Enter NOW to win "The Black Forest" heroes collectible bust signed by sculptor Shawn Nagle and artist Neil Vokes. First place prizewinners will receive the bust plus signed copies of "The Black Forest" and "Wicked West" graphic novels. Second place prizewinners receive the signed novels plus a piece of Neil Vokes original art signed by the artist. Third place prizewinners receive the signed graphic novels. Drawing takes place Feb. 21. More information, go to:
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Larry Buchanan
Texas-based, ultra-low-budget filmmaker Larry Buchanan died in Tucson, Ariz., following complications from a collapsed lung. He was 81. Over the years, a cult following developed around the conspicuously cheap exploitation films of the self-acknowledged "schlockmeister." Among his more notorious titles were "Mars Needs Women," "Zontar, the Thing From Venus" and "The Eye Creatures." American International Pictures commissioned the films. The latter two were remakes of Roger Corman's "It Conquered the World" and the Edward L. Cahn-directed "Invasion of the Saucer Men," respectively. AIP was looking for quick and dirty color productions to fill television airtime, and Buchanan delivered the goods cheaply and efficiently.

Buchanan was born Marcus Larry Seale Jr., in Lost Prairie, Texas. His mother died when he was just nine months old. Buchanan was later remanded to an orphanage when his father, a policeman, was shot to death in a bank holdup. He decided against a ministerial scholarship opportunity and began working in the 20th Century-Fox prop department. When he began playing bit parts in pictures, the studio changed his name. In 1951, following training with the Army Signal Corps, Buchanan began producing, writing, directing and editing a series of exploitation quickies that consistently made money. These included "Grubstake" aka "Apache Gold" (featuring a young Jack Klugman), "Free, White and 21" (which Buchanan maintained was the first "Blaxploitation" film) and "Naughty Dallas." Among his other horror and sci-fi credits were "Curse of the Swamp Creature," starring John Agar, who was also featured in "Zontar," "Creature of Destruction" and "It's Alive!" (not to be confused with the Larry Cohen-directed horror). Buchanan was philosophical about his dubious reputation. "It kind of stung, at first, to be singled out as a maker of movies that are considered 'so bad they're good,'" he told an interviewer in 1997. "But then you've got to realize the only bad recognition is no recognition." Buchanan's memoirs, "It Came From Hunger: Tales of a Cinema Schlockmeister," were published in 1996.


Tireless conventioneer, promoter par excellence and the "Jerry Garcia of Horror Fandom," Kevin Clement, and his loyal crew of ghoulish stalwarts are mounting a winter Chiller Theatre con this January 7-9. This in addition to the arduous staging of the now legendary April and October Chiller fests. Like those shows, the January festivities take place at the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel in beautiful E. Rutherford, N. J. In addition to the jam-packed memorabilia dealer's rooms and special programming, the guest list of celebs and artisans includes:

-- Artist Stephen Blickenstaff
-- Douglas "Pinhead" Bradley
-- Writer, director Douglas Buck
-- Charles "Escape from New York" Cyphers
-- Real live bat expert Joseph D'Angeli
-- Artist Bob Eggleton
-- Courtney "Children of the Corn" Gains
-- Paranormal investigator, demonologist, talk show host Lou Gentile
-- Mark "Lost In Space" Goddard
-- Artist Robert Granito
-- Sid "Spider Baby" Haig
-- Artist Daniel Horne
-- Bill "Texas Chainsaw remake Leatherface" Johnson
-- Ashley "Hellraiser" Laurence
-- Nancy "Halloween" Loomis
-- Bill "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" Moseley
-- Howard "Day of the Dead" Sherman
-- Dee Wallace "E.T., The Howling, Cujo" Stone
-- William "The Doomsday Machine, To Kill A Mockingbird and too many others to mention" Windom
-- And, of course, late night legend and Chiller mascot, Zacherley

