The B Monster was all set to seize this holiday season as an opportunity to scold Americans for surrendering to the lazy and all-too-familiar "Post-9/11" mentality when our buddy, Joe Bob Briggs, penned some words that took the venom right out of our mouth: "Am I the only one who thinks the phrase 'in light of the events of Sept. 11' has become the 21st century equivalent to 'the dog ate my homework'? ... They should actually just call it chapter nine eleven, because it's become a form of continual bankruptcy." I fear he's right, but I hope he's wrong.

Despite what Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Jeff Greenfield and their ilk keep repeating, you DID NOT "wake up in a different country" September 11 -- you woke up in a GREAT country with lousy airline security. Do not surrender to that "malaise" malarkey. There IS something you can do: Spread a little joy. 'Tis the season! Nod to a neighbor, smile at a stranger, make nice with that monster down the block. You'll cash in on the karma one day, I promise you. I don't care if you're fat, thin, wealthy, jobless, good, bad, ugly or on fire -- smile -- it won't cost you a dime.


Anthony Shaffer
Tony Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer died at his London home following a heart attack. He was 75. Shaffer is perhaps best known for "Sleuth," the long-running play for which he received the Tony. It ran on Broadway for 2,300 performances. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed a 1972 film version that starred Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Shaffer also wrote the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy," and three Agatha Christie adaptations starring Peter Ustinov as detective Hercules Poirot, "Death on the Nile," "Evil Under the Sun" and "Appointment With Death." Shaffer also wrote the cult-movie "The Wicker Man," a brooding suspense film about a paganist cult living on a remote Scottish isle. The film has a devoted following, and "Cinefantastique" magazine once called it "the 'Citizen Kane' of horror films." Shaffer began his career writing paperback mysteries with his twin brother, Peter, who went on to author such plays as "Equus" and "Amadeus."

Gray Morrow
Illustrator Gray Morrow died at his home, aged 67. Though he had been in poor health in recent years, his death was unexpected. Just a week before his passing, he appeared at the Baltimore Comicon, autographing comics and magazines he'd illustrated and sketching for fans. Morrow is perhaps best known for comic stories that appeared in Warren Publishing's "Creepy" and "Eerie" magazines. He was also a prolific painter, illustrating many Warren covers and dozens of paperback book covers. One high point was "The Illustrated Roger Zelazny," which appeared in the late 1970s. Morrow also rendered dozens of movie posters, most notably for some of producer Sam Sherman's Independent International Productions such as "Dracula Vs. Frankenstein," and Mel Welles' "Lady Frankenstein." More recently, Morrow had been drawing the "Tarzan" newspaper strip as well as the Internet-syndicated daily comic strip, "The Body." A collection of his work, "Gray Morrow, Visionary," was published by Insight Studios Group last summer.

William Read Woodfield
Writer, photographer William Read Woodfield died in Los Angeles following a heart attack. He was 73. Woodfield first made a name for himself as a photographer covering the Hollywood personality beat, most notably photographing Jayne Mansfield for an issue of Playboy magazine that sold more than 1 million copies. He tried his hand at television writing, and later, along with writing partner Allan Balter, utilized his love of con games and chicanery to turn television's "Mission: Impossible" into a smash hit, even producing the multiple Emmy-winning series for a season. More recently, Woodfield has scripted installments of "Columbo" and the feature-length "Perry Mason" episodes. Cult-film fans know Woodfield as the writer behind the lurid, 1960 gimmick shocker, "The Hypnotic Eye."

Raymond C. Sparenberg aka Selwin
One of television's earliest horror movie hosts, Raymond C. Sparenberg, died of renal failure at 72. Sparenberg appeared on WISH-TV, the Indianapolis CBS affiliate from 1958-63. Sparenberg appeared on the weekly "Fright Night" as "Selwin, son of Catwoman and Wolfman," introducing classic horror films to baby boomers. "Fright Night" played with various formats over the years, focusing on jungle films at one point and space films at another. When the show ended, Sparenberg began a sales job at WXIA in Atlanta. He later operated a cheese shop, worked as a cab driver and in the records department of a hospital.

