Got that holiday shopping done yet? Avoid the bustling crowds of last-minute shoppers. Browse the B Monster Store from the comfort of your cubicle. Nothing says "Happy Horrordays" like this classic B Monster memorabilia, illustrated by the cartoon dean of the Monster Generation, Jack Davis! And don't forget, a portion of the B Monster's proceeds goes to Childhelp USA:
Buy something. NOW! What are you waiting for? Don't just sit there. CLICK!


Ed Kemmer
The actor beloved by baby boomers as Commander Buzz Corry of television's "Space Patrol," Ed Kemmer died in New York City following a stroke. He was 83. Kemmer became equally well known as a TV soap opera star, appearing for 20 years in daytime dramas. He also appeared in a pair of cult-horror classics, "Giant From the Unknown" and "Earth vs. the Spider." But it was his portrayal of Buzz Corry that influenced a generation. The show was a smash success and mass merchandising ensued. Kemmer's likeness appeared on cereal boxes, coloring books, trading cards, buttons, comics and more. "I was in a store once and saw my picture on a pair of suspenders," Kemmer once told the B Monster. His starting salary for "Space Patrol" was $8.00 per episode.

The TV space hero was a real-life hero. He flew 47 missions as a fighter pilot in World War II. Shot down on his 47th mission, he was captured, later to escape from the German prisoner of war camp that served as the inspiration for "The Great Escape." He was recaptured and spent the duration as a prisoner. Following the war, Kemmer used the benefits of the G.I. Bill to attend the College of Theater Arts at the Pasadena Playhouse. It was fellow actor and future "Space Patrol" castmate Lyn Osborn who contacted Kemmer about auditioning for the part of Buzz Corry. Kemmer impressed the producers and won the role. He and Osborn were paid $8.00 per show. Other cast members received $5.00. Their salaries were raised when the show began airing nationwide on ABC. Television was in its infancy, before the advent of videotape, and the show was performed live. This was invaluable training for Kemmer who developed an amazing facility for memorizing dialogue. "You would remember everyone else's lines, too," Kemmer recalled. "In live TV, that's a big thing. You might look at someone's face when it was their turn to speak, and you knew they couldn't tell you their own name. So you would take their line, adapt it, and try to get them back into the scene." He remembered many seasoned actors who couldn't handle the pressure. "They would walk off swearing and sweating with blood in their boots saying, 'Never! Never again will I do a live show!' 'Well,' I'd always say, 'the first 500 shows are the toughest.'"

Following "Space Patrol," Ed appeared for two years in the West Coast soap opera "Clear Horizon." He moved east to join the cast of "Edge of Night." Fran Sharon was also in the cast. The two fell in love and were married. "We married on the show shortly before I was 'murdered,'" Ed joked. He delivered their daughter himself in the back seat of a police car that didn't make it to the hospital in time. Kemmer played in various soaps for two decades and claimed he was more often recognized on the street for his soap opera roles than he was as Commander Buzz Corry.

Just prior to the commencement of his daytime drama career, Kemmer appeared in a handful of B pictures, including the aforementioned horrors, and worked extensively in episodic television. In addition to his soap opera work, he appeared in more than 50 television programs, including "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Science Fiction Theater," "Gunsmoke," "Sugarfoot," "77 Sunset Strip," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Men Into Space," "Perry Mason," "The Rebel," "Combat" and many others. He appeared in one of the classic "Twilight Zone" episodes, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," playing a pilot who tries to calm William Shatner after the latter sees a gremlin sabotaging their plane.

Retiring from acting after 20 years of daytime television ("I did 20 solid years of soaps, which were very good. But 20 years is enough!"), Ed maintained a home in New York City and a place in the country with a workshop he enjoyed immensely. He would attend the occasional autograph or movie convention, where fans of Buzz Corry greeted him with adulation.

If you'll indulge the B Monster's personal reflections: I attended several conventions with Ed. It was heartening to see men and women in their fifties, wide-eyed and tongue-tied upon meeting Commander Buzz Corry. Ed steadfastly refused to charge for autographs, sometimes to the consternation of the celebrities at adjacent tables who were asking $10, $15 and $20 a pop. His giving nature was reflected in the way he casually shared so many personal memories. Just when you thought you knew all there was to know about the man, he'd delight you with another anecdote or accomplishment previously suppressed by his inherent modesty. For instance, he was an accomplished singer. He and his brother formed a musical trio, and to the best of Ed's knowledge, they were the first to record the classic song "You Are My Sunshine." When he moved East following "Space Patrol," he took all of the show's miniatures -- rockets and space base -- with him, but they vanished from the train car en route. He had no idea what became of them. Just recently, I mentioned to him that I'd seen the "Combat" episode that featured he and Warren Stevens as suspected Nazi infiltrators. This sparked a long reminiscence: Stevens, like Ed, was a pilot. Stevens had access to a light plane and, after "Combat" filming was concluded, Ed recalled, "we flew north out of L.A. and had a great Sunday breakfast at an airport he was familiar with. He was a good pilot, and we enjoyed a good day's flying." Ed recalled many details of the programs he appeared on, but often had trouble remembering names. Struggling to recall William Shatner during one of our conversations, Ed said, "Oh, you know, the fellow with the wig." He meant nothing derogatory. Ed was without guile, a gentleman in every regard.

