, then enclosed by a cage with a top on it. Two teams of four or five men (not including managers, valets, advocates, seconds, or what-have-you), one babyface and one heel, send a man into the cage, where they fight for five minutes. After that, a man from one team enters, making it two on one. Every two minutes there after, the teams alternate, sending a man in. This end up as 2-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-2, and so forth. When all members have entered, the match officially begins. The only way to win is to make a member of the opposing team give up. Submission or surrender!

The War Games match at Wrestle War 1992 is probably the all-time best, and maybe the best match WCW ever offered up. The babyfaces are Sting, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat and Nikita Koloff. The heels are the Dangerous Alliance: "Ravishing" Rick Rude, "Stunning" Steve Austin, "Beautiful" Bobby Eaton (I'm noticing a trend), "Enforcer" Arn Anderson and "Cruncher" Larry Zbyszko. Seconding the Dangerous Alliance is Happy Heyman himself, Paul E. Dangerously and Madusa Miceli.

Backstory was important back then, especially since there was a lot more time between big events to build it up. The Dangerous Alliance had made its purpose plain: put Sting down. For GOOD. And take any title they could get by any means available. They were a heel's heels. Guys that were so good at being bad you couldn't help but admire them even as you wanted to see them get their butts kicked. And that's exactly what you're gonna see!

These guys use all of the special circumstances available in creative but psychologically-sound ways. They use the care roof as a weapon. Guys get lost between the rings. And don't miss the finale when a ring hook comes into play. (I can't describe the context. It has to be seen to be believed."

And you can see it and all the other War Games Matches filmed, hosted by Dusty Rhodes himself, right here:

frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=arkraider-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B00BNAE1BA&asins=B00BNAE1BA&linkId=4401560c3294ce61f41efd3809d2fa30&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">



The Prince Rises to Rule Once More.

2017-08-21T21:14:13.695-07:00

By the mid-60s, there was no turning back for Hammer. In 1965, they talked Christopher Lee into reprising his role as Count Dracula and the result was Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

Trailer: http://adf.ly/1nvK1i

Picking up where Horror of Dracula left off, Dracula's mortal servant Klove keeps the castle open, hoping to snare an unsuspecting victim to revive his master. The ruse works, and the master vampire is resurrected. And the fun begins!

The Good: Lee is back! You don't really need more than that, but you get more. Andrew Keir plays the vampire hunter, a badass priest named Father Szandor who wields a rifle to feed his flock, literally. Keir plays the holy man as a much different kind of man than Van Helsing, in that his knowledge of vampires and their weaknesses is based on experience. He's not a Victorian superman like Van Helsing. He just has his brains and his guts. Also, Barbara Shelley plays a victim-turned-vamp who takes to undeath with aplomb. Her destruction is quite graphic for the time, as she's held down and staked.

Moreover, this film established an important part of modern vampire mythology. Up to this, it had been established that withdrawing the stake from a vampire's pierced heart would revive them, but burning to ashes in the sun was pretty much it. In Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Klove pours the blood from a victim onto the gathered ashes and quite literally reconstitutes Dracula from his base elements. Hammer would use this several times, and ever since it's become standard to regard vampires as not truly mortal and unable to be permanently destroyed.

The Bad: Lee speaks no words in the film. He growls, roars and screams, but no discernable dialogue is to be had from him. This has been the subject of much debate. Lee always claimed that he took one look at the lines written for him and said, "If you think I'm going to say this, you're very much mistaken." But the screenwriter always said he never wrote any lines for Lee, which is believable, since Hammer was trying to keep Lee's cost down.

The Ugly: This film gives us a character in Father Szandor's care who is Renfield in everything but name. But he has no real screen time and seems to exist only to let Dracula into the hostel where Dracula's next would-be victims are. Still, you have to start some place. Plus, they already have a servant who lives at the castle.

The only way to watch this is on special Blu-ray. I say that because it's the only one with all the features, including a cast commentary with Lee himself.

frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=arkraider-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B00D80GMP6&asins=B00D80GMP6&linkId=e5ecc17a06738cfb1e1dff0b6b92f673&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">



The Kiss...of Death

2017-08-19T20:42:56.901-07:00

In 1962, Hammer decided to step out of continuity with the Dracula series and do a stand-alone film that allowed them to broaden the vampire mythos of the modern era. It was called, Kiss of the Vampire.

Trailer: http://adf.ly/1ntb20


The basic plot is old hat by now, but it still serves: a young couple on their honeymoon in Bavaria fall afoul of a vampire cult, led by Dr. Ravna and his two children. Their family dynamic reminds me of the Borgias in Renaissance Italy. Enter Professor Zimmer, who knows about the cult and is determined to stop them, even if it costs his own soul.

The Good: Aside from the actors clearly enjoying themselves, especially Noel Willman as Dr. Ravna, this film is among the first to show just how close to the dark side the vampire hunter can get, a theme that Hammer would revisit in Twins of Evil and has taken on a life of its own. Professor Zimmer is not the heroic Van Helsing; he's a depressed, vengeful drinker who, as I mentioned previously, is willing to take a step Van Helsing would never consider: communing with the forces of evil to summon a larger predator than the vampires. It also expands on an idea introduced in Brides: that vampirism is not only cult-like, but a form of unholy STD afflicting those who live decadent, corrupt lives. Truly a curse that the recipients have embraced. We see this in a lot of vampire films, including the Yorga movies.

The Bad: Not so much "bad" as what could have been. Hammer planned this as a follow-up to Brides of Dracula, but neither Christopher Lee nor Peter Cushing were available (for whatever reasons), so they went with what they had.

