JULY 20002

The B Monster presents a tribute to the recently departed B-movie maverick, Herman Cohen: "Cohen: My Way!"

PROFILE: In this never-before-published interview, Cohen discusses his early years with Jack Broder's Realart Pictures, working with Curt Siodmak, Barbara Payton, Raymond Burr and much more.

MORE: Herman candidly recalls his working relationship with Lon Chaney in great detail, and recounts how one production required negotiations with both the U.S. Air Force and South Dakota Sioux Indians.

SPECIAL: Herman's niece, Gail Cohen, recalls the uncle best known as the producer of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "How To Make A Monster," "Horrors of the Black Museum," and more.

EXTRA: Cohen's Cobra Media partner, Didier Chatelain, offers his memories of the late, great B-movie maven.

CULT: The Cohen Top 10! Not necessarily Herman's finest films, but certainly his most interesting!

You'll find it all at http://www.bmonster.com

Herman Cohen
One of the most influential figures in genre-movie history, producer Herman Cohen died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 76. The classic B-movies he produced bore such lurid, eye-catching titles as "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein," "Blood of Dracula" and "How to Make a Monster." He revolutionized low-budget filmmaking, reinvigorated the drive-in movie industry, and left an indelible mark on baby boomers who discovered his films on the late, late show. "In the '50s, he was one of the kings of the drive-in horror movies," said film historian Tom Weaver, neatly summing up Cohen's impact. "His pictures helped put American International Pictures on the map."

The Detroit-born Cohen grew up with the movies, working his pre-teen years at the Dexter Theater as an usher and sometime "gofer." As a young man, he was named assistant manager of Detroit's Fox Theater. Following a stint in the Marine Corps, he became a sales manager for Columbia Pictures' Detroit branch. Soon after, he moved to Hollywood to work in Columbia's publicity department. He first tried his hand at producing for Jack Broder's Realart Pictures in the early 1950s, going on to produce for Allied Artists and United Artists, before making his reputation at American International Pictures. AIP co-founder James H. Nicholson, an old friend of Cohen's, invited him to produce something for the fledgling operation. Accepting the offer, Cohen brought his unique show-biz savvy to bear. He determined that more than 70% of moviegoers were between 12 and 26 years old. He also realized how popular horror films were with young audiences. Monsters+teenagers=exploitation-film history! Cohen proceeded to blaze a bloody new trail beginning with "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," starring an unknown named Michael Landon. Before its release, industry friends warned Cohen that having his name attached to a film with such a title would ruin him, and Cohen entertained the idea of a pseudonym. But the "buzz" was incredible. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Time and Look magazines all made reference to the outlandish title before the film was even released. It was a smash. Produced for less than $100,000, it took in $2 million. Perhaps no other film better captures the feel of the genre and the climate of the times. Even people who know nothing about genre-films know "I Was a Teenage Werewolf."

Following the aforementioned teen-horror classics, Cohen set up shop in England, producing such cult favorites as "Horrors of the Black Museum" and "Konga." The British productions ranged in quality from effective ("Horrors of the Black Museum") to execrable ("The Headless Ghost"). Cohen's nadir was arguably "Trog," starring Joan Crawford as a nurturing scientist who befriends a recently discovered troglodyte. In 1981, after returning to the states, Cohen and business partner, Didier Chatelain, formed Cobra Media, a film distribution company which, not surprisingly, listed several horror films among its titles.

