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The ultraviolent 1962 ‘Mars Attacks’ trading cards that inspired the Tim Burton movie

In 1962, an insanely violent trading card series called “Mars Attacks” was painted by the noted pulp novel cover artist Norman Saunders. In sequence, the cards depicted the invasion of Earth (a pretty obvious Cold War allegory) by some just really atrociously violent Martians, who did a lot of shamelessly violent things to our fair planet’s inhabitants both human and animal, and the violent retribution visited upon Mars in violent retaliation.

They were pretty violent.

Even by today’s standards some of these are a little much, but in 1962 parents were freaking the hell out. And children were buying them in droves in response to the parental freakout because somehow parents never figure out how that works. From an informative article on the set’s history on

Cards depicting burning flesh, buxom women and dogs being zapped by aliens are bound to create an uproar, even today. The brainchild of Len Brown and Woody Gelman, this 55-card set conveyed the story of ruthless Martians attacking Earth.

At one point, Topps reportedly made efforts to tone down 13 of the most controversial cards, but after a complaint from a Connecticut district attorney, production was stopped completely. The commotion created by this set must have been somewhat surprising for Brown and Gelman, who previously collaborated on the equally gory 1962 Civil War News set.

Brown wrote the story on the backs of the Mars Attacks cards. Wally Wood and Bob Powell were enlisted to work on the sketches and renowned artist Norman Saunders painted the cards.

So you have some charred soldiers…



More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Tim Burton’s bonkers take on ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ 1982
11:23 am


Tim Burton

This offbeat Disney Channel Halloween special originally aired—and aired once—on October 31, 1983 at 10:30 at night. Since then, it’s only been shown at the big Burton retrospective that was at the Museum of Modern Art in 2009/10 and in a Burton-themed show programmed by the Cinémathèque Française that traveled in 2012.

About a week ago, the special was uploaded to a torrent tracker by someone who had obviously taped it off cable in the early 80s and it’s been on YouTube since a few days ago. Watch it now, who knows how long it’ll be there.

Burton’s revisioning of the Brothers Grimm tale involved a cast of Japanese actors, creepy stop-motion animation and drag. It was shot on 16mm for a little over $116,000. I think this is one of his BEST ever films. It’s really cuckoo, and reminds me A LOT of the late Mike Kelley’s work (Speaking of, if you live in Los Angeles and miss the big Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA, you’re crazy.)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Christopher Lee

Happy Birthday Sir Christopher Lee, actor, singer and cinematic icon, who celebrates his 91st birthday today.

I can still recall the fabulous thrill of seeing Lee’s performance as the gruesome “Creature” in The Curse of Frankenstein (1956), where he managed to make the brutally disfigured creation both pitiful and terrifying. He achieved greater success as the Count in Dracula (1958), a performance that established him as an international star. Lee made the role of Dracula his own by bringing a charm, sophistication, intelligence and sexual attraction to the role.

In both films, Lee played against his friend and colleague Peter Cushing (who would have been 100-years-old yesterday) and together they dominated the box-office from the late 1950s-to mid-1970s, with a range of classic Horror movies, including The Gorgon, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, The Skull, Scream and Scream Again, The House That Dripped Blood, Dracula 1972 A.D., Nothing But The NIght, The Creeping Flesh, and Horror Express.

Of course, there were also his solo turns with The Devil Rides Out, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Wicker Man, The Three Musketeers and The Man With The Golden Gun.

But unlike Cushing, or Vincent Price (whose birthday is also celebrated today), Lee wanted to be more than just a Horror actor, and therefore moved to America in the 1970s, where his starred in a variety of films—some good, some not-so—which ranged from Airport ‘77, 1941 and Gremlins 2.

Most careers would have finished there, but not Lee’s. He return to form and greater success with roles in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999) and then the BBC TV-series Gormenghast (2000), all of which led onto Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and episodes 2 and 3 of Star Wars.

At 91, Sir Christopher is making 2-to-3-films-a-year, and has just recorded and released a Heavy Metal album, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death.

Happy Birthday Sir Christopher and thanks for all the thrills!

