Saturday, March 30, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Grapples and Meyer Lemons

     It could be argued that the topic of today’s post—fruit hybrids—is the most exotic food I’ve written about.  Hybrids by their nature are weird—the interbreeding of two (or more) different species to produce an entirely different offspring.
     Obviously, it’s not just plants that do this.  There are many examples of animal hybrids, some of which occur naturally, and others artificially, by the actions of humans.  With extremely rare exceptions, all of these cases are mixings between animals of the same genus, but different species.  And the resulting children, if males, are almost always sterile, while females sometimes are, sometimes not.  In some examples two different hybrid types are possible, based on which species was the mother and which the father.  A female horse/male donkey hybrid is called a mule, while a female donkey/male horse hybrid is a hinnie.  Typically the names given to the hybrids are simply combinations of part of both parent species’ names, in much the same way that tabloids sometimes refer to celebrity couples, such as “Brangelina” for Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie.  Sometimes the resulting name is kind of humorous.  But let’s get to a list of some animal hybrids.

Zebra plus horse produces a zorse.
Zebra and donkey produce a zonkey, (or donkra).
A bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale together make a wolphin.
The bobcat and lynx hybrid is a blynx.
Polar and grizzly bears make a grolar bear.
Camel and llama produce a cama.
An African serval cat plus an Asian leopard and a domestic house cat make an ashera.

     Lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards can all interbreed, and make some interesting combinations.  Ligers (referenced in the “Napoleon Dynamite” movie) are the result of a female tiger and male lion, and are the largest type of big cat.  A female lion and male tiger make a tigon, or tiglon.  A jaguar/leopard mix is a jagulep.  Taking this further, a lion and jagulep mix becomes a lijagulep.  And I didn’t see it listed, but presumably a mix of all four big cats would result in a ligerjagulep.
     On a smaller scale, the mixing of a domestic cat and a serval (a small wild cat) produces a savannah, which reportedly often have doglike characteristics.  Savannahs are comfortable on leashes, and even play fetch.
     But the oddest animal example is a sheep/goat hybrid.  Bizarre because they’re not in the same genus.  However, in 2000 such a hybrid was produced, and unlike previous individuals, was not stillborn and survived.  It was referred to as The Toast of Botswana.  More disturbingly, the animal was nicknamed “Bemya,” which means “rapist” in the local language.  Despite its sterility, it became notorious for its overly enthusiastic attempts to mate with the other animals in its enclosure.  It had to be castrated to stop this.
     On to the fruit hybrids.  There are dozens of grape combos, which are especially prized by the wine industry for their different colors and flavors.  And here are some others.

A lime and a mandarin orange produce a blood lime.
A lemon and a grapefruit combine to make an imperial lemon.
Mix kumquats with key limes and you get a limequat.
A Siamese sweet pomello, a key mandarin orange, and a tangerine make a mandelo.
A peach, apricot, and plum hybrid is a peacotum.
Blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries combine to produce a boysenberry.
Ugli fruit is made from oranges, tangerines, and either a grapefruit or pomello.

     Finally, one blackberry hybrid has a comical name.  It’s the Marionberry, named for the county in which it was tested, and not to be confused with Marion “Bitch set me up” Barry, the former Washington, D.C. mayor who won reelection even after famously being caught smoking crack.
     Alas, I was unable to locate most of these.  I did find a grapple, whose tagline is, “Crunches like an apple.  Tastes like a grape.”  This isn’t technically a hybrid—it’s either a Fuji or Gala apple infused with natural and artificial Concord grape juice.  It was rather disappointing.  It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t taste very different from a regular apple.  It was only slightly sweeter.  Not worth its high price.
     I did manage to buy a true hybrid, the Meyer lemon.  This is a combination of a lemon and either a mandarin or regular orange.  It’s unusual looking—it appears to be a small, slightly oval orange, while its inner flesh looks like an ordinary lemon.  As advertised it tasted like a sweeter lemon.  I had mine raw and by itself, but evidently it’s also very good for use in desserts.  So I can certainly recommend this one.
     I think if I ever become wealthy and diabolically insane I’d enjoy an isolated lair to myself, Island of Dr. Moreau-style, where I could try to develop my own hybrids.  It would be neat to see what could be produced.  Centaurs, griffins, or maybe even fruit/animal combos, like a literal Grape Ape, or a Fiona Apple.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Beef Kidney

