Review: Over the Garden Wall

Review: Over the Garden Wall

Released by the Cartoon Network in 2014, Over the Garden Wall has since provend itself worthy of its rabid fan base: the miniseries is rightly considered a classic of “Halloween” films, and possibly contemporary animation in general.

The story of brothers Wirt and Greg lost in the Unknown is beautiful to look at, owing more painters of the American frontiers and farmlands than it does to modern trends. It is lush, the opposite of garish.

The story is initially a bit of picaresque, the boys’ quest to find their way home not nearly as important as the haunted people they meet and the haunting places they visit. But, in the fashion of “New” Doctor Who, all of the passing references, casual asides and side-glances at history and folklore pay off in a compete and compelling story. You will cry.

The overall feel of the work is most akin to browsing through an old photo album, but more carefully constructed. Over the Garden Wall borrows from early talkies, black & white cartoons, The Brother Grimm and Washington Irving… all the while working in shout-outs to Shriley Temple and Betty Boop. The these pieces are sharply arranged to create a world the feels cohesive and compelling.
A place we could all get lost in.

This is a world of story, that starts with Wirt and Greg as much in shadows as we are. This isn’t the last time we will pick up suddenly “there”- not quite in-media-res, more like the start of a dream: instant yet familiar. This is a world of characters, of archetypes. The first denizen of the Unknown we encounter is only ever known as The Woodcutter. He who is burdened by The Beast. An entire episode, pointedly titled “The Dark Lantern”, is all about characters who define themselves as such. The Tavern Keeper. The Baker. The Highwayman. What is Wirt? The Lover? or The Pilgrim? They’re like NPCs in a Roleplaying Game, aware of themselves only as sketches and how they relate to the Main Players.

We will find Mad Men, Witches (possibly Wicked), Wise Animals (one acting as the Guide, the Virgil to the duo’s Dante), Genius Loci… many of them half in one world, half in another. Frogs & Turtles (creatures of both water and land), Changlings (both human and Other), The Dancing Dead (clothed in reaped accessories), and Potatoes. .. simple green plants above, food buried under the dirt.

You may laugh, but something as humble as a tuber is revealed to have great import. But that is part of the point: the tales presented are by turn whimsical and melancholy. Putting your foot into a pumpkin is goofy, but can be haunting by the end of the journey. Light-hearted sleight of hand, but sleight of hand none-the-less.

The humbleness is perfectly echoed in the music of Over the Garden Wall. Simple piano pieces, minimal Americana, early Jazz, sinister opera… each song is as much a part of the story as the dialogue of the characters, in certain cases *more so*. Again the pieces are funny, and wistful, and moving. I found myself lost in song, in what they reveal and what they only hint at. “Potatoes and Molasses” will make you smile and tap your foot when you first hear it, but the dark reprise is more a funeral mass than Max Fleischer.

When all put together Over the Garden Wall is more than a “Halloween” film, or even a film about Autumn and the year’s end. It creates it’s own setting, it’s own genre… a sort of Phantamsagoric Americana wrapped in the aegis of a “kids” film.

Required watching, and listening.


Sepiachord in Vintage Tomorrows~

Sepiachord in Vintage Tomorrows~

Sepiachord’s own Mr Bodewell is featured in this steampunk documentary:
Vintage Tomorrows~ out July 19th

VINTAGE TOMORROWS is a documentary film examining the steampunk movement’s explosive growth, origins, and cultural significance. It explores the fundamental questions: What is steampunk, and why does it seem to be suddenly everywhere? Beyond that, what can we learn about today and tomorrow from steampunk’s playful visions of yesteryear?”

