Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Mystery of Lunablanca

Maurice Gutwirth nicely illustrates one of the more memorably sexy, precode vampire women of the 50's (love those upside down bat wings!), in this early Ace horror tale from the January 1951 issue of The Beyond #2. And how gorgeous is that Warren Kremer cover!


Grant said...

For some of us, the name "Sinistra" and attractiveness go together even before reading this story. That's the name of Quinn O'Hara's femme fatale character in the comedy GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI.

Mestiere said...

Time for another one of my lists:

• When this story was published the U.S. and Spain had no diplomatic or trade relations. Franco was considered a Fascist remnant, a former ally of Hitler and Mussolini. The only reason Spain didn't join Germany was because Franco wanted France's North African colonies in exchange. In 1953 Eisenhower decided that the Cold War was more important, signing the Pact of Madrid, which allowed the U.S. to establish military bases in Spain in exchange for economic and military help. They're still there!

• It's a good thing that every single Spaniard Rick Manning met spoke English, since he couldn't say even a two word phrase right. It's buenas tardes, not "buenos tardes". And since the moon was out it really should have been buenas noches, because buenas tardes means "good afternoon".

• Did you notice that the girl in the first panel is driving on the left? Her car even has the steering wheel on the right. Today Spain drives on the right, but before 1924 different areas drove in different directions, Barcelona on the right, Madrid on the left. So you could claim that the girl was driving an old car, from the early 20s, rather than it being a goof.

• How come everyone dresses like an extra in a Zorro movie? It's 1951!

• Why wouldn't the girl clean up the castle?

• On page six it turns out Rick and the girl were in love all along. It must have happened off panel!

"I am the guardian of that corpse. I must not let you near it!" And yet you did nothing to protect it.

"...but Maria and I should worry..." I think you mean shouldn't worry. And thanks for telling us her name in the last panel.

"...we can always live here in Lunablanca." Makes perfect sense to me, being a jobless, penniless foreigner in a Third World Fascist dictatorship. What could go wrong?

I rather like the bat-outfit!

Trevor Markwart said...

I liked the feel of this one a lot. I was put in the mood of old Italian and Mexican gothic horror movies. In fact, I'm pulling some DVD's I haven't seen in a long, long time to watch later after reading this story. Casa Negra's stuff is great! I liked the twist end on this one -- it did surprise me for some reason, even though it was well set up. He's not a very cinematic illustrator, but you're right in that he's good with a comic book pretty girl. Thanks for posting this!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

So, you can't take a picture of a vampire, but using "infrared film" you can actually spot an invisible bloodsucker? Well... why not?
I love this Lunablanca, its dramatic-comedic writing is perfectly balanced ("I'll try to tow you out, senorita... or is it senora?"; "If i can get past the old sourpussed hag of a countess who owns the joint" ... "I am Countess Sinistra!"... quite a nerd, this guy, I like him.)
I'd like to know who wrote it. The art is fine, I didn't know Mr. Gurtwith. His lovely vamp reminds me of Margaret Brundage's covers, only more "cinematic".
"You won't need that camera anymore! You won't need ANYTHING anymore! Not even a grave! What I leave of you, the rats will finish!"... Vamp Queen of the month!
And we have mediterranian countries (Italy, Spain, Greece) as vampire dens, in the great gothic tradition.
Mestiere is right: Franco didn't join the Axis because he was, as Fidel Castro said, "a cunning Galician". Hitler said he'd rather have "three or four teeths pulled off", than have to speak to such a man again. He was obviously immune to the Fuhrer's charm. Unfortunately, Mussolini wasn't.
But I digress. One last remark: mistreating of Italian language is, in my opinion, far worse in pre-code horror comics.

Brian Barnes said...

I'm going to a bar and scream I CLAIM YOU FOR MY OWN! I suspect it'll work, or do I need to kill a vampire first?

If I'm going to get killed by a vampire, I guess the one in the miniskirt would be good. Of course, that's all she had going for her and she was the worst vampire I've ever seen. I would say she couldn't catch an injured man that just fell a couple stories but she actually couldn't!

Jokes aside, I like the way the vampire woman was drawn, very inhuman poses, tall, slim, with batwings. A lot of the kind of work you'd see Colan do later, just without the fine draftsmanship.

Mr. Cavin said...

Dying in the clutches of a blood-sucking vampire is apparently fairly wimpy! I love the art in this, especially page seven. The middle panels are all quite good, but I have a soft spot for anything as graphically poetic as seeing a castle window shatter into lightning bolts as Rick escapes through it. Awesome! Plus, I agree with everyone that this was a great vamp design: Like Irma Vep and Robert Blake's Great Red Dragon had a baby. Some kind of Seven Year Itch revenant, her bat wings forever blown up by the hot fumes from hell's subway grate. Totally magical!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant said...

I don't think that line "Maria and I shouldn't worry" is actually an error. I think it's just a variation of lines like "I should care," which actually means "I DON'T care."
Or maybe it IS an error, I don't know.

"Why wouldn't the girl clean up the castle?" is right. Since she's already under the Countess' power in general, you'd think she'd have become her "Cinderella."

I definitely agree with Trevor Markwart. I've always incredibly attached to Italian horror films, from the ones considered masterpieces all the way to the ones considered awful. It took me a long while to finally catch many Mexican ones, but now I'm the same way about them.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Link to the slide doesn't work.
I was referring to:
Jane Russell as the Countess.

Karswell said...

Without the obvious choice of Maila Nurmi, I think I'd pick Merle Oberon in that role... pictures of her ( in her earliest acting days ) she has a very seductive and sexy vampiric look to her, almost cat like

JMR777 said...

I don't have much to add but I wanted to say that this was a great vampire tale, it deserves a big thumbs up for the sexy vampire alone.

Mr. Cavin said...

I was going to suggest, as I generally do in all things, a twentysomething Hedy Lamarr (especially for the bits of this double role where she is mortal)--but I think Merle Oberon is a marvelous choice! I would also be enthusiastic about Mia Sara, who played Oberon in the TV miniseries Queenie. Or perhaps Amanda Donohoe, who may actually already be a vampire.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Oh yes, stuck on classic Hollywood I forgot Amanda Donohoe from the "white worm"!...
Maybe Veronica Hamel should have been a fine vampy in her Hill Street days.
Merle Oberon, great, but Russell looks a bit more "tigress". Must admit Hedy (not Hedley!) Lamarr is a perfect choice for a surprisingly vast number of roles.

Scout Paget said...

Way fab image of Sinistra when she first appears in Manning's room.