Horror Lit: The Apple Tree

My best friend recommended to me Daphne du Maurier’s story “The Apple Tree.” I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of this author, although I was familiar with her work, unbeknownst to me. Her works Rebecca and “The Birds” were the stories behind Alfred Hitchcock’s movies of the same names, and which are both on my reading list now.

When I began reading “The Apple Tree,” I was expecting it to be something between Johnny Appleseed and Sleepy Hollow — only based on the title. I was very wrong. Instead, it was an engaging tale of a marriage turned sour. Told from the perspective of an old man who only sees what is wrong with his wife, du Maurier pulls you into a sad story of how life can be made harder when there is no love left between a couple.

The image of the apple tree was used very well in the story to represent the bitterness between the protagonist and his wife, and it reminded me of an earlier ghost story from the 19th century by Elia Peattie called “The Crime of Micah Rood.” Similarly, this story was told from the perspective of an old man, but that and the apple tree image are where the similarities end. This story is about poverty, jealousy and greed … and regret.

When I read “The Crime of Micah Rood,” I was struck by the central image of the apple tree. In both this story and “The Apple Tree,” the tree and its fruit act in supernatural ways that reflect the protagonists’ struggles. Peattie’s story is much shorter, but just as satisfying as du Maurier’s. They are good stories to read as companion pieces.

du Maurier, Daphne. “The Apple Tree,” The Birds and Other Stories, Virago, 2004, originally published as The Apple Tree: A Short Novel and Several Long Stories, Gollancz, 1952.

Peattie, Elia. “The Crime of Micah Rood,” Great American Ghost Stories, ed. Bill Bowers, Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Horror Junior Cinema Trivia: The Witches (1990)

After a test screening, The Witches author Roald Dahl angrily expressed to the producers how “appalled” he was at “the vulgarity, the bad taste” and “actual terror” in certain parts of the movie. He demanded that his name and his book’s title be removed from the film prior to release, but after receiving an apologetic, complimentary letter from Jim Henson, he grudgingly withdrew his threat.

Learn more behind-the-scenes trivia about this horror junior classic at IMDb: The Witches (1990) Trivia.

Poe’s “The Raven” Illustrations by Gustave Doré

Weeks before his death in January 1883, Gustave Doré completed a set of illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.” They were prepared for publication as a Christmas book gift available by October of that year. A copy of the book cost $10 at the time, which is equivalent to $244 today. It sold well and received critical praise. Following are some select images from the edition from the Graphic Arts Collection of the Fireside Library at Princeton University (see full post at https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2018/03/29/gustave-dores-raven/).

Horror Cinema Trivia: Carrie (1976)

Nancy Allen claims she never realized her character in Carrie was going to be so evil until she saw the finished film. She thought she and John Travolta were playing such self-centered, bickering morons that they were there for comic relief.

Piper Laurie also thought the character of Margaret White was so over the top that the film had to be a comedy.

Read more fun facts at IMDB Trivia: Carrie (1976).

Horror Cinema Trivia: Freaks

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald, a member of the MGM writing department at the time Freaks was in production, did not quite feel at home with all the movie stars and powerful moguls, so he often dined with the sideshow attractions during his lunch hour.

Freaks, dinner scene.

Fact from Horror Movie Freaks by Don Sumner, Krause Publications, 2010.

Browning, Tod. Freaks, MGM, 1932.