APRIL 2005


Jason Evers
Actor Jason Evers, arguably best known for his portrayal of an obsessed scientist in the cult classic "The Brain That Wouldn't Die," died of heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 83. Born Herb Evers in New York City, he served in the Army during the Second World War. He turned to acting and landed his first screen role as a sheriff in the 1960 feature "Pretty Boy Floyd," starring John Ericson in the title part. Soon after, Evers starred in the Western television series "Wrangler." In 1962, still billed as Herb Evers, he starred in the lurid sci-fi film "The Brain That Wouldn't Die," as a surgeon who keeps the head of his fiancé, played by Virginia Leith, alive following her decapitation in a car accident. Evers' character cruises strip clubs in search of the ideal body onto which he can graft her still living head. The film has accrued a cult following over the years. Other genre films in which Evers appeared include "The Illustrated Man," based on Ray Bradbury's book, "Escape From the Planet of the Apes," "Barracuda" and "Basket Case 2." Evers worked extensively in episodic television, appearing in such series as, "Cheyenne" "Perry Mason," "The Rebel," "Laramie," "Surfside 6," "Adventures in Paradise," "Gunsmoke," "The F.B.I.," "The Green Hornet," "Combat!," "The Invaders," "The Wild Wild West," "Star Trek," "Mission: Impossible," "The Bionic Woman," "The A-Team," and "Matlock" among many others.

Don Durant
Actor Don Durant, who starred as "Johnny Ringo" in the 1950s Western TV series, died following a long battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia at his home in Monarch Beach, Calif. He was 72. Many cult-movie fans know Durant for his star turn in Roger Corman's low-budget South Seas adventure "She Gods of Shark Reef." Durant was an accomplished singer, touring in stage shows, performing with the Frankie Carle and Tommy Dorsey orchestras and appearing at such Las Vegas venues as The Sands and The Sahara. He made his film debut with a small role in "Battle Cry!," a Raoul Walsh-directed war film starring Van Heflin and Aldo Ray. Aaron Spelling produced the "Johnny Ringo" series for Dick Powell's Four Star Productions. Thirty-eight episodes were filmed in 1959-60. Durant also wrote and performed the show's theme. His co-star was future "Lost in Space" star Mark Goddard. Durant worked prolifically in episodic television throughout the 1950s and '60s, appearing on such programs as "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," "Wagon Train," "Maverick," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and "The Virginian."

Debra Hill
Producer Debra Hill, often credited with paving the way for women movie producers, died following a battle with cancer. She was 54. It was reported that she was still at work until just days before her passing. Hill broke new ground for women in film, rising through the studio ranks to become a successful producer. Her first major success was the horror hit "Halloween," directed by John Carpenter. The film cost $30,000 to make and earned an astounding $60 million worldwide. It made a star of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, gave Carpenter studio clout and spawned several successful sequels. "The ground that she trail blazed in the beginning can now be followed by anyone," Carpenter told the Associated Press. "She was incredibly capable and incredibly talented." In 1986, Hill formed an independent production company with friend Lynda Obst. Among the movies they produced were the early films of director Chris Columbus, including "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Heartbreak Hotel," as well as Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King." Hill also produced Carpenter's "The Fog" and "Escape From New York," "The Dead Zone" and several remakes of American International Pictures drive-in classics, including "Reform School Girl," "Motorcycle Gang," "Runaway Daughters" and "Dragstrip Girl."


Donnie Dunagan, the actor best known to B Monster readers as the precocious tot who appeared with Karloff, Lugosi and Basil Rathbone in "Son of Frankenstein," has bowed out of three convention appearances. He had been scheduled to appear at Monster-Mania, Monster Bash and the Memphis Film Festival. Dunagan, who also supplied the voice of "Bambi" in 1942, has been overwhelmed by media attention in recent months, largely owing to the long-awaited DVD release of the classic Disney film. He's been on a whirlwind tour of Disney-sponsored personal appearances and speaking engagements.