Yet another fantasy-film confab blows into the windy city. The Chicago Marriott O'Hare will play host to "Flashback Weekend," a three-day monsterthon featuring films, celebrity panels, a huge dealers' room and, according to publicity, "many surprises." Guest of honor is our old buddy, Bruce Campbell. The "Evil Dead" heartthrob will kick-start a nationwide tour heralding the trade paperback release of his autobiography, "If Chins Could Kill." (If you sign up for the con's Gold or VIP packages, or hold a weekend pass, you get a copy.) The con is sort of a de facto tribute to the "Dead" trilogy, as the guest list also includes Ellen Sandweiss, Besty Baker and Sarah York aka Theresa Tilly, known collectively as "The Ladies of the Evil Dead." They'll be sharing the dais for panels, autograph sessions, audience Q&As, and screenings of the "Dead" films. And it's only fitting that effects wiz Tom Sullivan, production illustrator and makeup creator for the "The Evil Dead" will be on hand. Gore-mongers will want to share in the con's special tribute to Herschell Gordon Lewis, "The Godfather of Gore," who'll receive the "Flashback Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in Showmanship." Ben "The 'Reel' Gill Man" Chapman will be present, as will character actors Richard "Eegah" Kiel and Robert "Manic Cop" Z'Dar. It all starts August 2. For more info, check out: http://www.flashbackweekend.com It goes without saying, tell 'em you came at the B Monster's urging.

When Monster Kid Kerry Gammill isn't busy whipping up contemporary creatures for the movies, he makes time to celebrate vintage cinema spooks via his "Monster Kid" Website. For the woefully uninitiated, or those who've been waiting in a state of pitched anxiety for another issue of this retro cybermag, take heart, (I almost said "fear not," but it doesn't seem appropriate), Gammill's update is another fun-and-fright-filled package. Veteran monster chronicler Bill Warren (author of "Keep Watching the Skies," a comprehensive overview of sci-fi cinema), contributes "Karloff's Last Act," recounting his visits to the sets of Karloff's final four films (illustrated with pics of a polished young Warren in suit and tie!). A homey interview with 1940s Universal starlet, Peggy Moran, is a nifty feature, as is "Monsters That Never Were," a side-by-side comparison of test monster makeups with those that made the final cut (in a manner of speaking). There's a tribute to Gammill's hometown horror host, Gorgon, artist Frank Dietz's inspired doodles, and a photo spread depicting original Monster Kid Bob Burns' visit to Madame Tussaud's Universal Monster wax exhibit, with photos by Bob's better half, Kathy. Video reviews, links and a loving letters page round out the edition. You'll find it all at: http://www.monster-kid.com You don't have to be over 40 to dig it, but it helps. Tell Count Gamula the B Monster sent you!

The folks behind the world-famous Zagat's travel guide, renowned purveyors and surveyors of the nation's cuisine and pop-culture, have recently added Will "The Thrill" Viharo's haunt, The Parkway Speakeasy, to the new "Zagat's Nightlife Guide." As long-standing host of the Parkway Theater's regular and well-attended "Thrillville" screenings of vintage B movies, Will is justifiably thrilled that the Parkway rates as the "Number One Most Appealing Spot in the San Francisco Bay Area." "I don't mean movie theater," crows Viharo. "I mean all around destination. Not Number Two, Three, or Four Hundred -- you got it, Number ONE!" The life-loving, self-made lounge lizard Viharo is also quick to point out that "they specifically mention 'B movies' as one of our attributes, along with the community atmosphere, sofas, wine, beer and food, even though 'Thrillville' only presents films of that particular vintage twice a month!" A spread in the Oakland Tribune made the masses aware of the Zagat's citation. Congrats to Will and the whole Parkway crew. To find out what the heck this "Thrillville" scene is all about, check out: http://www.thrillville.net

Those rascals at Retromedia are set to release a slew of titillating titles on DVD, including, at long last, the Ed Wood-scripted "Bride and the Beast," starring Charlotte Austin as a young newlywed subconsciously drawn back to her jungle origins by her simian betrothed, and Lance Fuller as her understandably perplexed human bridegroom. (See reviews below.) Other new additions to their undeniably eclectic inventory are Bert I. Gordon's unashamedly preposterous "King Dinosaur," and a version of the Poverty Row shocker, "The Mad Monster," which, according to Retro hype, "we've reconstructed from two different print sources in an attempt to create the most complete version possible. It's not perfect, and probably never will be, but we've also added a beautiful trailer, and an audio interview with the star, Glenn Strange." As a bonus, the disk includes a second Glenn Strange/George Zucco cheapie, "The Black Raven."

