Kenneth Tobey
Genre-film icon, Kenneth Tobey, renowned for his role as the two-fisted Captain Pat Hendry in the sci-fi classic "The Thing from Another World," has died. He was 85. Tobey specialized in roles as hard-nosed cops and stalwart military types and brought great authority to parts in such science-fiction films as "It Came From Beneath the Sea," "Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" and "The Vampire." In supporting parts, Tobey also appeared in classic pictures including "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (as Bat Masterson, no less), and John Ford's "The Wings of Eagles," opposite John Wayne. He was Colonel Jim Bowie in Disney's "Davey Crockett" teleseries, which starred Fess Parker.

Born in Oakland, California, Tobey was headed for a law career when he first tried his hand at acting at the University of California Little Theater. That experience led to a year and a half of study at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the 1940s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock. He made his film debut in a 1943 short, "The Man on the Ferry." Tobey made his Hollywood film bow in a Hopalong Cassidy Western, going on to appear in scores of features over the next four decades including "Cry Terror!," "The Search For Bridey Murphy," "Seven Ways From Sundown," "X-15," "Rage" and "Walking Tall." He also appeared in numerous TV series including "Gunsmoke," "The Lone Ranger," "Science Fiction Theater," "The Rebel," "Perry Mason," Sea Hunt," "Bonanza," "Night Gallery," "Mannix," "Cannon," "The Rockford Files" and "Star Trek: Deep Space 9." He even starred in his own show, the high-flying 1957 adventure series "The Whirlybirds."

One of Tobey's "Thing" co-stars, Robert Nichols, recalled that, "It took nineteen weeks to shoot, and an interesting nineteen weeks it was. Jim Young and I played Ken's buddies on the plane crew, and from the very first day of shooting we all got along great. There was some contention on the set, but never with us. Ken was a good actor, very easy and natural. He never looked like he was acting, which is the essence of good film acting. Ken also had success in the theatre, starring in several shows on Broadway. He had a career that any actor would be proud of." Robert Cornthwaite, who portrayed Dr. Carrington in the film, recalled for the L.A. Times that Tobey "had a wonderful, understated kind of [acting] style. He always played everything keyed way down, but he made a very effective thing out of it, I thought."

It was Sammy Davis Jr., a big fan of "The Thing," who was responsible for Tobey's return to the stage. Davis spotted Tobey at an L.A. jazz club and offered him a part in his 1964 Broadway show "Golden Boy." Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Tobey continued to work in supporting roles in such films as "MacArthur" (as Admiral William Halsey) and the comedy hit, "Ariplane," as an air traffic controller. Director Joe Dante cast Tobey in his hit films, "The Howling" "Gremlins" and "Innerspace." "My experience with Ken Tobey was everything I expected," said Dante. "He was a total pro, and after "The Howling" I always tried to find something for him. I had a scene in "Gremlins" where inventor Hoyt Axton was supposed to unload a "smokeless ashtray" on somebody -- I don't think it was in the script. So I called Ken and told him I didn't know exactly what I'd want him to do, but he would be a gas station attendant and that we'd make up something on the spot. He was game and we improvised a funny bit, much of which made it into the picture. With incredible economy Ken created a chainsmoking, taciturn character not unlike himself. I loved working with him.

He was fond of noting that the brief scene he has with Marty Short in "Innerspace" got the biggest laugh in the picture. I know he was miffed at me for not hiring him to play the General in the "Mant" section of "Matinee," but in truth when he came in I realized he was recovering from a stroke and it just wasn't going to work. Last time I saw him was at one of Ray Courts' shows at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood a few years ago and we parted amicably. I would never have told him, but I always thought he was criminally underrated as an actor and that he should have had a much more mainstream career. But he made a major impact nonetheless, and perhaps among a much more loyal and appreciative audience than he might have found elsewhere." "I've had a career," Tobey once told genre-film historian Tom Weaver. "Maybe not a great career, but what the hell. I won't retire, I'll just be found one morning, dead, with one shoe on and one shoe off. And with a script clutched in my hand!"

