JULY 2005


Robert Clarke
Genre-film icon Robert Clarke, whose performances in such B-movie classics as "The Hideous Sun Demon," "The Man From Planet X" and "Beyond the Time Barrier" endeared him to a generation of monster lovers, died of natural causes in Valley Village, Calif. He was 85. Few movie journeymen had credentials that compare to Clarke's. He appeared with an impressive roster of actors, including Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, John Carradine, Clark Gable, John Wayne and Randolph Scott. Born in Oklahoma City, Clarke was infatuated with films from an early age. "I'd wanted to be in movies since I was 12 years old," he once told the B Monster, citing Tom Mix, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Buck Jones as early influences. Clark Gable and Robert Taylor were later role models. He performed in radio plays at the University of Oklahoma and appeared on stage at the University of Wisconsin. He thumbed a ride to Hollywood, made a series of screen tests and became an RKO contract player. His first movie role was in the 1944 programmer "The Falcon In Hollywood." His list of horror and sci-fi credits began the following year when he appeared in "Zombies on Broadway," featuring Lugosi, and in "The Body Snatcher," with Lugosi and Karloff. In 1946, he had a showy supporting role in "Bedlam," also starring Karloff. Clarke had fond memories of working with Karloff in the low-budget 1947 potboiler "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome." "It was at the end of that picture [and] they did what they call a wrap party," he recalled. "Hardly a party on this occasion. A bare, empty stage at the RKO studios, somebody had brought a couple of plates of cold cuts and such. Kind of shabby is what I'm trying to say. Mr. Karloff was standing there with 8 x 10s, signed to anyone who would like to have one. And on mine he said to me -- and of course I treasure it so greatly -- 'To Bob Clarke. Be as lucky as I am.' "

Clarke worked steadily throughout the 1940s and '50s in Tim Holt Westerns and such period adventures as "The Black Pirates," "Sword of Venus" and "Tales of Robin Hood." It was the ultra low-budget science-fiction film "The Man From Planet X" that ensured his identification with genre movies. Directed by the talented and temperamental Edgar G. Ulmer, the picture was completed in less than a week and Clarke was paid $208 for his work. "Margaret Field ... William Schallert and I got the Screen Actors Guild minimum for a week, $175," he remembered. "But quite frankly, if I'd had the $208, I would have paid them to let me do the part." The following year, Clarke appeared with Schallert and Field in "Captive Women," a futuristic film from the same production team.

Clarke first worked with cheapskate producer/director Jerry Warren in 1957's "The Incredible Petrified World." "Oh god. A screaming idiot!" Clarke said of Warren. That same year, he appeared in director Ronnie Ashcroft's threadbare shocker "The Astounding She Monster." Following his appearance in this hastily made story of a one-women "invasion," Clarke realized that there were drive-in dollars to be made with minimal investment. Instinct told him that an actor of his experience could turn out a film at least as good as "The Astounding She Monster." "Because 'Astounding She Monster' was so bad," he recalled, "I said, 'God, I can make a better film than that.' It inspired me to do the 'Sun Demon.' " Clarke took filmmaking courses and enlisted a band of aspiring young filmmakers to produce the modestly budgeted, efficient thriller, "The Hideous Sun Demon." This was shortly after he'd married Alyce King of the singing King Family. "When Alyce and I were first married, I took our last $5,000 and started making this movie," he said. Clarke struck a deal with a distributor who went belly up soon after, costing Clarke his investment.

Clarke produced and starred in 1960's "Beyond the Time Barrier," directed by Ulmer with ingenuity that disguised the meager budget, and in 1962, worked again with Jerry Warren on another of the director's patchwork thrillers, "Terror of the Bloodhunters." Clarke also worked steadily in television throughout the 1950s and '60s, appearing on such programs as "77 Sunset Strip," "Hawaiian Eye," "Sea Hunt," "Cheyenne," "Perry Mason," "General Hospital," "Dragnet" and many others. He again worked with Warren in the 1981 shlocker "Frankenstein Island," which also featured Steve Brodie, Cameron Mitchell, Andrew Duggan and John Carradine.