     About a week ago I sat down and watched two programs about Jack the Ripper back to back.  (Oddly, these were shown on The Military Channel, even though these murders had no apparent connection with military matters, or personnel, etc.)  They were both interesting, with cases being made for an obscure Whitechapel mortuary attendant Robert Mann, and then convicted wife murderer/insane asylum escapee/alleged U.S. immigrant James Kelly as being good candidates for being the murderer.  (Kelly seems like the more likely person to me.)  Anyway, during these broadcasts mention was made about the letters sent to various investigators and the press that were supposedly written by Jack, including the most convincing one, the October 16th, 1888 letter which included half a human kidney, which seemed to match up with the missing organ from fourth victim Catherine Eddowes.  (The letter was addressed “From hell,” and included the sentences, “Sir I send you half the Kidne I took from one woman prasarved it for you tother piece I fried and ate it was very nise.” (sic))  A day or two later I was walking through the meat section of my grocery store, and there I saw beef kidneys for sale.  Since I’d never had these before, I decided to once again relax my personal habit of never cooking my own food (save for microwaving).  (For all none of you that are keeping track, combined with the pig’s ears this means I’ve cooked twice within the past 80 days or so, surely a personal record.)
     The internet provided many recipes, although unfortunately most of these were for the English dish called steak and kidney pie (sort of a turkey pot pie with the titular meat filling instead of turkey).  Since preparing a pastry pie shell would have added yet more ingredients, prep time, and cooking time, I ignored these and went for the ones that told how to cook kidneys in a simpler way.  There were some variations, so I combined these into one recipe that seemed the easiest to make, had the best predicted taste outcome, and used ingredients and spices I already had access to.
     Several recipes strongly advised soaking the kidneys beforehand, to get rid of/minimize what contributers categorized as “the terrible urine smell.”  (Mouth watering yet?)  This seemed prudent, so I soaked the kidney in an icy salt water bath for about an hour and a half.  After rinsing off the kidney, it was time to cut.  Every cook said you had to remove the membrane, fat, and large blood vessels (once again, I’m sure these details are really selling readers on this meal).  These were mainly concentrated in a large whitish section of tissue in the center of the overall beanlike shape of the kidney.  Removing this was difficult, even with a sharp knife.  But finally I had just reddish pieces of kidney, which I cut into small bite sized pieces.  I then greased a skillet with butter and olive oil, added the kidney portions, and sautéed them for about twenty minutes on low/medium heat, until the pieces were brown.  Next I put the kidney chunks aside and sautéed mushrooms, an onion, a shallot, and garlic in the olive oil and butter for about ten minutes.  Finally I re-added the kidney pieces and put in some water and slow cooked everything for an hour.  To be fair, this was probably longer than necessary, but as I’m such a beginner chef I’m paranoid about undercooking and getting nasty intestinal worms, and luckily some of the recipes mentioned that it was almost impossible to overcook kidneys.  
     Then it was chow time.  To me kidney tasted remarkably like liver—chewy, and good in a weird way.  It had a distinct “organ-y” texture, but I had no problems finishing about a pound of it (I was hungry, plus I’m a bit of glutton).  I experimented and found that Worcestershire sauce complemented it nicely, gave it a good zing.  Therefore, I would enthusiastically have kidney again.  Although, as usual, I’d prefer it to be in a restaurant, or prepared by someone other than myself.  Also, for the record, the soaking apparently did the job—the odor of cooking kidney was faint, and of meat, not a revolting bathroom-type smell.
P.S.  I did some further reading later, and discovered that even the letter I mentioned is highly questioned by most “Ripperologists.”  Evidently the details that made it seem more credible in pre-modern forensic and DNA days, like the portion of renal artery left was consistent with the portion left in Catherine’s, and that it showed signs of being from someone who suffered from alcoholism and Bright’s Disease, as did Catherine, were only mentioned by one of the observant doctors decades later in his memoirs, and not in his original notes and report.  And, supposedly getting a hold of a human kidney wasn’t that tough in 1888 England, especially for med students.  So, according to the experts, in effect, the October 16th letter could have easily been a tasteless prank.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Underrated Horror Gems--"Let Sleeping Corpses Lie"