When "Space Patrol" was at the zenith of its popularity, Ed, Lyn Osborn and a vocal chorus recorded the show's theme song and the rousing "Up Ship and Away." Ed transferred the 78 rpm disk to cassette and sent it to me. It's an exhilarating piece of nostalgia with Ed, his voice brimming with confidence, belting out the song's infectious, optimistic refrain: "Close ports, fire jets, up ship and away! We'll take it slow and only go a million miles today."

Kathrin Victor aka Katherine Victor
Actress Kathrin Victor, whom cult-movie fans know best from her appearances in the films of ultra-low budget producer-director Jerry Warren, died in Los Angeles following a stroke. She was 81. Born Katena Ktenavea in the Hell's Kitchen district of Manhattan, the future TV and movie actress grew up in L.A. and began her acting career on the stage and radio in the late '40s. She made her film debut in the campy sci-fi adventure "Mesa of Lost Women" in 1952. In 1957, she starred as the imperious Dr. Myra in director Jerry Warren's "Teenage Zombies," which led to a series of roles in Warren's impoverished productions. Always busy outside of acting, she worked as a model, real estate agent, and, for 40 years beginning in 1960, she worked as an animation checker for such cartoon studios as Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng, Filmation, Don Bluth, Box Office Originals and Disney TV Animation. Victor felt that the stigma of being a regular in Warren's movies stymied her mainstream acting career. Her final screen appearance was in the 2002 film Superguy: Behind the Cape."


We were trying to pretend it wasn't true. You know, the story that Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise were co-producing a new version of "War of the Worlds." OK, we admit it, it's true. We were in denial because both Spielberg and Cruise made a point of informing the world that their version would be "dark." Their concept was described to Variety as "a dark action picture." David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Spider-Man," "Panic Room") will script the film, darkly, of course. John Williams will compose a dark score. Dark Tom Cruise will star. The latest to be added to the dark supporting cast are Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto and Tim Robbins.

Meanwhile, England's Pendragon Films has produced what they claim is "the first authentic movie adaptation of the 1898 H.G. Wells classic novel." Filmed entirely in England, the period science-fiction picture was completed in just two and a half months, according to Despite the rapid production schedule, director and Pendragon CEO Timothy Hines stressed that great attention was paid to period detail and that special effects would be state of the art. Pendragon received impressive moral support during production. Charles Keller, director of the H.G. Wells Society, expressed his enthusiasm. Ann Robinson, co-star of the classic 1953 George Pal production of "War of the Worlds," wrote the Pendragon staff, "I am so pleased that you are creating the film around the original timeframe that H.G. Wells depicted in his book. When we filmed the George Pal version, it was right after WW2 and George Pal wanted to show that technology is not the answer to all human problems. Faith in oneself and a higher order is necessary to meet the challenges of everyday life." Hines says that attorneys for Spielberg and Cruise gave them their consent to film the story way back in 2001. Even so, the Pendragon production was filmed in secret under the false title "The Great Boer War."

A special, two-DVD "Collector's Edition" called "Ray Harryhausen: The Early Years," is soon to be released by Sparkhill DVD. The set contains all of the Harryhausen "Fairy Tales" and "Mother Goose" films, with new introductions by Ray himself. There's a peek-behind-the-curtain at the making of "The Tortoise and the Hare," obscure film clips that have been restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, heretofore unseen screen tests and rare stills and concept sketches from Harryhausen's private collection. The set also features what is described as "a star-studded tribute by the industry's best and most respected filmmakers and visual effects masters," and "hours of supplemental material," including interviews with Harryhausen, his lifelong friend Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman. The set is scheduled for a January 2005 release with a premiere, attended by Harryhausen, at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater on January 15th. For more information check out:
Make a point of telling 'em the B Monster sent you!