Clarke's career saw something of resurgence in the 1980s and '90s when such young directors, producers and collectors as Fred Olen Ray, Wade Williams, Gary Don Rhodes and Ted Newsom cast Clarke in their film homages to the movies they grew up watching. Clarke began appearing at autograph shows and genre conventions around the country, and there was even talk of a "Sun Demon" sequel. This period culminated with the publication of Clarke's memoirs, "To 'B' or Not to 'B': A Film Actor's Odyssey," written in collaboration with Tom Weaver and published in 1996.

If you'll indulge a personal note, Bob Clarke was very good to the B Monster: generous, hospitable to a fault, funny, piercingly candid. Those of us who came of age with "Shock Theater" and various regional "Creature Feature" programs -- which screened many of Clarke's films -- tend to think of ourselves as the first truly zealous "film fanatics." Not so. Bob Clarke had us beat by a generation, and it was great to see him enthused about them into his final years.

Ron Randell
Ron Randell, an actor perhaps best known to cult-film fans for his roles in "The She-Creature," "Captive Women" and "Most Dangerous Man Alive," has died. He was 86. Born in Sydney, Australia, Randell began his career with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He first appeared on stage in the late 1930s. He received good notices and caught the attention of Hollywood. He made his American screen debut in 1947, sharing the screen with Ginger Rogers and Cornel Wilde in "It Had to Be You." Randell also appeared as detective Bulldog Drummond in two films that same year. He later appeared as another roguish detective, The Lone Wolf. Randell had occasional parts in such "A" features as "Lorna Doone" and "Kiss Me Kate" (as Cole Porter, no less) but was more familiar to B-movie audiences. He appeared with Robert Clarke in the post-apocalyptic "Captive Women" in 1952, played a police Lieutenant in producer Alex Gordon's cult-classic, "The She-Creature," and the bitter, wheelchair-bound brother of Marie Windsor in "The Girl in Black Stockings" (both 1957). Randell played the title role in the 1961 sci-fi thriller "Most Dangerous Man Alive," which was the final film of veteran director Allan Dwan. Randell also appeared in "King of Kings," "The Longest Day" and cult director Russ Meyer's "The Seven Minutes." His television work included appearances on such programs as "Gunsmoke," "The Outer Limits," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "Perry Mason" and "Mission: Impossible."

John Fiedler
Character actor John Fiedler has died at 80. Jan Merlin, best known as Roger Manning of the classic "Tom Corbett Space Cadet" series, contributes the following special remembrance for B Monster readers:

John Fiedler's death at 80 is a shock to me, for we were both students at New York's famed Neighborhood Playhhouse School of the Theater after the war in 1946, learning to become actors. He remained unchanged throughout all the years afterwards, retaining his sweet aura and sincerity. I was delighted when I got him hired as the little mental giant, Alfie Higgins, for the "Tom Corbett Space Cadet" series to appear from time to time as a regular cadet. He was beloved by the fans of the show, his high, piping voice and serious demeanor as Alfie were unmistakable, and instantly recognizable when he was providing the voice for Piglet in Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" cartoons. In these past years, Frankie Thomas and I had often tried to get him to do one of our radio show recreations or even just show up at a festival, but Johnny preferred to decline. He wouldn't reply to any message we sent him. I guess he was too ill and simply didn't want us to know about it.

While he was out here doing films, I failed to see him socially, but did get to work with him once in "Guns of Diablo," in which he played one of his many fine character roles. His absence is everyone's loss. I wrote his part into the radio recreation we'll be doing at the Williamsburg Festival next March, and hoped to coax him into attending ... but he didn't respond, and Ben Cooper has accepted to play it instead. We'll be thinking of him in March, and Ben will attempt to bring him to life again. But no one could be the same Alfie Higgins that Johhny created.

"Spaceman's Luck," Johnny. We'll miss you, but you'll never be gone.
Jan Merlin aka "Roger Manning"


According to the National Historic Trust, the Ennis-Brown House, the unique Los Angeles structure designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and seen as the exterior of the "House on Haunted Hill" in the 1959 shocker, is one of the 11 most endangered historic places in America. "The Black Cat" (1934), "Blade Runner" and "Day of the Locust" are among the other films to utilize the structure's striking facade of interlocking concrete blocks. According to Richard Moe, president of the National Trust, "If we don't take steps immediately to halt the deterioration of this marvelous house and restore it to its original elegance, we will rob future generations of the opportunity to experience the visionary work of a true genius." Environmental hazards common to Southern California -- earthquakes, mudslides pollution -- have taken their toll over the years, and a previous owner applied a sealant to the walls that trapped moisture inside, causing the steel bars that reinforce the walls to rust and the blocks to split. Last year's record-breaking rainfall caused even more damage to the house, which is perched in the Los Feliz hills above Los Angeles proper.