The Ugly: This film was so heavily censored for TV broadcasts they had to shoot new scenes, which don't relate to the picture in any way. To put it bluntly, the new prologue for Fistful of Dollars was high art compared to this.

Surprisingly, it's a better deal to get Kiss of the Vampire as part of the Hammer Horror set, which also includes Curse of the Werewolf, Phantom of the Opera, and Brides of Dracula.

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These Brides Are A Pain in the Neck

2017-08-18T09:14:08.507-07:00

It an oddity that the second vampire film released by Hammer Studios mentioned Dracula's name, but does not have him in it. Leaving that aside, it's a very good picture in its own right.

Trailer:  http://adf.ly/1nsKNh

The opening establishes continuity with Horror of Dracula, making it clear that while the master vampire is dead, those he turned during his reign of terror are still at large. And Professor Van Helsing is still hunting them.

Into this environment comes a beautiful French girl, Marianne, played by Yvonne Monlaur. When her carriage wheel breaks, she takes an invitation from Baroness Meinster (Martita Hunt) to stay the night at her castle. While there, Marianne discovers that the Baroness has a son who she keeps chained in his room. Marianne releases the Baron, who is a vampire, and he begins a reign of terror, transforming Marianne's girlfriends into monsters like him.

An interesting point: ever since Bram Stoker's Dracula was released, the term "vampire brides" has been used to refer to female vampires in the power of the master vampire. But the implication--and sometimes it's made explicit--is that the vampire has no love for his "brides" and is only interested in sexual domination. And that seems to be the case here. The producers did their homework in that regard.

Also, this film is among the first (if not the first) to show a method of curing someone of vampirism before it can take hold.

The Good: Peter Cushing returns as Van Helsing, and his role is much more dynamic here. Van Helsing is a man who can think on his feet. Martita Hunt plays the Baroness as equally villainous and sympathetic. Even though she does some awful things (off-screen), what happens to her is truly horrific. And Freda Jackson as the insane human servant is a hammy delight.

The Bad: Christopher Lee refused to participate in this film, fearing he would be typecast. (I guess he changed his mind later.) Also, a lot of material was cut from the film, which would have revealed that Dracula himself made the Baron what he is. (Freda Jackson hints at it in the finished film.) Plus, Peter Cushing himself had to step in vis-a-vis his character. The original script had Van Helsing using black magic to summon demon bats from hell to destroy the vampires. Cushing said that Van Helsing would not commune with the forces of evil. But Hammer used the same concept in Kiss of the Vampire.

The Ugly: What happens to the girls Baron Meinster victimizes. And, it might be noted, some of the film's subtext that vampirism is a curse brought on by indulging in pseudo-homosexual relations can be rather off-putting today.

Even so, it can be counted as one of Hammer's finest. Have a look:

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Death on a Hacienda

2017-08-17T17:23:55.011-07:00

Mexico is no stranger to vampire myths. The Aztecs and Mayans believed in vampiric spirits and gods. So it should come as no surprise that Mexico has produced its share of horror films. Among the best and best known, is El Vampiro Translation: The Vampire

Abel Salazar produced this 1957 film and stars as the hero, a Van Helsing-type. Ariadna Welter is the heroine, and German Robles is Count Laszlo Lavud, a Hungarian nobleman who lives in Mexico on a large estate. The film takes many cues from 1943's Son of Dracula, including a name switch early on.

View the trailer:

http://adf.ly/1nrkzT

The Good: Given Robles' appearance, it may be tempting to say that this film was a rip-off of Horror of Dracula, but it was actually released a year before Lee donned the famous cape. Which makes El Vampiro notable in that the vampire has fangs before Lee did. And what fangs they are. The film is not a "cheapie" by any means. It was made with sincere effort, and the overall effect is like being inside a haunted house. And there are compelling twists to the story.

The Bad: Ariadna Welter's screams are obviously dubbed. It was typical in the mid-Fifties to dub Fay Wray's screams in horror movies, so maybe this can be forgiven.

The Ugly: Don't bother with the English dub. It's pretty hard on the ears.

Don't bother with other versions. Casa Negra has the only one worth having. Their release includes both El Vampiro and El Ataud del Vampiro (The Vampire's Coffin), in which Robles is revived to pursue his enemies once more.

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Bela Returns

2017-08-16T13:30:06.191-07:00

In 1943, Columbia Pictures figured "maybe we can make some money on a vampire film." So, they did the obvious thing: they hired Bela Lugosi and made The Return of the Vampire.

Bela is Armand Tesla, a vampire who preys on England during the First World War, with the help of his werewolf slave. Two intrepid humans stake Tesla, freeing the werewolf in the process. But when the Germans blitz London, Tesla is revived. He re-enslaves his werewolf, and seeks not only blood but revenge.

Here's the trailer:

http://adf.ly/1nqmCc

The Good: Bela was a great actor, and he loved doing it. He WAS the idea of a vampire that most people had, even now to an extent. Also, Columbia hired some great supporting players.

The Bad: This would have been pretty familiar territory for Lugosi. He only officially played Dracula twice: once in 1931 and again in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. But as Hollywood historian David Skal has pointed out, Armand Tesla is basically Dracula in everything but name. You could look at Return of the Vampire as an unofficial sequel to Dracula. Columbia also took a cue from Universal with the werewolf character, who is clearly modeled on Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolf Man. The actor even looks like Chaney.

The Ugly: The ending. Not because it's badly filmed, it's just never pretty when sunlight and vampires meet.

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Welcome to the Circus...of Death!