Roger "King of the Bs" Corman and David "Trash Film King" (the promoter's sobriquet, not mine) Freidman are the special guests at this year's "Shock-A-Go-Go" 24-hour film-a-thon hosted by Anxiety Films. The fest takes place Dec. 3-4 at The Vine Theater in Hollywood. More than 20 films will be screened at this year's gathering, including "Not of This Earth," "Masque of the Red Death," "Infra-Man" and "Death Race 2000." Prizes and giveaways DVDs, videos, T-shirts, buttons and other incentives and merchandise will be offered, as will a musical program featuring TFMU, Mucus, and The Gabba Gabba Heys. Promoters are especially proud to present "a predominance of 35 and 16 mm prints for your viewing pleasure. Though a few video projections are still on the bill, we are very excited to screen many very rare film prints for this year's festival attendees." They also point out that "Bride of the Monster" will be screened "for those who loved Ed Wood long before his recent resurgence in popularity." For more info, check out:
By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

As we reported some months back, screenwriter-film historian and B Monster pal, David J. Schow, was stationed in New Zealand when he spotted "Creature From the Black Lagoon," "Invisible Man" and "Mummy" Legacy Collections for sale months before they were scheduled for release in the U.S. Aside from the familiar, ghoulish, gray-green color scheme, different packaging was created for release outside the States. The Creature and the Mummy were released as a double feature, all were branded with a "Universal Monsters" medallion bearing the Karloff-Frankenstein Monster likeness, and for some reason, Richard Carlson is prominently billed above the "Creature" title. Take a look for yourself:

Famed movie storyboard artist Pete Von Sholly, the talent responsible for the "Morbid" fumetti series, and the delightful dig at monster mags past called "Crazy Hip Groovy Go-Go Way Out Monsters," has a new project sure to pique the interest of monster aficionados. Von Sholley is now marketing a series of "Horrora Model Boxes." They're actual boxes (fashioned by David Vaughn), that you can store your stuff in, each adorned with one of Pete's mirthful monster paintings, rendered in a style akin to James Bama's beautiful box art for the classic Aurora monster model kits of the 1960s. There's the "H.P. Lovecraft Series," featuring "The Dunwich Horror," The Deep One" and "The Fungus From Yuggoth," among others; the "Monster Odd Rod Series," featuring "The Thingster," The Sassy Saucer" and Cthulhu's Cthot Rod"; the "Modern Monster Series," featuring "The Thing" and "The Blob," and the "Prehistoric Monster Series," featuring "Tyrannostein." Collect 'em all! The boxes are $24.95 each. Buy three or more and save yourself $2.95 per box. For more info, check out:
For Pete's sake, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

The limited edition bust featuring characters from the Robert Tinnel-Todd Livingston-Neil Vokes graphic novel, "The Black Forest," is now available. The monster rally comic, set amid the real-life horrors of the First World War, was a big hit for Image Comics. The bust, sculpted by Shawn Nagel and limited to 1,500 copies, depicts aviator-hero Jack Shannon, magician Archie Caldwell and the Frankenstein Monster. The piece stands over 9 inches tall, weighs 3.5 pounds, "and features a paint scheme following the black and white wash look of Neil Voke's distinctive cinematic styled artwork." And word is that the chiseled triumvirate will return in subsequent "Black Forest" installments; "The team claims that this will be an ongoing project over the years to come," declares the PR. To procure your sculpture, inquire at a comic shop near you, or visit:
For more about the "Black Forest" team, check out:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Last month, we told you all about C.S. Lamb, a modern-day B-movie impresario who has procured the trademarks and all other indicia pertinent to Monogram, PRC and various other old-time "Poverty Row" movie studios. Mr. Lamb has more recently unveiled the American International Pictures Website. It isn't clear to me exactly how Lamb came to possess said trademarks and indicia. It is clear how he plans to employ them, however. Lamb outlines his mission thusly: 1. To produce and distribute new B-films, made both by our production unit, and by independent filmmakers. 2. To release official versions of many great B-movie classics, on their original banners. 3. To preserve the history of B-cinema. 4. To protect the rights of fans, historians, producers, and artists, by assembling a great storehouse of cinematic intellectual properties. There isn't much info on the sites as yet, apart from thumbnail histories of the various studios. "I am currently in the middle of several productions," says Lamb, "and am trying to wrap up the construction of a sound stage, so I don't have much time, at present, to dedicate to the websites. Rest assured, I will make improvements to the AIP site, and the other sites, in the near future." Check out the AIP site at:

"Monster Island" director Jack Perez reminds us that the DVD, enhanced with nifty bonus features, is now available. The campy monster romp, admittedly geared to a youngish audience, aired on MTV a few months ago. It's a frothy and affectionate nod to B-movie creatures in general, and Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion monsters in particular. (Adam West portrays one Dr. Harryhausen.) According to Perez, in addition to cast interviews, the disk features "some cool behind-the-scenes featurettes on the stop motion [process]." In this era crowded with digitally generated denizens, the B Monster finds it heartening that folks of a similarly nostalgic bent did it the old-fashioned way.

