The Twitter consensus yesterday was that CafePress products based on this design were required so here they are. As usual I never know what people want from CafePress so I tend to throw the design on their entire range so long as it fits the requisite size and shape. This piece works better than most since it’s simple and direct, my more detailed and pictorial creations look better as prints. I keep feeling that someone must have made a design like this already, these variations on the “Keep Calm” poster have proliferated so much, but searching didn’t reveal anything so… The web address doesn’t appear on the CafePress things, that’s just for the images posted here if and when they drift into Tumblr’s Sargasso Sea of uncredited pictures.


The Call of Cthulhu (1987–88).

While we’re on the subject of everyone’s favourite Great Old One, I may as well take the opportunity to remind those interested that these earlier renderings are also available as various CafePress products. The Call of Cthulhu piece above is the opening page of my comic strip adaptation of the story as seen in The Starry Wisdom anthology from Creation Books and my Haunter of the Dark collection.


Cthulhu from The Great Old Ones (1999).

The Great Old Ones drawing was one of the plates from the series of the same name I produced with Alan Moore for the Haunter book. And Cthulhu Rising is the cover of that volume, of course, seen here with its Haeckel-derived frame. The Great Old Ones Cthulhu was drawn with a Biro pen then tweaked slightly in Photoshop. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a large version of it so here it is.


Cthulhu Rising (2004).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Lovecraft archive

Zeppelin vs. Pterodactyls


An unmade high-concept from Hammer Films’ early Seventies dalliance with pulp adventure, if you must know. Via Boing Boing via Jess Nevins via Airminded where we learn:

The story was along the lines of THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, with a German Zeppelin being blown off-course during a bombing raid on London and winding up at a “lost continent”-type place.

Rather like the Civil War balloon that’s blown off-course in Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island then, which ends up on Captain Nemo’s volcanic island of giant birds and insects. Of course, the mere fact that a film was never made is no obstacle for YouTube’s army of diligent mash-up artists and you can see Zeppelin v. Pterodactyls re-imagined as a 1936 Republic Serial here. (And on a pedantic professional note, an older font should have been used for the titles since Hermann Zapf didn’t design Palatino until the 1940s.)


It was another horror company, Amicus Productions, that produced The Land that Time Forgot (1975) (and its ER Burroughs-derived sequels, At the Earth’s Core [1976] and People that Time Forgot [1977]) so this Hammer concept may have been an attempt to follow Amicus’s lead and exploit the momentary flush of enthusiasm for ERB and co. Or perhaps they thought that Zeppelin movies were the next big thing after Michael York’s First World War adventure, Zeppelin, in 1971. No one in Hollywood these days would dare finance a film with a title like this. The same dumbing-down imperative that gave us Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (because Americans can’t be trusted to know what the Philosopher’s Stone is) would no doubt want “pterodactyls” replaced by “dinosaurs” or the wording of the whole thing reduced to ZvP.


U-boat vs. dinosaurs! Illustration by Frank R Paul for a 1927 reprint of The Land that Time Forgot.

The Land that Time Forgot was scripted by Michael Moorcock and New Worlds‘ (and Savoy Books) illustrator James Cawthorn. The pair did a decent job with the story although the film as a whole is let-down by silly monster effects, the pterodactyl (or is it a pteranodon?) in this instance being a lifeless thing swinging from a crane. Moorcock and Cawthorn worked together on Tarzan Adventures which Moorcock was editing as a teenager so they appreciated the material at least. This wasn’t the only connection New Worlds had with pulp cinema, more surprisingly JG Ballard had provided a story for Hammer in 1970 with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Hammer missed an opportunity in not hiring Moorcock for something seeing as he’d just written one of the first retro-dirigible (and pre-Steampunk) novels, The Warlord of the Air, in 1971. UK film producers had some of the best writers in the world under their noses yet could only offer them trash to work on. No wonder the British film industry went down the tubes in the Seventies after the American funding dried up.