Byron Sanders
Actor Byron Sanders, best known to cult-movie fans as the star of "Flesh Eaters," is dead at 76. Sanders acted in many long-running daytime dramas including "Love of Life," "The Doctors" and "One Life to Live." He also served as the model for Salvador Dali's painting "Crucifixion" which is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. "Flesh Eaters" was a low-budget, 1964 cult favorite filmed on Long Island. It featured veteran character actor Martin Kosleck as a former Nazi scientist developing a strain of cannibal bacteria.

Diana van der Vlis Actress
Diana van der Vlis died in Missoula, Mont., following a brief illness. She was 66. She appeared with Walter Pidgeon in the Broadway hit "The Happiest Millionaire," and in such feature films as "The Girl in Black Stockings," "The Incident" and "The Swimmer." Her television work included roles in the soap opera "Ryan's Hope," and such dramas as "The Fugitive," "Naked City," "Route 66," and others. Fans of horror and suspense may remember her appearances in "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and director Roger Corman's 1963 B-movie gem "X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes."


If you think that a late-night horror host renaissance is long overdue, then an interesting missive The B Monster recently received from our friend Dr. Gangrene at may prove inspiring. For those unfamiliar with "Horror Host Underground," it's a ghoul talent pool of monster-movie hosts ready and willing to bring screenings of horror classics to regional TV markets through the miracle of syndication. The good doctor queries, "Don't have a horror host in your area? Dying to see some schlocky old films hosted by even schlockier movie hosts, doing their best to keep the horror host spirit alive, or at least have a little fun doing so? Then the Horror Host Underground could just be the ticket for you." A rotating roster of hideous hosts includes Halloween Jack, Dr. Sarcofiguy, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, and Dr. Gangrene, with more signing on soon. If you want 'em to air in your hometown, check out: Horror hosts are now being aired in Dayton, Ohio, Toms River, N.J., Washington D.C. and Greensboro, N.C. You'll find Dr. Gangrene skulking at: Be sure and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Last month in the Bay Area, B Monster-buddy and life-loving lounge lizard, Will "The Thrill" Viharo hosted the "Thrillville Psychotronic Holiday Toy Show" at the historic Parkway Theater. Festivities included 16mm cartoons, trailers, scopitones and commercials, plus episodes of "Gigantor" and "The Adventures of Superman." Will has also organized a toy drive at the theater benefiting a local elementary school. Upcoming special events occurring in "Thrillville" include screenings of "20 Million Miles to Earth" and "First Men in the Moon," and a special "Valentine's Day with Ray Dennis Steckler" taking place Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Parkway's Speakeasy Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. in Oakland. An eight buck admission gets you proximity to Steckler and screenings of "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up Zombies" and "The Thrill Killers." Will also promises some special surprise guests. To find out more, visit: Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you.

We warned you it was on the way. Just in time for the holidays, the much-anticipated "Shock Theater, An illustrated History" from the good folks at "Monsters From the Vault" is here, and it is terrific. This soft-bound extravaganza belongs on the coffee table of every fright-film fan (presuming that, like the B Monster's palatial pad, your place has a table designated for coffee and monster memorabilia). One hundred and twenty-eight pages of stunningly reproduced art -- movie stills, posters, ad mats and more. The peerless prose notwithstanding, the book's most remarkable feature may be the reproduction of the complete "Shock Theater" press package sent out to stations nationwide by Screen Gems. Other contributions come from "Cool Ghoul" John Zacherle, and scare-movie scribes John Brunas, Steve Kronenberg and MFTV editor Jim Clatterbaugh. There are also a number of heartfelt recollections of hometown horror-movie hosts (one standout is by a guy named Baumann). Order a copy from MFTV today. Just 20 bucks! ($25 outside the U.S.) Send check or money order to: Monsters From the Vault PO Box 981 Abingdon, MD 21009-0981 Or visit: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you.