Adele Jergens
Actress, model Adele Jergens died at her home in Camarillo, Calif. The cause of death was not reported. She was 84. Jergens, a former Rockette, specialized in roles as earthy, wisecracking gun molls and streetwise showgirls. Beginning in the mid-1940s, she landed parts in such B pictures as "The Corpse Came C.O.D." "The Dark Past," "The Woman from Tangier," and "Ladies of the Chorus." The 1950s found her in such crime-dramas as "Armored Car Robbery" and "Side Street," directed by Richard Fleischer and Anthony Mann, respectively. She also appeared in comedies opposite Abbott & Costello, The Bowery Boys and others. She is perhaps best known to genre-film fans for her role as Ruby in the Alex Gordon-produced Roger Corman thriller "Day the World Ended." She appeared in several of Gordon's pictures including "Runaway Daughters" and "Girls in Prison," her final film in 1956. Jergens married B-movie leading man Glenn Langan in 1949. Langan is well known to sci-fi fans as "The Amazing Colossal Man." They remained married until his death in 1991.

Jerry Sohl
Science fiction author Jerry Sohl, whose works include "The Mars Monopoly" and "The Altered Ego," is dead at 88. The cause of death was not immediately known. In addition to such well-regarded books as "The Lemon Eaters," "The Resurrection of Frank Borchard" and "The Spun Sugar Hole," Sohl also wrote for science fiction and fantasy-related television programs including "Star Trek," "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Outer Limits" and "The Invaders." Prior to his success as an author of science fiction, Sohl had worked as a police reporter, a photographer and a critic for newspapers in the Midwest. Sohl occasionally used such pen names as Sean Mei Sullivan, Nathan Butler and Roberta Jean Mountjoy.


What if selected members of Black Sabbath, Los Straightjackets and Bobby "Boris" Picket's Crypt Kickers got together to form a surf-metal party band? Such a collaboration might sound like The Dead Elvi, a hard-rockin' New Jersey combo that draws upon classic horror for musical inspiration. The horror movie muse comes naturally to guitarist Kevin Clement. The self-proclaimed "Jerry Garcia of Horror Fandom," Clement spearheads the twice-annual Chiller Theatre conventions in East Rutherford, New Jersey, showcasing vintage film stars and attracting thousands of fans and collectors. Clement and company -- John "Skullhead" Kullberg, Chris "Criswell" Palmerini, Tom "Da-Blur!" Seeselberg and Vincent Priceless -- authored the bulk of the tunes on their new CD "Graveland." A glance at the titles will tell you where these cats are coming from: "Wolfman Road," "The Creature Stole My Surfboard" and the B Monster's personal favorite, "John Agar Rules." Loudmouth Goth-rockers like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson get all the hype, but grassroots bar bands like The Dead Elvi have more spirit. To learn more, check out:
And tell 'em the B Monster says, "Rock on!"