2017-08-15T09:13:11.710-07:00

As I've mentioned, by the 1970s, Hammer Studios in Britain was going great guns with its horror movies. But they were branching out from the Christopher Lee films. And one of their truly weird pieces was the 1971 release of Vampire Circus.

In the beginning, the townspeople of a Serbian village gather to rid themselves of Count Mitterhaus, a truly vile vampire. Having seduced the wife of a respectable citizen, he has her bring him village children to prey upon (the implications are truly horrible). As he is staked, he curses the town. His concubine is banished, running the gauntlet on her way out.

Ten years later, the village is suffering an outbreak of plague, and the government has the town ringed with troops to make sure no one gets in or out, so the disease won't spread. The town doctor makes it out to gather medicine, while at the same time, a traveling circus arrives in town. Glad to have something to take their minds off their problems, the villagers don't realize that the head of the circus is the cousin of Count Mitterhaus.

The Good: Typical stalwart British performers (none very well-known, I'm sorry to say) give their best to bring this slightly koo-koo production to life. And honestly, the SFX guys went all out with what they had. Once the climax gets going, it does not slow down.

The Bad: Probably more as a result of the time when it was made than anything else, this film may give wise-ass viewers the impression that it was made on psychedelic drugs. It's a truly weird film.

The Ugly: The Tiger Woman dance probably doesn't come off as erotic as was intended, but Your Mileage May Vary. Also, this is one of the most violent Hammer Films, the opening and the climax being standouts.

Oh, I almost forgot. David Prowse, the man in the Darth Vader suit himself, plays the circus strongman.

For a long time, Vampire Circus was hard to come by outside of the UK. Now it's available to all:

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Lee Dons the Cape

2017-08-14T09:21:00.082-07:00

It's no secret that I have boundless respect for the late Sir Christopher Lee. World War 2 hero, legitimate descendant of Charlemagne, fluent in numerous languages, and actor non-pareil.

And it was as Count Dracula that I first heard of him. Lee took what Bela Lugosi and John Carradine before him had done and made the role his own, adding a layer of animalistic sexuality that loosened censorship would allow. He also made fangs a necessary part of any vampire's repetoire.

In Horror of Dracula, released in 1958, immediately on the heels of Curse of Frankenstein, Lee set a new standard of vampire movies, and began a spate of them for Hammer Studios over the next fifteen years. And his good friend Peter Cushing

The Good: Lee's performance, for one. He never spoke much in the entire run of Hammer Films (because Hammer was cheap), but his presence and knowing what to do at the right moments was all that was needed. Also, Peter Cushing brings great conviction to his role as Van Helsing. The supporting players give their all as well. The sets look like a fairy tale land as well.

The Bad: As I said, Hammer was cheap. So Lee isn't seen much in the film. (What he does do will stick with you, though.)

The Ugly: Have I mentioned that Hammer was cheap? None of the special effects associated with vampire films will be seen here. The characters explain this in-story to get around it. Which makes their use of such things later on a bit jarring.

Final Thoughts: To call Horror of Dracula a landmark vampire movie would not do it justice.

Now you can have Four Hammers at once:

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Fear Those Who Are Marked

2017-08-13T09:23:26.128-07:00

I mentioned earlier that the "Hollywood Legends of Horror" set contained a second vampire film, Mark of the Vampire.MGM cranked out this chiller in 1935. It was directed by Dracula's own Tod Browning, essentially as a re-imagining of his lost silent mystery film, London After Midnight. Bela Lugosi plays the lead vampire, with Carole Borland as his vampire daughter. They terrorize the area around Prague, so police inspector Lionel Atwill calls in a Van Helsing-like specialist, played by Lionel Barrymore. The Good: Browning, with access to a larger budget than Universal had in 1931, creates a very opulent universe in this film, especially the manor that the vampires occupy. He even recreates the "walk-through-the-web" moment from Dracula, this time from the vampire's POV. Also, Barrymore, Atwill and Elizabeth Allen give great performances, with able support from Jean Hersholt. Lugosi, as ever, radiates power and provides a laugh at the end.The Bad: Whether due to executive meddling or feeling an overwhelming need to stick to the source material, this film is almost incomprehensible, plot-wise. The final reveal that the vampires are actors hired by the police to flush out a murderer leaves the viewer with far more questions than answers. Alfred Hitchcock once said that if the audience doesn't notice the switch until hours after they viewed the film, it's okay, but here, the makers really wanted the twist ending that ends up being a swerve that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud of. That is NOT okay. Also, the film is only an hour long, even though it was previewed at eighty minutes, which gives the idea that MGM did not really have their heart in this one. Plus, the cut material would have explained why Lugosi has a bullet hole in his temple. (He shot himself and was condemned to become a vampire.)The Ugly: Lugosi doesn't even have any lines until the end! I don't know if MGM can be blamed solely for this. By 1935, Lugosi was already considered to be on his way out. In fact, the trailer for the film, which is available on the DVD, is Bela commanding the audience to attend, and shows the magnetism he had.Final Thoughts: In some ways, this film is a throwback to silent-era horror (not surprising, since it's a remake of a silent film) when movies like this had what I call "Scooby-Doo" endings, where all of the supernatural trappings are scientifically explained and the "monster" is revealed as Cousin Louie, or whatever. Since Dracula established that audiences would accept the supernatural, this film seemed, then and now, to be a step backwards. It doesn't help that London After Midnight had a much better take on the idea: the detective knows who the murderer is, but can't prove it, so he fakes being a vampire to haunt the killer into confessing. Here, the role Lon Chaney Sr. played is split between Barrymore, Atwill and Lugosi. Too many cooks and all that.Knowing all this, it's possible to view Mark of the Vampire as a satire of vampire film conventions. Judge for yourself:[...]