For more info, check out:
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The next Williamsburg Film Festival is taking shape with yet another eclectic and enticing guest list. When it comes to genre-film nostalgia, no matter what your specific area of interest, this con's got it covered -- Western, sci-fi, comedy, movies, television -- it's earned a reputation as the friendly con with something for everybody. Topping the guest list of the next fest:

-- Anne Jeffreys, B-movie veteran (Tess Trueheart to Morgan Conway's "Dick Tracy") and star of TV's "Topper"
-- Ty Hardin, TV's "Bronco Lane"
-- Joan Leslie, who starred opposite such screen legends as Bogart, Cagney, Cooper and Randolph Scott in such film classics as "High Sierra," "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Sergeant York"
-- Danny Morton, veteran B-movie character actor
-- William Sanderson, featured is such films as "The Onion Field," "The Client" and "Coal Miner's Daughter," but who may be best known as the squirrelly neighbor on the "Newhart" show
-- Kathy Garver, who portrayed Cissy on the sitcom "Family Affair"
-- Dean Smith, stuntman, actor, Golden Boot winner and member of the Stuntman Hall of Fame
-- Don Stroud, veteran of more than 75 films and television programs
-- Morgan Woodward, prolific television and film actor whose credits include "The Great Locomotive Chase," "Cool Hand Luke," "Death of a Gunfighter" and many others

And, of course, our friends The Solar Guard, who never miss a Williamsburg show, will be celebrating the Golden Space Age of television.

The festival, which takes place March 9-12, 2005, at the Holiday Inn-Patriot Convention Center in Williamsburg, Va., also features multiple movie screenings, autograph sessions, celebrity panels and a memorabilia dealer's room. For more info, visit:
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Horror lovers in the Midwest are already gearing up for the next Cinema Wasteland convention. Advertised as "3 days of films and fun celebrating the drive-in era of horror and sci-fi movies," the con kicks off April 1 at the Holiday Inn Select in beautiful downtown Strongsville, Ohio. While horror tops the menu, the conventioneer's penchant for biker films is reflected in the guest list:

-- William Smith of "Angel's Die Hard," "Conan the Barbarian," "Maniac Cop," "C.C. and Company" and many more
-- John "Bud" Cardos, actor, director and veteran of such bike-sploitation classics as "Satan's Sadists" and "Hells' Angel's on Wheels"
-- Greydon Clark of "Satan's Sadists," "Dracula vs Frankenstein" and "The Mighty Gorga"
-- Gary Kent of "Satan's Sadists," "Angel's Wild Women" and "The Thrill Killers"
-- Eileen Dietz of "Teenage Gang Debs," "Helter Skelter" and "Parts: The Clonus Horror";
-- Reggie Bannister of the "Phantasm" film franchise
-- Marilyn Eastman and Karl Hardman, both of whom appeared in "Night of the Living Dead";

There will be near round-the-clock horror film screenings, a program of short independent films, plus, the Horror Host Underground is likely to turn out in force, with Dayton's A. Ghastly Ghoul leading them through skits, songs and games. For more info, check out:
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The American Cinematheque at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre recently hosted a tribute to actor Robert Quarry, best known to B-movie lovers as Count Yorga. Quarry attended the screenings of "Count Yorga, Vampire" and "The Return of Count Yorga" at the newly renovated Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre. Between films, Quarry took part in a discussion period and Q&A along with filmmakers Frank Darabont and Tim Sullivan (both diehard Yorga fans). The original film was conceived as a horror/nudie called "The Loves of Count Iorga." The idea was revamped (pun intended) and presented as a legitimate shocker featuring the erudite, articulate, sartorially splendid Count menacing contemporary California. The film was one of American International Pictures biggest grossers. For more info regarding the historic Egyptian and the American Cinematheque, check out:
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A recent issue of Newsweek treated all those anxiously anticipating Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake to a sneak preview featuring conceptual illustrations and behind-the-scenes banter. According to correspondent Jeff Giles, "the original 'King Kong' is many times greater than the sum of its parts, and whether or not Jackson's remake ever achieves anything like its permanence, it can certainly improve on some things." This comment is bound to sting purists who revere the original film. How, according to Giles, could the 1933 film be improved? "The animation of Kong, for starters." The computer animation employed in the remake, writes Giles, "will give you a sense of the realism and ferocity Jackson's after." The new "Kong" could also be more sensitive to racial issues. "It can redress the dated, if not racist, portrayal of the islanders who watch Kong get dragged off in chains." Addressing the acting in the original film, Giles leaves it to star Adrien Brody (assuming the role played in the original by Bruce Cabot) to sum it up: "Fay Wray was fantastic, but [otherwise] the acting is pretty atrocious in parts of it."

