APRIL 2001

The biggest B-movie news this month was the B Monster's one-on-one with Big Jim Arness. "The Thing" himself, Marshal Matt Dillon to millions of people worldwide, broke his years of silence and went on the record, ending decades of rumor and speculation -- and you read it here first.


Sally Mansfield
The actress best known to genre-film fans for her role as Vena Ray on the "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" television program, Sally Mansfield, is dead at 77. She had lung cancer. She began her show business career with theater work in her native Chicago. She switched to radio in the mid-1940s where she was heard on many soap operas and commercials. She also worked as a dancer in Las Vegas before winning a Paramount Pictures contract in 1951. She had small roles in several Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin films as well as "The Leather Saint" opposite Paul Douglas and John Derek. She beat out 300 other actresses to win the role of Vena on the "Rocky Jones" program, which starred Richard Crane as a two-fisted space pilot. In 1954, she was selected to portray Miss Emmy, a character used to publicize the annual television awards.

William Hanna
Pioneering animator William Hanna, who had been in declining health for some time, died at his home in North Hollywood. He was 90. Together with partner Joseph Barbera, Hanna created some of the best-loved characters in cartoon history, including "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "Huckleberry Hound" and many others. Hanna and Barbera won a total of seven Academy Awards for the Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoons they created for MGM in the 1940s. Shifting to television in the 1950s, they won the first Emmy Award for an animated series for "Huckleberry Hound and Friends." Other series produced by the venerable Hanna-Barbera animation house were "Jonny Quest," "Quick Draw McGraw," "Space Ghost" and "Scooby-Doo."

Sam Wiesenthal
Sam Wiesenthal, who worked in a production capacity on classic Universal horror films such as "Dracula" and "Frankenstein," passed away at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 92. While still in high school, Wiesenthal worked at Universal's Manhattan office. Along with Carl Laemmle Jr., he helped produce the 1930 Academy Award-winner "All Quiet on the Western Front." He produced several films in the 1950s, including "Cry Danger," Tension at Table Rock" and "Second Chance."

Sir Lancelot
Lancelot Victor Pinard, who helped introduce Americans to calypso music using the stage name Sir Lancelot, died at his home in Anaheim, Calif. He was 98. He debuted at New York's Village Vanguard night club in 1940 and soon after began a West Coast tour that caught the attention of filmmakers. Cult-movie fans will remember Sir Lancelot's roles in some of producer Val Lewton's classic RKO horrors, including "I Walked With A Zombie," "The Ghost Ship" and "Curse of the Cat People," as well as the 1950s shocker "The Unknown Terror." He also had a small role in the Bogart-Bacall classic "To Have and Have Not." His singing career was briefly resurrected in the 1980s when he performed in the Los Angeles area accompanied by Van Dyke Parks on piano, Ry Cooder on guitar and Jim Keltner on drums.


Brit horror icon Christopher Lee is in a tizzy over director Joe Berlinger's plans to remake the cult film "The Wicker Man" in which Lee starred. Speaking to the Empire Online Website, Lee said, "I read a review that mentioned that this person, whoever he is, had directed 'Blair Witch 2.' Then it mentioned right at the end of this review that there is talk that he is intending to remake 'The Wicker Man.' There were three words after that: Somebody stop him!" Simultaneously comes the news that Lee has been cast as Count Dooku in the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode II." In his introduction to "Christopher Lee: The Authorized Screen History," movie mogul George Lucas reveals why Lee was chosen for the part: "I knew that I needed someone who could convey evil."

Producer, director Wes Craven will film a new version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The updated telling of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale will be scripted by Craig Rosenberg whose credits include "Hotel de Love" and the upcoming "Jurassic Park 3." In a related story, following an exhaustive study, scientists at the Mount Palomar Observatory employing a Multichannel Spectrum Analyzer to determine quantum efficiency issued the details of a new report that finds there are no original ideas left.

To the delight of giant monster purists, and fans of men in rubber suits in general, Toho plans to continue their new "old" Godzilla series. Production will begin this May on "Godzilla-Mothra-King Ghidorah: Daikaiju Sogougeki." The new film, set in 2004, has Godzilla doing battle with three of his most famous and formidable opponents: Mothra, King Ghidorah and Baragon. The film will be released in Japan this December.