The TromaDance, that is. The "TromaDance 2002 Film Festival" is officially calling for entries. According to the indy filmfest's organizers, "TromaDance celebrates the independent way of life with the finest selections of truly independent films, animation, music and live performance art. We are looking for entries of all genres and lengths, including but not limited to short films, features, animation and music videos." The festival takes place Jan. 11-19, 2002 in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. There are no entry or admission fees. Submissions can be sent to: TromaDance Selection Committee 733 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10019 All submissions must be on VHS 1/2" cassette. The committee says that "due to the mass numbers of videotapes we receive, films cannot be returned." To find out more, e-mail:

War continues to rage in the Balkans over who gets to host the Dracula theme park. Romanian Tourism Minister Dan Matei Agathon recently unveiled the concept for "Dracula Park," a tourist attraction built at the birthplace of Drac's real-life inspiration, Vlad the Impaler. According to Agathon, it would create 3,000 new jobs and cost $30 million to build. But according to the AP, Romania's Liberal Party says the park should be built in the Transylvanian town of Brasov, near Bran Castle, which is considered by many to have been Vlad's home. The Liberals also claim that their version of the park would cost just $18 million. The original plan has worried environmentalists as well as religious leaders who suspect the park will attract Satanists.

Our buddy, Jim Nolt, longtime publisher of "The Adventures Continue" newsletter, devoted to the Superman series starring George Reeves, has decided to draw the curtain on his labor of love. "'To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.' And now I feel it's time for 'The Adventures Continue' to end," said Nolt. "At least the magazine and newsletter portions. We've learned so much through their pages, but I no longer have the time to give them the attention they deserve. And because I'm so proud of both, I'd not want, due to my own neglect, to see either one deteriorate into anything less than it's been these many years ... a first class publication." For those unfamiliar, Jim's publication has been an exhaustive chronicle, bringing readers in touch with the program's surviving stars and guest stars and detailing the minutiae of their careers and the production of the series. lts most recent accomplishment was spearheading a fundraising campaign to place an ad in the Hollywood Reporter commemorating the show's 50th anniversary. (Unused funds were given to charity.) Thanks, Jim, for your devotion.

Our friends at Retromedia have announced their first batch of DVD releases for 2002 and promise monthly releases thereafter. First up is Full Moon's "Witchhouse 3: Demon Fire." Director J.R. Bookwalter's latest is set for a January 21 release. This one's being hawked as a "Mega-Disk," featuring nearly three hours of material. Brinke Stevens and Troma-bunny Debbie Rochon star in the flick publicity calls a "must for Full Moon enthusiasts."

The 21st will also see the resurrection of schlockmeister Jerry Warren's rambling, mind-numbing 1958 stinker, "Teenage Zombies." It's a 35mm transfer with the original 35mm trailer. That means die-hard, cult-film fans can see every frame of Warren's endless padding in crisp DVDetail. Which is not to say you shouldn't watch it. Enduring this interminable talkfest will separate the true B-movie hound from the rank amateur -- and we're just sadistic enough to recommend it. Extras include video interviews with star Katherine Victor and "zombie" Chuck Niles.

Retromedia's third January release is arguably the most interesting. "The Cremators" was directed by Harry Essex, best known for scripting such classics as "Creature From The Black Lagoon," "It Came From Outer Space," "The Sons of Katie Elder" and, of course, "Teenage Crime Wave." This little-seen, 1972 sci-fi schlocker was produced when Roger Corman's New World Pictures was in its infancy. It may not be top-flight filmmaking, but what drive-in devotee could walk away from this blistering ad blurb?: "From the Sun Come the Fire-People to Incinerate All Mankind!" Check out (The immature should avert their eyes upon clicking on director Fred Olen Ray's prominently linked "Nite Owl Theater.")