They're a pack of gruesome TV emcees currently terrorizing the Twin Cities. The institution of the TV horror host not only refuses to die, "we're bringing them back with a vengeance," crows executive producer/writer Thom Lange AKA Uncle Ghoulie. Every Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm you'll find Ghoulie and his incorporated cadavers presenting horror films on KSTC-45. Recent "in-person" guests have included "Tor Johnson, Count Dracula, the moldering corpse of Bela Lugosi and Godzilla himself," according to Lange. For info, photos, bios and more, check out:
For scheduling and contest information you can visit:
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Last year's first ever Sci Fi London convention was such a smashing success, they're throwing another super sci-fi party this year. Billed as "the UK's only dedicated science fiction and fantasy film festival," the con will run from Thursday, January 30th through Sunday, February 2nd, 2003 at The Curzon SOHO and The Other Cinema in London. Highlights include the "Sci Fi London Trailer Challenge," wherein, with your own two hands (and the aid of the Digital Guerrilla Filmmakers), you can make the trailer for the sci-fi feature of your dreams in less than a week! Documentaries on the work of Philip K. Dick and Douglas Adams will be screened and seminars concerning scriptwriting, editing and low-budget home computer special effects will be presented. Among the classic films being showcased are "Quatermass and the Pit," "The Man in the White Suit" and "Fahrenheit 451," as well as back-to-back, all-night screenings of "Blade Runner," "The Matrix," "Gattaca," "Mad Max II," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "Village of the Damned," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Terminator II," "Predator," "Aliens" and "Starship Troopers." And that's just the FIRST night! For more info visit:
And, as always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Toronto-based mise-en-chien productions is premiering a short, made-for-Web horror/comedy called "The Secret of Zombie Mountain" at the iFilm.com Website. "After Zombies overrun a small university town," says the publicity blurb, "a misfit group of survivors unite to unravel an ancient secret that threatens to destroy us all." Just when we thought the public's fling with downloadable multi-megabyte movies was long over, here come filmmakers Chris McCawley and Craig Macnaughton with this digital diversion. The producers encourage visitors to the iFilm site to "make sure to rate and review each film whether you liked them or not. Take a peak at:
http://www.ifilm.com/ifilm/product/film_info/0,3699,2452660,00.html or

The Sci Fi Channel nabbed its biggest numbers ever with "Steven Spielberg Presents Taken," the mammoth miniseries about UFO abductees and the sinister government cover-up of the flying saucer phenomena. Six million viewers tuned in to the premier episode. That number dipped to 4.8 million the second night, but the show still outdrew Sci Fi's previous record holder, their "Dune" miniseries, which peaked at 1.1 million. "Taken" was barely two days old before CNN reported that Dreamworks was considering making "Taken" a weekly series. This begs a question: What could they possibly explore that wasn't covered in "Taken's" 20-hour running time? There was scarcely a new idea in it. The title might as well refer to elements appropriated from myriad films, books, comics, magazines, TV shows -- as though the producers wanted to round up all the clichés and do 'em up right, once and fer all! (Let's hope it was once and for all). The show was certainly well mounted, but was seriously flawed with plot holes big enough to park a mother ship in.

(Sounds like something "Space Patrol's" Cadet Happy might exclaim). Actor/rapper Will Smith will star in a big-budget sci-fi film based on Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot," to be directed by Alex "Dark City" Proyas. Asimov's robot canon, written in the 1940s, helped define the shape of futuristic fiction and film and introduced the author's now-famous three laws of robotics: 1. A robot may not injure a human or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given to it by a human, except where it would conflict with the first law. 3. A robot must protect itself, as long as that protection doesn't violate either the first or second law. "The big idea here," 20th Century Fox film president Hutch Parker told Variety, "is that if the robots have found a way to violate the laws, there is nothing to stop them from taking over." The production is scheduled to begin shooting in April.

Our martini-totaling buddy, cult-movie enthusiast non-pareil, Will "The Thrill" Viharo, is kicking off the New Year in fine filmic fashion with a slate of cinematic pleasures bound to lure Bay Area B fans to his Parkway Theater haunt.

Thursday, January 2 at 9:15 Will screens "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe" along with an episode of the 1960s cult-TV fave "Johnny Socko and his Flying Robot." According to Viharo, he'll share the stage with "Japanese fantasy film experts Bob Johnson, August Ragone ... and Gamera himself!"

Thursday, January 16 at 9:15, the feature attraction is the 1961 Ray Harryhausen take on Jules Verne's "Mysterious Island" along with selected short subjects.