Calling it nothing less than one of "the Holy Grails of horror," Retro is likewise unleashing "Deathmaster," a hard-to-find Robert "Count Yorga" Quarry thriller that's been completely restored from an original negative and features running commentary by the star. Most curious of the batch, however, is "Queen Kong," a 1976 British attempt to lampoon the legendary cinema ape. It stars Robin Askwith as struggling actor, Ray Fay (yes, Ray Fay), and English glamourpuss and former shampoo pitchwoman, Rula Lenska as film director, Luce Habit (yes, Luce Habit). Habit needs a male lead for the jungle epic she's shooting, so she Shanghais the unsuspecting Fay (or Ray, or, whatever). Hilarity ensues. Visit http://www.retromedia.org to procure these guilty pleasures And, as always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

A few years back, Hollywood bigshots Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis formed Dark Castle Entertainment, ostensibly to produce modestly budgeted remakes of 1950s and '60s horror pictures. So far, we've seen trashy rehashes of two William Castle classics, "House on Haunted Hill" and "Thirteen Ghosts." Now, director Sam Raimi, riding the crest of Spidermania, plans on teaming with his original "Evil Dead" co-producer Rob Tapert to, according to Variety, "produce low-budget SF, horror and fantasy movies," to be fully financed by Germany's Senator Entertainment. While no specific properties have been discussed, reports say that Raimi will not direct any of the films, but will instead seek out young directors or projects already in development.

A movie about the mysterious death of TV Superman George Reeves is under way at Miramax. Michael and Mark Polish (the eponymous twins of "Twin Falls, Idaho") will produce and direct the film, written by Paul Birnbaum ("The A-Team"). Though ruled a suicide, Reeves' 1959 demise has been the subject of speculative books and television programs for years. Production is expected to begin by the end of 2002. No word as yet regarding who will portray Reeves in the picture.

X-Man Hugh Jackman is interested in starring in Universal's upcoming horror feature, "Van Helsing," to be produced and directed by Stephen Sommers, he of the lucrative "Mummy" franchise. Jackman, best known as the snarling, steel-clawed Wolverine, will assume the title role as Bram Stoker's 19th century vampire hunter. According to sources, the film is likely to feature several of Universal's classic monsters.

The UPN network has a new version of "The Twilight Zone" on its fall schedule. The series will launch with a one-hour pilot directed by "Star Trek: The Next Generation" star Jonathan Frakes. "I'm so proud of it," Frakes told Sci Fi Wire, "It's an adult television show." Uh oh. It's been our experience that whenever a filmmaker points out that his product is "adult," you can bet the farm you're in for the most juvenile pandering imaginable. That may or may not be the case this time, but why should this incarnation fare any better than the last attempt at resurrecting the classic series? According to Frakes, the pilot, starring Jeremy Piven as a utility worker who develops the ability to read minds after being struck by lightning, "has that great 'Twilight Zone' cautionary tale tone." Hosting the series will be actor Forest Whitaker. Says Frakes, "The objective there was to get someone who does not remind you at all of Rod Serling [ed: Mission accomplished!] and yet brings what Forest does, which is this promise of mystery and intelligence." On the stump promoting the show, Whitaker told a preview audience, "It's a show that I've loved, and I am hopeful that we'll get into some beautiful shows together that all of you will love." Jonathan, Forest, the B Monster is beggin' ya: Worry less about making it "adult," and more about making it "good."

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sir Ben Kingsley is likely to play a leading role in the upcoming feature film based on Ray Bradbury's classic short story, "A Sound of Thunder," to be directed by Peter "The Relic," "End of Days" Hyams. Catherine "Spy Game" McCormack and Edward "Saving Private Ryan" Burns have already been cast. Shooting is expected to begin this month in Prague.

