Nathan Juran
Nathan Juran, an Oscar-winning art director who helmed numerous science fiction films in the 1950s, died of natural causes at his home on Oct. 23. He was 95. Juran began his career in the late 1930s and earned an Academy Award for art direction for 1941's "How Green Was My Valley." He also served as art director on such films as "Dr. Renault's Secret," "The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe," "Free for All" and the 1950 fantasy classic "Harvey." In the early 1950s, Juran began directing films, helming such features as "The Black Castle," "The Golden Blade," "The Deadly Mantis," "The Brain from Planet Arous," "Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman," "Flight of the Lost Balloon," "Jack the Giant Killer" and "The Boy Who Cried Werewolf." Juran also worked often with special effects master Ray Harryhausen, directing the films "20 Million Miles to Earth," "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and "The First Men in the Moon." Juran also worked often in television from the late 1950s, directing episodes of "World of the Giants," "Men into Space," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "Lost in Space" and "Land of the Giants."

Jonathan Harris
Veteran character actor Jonathan Harris who starred as the cowardly saboteur, yet somehow lovable, Dr. Zachary Smith in the 1960s science fiction television series "Lost in Space," died at an Encino, Calif., hospital from a blood clot in his heart while he was undergoing treatment for chronic back pain. He was 87. The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Harris was born Jonathan Charasuchin in New York City, on Nov. 6, 1914. He began his career on the New York stage and worked in live television in the early 1950s. Harris appeared in episodes of "The Web" and "Lights Out" (including an adaptation of Poe's "Masque of the Red Death" in 1951) before going to Hollywood in 1953. He worked often in television, guest starring in episodes of "Twilight Zone," "Bewitched" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir." He also starred in an adaptation of "The House of the Seven Gables" on "Shirley Temple Theatre" in 1960. To the delight of some, and the dismay of others, Harris' comic villain character became the star of Irwin Allen's "Lost in Space" series during its three season run from 1965 to 1968. He continued to appear on television in episodes of "Land o the Giants," "Get Smart," Rod Serling's "Night Gallery" and "Ark II." He also starred as the elderly mentor Gampu in the Saturday morning children's sci-fi series "Space Academy" from 1977 to 1979, and was the voice of the evil Cylon villain Lucifer in "Battlestar Galactica" in 1978. Harris remained active as a voice actor in animated television series and features, including "Superman: The Animated Adventures," "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night," "A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story 2."

Lawrence Dobkin
Character actor Lawrence Dobkin died of heart failure at his Los Angeles home on Oct. 28. He was 83. Dobkin was seen in small roles of several science fiction films during the 1950s, including "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Riders to the Stars" and "Them!". He narrated the 1958 film "The Lost Missile" and was featured in the 1962 psychological thriller "The Cabinet of Caligari." Later in his career, he was featured in 1991's "Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time," and the 1994 cable tele-film "Roswell." Dobkin also appeared on television in episodes of "Superman," "Space Patrol," "Mission: Impossible," "Space Academy," "Voyagers!," "Knight Rider," "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Profiler." Dobkin also worked in television as a director beginning in the 1960s, helming episodes of "The Munsters," "Star Trek" ("Charlie X"), "Tarzan," "Wild Wild West," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Fantasy Island."

John Meredyth Lucas
Television producer, director and writer John Meredyth Lucas died of leukemia in Los Angeles on Oct. 19. He was 83. Lucas served as a producer for the Star Trek television series in the 1960s and directed several episodes. He also helmed episodes of such series as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Night Gallery" and "Planet of the Apes." He was credited with the original story for the 1965 psychological thriller "My Blood Runs Cold," and scripted Irwin Allen's 1971 tele-film "City Beneath the Sea." He also wrote episodes of "Starlost," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Logan's Run." Lucas was a producer for the short-lived 1980 "Westworld" spin-off, "Beyond Westworld."

Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith
1970s cult film actress Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith died in Los Angeles of complications from hepatitis on Oct. 25. She was 47. Smith starred in the off-beat 1973 vampire film "The Legendary Curse of Lemora." She was soon appearing in such cult classics as "The Swinging Cheerleaders," "The Phantom of the Paradise," "Massacre at Central High," "The Incredible Melting Man," "Laserblast," the 1977 soft-core version of "Cinderella," "UFOria" and "Parasite." Problems with drugs reportedly largely ended her film career in the early 1980s.