The people of Transylvania continue to debate the proper place of Dracula in their chronology. We've been covering the on-again, off-again Dracula theme park for several years. Local bureaucrats say the project will create much-needed jobs and spark the lagging economy into high gear. Environmentalists contend that it will destroy the rugged beauty of the Transylvania countryside. Still others maintain that it simply isn't dignified to capitalize on what they consider Hollywood's reinterpretation of their culture. The religious among them contend the Dracula lore attracts blasphemous curiosity seekers.

Count Dracula was, of course, made famous by Bram Stoker's book. Stoker's vampire was inspired in part by Vlad Tepesh, a Romanian nobleman who, legend holds, earned the sobriquet Vlad the Impaler, as he allegedly put his enemies to death at the point of a lance. Stoker set his novel in Transylvania, and more than 100 years later its people attempt either to live down or cash in on the fictional vampire's reputation. Among the latest Romanian attractions is the Dracula Club Restaurant in downtown Bucharest that features actor Petre Moraru in cape and ghoulish makeup emerging from a tomb. "We're beginning to find Dracula interesting as well as lucrative," Moraru told the Washington Post. "Why fight it?" Campgrounds, souvenir stands and bars in the vicinity also bear the Dracula name.

British professor Duncan Light, who came to Romania to study the country's folklore, offers an argument for the anti-vamp constituency: "Here is Romania, trying to join the EU, a club of nice countries, and it is saddled with a bloodthirsty image that Dracula only accentuates." Hans Bruno Frohlich, a Lutheran pastor claims, "The movie Dracula is a kind of spiritual pollution." Frohlich told the Post "the myth attracts all kinds of fishy beliefs. Satanists visit our town and hold congresses." Constantin Balaceanu Stolnici, the last of Vlad's blood relatives, raises an interesting question: "How would you like it if someone said Abraham Lincoln was a vampire?" Hmm ... "The Great Emaciater?"

Ready to sail the briny deep with your favorite sci-fi celebrity? The folks at Cruise Events can make it so. Among the latest to be piped aboard is Richard Hatch of TV's "Battlestar Galactica." "I love the ocean," the actor says in a statement posted at the Cruise Events Web site. "Communing with nature and connecting with people. I can't imagine a better opportunity for sharing my life's journey and the powerful lessons I have learned along the way." Hatch says he decided to take the plunge following the positive feedback that greeted the announcement of former costar Dirk Benedict's cruise. Rates begin at $870 per person, depending on the size of the cabin you choose. Included in the total cost:

-- Seven nights accommodation Exclusive events with Richard Hatch (for guests who reserve via the Web site only)
-- Private cocktail party with exclusive photo session
-- Meals
-- Nightly entertainment
-- 24-hour room service
-- Full casino
-- Unspecified onboard activities
Not to mention island hopping in the blue Caribbean.