Fear Bogie's Bite!

2017-08-12T09:10:28.325-07:00

If you want truly weird vampire flicks, this one comes straight from 1939, Hollywood's Golden Year. It's called The Return of Doctor X. 

The title refers to the death and resurrection of the character, and is not a true sequel to the 1932 Doctor X. Though both films involve a scientist seeking to replicate human body parts, in this case, blood.

This was the directorial debut for Vincent Sherman, who went on to have a great career at Warner Brothers, the studio that produced this curio. Humphrey Bogart, one of the most legendary actors in Hollywood today, was given the title role, supposedly as punishment for asking Jack Warner for more money.

I'm getting ahead of myself. When Dracula and Frankenstein proved big hits, all the major studios dabbled in horror films, of varying quality. MGM, Fox, Warner Brothers and Paramount all had releases from 1931 to 1936. But, when Great Britain banned horror films, thus cutting off the whole British Empire, Hollywood sent the ghouls back to their graveyards.

Flash forward to 1938, when a flea-pit movie house in Los Angeles began running nightly showings of Dracula and Frankenstein on a double bill. The large crowds that came to watch convinced Hollywood to try again, and a new horror cycle began, kicked off with Son of Frankenstein in 1939, the same year as Return of Doctor X.

Bogart plays the revived mad doctor with a pale complexion and a streak of white in his hair, a la Bride of Frankenstein. He was originally executed for murder, but revived by scientific means. Now, like a vampire, he needs blood to stay alive. That's where the similarity ends. He is not immortal, doesn't sleep in a coffin, doesn't turn into a bat, and does not fear the daylight. He is opposed by a dogged reporter (a staple in Warners' movies from this era) and a doctor who fears one of his colleagues knows more than he's saying.

It's amusing to note that Bogart was not the mega-star he would become as World War 2 was raging. At this point, he was a contract player, taking the roles that were given him, whether he liked them or not. And he hated this one, notably because Warners had gotten cheap and decided not to cast Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi as originally planned. "You can't believe what this one was like," Bogart said. "I was this doctor brought back to life, and the only thing that would nourish this poor bastard was blood. If it had been Jack Warner's blood, I might not have minded as much."

From the time home video came on the market, The Return of Doctor X was not available, though Turner Classic Movies would air it on occasion. But in 2006, it was released as part of a boxed set with other non-Universal horrors including Doctor X, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Mark of the Vampire, The Devil Doll and Mad Love.

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Shadow of the Vampire

2017-08-11T09:12:46.400-07:00

I guess we're getting pretty post-modern here. Now, not only are we talking about the greatest vampire movies, we're going to look at a movie about one of the greatest vampire movies.

In 1922, German director F. W. Murnau created perhaps the first film to feature a supernatural vampire, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror.
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I could expound at length on Nosferatu alone--and I will in the future--but not today.

Shadow of the Vampire, released in 2000, takes as its plot the making of Nosferatu, which would be interesting enough, but then it throws us a curveball as it asks the question: what if Max Schreck, the actor who played Nosferatu himself, was a real vampire?

John Malkovich plays Murnau as a man obsessed with realism. He hires an actor who he knows is a real vampire and tries to pass him off as a method actor who lives his role. Willem Dafoe portrays Schreck so well that he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Nearly unrecognizable under the makeup, Dafoe plays Schreck as a vampire who, as we would put it, is suffering from dementia brought on by extreme age. It really has to be seen to be believed.

Our old friend Udo Kier plays the film's producer, Albin Grau. While I certainly wouldn't call him the "only sane man" of the production, he does his best to keep things running smoothly, despite Murnau's eccentricity and his own suspicions that Murnau is not telling the whole story.

As for the rest, Cary Elwes (Saw, Princess Bride) is the gung-ho camera operator Fritz Arno Wagner, Catherine McCormack (Braveheart) is Greta Schroeder, the leading lady, and comedian Eddie Izzard is Gustav von Wagenheim, the romantic lead.

Make no mistake: Shadow of the Vampire is one of those really weird "art" films. But we praise it for that.