Constructed in 1924, the house is the last of four that Wright designed that were built of interlocking, pre-cast concrete blocks stacked without mortar. The Trust says the building needs to be immediately stabilized. Cost: $5 million. It has been declared unsafe and is presently closed to the public, cutting off a source of revenue that could be applied to restoration costs. The cost of total restoration could approach $15 million. For more information, visit:
Let 'em know the B Monster spread the alarm!

Will "The Thrill" Viharo, that life-lovin' lounge lizard and ghost host with the most, recently unveiled the schedule for this Halloween season's Horror Host Palooza. Will regularly holds court at the Bay Area's Parkway Theater, screening vintage cult movies and engaging in onstage antics with guest stars and his lovely bride, Monika, Tiki Goddess. "The Thrill" kicks off this Fall's festival Oct. 13 at the Parkway, accompanied by West Coast legend John "Creature Features" Stanley, Doktor Ghoulfinger, and Mr. Lobo. Augmenting this august lineup, according to Will, will be "San Francisco's cable access horror hottie, Ms. Monster, and, all the way from the Mad Midwest, my fez brother Rock 'N' Roll Ray." The evening's entertainment includes screenings of Al Adamson's "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" and Ted V. Mikel's cult favorite "Astro Zombies." All this, plus live Theremin by Robert Silverman.

Will takes the show on the road Friday, Oct. 28, with a live performance at Copia, The American Center For Wine, Food & the Arts in Napa, Calif. Billing the happening as a "Halloween Fiesta," "The Thrill" will screen the Mexican wrestling "classic" "Santo vs. the Vampire Women," abetted by Doktor Goulfinger and Mr. Lobo, "with special musical guests, psychedelic surf band Pollo Del Mar plus a special appearance by Guillermo El Thrillermo!" Watch this space for further developments, as there's never a dull moment in the universe of Will "The Thrill." For more info, patronize any and all of the following links:
Tell one and all the B Monster sent you!

Many B Monster readers are already familiar with the work of Frank Dietz, a prolific caricaturist, screenwriter, actor, animator and tireless classic monster booster. When he isn't busy designing characters for big-budget features, such as Disney's "Hercules," "Mulan," "Tarzan" and "Treasure Planet," you might find him showcasing his inspired caricatures of vintage film monsters at "Wonderfest" and "Monster Bash." Dietz has also recently forged a promising alliance with a like-minded entrepreneur. "The big news," says Dietz, "is that I will be joining forces with Kenneth J. Hall at BV Entertainment to create an exciting new line of independent horror feature films." Hall is the writer-director of "Halfway House," which Frank describes as "a terrific homage to the glorious exploitation films of the past." Hall recently clinched a distribution deal for the film, which, according to Dietz, was greeted with "critical raves."

The first title to be produced by the Dietz-Hall alliance is "Preggers," described by Frank as "a fresh take on the monster baby concept with a delicious twist. Ken and I are collaborating on the screenplay, and Ken will direct this summer." Next up is "Spider People," directed by Hall from a script by Dietz. Says Frank, "I'm thrilled to be returning to the world of live-action monster movies, and plan to bring the same enthusiasm and dedication to these projects that I've brought to all my previous endeavors."

Yet another pet project is Frank's computer animated mini-movie "Underbelly," marketed in DVD format to be watched on home computer screens. "Underbelly" chronicles the exploits of Cat, a teenage girl transported to a strange alternate universe. In this dangerous netherworld, the enterprising young heroine encounters zombies, giant apes and dinosaurs. Voice talent, sounds effects and a music score complement Frank's eye-catching animation.

You can learn more about Frank and his varied endeavors at:
For more on Hall and his "Halfway House," visit:
Make a point of telling 'em the B Monster sent you!