Cruise Events invites fans to "select a popular performer or group of performers (music, comedy, magic, band) that you would like to cruise with." Other celebs planning meet-and-greet cruises include Erin Gray, Jack Scalia and John Davidson. For more info, check out:
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We told you some time back about our pal, storyboard artist and illustrator extraordinaire Pete Von Sholley, and his recently introduced line of illustrated "Horrora" monster boxes. Seems one of Pete's nostalgic riffs on the old Aurora monster model kits of the 1960s caught the eye of someone at Dark Horse Comics. The company plans to produce a model kit inspired by Pete's rendition of "The Thing From Outer Space," based on a skillful sculpture of the creature by Pete's better half, Andrea. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, check out:
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A quick update regarding our pal Dr. Gangrene, the Tennessee terror who hosts the Chiller Cinema program. The show is on temporary hiatus, according to the madcap medico, as new installments are being produced. "In the meantime," the doc reminds his fans, "those of you haunting the Middle Tennessee area can continue to see shows on Nashville's CH19 Fridays at 8:00 pm." The doc also points out that the original Monster Kid, the legendary Bob Burns, will be his guest for a special screening at this year's Wonderfest in Louisville Ky. For more info regarding the doc and his nefarious broadcast practice, check out:
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In some ways, I feel kinda bad for M. Night Shyamalan. One day the critics paint him as a dramatic innovator, the next as a commercial hack. "The Sixth Sense" was a well-drawn spooker that brought critical accolades, a measure of dignity to the slasher-dominated horror film field and, significantly, millions at the box office. The critics who were caught napping when this quintessential sleeper broke big wildly over-praised Shyamalan's follow-up, "Unbreakable," as if to make up for their tardiness in saluting his breakthrough. But Shyamalan's next feature, "Signs," reaped critical indignation. Suddenly, the golden boy was a sellout. In anticipation of his space invasion thriller, he was interviewed to death, featured on magazine covers and hosted TV shows about the supernatural. The critics turned on him because "Signs" wasn't sly and subtle and cerebral. "Signs" was unabashedly sentimental and doctrinaire. It was also plenty scary. But because today's moviegoers have been conditioned to believe that science fiction pictures can't depict unambiguous endings and redeemed characters, critics hated it. I'm don't know what they went in expecting, but what they got was a straight-up thriller about a guy who loses his faith, endures an alien invasion, and regains his confidence in himself and a higher power. It wasn't all a dream, it didn't turn out to be an elaborate "Gaslight" treatment and nobody saw dead people.

Man, what a wordy wind-up to a critique of "The Village" or "M. Night Shyamalan's The Village." But the long-winded preamble is necessary because this time, Shyamalan really did let critics and moviegoers down. The picture looks great, features fine performances and an eerie, enticing premise; the inhabitants of said village have seemingly struck a deal with the vicious varmints that howl and lurk just outside the perimeter of their compound. The villagers don't invade the creature's space and the creatures return the favor. In the event of an infraction, the bad color, red, appears swabbed on trees and doors. The good color, yellow, is painted on posts at the edge of the forest as a symbol of detente with the creatures. I really can't provide more of a synopsis without playing the spoiler. I will say that it plays like a lackluster "Twilight Zone" episode padded to untenable length. The big reveal that would have unspooled in about two minutes on the "Zone," rolls on and on and on.

If truncated a bit, the story might still have been salvaged if Shyamalan had excised some of the florid dialog and melodramatics. But the very same, unapologetic corn that worked to the advantage of "Signs" is cringe-inducing in this case. The difference? The big twist ending. The thing that caught critics of "Signs" by surprise was the fact that there WAS no twist ending. We all went in expecting one, and I for one am glad the director played it straight. That's what set "Signs" apart. Shyamalan stuck to his corny guns and didn't buy into the prevalent mythos that says only bitter anti-heroes can survive into the future. With "The Village," Shyamalan followed his twistless film with one boasting a surprise ending so contrived you see it coming 20 minutes in. And yet, there are things to like about the film. The production design and cinematography are first-rate, and Shyamalan is a canny director. Shots are well chosen and the scares are carefully placed. He's possessed of a facility for evoking maximum creepiness with minimal special effects. "The Village" is a failure, but it's too soon to write Shyamalan off as a flash in the pan.

