Fright Fest 2018: The Last Man on Earth (1964)
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona (as Ubaldo B. Ragona), Sidney Salkow
Writers: William F. Leicester (screenplay), Richard Matheson (screenplay) (as Logan Swanson)
Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli
You can credit Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel, I am Legend, for many things. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead borrowed heavily from I am Legend. In tone and visuals, mostly. But it’s interesting to note that Romero changed the landscape of his tale to reflect the mindless eating machine known as the zombie (a monster he completely retooled that many have appropriated) while Matheson choose a primitive form of vampiric new breed of civilization. One with a secreted illuminati who were also at war with the savage cattle that obeyed only its bloodlust. Continue Reading
Twilight Zone: You Drive (1964)
You know, I’m fairly certain I’ve been a member of Netflix since the beginning, or at the very least since 2008, BEFORE the big streaming push and the demise of the video store. It happened slowly, I think. The takeover of streaming from home. There wasn’t much available to start. At the time, I still had the 2 DVD rental membership. Maybe it was around 2010 when we, the wife and I, did away with the DVDs. Why? Well…we didn’t need them. In fact, streaming became so much more convenient and affordable that we ultimately dropped cable television. My wife enjoys newer shows, but the ones she likes she streams from apps or catches up on Hulu. And for viewers like me, well…I’m more of a movie kinda guy to be honest, but the shows I do watch the most are typically…how do say…off the air. I watch old shows that have long since been canceled. There are a few newer ones that sometimes makes me wish we still had cable, shows like AHS and maybe a few others. However, if I’m patient enough, those very shows will eventually find their way onto Netflix’s monster cache of streaming availability.
But while newer shows have the glamour, I still indulge in older programming. We’re talking X-Files, MASH, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Star Trek, and yes even The Gilmore Girls (don’t judge!). But my number one favorite oldie to watch is without a doubt Rod Serling epic sci fi thriller The Twilight Zone. If you’ve never seen an episode…jeez…think black and white science fiction, but not just about space and rocket-ships, but also weird tales, time travel, magic even, or death itself. They’re also all moral stories, more or less, warnings and questions of our humanity, not to mention the consequences we could face given certain destinations. The other night I screened for the first time one of these consequence driven episodes, from season 5 episode 14, titled “You Drive.” And let me say, this was one of the more creepier episodes of the show with the most simplistic plot-lines.
It goes like this:
“After involved with a hit-and-run killing a child, Mr. Oliver Pope is haunted by his car.”
Now I can see where King and Straub and everyone else got their ideas from. Perhaps not as deranged as Christine, but no doubt the genius of those darker works of haunted cars that would eventually come out in the 70s and 80s. In “You Drive” businessman Oliver Pope is on his way home. He’s driven this route for years. He knows every turn. Every bump in the road. As it happens on this particular day, its raining, and maybe Oliver has had a long day at work, stressed over a new client or something. He’s distracted and as fate would have it accidentally runs over a young boy delivering newspapers on his bicycle. Now at this point, what Pope has done is nothing more than an accident, tragic certainly, but an accident all the same. He didn’t intentionally run down the boy. However, as Mr. Pope jumps out to check on him (the boy doesn’t look good) and notices no one around, he makes a choice.
Stay and face the consequences of his actions…
Consequences is what Mr. Oliver Pope is afraid of. Afraid of what people will think of him after they discover what he’d done. Not just running over and killing the boy (which we later discover died from his wounds), but running away, his cowardliness. This is perhaps the whimsical side of watching shows like The Twilight Zone, they show you an era in which people still gave a damn about character. And character is what Mr. Pope desperately clings to protect. He doesn’t want people to think less of him. Sure, we can get that, right? But what Oliver fails to understand is that it is our actions that define our characters, not what people perceive us to be.
Well, as par for The Twilight Zone, because of Mr. Pope’s horrible choice to runaway the natural order of things begins to bend. There’s something not right…with his car, the very one he killed the boy with. Pope wants to forget, to put the matter away, what’s done is done, etc etc. But the car will not let him forget. His car haunts him and everyone around him. It honks in the middle of the night. It stalls out when his wife attempts to drive it to the store. It appears back at home seemingly to have driven itself. Blaring its horn over and over. And when Mr. Pope refuses to drive it, the car follows him on his way to work. The car makes a show to run him down. It wont stop. It cant, not until…
Oliver Pope must decide.
Face the consequences of his actions.
Or be continuously haunted by his car.
“You Drive” is certainly a chilling allegorical story to be sure. Haunted by our mistakes, our poor choices in life, especially those that have or could have dramatic effects on the lives of others. And how the consequences of those mistakes cannot be forgotten, never completely. And there’s even a lesson about character here, if we care about such a thing anymore. Our character isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) defined by how people think of us, it is defined by our actions and our deeds, and it is by those deeds we will be judged.
My rating: 5/5
With a face only a mother could love, Thomas S. Flowers hides away to create character-driven stories of dark fiction. Residing in the swamps of Houston, Texas, with his wife and daughter, his debut novel, Reinheit, was soon published with Shadow Work Publishing, along with The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, Apocalypse Meow, Lanmò, The Hobbsburg Horror, and FEAST. His military/paranormal thriller series, The Subdue Series, including Dwelling, Emerging, Conceiving, and Converging, are published with Limitless Publishing, LLC. In 2008, he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army where he served for seven years, with three tours serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2014, Thomas graduated from University of Houston Clear Lake with a Bachelors in History. He blogs at machinemean[dot]org, where he reviews movies and books on a wide range of strange yet oddly related topics. You can hide from Thomas by joining his author newsletter at http://goo.gl/2CozdE.