First of all, keep in mind that, when it comes to the work of H.P. Lovecraft, readers are divided into two clearly delineated camps: those who are unequivocally convinced of his macabre genius, and those who think, "Yeah, he's okay, but what's the big deal?" Much the same can be said of director Stuart Gordon's films. He burst onto filmdom's radar with "Re-Animator" in 1985. The modest, humorously lurid adaptation of Lovecraft nabbed him a prize at Cannes and a tremendous cult following, and the film ends up on many a genre-film reviewers' list of faves. And then ... "From Beyond," "Dolls," "Robot Jox," "Fortress, "Castle Freak." He's yet to follow up with a satisfying film. ("Space Truckers?" Please.) Yet, the "Re-Animator" coterie remains devoted. (Oddly, he's least-celebrated for one of his most engaging efforts, the story for the commercial smash, "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.") Now comes "Dagon," a Lovecraft adaptation Gordon initiated 17 years ago. He was unable to find financing until the Spanish backers of this production came on board. (A glance at the credits reveals that just about everyone back of the camera is Spanish except Gordon.) The film starts well, crisply paced, well-acted, just enough humor to offset the grotesque. And the premise, concerning a cloistered seaside village populated by slimy, Dagon-worshipping fish people, is enough to induce a goosebump or two. The first half of the movie is fitfully exciting, artfully shot, it's atmospheric, it's suspenseful, it's scary, it's on the 50, the 40, the 30 ... fummblllllle! It caves in to some unfathomable market demand for gratuitous gore, bare breasts and the graphic depiction of torture. I've got a strong stomach. That isn't the point. The point is that a promising, intelligent movie is sacrificed to "naughty schoolboy" titillation. Has someone conducted demographic studies proving that horror fans are so lacking in imagination that they must be shown EVERYTHING?

I have great affection for this incredibly dull film and I'll make a brief, labored attempt to explain. It's got rocketships, it's colorful (love those Crayola-hued, "Destination Moon" suits), it's cute and wistful, and the cast is great fun to watch, but I can't defend the pacing and laughable gaffs in storytelling. (Our heroes begin hatching an escape plot while their captors are still in earshot. Oh, well.) Director Lesley Selander was one of the most prolific in B-movie history, from "Hopalong Rides Again" to "The Vampire's Ghost" to "Arizona Bushwhackers." (So, what can I tell you? Cut the man some slack.) Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz and Virginia Huston fly to Mars where they find a B-movie "who's who" running the planet: Morris Ankrum, Robert Barrat, Trevor Bardette, Stanley Blystone and Tristram Coffin among others. Probably not such a bad place to live.

The short version? If you love Vincent, you'll dig this disk. If you're a Price completist, the extras are invaluable. The centerpiece is David Del Valle's filmed interview from 1987. For "reasons technical and legal," it lay on a shelf until this version was whipped into shape exclusively for DVD release. It's good to see Price looking hale and hearty in his later years, recollecting his favorite and not-so-favorite films. The DVD affords one the handy option of skipping from one specific subject of interest to another ("Corman/Poe," "William Castle," "Jacques Tourneur," etc.). Price is gracious and forthcoming, addressing laudable classics ("Laura") and less auspicious outings ("War Gods of the Deep") with equal candor. An audio interview, likewise conducted by Del Valle, is also included, as is a photo gallery composed of some 200 stills. The classic episode of the "Escape" radio series, "Three Skeleton Key," starring Price as one of a trio of sailors marooned on a rat-infested atoll, is reproduced, and it's still chilling to listen to more than 50 years after its original broadcast. Best of all are two television oddities you're unlikely to find elsewhere. "The Wild Weird World of Dr. Goldfoot" (produced and scripted by "Deke" Heyward) was a special episode of the "Shindig" series and is largely an inflated commercial for the "Goldfoot" films. Featuring Price, Harvey Lembeck, Tommy Kirk and Susan Hart, it's kitsch out the wazoo. Far more compelling is an episode of the long-lost syndicated series "Half Hour to Kill." Price is the host AND the star of this "Thriller"-like teleplay, about an atomic scientist on the lam. As directed by actor Paul Stewart, there are some artful shots, some unique twists and some truly bizarre dialogue.
http://www.alldayentertainment.com http://www.image-entertainment.com

