... as Cadet Happy was wont to exclaim, "Space Patrol" is now available on video. Three episodes of the pioneering sci-fi series starring Ed Kemmer as Commander Buzz Corry have been released by the folks at Englewood Entertainment, who it seems own darned-near every 1950s genre film worth watching. The quality of the tapes is as astounding as the content. These live broadcasts were originlally captured as kinescopes, meaning a camera was simply pointed at one of the studio monitors. How so sharp a picture could be salvaged from so primative a process I'll never know.

The episodes concern "The Giants of Pluto 3," once-normal men who've been transformed into zombie soldiers by a mad scientist hiding out on one of Pluto's moons. Naturally, Kemmer and company find themselves in the thick of things, but still make time to sell Wheat Chex and Nestle bars. That's right, the live commercials are included. (Kemmer describes the Nestle Krunch bar as milk chocolate wrapped around a 'mystery consistency.') And one Chex box top and a quarter bought you a "Space Patrol" periscope, a 24-inch device that held two 'magic mirrors' and an illustrated guide to the inhabitants of the nine planets. Now that's value! (I'm still waiting for one to turn up on E-bay -- opening bid? -- I don't want to think about it.

And speaking of Ed Kemmer, You've got less than a week to make it to Monster Rally '99 where Kemmer is part of an impressive guest list that includes Christopher Lee, Colleen Gray, Anne Francis, Yvette Vickers, Terry Moore, Rex Reason, Ingrid Pitt, the Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi kids and many more. Check out the web site at

And while we're on the subject of conventions, here's how the Chiller Theatre guest list is shaping up: Carroll Baker, June Lockhart, Cynthia Rothrock, those crazy Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi kids again, Karen Black (listed as 'tentative') and our personal favorite attendee, Jane (Trixie) Kean of "Honeymooners" fame. It's happening October 29-November 1. You'll find the web site at

Makeup ace, author (and B Monster contributor) Michael F. Blake has been nominated for his second consecutive Emmy Award for his work on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." Blake copped the award last season for his makeup wizardry on behalf of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." Michael is THE peerless authority on the life and work of Lon Chaney. His seminal "Lon Chaney Trilogy" of books (the latest available through Vestal Press) is must reading for film devotees.


Edward Dmytryk
Director Edward Dmytryk died at his home in Encino, California, aged 90. Doctors cited heart and kidney failure as the causes of death. Dmytryk directed some of the definitive film noir features of the 1940s, most notably the classic "Murder My Sweet" which starred Dick Powell as Raymond Chandler's detective Phillip Marlowe. He also directed a pair of noteworthy thrillers, "The Devil Commands" starring Boris Karloff and "Captive Wild Woman" featuring John Carradine and Aquanetta. Dmytryk became the subject of controversy as one of "The Hollywood 10" who were brought before the House UnAmerican Activities Commitee during the "Red Scare" of the 1950s. He later directed such big-budget films as "The Caine Mutiny," "The Young Lions" and "The Carpetbaggers."

John Stears
Special effects designer John Stears is dead at 64 following a stroke. Stears worked on many of the early James Bond films, designing most of OO7's ingenious weapons. He also designed R2-D2 and the Death Star for "Star Wars" and worked closely with John Dykstra on the major battle sequences.

Strears won two Academy Awards, one for his work on "Thunderball" and a second for "Star Wars." Among Stears' impressive list of credits are such films as "Theatre of Blood," "The Awakening," "Escape 2000," "Outland," "F/X," the television mini-series "The Martian Chronicles" and the "Babylon 5" pilot film.


The selection of shockers we're scrutinizing this time around should make plain how crucial casting can be to the success of a fright film. Each entry stands or falls on the merits of it's characters and how they're interpreted. Industrial Light and Magic be darned -- whether we're talking about an offbeat oldie, or a contemporary, big-budget, special effects blowout, without convincing characterization, you got nothin'!

We've celebrated the films of director Richard Cunha several times in our pages, and many consider this twisted shocker his magnum opus. It's got everything necessary to keep a cult-film fan happy: A mad doctor, scantily-clad native gals, Nazis hoping to resurrect the Reich, and, of course, sappy racial references that must have seemed harmless at the time.

