Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: Weird Tales, July 1950

My first foray into Weird Tales proved a little disappointing, but let's see how the July, 1950 issue stacks up:

Right off the bat we have a much more interesting cover, care of horror cover maestro (and frequent comic artist) Matt Fox. But how are the stories?

"The Weird Tailor" by Robert Bloch. Once again, a great Bloch tale visits the pages of Weird Tales, but this time it leads the contents, rather than being lost in the middle. Horror aficionados probably know this one - it was adapted to the TV horror series Thriller in 1961 and served as one segment of the anthology film Asylum (1972). The title is actually something of a misnomer - the tailor isn't weird; his client might be described as weird; the cloth the client gives to the tailor is the textbook definition of weird!

"The cloth was gray. No, it couldn't be gray, because it had little flecks that reflected the light. It was gold. But gold does not shimmer in rainbow hues. It was a peculiar offshade of tan. But tan is not green, and there was green in this cloth, also some red and blue. No, it was gray. It had to be gray."

I love that paragraph; anyway, it's a great story about a mysterious bolt of fabric, the odd suit made from it, one man's quest to conquer death and some cosmic comeuppance.

"Shallajai" by Arthur J. Burks seems to barely qualify for Weird Tales; it's a gentle fantasy, not horror, holding more in common to Hans Christian Anderson's "the Garden of Eden" than anything. Anyway, two men find paradise in the middle of the Gobi desert and the head man in paradise drones on and on about how great it all is but how so few get to appreciate it... it has the sense to namedrop James Hilton's Lost Horizon, but not enough chops to craft a paradise as enveloping as Hilton's Shangri-La.

"The Rhythm of the Rats" by Eric Frank Russell is a decent, but obvious tale; a man survives a plane crash and finds himself in a quiet German town where the entire population is afraid of what goes on at night. Matt Fox's accompanying illustration of a demonic Pied Piper basically tells you the story's secret right off the bat.

"Rebels' Rest" by Seabury Quinn is an odd duck. It turns out to be the story of a woman who falls in love with a ghost, but for some reason the story ends on that point during the last page - the build-up involves the life story of the woman's mother. Perhaps it was puffed up to fill pages.

"Woe Water" by H. Russell Wakefield tells a decent story pulled from the diary of a man who's taken a new property to escape the many unsavory rumours about him killing his wife, only to wind up killing his manservant and being haunted over it all.

"Cordona's Skull" by Mary Elizabeth Counselman delves into an out-of-work stage magician who befriends a medium who uses a specially-rigged human skull to deliver his phony prophecies. The magician plans a hostile takeover of the medium's business, but the skull has other plans

"The Closing Door" by August Derleth is kind of a mess - a mystery about a vanished priest being solved by a sexton... it has a very choppy ending.

"Mrs. Hawk" by Margaret St. Clair tells it's story quickly; why do Mrs. Hawks' hogs seem so anthropomorphic? Fortunately, the story soon drops Circe's name so the reader isn't ahead of the character for too long, although he still winds up being extremely foolish.

"Fly Down Death" by Cleve Cartmill involves a scientist who made himself and one other man immortal; after hundreds of years, the scientist finds a cure for immortality so he can die with dignity, but feeling the other man has squandered his years, decides not to share it, instead intending the other to live forever as a monument to his science. It's a good premise which doesn't have quite enough room to explore the idea.

Poems in this issue were "the City" by H.P. Lovecraft and "Pattern" by Dorothy Quick; unlike the previous issue's space-fillers, these are given plenty of space for their lines.

One more issue of Weird Tales remains...

1 comment:

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