Behind the scenes with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on ‘Dracula 1972 A.D.’

A preview of Christopher Lee’s heavy Metal album ‘Charlemagne: The Omens of Death’
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Double Horror: Vincent Price & Peter Cushing tell thrilling tales behind the scenes of ‘Madhouse’


Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Frankenweenie’: Tim Burton returns to his roots
12:46 am


Tim Burton

The world premiere of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is kicking off this year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin (September 20 - 27). I had the chance to see a press screening of Frankenweenie tonight and thought it was the best thing Burton has done in a long time. He seems to have reconnected to his Beetlemuse. His new flick is streamlined and fun, unlike the bloated hot water dogs he’s been serving up in recent years

Frankenweenie is a feature-length remake of a wonderful short movie Burton made back in 1984. It features many of the director’s signature touches: bug-eyed goth kids, allusions to horror movie classics (particularly those made by Universal Studios in the 1930s), a main character based on Vincent Price, the manicured emptiness of suburbia, childhood nightmares and alienation. And though the movie has a wicked sense of humor, it is one of the sweetest films Burton has made in awhile, calling forth the kinds of emotions that made Edward Scissorhands so exceptional.

Frankenweenie features spirited voice acting by Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Wynona Ryder, Martin Landau and a typically lush, haunted house score by Danny Elfman. The puppets, stop-animation, sets and CGI blend into a phantasmagorical whole that feels more organic than most recent animated films - the world of Frankenweenie looks lived in, with lots of telling details that add to an overall feeling of hyperrealism. In keeping with its homage to the great films of James Whale and Tod Browning, Burton’s tale of a dead doggy brought back to life was shot in in glorious black and white. The film is also in 3D, which apparently is required these days for family-style blockbusters. Burton doesn’t use the 3D for gimmicky effects. With the exceptions of Hugo and Avatar, I haven’t been knocked out by the glut of recent 3D movies. But Burton uses it with subtle artfulness to enhance depth of field, accentuate shadow and stretch space. At times the camera peers around foreground objects with the furtiveness of a curious and frightened child - sort of like peeking through the fingers of your hands while watching a scary movie. Perfect.

After a series of less than stellar films, Burton has returned to a place that he knows well and to the kind of storytelling in which he excels. His connection to the material is palpably joyous. There’s more honest laughs and feel-good moments in Frankenweenie than in any Burton movie since Ed Wood. And the darker, edgier moments in the film keep it from being sentimental kiddie stuff. I found great pleasure in watching irritatingly cute animals transformed into snarling blood-crazed zombies, particularly one repellent little kitty who meets a fate that recalls that long ago encounter between Bambi and Godzilla. There’s a French poodle made to resemble Elsa Lanchester from Bride Of Frankenstein that’s pure genius and just one of a slew of visual gags that give Frankenweenie more snap than a Coney Island tube steak.

Frankenweenie will hit theaters on October 5.  

Dangerous Minds will be reporting from Fantastic Fest for the next week. Stay tuned.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Tim Burton stars in ‘Doctor of Doom,’ a little-known short film from 1979
05:01 pm


Tim Burton
Brad Bird
Jerry Rees

A young Tim Burton was employed straight out of CalArts by Walt Disney Productions studios, but his idiosyncratic talents did not easily mesh with the Disney house style of that era.

Burton chafed at the staid work he was expected to turn out as an animator and storyboard artist on films like The Fox and the Hound, The Black Cauldron and Tron. To blow off steam, he made some short films, including the little known Doctor of Doom, a purposefully bad homage to Mexican horror movies (the title refers to René Cardona’s mad scientist/wrestling film of the same name).

Burton plays the title character. The deliberately bad voice-over was performed by Oscar-winning animator Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille). Doctor of Doom was co-directed by Jerry Rees, who later produced Space Jam and designed more Disney theme park attractions than anyone else.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Before there was Tim Burton, there was ‘Mad Monster Party’

Mad Monster Party is a 1968 Halloween-themed children’s film created by the Rankin/Bass animation house and written by Mad magazine’s creator, Harvey Kurtzman (with Len Korobin).