My debut collection of horror shorts is now just $0.99!!!
Dave Dennis, Freedom Summer of 1964, and the Eulogy for James Chaney
“It was the 31st of August in 1962 that 18 of us traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola to try to register to become first-class citizens. We was met in Indianola by policemen, Highway Patrolmen, and they only allowed two of us in to take the literacy test at the time. After we had taken this test and started back to Ruleville, we was held up by the City Police and the State Highway Patrolmen and carried back to Indianola where the bus driver was charged that day with driving a bus the wrong color.” -Fannie Lou Hamer
The Freedom Summer Project of 1964 began with youthful optimism. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 had just been signed into law on July 2. What first began with Kennedy, was ultimately carried through by LBJ and his campaign toward creating the “Great Society.”. However, for many African American’s, getting out to vote or even registering to vote was another issue entirely, especially in the old “Dixie” south. Dixie included among its most staunchest traditionalists states (as in: wanting to keep the “old ways”) was Mississippi. Civil rights organizations, including the Congress on Racial Equality (C.O.R.E) and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after establishing themselves as a successful student/youth based movement (Freedom Riders, Sit-ins) organized voter registration drives throughout old miss. This project became known as the Mississippi Summer Project, or Freedom Summer. Made up mostly of northern students, both black and white, the Freedom Summer project hosted hundreds of volunteers, who according to Terri Shaw, a student volunteer, opened “freedom schools [which] were the most impressive part of the program. They were directed by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Reese, Negro secondary school teachers from Detroit. The schools were established in six churches for an initial enrollment of 585 persons (we had expected about 75).” While direct-action protest was an important feature among activism, voting and legislation was the most dominate catalyst for change. Without legislation, direct-action would have little lasting effect. However, we should not the particular history of the Civil Rights Movement and take note, much as the McGee’s of Greenwood, Mississippi, that without direct-action, legislation would do little good if someone wasn’t there to test the limits of oppression and the willingness of society (the moderate majority) to enforcing said legislation. Among the leaders organizing operations in Mississippi was Dave Dennis, a young up and coming co-leader of C.O.R.E.
Violence against the Freedom Summer participates grew steadily, according to Shaw the “most serious incidents concerning volunteers were beatings. The first occurred on July 10  when Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland, (a Ministers Project volunteer) and two white male college students were beaten while on their way to one of the churches where lunch was served after a morning of canvassing. They were attacked by two white men who had been following them in a pickup truck without license plates. Shouting ‘white nigger’ and ‘nigger lover’ they beat the rabbi and one of the students with an iron bar. The other student was kicked down an embankment, pummeled and kicked, and finally, his assailant shoved his canvassing notes into his mouth, shouting ‘eat this… nigger lover.’ All three were treated at a hospital and the rabbi was hospitalized over night.” Yet, in the face of growing hostility and violence, the students and volunteers carried out their credo of nonviolent resistance.
The Ku Klux Klan, members of the White Citizens Council, and even some local law enforcement authorities, angered by an imagined “threat” the black vote posed and change of tradition, carried out systematic violent attacks against demonstrators and other Freedom Summer volunteers. Some of the incidents were minor, from name calling to false arrests; but as the heat of the summer months intensified, so did the brutality. Beatings, as mentioned against Rabbi Lelyveld, continued, and on August 4, 1964, forty-four days after the disappearance of three Freedom Summer volunteers, while folk singer Pete Seeger was performing for a Meridian, Mississippi church congregation, word spread that the bodies of of Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney had been found. Buried deep in earth beneath a dam. News of the their death shocked an already battle weary nation.
During the funeral for James Chaney, Dave Dennis was asked to give a eulogy. However, Dave, as one of the leaders of Freedom Summer, who had lent his station wagon to Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney the day they disappeared, who could have very well been a fourth victim of the Klan, couldn’t bring himself to give “the traditional thing.” Instead, Dennis (feeling the full weight of grieving family and friends) gave one of the most profound unscripted speeches ever to come from the Civil Rights Movement. Dave Dennis addressed the crowd with such passion and power to move listeners to reevaluate and discern their purpose and solidarity in the fight for racial equality. Dennis was so inflamed that he collapsed into the arms of Rev. Edwin King, unable to finish. Here is a portion of the eulogy given by Dennis, and one of the more moving pieces:
“I’m not here to do the traditional things most of us do at such a gathering…But what I want to talk about right now is the living dead that we have right among our midst, not only in the state of Mississippi but throughout the nation. Those are the people who don’t care, those who do care but don’t have the guts enough to stand up for it, and those people who are busy up in Washington and in other places using my freedom and my life to play politics with..
You can also find the American Experience documentary here.
>Sources:Shaw, Terri. “Freedom Summer Recollections.” Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive, The University of Southern Mississippi. http://anna.lib.usm.edu/%7Espcol/crda/shaw/ts001.htm. (accessed Feb. 4 2014). “1964,” American Experience, PBS documentary, 2014. Davis W. Houck, David E. Dixon, “Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965,” Dave Dennis and Rev. Edwin King Address at the Funeral Service for James Chaney, Baylor University, 2006.