Richard Harris
Leading Irish actor Richard Harris died of Hodgkin's Disease in a London hospital on Oct. 25. The twice-Academy Award nominated actor starred as King Arthur in the 1967 film version of the hit Broadway musical "Camelot." In recent years, he was best known for his role as the kindly wizard Professor Dumbledore in 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," and the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Harris also starred in the bizarre 1974 sci-fi crime film "99 & 44/100% Dead" and was Gulliver in the 1977 version of "Gulliver's Travels." He starred in the 1977 killer whale film "Orca," which introduced Bo Derek, and later appeared in a small role with Derek in her version of "Tarzan the Ape Man." Harris' other credits include the 1979 science fiction "The Ravagers," 1993's "Silent Tongue," the 1997 mystery "Smilla's Sense of Snow," and the 1997 television version of "The Hunchback" as Archdeacon Frollo.

Antonio Margheriti
Antonio Margheriti, the Italian film director who helmed numerous horror and science fiction films from the early 1960s, died of a heart attack near Rome, Italy, on Nov. 4. He was 72. Margheriti, who often directed under the name Anthony M. Dawson on films released in the United States, was best known for his early science fiction films, including 1960's "Battle of the Worlds" and Assignment Outer Space." He remained a leading figure in Italian cinema over the next two decades, directing "The Golden Arrow," "Horror Castle," "Castle of Blood," "Hercules, Prisoner of Evil," "Long Hair of Death," "Wild Wild Planet," "War Between the Planets," "Snow Devil," "War of the Planets," "The Killers Are Challenged," "Lightning Bolt," "The Young, the Evil and the Savage," "The Unnaturals," "Mr. Super Invisible" and "Seven Dead in the Cat's Eye." Margheriti was also involved in the creation of 1974's "Blood for Dracula" (aka "Andy Warhol's Dracula"). His later films were often action thrillers, many with horror or science fiction overtones, including "Killer Fish," "Cannibals in the Streets," "The Hunters of the Golden Cobra," "Yor, the Hunter from the Future," "Ark of the Sun God," "Jungle Raiders" and "Alien from the Deep."

Teresa Graves
Actress Teresa Graves died as a result of a house fire at her home in Hyde Park, Calif., on October 10. She was 54. Graves was best known for starring in the 1970s police drama "Get Christie Love!". She also starred as Vampira in the 1974 horror-comedy "Old Dracula" (aka "Vampira") with David Niven as Count Dracula.


The proposed Dracula theme park in Sighisoara, Romania, continues to foment unrest among the villagers -- global villagers, no less. A Website called Sighisoara Durabila --
-- boldly displays an open protest. "This site is dedicated to the opposition of Dracula Park," reads the home page. "Sighisoara Durabila is a NGO committed to the preservation of Transylvanian culture and ecology." The Romanian tourism ministry maintains the park will be good for the economy and create thousands of jobs for the depressed populace. Sighisoara Durabila says the proposed Draculand will be the "biggest theme park in S.E. Europe. Dracula Park will be built on a plateau close to the town, in a protected nature reservation containing 400-year-old oaks. The people of Sighisoara have not been consulted." The site features a photo gallery showcasing the historic region, contact info and a place to e-mail your personal letter of protest to Minister Agaton. Should words fail you, a preamble is provided that begins, "As future tourists and concerned world citizens, we oppose the Dracula Park on ecological, cultural and spiritual grounds." There are also links to many articles concerning the park and accompanying controversy. Strangely, the site is also linked to the official Dracula Park promotional site. Read on ....

At the Dracula Park Website --
-- we're greeted by Minister Agaton's smiling face and personal message: "Dracula Park -- the most spectacular tourism project at this beginning of this millennium -- is about to become reality under the 'Made in Romania' brand. From 'Financial Times' to 'Rooskaia Gazeta', from CNN to Euronews, BBC or New China -- a media 'scoop' that propels Romania to stardom." (Agaton neglects to mention the B Monster's ongoing and exhaustive coverage.) Visitors to the site can view the proposed park layout, described by Agaton as "a juxtaposition orchestrated à l'américaine, on a 100% Romanian score." I'm not sure what that means, but it's bound to tick off Europeans already predisposed to dislike the "ugly Americans." There's a picture gallery, a link to myths and legends, some background on Vlad Tepes, and lucky Romanians can scope out a share prospectus and get in on the ground floor. (Sorry, the English-language prospectus isn't ready yet.) Agaton rationalizes that the park is, "a reason more to save the city of Sighisoara, a geometrical area for legend and a jewel of the Romanian cultural patrimony." He doesn't directly address the controversy. His spiel concludes with, "all I can say is 'I believe in Dracula Park!"