Rankin/Bass were famous for their stop motion Christmas favorites like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. The film was directed by Jack Bass in their signature “Animagic” process.

Many of the characters in Mad Monster Party were designed by Mad’s Jack Davis, a man well-suited for the gig by his earlier comedy/horror work in the pages of EC Comics. The film featured the vocal talents of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller who were represented onscreen by their own likenesses.

Mad Monster Party was very influential on Tim Burton’s short film Vincent, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Some of the monster characters in Corpse Bride seem to be in homage to the earlier film. It would also appear that the Sesame Street character, “The Count” made his first appearance here, too…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Planet Claire Attacks!
08:05 am


Tim Burton
The B 52s
Mars Attack

What it says on the tin.

Via Edward C. Zacharewicz

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Jan Švankmajer - ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’
07:12 pm


Terry Gilliam
Tim Burton
The Brothers Quay

Dimensions of Dialogue is a short animated film, made in 1982 by Czech Surrealist artist and film-maker, Jan Švankmajer. The film is split into three sections, ‘Exhaustive Discussion’, where Arcimboldo-like heads reduce each other into bland copies; ‘Passionate Discourse’ a clay couple merge and dissolve in love-making, only to eventually disown and destroy each other; and ‘Factual Conversation’ two heads fail to communicate with each, presenting various objects with their tongues, none of which match.

Švankmajer has been making animations for over forty years, and his work has been a major influence on Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, Tim Burton, and others. Gilliam listed Dimensions of Dialogue as one of “10 best animations of all time”, stating:

Jan Svankmajer’s stop-motion work uses familiar, unremarkable objects in a way which is deeply disturbing. The first film of his that I saw was Alice, and I was extremely unsettled by the image of an animated rabbit which had real fur and real eyes. His films always leave me with mixed feelings, but they all have moments that really get to me; moments that evoke the nightmarish spectre of seeing commonplace things coming unexpectedly to life.

While Sense of Cinema described Dimensions of Dialogue as:

...instructional that it is everyday objects that are confronted, devoured, spat out and homogenised, through a series of metaphors of colonisation, to an endless repetition of cloning operations. This is our digital world laid out in 1982.

Perhaps. But it strikes me that Svankmajer is doing more than this and he is confronting the failings of human existence, in a darkly humorous and disturbing way, to fully connect with one other.

This month sees the release of Svankmajer’s latest and, what he has announced maybe his, last film, Surviving Life:

Eugene leads a double life - one real life, and another life in his dreams. In real life, he is married to Milada; in his dreams, he has a young lover called Eugenia. Sensing that these dreams have a deeper meaning, he goes to see a psychoanalyst, who interprets his dreams for him. Gradually we learn that Eugene lost his parents in early childhood and was brought up in an orphanage.

In the meantime, Eugenia is expecting Eugene’s child - to the dismay of a psychoanalyst, who believes Eugenia is in fact his anima. And getting your anima pregnant is worse than incest. Meanwhile Milada suspects Eugene is having an affair. She spies on Eugene’s ritual in his studio, and enter his dream-world. French Romantic poet, Gerard de Nerval, said: “Our dreams are a second life.” This films wants to prove his words.


Via Tara McGinley
Part 2 of ‘Dimensions of Dialogue’ plus bonus clips and trailer for ‘Surviving Life’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Tim Burton At MOMA
05:25 pm


Tim Burton

The big new Tim Burton retrospective opens at MOMA on November 22nd.  Consisting of both a gallery exhibition and a film series, the show considers:

Burton’s career as a director, producer, writer, and concept artist for live-action and animated films, along with his work as a fiction writer, photographer and illustrator.  Following the current of his visual imagination from early childhood drawings through his mature work, the exhibition presents artwork generated during the conception and production of his films, and highlights a number of unrealized projects and never-before-seen pieces, as well as student art, his earliest non-professional films, and examples of his work as a storyteller and graphic artist for non-film projects.

The opposing themes of adolescence and adulthood, and the elements of sentiment, cynicism, and humor inform his work in a variety of mediums?

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment