We know it's August, and it's hot and you're cranky, but there seems to be no end to the flak we encounter whenever we question the veracity of a recent fright film. We're accused of favoring vintage films over contemporary fare. This is a valid criticism for which we have a rational response: New movies stink (well, okay, not ALL of them). Castigate older films for their flimsy sets, wooden acting and questionable scientific postulations, but, by and large, they were innocent fun and filled with, what were at the time, fresh ideas. Nowadays, filmmakers take notions borrowed from "Blade Runner," "Alien" and any given Stephen King story, toss 'em in a pot, stir 'em up and smear the resulting concoction onto the big screen. (Granted, the pot now costs $70 million dollars.) Of paramount importance to modern producers is that it LOOKS like a good film. Whether or not it IS a good film is a secondary concern. Anyhoo, why must we agree? I'm hot and cranky, too, y'know!


In their tireless efforts to preserve our horror and sci-fi film heritage, genre-film historian Bob Burns and walking encyclopedia Tom Weaver have actually reached beyond the grave to enlighten lovers of cult films everywhere. As a young man, Bob worked at the L.A. TV station that aired "Million Dollar Movie." Featured films included many of the Universal horror classics. Bob's excitement could not be contained when he learned that one of his longtime idols, Universal's makeup ace, Jack Pierce, would be guesting on the show. The aloof makeup maestro warmed to Bob (as everyone who meets Bob does) when Bob mentioned his friendship with Glenn Strange, who'd appeared as the Frankenstein Monster under Pierce's makeup. Following the show, Pierce reached into his bag of accoutrements and produced the Kharis mask Lon Chaney had worn in "The Mummy's Curse." "I guess I was kind of oohing and aahing over the thing," Bob recalls, "because, out of the blue, and to my great surprise, Jack said, 'Would you like it?' I said, incredulously, ' ... Y-y-yeah. Yeah, I'd like it!' " Fortunately for us, Bob had the presence of mind to have a friend tape record the broadcast. After 40 years, Bob still has the tape -- perhaps the only existing interview with the man who brought Universal's classic creatures to life -- and at last report, Weaver was busy transcribing it. With Bob's personal memories and an additional interview with Alan Young of "Mr. Ed" fame (Pierce worked on the show late in his career), it promises to be an astounding trove of backstage lore. The complete package will be published in "Monsters From The Vault" magazine sometime in the near future. Watch for it! For more information, check out:

And if that weren't cool enough, the work of Burns and Weaver has been selected to appear in the 2001 edition of "The Best American Movie Writing," the annual publication that reprints important articles on movies and movie history. The Burns and Weaver piece on makeup ace and gorilla suit-maker, Charles Gemora, was one of 26 pieces chosen from articles appearing in more than 320 books and magazines, including "The New Yorker" and "The New York Times." Previous volumes have included pieces by Gore Vidal, Steven Spielberg, Rex Reed, Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese. Burns and Weaver share the 2001 edition with Lawrence Kasdan and Stanley Kubrick, among others. Pretty smart company. Congratulations, guys.

The long-awaited autobiography of Big Jim Arness, who played "The Thing From Another World" and went on to international fame as Marshal Matt Dillon on television's "Gunsmoke," will be released next month. "James Arness: An Autobiography," by Jim with James E. Wise, Jr., will be released September 15. With a foreword by friend and fellow "Gunsmoke" castmate, Burt Reynolds, the book features never-before-seen photos from Arness' personal collection. Jim recalls his early years in Hollywood, addresses his roles in "The Thing From Another World" and "Them!," and talks about the three years he worked with the legendary John Wayne in such films as "Big Jim McClain" and "The Sea Chase." Intriguing anecdotes abound: Audie Murphy shooting craps between takes, a young Harrison Ford stumbling on the "Gunsmoke" set and knocking out a few teeth with his own gun, and the Georgia boy shocked into a catatonic state upon seeing "The Thing" (Arness was preparing to fly to boy's bedside to convince him that it was only an actor in monster makeup when word of the kid's recovery reached him). And, of course, "Gunsmoke" is covered in depth. The seminal series ran for 20 years and made Matt Dillon a figure of near-mythic proportions. The book is everything you'd expect from Arness (although his passion for surfing may surprise fans of the frontier lawman) -- forthright and conspicuously lacking pretense, like the man himself. In other words, these are the recollections of a human being who happened to be a star. You should buy this book.