The "King of the Monsters," Godzilla himself, came stomping down Hollywood Boulevard to attend a ceremony in his honor. After 50 years and 28 big screen appearances, the city-smashing lizard from Japan was honored with his own star on Hollywood's legendary Walk of Fame. The ceremony took place Nov. 29 in front of famed Grauman's Chinese Theater, where the latest -- and allegedly last -- Godzilla movie, "Godzilla: Final Wars," premiered.

Author-producer Scott Essman recently announced the release of "A Century of Creature People," a 48-page magazine that pays tribute to some of the best and most famous makeup artisans in movie history. According to Essman, this is the first in a planned series of printed tributes to filmland's creature creators and makeup mavens. Among those cited in this profusely illustrated tome are Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce, Jack Dawn, William Tuttle, Bob Shiffer, Dick Smith, John Chambers and Rick Baker. In all, 14 key figures are celebrated in what the author describes as a series of photo-essays. "Readers will learn the secrets of their most beloved screen heroes and villains," says Essman. The book will retail for $9.95. For more info, check out:
You know the drill: Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

The rumors have been kicking around since "The X-Files" was at the peak of its popularity (can you believe that was nearly 10 years ago?!): Kolchak, TV's beloved "Night Stalker," could/maybe/will be making a comeback. "X-Files" honcho Chris Carter made no secret of the fact that the 1970s "Night Stalker" series served as partial inspiration for his own show. There were even hints in various interviews that Darren McGavin, Carl Kolchak himself, might pop up in a cameo on an "X-Files" episode. Nearly a decade later, Variety reported that "X-Files" writer-producer Frank Spotnitz, was developing an updated "Night Stalker" as a weekly series for Touchstone Television. Spotnitz told Variety that "the chance to return to this character and find another great storytelling vehicle for smart, scary television was very appealing." As of this writing, there is still no confirmation as to who would be replacing McGavin in the lead role. Casting rumors will no doubt persist, as fan interest in the show is still keen. Moonstone Books recently inaugurated a "Night Stalker" comic book, remarkable as the original series lasted just one season.

And speaking of persistent rumors, a remake of the classic "Thing From Another World" has been whispered about for years. At one point, it was rumored that George Clooney had proposed a live TV staging of the story. Reportedly, talks got serious following Clooney's live production remake of "Fail-Safe," but nothing materialized. It was later reported that a mini-series based on the "Thing" source material, John Campbell's story "Who Goes There?," was on the table. That languished, as well. Then Variety reported that Frank Darabont, director of the exemplary "Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" (both adapted from Stephen King's work), among others, would be helming the new multi-part TV adaptation. As the B Monster goes to press with the bulldog (the B Monster just loves that old-time newspaper lingo), Darabont planned on a four-hour adaptation to air on the Sci Fi Channel. Of course, a whole lot can happen between now and the tentative air date -- December 2005 or early spring 2006. The B Monster wears his very high regard for the taut and tension-filled 1951 "Thing From Another World" on his proverbial sleeve. Darabont has his work cut out for him, extrapolating that compact model of a thriller into a four-hour TV epic. Granted, the '51 film used only the skeleton of Campbell's story, and there is material yet to be mined. I'm just hoping Frank doesn't supplant ingenuity with gore, as did John Carpenter.

Another big-time, big-screen director is turning to TV. The Sci Fi Channel reported that Ridley Scott will oversee a four-hour overhaul of "The Andromeda Strain." Robert Wise directed the 1971 original, based on Michael Crichton's novel. Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan is slated to script the new version. The Sci Fi Channel's executive VP of program development Mark Stern told Variety, "The filmmakers will get more creative flexibility. They'll go into greater depth with the characters and storyline." The B Monster's expectations are lofty, but no further details on either film, regarding casting, plot or production, have been forthcoming.

ContentFilm, a London-based film production and distribution company with operations in Los Angeles and New York, is teaming up with Image Entertainment, a leading independent licensee, producer and distributor of home entertainment -- including many hard-to-find cult, horror and sci-fi DVD releases -- to produce and distribute feature films. The films will be produced for theatrical release, "with the revenues primarily driven by worldwide DVD distribution," according to a press release. "Our goal," says ContentFilm co-CEO John Schmidt, "is to bring together clever scripts, original direction, recognizable casts and sensible budgets to create films with worldwide video appeal and theatrical potential." Image's CEO and President, Martin W. Greenwald, said, "Image is well-positioned to be a force in the world of high concept but lower budget, genre-specific theatrical features."