Tod Griffin, who'd previously starred in TV's "Operation: Neptune," portrays a treasure hunter for hire, conscripted by a wealthy backer to explore an uncharted Pacific island. By the very slimmest of plot contrivances, the millionaire's shapely daughter, as played by 1950s pin-up queen Irish McCalla, decides to go along for the ride. McCalla, some may recall, starred as "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle" three years prior to the filming of "She Demons." Rounding out the intrepid team is Griffin's right hand man, Sammy, played by Charlie Chan's ex-number-two son Victor Sen Yung, who was soon to find lasting employment as the Ponderosa's head chef on TV's "Bonanza." And let's not forget the Diana Nellis Dancers as the "She Demons."

Easily stealing the show, however, is actor Rudolph Anders who hams shamelessly as the Mengele-like mad doctor. Anders must have been near the top of the list when casting directors went looking for a codgerly Germanic type. Nobody, with the possible exception of Martin "Flesh Eaters" Kosleck, did it better. Anders' poised dementia and convincing delivery make you forget, just for a moment, the cardboard sets and tin foil gadgets surrounding him.

The film kicks off with newsreel footage of a devastating typhoon that's currently pounding the very area our heroes are headed for (someone didn't plan this trip very well). Our bedraggled band soon find themselves washed ashore wthout provisions, and are forced to go foraging. (Somehow, they've managed to salvage Irish's comely sun dress). It isn't long before they stumble upon the caged "She Demons," native girls who were subject to Anders' misguided efforts to restore the beauty of his disfigured wife. Naturally, our friends are captured and, according to the unwritten movie law that states that all villains must explain their motives to the victims as they'll never live to tell anyway, Anders describes how Der Furher himself sent him to the desolate isle during the war to conduct Third Reich research.

Aided by, of all people, Herr Doctor's scarred wife, the trio escape in a rowboat that had been stashed elsewhere on the island just as the U.S. Air Force, on a test run, is commencing to bomb the atoll. All the doc's atomic-powered apparatus goes up in smoke as Yung utter's the film's best line: "Let's blow this crazy fire trap!"

It's all great fun and, though I've always preferred Cunha's "Giant From the Unknown," I couldn't recommend a cult film more highly than "She Demons." Who cares if it was tongue-in-cheek, the best they could produce with the budget they had -- or maybe both? Watch this movie!

This odd combination of "Gulliver's Travels" and "This Island Earth" isn't as good as it sounds nor as bad as baby boomers, who caught it on the late, late show years ago, may remember it. Dean Fredericks, who'd portrayed comic strip hero "Steve Canyon" on television, stars as an astronaut who crash-lands on a planetoid, the atmosphere of which shrinks him to Lilliputian proportions. When the doll-sized Dean emerges from his discarded, gargantuan space suit, the local citizenry, who are justifiably suspicious, "take him to their leader" in accordance with that time-honored cliche.

Said leader is an elderly fellow called Sesom (spell it backwards), who patiently explains that their planet is perpetually under attack by an alien race. In an effort to avert the enemy, they've devised a way to literally steer the planet out of harm's way whenever the shooting starts. A captured specimen of this hostile race, which look a little like the basset hound from the old Hush Puppies shoe advertisements, eventually escapes, causing all heck to bust loose.

Having helped the little ones quash the latest invasion, Fredericks is rescued by an earthbound ship and reverts to his normal stature. But who would ever believe his fantastic tale? Was it all a dream? Sure enough, there in the palm of his hand is a keepsake given to him by the tiny loved one he left behind -- though it's somehow grown to match his full human size.

The cast is a terrific mish-mash of B-movie greats. Sesom is portrayed by former silent movie megastar Francis X. Bushman ("Ben-Hur") in his final screen role. Cult-film fans might recall Tony Dexter from "Fire Maidens From Outer Space." Lovely Colleen Gray made dozens of films, but may be best-remembered as "The Leech Woman." Lastly, there's Richard Kiel, known the world over as Jaws from the James Bond movies "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker." His role as the droopy dog alien was one of his first screen appearances.

There's a very fine line between a hybrid and a rip-off. Universal's "Alien"-esque opus, "Virus," doesn't cautiously tread that line as say, "Event Horizon" or "The Relic" previously did -- it leaps across it like a graceless gazelle. In deference to the film's snazzy production design and rather impressive effects, it may be kinder to refer to it as an "homage" to the aforementioned films, themselves derivations of "The Thing From Another World," "It! The Terror From Beyond Space," etc.

