JULY 2003


Alex Gordon
Legendary film producer Alex Gordon died in a Hollywood hospice following a battle with cancer. He was 80. Genre-film fans will remember Alex best for such classic B movies as "The She-Creature," "Day the World Ended," "Voodoo Woman," "Atomic Submarine," "Dragstrip Girl" and many others. Gordon was a producer, screenwriter, publicist, film preservationist, and perhaps most importantly, he was a movie fan. (At one point in the late 1950s, Alex claimed he was seeing an average of 700 pictures per year). His love for the films he enjoyed as a youth was often revealed by his casting choices. For his science fiction and horror films, Alex gave roles to such Western and comedy veterans as Dick Foran, Raymond Hatton, Bob Steele, El Brendel, Jack Mulhull and "Snub" Pollard. "In a way," Gordon told the B Monster, "I was paying them back for all the enjoyment they had given me through the years."

Alex grew up in Hampstead, London, where he, brother Richard (a famed B movie producer in his own right) and boyhood friend William K. Everson (the noted film historian) regularly attended Western matinees. All three were hooked on movies. In 1939, Alex established the British Gene Autry Fan Club, and published the club magazine, "The Westerner." He even met the singing cowboy who came to England on a personal appearance tour. Soon after service in WWII, Alex and Richard moved to New York. Alex eventually settled in Hollywood in 1952. One of his first West Coast encounters was with Western actor Johny Carpenter who introduced Alex to a young Ed Wood. "When I first came to Hollywood I had two things with me," Alex recalled. "A script for 'Atomic Monster,' which became 'Bride of the Monster,' and an outline for what became 'Jail Bait.'"

Just as he was beginning his career as a film producer, Alex landed a job as publicist for Autry, co-ordinating his boyhood hero's personal appearances. He worked off-and-on for Autry thereafter. Alex's first picture was the 1954 Western "The Lawless Rider," starring Carpenter. Within a few years, Alex had partnered with the recently established American International Pictures, going on to produce some of their best-known Western, science fiction and horror films, working with such directors as Roger Corman, Spencer Gordon Bennet and Ed Cahn.

One story typical of Gordon's generosity involves George Zucco and the casting of the part of the obsessed scientist in "Voodoo Woman." "I went to Zucco's agent," Gordon remembered, "who told me that, unfortunately, he couldn't remember lines and couldn't work anymore, but that if I would agree to at least talk to him about it -- offer him the part -- that would give him a real boost. I met with him and chatted for about an hour about all his old pictures. He told me that he greatly appreciated still being wanted, but he wanted prestige roles at that point in his career. He didn't realize that he would never work again."

After working with AIP, Allied Artists, Columbia, Embassy and 20th Century Fox, producing films and taking part in film restoration work, Alex made the decision to end his career behind the camera. "Finally, I just couldn't raise any more money," he recalled. "It was the same thing with my brother. It became too difficult to raise money independently for these smaller pictures, with television [taking our audience]." It was then that Autry offered Alex his dream job helping to manage the cowboy legend's many film and music properties. Alex jumped at the chance. He became vice president of Autry's Flying A Pictures and oversaw licensing for the Gene Autry Music Group. He worked the rest of his life in the Autry offices.

On a personal note, Alex Gordon was a great friend to the B Monster, and I have many happy memories of our lengthy conversations wherein Alex would enthusiastically jump from story to story, recalling the likes of Tim McCoy, Bela Lugosi, "Bronco Billy" Anderson, Chester Morris, Marla English, Peter Lorre, Sam Arkoff, as well as the films he loved as a boy. He never lost his love for the movies, and for this we are in his debt.

Alex's wife of 46 years, Ruth, would prefer that her husband be remembered with a donation to the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, Calif., 90027-1462, or to the American Cancer Society: 1-800-ACS-2345.

