Beginning of my article for EC Archives: The Vault of Horror
The Vault of Horror 18 (April-May 1951) and the half-dozen issues that
followed, the EC artists were evolving and experimenting.
The Film Noir Encyclopedia was published by Overlook Press in 1979, it
became clear that Cornell Woolrich stories and novels had provided the source
material for more 1940s film noir screenplays than any other writer. Dozens
of Woolrich stories were dramatized on Suspense and other radio
anthology programs during the 1940s.
Craig had a fascination with fiction by Woolrich, and “Sink-hole!” offers an
opening seemingly suggested by the femme fatale of Woolrich’s Waltz into
published in 1947 under Woolrich’s pseudonym, William Irish. The novel was
filmed by François Truffaut as Mississippi
(1969) and remade 32 years later by director Michael Cristofer as Original
narrative, set in post-Civil War New Orleans, wealthy
coffeehouse owner Louis Durand has been corresponding and planning marriage
with Julia, a woman he does not know. When he waits at the steamboat dock to
meet her for the first time, he expects a plain-looking, middle-aged woman but
is surprised by the arrival of an attractive younger woman. He ignores her
suspicious behavior and is stunned by her betrayal when she vanishes with his
money. Seeking revenge, he stalks women who resemble Julia, hires a private
detective and chases a masked girl through the streets during Mardi Gras.
Truffaut’s film adaptation, wealthy tobacco plantation owner Louis Mahé (Jean-Paul Belmondo) lives on exotic Reunion
Island (off the coast of Madagascar) during the 1960s. At the docks, he awaits
his mail-order bride, Julie Roussel (Catherine Deneuve), whom he met
through personal ads. When she arrives on a
French ocean liner, the Mississippi, he does not recognize her because she
looks unlike the photographs he had received in the mail. After they marry, she
cleans out their joint bank account and disappears into the night.
changed the setting yet again, this time to late 19th century Cuba, with both parties deceptive: Julia
(Angelina Jolie) explains that she mailed an advance photo of a plain-faced
woman because she has been searching for a man interested in more than just an
attractive female, while wealthy coffee company owner Luis Vargas (Antonio
Banderas) had Julia believing he lived in poverty.
the beginning of Waltz into Darkness for his “Sink-hole!” set-up, Craig employed
a gender twist and then took his tale in a totally different direction, one
“full of passion, grief… and hate,” as the Vault-Keeper notes in his
introduction. These emotions erupt “with shocking force” when Shirley swings
the frying pan on page five. The
climax of “Sink-hole!” is telegraphed on page seven, perhaps even page six.
Oddly, the front cover completely reveals the story’s conclusion.
did a nice job of visualizing the “parched, sunbaked earth” and the dusty
farmland. The reader is given no clue as to the state where this farm is
located, but sinkholes are prominent in Florida and Michigan.
“ramshackle farmhouse” is rundown and dilapidated, but the farm machinery is
state-of-the-art, indicating Craig had access to 1950-51 farm machinery
journals or brochures. “Intercontinental Diesel” is an obvious reference to
International Harvester, and the tractor depicted resembles the 1951
International TD-6 tractor crawler, which had the words “Diesel International”
on the hood. (Go to YouTube to see a TD-6 crawler in operation.)