The third Monster-Mania con gets under way May 20 in beautiful Cherry Hill, N.J. The show will feature the usual panel discussions, celeb Q&As, special film screenings and an awe-inspiring dealers' room. And the Monster-Maniacs have gone to great lengths to secure an intriguing and diverse celebrity guest roster that offers something for just about everyone, no matter what your specific area of horrific interest. Heading the guest list are:

-- Jane Adams, Universal horror star of "House of Dracula"
-- Janet Ann Gallow, child star of "The Ghost of Frankenstein"
-- Robert Englund, Freddy Kruger himself
-- Heather Langencamp, also of "Nightmare on Elm Street" fame
-- Amanda Wyss, likewise an "Elm Street"er
-- Daveigh Chase, troubled child at the center of "The Ring"
-- Angus Scrimm, veteran of "Phantasm"
-- Elvira, "Mistress of the Dark"
-- Doug Bradley, our favorite "Pinhead"
-- The Chiodo Brothers, creators of "Killer Klowns From Outer Space"
-- The "Evil Dead" reunion featuring Ellen Sandweiss, Sarah York, Betsy Baker and Hal Delrich
-- Tom Sullivan and his "Evil Dead Museum"
-- Bill Johnson and Andrew Bryniarski of "Texas Chainsaw Massacres" two and three, respectively
-- Sid "Spider Baby" Haig
-- Ari "Jason" Lehman
-- Betsy Palmer, "Friday the 13th" and "I've Got a Secret" star
-- Vincent Di Fate, award-winning sci-fi illustrator

It happens at the Cherry Hill
Hilton, May 20-22. For more info, check out:
Make a point of saying the B Monster sent you!

Save room for a slice of Derby Pie and make your way to this May's Wonderfest in lovely Louisville, Ky. Among this year's highlights will be a special screening of "The Time Machine," hosted by the machine's owner, prop-culture icon Bob Burns. Bob will also take part in Dr. Gangrene's live Chiller Cinema presentation, which will feature screenings of "The Ghost Busters" -- no, we don't refer to that glossy horror-comedy franchise. We're talking about the Saturday morning kid-vid horror show, starring Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch and Bob as Tracy the Gorilla. And, if you've never seen Bob as the legendary Major Mars, it alone is worth the trip to Bluegrass Country to view this inspired short film. Bob will also take part in a special Sunday banquet and tribute to the late artist, designer and filmmaker Wah Ming Chang.

Also on the Wonderfest guest list:
 -- Vincent Di Fate, award-winning artist, author and film historian
-- Andrew Probert, production designer and starship creator
-- Pat McClung, special effects veteran of "Aliens," "Apollo 13" and "The Abyss"
-- Erin Gray, of TV's "Buck Rogers"
-- David Hedison, "The Fly" himself (Help me!)
-- Mark Goddard of TV's "Lost in Space"
-- Greg Nicotero, peerless makeup and effects artisan
-- John Goodwin, Emmy-winning makeup master
-- Artists Frank Dietz, Joe DeVito, William Stout and Mark Schultz And more!

It's happening May 28-29 at Louisville's Executive West Hotel. For more information, check out:
You know the routine: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Beautiful, bucolic Butler, Pa., just a stone's throw from Pittsburgh, will once again welcome attendees of Monster Bash, the "International Classic Monster Movie Convention and Expo." According to Ron Adams and his dedicated crew of conventioneers, this year's Bash, presented by Scary Monsters Magazine and Creepy Classics Video & DVD, is "dedicated to the memory of the vivacious actress of many classic horror films -- Anne Gwynne." This year's program of events includes the usual hectic schedule of cult-film screenings and celeb Q&A sessions. And the dealers' room is certain to be packed to the rafters with rare fright-film memorabilia. This year's guest roster includes:

-- Legendary producer Richard Gordon ("Fiend Without a Face," "The Haunted Strangler")
-- Bob Burns, actor, raconteur and beloved custodian of the world's most overwhelming prop and memorabilia collection
-- Sara Karloff, daughter of horror icon Boris Karloff
-- Actress Gwynne Gilford, daughter of Universal leading lady Anne Gwynne
-- Dolores Fuller, "Glen Or Glenda?" co-star and one-time paramour of Ed Wood
-- Actress Susan Gordon, daughter of director Bert I. Gordon, who appeared in her father's "Tormented" and "Attack of the Puppet People"
-- Ben Chapman, the "Reel" Gill Man, star of "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
-- Dee Ankers-Denning, daughter of actors Evelyn Ankers and Richard Denning
-- Robert Tinnell and Bob Livingston, co-creators (with Neil Vokes) of the horror graphic novel "The Black Forest"
-- Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Sci Fi" himself

It's happening June 24, 25 and 26 at the Days Inn Conference Center in Butler. For more info, check out:
http:// www.creepyclassics.com/bash.html
Let 'em know for sure the B Monster sent you!