Normally, to note the passing of so influential a figure, we would produce a special tribute addition to our site in honor of Alex. Happily, we did so while he was still alive, and you'll find more about Alex Gordon on these pages:
http://www.bmonster.com/profile26.html http://www.bmonster.com/cult38.html http://www.bmonster.com/scifi26.html http://www.bmonster.com/profile16.html

William Marshall
The classically trained actor best known for his portrayal of "Blacula," William Marshall, died in a Los Angeles nursing home after suffering complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 78. Born in Gary, Ind., Marshall studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio in New York, and later taught acting in college campus workshops. He won acclaim for stage portrayals of Paul Robeson and Frederick Douglass and received rave reviews in the title role of Shakespeare's "Othello," touring the U.S. and Europe. The London Sunday Times called Marshall "the best Othello of our time." He had supporting roles in many films and made numerous television appearances in such series as "Bonanza," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," Rawhide" and "Star Trek." But it is the 1972 shocker "Blacula," and its sequel "Scream, Blacula, Scream!" for which he is best known to genre-movie fans. The films re-imagined the Transylvanian Count as an African Prince stalking modern-day Los Angeles.


In our May newsletter, we solicited your thoughts concerning the rash of remakes Hollywood has in the works. Our question was prompted specifically by pending remakes of "King Kong" and "The Thing." While we don't consider our readership a cross-section of the American public and cannot provide a margin of error of plus or minus X percent, we can say that the mail ran about 2 to 1 against remaking classic sci-fi and horror films. Many salient sentiments emerged from the mail. Some held that these films (particularly "Kong") were sacrosanct, locked in time, as it were, and that placing them in a contemporary context would be ludicrous. There were long and passionate pleas to director Peter Jackson to rest on the laurels he has accrued and let "Kong" rest in peace. Others contended that if anyone deserved a chance at remaking "Kong," it was Jackson, as he is a devoted fan of the genre and a gifted artisan. As we see it, there is a collateral upside to remaking these films: Maybe they'll spark enough interest in the original "Kong" that it will FINALLY be released on DVD.

Speaking of long-awaited DVD debuts, the 1951 classic "The Thing From Another World" will finally see the light of day on DVD. Curiously, last report says that Warner Brothers is just tossing it onto the market -- no special edition, no extras, no bonus features. Why not? Arness is still hale and hearty as are co-stars William Self and Robert Cornthwaite. And they're all nice guys who I'm sure would love to talk on camera about this classic movie. Sigh. Shoddy treatment for one of the most influential pictures ever made. Look for an August release.

You can add "The Naked Jungle" to the list of remakes being developed. The 1954 version was produced by George Pal, directed by Byron Haskin and starred Charlton Heston as a South American plantation owner fending off a horde of voracious ants. The '54 film was based on the classic radio play "Leiningen versus the Ants," which starred William Conrad. It was in turn based on the much-anthologized short story, "Leiningen and the Ants." There's grist for a good film here (I always thought the Pal/Haskin take was underrated) and depending on who ends up with the rights, it could actually be a remake worth remaking. Just think, a film where the CGI would actually DRIVE the story rather than decorate it!

Heading out to one of the major sci-fi, comic or film cons? Are you a devoted Babylon 5-er? Diehard Tolkienite? Know the Klingon hierarchy backward and forward? Got your ticket and your reservation? Think you're prepared? Think again. If you've never attended a genre-con, you'd do well to check out the "SF Con Survival Kit For Neo Fans," a sci-fi etiquette handbook originally composed by one S. J. Dudley for attendees of the Spokane, Wash., WesterCon. Much of the advice is useful, some of it invaluable, a bit of it unintentionally hilarious. (At least we think it's unintentional.) Take, for example, the guidelines for approaching guest stars:

"Interrupting a meal or a serious conversation to ask for an autograph is seriously Bad Form. Don't do it.

Try to get something that's related to the Pro in question for them to sign. Someone else's book is Bad Form. Don't do it.