"Star Wars" actor David Prowse, the towering man in the Darth Vader costume (and veteran of countless autograph and memorabilia shows) who last month suffered what was described as "a mysterious paralysis," is on the mend according to the actor's official Website. Prowse entered a London hospital after suffering a sudden paralysis in his arm, which soon spread to his back. He was left with movement in his legs but was unable to walk. According to Prowse's personal assistant, Maxwell Patterson, "Dave is going to be just fine ... and is not going to need any follow-up treatment. The doctors have decided it was strictly an arthritis attack in his shoulder and back. He is much better now."

Thank God there are still some sane people out there who remember how to have fun with this hobby. We highly recommend a visit to Kerry Gammill's "Monster Kid Magazine" Website, which takes a loving and lighthearted look at classic horror films -- and is quite edifying in the bargain. You'll find affectionate articles and ultra-rare stills from vintage films, most notably, several shots of Lon Chaney Jr. and his faithful companion, Moose, the German shepherd who portrayed the wolf whose bite made Chaney immortal. Moose followed Chaney from set to set thereafter and the photos of the pair are fabulous. You'll also find an engaging editorial, a salute to "gorilla man," Charlie Gemora, and my personal favorite, "Bela's Beards," comparing Lugosi's many bewhiskered characterizations.

Gammill was an ace draftsman for the major comic companies for years and is now the in-house conceptual artist for Steve Johnson's XFX unit, designing creatures for films such as "Virus" and "Species II." You'll find samples of Kerry's fine line work at http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/ Check out "Monster Kid" at http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/monsterkid/

Universal Studios decided to take a pass on rock singer-cum-moviemaker Rob Zomibie's maiden film effort "House of 1,000 Corpses." The decision follows hard on the heels of the recent rash of violence in schoolrooms around the nation. Zombie's picture, about two young couples who find themselves stranded in a town filled with homicidal killers, was completed in January, and supposedly shocked studio execs into backing away from distribution. According to studio chief Stacey Snider, the film had "a visceral tone and intensity that we did not imagine from the printed page." At last report, Mr. Zombie was seeking another distributor.

The Aberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board representing Cruden Bay in Great Britain, has issued a warning to the Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby. For years, Whitby has claimed that their hamlet served as crucial inspiration for Bram Stoker's "Dracula." Not so, says the tourist board's marketing manager Beverley Tricker. "It is very well documented that Slains Castle [at Cruden Bay] is the true home of Dracula and the Yorkshire Tourist Board has for years been luring our potential visitors under false pretences." The Board claims that early drafts of "Dracula" depict the vampire coming ashore at Cruden Bay and that Stoker was inspired by Aberdeenshire's rugged seascape. "We intend to sink our teeth into this fable and bring tourists to the real home of Dracula," Tricker declared. The board's reinvigorated tourism drive, with the legendary Count leading the charge, comes at a time when Britain's tourism industry is reeling from the effects of the foot-and-mouth disease scare.

John Morgan and William T. Stromberg have teamed up to restore the scores of two more classic thrill films. We told you some time ago that this was in the works and we're happy to report that this immaculate restoration was worth the wait. It's great to hear Max Steiner's characteristically robust scores for "Son of Kong" and "The Most Dangerous Game" re-created with loving care. Yet another nifty package from the dedicated preservationists at Marco Polo. For more information, check out http://www.naxos.com

According to a report in the Toronto Sun, Charlton Heston literally flipped his wig at a recent personal appearance. It seems he was waving from the sunroof of his limo just as the driver decided to give 'er the gun. Heston's toupee went flying and landed in the street, where it was retrieved by a bemused onlooker and handed back to the NRA prez who proceeded to berate his lead-footed chauffeur.