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Greatest Vampire Movies

2017-08-10T09:24:15.908-07:00

Hey, crypt keepers!I debated whether or not to mention this one, given the current social climate, but it deserves mention, so here we go. Today's title is Blacula.Produced in 1972 at the mid-point of the so-called "blaxploitation" fad, Blacula breaks from the pack to achieve success as a horror film in its own right. And most of that is due to the power, passion and pathos that William Marshall brings to the title role. Marshall was a Shakespearean actor by trade, and here he becomes, for lack of a better term, the black Christopher Lee. Like Lee's Dracula, Marshall's Prince Mamuwalde is extremely charming one moment, violent and predatory the next.The basic set-up is this: in 1780, African prince Mamuwalde and his wife Luva travel to Transylvania to seek Count Dracula's help in ending the slave trade that terrorized West Africa. Not only does Dracula refuse, he inflicts the sadistic punishment of turning Mamuwalde into a vampire, sealing him in a coffin and leaving Luva to starve to death. Blacula (as Dracula names him) is set loose in 1970s Los Angeles and the fun begins.Aside from Marshall's magnetic performance, there are several touches that make this one a historical curiosity if nothing else. Number one, the people at AIP realized they had something when Count Yorga, Vampire proved a success, and they wanted to keep going. They gave us this one and the Dr. Phibes movies with Vincent Price. It's like they were trying to establish their own horror studio. But, then the Exorcist was released, and old-fashioned monsters seemed to be done with until they were revived in the 1980s.Secondly, this film does what Hammer's Dracula AD 1972 chickened out on: it actually shows the vampire interacting with the modern world. In this case, he's in the city of Los Angeles as seen by blaxploitation directors.Which brings me to point three, which will probably get me in some trouble. Blaxploitation movies are one of those sub-genres which is looked at today as camp fun or offensive insult, depending on who you ask. For the most part, they featured hammy actors playing aggressive (physically and sexually) characters speaking a new kind of street slang, known today--often derisively--as "jive turkey." That was a common insult in these films--"you jive turkey!" "Sucka," "honky," and other such epithets were common as well. (Airplane parodied this brilliantly.) And for some reason, this was seen--by the film makers, if no one else--as empowering to black Americans. One of the traits that sets Blacula apart from the blaxploitation pack is that Blacula himself does not indulge in that. William Marshall had considerable input as to his character, and he insisted that Blacula not do that. Thus, the film presents the revived Mamuwalde as a cultured, educated, traveled man (probably how he heard of Dracula in the first place) who is confronted by modern black Americans who do speak that way, and is saddened and disgusted by it. He--and by extension, the film--seem to be suggesting that this "jive turkey" speech and attitude is not empowering to black Americans at all, but rather a symptom of what a terrible disservice has been done to them by centuries of slavery and second-class citizenship. I've always found that interesting.Oh, and just so we don't stray too far from the main point, this film takes a cue from Return of Count Yorga in that Blacula finds a modern woman who is the reincarnation of his lost love and seeks to possess her. That's a common cliche in vampire films now, but back then it was still innovative. (God knows where that idea originally came from. The Mummy from 1932 uses it, but it's likely to be much older than that.)All of this leads to a climactic showdown with the poli[...]



JonBenet Ramsey Book

2017-08-09T09:33:31.710-07:00

Just to take a quick break from the action, I'd like to bring to everyone's attention a book that I myself wrote. It's title is An Angel Betrayed, and it's about the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.

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This is a case I've followed since it first happened, and it seems like every day it makes me angrier at just how easily the justice system can be manipulated and how messed up the legal system has become. And I make no bones about my feelings, and I call out everyone who fucked up this case exactly as they deserve.

I never worked on this case. I'm not a cop, reporter, lawyer or forensic analyst. I'm a common, working man, and I wrote this because I thought that's who needed to be heard from the most, because the decisions made by police, lawyers and the courts affect the regular people the most.

I make it clear who I think did it and why, and how they got away with it. Along the way, I try to expose some of the dirty little secrets of American justice, not least of which is the sad, disturbing fact that in America, no matter how obviously guilty you are, someone out there will believe and support you. And these people have a tendency to end up on juries lately.

If you're interested in this case and want a no-bullshit, straightforward account, consider this one.

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Jeepers! The Creepers Are After Bud and Lou!

2017-08-09T09:23:16.277-07:00

That's the tagline for one of the all-time greatest vampire movies, and perhaps the best horror-comedy ever made, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.I mentioned it earlier, but this one deserves a closer look. It's probably Bud and Lou's most popular film, combining scares and laughter.Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were two vaudeville comedians who teamed up and found great success in Hollywood around the time of World War II. Their "in-the-Army-now" Buck Privates was a smash hit, and they became one of the top comedy teams in Hollywood. Bud was the tall, thin, serious man, perfect for the short, rotund, manic, child-like Lou to bounce off of. But, by 1948, they weren't doing so well. Universal's new management wanted them gone, except that the studio was broke. So, the green light was given to this film. And it turned out to be a great idea. A small investment brought a huge return and made Bud and Lou successful again.The two play baggage handlers who run afoul of three Universal Classic monster: Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, and Count Dracula, with Dracula wanting to put Lou's brain into the Monster's head. That's really all you need to know.Lon Chaney Jr. is the Wolfman, for the fifth and last time. Lon played a lot of the monsters, but he was the only actor to play the Wolfman consistently. "He was my baby," Chaney said proudly. "The Wolfman was mine all alone." He still complained about the hours-long makeup sessions, though.Glenn Strange, all 6'7" of him, plays the Frankenstein monster for the third time. He has very little of the sympathy that Boris Karloff brought to the role, and that's what Universal wanted: a big, lumbering brute. And Glenn, who was a heck of a nice guy in real life, gave it his all.Our vampire is, of course, Dracula. For only the second and last time in his career, Bela Lugosi plays the immortal count. It's a fitting book-end to the Universal Horror Canon: Bela began Dracula, he'll finish with him. There's a story that Lugosi's agent shamed the producers into giving Bela the role at the eleventh hour, but who knows how true it is? Also, Bela--consummate professional that he was--didn't think much of Bud and Lou's on-set pranks and goofing off, but got along with them just the same. According to Glenn, Bela once blew up, "Ve shouldn't be keeding vhen ve are vorking!"Rounding out our cast, lovely Lenore Aubert plays the mad scientist Dracula has coerced into performing the operation, playing up to Lou for all she can.Much of the film's humor comes from the snappy dialogue given to Bud and Lou, especially Lou, and from the energetic set pieces, such as the moving candle or Lou beating up the Wolfman thinking it's Bud in a mask. It should be noted that the monsters play it straight, but that makes the laughs stand out even more.Oh, and see if you can guess whose voice you hear at the end! No hints![...]