Maybe it's a sign of a burgeoning economy that admission prices to horror and sci-fi cons are creeping higher. After all, promoters have to rent the space, fly in guests, secure accommodations, purchase insurance, print campaign materials, badges and shirts. I suppose none of that stuff is getting any cheaper. The overhead must be incredible. The bump in prices hasn't deterred the teeming throngs (I've always wanted to use that phrase in a sentence and may never have the chance again) that queue up to get into your typical genre con. And they throng from every strata of society, from kiddies in Spider-Man masks to burly, tattooed men that look like the love children of Hitler and Grace Jones. I guess it depends on how much you earn, how far you have to travel, and how badly you want that "mint-in-box" "Phantasm III" action figure. Horror fans are devoted to their hobby, as are many of the folks who stage the conventions, their passion superceding their profit motive. "It roughly costs $20,000 to do a Monster Bash," says the brains behind The Bash, Ron Adams. "But this year it's up to around 40k, which means there is no way I'll make money! Too many airfares and appearance fees." The Chiller Theatre con states on their official Web site that, while their ticket prices were boosted a bit a couple of years ago, they have "not raised prices in many years, despite increased costs of security, airfares, hotels and everything else necessary in order to run the expo. In order to continue to bring in great guests and provide a safe and fun environment for everyone, prices needed to be increased." Says Dave Hagan, the chief organizer of Monster-Mania, "We specifically don't do 'Gold Circle Seats' or anything at all like that because we want to be affordable for everyone. We've kept our ticket costs at $15 a day, $30 for 3 days, since the first show, despite the rising costs and the much more expensive guest list." When asked about the exorbitant entry fees to "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" oriented cons, Hagan believes that the organizers "aren't fans first, but businessmen. With us, it's not done to be our livelihood (we all have our own full-time jobs), it's done for the love of the genre. If I had to pay my bills from the profits of our shows, I'd be in a cardboard box!"
http://www.creepyclassics.com/ bash.html

Baltimore's Horrorfind Weekend 2005 gets started at 5:00 pm, Friday, August 19 at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn located in picturesque Hunt Valley, Md., mere minutes from Charm City proper. Among the highlights you can expect are a costume ball and contest, an overstuffed dealer's room, celebrity Q&As, free horror movies screenings, horror author readings and signings, seminars on the supernatural, prize giveaways and live entertainment at Frankie & Vinnie's Werewolf Inn. This year, the self-described "Spookiest Show on Earth" has a guest list that includes:

-- Bruce Campbell, modern horror icon and Sam Raimi tackling dummy
-- "Phantasm" and "Bubba Ho-Tep" director Don Coscarelli
-- "Evil Dead" alums Hal Delrich, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker and Sarah York
-- "Evil Dead" prop and effects maestro Tom Sullivan
-- Actor Ted Raimi, featured player in Sam's "Army of Darkness," and "Xena"
-- "Wishmaster's" Andrew Divoff
-- "Squirm" director Jeff Lieberman
-- The "Re-animator" himself, Jeffrey Combs
-- "Dawn of the Dead's" Ken Foree
-- Doug "Pinhead" Bradley
-- Sybil Danning of "Howling II" fame
-- Gore effects and makeup master Tom Savini
-- Lynn Lowry, as seen in "The Crazies"
-- Scream queen Brinke Stevens
-- "Phantasm" star Reggie Bannister
All this, plus homegrown horror host Count Gore.

Among the authors participating in signings and readings are Brian Lumley, Matthew Warner, Brian Keene, Steve Wedel and Michael Laimo. Also attending are Leonard Pickel, the man behind Haunted Attraction Magazine and Jen Sharlow, PR rep for "Nightmare at PineHaven Farm," a live haunted attraction billed as "the largest Halloween event in Minnesota."