Presenting the cast of Vintage Tomorrows #19: Jordan Bodewell of Sepiachord

Jordan is the founder of Sepiachord. As they put it, “It is to music what ‘steampunk’ is to literature and cinema: something that looks back to the past to comment on the present while looking sideways at the future.” Through their website, Jordan and his crew seek to showcase both steampunk and other retrofuturistic types of music. Jordan took part in the Vintage Tomorrows dinner, and we also caught up with him at the Time Travelers’ Swap Meet, The Seattle Steampunk Soiree, and GEAR Con, where he was interviewed individually. Jordan’s interview touched on history, culture, and storytelling, but most of all, when asked to sum up steampunk, he put it simply: “It’s fun!
Check out Sepiachord at

‪#‎VintageTomorrows‬ is available for Pre-Order on DVD and iTunes. Buy your copy today for July 19:

Monday March 2nd~ Metropolis with live score by DEGENERATE ART ENSEMBLE, Seattle WA

Monday March 2nd~ Metropolis with live score by DEGENERATE ART ENSEMBLE, Seattle WA

STG Presents
Silent Movie Mondays – Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

With live original

Orchestral Score by


German Silents

March 2, 2015

Doors at 6:00 pm

Show at 7:00 pm

The Paramount Theatre

911 Pine Street

Seattle, WA 98101

Fingersmith~ United Kingdom (2005) Aisling Walsh

Fingersmith~ United Kingdom (2005) Aisling Walsh

from the Wikipedia:

“The lives of two young women collide in Victorian England when a trio of ‘fingersmiths’ (pick-pockets) concoct an elaborate scam to defraud a young heiress of her inheritance. The story alternates between the twisting back alleyways of Dickensian London and the cloistered gloom of a Gothic mansion in 1862.”

Based on the novel by Sarah Walters, I don’t know if this is a perfect production. There were times when it felt as if the story was hampered by the limitations of being filmed for television.

What I did like is how the story starts as a classic set up for Victorian literature: orphans, madness, the rookeries of London, a rich eccentric, unexpected inheritances, secret upon secret, and true love. Walters’ story then takes all of that and then carefully subverts it. We are sucked into the story and then suckered by our expectations of the genre.

Most notably no authority figure gets off easy here: they are either corrupt, criminal, or inept. And no-one is truly an innocent.


Maciste all’inferno ~ 1925, Guido Brignone (Italy)

Silent Movie Saturday:

Maciste all’inferno ~ 1925, Guido Brignone (Italy)

Maciste in Hell
Maciste all’inferno


Directed by Guido Brignone

Bartolomeo Pagano … Maciste
Franz Sala … Barbariccia/Dottor Nox
Elena Sangro … Proserpina, Pluto’s wife
Lucia Zanussi … Luciferina, Pluto’s daughter
Umberto Guarracino … Pluto
Domenico Serra … Giorgio
Pauline Polaire … Graziella
Mario Salo
Andrea Miano … (uncredited)
Felice Minotti … (uncredited)

Most folks outside of Italy probably aren’t familiar with the cinematic strong man Maciste, a character (portrayed by Bartolomeo Pagano) who was featured in over 20 films from 1914 to 1927. His legacy in Italian film was sealed when a Hercules-like character was given the name and then starred in 25 “swords and sandals” films between 1960 and 1965.

Just read the wikipedia for a crash course in Maciste:

Today the Sepiachord Crew watched the third to last of the original Maciste movies: 1926’s Maciste all’inferno (Maciste in Hell).

The version we watched was released by Grapevine, and we rented it from Seattle’s legendary Scarecrow Video.

Grapevine Video:

Scarecrow Video:

the titular Maciste, note the pitchforks in the background

In this film the physically (and morally) strong Maciste portrays a 19th century gentleman who gets hassled by top-hat wearing, moustache twirling devils who’ve come to Earth basically to give someone a lousy day. These hellions have picked the wrong man.


After failing to impress the man of muscles the main demon, Barbariccia, opts to mess with his cousins baby (while Maciste is off informing a local nobleman that he WILL do the right thing by Maciste’s unwed, but baby having, cousin… OR ELSE). Maciste foils Barbariccia but gets pulled down to the netherworld anyway… and then THINGS GET EPIC.