More Great Vampire Movies

2017-08-07T21:19:07.262-07:00

I'm back.I don't know if this one can be considered "great," but it's certainly one of the weirdest vampire films you'll find. It's called Blood for Dracula.Where do you start with this one? In 1973, the director, Paul Morrissey, had just completed Flesh for Frankenstein, a truly bizarre piece of cinema, and began shooting on this film immediately afterwards, with many of the same lead actors. Udo Kier and Arno Juerging from Germany play Dracula and his manservant Anton, respectively. Brooklyn's own Joe Dallesandro is the "hero" of the film, Mario the handyman.This Dracula bears almost no resemblance to any cinematic vampire. Kier plays him as a sickly, lethargic shut-in. The reason for his weakness? He can only survive if he drinks the blood of a virgin (or as he says it, "wer-gin"), and there aren't enough to go around in Transylvania in the 1920s. Meaning, he's quickly on his way to a permanent coffin. So, Anton packs him into a touring car (along with his coffin, which rides on the top) and heads for Italy, where, supposedly, the Catholic Church demands a girl remain a virgin until her wedding night. Sure. That'll work.An impoverished landowning family, the di Fiores, hear about this traveling Romanian nobleman and hope that one of their four daughters will snag Dracula. Problem is, the handyman, Mario, is such a stud, he's already deflowered the two middle daughters and is eyeing the youngest. The oldest seems to be considered a spinster.That's your basic set-up. I should point out that this film is less of a horror film and more of a dark, slightly sadistic comedy, with a heavy layer of social commentary.Morrissey decided to use the vampire Dracula as an allegory for a man out of time, figuratively and literally. A throwback to a more noble era, he can't survive in our "modern" era with its loose sexual morality. Thus, not much time is devoted to his vampirism beyond him needing virgin blood (and the disgusting consequences if her doesn't get it). He goes around in daylight, doesn't always sleep in a coffin and can handle crucifixes, though he hates them.It bear mentioning that Dracula himself is actually the second-nicest person we see in the film. Compared to almost everyone else, he practically gallant. He's only trying to survive, and clearly takes no pleasure in killing. Skip ahead a few years, and he'd be whining about his curse.By contrast, his "servant" Anton is clearly the man in charge. Anton is domineering, scheming, and above all, treacherous. Our "hero," Mario, is a foul-mouthed, violent, misogynistic pig of a man. He's also a Communist, always railing against the upper-class. Thus, his liaisons with the middle daughters are clearly--both by his words and actions--what we would today call "hate-fucking." And his solution to "save" the youngest daughter (she's 14) from Dracula is to rape her, which he's wanted an excuse to do anyway. The two daughters offered up to Dracula (played, respectively by the lovely Dominique Darel and Stefania Casini) are spiteful, mean-spirited, greedy bitches who mistreat everyone around them. They're also libidinous to the point where, if Mario is not available, they'll get it on with each other. Their mother, the Marchesa, is only interested in money, and their father, the master of the estate, is totally out of touch with reality. He's also a compulsive gambler, which is why the family is so desperate for money in the first place. Only the eldest daughter is normal and nice. It's essentially a mirror-universe version of the classic vampire story.Also, since Morrissey was friends with the painter Andy Warhol, this film was released in some mark[...]



Christopher Lee Rises Again

2017-08-06T12:56:43.291-07:00

Hey, fangbangers.

The sadly departed Christopher Lee made his name as a horror film actor, most notably playing Count Dracula in seven of the Hammer Films productions from 1958 to 1973, where he brought an animalistic rage and predatory sexuality to the character. As that was going on, he was employed to play the Count elsewhere, including in the Spanish film we're looking at today, El Conde Dracula, known in English by its translated title, Count Dracula, released in 1970.
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Legendary exploitation horror director Jesus "Jess" Franco wanted to make a Dracula film that was totally faithful to Bram Stoker's novel. In honesty, he fell short of the mark in a couple of ways; for instance, Quincey Morris does not appear at all. That may have been due to lack of resources more than anything else. Lee's physical appearance as the Count is very true to Stoker's description, as is the dialogue in general. Franco also went all-out for the supporting cast. Dr. Van Helsing is played by Herbert Lom, probably best remembered as Clouseau's frustrated boss in the Pink Panther films, or as the title character in Hammer's Phantom of the Opera. And who better to portray Dracula's insane follower Renfield than notoriously eccentric German actor Klaus Kinski? Also, the authentic Spanish locales provide a great atmosphere. No castle of Dracula could ever be a match for the 1931 Universal film, but this one gives you a sense of how Dracula's "life" would really have been like.

Given the oppressive Spanish government at the time, the filmmakers had to tread lightly. But now, an uncut version is available. While not graphic, it does restore the ambience of sexuality. This one also has commentary by David del Valle and Maria Rohm, who played Lucy; interviews with the director and actors, and exceprts of the Dracula novel read by Christopher Lee himself. How can you go wrong with that?

Time was on Dracula's side, and now it's on yours. (image) (image)

 



Yorga's Back!

2017-08-05T11:00:59.908-07:00

Our series of the greatest vampire movies continues.

With the success of Count Yorga, Vampire, a sequel was inevitable. And in this case, immediate. Released in 1971, Return of Count Yorga finds Robert Quarry donning the cape again.



As I mentioned in my review of the original, Count Yorga symbolizes the vampire's power. He is also a good example of the main flaw of power: arrogance. We see that in the first film and in this one.