If you get a chance to talk with a Pro, don't monopolize them interminably. Let them end the conversation, or better, YOU end it fairly quickly. They have a lot of people to talk to in a limited amount of time ... These folks are BUSY and the few minutes alone are generally treasured. Remember that the market on boorishness has already been cornered. Use your best company manners. [If the guest star] is just sitting in the restaurant or bar, leisurely having lunch or a drink ... walk up to their table and say, 'Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk?' If they say something like 'not right now,' answer, 'OK, sorry to intrude, I'll try to catch you later,' and leave. If they say yes, introduce yourself: 'My name is: (Use your real name. Fan names sound unprofessional). Then find some kind of conversation opener such as 'I really like your work.'"

Okay, so you've managed not to offend the guy who played the Borg who gets killed in the first act of episode 12, season 2. How about your fellow attendees? The survival kit addresses these issues, as well:

"If you are wearing medieval or neo-medieval costume:

Don't wear a white, green, red, yellow or blue belt (knighthood, squire, etc.)

Don't wear a braided cord of red and black (Great Dark Horde)

If you are using heraldry ... and some stranger says to you in an outraged tone: 'THAT'S MINE!!!!,' ask if they use it in a re-enactment group and assure them that you are not intending to infringe on their rights within that group ... but this is a Con and not an event of their group. Be nice about it, and remember that some [re-enactors] use their heraldry as a business trademark ... If someone is 'in character,' try to 'support the scene.' Don't act and react to them as if they were in their everyday character, but play along with the game as much as you can."

The guidelines don't shrink from addressing weightier issues, including:

Dress: "Realize that 'sexy' is in the mind of the beholder, and bypassers might well point and laugh."

Drink: "Don't get sloppy in public."

Promiscuity: "Jailbait is jailbait, and Mommy and Daddy are probably at the Con. Convention participants often act and dress in an intentionally erotic fashion, creating an atmosphere of open and casual sexuality. But be warned, all is not as it seems. Understand that to most attendees a con is a 'safe' zone where they can act in an exaggerated manner without fear of the normal consequences. People at conventions tend to flirt a lot, but only about 10% of these activities approach anything serious. For most people here, flirting is little more than a game, and sometimes a show of friendly affection."

Whew! Thanks for telling me! The Survival Kit saves what is perhaps its most important directive for last: "Don't take yourself too seriously." If only!

You can brush up your on your geek etiquette at:

Baltimore's Shore Leave 25 convention, which takes place July 11-13, 2003, boasts a guest roster that includes John Rhys-Davies, Marina Sirtis, Andrea Thompson and Marc Singer. The guest page carries the obligatory disclaimer stating that, "All guest appearances are subject to cancellation due to professional commitments," and there's an entire section of the con Web site -- "Convention 101" -- instructing convention-goers on preparedness and good behavior. For instance:

"Bring a change of clothes for every day you'll be at the con, along with the other essentials you usually take when you're spending the weekend somewhere -- toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc." (Do attendees REALLY need to be reminded to brush their teeth and change their clothes?) There are also tips for cost-cutting (there had BETTER be. It's 50 bucks just to get in plus $104 per night to stay at the hotel!). These include bringing your own food and sodas, extra sleeping bags and towels or possibly volunteering at the convention.

If this advice seems less than insightful, the rules pertaining to celeb autographs are positively Draconian:

"The hours of the autograph lines will be listed in your Pocket Program Guide, which you will receive when you register at the convention. Since these hours depend on the travel schedule of the guests, which sometimes can change on short notice, they cannot be announced much in advance of the convention.

The Autograph line will be formed as badge numbers are announced. Lowest numbers are called and form the line first.

One autograph, per guest, per day, per membership during the official autograph sessions. This is subject to on-site agreement with the guests. Generally, no personalization is allowed.

No posed photographs with the guests during the official autograph sessions. No flash photography is allowed.

Individuals with disabilities who need special accommodations to receive an autograph must register at the pre-registration desk prior to the official autograph sessions. Individuals then report to the front of the autograph line when the number range for their badge number is announced.

Autographs are not guaranteed, and are subject to guest availability and cooperation."