Hell feels massive in this film, and is peopled with… well, LEGIONS of devils. The classic horned and goat-legged look is opted for when it comes to the male fiends (to good effect) but the lady devils are given surprisingly revealing costumes.

Maciste kicks a little devil butt, but is informed that he can’t stay… unless he kisses a she-demon… then HE IS DOOOOOMED! Pluto, the king of the underworld, has a fetching wife and daughter (both in the afore mentioned sexy outfits). These hotties have no intention of letting such a fine specimen of a man get away…

it’s not everyday that the lord of hades gets cuckoled

Before long the treacherous Barbariccia leads a coup in Hell, Maciste kicks much tail, visiual homages are given to Dore, remarkably good special effects are used to amazing results, Maciste is turned back human, then recaptured and chained to a cliff the the Hell Queen’s “amusement”, finally this all leads to a HEART WARMING CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!


This is now one of our favorite “pre-talkie” films EVER.

Highly recommended.

Watch here:

The Mansion of Madness ~ (1973) Juan López Moctezuma – Mexico

The Mansion of Madness ~ (1973) Juan López Moctezuma – Mexico

Juan López Moctezuma’s first outing as a director, 1973’s La Mansion de la Locura, was marketed to American audiences as a sex and blood romp under the lurid title of Dr Tarr’s Torture Garden. Boy were those folks in for a surprise.

Sure the film is inspired by an Edgar Allen Poe tale*, but not one of his horrific one. In fact The Mansion of Madness is less a decent into horrific insanity than it is a surreal picaresque of lunacy.

The set up is pretty basic: gentleman Gaston LeBlanc visits an asylum with a new “Soothing” treatment: just let let the patient’s run around doing as they like… mostly. There are those folks in the labyrinthine dungeon-like lower levels of the absolutely MASSIVE asylum. Former inmates parade around as “guards” dressed in Napoleonic military uniforms, and LeBlanc’s host (Dr Maillard) is clearly a little to ok with the shenanigans that the patients get up to.

Being a gentleman, LeBlanc keeps his concerns to a minimum and puts up with Maillard’s odd behavior… of course the presence of Maillard’s intriguing (and attractive) ward Eugenie has a lot to do with it.

Honestly there really isn’t much story here. The set up is just a frame work for bizarre and surreal scenes and tableaus. This is a movie you experience more than watch. But that’s a good thing. While the The Mansion of Madness certainly isn’t a fast-paced film there’s way too much going on to ever be bored by it.

And there is fun to be had in watching the Victorian gentleman keep his cool as he’s pestered incessantly and presented with a parade of strange behavior. He even insists on fisticuffs when facing the baddie at the end (when a firearm was already primed and pointed at his tormentor).

Steampunks should get a kick out of Maillard’s descriptions of the fictional machines the inmates have created. Though, sadly, they remain in the realm of the imagination.

While whimsical things happen, and the music is often best described as “jaunty”, this is certainly no “general admission” flick. First off there’s LOTS of nudity. A bunch. And, early in the film, there’s a sexually violent scene. Be warned.

Just take a look at LeBlanc’s face. That’s the expression you’ll have as you experience The Mansion of Madness.

For some reason as I watched this movie for a second time I couldn’t stop thinking about the legendary British television show The Prisoner. The set up of “the only sane man” trapped in a dark kaleidoscope that seems tailor made to test his limits… there’s something to that. 

Who’s mad? Who’s sane? Who would go to so much trouble just to torment one man? There’s an RPG story in this, mark my words.

As and added bonus the film was actually recorded in English, so you don’t have to put up with a lousy dub!

* “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether“, read it here:


Inexpensive Music: Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys~ The Cabinet of Dr Caligari LIVE soundtrack

Inexpensive Music: Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys~ The Cabinet of Dr Caligari LIVE soundtrack

Need new music?