     Obviously zombies have been a hot monster in entertainment in the past decade or so, after having a comparative lull in the 1990’s.  For example, if you had told me ten years ago that there would be a popular yet gory television show about zombies, that would be watched not just by ardent horror fans like myself, I wouldn’t have believed you.  Hell, Stephenie Meyer is probably halfway through another teenage romance, this time with lame zombies as the “bad boy” du jour.  (And of course I myself used zombies, sort of, for my first ebook.)
     Probably everybody knows about 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead,” since it started the whole zombies-that-take-over-the-world-by-eating-living-people zombie horror idea that proved to be so completely influential.  But today I’d like to discuss another, fairly old zombie movie—“Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,” a 1974 Spanish/Italian production.  (This is just one of its titles.  Like a lot of European movies, especially Italian zombie films, it went by many other titles (at least 17!), including, “The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue,” “Don’t Open the Window,” and “Brunch with the Dead.”)  Director Jorge Grau admitted that his producers requested a color knockoff of “Night of the Living Dead,” but as knockoffs go it was very solid.  Most of the “Tombs of the Blind Dead” movies predated it, as did “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things,” to name two other notable color ripoffs.
     “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” (which will hereafter be abbreviated to “Corpses”) is about two travelers, George and Edna, who are thrown together in Northern England’s Lake District after Edna accidently damages George’s motorcycle.  Edna is going to help put her sister into drug rehab.  Strange things start to happen.  Edna is accosted by a weird looking man.  A murder occurs, which may have been committed by this same strange attacker.  Then things get worse—the dead start to return and attack the living, but the local police don’t believe our two heroes.  The ending suggests that the zombie epidemic may spread out and get worse.
     (SPOILER ALERT—PLOT POINTS DISCUSSED UNTIL NOTED)  “Corpses” is certainly not a perfect movie.  It’s fairly slow in the beginning.  Most of the main characters aren’t very sympathetic, including George, who is often arrogant and annoying.  (The police inspector couldn’t be a bigger douchebag, but in doing so he makes for an effective villain.)
     On the plus side, once it gets going it holds the tension well.  The dead tramp stalking scene is good, the cemetery attack scene is darkly compelling, and the hospital scenes at the end are nicely disturbing and grotesque.  Grau really takes advantage of the fact that the film was made in color, with bits of occasionally graphic gore.  Unlike many zombie movies, the scenery is impressive, too—especially the hillside cemetery and the picturesque small town (South Gate) that most of the action is set in.  (Some of it is actually English countryside, but Italy stood in for much of the shooting.)
     People who like to debate what films really mean, and what the movie’s symbolism is will have a field day with “Corpses.”  I hesitate to even call it subtext, since it’s so overt.  Briefly, the movie has an obvious anti-industrial, environmental theme, which is rather Tolkien-esque.  The film contrasts the crowds, the factories, and the pollution of Manchester at its beginning with the sparsely populated, lovely, and green countryside where the rest of the film takes place.  This can be seen in the movie’s explanation for why the dead are returning, too—a new type of agricultural equipment which affects potential insect pests using ultrasonic radiation waves.  So in essence, human’s reliance on harsh technology for growing crops causes a zombie apocalypse—it’s like an extreme conspiracy theory cooked up by a bunch of hippies at an organic food co-op.  The fact that the police inspector (representing rigid, conservative, old authority) doesn’t believe George and Edna (representing youthful open-mindedness, liberalism) until it’s almost too late only reinforces this.  (There is one bizarre exception to this.  At one point, a zombie activates another corpse or two by spreading dabs of blood over their eyes, kind of an obscene bastardization of an anointing.  It’s an odd moment, suggesting an evil magical, ritualistic aspect to the phenomenon.)
     I’m also fascinated by another plot point, which the movie almost glosses over, and as far as I know, is unique in a zombie film.  That is, the ultrasonic waves affect any living things in the area which have simplistic brains and nervous systems.  (For the purposes of the plot, dead adult nervous systems are clearly affected, too.)  This is supposed to mean insects, but in the movie it also affects living human babies.  There’s a nasty scene where a nurse has had her eye gouged by a tiny denizen of the maternity ward.  So, in this movie there are both dead zombies, and living ones.  Which got me to thinking—if you raised a child in this town (with the ultrasonic waves) would they grow out of it, as their nervous systems matured?  And have other animals reacted in the same way?  Surely a dog or cat compares to a baby human’s nervous system complexity, but this isn’t explored.  (Clearly, all of this is very far fetched, biologically speaking, but it IS a zombie movie, so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief.)
     The movie also breaks from the usual method of destroying the brain to “kill” a zombie.  Bullets in the torso don’t work, but we don’t actually see any head shots, so it’s unknown if this works.  Zombies are only destroyed using fire.  Also, there’s a big question unanswered—are the created zombies permanent, or will they “deanimate” if the ultrasonic radiation wave machines are turned off?  Obviously if it’s the latter it would rate as one of the easiest zombie apocalypses to stop ever.
     (END SPOILERS)  Unlike other European horror directors, like Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, Ruggero Deodato, Pupi Avati, and Paul Naschy, to name a few, Jorge Grau never seemed to get much worldwide (and especially American) acclaim.  He had a long career—he directed 32 films, the last in 1994, but only “Corpses” was noted much outside of his native Spain.  Ray Lovelock (George) worked steadily before, and has since, but mostly in Italian productions that also weren’t big in other countries.  Christina Galbo (Edna) was in another moderate hit (1972’s “What Have You Done to Solange?”) but the rest of her career was in smaller Spanish films.  The dreadful police inspector portrayer, Arthur Kennedy, was easily the most famous actor in the movie.  He was a five-time Oscar nominee (no wins), and was in such films as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Peyton Place,” and “Fantastic Voyage,” and he had a small role in the subject of an earlier blog post of mine, “The Sentinel.”
     So, for American audiences, anyway, Grau was a one hit wonder (and even that hit was modest).  But like many one hit wonders, that one hit is pretty cool.  I think that zombie movie aficionados, especially those with a sense of history, will probably find “Let Sleeping Corpses Lie” to be enjoyable.