A weekend pass is 40 bucks, $20 per day at the door. Kids under 10 get in for half price. For more info, check out:
Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

I honestly don't know how the ticket prices are determined for these things. What I DO know is that you gotta love the various TV incarnations of Superman to make this convention worth the price of duckets. The Tampa Vulkon Kryptkon is being staged at the Tampa Doubletree Hotel, and it appears they hope to appeal to Supe fans of all generations as a quick scan of the guest list indicates:

-- John Schneider, "Smallville's" Jonathan Kent (Saturday only)
-- Erica Durance, "Smallville's" Lois Lane (Sunday only)
-- Margot Kidder, Lois Lane to Christopher Reeve's 1979 Superman (Saturday and Sunday)
-- Gerard Christopher, who portrayed "Superboy" in the short-lived teleseries
-- Last and best, Noel Neill, beloved as Lois Lane on the classic 1950s series "The Adventures of Superman"

A weekend pass covering Saturday and Sunday is just ... $95.00! Gulp! According to the con's Web site, "your Gold Weekend Ticket includes reserved, up-front seating in rows 1-15 as well as one autograph from John Schneider, one from Margot Kidder, and one autograph from Erica Durance." There are also package deals for various price levels. $75 gets you reserved seating in rows 16-29, as well as one autograph from John Schneider and one autograph from Erica Durance. A Saturday-only $50 ticket includes reserved seating in rows 30 and up and one autograph from John Schneider. A Sunday-only $50 ticket covers reserved seating in rows 30 and up and one autograph from Erica Durance. Or, you can pay 25 bucks a day or $40 for the weekend and mingle with the untouchables.

You also have to take care to "order early for lower badge numbers and best seating since we call by rows during the autograph sessions." And, although kids 12 and under get in free (one per paying adult), they're not entitled to an autograph. "If you want your child to get an autograph," says the Web site, "a normal adult ticket must be purchased." Define "normal adult." Will there be any in attendance?

I have no way of determining the drawing power of Schneider and Durance or what salaries they command, I just want to know how you rationalize asking your average, hard-working Superman fan to fork over $95.00 (plus travel costs and at least 80 bucks a night for a room) just to have the guy who plays the dad on "Smallville" sign a glossy for his kid. Aw, have a heart, Kryptkon. I guess it's like the old showbiz song says, "anything the traffic will allow!"

ADDENDUM: Perhaps the traffic didn't allow for a $95.00 admission fee. No sooner had this item been written than Kryptcon was abruptly canceled. There was no explanation posted at the Vulkon Web site, only a note saying "Please check back here for refund information ..."

OK, how much do you love "Star Trek?" I mean, how much in dollars? Here's an enterprise that'll burn through your billfold like a phaser burns through ... well, whatever they're capable of burning through. Why not skip a mortgage payment or two and attend the Fourth Annual Star Trek Las Vegas Convention this August 11-14 at the Las Vegas Hilton? We're here to help you budget your money.

It's a huge con with numerous celebrity guests including:
-- Patrick Stewart
-- William Shatner
-- Kate Mulgrew
-- Avery Brooks
-- Jonathan Frakes
-- Michael Dorn
-- Armin Shimerman
-- Jeffrey Combs
-- Corbin Bernsen
-- Dean Haglund
-- Rene Auberjonois
-- James Darren
There's a bunch more, but most of them are unknown to me.

There are lots of Trek-related special events, concerts and confabs. The promoters, Creation Entertainment, point out that "every patron, no matter what bracket of ticket they purchase, will have a seat in the main auditorium where the major guests appear and events take place. Nothing upsets us more than hearing about other conventions that sell tickets to patrons and then those very same patrons have to wait on additional lines inside the facility." Sounds like a considerate gesture. What's the catch? Well, the "Preferred Weekend Package" is $239.00 per person. And that's the CHEAP ticket! "Gold Weekend Packages" went for $599.00 -- and they sold out MONTHS ago! If you want to attend Thursday Happy Hour with Trek celebs, it's an additional $60.00. Friday Happy Hour, another $60.00. Want to hear the concert? A reserved seat is $65.00. The "Friday Night Bash? Another $109.00. Sunday morning Brunch? $65.00 (this event does include a charity silent auction).

So, you take the plunge, you're at the con and you want an autograph. No problem. Patrick Stewart's signature is just $75.00. Shatner's is a mere $60.00. Jonathan Frakes? Also $60.00. Kate Mulgrew a paltry $50.00. Nana Visitor? $30.00. Michael Dorn? $25.00. (The convention Web site contains this footnote: "Please note: Michael has refrained from signing certain products at conventions." Like what?) "Time Tunnel" teen idol James Darren commands $40.00 while Armin Shimerman gets just $20.00, as does Corbin Bernsen. Casey Biggs only merits 15 bucks. A few of the celeb autographs are included in the price of the "Gold" package, but beware another footnote: "Please note that autograph tickets may be slightly higher at the convention." Take heart, Casey Biggs; you may get your price up to 20 bucks by showtime.