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys are offering their live soundtrack to the seminal film The Cabinet of Dr Caligari at a “name your price” option.

Due to medical bills these wacky kids could really use your attention and pocket change.

Bonus: the music is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.

Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Soundtrack performed LIVE at the Music Hall of Portsmouth on 10/24/2013

CONDUCTED by Walter Sickert


A SteamCrunk WIREFOREST Production
A Dirt-Fi Recording recorded with String and Tin Cans


You can listen to this all by itself – BUT if you listen to this WHILE YOU ARE WATCHING The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – guaranteed it’s MUCH more AWESOME

1. Set up your movie player
2. Set up your audio player by downloading the tracks and creating a gap-less playlist
4. TURN your new playlist of OUR SOUNDTRACK UP TO 11!
5. Press PLAY on your MOVIE
6. When the screen goes GREEN and says “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” ” – press PLAY on our soundtrack

Now sit back with an adult beverage and/or a mind altering substance or two and experience the movie in a WHOLE NEW WAY!


released 14 November 2013

Soundtrack recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered

Joel Simches – Sonic Chocobliss(tm)

released 24 October 2013

Walter Sickert – Conductor, Vox, Guitar, Effects & Programming
Edrie – Accordion, Xylophone, Broken Toys
Rachel Jayson – Viola
jojo the Burlesque Poetess – Uke, Flute
TJ Horn – Drums
Meff – Guitar, Mandolin
Mike Leggio – Stand-up and Electric Bass

In this 1920 silent classic, an inmate in an insane asylum explains to his psychiatrist how he came to the institution, telling the shrink the story of the evil hypnotist Caligari and his unwitting pawn, the sleepwalker Cesare

With an original score performed live by Boston SteamCRUNK ensemble and RPM Challenge favorites, Walter Sickert & the Army of BRoken TOys. In affiliation with, and a fundraiser for, Portsmouth Halloween Parade.

Oct 25th~ The Mahogany Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk and Film, Atlanta GA

Oct 25th~ The Mahogany Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk and Film, Atlanta GA

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future

Auburn Avenue Research Library

101 Auburn Avenue, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30303
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm – The Mahogany Masquerade: Black to the Future

Last year, we came out in force – in all our myriad beauty – and brought the funk to The Mahogany Masquerade: A Night of Steamfunk and Film, an annual event in which the many enthusiastic and creative participants come dressed in their best Steamfunk, Dieselfunk and Rococoa costumes for an unforgettable night of cosplay, short films, engaging chats with other Steamfunkateers and, of course, partying into the wee hours of the night.

This year, we are doing it even bigger!

Come dressed in your best Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk costumes as we enjoy Black Speculative Fiction short films and meet their creators.

Some of the films shown will be “Evolve”, from director Kia T. Barbee; “Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster”, from director Balogun Ojetade; “Dominion: The Case for Tuesdays”, from director Rodney V. Smith; “CV Nation: The Director’s Cut”, from director, Scott F. Evans and “Kina Sky”, from director Coretta Singer!

9:00 pm until – Mahogany Masquerade After-Party

Drop the children off at Grandma’s and parade over to the BQE Lounge with us and let’s party the night away!”

The Great Mouse Detective

The Great Mouse Detective ~

Watched today The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

I really like this movie, it’s relative success after the fiasco of The Black Cauldron convinced Disney to keep making animated features, and it mixes Sherlock Holmes with “mouse world”… two things I’m a sucker for.

The (over-the-top) cherry on the cake is the brilliant Vincent Price as the chief baddie, Ratigan. Vincent even sings two songs! (swoon)

Add in the bad guy’s airship, the phonograph triggered death trap, and the CLOCKWORK QUEEN and you’ve got a wonderful little steampunk classic (for all ages, as they say).


(as a bonus if you really like gears, the climax is set in a certain London landmark is all gears and is the first major CGI scene ever)