Arness will make one personal appearance to promote the book, November 3, 2001, at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, where he will personally autograph copies. For more information, visit: Or call 1-800-253-2187

We're not exactly sure when horror flicks, pro wrestling and rock music all congealed in the pop-culture pot, but B Monster buddy Fred Olen Ray (that's right, the man who brought you "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers," "Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold" and "Invisible Mom") personifies the amalgam. "ACW Wrestling's Wildest Matches!" is now available from Retrovision Entertainment, featuring the buff, B-movie impresario (using his ring handle, "Freddie Valentine") taking on an assortment of contenders in hellacious rows taped live at Los Angeles-area arenas. With real-life wife Kimberly working his corner (riding crop in hand), Freddy goes head-to-head with the likes of Mando Guerrero (brother of WWF's Eddie Guerrero) and Terry Funk. In the best tradition of the old Republic serials, none of the furniture is spared, with chairs, tables, ladders -- even "exploding barb-wire" -- coming into play. Visit for ordering info. Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Cineaste, scholar, tunesmith and finder of "Forgotten Horrors," Michael H. Price, has only recently sealed a deal with our friends at Midnight Marquee Press to distribute his "Cemetary Toons" CD. Originally released in 2000, the popular disk is now in a second pressing. It's a rollicking collection of fright-themed, "gallows humor" ditties collected throughout the curious course of Price's career as a Bluesman-cum-Poverty Row-movie maven. The 17 sinister tracks ravage the musical gamut from Doo Wop to Hip Hop. Among the more memorable melodies is "Up Jurassic Park," which was featured prominently on the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Demento" radio show a few years back.

For more info, contact: And, of course, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Joel Silver, the producer who brought you "Xanadu," "Action Jackson" and "Hudson Hawk," as well as "Predator," Predator 2," "Die Hard," Die Hard 2," "Lethal Weapon," "Lethal Weapon 2," "Lethal Weapon 3," "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Richie Rich," is adamant in his refusal to tone down the violence in his upcoming sequel to "The Matrix." "There's greater freedom in an R-rated picture for doing the kind of movies we like to do. These pictures are not for children," Silver said, safe in the knowledge that every child on the face of the planet has by now seen "The Matrix" at least eight times. "I'm proud that we do not make these pictures for children." No kiddin', he actually said that.

And in an unrelated, related story, Kathleen Kennedy, producer of Steven Spielberg's "A.I.," a movie about a kid, starring a kid, is warning kids not to see the film. "This is where I wish more parents paid attention to ratings," Kennedy said. "I think that it is a perfectly defined PG-13 movie, and I think [that for] kids that are anywhere from 8 to 13, it's questionable." (Stupid parents! If only you knew what these millionaires go through to bring the violence and nihilism you enjoy to the big screen.) Even child star Haley Joel Osment is making the rounds of chat shows to tell kids -- OLDER than he is -- that the film may be too dark for them to endure. "You can't make movies that you know are going to appeal to young adults and adults," Kennedy added, "and then feel that you have to make choices that are OK for 6-year-olds. It's a really tough dilemma."

Kennedy's contention that the film was never intended for a young audience is contrasted by a report in "Variety," which says The Hollywood Foreign Press Association was forced to sit through a screening of the family film "Cats & Dogs," before viewing "A.I." The "Variety" story also reports on complaints "that 'A.I.' commercials have keyed too much on child star Haley Joel Osment, leading auds to expect a kinder, gentler picture. ... Part of the ambiguity of the marketing campaign was intentional. Steven Spielberg withheld key images and plot points from the marketing campaign, hoping to entice viewers. Originally, the film was targeted for a wider appeal, but that's been changed to an adults-and-college crowd orientation."

So, you make a violent, dismal film heralded by misleading advertising, accuse the very people you think should pay to see it of irresponsibility, then send a kid out to take the heat when the public dares question your judgment. Hooray for Hollywood.

And finally, director Guillermo del Toro promises that his sequel to "Blade" (another film -- this one based on a comic book -- which we're sure was NEVER intended for kids to see) will be scarier than the 1998 original. "I was attracted to the idea of making vampires scary again," the director told "Screen International" magazine. "[Vampires] have become almost gothic romance heroes. I wanted to find the animal component again: Something that just wants to drink your blood and kill you."

What do the preceding three items have to do with B movies? You can dress 'em up as fancy as you like, but there's scarcely an original notion in the bunch. The dearth of ideas lands these filmmakers smack on "Poverty Row." The future will be dreary and dehumanizing -- now there's a fresh concept! Vampires running amok is a bad thing -- you don't say! The production of artificial beings could lead to moral and emotional dilemmas -- Get out of town! Top-notch directors, good actors, brilliant designers with millions of dollars at their disposal, and what are they proudest of? The fact that nowadays they can get away with more violence.

(And by the way, isn't it great to live in a country where popcorn, a soft drink, a candy bar and two tickets to "Pootie Tang" costs $40? I think that's fair. Who am I to complain? I'm not complaining. I'm sure those movie folks have a darned good reason for charging so much. I think it's great. Really, really great. So, don't complain. Just put up with it. Whatever you do, don't complain. For God's sake, don't complain. Conform. It's all good.)


Gimmick king William Castle directed this dubious 1960 schlocker that is oddly enjoyable despite having nearly everything wrong with it. The script is corny and predictable, the effects are on the Bert I. Gordon level, and the actors deliver every line as though they were speaking to a five-year-old. But even a toddler would find credibility strained by the contrivances herein. It plays more like a Mickey Mouse Club Hardy Boys segment than a horror film. For all its faults, it is possessed of Castle's unashamed gusto for thrill films, shot in "The Magic of Illusion O." And how could you not like a kid named Buck Zorba?

This one's an acquired taste no matter how you slice it. It's spawned a clique of snobbish adherents as well as a smaller cadre who can't get past its dripping Britishness. In fact, it's just a pretty creepy, fairly unusual film that refuses to give an inch where its dark agenda is concerned. No one walks away smiling from this one. Christopher Lee is happily cast as Lord Summerisle, leader of a secret pagan society inhabiting a remote British isle. TV's "Equalizer," Edward Woodward, is a straight-laced copper who comes into their midst, his beliefs challenged, his life endangered. Britt Ekland and Ingrid Pitt round out the cast. The special features that make up this "Limited Edition" include interviews with Woodward, Lee and Pitt, director Robin Hardy, writer Anthony Shaffer and others, as well as the theatrical trailer, TV and radio ad spots and bios of the stars.

We'll tell you up front, this is one of the B Monster's favorite films, and we'll brook no disparaging comments! Those in the know have long acknowledged it as the bare-bones run-through for Ridley Scott's "Alien." Director Ed Cahn churned out B films at a feverish pace, but this one boasts a charged atmosphere not found in much of his work (owing, perhaps, to the nifty premise cooked up by screenwriter Jerome Bixby). Marshall Thompson is a space pilot wrongly accused of murdering the crewmen who were actually victims of the titular "It!" Ray "Crash" Corrigan in a Paul Blaisdell rubber suit (B Monster buddy Bob Burns was Blaisdell's aid-de-camp throughout the shooting) is the bloodthirsty Martian menace who sneaks aboard a spacecraft bound earthward from Mars, stalking the crew through dark corridors and air shafts (sound familiar?). Supporting players Dabbs Greer and Ann Doran elevate any movie in which they appear.

The eponymous challenger is a giant mollusk shaken from the depths of California's Salton Sea by a temblor. Former western star and ex-Magnificent Amberson Tim Holt leads a likable cast that prominently features Hans Conried in a serious turn as a frazzled scientist. Max Showalter, Audrey Dalton and Gordon Jones all lend sturdy support. Scenes of the king-size caterpillar capsizing boats are quite effective. Director Arnold Laven keeps his mollusk moving in this energetic, applaudably atmospheric film. The B Monster finds it puzzling that this movie is so often overlooked by genre critics. Don't make the same mistake.