Friday, March 8, 2013

World's Oldest Breweries

     Back in 2000 I spent eight months living in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, on a long project.  The hotel we stayed in had a bar/restaurant right next to it, so it was a common destination for we “alkyologists” as we’re sometimes known.  One of the beers the bar always had on tap was Yuengling, out of Pottsville, PA.  Unlike many of the other beers on tap (i.e. Budweiser, Miller, all “light” beers), Yuengling was both cheap ($4 a pitcher!) and tasty.  It was a fun time.  Yuengling, of course, makes a point of advertizing itself as “America’s Oldest Brewery,” since 1829.  Over the years I’d wondered--which are the oldest breweries in the world?  Given the United State’s relatively recent history I was sure there’d be many older ones, especially in Asia and Europe.
     Obviously beer is an ancient beverage.  Chemical analysis of clay containers shows that it was being made in what’s now Iran 7,000 years ago.  The Egyptians were enjoying it at least 5,000 years ago, as were the ancient Europeans.  Some folks even postulate that beer production was the catalyst for many important types of technology, and even more broadly, for the start of civilization itself.
     I should explain that what I’m interested in is the oldest breweries in the world that were continuously operated up until the present day.  Clearly thousands or more started centuries ago, but stopped operating for one reason or another.  For example, the first North American brewery was Alonso de Herrera’s in Mexico, in 1544.  John Smith recorded two breweries in Virginia in 1629.  And the first North American name brand beer, Red Lion, was produced by Isaac de Foreest (or Forest) near Wall Street in Manhattan from 1660-1675.  Robert Hare’s brewery (whose porter type of beer was a favorite of George Washington), had a good run, too, lasting (albeit with name changes) from 1774-1939.  For the record, Yeungling isn’t lying—they are the oldest, still operating American brewery.  Rounding out the rest of North America, Victoria is the oldest in Mexico (1865), and Molson (1786) is Canada’s elder statesman.
     Let’s jump around a little.  Here’s a list of the oldest breweries in some other countries, but still not among the world’s oldest:
1)      England—Shepherd Neame, 1698.
2)      Ireland—St. Francis Abbey (makers of Smithwicks), 1710.
3)      Russia—Stepan Razin, 1795.
4)      South Africa—Newlands, 1820.
5)      Austalia—Cascade, 1824.
6)      India—Dyer Brewery, incorporated in 1855, but known for producing Lion beer for decades before that, perhaps as early as the late 1820’s.  Now Mohan Meakin.
7)      BrazilBohemia, 1853.
8)      JapanSpring Valley, 1869.  Closed for a year, but bought by Kirin in 1885.
9)      ChinaHarbin, 1900.

An Aside about Stella Artrois
    Stella Artois is one of the world’s older, but not oldest, started in 1366.  Since tariffs on this Belgian import made it more expensive than local English beers, the company came up with the odd ad campaign “Reassuringly Expensive” from 1982-2007, which used snob appeal to get across the assertion that pricier meant higher quality.  Alas, Stella Artois was nicknamed “Wife Beater” in England, as people thought that its higher alcohol content and possible chemical makeup made consumers more aggressive.  (For the record, its alcohol content is 5.2%, which is on the higher side for a lager, but not spectacularly so.  Also, there’s no proof of weird chemicals in it that cause aggression.  Any perceived effect must be psychological in nature, similar to people claiming that certain types of liquor “make them go crazy.”)