We note with sadness the passing of one of the Mid-South's late night horror institutions, Watson Davis, also known as Sivad, the ghoulish host of "Fantastic Features." Davis, an advertising director for the Malco Theater chain, whomoonlighted as the host of the weekly horror film showcase (which later appeared twice weekly) on WHBQ channel 13 in Memphis. According to a retrospective by film historian Harris Lentz, "Sivad was a major television figure in Memphis during the 1960s and was responsible for giving many of us in the area the opportunity to see firsthand the numerous horror films we had only read about in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland." Lentz recalled that  "The program opened with Sivad emerging from a fog-enshrouded hearse to the strains of Leigh Stevens' score from the 1950 science-fiction film 'Destination Moon.'" Sivad made his first appearance with a screening of "The Giant Behemoth" on Saturday, September 29, 1962. The show continued in various forms until the early 1970s. According to Davis' granddaughter, Andrea McKennon, "Grandma would love to hear from his fans." Messages can be mailed to Mabel Davis, 1002 North College, Stuttgart AR, 72160. For more about Sivad and his legacy, visit the following URLs:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Many of our readers know the late George E. Turner as an esteemed film historian, the author and co-author of such seminal and informative titles as "Spawn of Skull Island," "The Making of King Kong" and "Human Monsters," among others. George also worked as a storyboard and effects artist for such noted filmmakers as Francis Ford Coppola and Carl Reiner, was an editor for The American Cinematographer and was a resident historian for the American Society of Cinematographers. In the early 1950s, Turner was a budding cartoonist with a prodigious knowledge of America's pre-history. His diligently researched comic strip, "The Ancient Southwest," began appearing in 1951 in the Amarillo Sunday News-Globe and was greeted with great acclaim. These historic strips have now been restored, retooled and compiled by Turner's long-time collaborator, Michael H. Price, in a paperback addition called "The Ancient Southwest & Other Dispatches From A Cruel Frontier." The volume also features Turner's "The Palo Duro Story," an epic strip chronicling the incursions of the Spanish Conquistadors, as well as a generous sampling of vintage cartoons published in school newspapers and sketches from Turner's personal notebook. If you're a thunder lizard enthusiast with an interest in America's paleo-past, you're sure to dig this nifty compilation. To find out more, check out:
Don't hesitate to mention the B Monster sent you!

Oscar-winning movie star Adrien Brody, who portrays hero Jack Driscoll in director Peter Jackson's forthcoming big-budget "King Kong" remake, says that his portrayal bears no resemblance to Bruce Cabot's interpretation in the original 1933 film. "The role actually hasn't been played before," Brody told Sci Fi Wire. "The name has been used before, but [the character] is actually derived from a number of other sources that have interesting parallels to the character that I'm playing." What is Brody bringing to the role that Cabot didn't? "I think this [character] will have a far more realistic and sensitive nature than the interpretation in the original movie." Universal plans to release Jackson's "Kong" December 14.

Attention budding B-movie impresarios: Make plans to attend October's fourth annual "New York City Horror Film Festival." Entries aren't due until September 15. According to organizers, the festival "is dedicated to a genre film community and encourages filmmakers to submit to other festivals." Like Skriekfest, the NYCHFF has "NO restrictions on films screening that are screening at other festivals, either past or present." The fee for short films under 45 minutes is $25 per entry before Sept. 1, $35 per entry before September 15th. For feature entries 45 minutes and longer the cost is $40 per entry before Sept. 1, $50 per entry before Sept. 15. The fest takes place at the Tribeca Film Center in New York City. The NYCHFF jury will present awards in the following categories:

-- Best Feature
-- Best Short
-- Best Cinematography
-- Best Special Effects
-- Best Actor
-- Best Screenplay For Submitted Film
-- Audience Choice

