Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The October Country

We have entered the October Country. So what is the October Country? In his short story anthology of the same name, Ray Bradbury described it thus:

“That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain.”

Its also the month of October, where we start gearing up for Halloween! And just as there are Christmas specials in advance of that holiday to get us in the holiday spirit, what better way to get us in the spirit of All Hallow's Eve than horror stories from movies, TV and books. So for the next 31 days I intend to point out (and post when possible) stories that have left an impression on me over the years. Maybe they're stories you know, or maybe its something new to you. Hopefully you'll find something here that is worth your while.

So...I come from a family that likes scary movie and TV shows. I come by it honestly. My earliest memories are of my parents getting together with my aunts and uncles on a Friday or Saturday night, and having popcorn and coke while we all watched something scary on one of their black and white TVs. This was the early 60's. There were no DVRs, DVDs, VHS, Beta Max, Blue Rays,Cable, Internet, Satellite or even UHF. What we had here in Kansas City were three stations, 4 (WDAF/NBC) 5(KCMO/CBS) and 9(KMBC/ABC.) They showed their programs, and viewers tuned in to watch.There was no way to record anything and watch at your earliest convenience, as we have now. Then, if you wanted to see a program, you had to be there in real time -and often time that meant with lots of other people: family and friends, who made time to see it too.

Despite all the technical advances we've made in the last 50 years, its hard to think we haven't lost something in the way we view TV. What used to be weekly events for the whole family have now become private viewing sessions on laptops, cell phones, DVD players and DVRs.

In my family and in my extended family, scary movies and TV shows were must see TV, long before NBC ever coined that phrase. NO other kind of entertainment brought everyone together like a good (or even crummy) horror movie or TV show like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Dads liked their sports; the Moms liked their variety shows and the kids liked their cartoons. But everyone grabbed a place around the old Motorola when it was a scary movie, armed with a bowl of popcorn, popped over a stove, and a glass of soda poured from a 16 ounce bottle that came in eight-packs.

I've posted these links before, but for those who haven't seen it, please don't post any spoilers. What follows are links to the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode of "The Jar" which aired February 14th, 1964 when I was 4.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

This was one of the many shows I remember viewing with my extended family when I was a little boy and it scared the crap out of me to the point that almost half a century later, I still remember it. What is striking about this is the great dramatic performances by Pat Buttram (Mr Haney of Green Acres fame) and a supporting role by George "Goober" Lindsay. Also in the cast is William Marshall, who went on to play "Blacula." I found this creepy and disturbing as a four year old -especially Lindsay's monologue about drowning kittens.

This episode, "The Jar" was based on a story of the same name by Ray Bradbury, and can be found in his book "The October Country."

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