On Wednesday, January 29, Will and company hit the road to spend "A Wild Night with Ray Dennis Steckler" at Berkeley's Fine Arts Cinema. The schlock classic "Wild Guitar" starring Arch Hall Jr. will be shown at 7:00 pm, followed at 9:15 by "Wild Ones On Wheels," described by Viharo as "the torrid tale of hell-raising hot-rodders in the desert, starring Ray and sexy Francine York." Following the show, Steckler will be signing and selling rare videos, posters, and memorabilia. The Fine Arts is located at 2451 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley, Ca. To find out more about the Fine Arts, visit:

Then, it's back to the Parkway for a Ray Dennis Steckler birthday celebration. Steckler will appear in person along with frequent co-star Herb Robbins to present Ray's 1967 superhero oddity "Rat Fink A Boo Boo," as well as Steckler's 1960 short, "Goofs On the Loose" and a "lost" featurette starring Steckler's Bowery Boys-inspired Lemon Grove Kids, "The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood." Once more, Steckler tapes and posters will be on sale in the lobby. The Parkway is located at 1834 Park Blvd. Oakland, Calif. For more info, check out:
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Veteran TV producer Steven Bochco has a new, sci-fi themed series slated to appear on the Fox network. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "NYPD 2069" is about "an officer partnered with a New York cop revived and put back to work after spending 66 years cryogenically frozen." Actor Danny Pino ("The Shield") will portray the partner of the thawed flatfoot. Nothing new here, premise-wise. Sci-fi filmmakers have been thawing the long-frozen for years. Now, if they thawed out Ted Williams and he came back batting .400 for the season ...

New Line Cinema plans to produce a feature film based on the Golden Age comic book character Captain Marvel (referred to tauntingly by his nemesis Dr. Sivana as "that big red cheese.") According to Variety, New Line is in final negotiations with DC comics, who appropriated the character from Fawcett years ago following one of the most protracted legal battles in history. (DC contended that Captain Marvel bore too striking a resemblance to their own Superman). In the comics, meek newsboy Billy Batson meets up with the wizard Shazam. The mention of Shazam's name transforms Billy into the all-powerful Captain. Let's see what dark, cynical spin contemporary filmmakers can put on that innocent scenario. Michael Uslan, the executive producer responsible for the Batman franchise will be in charge.


The scariest thing about the summer thriller "Signs" may be the way critics pounced with a vengeance on one-time darling director M. Night Shyamalan, and the arguments they used to justify their vitriol. Shyamalan's sleeper hit "The Sixth Sense" caught every critic sleeping. But the public ate it up and it brought a touch of class to the horror genre after decades of slasher-mania. The critics were quick to cover their tracks by over-praising the director's follow-up, "Unbreakable." Now, they seem to genuinely resent Shyamalan's consistency and success, mostly because they didn't "discover" him at Sundance or Cannes and present him to the public as "someone you should like" the way they did Tarentino or Soderbergh. It would seem their scorn is symptomatic of a phenomena that screenwriter William Goldman dubbed the "Supercritic," those pontificating pundits more concerned with their own public standing and snappy wordplay than the actual merits of the film in question. (You can read the first six grafs of a "Supercritic's" review and still not know if they liked the film). The predictability is astounding.

Hollywood.com, who seem to exist only to drive people sheeplike to their local megaplexes, rendered an ineptly "rah-rah" review, calling "Signs" "thrilling, sad and hysterical ... you have to experience this one for yourself." And Roger Ebert, who, when it comes to genre-films, we disagree with approximately 99.7 percent of the time, gave "Signs" an unqualified endorsement. Otherwise ...

As one might expect from something called Salon.com, lots of big words were employed to trash Shyamalan: "... promiscuous geysers of sentimentality and random New Age brain fog ... vague, pseudo-universal nostrums ... a specific meaning in Christian eschatology." (Wha? Did you like it or not?) Film Journal International was likewise eager to flaunt their lexicon of psycho-babble: "Shyamalan is no doubt sincere about [religious] issues, but he's just as sincere about wanting to be an entertainer, which tends to undermine any real potential for theological depth ... the audience is left more convinced about the hand of Shyamalan than the hand of God." Entertainment Weekly allowed as to how Shyamalan, "has a sixth sense for how to transport an audience," but railed against the film's "goofy, contrived formalism." ("Formalism?" Is that even a word?)

