Following a bizarre series of events, actor Rod Lauren Strunk, star of the cult classic, "The Crawling Hand," may be implicated in the murder of his wife of 22 years, Filipino actress Nida Blanca. According to the Filipino Web site "Adobo," the body of Blanca, aka Dorothy Jones, was found in her car last Nov. 7. She had been stabbed to death in the parking lot of the Atlanta Center building in Greenhills, San Juan in the Philippines. Three security guards who worked at the building were charged with obstruction of justice. A fourth man, Philip Medel Jr., was implicated in the crime itself. Medel informed investigators that he had been hired by Strunk to kill Blanca, but later recanted his story. According to the "Philippine Times," Medel "broke down at a Justice Department hearing, slamming tables, fainting and crying that he was tortured into confessing and implicating the actress' American husband. Medel, who earlier confessed to killing Blanca and implicated her husband, tore up his signed testimony. Raising his hands above his head to display dark blue bruises circling both wrists, he said police tied his hands and forced him to confess. He repeatedly collapsed into semi-consciousness and arose to shout more. Many of his words were incoherent or inaudible, but he said he retracted his confession and called for authorities to, "'Kill me now. I rest in peace.'" Understandably, this weakened the case against Strunk. "Without new evidence, I think it is premature to determine which of Medel's statements is true," said Justice Undersecretary Manuel Teehankee.

The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation continues to seek evidence and, according to State Prosecutor, Emmanuel Velasco, Strunk remains the primary suspect in Blanca's death based largely on circumstantial evidence and statements from family members. An umbrella Strunk carried was found in Blanca's car after the murder, but, according to a witness, it had not been there earlier in the evening. Blanca's daughter claims that Strunk may have been angered by Blanca's refusal to continue sharing her money with him. Strunk, who maintains his innocence, is now in the United States. Attorneys may subpoena him to return to the Philippines and cooperate in the case. He cannot be extradited until a formal charge is brought against him in court. Strunk referred to Medel's breakdown as "a divine answer from my lord and savior. My family was torn apart by this. Hopefully this can be the beginning of the healing process. But my wife's murderer is still alive and somewhere."

Our old buddy, Bob Burns, the dean of genre-film paraphernalia procurement and preservation, is everywhere this month, his irrepressible spirit haunting a newsstand near you. The current issue of "Scary Monsters" finds Bob recounting his adventures as a "Shock Theater" co-host in the late 1950s. In the latest edition of "Monsters From the Vault," Bob salutes makeup maverick Jack P. Pierce, describing their meetings and unveiling a never-before-published transcript of a Pierce TV interview. The new "Cinefantastique" features Bob's touching remembrance of George Pal, from the afternoon that a school-age Bob visited the lunar set of "Destination Moon," to the day of the legendary producer's funeral. And the current edition of "Chiller Theatre" features Burns' memories of shockmeister William Castle, wherein Bob recalls his participation in the rigging of theater seats to tingle the posteriors of patrons during screenings of Castle's classic, "The Tingler." Like the epic poets of old who were walking storehouses of history, Bob is a living treasure, and all us fright-film fans are in his debt. Be sure to tell each of the aforementioned mags that the B Monster told you to procure a copy of their publication.

Just out of curiosity you may want to catch at least one installment of "William Shatner's Full Moon Fright Night" on The Sci Fi Channel. That's right, starship Captain and Priceline huckster Bill Shatner slipping into Zacherle's shoes, tackling Ghoulardi's gig. The series, which debuted July 20th, can extend its run indefinitely what with the entire Full Moon library of films at its disposal. This includes the "Puppetmaster" series, the "Trancers" series, the "Subspecies" series -- heck, you could make a series about their series. Shatner not only hosts such films as "Killjoy" and "Shrunken Heads," but also interviews horror filmmakers for the program.
Check out: for scheduling.

And if you've got an extra 80 grand phasering a hole in your pocket, you're one of the fortunate few who could place a minimum bid on the Starship Enterprise chair that once cradled Captain Kirk's caboose. Via eBay, an entity called "Profiles in History L.A." recently auctioned off 374 memorabilia lots culled from the collection of former "Star Trek" associate producer Bob Justman. Costumes, scripts, props and other items from the original series were likewise open to bids. As of this writing, the Captain's chair was expected to fetch at least $150,000 (roughly the cost of 214 fully-loaded Herman Miller Aeron Chairs). When do the wigs go on the block?

Add stock car driver to Captain Kirk's diverse resume, as he boldly goes into the field of Grand Prix racing. This past July 20 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., Shatner drove in the Cadillac Grand Prix. "The Grand Prix people invited me to drive in their driving school for four days," Shatner told The Washington Post, "and I had a great time and wrecked three cars, and then I drove in their race and had one of the most ecstatic experiences I've ever had." The actor is more visible now than he was at the height of his "Star Trek" fame, but at 71, shouldn't he be slowing down instead speeding up? "I should be treating my arthritis instead," he said. "It's the serotonin rush, I think, and this thrill you get when you drive fast in somebody else's car." He went on to characterize the race as a post-9/11 morale-booster. "I think events like the Grand Prix in Washington is a real example of showing the rest of the world that our country is strong."

From the "I Can't Believe It Took Them This Long To Do This" file: Producer/director Dan Curtis, the man behind the "The Night Stalker" teleseries as well as laudable remakes of "Dracula" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," is currently developing a big-screen version of his TV cult-smash, "Dark Shadows." The Gothic-horror soap opera made its debut in 1966, and its devoted fan base has barely diminished since. "The show never goes away," Curtis told TV Guide. "40 episodes were recently put out on a four-disc DVD set. I understand they sold out within days." The critical question is of course, who will portray the series' central character, vampire Barnabas Collins? "We'd heard for ages that Johnny Depp always wanted to play Barnabas Collins," Curtis said, "so we checked into it, and lo and behold, depending on the script, it is something that he'd like to do." Jonathan Frid, who played Collins for five years on the original series, developed a fanatical cult following, and is arguably the main reason for the program's lasting impression. "Never in my life did I imagine that the show would still be around," Curtis said.

Actor/director/Star Trekker Jonathan Frakes, who last time we checked was busy overhauling "The Twilight Zone," is set to direct a live-action version of Gerry Anderson's marionette teleseries "Thunderbirds." According to Variety, Universal will release the Frakes-directed update of the 1960s British series about a secret rescue squadron. Peter Hewitt ("The Borrowers," "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey") was originally slated to helm the project, conceived, at first, as an adult action thriller. To their credit, producers have rethought the concept, shaping it into a "family-friendly adventure" picture more in keeping with the spirit of the original series. Frakes, whose last project was the family-audience thriller "Clockstoppers," will begin shooting "Thunderbirds" early in 2003.

Martial arts superstar Jackie Chan will star in a new feature film version of Jules Verne's classic "Around the World in 80 Days." Several studios were in the running to produce, but Paramount bid successfully to fund and distribute the film in the U.S. Chan will play the traveling bodyguard to adventurer Phileas Fogg, who takes on a wager to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. The Oscar-winning 1956 film version of Verne's novel starred David Niven, Cantinflas and, well, just about every actor alive at the time. Whether or not Chan's version will seek to duplicate the cameo quotient remains to be seen. Chan and Verne might seem an unlikely combination, but hey, E!Online reported at one point that director Wolfgang Peterson wanted Matt Damon to play Superman, so nothing surprises us anymore.

The next entry in Universal's Mummy franchise comes in the form of a direct-to-video cartoon. "The Mummy: Quest for the Lost Scrolls," is a feature-length adventure based on the Kids' WB network's animated Mummy series. According to pre-release hype, "Kids will be enthralled with the daring exploits of clever eleven-year-old Alex and his family as they race around the world to find the Scrolls of Thebes." The film is slated to hit video stores Oct. 1, and the DVD features games, a bonus episode, interviews with the voice talent and DVD-ROM interactive activities. And as you enjoy this video confection, in lieu of popcorn, why not nibble a deliciously greasy Taco Bell Kid's Meal? Starting Oct. 10, Taco Bell will include one of five collectible action toys based on the film with the purchase of every Kid's Meal.

On the subject of reprising his role as Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford has hemmed and he's hawed and then he's hemmed a little more, but he maintains he's only holding out for a script that he, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are all happy with. Rumor has it that, at Harrison's urging, said script will now have to include a part for Ford's reported paramour, Calista Flockhart. If the thought of Ally McBeal tangling with mummies and fighting Nazis doesn't disturb you, the fact that the filmmakers hope to make the fourth Indiana Jones film "more adult" than those that preceded it SHOULD. It's been our experience that, as Hollywood uses the word, "adult" is synonymous with "pandering" which is synonymous with "cheapening," which ... oh, forget it. They've got time to come to their senses, as shooting doesn't start until 2004 ... and Sean Connery is supposed to be in it! That's a good thing, right?

The windy city seems to be developing into a horror hub of sorts, hosting several sci-fi, comic and horror cons this summer. Among the fall season's first shows is the "Kitbuilders Model and Toy Show," happening Sept. 29 at the Hillside Holiday Inn in beautiful Hillside Illinois, a Chicago suburb. The show features a dealers room packed with monster collectibles and model kits. The guest list includes scream queen Glori Ann Gilbert and Marvel Comics writer/Aurora model designer Dave Cockrum. Admission is just $4. For more info, call 815-334-1540 or e-mail
That's right, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

The latest CD release from the folks at Marco Polo is one of their biggest and in some ways, among their most laudable, as it showcases the career of one of the movie's least heralded composers, Adolph Deutsch. "'The Maltese Falcon' and Other Classic Film Scores by Adolph Deutsch," presents 41 cues (nearly 76 minutes of music) culled from the soundtracks of "Falcon," "George Washington Slept Here," "The Mask of Dimitrios," "High Sierra" (another of Bogie's best) and the Errol Flynn WWII thriller, "Northern Pursuit." As usual, the scores were lovingly restored by John Morgan and performed by William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
To find out more, visit
You know the routine: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

According to USA Today, these are the personalities expected to receive a star on Hollywood's legendary "Walk of Fame" in 2003:
Drew Carey
Kermit the Frog
Martin Scorsese
Etta James
Kevin Bacon
Susan Sarandon
Suzanne Somers
The Osmond family (That's ONE star for ALL of them. A star for each would stretch the "Walk of Fame" from L.A. to Salt Lake City)
Gilda Radner
Michael Bolton

And these are our suggestions:
Corbett Monica
Winky Dink
Jerry Warren
Lightnin' Slim
Kurt Katch
Edna Tichenor
Jo Ann Pflug
The Cowsills (They may already have a star. Can someone please check?)


This is easily the B Monster's favorite Ray Harryhausen film. Why? Could be the tender age at which he originally saw it. Could be the innovative creature design. Could be Nathan Juran's workmanlike direction. Could be that the kid in me will never tire of seeing a monster from Venus in a knockdown fistfight with rampaging elephants. Or it could be that it's just a darned-good thriller in the tradition of "Kong." The plot is wafer-thin, but that same kid in me doesn't seem to care. The "creature in a strange land" bit has rarely been better executed. The solid cast, led by he-man William Hopper and lovely Joan Taylor, features many of our favorite B-movie faces, including Thomas Browne Henry as the General (Morris Ankrum must have been booked), Arthur Space as, appropriately, a rocket scientist, and Frank Puglia as Dr. Leonardo.

The story bears recapping for B-movie newbies: Hopper's spacecraft, returning from Venus, crash-lands in the Mediterranean. A strange, Jell-O-like egg is salvaged from the wreckage by a waif and finds its way into Puglia's possession. It hatches, and the ghastly hatchling (dubbed "Ymir" by Harryhausen) begins growing at an alarming rate. It doubles in size overnight, escapes, and is soon terrifying the bucolic countryside, setting the stage for some of Harryhausen's most convincing effects (a barnyard pitchfork fight is a standout sequence).

I don't think there's anything new to be said about this pioneering film. It's still the creepiest vampire movie ever made, filled with stunning imagery and invested with palpable dread. Maybe the highest compliment that can be paid the film is that it looks to have actually been filmed in the early 19th century, so meticulous are its details and enveloping its atmosphere. Director F.W. Murnau's eye is unerring and, if EVER an actor were born for a role, it was Max Schreck, whose portrayal of the desiccated vampire, Graf Orlok, is unforgettable. Never mind the fanciful revisionism of "Shadow of the Vampire," and all the slicker, bloodier vampires that came after. This one set a standard that, after 80 years (!), is unmatched.

Never have so many labored so long and with such talent and bravado to produce something so thuddingly boring. The ingredients are all there. The direction is accomplished, deftly balancing dazzling special effects set pieces with adroitly choreographed battle scenes. The mystical, magical imagery -- wraiths, demons, ogres and monsters -- are all presented with benchmark innovation. So how is it these elements add up to something so belabored and vacuous? Hang on to your Bilbos, Tolkienites, because I have the answer: It is that very rare case of a film unable to overcome the weaknesses inherent in the source material. Tolkien's "Masterpiece" is all exposition and NO payoff. It's just too darned much of that faux Shakespeare medieval-speak and too darned many wizards, goblins, elves and whatzits cribbed from the Brothers Grimm to ever keep track of.