So, I make 15 Spam sandwiches, stock a cooler with a dozen Mountain Dews, travel hundreds of miles, shell out 50 bucks for admission and more than $300 for accommodations and I'm STILL not guaranteed an autograph? Is the guy who played General Martok on "Deep Space 9" REALLY that overwhelmed?

The con's Web site also boasts (or maybe "warns" is a better word) that filmmakers will be shooting footage for "Trekkies 2," a sequel to the cult-hit documentary "Trekkies" which subjected the dedication of "Star Trek" devotees to ridicule -- or maybe "Trek" fans didn't see it that way.
For more information check out: http://www.shore-leave.com/

Multnomah County, Ore., recently put out a call for Klingon language experts. The county office charged with handling mental health cases had included Klingon, the tongue spoken by the Klingons of "Star Trek" fame, in a list of 55 languages that might be used by incoming patients, according to the Associated Press. Multnomah County officials have since cancelled the order, and County Chairperson Diane Linn wants it known that no public money was spent on the idea. Linn told the AP that the call for Klingon interpreters was "a mistake, and a result of an overzealous attempt to ensure that our safety net systems can respond to all customers and clients."

The "Monsters Among Us Summer Extravaganza" gets under way July 5 in Los Angeles. The horror, sci-fi, model, toy and film expo takes place at the Radisson LAX on West Century Blvd near LAX Airport. It's billed as, "a celebration of horror, sci-fi, mystery, mayhem, monsters, vampires, model kits, books, magazines, toys, posters, memorabilia, and much more," and, as seems to be the heartening trend lately, promoters declare "this show is open to all ages!" (Why then is one 7:00 pm screening off limits to anyone under 18? And I wouldn't categorize the "artistic nudity" of convention guest Syn Devil as family fare.) Anyhoo, the dealers room sounds humongous, and the guest list is an enticing mix of personalities:

Hammer glamour queen and one-time Bond babe Caroline Munro
Maila Nurmi aka Vampira, famed late-night horror hostess and veteran of Ed Wood's "Plan 9"
The "Lost in Space" robot and the man who inhabited its tin carcass, Bob May
Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick and Ivonna, partners in a project called "Macabre Theater"
Scream Queens Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley
Reggie Bannister of "Phantasm" fame
Horror and fantasy artist Bernie Wrightson
Artist, screenwriter Frank Dietz (who has just completed a terrific new edition of his "Sketchy Things")
"Dawn of the Dead" star Ken Foree And many others.

There's also a model-building contest offering cash prizes! "Contest entries will be viewed by an all-age audience. Start building your kits today!" You can find out more at:
And naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

"Farscape," "Invisible Man," "Firefly," "Stargate SG-1," "Birds of Prey," "John Doe," all of them sci-fi and fantasy programs that were recently cancelled for one reason or another. But for every show that's dumped, two more stale concepts seem to take its place. For instance, according to Variety, UPN has axed their "Twilight Zone" series after just one season. To sate the appetites of sci-fi fans, they'll offer a new, one-hour drama series called "Jake 2.0," which chronicles the adventures of an NSA agent with computer chip implants that give him special powers. Wow, a bionically-enhanced super agent. THAT's never been done before. And on FOX, Eliza Dushku, late of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," (also cancelled), will star as Tru Davies in "Tru Calling," a fantasy series about a young woman with psychic abilities. How did sci-fi fans come by this reputation for being so demanding and discriminating? If it's true, why aren't they demanding fresher material than this?

Spike Lee is in a pitched legal battle with the TNN network over their desire to change their handle to the edgier-sounding "Spike TV." Ordinarily, this would be of no interest to us, but the program reported to be the jewel in TNN's new "cutting-edge" crown is "Stan Lee's Stripperella," the animated adventures of a stripper/superheroine based on Pamela Anderson and created for TNN by the famed Marvel Comics maven. The program will be part of the network's adult animation programming block. Taglines promoting the show read, "Hide the kids and join the fun" and "get a lap-dance from Stripperella (from 'Spiderman' creator Stan Lee.") Lee recently told a convention audience, "Everybody said, 'but Stan, you gotta do something with super-heroes.' So I figured OK, if I have to do super-heroes we'll let her be a super-heroine. But ... she'll be an exotic, erotic super-heroine." One plotline involves an evil plastic surgeon named Dr. Cesarean who implants unsuspecting models with nitroglycerin causing their breasts to explode. (Hardy har har.) Stripperella crushes bad guys with her thighs and sports a breast mounted lie detector and tongue scanner. When asked about the character's costume, Lee said, "She doesn't wear too many clothes."