The New York Post was a tad resentful: "As sometimes happens with Spielberg, you're constantly aware you're being manipulated, even if by a master." The Hollywood Reporter felt likewise duped: "If you think you're being manipulated, you are. Big time." The Christian Science Monitor got sucked in, too: "Every time the story promises to get really thoughtful, Shyamalan douses it with overwrought emotion, family-values clichés, and tepid space-monster suspense." (What the heck is a "family-values cliché?" And how can something be tepid AND suspenseful. Doesn't it have to be one or the other?)

Okay, so let's look to the heartland for honest analysis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found "Signs" "shallow as Ozark topsoil - [there's] the unharvested cornfield, which the family apparently enters only to look for space creatures." They enjoyed the film for the most part, but were ultimately distracted by the film's unconscionable waste of valuable cropland. Yeehaw! Well then, let's hop to the great northwest. The Seatlle Post-Intelligencer smugly asserted that Shyamalan's entire career was predicated on "pulp thrill rides of Hollywood exploitation ... reborn as crucibles for the exploration of loss, self discovery, acceptance and faith." Whew! Does this guy also write fortune cookie slips for Seattle's Chinese restaurants?

Then there were those who made it personal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution dismissed Shyamalan resentfully as "Newsweek's latest cover boy." (The great majority of reviewers mentioned the director's appearance on the cover of Newsweek with tweaking disdain). The voice of the stereotypical cranky New Yorker, The Daily News, assailed Shyamalan as, "the 31-year-old Indian-born acolyte of Steven Spielberg," calling the film, "a cockeyed alien-invasion yarn." (Salon likewise cited the director's ethnicity and religious beliefs. Interestingly, none of the critics signed their reviews, "Joe Blow, White Episcopalian.") Surely The Village Voice, liberal guardians of free expression and artistic tolerance would provide fair-minded analysis. Their eloquent, erudite critic wrote, "This shit made the cover of Newsweek."

Our favorite criticism by far comes from Jerry Shier, president of the Greater Washington Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Society. Shier took child star Rory Caulkin to task for his inhaler "technique," telling the Washington Post he was "horrified" by the film's depiction of an asthmatic. (The photo accompanying the article was captioned "Rory Caulkin needs work on inhaler technique.")

Throughout the reviews, there are common threads. First, most of the critics were willing to acknowledge Shyamalan's talent, up until the point they actually felt moved by the film. He drew them in emotionally and they felt manipulated. (Isn't that technique the heart of EVERY Frank Capra film?) Second, they hate him for his success. Why? Because YOU made him a success, and you didn't get THEIR permission. Whether or not you or I agree on "Signs" is beside the point. The point is, beware the "Supercritic."

I know the question that's troubling you: Is the B Monster a "Supercritic?" We celebrate old movies and you never have to read deeper than a paragraph to know where we stand (this essay being a justifiable exception). Hopefully we write in an entertaining rather than pontific fashion. We've never called a filmmaker's ethnicity or religiosity into question. All of the critics cited above are paid handsomely by major syndicates and publishers supported by millions of advertising dollars. Many are wooed, courted and comped by movie studios. Isn't it the duty of these critics to objectively dispense enlightening critical judgments to major metropolitan markets populated by readers who look to them for guidance? Please, Mr. "Supercritic," kindly stow the hot air and personal aspersions. You may well be the snappiest wordsmith this side of Alexander Woolcott, but it's expensive to go to the movies these days. Just tell me if you liked it!