     But back to the focus of this article.  Here’s the list of the world’s 10 oldest breweries.  Bear in mind that this is a blog post, and not a doctoral dissertation.  I did the best that I could, but it’s entirely possible that I missed a particular brewery, or something.  If a reader can correct me, I’d welcome any information.  (In case anyone's rereading this, in the year or so since I wrote this originally I've gotten to try a few more offerings from the various breweries.)

1)      Weihenstephaner, 1040, located in Friesing, Bavaria, Germany.  Like many of the world’s oldest, this started as an abbey.  The monks started it in about 720, and there are records of them buying hops by at least 768, suggesting brewing was taking place.  However, it didn’t become commercial until 1040.  Fortunately their beers are relatively easy to find in the places I’ve traveled to.  Their lager is good, and their Hefeweissbier, Korbinian, and Vitus are very good to excellent.
2)      Weltenburger, 1050, Weltenburg, Bavaria, Germany.  The abbey dates to 620, so it could be argued that brewing took place here first, instead of at Weihenstephaner.  However, it wasn’t commercialized until 1050.  Haven’t found this beer to be as available as Weihenstephaner, but I was able to recently try a bottle of their Kloster Pils.  And it was decent.  Alas, their Kloster Barock Hell (a Munich Helles Lager) was rather unpleasant--too sweet, too malty.
3)      Affligem, 1074, Belgium.  Their Tripel was okay, but I thought a tad overrated.  Their Noel Christmas Ale I found to be pretty bad.  Not a typical nicely spicy Christmas brew.
4)      Grimbergen, 1128, Belgium.  The Grimbergen Dubbel (Double) was all right, but nothing special.  Their Blonde (a Belgian Pale Ale) was odd.  At first I thought it was strangely sweet, but it grew on me, and I ended up really enjoying the last couple of bottles.
5)      Tongerlo, 1133, Belgium.  I was disappointed in their Blond.  It was overly light and kind of bland.  Drinkable, though, and it hides its alcohol content well.
6)      Bolten, 1266, Germany.
7)      Aldersbach, 1268, Germany.
8)      Hirter, 1270, Austria.
9)      Furstenberg, 1283, Germany.
10)  Aktienbrauerei Kaufbeuren, 1308, Germany.  Had their Tanzelfest Bier (a Marzen/Oktoberfest) and really disliked it.  Way too sweet, in a bad way.  Although, to be fair, Oktoberfests aren't my favorite style.
Note:  Zatec Brewery in the Czech Republic claims a date of 1004, based on a tax record.  However, records of it being continuously operated since then are extremely questionable.  I found possible start dates of 1261, or (more definitively) 1801.  For Rhanerbrau brewery, in Germany, I found notice of it in lists of the world’s oldest companies, starting in 1283.  However, I couldn’t get good evidence of it still producing currently.  Kuchlbauer Brewery, also German, was similarly dated as starting in 1300.  The substantiation for this seems weaker than the others, and it’s probably younger.
     So there you have it.  It’s amazing that some breweries have almost lasted a millennium, through fires, earthquakes, economic system changes, world wars, etc.  I’d love to try numbers #6 though #9, but haven’t had the chance yet.  They’ve been added to my “Beers to Try” list.
     Finally, as any American knows, Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser is truly “The King of Beers” in availability (definitely not in quality, in my opinion)—it’s tough to find a drinking establishment that doesn’t have it on tap, and often it (and its even worse sibling Bud Light) is the only tap choice.  Therefore, I was amused to learn that it can’t be found, sort of, in most of Europe.  To back up, Adolphus Busch was inspired by, and named the beer after a town in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), Budweis (the added suffix “er” means “of”), and started brewing it in 1876.  The brand quickly became huge here in the U.S.  Meanwhile, though, there were many breweries in the actual town of Budweis, including at least two that called their beer “Budweiser,” and at least one of these was imported into the U.S. beginning in 1871.  The American Budweiser didn’t like the confusing competition, so in 1938 they came to an agreement with two Czech breweries.  The U.S. version was labeled “Bud” in most of Europe (excluding the U.K. and Ireland), and the actual Budweis breweries could use their name there.  But the larger one, Budweiser Budvar, agreed to call itself “Czechvar” in the U.S.  It kind of reminded me of an article I read on the Cracked website about the singer Katy Perry.  Briefly, that’s a stage name—she was born Katheryn Hudson, but adopted the stage name Perry to avoid confusion with the actress.  However, she sought to oppose the trademark of an Australian fashion designer who was actually born Katie Perry.  How dare she use her real name!  (Katy Perry later withdrew her opposition.)
     Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, the oldest continuously operating winery in the world is France’s Chateau de Goulaine, which started in 1000.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Underrated Horror Gems--"The Brood"