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards and frequent B Monster contributor, authored the following rapturous review:

Even the undead must have their own "good old days." You know, back in the day -- er, night -- when just a menacing look was enough to send a chill through dinner and a vampire's fangs never came out in public. But that was before splatterfests on screen, and lately in comic books, replaced such Old Ghoul sensibilities. With Buffy impaling classmates, Blade slicing heads, and red ink spurting across the pages in Steve Niles' groundbreaking '30 Days of Night,' a certain bit of gentleman-dread has been lost.

Enter "The Wicked West,' a subversive bit of western horror from the Unholy Three of monster noir -- writers Todd Livingston and Robert Tinnell and illustrator Neil Vokes. From the Dark Knight homage of its lightning bolt opening to its satisfying conclusion of wistful memory, TWW delivers a neck-ripping tale of cowboys and innocents battling a mean-as-a-snake vampire nest in 1870 Texas.

As in the trio's first graphic horror, "The Black Forest," there's plenty of horror and blood-letting in this gruesome take on the Old West, but there's also an elegant storyline of doom and redemption that makes each bite matter. When's the last time you actually rooted for someone to get away from a monster in a comic book? You will here. No one is anonymous in "The Wicked West," not even the victims. "I think I'll stay pretty a real long time,'' says a sweet-faced vampire girl in one perfect moment of sagebrush terror, her face framed by shadow and light from a campfire we've seen in a thousand less-dangerous westerns. Vokes' artwork is evocative, and the spare dialogue by Livingston and Tinnell carries the reader to each new page.

What makes this more than a Zane Grey gone batty is a delightful time travel trick -- we won't give it away -- that straddles past and future in a comprehensible way. Too many graphic novels indulge themselves in layered narratives and complex edits that leave the reader baffled. In "The Wicked West," you always know where you are, and more importantly, when you are. It is no small feat, and more comic books should be this accessible.

Tinnell's movie background -- as both writer and director -- gave the trio's acclaimed first effort, "The Black Forest,'' something of a breathless, storyboard feel. Not so here, where the story takes all the time it needs to come to its inevitable conclusion. It's a bargain, too. Just $9.95 for 96 pages, including a four-page text extra and seven pages of pinups. In lesser hands, "TWW" might have been just another "Wild, Wild West" sendup, or a "Jonah Hex" gone wild. Instead, we visit a place and a time we think we've seen before, but through more somber eyes. We expect we'll be shuddering through these ghost towns again. And if a Texas Ranger does come to the rescue, even a masked one, he better bring a silver bullet.


Mad movie surgeons have a long tradition of kidnapping innocent young women and employing them as guinea pigs in their outlandish experiments. Karloff, Lugosi, Zucco, Atwill, Brasseur; that's Pierre Brasseur, star of what may be the most stylish and haunting Euro-horror film of the 1960s, "Les Yeux sans visage" or "Eyes Without a Face." (It was dubbed in English and renamed "Horror Chamber of Doctor Faustus" for its 1962 American release.) Georges Franju, an important figure in French cinema, directed the film with laudable finesse -- and maybe a little too much restraint for American moviegoers. Franju was known for such films as "Judex" and "Thomas l'imposteur," and was famed as a film archivist and co-founder of France's Cinematheque Francaise. He presented this tale of a surgeon, tormented by guilt because the accident he caused has disfigured his beautiful daughter, with more calculated nuance than American audiences expected from their horror films. Many familiar with the movie's reputation as a shadowy, atmospheric jewel of a film are disappointed upon viewing it. There are stomach-turning scenes of implied gore, but a generation reared on Romero films -- or those assaulted by the more graphic violence common to the endless parade of forensic evidence TV shows -- will find "Eyes Without A Face" fairly tame stuff.

But it isn't the gory surgeries and skin grafts that make the film unsettling; it's the haunted doctor's futile obsession, the daughter's living death as a disfigured experimental subject whose hopes are repeatedly dashed. The facemask she wears to cover her scarred visage is expressionless, the visible eyes desperately plaintive. The doctor, his daughter and his loyal assistant Louise inhabit a twilight world between life and death. Franju ably conveys this tentative existence and lingering dread. We know from the first frame that this can't end well. Those in tune with this crafty school of filmmaking, a layering of tensions and emotions, a slow build to a disturbing climax, will appreciate the film. Those hoping for more visceral and immediate gratification should switch on "CSI" or rent one of those crappy Hannibal Lechter movies.

The "Special Edition" extras include Franju's acclaimed 1949 short documentary "Le Sang des bêtes" ("The Blood of the Beasts"). A curious choice to complement the feature film, it is Franju's artfully photographed exploration of Paris slaughterhouses. There is also a gallery of rare production stills, promotional material and essays by novelist Patrick McGrath and film historian David Kalat.