I'll admit, I didn't have much hope for "The Forgotten" going in. The trailers made it look rather silly and expectations were low. Those expectations were prescient. The film wastes some very game performances, particularly Julianne Moore in the lead. The premise is initially intriguing; Moore is grieving her young son, apparently killed a year before the film begins. When evidence of his ever having existed at all begins disappearing, she is informed by her therapist and her husband that she has created eight years of memories, that the son never existed and that she must come to terms with the fact. She undertakes to prove that the child was real, researching, digging for clues. Dogged by those who wish to stymie her crusade, she takes it on the lam with a father enduring a similar experience. Tension mounts as the pair are chased and harassed by mysterious figures. (There is one terrific shock effect that has absolutely nothing to do with the supernatural.)

A third of the way into the film I began saying to myself, "This story couldn't possibly be going where I think it's going. They wouldn't go there, would they? It's so hackneyed!" (Caution! I'm about to spoil what should already be ridiculously obvious to you.) Sure enough, they went exactly where I expected. They took the enticing set-up, stacked on the car chases and clichés, weighted it with hysterics and steered it right into "X-Files" territory! Where do you think the kids have been disappearing to? Who would have guessed that the government is complicit in an alien scheme to study our offspring? In a way, the filmmakers pull off the ultimate surprise ending; the movie ended exactly as I feared it would, and that surprised me. Why did they invest so much in a concept so banal? Its premise is so very tired that I'm surprised the project was mounted at all.

It's remarkable how many self-appointed "bad-movie" experts cite this film as an example of Roger Corman's ineptitude. In fact, like Corman's previous dark comic thriller, "A Bucket of Blood," "Creature From the Haunted Sea" finds the director laughing up his sleeve at the genre-film conventions approached so seriously in many of his films. The humor is broad (strained might be a better word) but not entirely banal. Some of it is quite disarming. My favorite scene, hands down, has leading lady Betsy Jones-Moreland lounging on the deck of a boat, nonchalantly cooing a torch song about the "Creature From the Haunted Sea" as mayhem ensues around her, in effect signifying to the audience that "it's only a movie and we're having a ball making it." Who could view such a scene and come away thinking that Corman's intent was to produce a legitimate shocker? You'd be surprised.

"Creature' was scripted by frequent Corman collaborator Charles B. Griffith ("The Undead," "Attack of the Crab Monsters," "A Bucket of Blood"), and a glance at the character names reveals just how seriously the filmmakers were taking this enterprise: Renzo Capetto, Capo Rosetto, Ratto Pazetti, Zeppo Staccato, Shirley Lamour (these are all aliases used by Anthony Carbone's character), Colonel Tostada, Sparks Moran and, of course, Agent XK150. The plot is a ludicrous (and very tenuous) analog to what had recently transpired in Cuba when the film was made (1961) with gangster Carbone hoping to snatch the treasury of an island nation following a revolution. Carbone offers the deposed island leaders safe haven, secretly planning to do away with them and blame their deaths on the eponymous and, allegedly mythical, "Creature." The monster proves to be no myth, however, and Corman and company went to absolutely no expense to fashion this flabby, wall-eyed menace, which looks for all the world like a renegade Sesame Street character. The "Creature," incidentally, can be glimpsed in the opening credits of TV's "Malcolm in the Middle" (as can the "Brain From Planet Arous"). Co-star Edward Wain aka Robert Towne, later scripted such films as "Chinatown," "The Last Detail" and "Mission: Impossible."

You might say that film historian and Dinoship Publishing CEO Bob Madison liked "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." He offers the following:

Just a few minutes into "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," I could scarcely believe my eyes, but there it was -- a multi-million dollar science fiction adventure film made expressly for the Cinefest crowd.

If you're simply a movie fan, "Sky Captain" is a rousing adventure both light-hearted and fun. But, if you are a movie buff, "Sky Captain" is a cornucopia of near limitless delights, a movie jam-packed with references to everything from silent German Expressionist cinema to early talkies, the Fleisher Superman cartoons, to screwball comedies and Republic serials. So much of it is so evocative of late '20s early '30s cinema as to be eerie ... even the color has the feel and texture of early two-strip Technicolor processes. "Sky Captain" has to be seen to be believed.