The moment you finish reading this newsletter you should do two things:
1. Patronize our sponsors, repeatedly and with abandon.
2. Make a mad dash to Kerry Gammill's nifty new edition of "Monster Kid."
Are you a Monster Kid? If you're reading this, odds are the answer is yes, and Kerry's site is right up your dark alley. Each update has been more fun than the last, and the latest is no exception. You'll find a welcome message from Count Gamula himself, reviews, letters, links, and some offbeat features that cover, among other things, Ben "Creature" Chapman's appearance opposite Abbott & Costello on TV's "Colgate Comedy Hour," sordid speculations concerning the lineage of "Son of Dracula's" Count Alucard, the devilish draftsmanship of cartoonist Frank Dietz, games, official "Monster Kid" merchandise and more. The topper is an absolutely mind-blowing ghastly gallery of 3-D monster pics. Don't have your anaglyphic glasses? Two bucks gets you a pair of official "Monster Kid" 3-D goggles. Take it from the B Monster, horror-lovers will have a tough time finding more fun on the Web. Thanks, Kerry.

Film historian and cartoonist Michael H. Price has been hard at work meticulously restoring and redesigning "The Ancient Southwest," a comic strip originally drawn by Price's late collaborator, George E. Turner, 50 years ago. The strip, which first appeared in 1951 in the Amarillo Globe-News, chronicled the dinosaur denizens that once inhabited the Northwest Texas region. Samples had been reproduced in a recent edition of Turner and Price's "Spawn of Skull Island." The serial publication will appear in the Fort Worth Business Press beginning Dec. 6. "George had begun envisioning such a restoration shortly before his death in 1999," says Price. "Most of the original art had long since vanished, and so George found it necessary to work from yellowed newspaper clippings, in which many nuances of detail had been lost. I've carried the process further, with a combination of digital scans and manual restoration and re-lettering." Turner and Price are perhaps best known to comic and cult-film fans for collaborations that include the "Southern-Fried Homicide" comic anthologies and the "Forgotten Horrors" series of film-history books.

Depending on your point of view, you'll find this news either alarming or heartening. Troma Entertainment ("The Toxic Avenger," "Terror Firmer") is poised to release a children's film. That's right, according to publicity, Lloyd Kaufman, president and co-founder, wanted to make another shift back to the kid's market. Is this a heartfelt effort at family entertainment or a savvy recognition that the audience for breasts and blood is finally growing up and it's time now to target their kids? You'll have to judge for yourself. In any case, "Doggie Tails" is a short (45 minutes), live-action film starring real dogs slated for a Feb. 4, 2003 release. "It's Lucky's first night away from her family," says the ad slick, "and she is feeling a little scared and lonely. That is until she meets a doggie orphan named Patches and other kennel friends who share their amazing imaginary adventures to wonderful places like Doggie Paradise." This from the producers of "Nuke Em High"!

Writer, producer, director Scott Essman's tribute to makeup legend Jack Pierce, "The Man Behind the Monsters," is now available on DVD. The live stage show, performed June 17, 2000, in Pasadena, Calif., features actor Perry Shields as Pierce at age 79, recalling his career and memorable creations. As Shields speaks, actors wearing costumes and makeup created under the guidance of Robert Burman and Jennifer McManus bring the classic characters to life, restaging scenes from vintage Universal horror pictures. In addition, there are tons of extras, including rare stills, sketches, an audio interview with Pierce and a 1957 clip of Pierce with Boris Karloff. You can find out more about this video valentine to Pierce by visiting:

2002 certainly seems to have been the year Pierce was destined to get his due. The late, great makeup legend will be given the 2003 Honorary Makeup Academy Award in a special ceremony to be held in Beverly Hills in February 2003. The aforementioned filmmaker, Scott Essman, placed Pierce's name in nomination for the award. As of this writing, Sara Karloff, Bela Lugosi Jr. and Ron Chaney are scheduled to accept the award on Pierce's behalf, with Essman documenting the proceedings for video release. In related news, the U.S. Post Office will issue a cinema series of stamps early next year with achievements in makeup as one of the featured categories. Pierce's 1931 Karloff/Frankenstein monster will be depicted with Pierce's hand visible in the image. For more info, check out:

All Day Entertainment announces the release of a massive, two-hour DVD compilation of classic monster movie trailers called, appropriately enough, "All Monsters Attack." From "The Amazing Colossal Man" to "Varan the Unbelievable," more then 50 vintage coming attractions are included. Also included are "The Making of ..." featurettes, chronicling "The Land That Time Forgot" and "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," as well as selected shorts such as the 1954 atomic cautionary film, "Operation Plumbob." The packaging itself is an amusing homage to the Aurora model kits of the 1960s. For more info check out:
And, of course, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Our old buddy, "Evil Dead" star Bruce Campbell, has recently cinched a two-movie deal with the Sci Fi Channel. One of the films will be Campbell's long-talked-about "Man With the Screaming Brain," a pet project that Bruce will write, direct, produce and act in. As Campbell told the B Monster, "'Screaming Brain' has been 'an on-again, off-again' hobby of mine. It's almost been made several times, but for whatever reasons, it fell through." The second film, tentatively titled "Earwigs," involves nasty, mind-controlling worm-like monsters.

Hollywood's hottest director, Steven Soderbergh, is watching George Clooney's back. He recently appealed the R rating the Motion Picture Association of America had slapped on his remake of the Russian sci-fi epic "Solaris." The problem stemmed form Soderbergh's depiction of two moons -- both belonging to George Clooney. It seems the MPAA objected to two nude scenes wherein Clooney's derriere is on display. Soderbergh stuck to his buns and lodged a protest. Sure enough, the censors relented. Not one crucial frame containing Clooney's posterior will be cut. Enjoy, Cloon-atics!

Actor Sam Neill says that the plot pitched to him by Steven Spielberg for the proposed "Jurassic Park 4" (oh, come now, you can't possibly be surprised that they're making a "Jurassic Park 4") is possibly the best in the dino-franchise's four-film history. "There is a chance you'll see me in it. I'm as surprised as anyone," Neill was quoted in Dark Horizons. "Steven just blew me away with the story ... something frightening is happening concerning those dinosaurs that doesn't necessarily bode well for us humans." You don't say? This is groundbreaking stuff! "You know that feeling when you first saw the original film," Neill continued, "and you were so in awe, and felt so swept away and mesmerized by the sheer majesty of it all? I believe this premise has the potential to elicit that same kind of response." And if you think THAT sounds exciting, wait until you see the "Happy Meal!"


The fantastically grisly and unique poster art that heralded this film shows the monster tearing his own head off. Why would the monster rip his own noggin from his shoulders? This question has vexed me for years. More on that in a minute. But first, let's get our history straight: American International teen heartthrob John Ashley ("High School Caesar," "Hot Rod Gang") split Hollywood in the late 1960s and headed for the Philippines. There, he hooked up with Filipino filmmakers Eddie Romero and Gerardo DeLeon. They produced a spate of outrageously gratuitous horror films under the auspices of executive producer Kane W. Lynn, which were marketed in the states by Sam Sherman via his Hemisphere/Independent International Pictures. This formidable cabal concocted the infamous "Blood Island" films (which actually began in 1959 with a Filipino-produced take on "The Island of Dr. Moreau" called "Terror is a Man," but, be that as it may ... ). In order, they were "Brides of Blood," "Mad Doctor of Blood Island," and the entry we're about to address, "Beast of Blood," each more giddy, more gory and gimmicky than the one that preceded it.

"Beast of Blood" is ostensibly a sequel to "Mad Doctor of Blood Island," and man, does it begin with a bang! The flick is barely 60 seconds old before the monster busts loose, slaughtering the crew of the sloop he's stowed away on. Ashley bounds into the fray, and they do battle with machetes, axes, clubs, blood is flying and the ship is in flames -- all in the first three minutes of the movie! Unfortunately, the remaining 88 minutes never live up to the promise of this overture. The plot is about as linear as they come (which is not to say some interesting things don't happen along the way). The natives are being killed, so Ashley and company must brave the treacherous jungle in search of the lair of the villainous Dr. Lorca. Ashley has a buxom native admirer who's frighteningly handy with a knife, and who displays her buxomness without inhibition. Celeste Yarnall is along as a reporter-cum-damsel in distress (her formidable feminine attributes are lasciviously displayed, as well). There are some frantic chases through tangled undergrowth and quicksand, all culminating in an "A Team"-style commando raid on Lorca's compound. (The resemblance is not entirely coincidental. Ashley produced "The A Team" upon returning to the states in the '80s.) Now, back to that vexing question: Dr. Lorca's previous experiments are what transformed poor Don Ramon into the titular "Beast." For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Lorca now has the monster's head alive in a laboratory jar. The monster's headless cadaver is strapped to a nearby operating table. Presumably, Lorca's fiendish work involves reuniting the two. Therefore, I conclude that the monster in the poster is not tearing off his own head but is, in fact, putting it back on!