Legendary screenwriter William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Princess Bride") once speculated that the outlook for writers in Movieland was dim, as computers were being employed by so many filmmakers to execute their visions. His agent told him that he was being foolish; that even if they were to devise a way to beam movies from the Moon directly into people's brains, filmmakers would STILL need stories and ideas to make movies. Director-writer Roland Emmerich seems determined to prove Goldman's agent wrong, as his "The Day After Tomorrow" is every bit as soulless and mechanical as Goldman might have feared. The film is a nifty demonstration of what state-of-the-art computer software can accomplish. The computer artisans realize ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods -- just about every natural catastrophe you can name. Everything else about the film is silly. Its science is ludicrous, the dialogue is laughable and the plot holes are larger than that gap in the ozone layer. Of course, saying there is a plot at all is being very generous. Global warming causes weather disasters. That's the plot. There are trifling, soapy subplots about inter-family tensions, but these superficial attempts to engender pathos are utterly lost in all the computer noise. Even Irwin Allen, the 1970s disaster master whose films Emmerich seems to be trying to emulate, brought more humanity to his star-studded calamity orgies ("The Towering Inferno," "The Poseidon Adventure," etc.).

I must describe my two favorite scenes in the film: Scientist Jack Hall, as played by Dennis Quaid, urges everyone to remain indoors. The minute they step outside, he warns, they'll be frozen to death. A few minutes later, upon learning that his son may be in danger, he decides to walk from Washington, D.C. to New York City to rescue his kid.

Because of the intense flooding, a ship has sailed right down Wall Street, very near where Hall's son (Jake Gyllenhaal) and others have taken refuge. Jake & Co. board the abandoned ship in search of medical supplies. It so happens that a pack of ravenous wolves, escaped from the zoo during the chaos, are also foraging aboard the boat. They chase the humans from cabin to galley where Jake and his pals barricade a door. Jake devises a plan whereby he will create a diversion so his pals can escape. As the wolves are just on the other side of the door, the plan has to be whispered. Apparently, the wolves understand English, and Jake can't risk being overheard!

I'm tempted to write a one-word review. The word? "NOT!" Or a three-word review: "Not even close." It's fun to speculate in private company on what might be the most incompetent or offending statements committed to celluloid. But to try to narrow the selection to 50 films is senseless and unfair. A more appropriate title might be "The 50 Worst Films in the Public Domain Or That We Could Easily Obtain the Rights To." The compilation contains few entries that will be unknown to cult-film fans. For the uninitiated, it might prove amusing or illuminating, otherwise. ... As you might suppose, genre-film whipping boy, Ed Wood, with THREE entries on the list of 50, is pilloried, yet again. And, of course, another big, fat, easy target, "Robot Monster," makes the cut. In fairness, if forced to choose, "Howard the Duck" or "They Saved Hitler's Brain" might make anybody's top 50. But "The Killer Shrews" and "Voodoo Woman?" I'll put "Voodoo Woman" up against anything directed by Joel Schumacher. In the case of "Wild Women of Wongo," surely the producers of this disk are aware that there were hundreds of thousands of similar, naughty, semi-nudies produced, some far worse than this film. Ditto the "blaxploitation" movies cited. "Trog" is ludicrous, but one of the 50 worst? And "Creature From the Haunted Sea" was INTENTIONALLY campy, so how does it qualify? And the film chosen the WORST movie of all time? We won't spoil it for you, but we will tell you that, while it is less than inspiring, it definitely is NOT the worst.

Talk about totally "in the Zone": Award-winning artist, author and science fiction historian Vincent Di Fate offers the following:

It is hard to imagine, in this era of inane reality shows, vulgar comedies and jaundiced cable journalism, that television had once experienced a "Golden Age." There were classic comedy shows then, like "The Honeymooners," adult, talking-heads westerns, like "Gunsmoke," informative news programs, like "See It Now" with Edward R. Murrow, and -- perhaps best of all -- intense, character-driven dramatic anthologies like "Playhouse 90," "The Lux Video Theater," "Hallmark Hall of Fame" and "Studio One." Along with the literary darlings of early dramatic TV -- such as Paddy Chayefsky, Abby Mann and Reginald Rose -- was one Rodman Edward Serling, a young writer from Binghamton, New York, who rose to fame with the scripting of such searing TV dramas as "Patterns," ("Kraft Television Theater," January 12, 1955) and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," ("Playhouse 90," October 11, 1956). But, by the late 1950s, Serling had pretty much had his fill of sponsor and network-initiated tampering with his scripts, and struck on the idea that science fiction might offer enormous opportunities for social and political commentary under the buffering intrinsic immunities of fantasy.