The film opens with a dazzling image of an airship, the Hindenburg III, docking at the dirigible mooring mast atop the Empire State Building. (This was actually incorporated into the design of the ESB, but high winds made disembarking from airships unsafe and unpractical -- but you can find a photo mock-up of it in Richard Halliburton's "World of Marvels" book.) German scientists are disappearing, and reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), against the advice of Michael Gambon, her gruff but compassionate editor with an office roughly the size of Grand Central Station, sets off in search of the story. It leads her to Radio City Music Hall (playing "The Wizard of Oz") and a brief information exchange with another at-risk scientist before all heck breaks loose.

In moments, this dazzlingly stylized art deco New York is attacked by gigantic robots. Radio calls (you actually see the radio waves!) summon "Sky Captain" (Jude Law) from his fortress hanger, and the adventure starts.

"Sky Captain" is one of those aviator-vigilante-adventurers so abundant in the '30s. (Think Captain Midnight or Smilin' Jack.) He is assisted by the gum-chewing Dex, a super-genius addicted to Buck Rogers comic books and inventing such nifty gadgets as ray guns and radio wave trackers. Sky Captain manages to bring one of the robots to Dex for inspection, but the base is soon attacked by fighter planes and Dex is kidnapped. Hot in pursuit, Cap and Polly head for Tibet and their final confrontation with evil mastermind, Dr. Totenkopf. Telling anymore would ruin it -- but be prepared for a movie with the zippiest design sense since "Things To Come." 

Full disclosure -- I'm obsessed by the '30s, along with its pulp heroes, design aesthetic, music and attitude. (Friends have had to listen to me rant for years about the "The Rocketeer," my previous favorite re-creation of '30s pulp heroics.) And though I am hopelessly besotted by this film, I am compelled to admit it's not perfect. After the magnificent New York sequence of the opening third, "Sky Captain" loses some of its momentum, and the stylized, '30s Expressionist ethos slips a bit more into the background. Michael Gambon is almost criminally wasted, and Angelina Jolie's character (and surroundings) seems more in place with WWII adventures than '30s science fiction. In addition, some of the mechanics of "Sky Captain's" character (just who the heck is he and who does he work for? And where is this fortress hanger, anyway?) are too vague for comfort.

But these are quibbles. By the time I got to Dr. Totenkopf's island hideout-laboratory-dinosaur menagerie-robot factory (yes, it's that kind of picture), I had reached a state of bliss I've missed in movie houses for more than a decade.

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is the brainchild of Kerry Conran. He wrote and designed the feature -- along with the extraordinary software that made it possible. It's not news to B Monster fans that this film was shot entirely against a blue screen, with sets, backgrounds and even props added in later. While the gimmick of its creation is a fascinating story, the tools of making art are a lot less interesting than the final product itself. "Sky Captain" is a strong enough picture to make how it was made irrelevant. I am actively hoping for a follow-up.

"Sky Captain" is not science fiction per se, and people expecting "Gattaca" should look elsewhere. But "Sky Captain" is part of an important pulp tradition that seamlessly blends action heroics and science-fictional concepts. Much like the Republic serials had gangsters working with ray gun-toting Martians, "Sky Captain" takes place in its own world, a 1930s pulp realm where hyper reality, science fiction and fantasy intermingle. This isn't Dr. Asimov, it's Doc Savage. "Sky Captain" manages to incorporate its many references and turn it into an entertainment wholly its own. Despite the echoes of "Metropolis," "King Kong," "Wizard of Oz" and "Lost Horizon," "Sky Captain" remains its own thing -- a glorious, 1930s pulp hero fantasia. If you love movies, you'll love "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."


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

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com

ClassicSciFi.com http://www.classicscifi.com

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

Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.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.dinoship.com


"What was the unspeakable secret of the sea?" -- Creature From The Haunted Sea

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