Of course, if you want your photo taken with a celeb, well ... Shatner will cost you $70.00, Mulgrew is $60.00, Frakes is $50.00. The lowest price -- covering lots of supporting players you may or may not be familiar with -- is $35.00.

So, let's say me and my kid each want a Gold Weekend package, we want to hear the concert, attend one of the happy hours, get Patrick Stewart's autograph, get William Shatner's autograph and stay three nights at the hotel. Why, that's just over $3,000. Plus a few hours drive to the con with gas averaging about $2.50 a gallon on top of parking costs. That seems fair. We don't need to eat.

Interesting sidebar: The final episode of "Star Trek: Enterprise," the last gasp of the dying, 40-year-old "Star Trek" franchise, attracted just 2.9 million viewers. This is a teeny tiny audience by TV standards and one of the lowest in the series' history. To put things in perspective, that same week, the crappy, pandering, ludicrous "American Idol" drew 27 million viewers.

You're familiar with Chiller, Monster Bash, Monstermania, Screamfest, Horrorfind, etc. You've heard of Megacon, Comicon, Galacticon, Balticon? But are you aware of (and we're not making this up) ConComCon? They call it "C Cubed for short, and it's "the Northwest's premier conference for convention planners by convention planners." The Seattle-based show provides conventioneers a venue where they can "network with other local convention runners, exchange ideas on how to make conventions run more effectively, and talk about fandom in general. Whether you have been running conventions for years, or you are completely new to convention running and you want to get your foot in the door, come on down and join us!" The ConComCon crew has been doing this for 12 years! For more info visit:

The multi-faceted Bob Tinnell, movie director, writer and prolific comics creator, recently unveiled a project he describes as "The Saint" merged with "Curse of the Demon," a description bound to pique the interest of readers born to the Monster Generation. "The Faceless Terror: A Terry Sharp Story," published by Image Comics, is the first in a series of tales featuring Terry Sharp, filmmaker and battler of occult forces. "Terry Sharp is a director of classic horror films," Tinnell told Comic Book Resources, "working in the UK at Midwich Studios, in 1962. By night, he is a tireless fighter of a cult of Satanists hell-bent on taking over the country. We envision many adventures for Terry -- his supernatural battles will on occasion lead him into territory not particularly tied to the conspiracy, but against definite other-worldly characters." Tinnell was one of the co-creators -- with Todd Livingston and Neil Vokes -- of the successful supernatural graphic novels "The Black Forest" and "The Wicked West," also published by image. "The Faceless Terror" is illustrated by Adrian Salmon, who exploits skewed angles and hard shadows to maximum effect. Tinnell says that he and Salmon have long been interested in Brit culture and drew much inspiration from the color Hammer horror films of the 1950s and '60s. "The Faceless Terror" takes place as Terry is filming "The Return of Frankenstein" for the fictional Midwich Studios, a barely disguised allusion to Hammer. Tinnell points out that although the book is intended to evoke chills, the focus is on character. "Which is not to say we won't try detailed scary sequences at some point. I'm sure we will. But for all the darkness in the world of Terry Sharp, we want the book to be fun. And I think we've succeeded."

Check out the trailer online:
Make sure they know the B Monster sent you!

And speaking of messrs. Tinnell, Salmon and Vokes, you'll have a chance to meet and great them and about a zillion other creators at the Baltimore Comicon this September 17 and 18 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Other attending comic luminaries known to fans of horror and fantasy include Chiller regular Mike Kaluta ("The Shadow"), Marv Wolfman ("Tomb of Dracula"), Steve Conley ("Astounding Space Thrills"), Mark Wheatley ("Frankenstein Mobster") and many more to be announced. Keep an eye on:
Drop 'em a line and let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

