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I’m posting this as a follow-up to Brian’s earlier post on Thriller and the “Pigeons From Hell” episode. Brian also wrote extensively on the subject of “Pigeons From Hell” in “Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation,” which was published in vol. 3, no. 2 of The Cimmerian.
His post got me to thinking about the fine article written by Bill Wallace for REH:TGR #4. Bill took an in-depth look at this classic Howard horror tale and its television adaption, both of which had an impact him. It is a very powerful story, one of Howard’s best “weird tale” efforts and one that, thanks to Mr. Karloff, many non-Howard fans are aware of and appreciate.
Of course, any Howard fan worth his or her salt has sought out and viewed the “Pigeons From Hell” episode, which did a damn good job of translating Howard’s prose to the small screen. While there are some variations, it perfectly captures the brooding, horrific mood of the story. It just may very well be the best television adaptation of a horror story ever.
Undoubtedly, Howard based this bloody terror tale on ghost stories of the South told to him by his grandmother. It must have also had an influence on filmmaker Alex Turner, because his 2004 movie, Dead Birds appears to borrow heavily from the themes in “Pigeons From Hell.”
There is a great homage webpage devoted to this Thriller episode that has, at the bottom, a jerky, nickelodeon style film of scenes from “Pigeons From Hell” that seems to be scarier than just watching a video of it. But don’t take my word for it, read the Thriller script.
Needless to say, both the print version and the television version will easily scare the living daylights out of you. And, if you are ever driving through the South and see a dilapidated antebellum mansion off in the distance, whatever you do, don’t stop … it will likely be the last stop you’ll make.