On a related note, I'm suing everyone that uses "B" in their name. (I'm talking to you, B&B Baked Beans! Hope you've got a good lawyer, Honey Nut Cheerios Bee!)

"Freak of science or freak of nature?" I honestly don't know what category "Mon*Star," a strange and defiantly uncategorizable short film falls into. And maybe that's the point. Running just shy of 10 minutes, "Mon*Star" is largely the work of Orlando-based independent filmmaker Glenn S. Abbott, who wrote, directed and scored the offbeat short. The hype calls it a "sci-fi monster musical," chronicling the folly of a pompous scientist who brings to earth a creature born in a comet. The wacky doc, the eponymous creature and the fighter pilots who attack him all belt out pop-rock show tunes. The Mon*Star -- and I feel compelled to attempt a description -- looks alarmingly like a human head protruding from the rectum of a giant plucked chicken. Despite this unsettling visual, the filmmakers pull off some inventive effects on a modest budget. Abbott says, "I made this film with a great love for giant monster films." We believe him. Find out more at: http://www.soulbone.com/pages/monstar.html

Oh boy, oh boy! Another Hannibal Lecter film is in the works! That's right, the moviegoing public's infatuation with serial killers will be requited. Producer Dino De Laurentiis has announced that "The Lecter Variation: The Story of Young Hannibal Lecter," will be a major motion picture -- even though author Thomas Harris hasn't even written it yet. (Incidentally, this is nothing new. Many books are optioned sight unseen.) The story will chronicle the life of America's favorite cannibal from age 12 (serial killers are so cute at that age) to 25. According to Reuters, it's likely that Sir Anthony Hopkins will not be involved in this prequel to the sequel's prequel.


This is among the first in a series of ill-matched double-bills from Dreamworks. It's difficult to think of two genre-films more dissimilar. "12 Monkeys" features Terry Gilliam's peculiar brand of meandering, fanciful storytelling, "The Thing" is John Carpenter's "go-for-the-gore" interpretation of John Campbell's classic story "Who Goes There?"

Terry Gilliam's cinema is undeniably unique, filled with eccentric characters, auspicious plot turns and rococo visual flourishes. These attributes are common to all of his films. Also, without exception, his films are too long. "The Fisher King" was initially moving, then ran off the rails midway through, straining the credibility it had accrued. Gilliam's "Baron Munchausen" was entertaining enough, but it was also eccentric for the sake of being eccentric. (It may be his most representative film, sort of a puppet show with human beings.) "12 Monkeys" is likewise too long, also eccentric and garnished with imaginative bric-a-brac, but it could be his best movie. Based on the French film "Le Jettee," it features Bruce Willis as a convict sent back in time to staunch a deadly plague that would ravage mankind, a premise that, if not completely original, is nonetheless intriguing. The production design and art direction by Jeffrey Beecroft and William Ladd Skinner, respectively, deserve much credit for creating a palpably dreary, futuristic mise en scene. Certainly the "look" of the film has a great deal to do with its cult status. The performances of Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Plummer and yes, even Brad Pitt, are credible. But the plot just kind of slips out in dribs and drabs. In short, it should not have taken 129 minutes to tell this story.