The Sci Fi Channel Web site has assembled a collection of written tributes following the terrorist attacks of September 11. Many noted science fiction authors have contributed, but "Apologue," by James Morrow, might ring truest with the B Monster's audience. It's a fictional essay wherein three of New York's most notable nemeses come out of retirement to do their bit in the relief effort. Example: "The instant they heard the news, the three of them knew they had to do something, and so, joints complaining, ligaments protesting, they limped out of the retirement home, went down to the river, swam across, and climbed." It's heartfelt but maybe a little too wry for its own good. Another example: "The mutant lizard helped the incontinent ape remove his disposable undergarments and replace them with a dry pair. The rhedosaur reminded the mutant lizard to take her Prozac." Even so, monster lovers may find it affecting. One more example: " 'Maybe they won't understand,' said the rhedosaur. 'They'll look at me, and all they'll see is a berserk reptile munching on the Coney Island roller coaster.' He fixed his clouded gaze on the ape. 'And you'll always be the one who shimmied up the Empire State Building and swatted at the biplanes.' " Morrow has a New York fireman sum up the situation cleverly and succinctly: "Actions speak louder than special effects."

Other contributions range from the immediacy of Kit Reed's essay, "Missing," to comic book writer Neil Gaiman's pretentious, baffling poetry. You'll find them all at

Movie folk were out in force to herald the opening of the Hollywood History Museum. Located in the old Max Factor building on Highland Avenue, in Hollywood, the show includes vintage posters and memorabilia and a new exhibit celebrating Universal monster makeup legend, Jack Pierce. Bronze busts of Pierce by Brent Armstrong, as well as fiberglass busts of Pierce's Im-Ho-Tep mummy and Karloff Frankenstein monster were part of the display. Scott Essman co-curated the exhibit which officially opens to the public in the near future.


Let's run through the checklist: CGI dinosaurs? Check! By-the-numbers script? Check! Good actors in undemanding roles? Check! Predictability fully deployed! Engage automatic pilot! The preceding could well have been said on the first day of shooting this utterly unnecessary film. The dinosaurs look cool, the cast is likable for the most part, and director Joe Johnston is a snappy storyteller. But before you've even opened your Junior Mints you'll be able to predict who gets killed and who doesn't. And you'll learn once more of the inherent dangers of genetic engineering. (For the record, the lesson to be gleaned from all three "Jurassic Park" films seems to be that manufacturing gigantic, ferocious, uncontrollable monsters is a bad thing.) William H. Macy plays a wealthy exec whose son has disappeared on the infamous isle of cloned dinosaurs. Scientist Sam Neill is conscripted to lead Macy and his ex, Tea Leoni, back to Jurassic Park in an attempt to find their kid. They see dinosaurs, run, see more dinosaurs, run, see still more dinosaurs, run. With a Godzillion dollars' worth of technology at their disposal, the film's makers bring absolutely nothing new to the terrain. It's predictable at every turn. But, if you really enjoy watching people run from dinosaurs -- or if you want to leave the screening feeling like the Amazing Kreskin -- this is the film for you.


This film isn't very good, and I like it a lot. That's due in large measure to an appealing cast of familiar B-movie players including Cesar Romero, Hugh Beaumont, Whit Bissell, John Hoyt, Chick Chandler, Sid Melton, Hillary Brooke, even Acquanetta! A B-movie who's who! Admittedly, there are talky stretches and more padding than a Posturepedic, including long, thuddingly-dull scenes of rock climbing. But it's great fun to watch these seasoned thespians giving it their all, cheesy sets and Gumby-like dinosaurs notwithstanding. The plot is a shameless, "atom-age" take on Conan Doyle: An atomic-powered rocket goes off course and crash-lands on an uncharted island. Many of the aforementioned players comprise a government search-and-rescue team. Upon reaching the summit of the island's mysterious, dino-populated mountain, the black and white film is thereafter tinted green. Director Sam Newfield had many a B under his belt by the time he helmed the Lippert-produced "Lost Continent." If only his pacing were as tight as the budget.