Lovely Marie Windsor is easily the best thing about this desperate effort on Universal's part to pump new life into the sagging careers of the comic duo. The one-time box-office champs are paired with another of Universal's franchise monsters in a tired plot (Lou sees scary stuff, Bud slaps him around) involving a murdered archaeologist and a mystical medallion. Windsor is Madame Rontru, the exotic femme, who is the film's singular redeeming feature. Michael Ansara, Richard Deacon and Eddie Parker co-star. The people in the movie are funny, but nothing very funny really happens in the movie.

Let's see a show of hands: How many of you remember the H.P. Lovecraft fad that flashed across the pop-culture landscape in the late-60s? It lasted about six weeks. But it spawned a spate of films, comic book stories, short fiction and novels (Lovecraft provided the blueprint for the Clive Barker brigade), all aping the reclusive author's mordant tone. There are still vestiges -- references in movies and comics to Arkham, The Necronomicon, The Old Ones and Cthulululu or whatever. Ex-Corman art director Daniel Haller directs this, one of the better attempts to bring Lovecraft to the big screen. He's aided by an able cast featuring the eminently suitable Dean Stockwell -- who's really good at "creepy" -- as Wilbur Whateley, the wacko who needs the Necronomicon and, for some reason, Sandra Dee, to open up a portal for the Old Ones to enter our dimension. Seasoned oldsters such as Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner and Sam Jaffe lend credibility to a script by Curtis "Wonder Boys" Hanson.

Holy Samoly, what a bad idea! Whether or not you like the films of director/designer William Cameron Menzies, no one else could have made them. If ever there was an argument for the "auteur" theory -- that any given film is primarily the result of the director's "vision" -- Menzies was the proof. Even "Drums In The Deep South," his Civil War drama, has an otherworldly, inimitable veneer. So, why remake what is arguably the best of his films? I dunno. But I do know that director Tobe Hooper's take on Menzie's sci-fi fairy tale is dull, labored and pretty much pointless. Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms and Laraine Newman lead the cast, and watch for original "Invaders" star Jimmy Hunt as the police chief. Hooper's "Poltergeist" was scary. His "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was scary. This wrongheaded overhaul ain't. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot the name "W.C. Menzies" on the local school, a clue that perhaps the filmmaker's intentions were good.

Well, they can't have Yvonne Craig! The buxom Batgirl is the only reason to watch this seedy, under-budgeted snoozer. Publicity describes this dud as a "vintage sci-fi classic filled with riveting action and suspense." Anyone who's seen one of director Larry Buchanan's films can tell you why there are so many things wrong with that statement. Buchanan, sort of a Bible-belt Roger Corman, whose legacy includes "The Eye Creatures" and "Zontar, The Thing From Venus," produced films that were by turns, funny, campy, lurid -- some even fitfully entertaining. But words such as "riveting" and "action" would come from only the most generous critic. The title IS the plot, and Tommy "Old Yeller," "Son of Flubber" Kirk leads the Martian expedition bent on breeding with Earth maidens.

No monsters but one helluva kitchfest! If you dig Elvis, it's a very sad film. If you view The King cynically as a fallen pop-culture icon, this is the film for you. He'd played a cowboy, a carny, a race car driver -- I guess water skiing instructor was the only occupation left. Elvis sleepwalks through the proceedings, rousing long enough to "Do The Clam." But let's not let Shelley Fabares, Will Hutchins, Bill Bixby and Gary Merrill off the hook. Mention "Clambake," and I'm willing to bet that all of 'em fought the urge to slap a little white-out on their resumes. For God's sake, rent "King Creole" or "Jailhouse Rock," and let the "post-Army Elvis" rest in peace.


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at

"Shuddery things from beyond the stars, here to breed with human women!" -- I Married a Monster From Outer Spac

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