John W. Campbell's novella, "Who Goes There?" inspired the 1951 "The Thing From Another World." Producer Howard Hawks used only its basic premise to fashion THE textbook horror picture. Thirty-one years later, director John Carpenter decided to make a more faithful version of Campbell's story, yet retain the title of Hawks' original, we suppose, as an homage. Where Hawks and company ratcheted up the suspense by showing as little of the Thing as possible (in shadow or in shocking, brief glimpses), Carpenter took things in the opposite direction, ramping up the gore and populating the story with macho wiseacres like Kurt Russell. It's half a decent movie. Rob Bottin (and about a squillion other artisans) cooked up some mind-blowing, stomach-turning effects, and Carpenter's adolescent gusto is evident. He LOVES this material -- the goo and the gore and the wild heroics -- maybe a little TOO much to make a truly scary movie. His films are like caricatures of horror movies, distorting the vernacular, winking at the conventions of the genre while simultaneously mining it for thrills. I think that's why his version of "The Thing" seems incomplete.

This certainly strikes us as an odd pairing, the humdrum retelling of the H.G. Wells classic packaged with perhaps Jackie Chan's worst film.

As directed by Simon Wells (with an assist from Gore Verbinski), who is descended from H.G. himself, "The Time Machine" is certainly a fine LOOKING movie at first glance, but it's curiously hollow. The script makes it difficult to identify with any of the characters; we're just not granted the time. It's clear that slam-bang CGI wizardry is what's for sale here, and a great many special effects are crammed into the film. One would expect this of a movie in which the protagonist traverses many centuries, but, if we don't care what happens to the protagonist, what purpose does it serve other than a purely cosmetic one? For the record, Guy Pearce, who delivers an adequate performance, said himself that he found the filming arduous, he didn't much care for his performance, he disliked American filmmaking and was returning to his native "down under," ASAP! We won't bother comparing the overall film to George Pal's classic 1960 version. It simply wouldn't be fair. But isolated aspects bear comparison. Significantly, the savage Morlocks of the Pal version are NOT outdone by the rubbery creations in the 2002 film. And Jeremy Irons, done up in striking albino makeup, has the dubious task of taking a deep breath and explaining EVERY loose end and plot hole to Pearce (and the audience) in one looooong speech. That's just not good storytelling. I get the feeling that thematically it was tugged in one direction then another, its script doctored and changed, and, in the end, cobbled together rather hastily.

There's really no excuse for "The Tuxedo," which pairs internationally beloved martial artist and actor Jackie Chan with cutey-pie Jennifer Love Hewitt. Who thought this was a good idea? Hewitt may be an endearing gal next door, but a secret agent facing off against a super-villain? Awkward casting notwithstanding, the plot is -- well, hackneyed is one word. This rich secret agent guy has this special suit that falls into the possession of his valet (Chan). The suit is wired with hi-tech computer circuitry that takes possession of the wearer's limbs and appendages, transforming him into a martial arts machine. Chan's natural kinetic prowess is employed to supposed comic effect as he struggles to control the suit instead of the other way around. Does hilarity ensue? Sadly, no. Hollywood seems determined not to let Jackie Chan make a "Jackie Chan movie." Time and again, he's saddled with conventions and contrivances that are Hollywood's idea of what the public wants. For instance, why does Jackie need a gal-pal comic foil when Chan himself is a brilliant comic actor? And Chan's Asian films generally play the violence for laughs; the American films add a dark note of sadism to Chan's screen opponents that is absent from his Hong Kong actioners. Let Jackie be Jackie! It's sad to see him shoved into this trifle of a film that would have gone straight to cable were he not the star. He proved with "Rush Hour" that he could take on a formula Hollywood action film and make it his own. But each American film since that success has been a subtle step down. Step up, Jackie!

If you've seen "The Iron Giant," then you know how good it is. If you haven't seen it, shame on you. Here's the "Special Edition," affording you a chance to redeem yourself. It's imaginative, it's moving, it was sorely underrated when released and its studio did a miserable job of promoting it. Maybe they thought it just wasn't "edgy" enough for today's sophisticated juveniles. They may be right, but I pray they're wrong. Buy it. Watch it. If only they made live-action movies with half as much heart as this film.


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

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

Joe Dante

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

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

Ron Osborn

David J. Schow http://charon.gothic.net/~chromo/

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


"Her honeymoon turned into a nightmare of horror!" -- The Alligator People

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