     “The Brood” is one strange movie.  The story is fairly simple.  Frank and Nola Carveth’s marriage is just about over, due to Nola’s mental and emotional problems.  She’s staying at the Somafree Institute, where she and the other patients are undergoing a new type of treatment called “psychoplasmics” from a Dr. Raglan.  It involves intense bouts of role playing, and fully expressing one’s feelings.  Complicating the situation is that Nola and Frank have a five-year-old daughter, Candice (Candy), and are having bitter disagreements about custody and visitations.  Meanwhile people close to the Carveths are viciously murdered by mysterious assailants.  As Frank investigates further, he realizes that the psychoplasmics, and its effects, are even more bizarre and dangerous than he initially thought.
     (SPOILERS AHEAD)  The killers in “The Brood” aren’t your typical monsters—they turn out to be born of conscious, and subconscious rage.  In some ways the secret is similar to that in “Forbidden Planet,” only in a smaller, less traditional science fiction format.  Nola’s rage literally becomes personified (or weird, humanoidified, anyway), as her anger results in child-sized creatures which carry out her violent, even homicidal urges.
     It all adds up to a very effective horror story.  In other hands, the tiny killers might have come across as being silly, but director David Cronenberg handles them well.  The first two murders are quite tense, and even more jarring because the creatures are so odd and confusing.  Cronenberg also breaks the usual don’t-show-children-in-peril taboo in movies, as Candy narrowly escapes being killed herself.  And the murder of Candy’s teacher, right in front of her class, is particularly disturbing.  The gore is fairly restrained, until the end, when boy, is it a showstopper!  We get to see exactly how Nola “births” her anger kids, via a kind of external amniotic sac on her belly.
     Granted, the overall idea is absurd, but the movie makes it seem somewhat plausible.  We all know how certain emotions and mental instabilities can affect our health and bodies, and this story just pushes that further.  We see other patients with lesser degrees of Nola’s affliction, most notably Michael, who produces multiple boil-like growths due to his grief and frustration.  And the thought of a small army of dangerous minions doing one’s bidding for you does hold some morbid appeal, in a way.  (To take the idea still further, wouldn’t it have been strange if Nola also produced “happiness creatures,” who went around, say, hugging folks that she liked?  Not a very scary idea, admittedly.)
     Finally, the ending is incredibly bleak.  I found myself thinking the rare thought, “Please let the husband strangle his wife to death, and quickly.”  Also, you have to feel for poor Candice.  She’s been attacked by evil little monsters, witnessed several brutal murders by the same, and her mother was killed by her father (justifiably, but still).  That kid’s probably going to need a lifetime of therapy.  And given that the last scene shows suspicious skin bumps forming on her, it had better not be psychoplasmics.  Put some skin cream on them and give her regular mental health treatment!
     (END SPOILERS)  I’m a big Cronenberg fan, and this is my favorite of his 1970’s, low budget “body horror” fare.  “Shivers” (1975) and “Rabid” (1977) were decent, too, but not quite as good as “The Brood.”  Cronenberg, of course, while still mainly working in Canada, has become much better known since then.  His breakthrough was probably 1986’s “The Fly,” one of the very few remakes to better the original, in my opinion. (“Cape Fear” (1991) and the 1982 version of “The Thing” being two others on this short list.)  Some of my other favorites of his are “Scanners” (1980), “Videodrome” (1983), “The Dead Zone” (1983) (a rare good Stephen King adaptation), and “A History of Violence” (2005).  His two most recent movies were 2011’s “A Dangerous Method” and 2012’s “Cosmopolis.”
     As for the actors, the best known by far was the portrayer of Dr. Raglan, Oliver Reed.  He’s probably best known for “The Curse of the Werewolf” (1961), “Oliver!” (1968), “Gladiator” (2000) and being a huge drinker even by late 20th century British actor standards.  Art Hindle, who played Frank Carveth, was in two of my other favorites, “Black Christmas” (1974) and “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978) (Hey, there’s another very good remake).  One of the nasty creatures was played by little person Felix Silla, who played a child gorilla in “Planet of the Apes” (1968), “Twiki” in the TV show “Buck Rogers” (1979-1981), and an Ewok in “Return of the Jedi” (1983), among other roles.