My favourite pulp adaptation from Hammer is The Lost Continent based on Uncharted Seas by Dennis Wheatley. A typical Hammer product in the way the story is frequently preposterous yet the whole thing is made with the utmost seriousness. Amazon summarises the plot, such as it is:

This film starts out like The Love Boat on acid, as a cast of unpleasant characters, all with horrible secrets, take a chartered cargo ship to escape their troubles. Unfortunately, the leaky ship is carrying an explosive that can be set off by sea water and it sinks, stranding many characters in a Sargasso Sea populated by man-eating seaweed, giant monster crabs and turtles, and some Spanish conquistadors who think the Inquisition is still on.

Eric Porter is the ship’s captain, a very good actor who was superbly sinister and convincing as Professor Moriarty in Granada TV’s Sherlock Holmes adaptations. The Lost Continent was Wheatley’s shameless plundering of William Hope Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea tales, the book being originally written in 1938 when Hodgson was less well-known than he is today. Until the Pirates of the Caribbean films this was about the closest thing on screen to Hodgson’s world of drifting weed, lost galleons and man-eating monsters, so there you have its cult value. Just be ready with the fast forward button if you try and watch it.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Moorcock on Ballard
Coming soon: Sea Monsters and Cannibals!
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
Druillet meets Hodgson
Davy Jones
The Absolute Elsewhere

Coming soon: Sea Monsters and Cannibals!


No, not Pirates of the Caribbean III although that film will be with us soon and is certain to contain at least one of the above ingredients. The dubious delights of exploitation cinema have been put back on the map recently by Grindhouse, the double feature from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but garish melodrama is nothing new in the film world. Silent films had more than their share of sex, violence, monsters and maniacs, and many featured a degree of nudity that wouldn’t be seen again until the late Sixties, thanks to the Hays Code. “Everything in life is exploitation,” Barbara Stanwyck was told in Baby Face (1933) and she went on to prove it by sleeping her way to the top in a film considered by moral guardians of the time to be so scurrilous that its uncensored print remained buried until 2005.


These wonderful hand-tinted plates from the George Eastman archive are lantern slides used to display information about coming attractions, and would have been screened between features as a kind of motionless trailer. The movie trailer as we know it today had been around since about 1910 but it wasn’t until the late Twenties that the regular production and screening of trailers took off. Lantern slides were a cheap way of keeping audiences attentive while the next feature was being prepared.


Cannibals of the South Seas was a 1912 documentary by Osa and Martin E. Johnson and it’s a good bet it was a lot more prosaic than this slide implies. The Isle of Lost Ships seems from the picture to be a sea-faring horror tale but turns out to be a 1923 adventure story based on a novel by one Crittenden Marriott and directed by Maurice Tourneur, father of the great horror and noir director, Jacques Tourneur (Cat People [1942], Out of the Past [1947], Night of the Demon [1957]). This first film is now as lost as the becalmed ships of its title but it was remade as an early talkie in 1929 and that film still exists somewhere. Film remakes are also nothing new. The tentacles and Sargasso setting made me suspect Mr Marriott had purloined an idea or two from William Hope Hodgson, writer of a series of excellent horror stories concerning the Sargasso Sea and (in his fiction) its population of tentacled abominations; Dennis Wheatley certainly stole from Hodgson, as I’ve mentioned before. But Marriott’s novel, The Isle of Dead Ships, and the films based upon it, prove to be less interesting than the slide promises. And so we learn a primary rule of exploitation cinema that was well-established even then: promise much but don’t always deliver.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Seamen in great distress eat one another
Druillet meets Hodgson
Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys
Davy Jones

Davy Jones


No, not the dreadful singer from The Monkees but he of the undersea locker and also the new villain in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Bill Nighy plays this splendidly-designed character, with the assistance of some CGI to get those tentacles working. I’ve still not seen the first film but the look of this makes me more interested in the series as a whole.

Aside from William Hope Hodgson‘s sea tales, the pirates plus voodoo/Sargasso Sea angle has rarely been exploited properly in fiction. Tim Powers had a go in On Stranger Tides but the results fell rather flat. In film there’s been hardly anything apart from the Hammer oddity The Lost Continent (1968), based on Uncharted Seas, a Dennis Wheatley potboiler that plundered Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories. The new Pirates film may be about to amend this situation; Davy Jones looks like something dreamed up after a heavy diet of Hodgson and HP Lovecraft.