The preceding item was relayed to us by our buddy, Boyd Magers, publisher of "Western Clippings," a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to preserving our western movie heritage. Boyd and wife Donna jam-pack the publication with all manner of western movie news, interviews, reviews, TV listings, and columns by the likes of Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins, Michael "Curse of the Undead" Pate and others. Westerns fall wide of the B Monster's field of expertise, so if you've a fondness for sagebrush-and-saddle cinema, the Magers' heartfelt film mag is the source we recommend. And if that weren't reason enough to write them, "Western Clippings" has recently assumed publication of "Serial Report," a periodical dedicated to chapterplays that has been published in one incarnation or another since 1975. For more info, contact: Western Clippings, 1312 Stagecoach Road, SE, Albuquerque, NM, 87123 Or e-mail them at vidwest@abq.com Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Fans of the palpably moody films of director Jacques Tourneur might enjoy "Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall," a trade paperback version of the book originally published by McFarland & Co. in 1999, chronicling the life and career of the man who directed such cult classics as "Cat People" and "I Walked With A Zombie." According to The Johns Hopkins University Press, author Chris Fujiwara's book, with a foreword by director Martin Scorsese, is "the first in-depth exploration of Tourneur's entire career ... [featuring] a detailed film-by-film analysis of this influential director's work." You can find out more at: http://www.press.jhu.edu/press/books/titles/s01/s01fuja.htm

Here's a nifty tome that recently came to our attention: "Feature Players: Stories Behind the Faces, Volumes 1 and 2," by Tom and Jim Goldrup is a self-published compilation of personal interviews with 40 film performers, including John Archer, Whit Bissell, Phyllis Coates, Harry Carey Jr. and Ross Elliott, whose careers range from the silent era to the early days of television. (Some are STILL active). There are only a limited number of copies of volumes two and three still available (volume one is long out of print). Each contains photos and filmographies of the performers, and both are over 350 pages in length. They're $24.95 each. The postage (in USA) is $5 for one book, $6 for two. Send check or money order to: Tom and Jim Goldrup, PO Box 425, Ben Lomond, CA, 95005 For more info, you can reach the authors via e-mail: skyla@sasquatch.com

A sure sign that spring is fixin' to bust out in horrific fashion is the spring "Chiller Theatre" con in East Rutherford, N.J. Topping the bill this time around are "Star Trek's" Walter Koenig, and a "Babylon 5" reunion featuring darned-near the entire cast of the sci-fi TV series. In addition, meet and greet actors and actresses such as Linda Blair, David Carradine, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Yvonne Craig, Mark Goddard and Cynthia Rothrock, artists Ken Kelley, Bernie Wrightson and Russ Jones, festival mascot Zacherley, and too many others to name. It all starts April 27. For more info, check out: http://www.chillertheatre.com Tell 'em the B Monster sent you.

Last, a plug (or re-plug) for Stephen Potter's Website devoted to "Universal's Leading Ladies of the Golden Age of Horror." It's been revamped (no pun intended) and spiffed up with more photos and profiles of actresses such as Jane Adams, Anne Gwynne, Peggy Moran, Evelyn Ankers, Lois Collier and others. Take a look at: http://www.angelfire.com/movies/spotter/ Like we said before, tell 'em the B Monster sent you.


Long before Ron Howard and Jim Carrey mounted their massive live-action "Grinch," producer Staney Kramer collaborated with Dr. Seuss on this bizarro exploration of childhood fears and frustrations. Tommy Rettig, of "Lassie" fame, is so bored with his piano lessons he dozes off and dreams of a surreal world ruled by his domineering piano instructor, Dr. Terwilliker as played by Hans Conried. The doctor's evil plan involves luring 500 students to perform in a sinister symphony overseen by himself. Yes, it's as weird as it sounds.

Probably the only film we'll review this month that stars "Pollock" screenwriter and mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barbara Turner. And throughout the film she looks just about as bored as anyone who watches this stinker has a right to be. Jim Davis, later to star in TV's "Dallas," is sent to Africa with Turner in tow to determine the whereabouts of a lost test rocket. The trip is disastrous. Not only does the airline lose their Geiger counter, it seems the atomic contents of said rocket have turned a hive of wasps into gigantic mutations. No, it's not as exciting as it sounds.

"Officially" the first flying saucer movie, this strange pastiche of crude special effects and travelogue footage barely qualifies as science fiction. Mikel Conrad directed and stars in this oddity about Commies in Alaska racing to secure a sequestered saucer before the USA can get their hands on it. Much of the "action" is comprised of what seems to be vacation footage shot while Conrad was salmon fishing in the Yukon. Thrill-packed it ain't.


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at http://www.amazon.com

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com

Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.com

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

"Natural or Supernatural?" - The Thing From Another World

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