I love Charlotte Austin. Who wouldn't adore such a B-movie trooper? "Frankenstein 1970," "The Man Who Turned to Stone," "Gorilla at Large" and, the film that pushed the limits of her resiliency, "The Bride and the Beast." "I remember feeling physically sick when I read the script," she told the B Monster. "Then I got control of myself and said, 'Now, Charlotte, you have to make your house payments.' " Remembered chiefly because it was scripted by Ed Wood, the favorite whipping boy of "bad-movie" connoisseurs, it is a painfully boring story about reincarnation (shades of "Bridey Murphy" by way of "She Creature") with newlywed Charlotte battling the urge to return to her gorilla spouse from a former life. Both Austin and co-star Lance Fuller were ill as shooting began, Fuller with pneumonia AND laryngitis. (With no voice, he mouthed the dialogue which was dubbed in later.) Producer Adrian Weiss had reams of stock jungle footage at his disposal, and ludicrous efforts to match it to the "action" of this film (including the stuffed head of a tiger mounted on a stick) make it worth seeing ... but keep your trigger finger close to that fast-forward button. "That was the nuttiest, craziest film," said Austin. "I've never worked on anything like that. I should make a movie on the making of that movie because it was hysterically funny. 'Ed Wood' was nothing compared to this."

At the start of this film, when you hear the stentorian tones of narrator Marvin Miller, you'll almost be convinced that a legitimately entertaining B-movie shocker is about to unspool. But Miller's dulcet descriptions, and stock shots of gantries, antennae, rockets and radar screens are the best things in the picture. Unless you're partial to lemurs, in which case you'll flip for Joe, the rascally specimen who skedaddles in and out of several otherwise terminally boring scenes. The plot? A new planet is discovered, and four people go to it. That's it. There's padding galore once they break out the Geiger counters, performing a scientific sweep of what might have been director Bert I. Gordon's backyard. The two seasoned female scientists in the party shriek in terror at the sight of a snake, suggesting that perhaps they weren't the steely-nerved explorers best-suited for this mission. But you gotta love the filmmaker's chutzpah: Who else but Bert Gordon would have his leading man gasp in awe, "Tyrannosaurus Rex! King Dinosaur!," while looking at an ordinary lizard from the local pet store?

This film's tortured genesis was closely scrutinized by the sci-fi literati. According to reports, following extensive production delays, director Simon Wells had to step down as filming drew to a close due to exhaustion, handing the reigns over to Gore Verbinski who added the finishing touches. Much was made of the fact that Simon is a descendent of H.G., and therefore the production would be imbued with a certain gravitas. It isn't. It's a big, handsome, curiously heartless film. The consensus among genre-film fans seems to be that "it isn't as bad as it might have been." True enough. Nor is it as GOOD as it SHOULD have been. It LOOKS good, but is that enough? Sadly, nowadays it seems to be. Comparisons to George Pal's classic version are inevitable, so let's get them out of the way. Samantha Mumba assumes the Yvette Mimieux role of a doe-eyed Eloi, and Seven-Up huckster Orlando Jones as a history spouting hologram, replaces the talking rings. Significantly, the menacing Moorlocks of the Pal film are NOT outdone by the high-tech terrors of the 2002 redo. The work of effects meister Stan Winston look rubbery and unconvincing in closeup, and even worse in CGI longshot as they skitter after the benign Eloi. Albino bad guy Jeremy Irons (or is it 1970s rock star Edgar Winter?) has the onerous task of explaining just about the entire film to hero Guy Pearce (and the audience) in one long soliloquy. On the plus side, Pearce is quite good, although he claimed in interviews that the filming was exhausting, he didn't much care for his performance, he disliked American filmmaking and was returning to his native New Zealand. So there! Alan Young, who appeared in the Pal version, makes a cameo, but don't blink or you'll miss him.