Return of Count Yorga is not a true sequel. It does not pick up where the first left off. Rather, it revisits the themes of the first movie with a few twists. In the first go-round, Yorga lured potential victims to his own mansion. Here, he actively seeks his prey. I mentioned before that Count Yorga, Vampire combined Dracula with the real-life Manson Family murders, but only so far as the image of a monstrous patriarch controlling murderous "children." In Return of Count Yorga, what was hinted at in Film One is now made disturbingly explicit, with Yorga leading his harem of vampire brides on a deadly spree of home-invasions. Along the way, Yorga finds the lady he hopes will be the love of his unlife, played by the wonderful Mariette Hartley. (If you see parallels with Bram Stoker's Dracula, it's not an accident.)

Look for Craig T. Nelson, TV's Coach and Mr. Incredible himself, in his film debut. Everyone starts someplace.

Scream!Factory has given us a restored Blu-ray edition with commentary by Steve Haberman and Rudy de Luca, one of the film's players.

Don't wait for Halloween!  (image) (image)



Don't Breathe...Don't Blink...Don't Let Your Heart Beat

2017-08-04T20:42:57.790-07:00

That's the tagline for a truly bizarre piece of horror, Tombs of the Blind Dead. Released in 1971, this Spanish chiller began a series of Blind Dead films directed by Amando de Ossorio.

Those of you who are fans of the Assassin's Creed franchise will recognize the monsters here: the Knights Templar (the ones Altair didn't get, apparently). For practicing human sacrifice, these Spanish Templars were sentenced to death, their eyes pecked out by hungry crows. Accidental contact with modern people revives them as rotting, undead predators. Since they have no eyes, they hunt by sound, including heartbeats, seeking victims whose blood they drain by biting. And fighting them is a losing proposition, because these undead knights still wield the broadswords they used in life.

I think I should mention that the Knights Templar in this film are not true vampires, not in a cinematic sense, anyway. They don't sleep in coffins. They don't turn into bats. And they don't fear the sun. The usual weaknesses of vampires are not to be found here. The rotten, almost skeletal condition of these creatures might tempt modern viewers to think of them as zombies. That might be intentional, since Ossorio said that he was inspired by the late George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. But it would not be accurate to describe them as zombies, either. For one thing, they're not mindless. They have intelligence and will. In this case, the best term to describe them is "revenant,"
a sort of catch-all term for the undead. That's what these things are.

While not especially gory compared to, say, the Evil Dead, the idea behind the monsters is disturbing, to say the least.

Tombs of the Blind Dead is the title it was given in North America, where it was released dubbed into English and cut by almost twenty minutes. The original Spanish cut was titled La Noche del Terror Ciego, which translates as "Night of Blind Terror," which is a cunning double meaning, given the characters' reactions when encountering Altair's old enemies.

My advice? Don't bother with the English edit. Go right for the original (image) (image)



Six Coffins in One

2017-08-03T20:48:01.770-07:00

What's better than a vampire movie? Answer: more vampire movies. That's what Universal is giving now. Specifically, this is the Dracula Legacy Collection, containing all six of the Universal films featuring the one and only Count Dracula. Dracula (1931) started it all, introducing the classic image of a vampire that is still foremost in many people's minds today. Bela Lugosi became a star with his powerful, sly performance as the king of undead. Tod Browning directs with class and atmosphere.Dracula's Daughter (1936) picks up where Dracula left off, as a beautiful female vampire seeks love and normality. Gloria Holden plays the title role, seeming to suppress more than just her vampiric urges.Son of Dracula (1943) places Lon Chaney Jr. in the Count's shoes, seducing and destroying the unsuspecting residents of Louisiana bayou country. For the first time, we see humans become bats, and the now-famous name switch trick.House of Frankenstein (1944) is the first of Universal's wartime "monster rallies," featuring not only Dracula, but the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster, and a mad scientist played by Boris Karloff who wants to control them all. This was John Carradine's first time playing Dracula, very effectively with his Shakespearean flair and commanding voice.House of Dracula (1945) has almost all of the monsters return, including Carradine as Dracula, with more screen time. It also provides a possible scientific explanation for vampirism and lycanthropy.Finally, there is Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), a fitting swan-song for the classic Universal monsters, blending horror and humor. Bela Lugosi returns to the role that made him famous, as Dracula seeks to place Lou's brain in the Monster's skull.This one has more bonus features than you can shake a wooden stake at, including a seventh film, the Spanish-language version of Dracula. Shot on the same sets as the Lugosi version, the film's makers tried to outdo Tod Browning.Two commentary tracks are available on Dracula: one by film historian David J. Skal, one by historian/screenwriter Steve Haberman. They almost duel each other, so you're sure to get the whole picture. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein has a commentary track by Gregory Mank which is almost as funny as the movie.There are three documentary featurettes: one for Dracula and one for A&C, and a biography on Lugosi himself. There's also an alternate audio track for the 1931 film with a new score by Phillip Glass.So what are you waiting for? [...]



Greatest Vampire Movies

2017-08-02T13:41:48.644-07:00

Let's go back to basics in our list of greatest vampire movies and look at Vampyr, from 1932.
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Carl Theodor Dreyer, the Danish director, made his mark on horror with this film, very loosely adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla. Filmed through filters to give it a hazy look, the film is structured as a kind of nightmare where anything can happen. Far more emphasis is given to creating a disturbing atmosphere than toward over-the-top thrills, which makes for a paranoid, spooky viewing experience. (One can see this film's influence on Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, to name but one.)

Filmed in German, French and English versions, only the German audio survives. But very little dialogue is spoken through the film, so this is not distracting. Dreyer clearly believed that many silent film techniques would still work in the sound era.