Let's start with the ending, one which has been confusing genre-film fans for a generation. It's certainly giving nothing away at this late date to pose the question: Was it, in the end, all a dream? Dreams are key to this classic film's success and, some would say, failings. John Tucker Battle, who conceived the basic idea for the film, was inspired by a dream his wife had. But Battle wanted the filmed story to be portrayed as reality without the dream-ending cop-out. In fact, when a condensed script based on his idea transformed his reality-based story into a dream, he insisted his name be taken off the film. And what of the varying endings that have puzzled sci-fi buffs for years? The fact that multiple versions of the film have existed for decades might explain the fan's confusion. (Maybe the VIEWERS dreamed the whole thing). Fact is, when the film was sold in the U.K., distributors said it wasn't long enough, insisting that new scenes be shot. Producers complied, recutting existing U.S. copies and shipping them overseas. Fans remember long versions, short versions, color and black and white versions, versions cut for TV. Oh, it was a mess. But rest easy. A 35mm negative, color separations and Cinecolor master print now reside safely in a climate controlled vault in Kansas. Both this version and the European version are included in this package.

So, what about the movie itself? Dreamlike doesn't begin to describe it. Many baby boomers, upon viewing the film as adults, are surprised that, even as children, they ever found the film frightening, suspenseful or otherwise entertaining. It IS one bizarro movie; a candy colored, blatantly simplistic fable designed and directed with Spartan integrity by William Cameron Menzies. But the stripped down sets, broad acting, choir soundtrack, forced perspectives and gorgeously fake backdrops are PRECISELY why the movie works. It's a kid's-eye view of a terrifying event. It's supposed to reach the child in you. If you can't come to it on those terms, you probably shouldn't bother -- but you'll be missing a one-of-a-kind film. Nothing quite like it has been made since. (The remake was a disastrous miscalculation. Its makers missed the point entirely.) Everything Menzies designed ("Things To Come," "Gone With The Wind," "The Whip Hand") was imbued with a calculated artificiality from which "Invaders From Mars" benefits greatly. The cast is a who's who of B-movie stalwarts -- Arthur Franz, Hillary Brooke, Morris Ankrum, Robert Shayne, Milburn Stone and, of course, Jimmy Hunt as the pint-sized Martian fighter who MAY have dreamed the whole darned thing. "Invaders From Mars" is many things, but it is NOT dated. It's just too strange, too unlike other films of its vintage to BE dated. (David Lynch may well have learned a thing or two about pacing, composition and the tenuous line separating dreams and reality from this film.) That strangeness has kept it alive in the memories of sci-fi fans for 50 years. But, if you think you're too grown up to enjoy it, then you probably are.

If you're not yet familiar with the folks at Marengo Films, let us put you wise. They've got some pristine prints of classic films on DVD, and cult-film lovers will surely dig this initial double feature:

"Bloodlust" is one of many, many, many variations on the classic "Most Dangerous Game" theme -- a depraved "sportsman" hunts human beings on his private jungle island -- which in this case was a soundstage cluttered with foliage that director Ralph Brooke shoved into various arrangements to evoke different locales. Filmed on a budget of barely $80,000, "Bloodlust" showcases some blatantly gory scenes (blatantly gory, that is, for 1959) and an enjoyably hammy performance by co-producer Wilton Graf as the mad hunter. Director Brooke's wife (and, incidentally, notorious schlock-film director Jerry Warren's EX-wife) Bri Murphy, told author Tom Weaver, "I thought it was very good for what it was." And you know what? It is! (Watch for Murphy's cameo as a dead victim floating in a tank of formaldehyde). Sure, there are loads of implausabilities, over-the-top performances by amateur actors and a network of caves that are quite clearly made of crumpled paper. Even so, it's credibly creepy, all things considered. Still not sold? "Bloodlust" is bursting with bits of trivia. It stars "Brady Bunch" dad Robert Reed, who was, at the time, about to star in the much-acclaimed teleseries, "The Defenders." The feminine lead is the "Teenage Doll," herself, June Kenney, who also starred in "Hot Car Girl," "Attack of the Puppet People" and "Earth vs. the Spider." And director of photography is none other than Richard Cunha, the man who helmed "Giant From the Unknown," Frankenstein's Daughter," "Missile to the Moon" and others.