Known in England, its country of origin, as "The Trollenberg Terror," this grisly little shocker (it opens with an off-screen decapitation) has its share of genuinely tense moments and an equal number of dull ones. The film stars beefy American actor Forrest Tucker, whose foray into British fright films in the mid-1950s included "The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas" and "The Cosmic Monsters" aka "The Strange World of Planet X." In "The Crawling Eye," scripted by Jimmy Sangster after a Peter Key story, Tucker stumbles upon a breed of unseen creatures who communicate telepathically with vacationers at a remote Swiss resort, causing no end of mayhem. In the grand finale, the movie delivers on its eponymous promise and we get to see crawling, slithering, tentacled, giant eyeballs attacking the cowering tourists. The eyes are actually fairly well-executed special effects for their day, but we're sure there's a CGI remake in the works with 800 digital artists, broken down into teams of 200 per tentacle, working around the clock to satisfy a more demanding, contemporary audience.

This film's chief virtues are the very reasons it's so underrated by sci-fi fans. It's well-reasoned, heartfelt and serious. But it's a little too quiet and dignified to go toe-to-toe with rock 'em sock 'em junk like "Armageddon" and "Starship Troopers." This stylishly staged, beautifully photographed movie addresses the ramifications of genetic engineering far more coherently than any other contemporary film. Ethan Hawke plays a brave, determined aspiring astronaut who was born physically imperfect and therefore unsuitable for space travel. So strong is his passion for flight, he enlists Jude Law in a scheme to circumvent the system by submitting Law's "healthy" blood samples instead of his own. The cast, including Uma Thurman and Gore Vidal, is uniformly convincing. Yet, it is the quiet tone of circumspection that keeps "Gattaca" from gaining wider acceptance. It is not a perfect film, by any means. But imagine if this script had fallen into the hands of Jerry Bruckheimer, who would have cast Bruce Willis as a vengeful, world-weary, mercenary astronaut and added exploding heads, car chases and Aerosmith music. Or maybe you like that kinda thing?

Another Tim Burton film, spilling over with fascinating elements that evokes not a single moment of tension or suspense. The cast is great, the photography is terrific, the story is unique, the design work is engaging. Yet, as with every Burton movie, the elements do not congeal into a satisfying whole. Vincent Price stands out in a touching role as the creator of an artificial son, a freakish mop-top with snippers for digits. Johnny Depp, one of the best actors working today, is excellent as the sensitive, bewildered, wide-eyed Edward. Dianne Wiest is a good-hearted suburbanite who takes pity on Edward, introducing him to her circle of friends. Soon, he's dazzling the community with his topiary and pet-grooming skills. In the end, society simply cannot accept his differentness, and Burton does manage to bring home this sad aspect of the story. It's entertaining enough, very fanciful and fairy-tale-like, but it just kind of lays there like a beautiful suit without a hanger.

Any attempt to describe this film could ultimately do it a grave disservice. That having been said, it's stylish, calculated, taught and handsome. AND there's a fascinating story supporting Director Darren Aronofsky's filmic flourishes. Sean Gullette plays a frenzied, pill-popping mathematician on the brink of an earth-shattering discovery, the numerical pattern that could unlock the secrets to financial domination as well as the holy origins of ancient Judaic texts. Gullette finds himself the prey of a high-powered Wall Street firm and a band of Jewish Kabbalists. It's not exactly science fiction, but it's not exactly anything else, either. It's an audacious film, imaginatively conceived and starkly photographed in black and white. It's fast-paced an unsettling. Fevered storytelling with an ice cold heart.


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

"The screen's new high in naked, shrieking terror!" -- Day the World Ended

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