Following his graduation from Antioch College in Ohio in 1950, Serling wrote a 30-minute time-travel story for "The Storm," an anthology show that aired in the Cincinnati area. Returning to that script in 1957, Serling expanded it to an hour-long drama and offered the revised script of "The Element of Time" to CBS as the pilot entry for a proposed science fiction and fantasy anthology series entitled "The Twilight Zone." The network quickly rejected his proposal, but the script for "The Element of Time" was bought by Bert Granet, a producer at Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and the teleplay, starring William Bendix as Pete Jenson, a man who journeys back in time to warn of the attack on Pearl Harbor, finally aired on CBS on November 24, 1958. The viewer response was overwhelming, CBS relented, and "The Twilight Zone" finally premiered on October 2, 1959, with the pilot episode, "Where is Everybody?" And the rest, as they say, is history.

To celebrate this historic science fiction TV show, Image Entertainment, which owns the worldwide VHS and DVD rights to the original Serling series, is issuing the entire first season on DVD. Featured in the six-disc set are 36 shows from the 1959-1960 season (this includes the original, unaired version of the pilot episode, "Where is Everybody?"), with audio commentary by Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Martin Milner, Ted Post and William Self, and archival audio recordings about the show featuring Burgess Meredith, Douglas Hayes, Richard L. Bare, Buck Houghton, Ann Francis and Richard Matheson. Also included are a series of audio recordings of lectures by Serling himself, delivered at Sherwood Oaks College, and many of the filmed weekly promos and outtakes, as well as musical extracts featuring the scores of Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. The boxed set will contain approximately 15 hours of program material and has a suggested retail price of about $120. The episodes included, in order of original airing, are: "Where is Everybody?," "One for the Angels," "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "Sixteen Millimeter Shrine," "Walking Distance," "Escape Clause," "The Lonely," "Time Enough at Last," "Perchance to Dream," "Judgment Night," "And When the Sky Opened," "What You Need," "The Four of Us Are Dying," "Third from the Sun," "I Shot an Arrow into the Air," "The Hitch-Hiker," "The Fever," "The Last Flight," "The Purple Testament," "Elegy," "Mirror Image," "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," "A World of Difference," "Long Live Walter Jameson," "People Are Alike All Over," "Execution," "The Big Tall Wish," "A Nice Place to Visit," "Nightmare as a Child," "A Stop at Willoughby," "The Chaser," "A Passage for Trumpet," "Mr. Bemis," "The After Hours," "The Mighty Casey," and "A World of his Own." Even those who have only a peripheral interest in the series will recognize that many of these segments are television classics. It should be noted, however, that since the late 1990s, Image Entertainment has issued nearly 50 Twilight Zone-related DVDs, but this set marks the first time the shows have been organized chronologically and released in their original seasonal context.

Without going into great detail about each episode, let me say that, unlike other early SF and horror anthology shows that maintained a focus on the genre for its own sake -- like "Tales of Tomorrow," "The Inner Sanctum," "Thriller" and "The Outer Limits" -- "The Twilight Zone" was primarily focused on the human condition and the pressing societal issues of the day -- and most especially, the Cold War.

Perhaps the single best-known episode of the entire series, "Time Enough at Last" -- the episode in which the bookish bank teller, Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith), survives a nuclear war while hiding in a bank vault so he can read undisturbed, and ends up breaking his glasses after discovering that he's the world's sole survivor with time enough at last to read the books he so cherishes -- is clearly about the fear that the Cold War might suddenly be turning hot. So, too, is "Third from the Sun," in which two government workers, scientist William Sturka (Fritz Weaver) and test pilot Jerry Riden (Joe Maross), conspire to hijack an experimental spacecraft to flee the planet with their respective families in order to avoid nuclear Armageddon, only to find themselves on a trajectory toward a planet called "Earth" whose people are preoccupied with their own reckless descent toward nuclear annihilation.

Two Serling penned time travel episodes of the first season, "Walking Distance," and "A Stop at Willoughby," are somewhat autobiographical in nature and nostalgically recall the quaint, small town serenity of upstate New York where Serling grew up. In "Walking Distance," harried advertising executive Martin Sloan (Gig Young) drives upstate to visit Homewood, the town where he was born. Leaving his car at a gas station on the way and proceeding on foot, Sloan soon discovers that he's somehow traveled back in time. In an attempt to speak to his younger self and counsel the youth to savor this precious period of his life, the adult Sloan inadvertently frightens the child, causing him to fall and break his leg. Finally realizing that he has no place in the past, Martin Sloan reluctantly returns to the present -- now with a limp sustained from having broken his leg as a youngster.