Criterion Collection is known for their high-quality releases, and Vampyr is no different. It also contains numerous special features, including commentary, essays on Dreyer and his style, and a collectible booklet.

Pre-order yours for October 3 (image) (image)

Just in time for Halloween!



Must-See Vampires (But Not In A Mirror)

2017-08-01T16:01:05.099-07:00

From the awesome 1980s comes this chiller/comedy fresh from the grave. It's the original Fright Night from 1985.

Charley Brewster--played by William Ragsdale--is a frustrated teenage boy who just got a bigger problem than striking out with his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) or keeping up with homework: his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. But only Charley knows it, and no one will believe him, not even his equally geeky pal, Ed (Steven Geoffreys). So it's up to Charley and washed-up horror actor Peter Vincent (a wonderful Roddy McDowell) to set things right and make nights safe again.

Made in an era where classic monsters were considered as washed-up as Peter Vincent, Fright Night proved there was still good reason to be afraid of the dark. It's also a clever allegory of teenage hormonal stress with masterful special effects courtesy of Stan Winston.

This 30th Anniversary Edition from Twilight Time (image) (image) contains two commentary tracks with the director Tom Holland. One features William Ragsdale and Steven Geoffreys; the other with Chris Sarandon. Trailers, retrospectives and a Comic-Con cast reunion make this one a must have.

Available here: (image) (image)



Classic Vampire Movies, Part 2.

2017-07-31T21:17:40.465-07:00

Hey, what's up?

Continuing from last time, I'm reviewing some of my all-time favorite vampire movies, from classics to cult favorites. And one of the more important ones is The Vampire Lovers. We're going to jump across to pond to Merry Old England (or should I say, scary old England?) for this one.

Hammer Films, the British film studio that reinvented the Gothic horror genre in the late 1950's was still going strong. In 1970 alone, they released two Dracula films starring Christopher Lee, along with this one.

The Vampire Lovers is, so far, the most faithful film adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 vampire story, Carmilla. There have been many that used the character's name or had some connection, but this one tells sticks mostly to the original story.

Ingrid Pitt, vampire sex symbol extraordinaire, plays Carmilla Karnstein, a lesbian vampire. Her family were once a force of bloodsuckers, but she seems to be the only one left. While sweet, charming and at times vulnerable to her chosen female victims, she is a dangerous predator. The scenes where she attempts to corrupt and seduce her intended victims were daring for the time, due to a loosening of film censorship in the Western world. While perhaps tame and even quaint by modern standards, they retain much of their eroticism today.

Peter Cushing, in a supporting role, plays a twist on his established vampire-hunter character in this film. Having lost a loved one to the vampire, he's out to get her before she victimizes anyone else. Where his Van Helsing merely fought the forces of evil out of a sense of duty, this time, it's personal.

Scream!Factory, the horror subset of Shout!Factory, has released a special edition Blu-ray that gives us the most complete version of this cornerstone film. Despite some age, the picture plays very well. And the sound is even better. An audio commentary track with director Roy Ward Baker, scriptwriter Tudor Gates and Ms. Pitt herself is included, along with a featurette titled Femme Fantastique: Resurrecting The Vampire Lovers, an except of Ingrid Pitt reading the novel Carmilla, and an interview with the film's second female lead, Madeleine Smith.

Get it now (image) (image) if you dare!



Best Vampire Films

2017-07-29T21:50:24.128-07:00

Hello.I know it's nowhere near Halloween, but for me, it's always a good time for vampires.Let me be honest: I'm not overly fond of modern vampire films, books, games, etc. which depict the undead as whiny brats. I started out as a "fangster" with vampires that symbolized one major theme: power. Physical power, power over others and even power over death and life. And that's what my focus will be on. So, I'm going to review some of my personal favorites.And our first is Count Yorga, Vampire from 1970. It's no secret that the 1970's were a banner decade for vampire movies, especially the first half of it. Studios in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and even Japan were cranking out all manner of bloodsuckers, from classical to modern. This film, released by American International Productions, began life as an intended porno film, the idea being that the classic "vampire harem" would be a natural fit. But when Robert Quarry came on to the set, the producers knew they had something.Quarry plays Count Yorga, the Deathmaster, with that same magnetic ambiance that Christopher Lee had: an almost animal ferocity mixed with sophistication and chilling malice. Yorga is a creature with centuries of knowledge and experience. He has wealth, power and a sly sense of humor. But underneath his suave exterior is a predator, in all the horrifying senses of that word. Yorga's seduction of the women closest to the film's heroes parallels not only that of Dracula in the Bram Stoker novel, but also brings to mind the Manson Family, which would have been fresh in the minds of the filmmakers and the audience members.My version is the recent Blu-ray release by Twilight Time, seen here. For a slightly obscure title, Twilight Time put in tremendous effort to present the film in its uncut version. The picture quality is amazing. Any flaws are due to age and the film's low budget. The sound is also very good, with some minor blips.But the special features are to be marveled at. An informative, funny and at times sentimental commentary track by Tim Sullivan and David del Valle is included, along with a tribute to Robert Quarry and a liner booklet.Available here: Count Yorga, Vampire class="mekthappuyvugaitxddo" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=arkraider-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B016IKERPO&asins=B016IKERPO&linkId=99c3bf11da5751fe0b243db5b3b13e80&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">    class="mekthappuyvugaitxddo" frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=arkraider-20&marketplace=amazon®ion=US&placement=B016QTMUCE&asins=B016QTMUCE&linkId=9c09e75aa38e8e9b23fd0e4959e7a199&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066C0&bg_color=FFFFFF" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;">    [...]