Tolkien's titanic tome was broken into three semi-titanic hunks when published. This film addresses hunk number one. It begins with a dark screen and a lilting female voice reading either The Bible or the Paramus, N.J., phone book. The plot? These guys have this ring and they're going to walk to a volcano and throw it in. Along the way, they battle every manner of evil beastie one can imagine. Three hours later, and they STILL haven't made it to said volcano. More significantly, we haven't learned a single thing about ANY of these characters in the process. It's as though each actor was assigned a facial expression and pushed out the dressing room door. Sir Ian McKellan -- or was it Sir Richard Harris, (for you younger viewers, they're sort of the upper-crusty British version of Bill Pullman and Bill Paxton), wearing Jed Clampett's hat starts each sentence at the top of his lungs and then trails off to an unintelligible whisper: "By the fiery hordes of Mordor, young Frodo bozo bosco calypso figero fizzle zzzmmmm..." Give that man an Oscar! In fairness, I could barely understand any of the actors when they spoke. They all seemed to be fascinated with their own voices, testing them to see how high or low they could go. In short, all the bombastic language and Keebler-elf nomenclature keeps the viewer at arm's length at all times.

I suppose it's unfair to address the "logic" of the story, but ... while imprisoned, McKellen is able to tell a butterfly to go and fetch a gargantuan falcon to spirit him to safety. So, why then does this intrepid brotherhood have to schlep it on foot to volcanoland? And where's McKellan's big bird as he dangles from a precipice above the very mouth of hell. His magical powers seem to come and go at the plot's convenience.

Even if you love Tolkien and view his "Ring" saga as a staggering morality play of universal import, answer me this: Why does it have to be a movie? Aren't the books enough? How does it enhance anyone's character to see his morass of a passion play truncated, wrestled to the ground and turned into high-gloss Hollywood product?

This one's a stinker, and I'll be doggoned if I can explain why I enjoy it. Oh, wait, John Carradine and Allison Hayes are in it. That's two good reasons, but is it enough? Carradine plays (surprise!) a demented doctor conducting glandular experiments on hapless "patients" in his spooky, secluded mansion. He's over-the-top even for John Carradine, with a gleam in his eye that seems to convey, "Holy Samoley! My vociferous oratory is the only thing that can save this turkey!" But John's bombast is in vain. Soooo much footage is spent showing people skulking up and down the same staircase, peering quizzically, perhaps hoping that director Brooke Peters, aka Boris Petroff, will give them some clue as to what's happening in the film.

Alas, direction is not the film's strongest feature. The confrontation between Carradine and hero Myron Healey consists of two "two-shots," one over Carradine's shoulder, the other over Healey's. But they look to have been shot on two different days, in two different rooms, on two different sets. Spliced together into what's supposed to be one conversation, the effect is jarring. Even those with only a rudimentary knowledge of filmmaking will recognize it as amateurish. An abbreviated chase scene around the mansion is likewise incoherent. And why Healey and Hayes have to hatch an escape plan in hushed voices, when all they have to do is walk out the front door is mystifying. Arthur Batanides and "Frankenstein's Daughter," Sally Todd, play two of Carradine's less-fortunate guinea pigs. Tor Johnson is on hand as Lobo -- though this film has no relation to the Ed Wood films in which he also played a half-wit named Lobo -- uttering the film's best line: "Time for go to bed!" Robert Shayne ("Invaders From Mars," Inspector Henderson of "The Adventures of Superman") pops up in the last reel as a police captain. And "The Unearthly" is the only horror film I can think of that stars two Miss America contestants; Allison Hayes competed in 1949, and Marilyn Berferd, who plays Carradine's lab assistant and "love interest," actually won the crown in 1946. The accumulated trivia may not comprise a good film, but it makes for a good time.

Even though I've seen it, there's still a lot I don't know about this picture. I don't why it was made. I don't know who, other than John Travolta, thought it would be a good idea. I don't know why the camera is always tilted. I don't know why some scenes are all blue and others are all orange. I don't know why the interiors AND the exteriors look completely fake. I don't know why Forest Whitaker agreed to be in it. I don't know why Travolta looks like a Martian Bob Marley. I don't know why someone didn't stop him from delivering the most ludicrously hammy performance in recent memory. (Couldn't someone look at the dailies and say, "John, how 'bout taking it down a notch?") I DO know that "Battlefield Earth" was written by the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. I know that Travolta is a Scientologist and that this film was his pet project. I know that, for the first half-hour, I sat there thinking that surely they did this as an exercise in camp. I know that by the second half-hour, I realized they weren't kidding. I know that this is a very bad film. There, that's all I know -- and DON'T know -- about "Battlefield Earth."

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

Scott Essman,

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

"Too awesome to describe. Too terrifying to escape. Too powerful to stop!" -- Monster From Green Hell

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