The second of the two stories, "A Stop at Willoughby," owes much, I think, to Jack Finney's classic 1950 short story, "The Third Level," and herein lies one of the great complaints that many SF authors have against the series -- that a number of the ideas for "The Twilight Zone" had been freely appropriated from other literary sources without proper payment or attribution. The "Willoughby" teleplay, like "Walking Distance," begins with a beleaguered ad executive, Grant Williams (James Daly), who, after being fiercely berated by his boss, finds himself on a train after the day's work headed not for home, but for the idyllic town of Willoughby, in which time seems to have stood still sometime in the 1880s. He's greeted by the locals who seem to know him and is treated to the hospitality and leisurely pace of small-town American life as it once was before the turn of the century. Still bound to his life in the present, however, Williams hustles back to catch the train for home as evening descends. He can't, however, seem to shake his preference for that more tranquil time, and in the end, boards the train for the return trip to Willoughby. As his stop is announced, he leaps from the train to his death. The parting shot shows his sheet-wrapped body being loaded on a hearse that displays the words, Willoughby Funeral Home. Thus, we are left to ponder the notion that Grant Williams ultimately succumbed to a nervous breakdown from the pressures of his life and job, and committed suicide.

While admittedly different in some significant ways from Finney's "The Third Level," it is difficult to imagine that Finney's story isn't at least one of the inspirational sources for "A Stop at Willoughby." In the Finney story, a put upon businessman named Charley gets lost in a subway tunnel below Grand Central Station and finds his way to the station's non-existent third level, where it is the year 1894. He attempts to buy two tickets for Galesburg, Illinois, a tranquil town that he learned of from his grandfather, from whom he also inherited a priceless stamp collection. But Charley's money is no good in this 19th century netherworld, and the ticket agent sends him away, accusing him of trying to perpetrate a fraud. He arrives home, tells his wife Louisa of his experience and soon ends up telling his tale to a seemingly skeptical psychiatrist named Sam Weiner. Sam reminds Charley that we live in troubling times, that the pressures of modern life take their toll on us and, occasionally, even challenge the sanity of those who seem the most emotionally stable. Months pass and then, mysteriously, Sam Weiner vanishes without a trace. Charley doesn't know what to make of Sam's disappearance until, one day while idly looking through his grandfather's stamp collection, he finds a letter addressed to him from Sam. The unopened letter is dated 1894 and is postmarked Galesville, Illinois. By story's end, we leave Charley vowing to renew his search to find that elusive third level at Grand Central Station.

Certainly, there were other, more personal, sources of inspiration for the plot of "A Stop at Willoughby." Rod Serling was born in Syracuse, New York (on Christmas Day 1924), and his family subsequently moved 70 miles south to Binghamton. Between Binghamton and Syracuse is the village of Skaneateles -- a town ordained by its city council to remain physically unchanged from its appearance in the late 19th century. To walk the streets of Skaneateles today is to, almost literally, step back in time to the Victorian era.

But there were other pre-existing literary sources for the tales of "The Twilight Zone." Certainly another first season show, "The After Hours" -- the episode starring Anne Francis about department store mannequins who come to life after the close of the workday -- owes at least something of its central idea to John Collier's 1940 short story, "Evening Primrose."

It should be noted that, in Rod Serling's original agreement with CBS for the show's first season, Serling was contractually obligated to write 80 percent of "The Twilight Zone's" teleplays. I offer this not as a rationale for the possible pirating of story ideas, but rather as a possible explanation for why it might have happened at all. It is also important to keep in mind that, in accordance with the letter of the law, ideas in themselves are not protected by copyright; only the specific means by which those ideas are expressed.

Having said all that, I must admit that I still remain, after 45 years, a diehard fan of the series. "The Twilight Zone -- Season 1: The Definitive Edition" is, if nothing more, a stunning time capsule to an era when we first began to truly grasp the wonders of the modern age, and to develop an awareness of how what we chose to do as a nation, could impact the broader global community. But The "Twilight Zone" is something more -- it is television at its best; well written, provocative, challenging to our critical thinking, and consciousness-raising in the extreme -- and all of it wrapped up neatly in the clever camouflage of science fiction. As a reflection of who we were in those disconcerting days of racial unrest and Cold War tension, the series is a sociologist's dream come true -- a veritable window to the past. In the present day, with our moral and social values so very much at issue in the political dialogue, we need challenging television of the caliber of Rod Serling's "The Twilight Zone" to help us better appreciate that it is not so much our national prestige, prosperity and security that is at stake, but rather that our very sense of humanity might be endangered by our actions.

So, climb aboard for "The Twilight Zone," if you dare. The last stop is Willoughby and points beyond -- and with them, a rendezvous with a time no less troubling than our own, and a look at who we once imagined ourselves to be.


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

Jean-Noel Bassior, whose "Space Patrol" book will soon be available from

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards

Vincent Di Fate, Hugo Award-winning science fiction artist and author

Arnold Kunert

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc.

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at


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