Complete guidelines, highlights of past festivals and more are available at:
You know by now to tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Another outlet for aspiring B-movie impresarios is L.A.'s "Shriekfest 2005." According to organizers of the Fall confab, "Shriekfest is a festival dedicated to getting horror/thriller/sci-fi filmmakers and screenwriters the recognition they deserve." Shriekfest awards prizes to the best features, videos, shorts and documentaries with horror, thriller and science fiction film themes. There's even a category for young screenwriters and young filmmakers 18 years and under. Cash prizes and trophies will be presented to winners in the following categories:

-- Youngest Filmmaker & Screenplay writer categories (Must be under 18)
-- Best Film: Feature and Short
-- 2nd place: Feature and Short
-- Fan Favorite
-- Shriekfest Award: An Award given by the festival president
-- Best Actor/ Actress Award
-- Best Screenplays: Feature & Short
-- 2nd place Feature Screenplay and 2nd place Short Screenplay

Deadline for entries is May 28. The festivities will take place at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. For more details, check out:
Be sure and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

The folks at Midnight Marquee Press are marching forward with plans for an 18th FANEX confab. In lieu of celebrity guests, the emphasis will be on fan-run panel discussions, film screenings and just plain socializing. "We have decided to keep the FANEX spirit alive and do a FANEX 18," says the Midmar team, "with everything but guests, because that's what really caused the stress for us." The gathering takes place July 29-30 at the Embassy Suites Hotel Baltimore North. For hotel info, visit:
For further details concerning FANEX, keep an eye on:


There's a lot to like about "The Incredibles." Fluid, clear-eyed storytelling, impeccable design work, ingratiating characterization, cleverly staged action sequences, comedy -- you know, all the things that are missing from most contemporary movies, particularly in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Director Brad Bird was lauded by this critic (and many others) for his execution of "The Iron Giant," a terrific film with many of the same heartening attributes found in "The Incredibles." Unfortunately, nobody went to see "The Iron Giant," largely because its studio exhibited no faith in the property and dumped it into theaters with little or no fanfare. (If you haven't seen it, you should.) Fortunately, "The Incredibles" was met with critical acclaim and an overwhelming enthusiastic response from moviegoers who made it one of the top moneymakers of the year. The film presents an engaging spin on comic book iconography that I found refreshing. The comics industry has spun itself straight into the ground in recent years, issuing wave after wave of grim, dispiriting, nihilistic characters and stories, alienating the young and boring the hell out of the old. A dash of color and a jolt of fearless optimism is just what the comic book biz needs. But I digress.

"The Incredibles" is about a family of superheroes (a comic book movie about family! Can you imagine?) struggling to survive in an age when people with super powers have bowed to repeated litigation, harassment and resentment on the part of an ungrateful society, and quietly retired. The world has grown weary of superheroes and the havoc that generally accompanies their escapades. The heroes take on 9-to-5 jobs and make every attempt to appear "normal." As you might anticipate, the temptation to resume their careers as crime busters is ever-present and ultimately irresistible. The film addresses difficult family dynamics, intolerance and prejudice but never bogs down in sermonizing. It shows its characters to be resourceful, self-reliant and loyal. Refreshing, indeed.

I did, however trip over one scene in the film that troubled me greatly. Mom and her two super heroic offspring have tracked dad to an island where he is being held captive by the villain. We see dad being tortured, which in itself is troubling enough, but my issue concerns a cautionary speech mom delivers to the kids as she leaves them to search for their father. She tells them to be extra careful and to keep in mind that the cartoon villains they see on Saturday morning TV are just make-believe, but the villains that inhabit the island are very real and mean to kill them! Was this necessary? We're watching a cartoon wherein a cartoon character tells cartoon children that cartoon villains are imaginary, but the REAL world is filled with people who mean them harm. This scene stopped me cold, as it seemed so grossly inconsistent with the overall attitude of the film.