This movie's not very good, but it makes for a fascinating B-movie history lesson. For instance, many of you probably think that the drive-in movie phenomenon died abruptly as the 1950s drew to a close. Wrong! And a great debt of thanks is owed producer Sam Sherman for his attempts to pump fresh blood (play on words intended) into the waning institution. Throughout the 1970s, Sam's Independent International productions lit up drive-in screens with such lurid titles as 1971's "Horror of the Blood Monsters," a crazy pastiche of color-tinted B&W footage culled from a Filipino caveman film, stock shots of lizards and men in dinosaur suits we've seen a zillion times elsewhere, and crudely staged new scenes concocted by Sherman's most notorious partner in crime, director Al Adamson. (Adamson was murdered in mysterious circumstances a few years back, but that's grist for another treatise.) Easily the best feature of this "special edition" is Sam's audio commentary. The uninitiated might expect the recollections of an embittered B-movie "genius" whose work was misunderstood. Wrong again! Sam is terrific! Affable, wry and self-effacing, sarcastic but rarely at the expense of the people behind the scenes, he recognizes the film for what it is, a "mish-mosh" (to use his phrase) drawn from disparate sources that all involved hoped would turn a profit. His insights make it worth your while to endure the film. Case in point: When it came time to concoct a title, he sat down with pen and paper and made a list of all the words appropriate to the genre, deciding that the three most marketable were "monsters," "horror" and "blood." He scrambled the order of the words and, voila!. At one juncture, Sam realized that red, blue and green-tinted Filipino filler, padded with endless Adamson scenes of people walking, stopping, talking and walking some more, didn't make for a very coherent package. At Sam's request, Adamson rounded up family and friends and took to the streets of L.A., where they filmed themselves as vampires putting the bite on innocent citizens. These new scenes were tacked onto the existing film. Apparently, the ludicrous narration overdubbed by cult-figure Brother Theodore was supposed to explain how footage of cave-dwelling Filipino vampires and David Hewitt's space effects from "Wizard of Mars" ended up in the same film. The icing on this curious cult-movie cake is the presence of John Carradine as a pontificating scientist, gnawing the scenery to shreds, as usual.

Nine years later, Sherman and Adamson were still at it, and it's interesting to note that, while the 1980 release, "Doctor Dracula," is more polished in its presentation than "Horror of the Blood Monsters" (it would HAVE to be), it is also far less interesting. Adamson had matured a bit as a director, blocking scenes more effectively (though in one poorly cropped shot, a wayward boom mike descends into frame and lingers for several seconds), but the film has the drab look of a shoddy TV movie that no one seemed particularly interested in making. While there's no commentary this time around, Sherman may well have called this film a "mish-mosh," as well. Muddled and confusing, it's as though two films are running at once and the audience has no choice but to wait until they converge. The premise, while childish, is mildly intriguing. It seems that Svengali (treated here as a real person rather than a fictional figure) has been reincarnated, and must rely upon John Carradine's Satanic cult to supply fresh souls to sustain his longevity. Meanwhile, Dracula himself, disguised as Dr. Gregorio, has hung out his shingle across town. For reasons not entirely clear, he and Svengali dislike each other intensely, and Drac seems determined to debunk Satanism and prove that fresh blood is the only sure prescription for everlasting life. The most disturbing thing about the film is the way Carradine has aged since "Blood Monsters" was shot nine years earlier. He seems pained and distracted, and his hands have been turned to claws by crippling arthritis. (Even so, he continued to appear in films for seven more years.) An R-rated version of "Doctor Dracula" containing some (ahem) more explicit footage was released as "Lucifer's Women."

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

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

"1400 pounds of frozen fury that moves like a man!" -- Half Human

 All contents copyright The Astounding B Monster®