First of all, don't ask what a "Brain of Blood" is. If that's the first question that comes to mind once you've glanced at the cast, credits and lurid packaging, you're probably reading the wrong newsletter. There is a brain and lots of blood (which looks more like Testors enamel model kit paint than plasma). B-movie legend Sam Sherman, who kept drive-in screens aglow with gore throughout the 1970s, produced this dubious classic. Some consider it the best film to emerge from his partnership with director Al Adamson. (The B Monster's personal preference is "Horror of the Blood Monsters.") It opens with a slow zoom in on a picture postcard of the Taj Mahal, standing in for the royal palace of the fictional monarchy, Kalid. (The fact that there are motionless people in the photo's foreground apparently didn't give the filmmaker's pause.) Inside is dying King Amir as portrayed by Reed Hadley. His personal physician, Grant Williams, is all set to fly his ailing body to the states, where wacko surgeon Kent Taylor plans to plop the monarch's still-fertile brain into a healthy young body. Hadley ("Racket Squad," "I Shot Jesse James"), Williams ("The Incredible Shrinking Man," "PT 109") and Taylor ("Boston Blackie," "The Crawling Hand," "The Mighty Gorga" and too many more to mention) were all finishing out their once-promising careers (this was Williams last film). Sherman gave these guys work when they needed it. He needed their fading names to lend legitimacy to his outlandish output. They needed each other. This happy reciprocation is perhaps the most interesting facet of gory costume jewels such as "Brain of Blood."

And, of course, the Hemisphere Pictures regulars are present and accounted for. Vicki Volante is the captive female who escapes her chains only to wander the same six feet of scenery for an interminable period. Zandor Varkov (Dracula of "Dracula vs. Frankenstein") and John Bloom (the Frankenstein monster of "Dracula vs. Frankenstein") play a swarthy bodyguard and a hulking brute, respectively. Angelo Rossitto, Hollywood's evil dwarf go-to guy, has a great time in what is probably the meatiest part of his career, and busty Regina Carrol is on hand as ... come to think of it, I have no idea what she's supposed to be or why she's in the picture. Be assured, gore-lovers, there are lots of laboratory scenes. The Testors red No. 2 bathes the screen as Taylor saws into one cranium after another. You'll find no better specimen than "Brain of Blood" to demonstrate where B-movies were heading as the '70s dawned and the drive-ins were dying. Sam Sherman & Co. gave them their last jolt of juice before they all but vanished. Thanks, Sam.

This movie stinks. Dreary, muddled, larded with childish in-jokes and altogether pointless. Director Roland Emmerich's "Independence Day," was rousing fun, blemished though it was, with corn and strident cliche. He utterly fails this time out, taking some talented actors down with him. I don't care how jaw-droppingly lifelike special effects can be these days, films have still got to tell stories. This one has nothing to say. Yech.

It's as though someone tapped Steven Spielberg on the shoulder and said, "Hey, you've done everything else, why not crank out one of those bleak, steely gray futuristic films where everyone is corrupt, dehumanized, bereft of hope and wears black leather?" Sure enough, with "Minority Report," Spielberg chases a parade that got under way about 15 years ago. (Sadly, the end of the procession is nowhere in sight.) He's playing sci-fi catch-up with this Matrixy muddle when he should be establishing NEW trends as he did 20 years ago. The contemptible "A.I." wasn't morbid enough? Do we really need to be told -- AGAIN -- that the future is going to be terrible? We know Spielberg can do "serious." Didn't he prove it with "Schindler's List?" "Minority Report" LOOKS good, but they can make anything look good these days when they throw enough money at it. And, there are some good performances by Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell and Peter Stormare. The original story was, of course, written by Philip K. Dick, who seems to be the only science fiction author anyone in Hollywood reads. It's bleak stuff about "pre-cogs" who predict future crimes, allowing authorities to nab criminals in advance of their crimes. Top cop Tom Cruise is framed for murder and spends much of the film on the lam. There's sort of a quasi-semi-pseudo happy ending -- at least I think that's what they were going for -- but it just doesn't wash, and I was too depressed to care by the time the film dragged to a close. Maybe someday, when optimism is once more in vogue, we can look back on "Minority Report" and enjoy the novelty of it, and appreciate the skillful filmcraft. In the meantime, for God's sake, can somebody PLEASE write an upbeat science fiction story?


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 only people who will not be sterilized with fear are those among you who are already dead!" -- The Flesh Eaters

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