The lower tier of this double bill is director Edgar G. Ulmer's ultra-cheap "Amazing Transparent Man." There's nothing original to see here. Like its co-feature "Bloodlust," it's a most "transparent" derivation. In this case, the purloined plot, as you may have guessed from the title, is "The Invisible Man." The film is notable chiefly because it was filmed simultaneous with Ulmer's "Beyond the Time Barrier," in and around the site of the Texas State Fair, although it's tough to see how this film benefited from that locale. The top secret lab is a farmhouse attic covered with corrugated tin. The effects are laughable, even by the standards of the day (1960), and the performances, wherein the players must pretend to be choked, slapped and punched by an actor who isn't there, are unintentionally hilarious. Ulmer, who gave us "The Black Cat," "Detour" and "Bluebeard" is hamstrung by a near-non-existent budget, and isn't entirely to blame. But little thought went into this potboiler, which clocks in at barely an hour, an hour which is not Edgar's finest.

Author, film historian and frequent B Monster scribe Bob Madison weighs in with the following review:

Recently released on DVD is director Kevin Connor's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's "People That Time Forgot" (1977). Released under MGM's Midnight Movies banner, the film is presented in pristine wide screen format and includes the original trailer. I'm an unabashed apologist for this film -- it has long been one of my favorites, despite its many flaws. Screenwriter Patrick Tilley completely catches the spirit and rhythms of Burrough's original novel, and the film may be one of the best adaptations of his work. (And that's the catch, the film, like Burroughs himself, is something you either love -- or don't.)

People is a direct sequel to "The Land That Time Forgot," with Patrick Wayne returning to Caprona (Burrough's Lost World) to rescue friend Doug McClure lost at the end of the earlier film. Wayne is ably accompanied by paleontologist Thorley Walters (a welcome addition to any genre film), photographer Sarah Douglas and pilot Shane Rimmer. The action starts early on when a pterodactyl attacks the expedition's amphibian plane. Now -- I'm the first to admit that the effects in this sequence are somewhat cheesy. But I first caught this film at the right age (15) when my sense of wonder was still intact. To me, gliding pterosaur and all, it's one of the most thrilling sequences on film. Stranded on Caprona while Rimmer makes repairs to the aircraft, the rest of the group march off into the horizon, finding primitive tribes, dinosaurs, villains who live inside an active volcano and, of course, the missing McClure.

This is pulp entertainment in its purest form -- it has no pretensions of meaning, it's just fun. "People" comes complete with vintage planes, savages, an active volcano, and, of course, dinosaurs. In the climactic battle, Professor Walters even manages to pull his sword cane. I mean -- what more could you want? Something like a live-action "Jonny Quest," "People" is the kind of fantasy film that (gulp!) the whole family can watch with satisfaction if the kids are not too spoiled by recent high-tech extravaganzas.

Like the latest "Lost World," the weakest part of the ensemble is the leading player. Patrick Wayne manages to perform heroically, but not memorably. The film is easily stolen by the many supporting players who went on to better things, including Douglas ("Superman" and "Superman II"), Rimmer ("The Spy Who Loved Me") and Walters ("David Copperfield"). Special marks must go to Douglas, who plays her part as a tough-as-nails flapper. At the end of the film, she manages to pull her gun and hand it to a hard-pressed Wayne. "I was saving it in case we got into a jam," she deadpans. The best of the Burroughs adaptations from American International (others include "Land" and the psychedelic "At the Earth's Core"), "People" was one of the last fantasy films made with a B budget and B sensibilities before "Star Wars" made the whole thing big box office and big business. I miss movies like "The People That Time Forgot."


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at http://www.amazon.com

Joe Dante

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com

Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.com

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html


"Every chilling moment a shock-test for your scare-endurance!" -- The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas

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