For those who demand a plot synopsis of their beleagured film reviewers: A very nasty electronic entity from space ("Lightning that thinks," aptly suggests one character) gets loose on an abandoned research vessel and sneaks around in dark places devouring the actors one-by-one. It uses parts of its victims bodies to construct a sort of robo-skeletal-human hybrid ("Virus" and "Terminator" were both produced by Gale Ann Hurd, so the resemblence is no accident). To the film's credit, there is a twist: The electro-robotic aliens stalking Jamie Leigh Curtis and her castmates regard MAN as the "Virus" -- one which must be exterminated in order for its kind to inhabit our planet.

The cast turns in adequate if unexciting performances ("Virus" marks Curtis' second consecutive horror outing (last year's "Halloween H20" marking her return to the genre). Spooky old Donald Sutherland, who seems to turn down very few scripts these days, isn't bad and there's a Baldwin brother on board (William, for the record) as the ostensible hero.

"Virus" is aimed at the "hard-gore" horror completists who'll pay to see any big-budget sci fi film, and it will probably please them. But as far as substance or innovation are concerned, it's just too darn derivative to satisfy the average video devotee. Like so many monster flicks of recent vintage, if you've seen the trailer, you've pretty much seen the movie.

Tapping into the angst of teens who've long regarded teachers as the enemy, "The Faculty" succeeds as an enjoyable thriller on several levels. First of all, you can't go wrong when you borrow liberally from the basic paranoid premise perfected by "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" over four decades ago. It's been done to death, but switching the invasion's epicenter to a suburban high school is sort of a nifty twist. In fact, the scholastic setting is what saves the film. What might have emerged as another teen-slasher romp is redeemed by the presence of adult actors (the eponymous "Faculty") who seem to be having a ball as teachers-turned-aliens.

The fact that several "name" actors appear in the film and approach their roles with such gusto elevates the proceedings considerably. Check it out: there's sultry Salma Hayek as Nurse Harper, modelicious Famke Jansen ("Goldeneye") as Miss Burke, Bebe Neuwirth of "Cheers" fame as Principal Drake, film vet Piper Laurie appears as Mrs. Olson, comic Jon Stewart (my personal favorite among the faculty) as Mr. Furlong and, who else but "Terminator II's" shifty-eyed Robert Patrick to play Coach Willis.

"The Faculty" deserved better business when initially released. Marketers seemed confused as the whether to sell the film as a thriller, a comedy, a comedy-thriller or some other uncategorizable hybrid. This schizophrenic marketing plan was reflected in the trailers and television ads and the box office take was less because of it. ("Faculty" director Robert Rodriquez' ugly "From Dusk to Dawn" suffered a similar fate). Let's just call it a thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously, but provides enough scares to satisfy die-hard horror buffs. The added bonus is watching likeable actors having fun with their roles. Give "The Faculty" a chance. Who knows? You might learn a thing or two -- like how a horror film can be fun without being stupid.

Slap Stephen King's name on a box of rotten eggs and people will buy it, right? Apparently producers of this bloated opus weren't so confident. King himself made the rounds, hawking "Storm of the Century" with appearances on chat shows such as "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Appearing originally as a TV mini-series, it was scheduled against the much bally-hooed departure of George Clooney from TV's number one drama "ER." The short version is, the ratings were low and the film is a dud.

It's all about a horrendous blizzard that pounds an island off the coast of Maine. In the storm's wake comes Satan himself as embodied by creepy Colm Feore. It seems the devil's got the goods on everyone in town. He knows their darkest secrets and uses the knowledge to wreak havoc. "Give me what I want and I'll go away," he scrawls here and there. Contrary to what we've been told in countless volumes of lore, evidently the devil isn't immortal. What he requires of the town is a child. An heir to his hellish mantle who can ascend to the Satanic throne. Only the town sheriff, as played by Tim Daly, is strong-willed enough to resist Lucifer's evil. (When Tim Daly is the toughest dude in town, you know you're in trouble). It's all kinda gory, kinda goofy, and way too long.


Harris Lentz III whose books are available at

Bryan Senn whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver whose books are available at and at

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