It seems that cult-movie fans either like or hate "Carnival of Souls." Some find it clever and enterprising, as it attempts to realize a meaningful theme on an ultra-slim budget. Others consider it amateurish and silly and grant it zero points for effort. Iconoclast that I am, I come down resolutely in the middle. It is amateurish. It is also enterprising. Director Herk Harvey & Co. fashioned this film, sort of a 1962 spin on the classic story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," out of next-to-nothing. Its very cheapness endeared it to a cult following that saluted this brand of underdog, maverick filmmaking. Its reputation continues to grow, and its star, Candace Hilligoss, continues to make personal appearances at horror cons and autograph shows, greeted by enthusiastic throngs.

So, do you recognize Harvey for his ambitious, budget-hampered efforts, or do you judge the film solely on the intrinsic merits of the finished product? Harvey and his crew did create a few genuinely unsettling scenes, employing shadows to disguise the paucity of funding at every opportunity. And Hilligoss as the doe-eyed, confused survivor (or IS she?) of a car crash, wandering a dreamy twilight world is affecting. But I can see why many genre-film buffs are perplexed by the film's somewhat vaunted reputation. For one thing, in its original release, it ran 78 minutes. This is too long. (This two-disk DVD set contains a director's cut that runs 83 minutes.) The filmmakers don't sustain interest in the heroine's predicament. There just isn't enough happening. So, if you're more concerned with plot and pacing than you are with "how'd they shoot this" or "how'd they film that," you'll be bored.

This special edition also features a new digital transfer of the film; the documentary "The Movie That Wouldn't Die! The Story of Carnival of Souls," which chronicles a 1989 reunion of the cast and crew; more than 45 minutes of rare outtakes; "The Carnival Tour," which explores locations used in the film; an hour of excerpts from industrial films made by the Lawrence, Kan.-based Centron Corporation where Harvey and "Carnival" screenwriter John Clifford worked for some 30 years; film historian Tom Weaver's print interviews with Harvey, Clifford and Hilligoss illustrated with photos and memorabilia; and audio commentary by Clifford and Harvey (who passed away in 1996).

I nearly broke my brain trying to think of something good to say about this picture. But apparently, nobody put any thought into making it, so why should I work so hard to find praiseworthy aspects? It does give small, thankless roles to actors in the twilight of their careers; Lew Ayres, Macdonald Carey and Oscar-winner Dean Jagger. I suppose they really needed the money. But they're hustled on and off the screen in the blink of an eye. Kirk Scott and Sue "Lolita" Lyon eat up whatever screen time that isn't given over to nominal lead Christopher Lee. His role as an alien invader disguised as a Catholic priest is nearly as embarrassing as his star turn in "Castle of Fu Manchu." But perhaps he and the other one-time stars were banking on the fact that the film is so poorly lit one can hardly distinguish what's happening on screen. Either the producers ran out of money to pay for grips, or someone simply forgot to set up the lights. Most of the scenes are a murky visual puzzle. And don't count on dialog to help sort out the plot; in some scenes it's indecipherable, particularly those featuring a very haggard and harried-looking Jagger.

As near as I can tell, the plot concerns a NASA scientist (Scott) who intercepts strange, cryptic messages on his computer, which appear to be coming from space. You'd think that this news would be world shaking. But it is precisely then that his NASA boss (Jagger) decides to send him on a lecture tour, speaking about more mundane NASA procedures. It's never really explained why. In his spare time, Scott and Lyon use some sort of NASA detector device to track the signals. Turns out, the messages are being beamed to a California convent. Here, the couple is taken prisoner by Father Pergado (Lee) and his nuns who are actually aliens in disguise. Pergado, aka Zindar, has come to steal a special crystal from NASA, return to his planet and destroy the earth, which, according to Zindar, is polluting the galaxy with disease. In between these events there are many scenes of people wandering around in the dark and mumbling such sparkling dialog as, "Our instruments are usually very accurate, but they are, after all, just that, instruments."

"End of the World" was produced in 1977 by the prolific Charles Band and the Band clan, the undisputed rulers of the direct-to-video market who usually specialize in horror franchising. They're behind the "Witchhouse" series, the "Puppet Master" series, the "Dollman" series, the "Trancers" series ... you get the idea. They've made literally hundreds of films. This one came between "Laserblast" and their erotic version of "Cinderella."


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

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com

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

Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.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.dinoship.com


"One day after a million years it came out of hiding to kill, kill, kill!!" -- Beast of Hollow Mountain

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