That peerless pair of paleo-cinephiles, John Wooley and Michael H. Price, have teamed up to produce another exemplary volume, "The Big Book of Biker Flicks." Wooley and Price (along with the late and esteemed George Turner) are the scrupulous scribes behind the invaluable "Forgotten Horrors" series (the latest volume of which is due out imminently from Dinoship, Inc.). To be sure, the renegade biker sub-genre has been chronicled previously, but rarely with the depth of knowledge and engaging turn of phrase employed here. For instance, the opening graf of their write-up of 1970's "Rebel Rousers" presents in one line a fitting overview of the genre with color and economy: "No matter how forbidding or decrepit the desert town, no matter how unwelcoming the locals, there will always be a mob of off-Hollywood motorcycle hoodlums looking to colonize the dump as their own private Reprobates' Riviera." When describing the press campaign that heralded the release of producer-director Maury Dexter's "The Mini-Skirt Mob," Wooley and Price submit that it "must've been irresistible to those customers who'd get a charge out of watching girls in short dresses and pokey panties straddling chargers of smoking steel." In all, 40 biker films are addressed, beginning with the seminal "The Wild One," and including "Motorcycle Gang," "Hells Angels on Wheels," "The Glory Stompers," "The Hellcats," "Satan Sadists," "Chrome and Hot Leather," even "Werewolves on Wheels." The prose is peppered with quotes from many of the filmmakers and enhanced by background info on the likes of Ross Hagen, Anthony Cardoza, Michael Pataki and others. The book's design by Carl Brune is refreshingly clean, color is used discreetly, and poster and advertising art is employed to maximum advantage. Printed on heavy stock, the reproduction is striking, and the book features stills that I guarantee most of you have never seen. One visual treat is a full-page repro of Bruce Steffenhagen's poster art for "The Pink Angels." Steffenhagen was one of several talented, unheralded artists working for CARtoons and Hot Rod Magazine in the 1960s and '70s. For more info, check out:
Let 'em know without a doubt, the B Monster sent you!


Director Bert I. Gordon liked to think big -- "Beginning of the End," "The Cyclops," "The Amazing Colossal Man," "War of the Colossal Beast," "Earth vs. the Spider, "Village of the Giants" -- all featured outsized men, boys, bugs and beasts. But he was capable of departures from this formula thinking. "Attack of the Puppet People," and "Tormented," for example. In fact, what might be his best film, "The Magic Sword," banked more on story and heroic derring-do than rear-projected creatures. It's a simple fairy tale -- boy must rescue lovely princess kidnapped by evil sorcerer -- and the simplicity works to the movie's advantage. No Cold War fears are exploited, and prognostications concerning atomic power gone wild are absent.

The cast of "The Magic Sword" was a cut above the typical Gordon production roster. Basil Rathbone portrays the evil Lodac, the aforementioned conjure man who makes off with the princess played by Anne Helm. Gary Lockwood is the love-struck Sir George, whose mission it is to rescue the princess. Lockwood would later make a name for himself in space, appearing in the 1966 "Star Trek" pilot and Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Estelle Winwood plays Lockwood's surrogate Mom, a slightly ditzy witch named Sybil. She has a long-standing grudge against Lodac, and she supplies Lockwood with the titular sword and six Knights to assist him. Venturing through enchanted terrain, they must overcome Lodac's seven curses and reach the princess before the mad magician feeds her to his dragon. Don't expect seamless special effects or dazzling romantic dialogue. It doesn't stack up against the Harryhausen-Sinbad films, certainly. But give Gordon a little credit for making a fairly ambitious family film. The jaundiced among you will not enjoy it -- or you'll enjoy it in a derisive way. But it would be charitable to bear in mind that it was made for kids in 1962 on a relatively slim budget. (Watch for Maila "Vampira" Nurmi, who appears under lots of makeup as a hag).

"Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon," "The Woman in Green," "Terror By Night," "Dressed to Kill"

FocusFilm Entertainment has put together this package of Rathbone-Holmes films and ephemera, and the movies included range from some of the more entertaining in the series to some of the last and least interesting. All were directed by Roy William Neill, an underrated craftsman with a knack for snappy pacing and a way with atmospheric shadows. For instance Neill's "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" is chill-filled and energetic, an altogether terrific piece of nostalgia. Or check out "The Black Room," an often-overlooked 1935 shocker featuring Boris Karloff in a dual role. Many Holmesphiles and Conan Doyle purists took great umbrage at Universal's updating of the famous sleuth's exploits, pitting him against Nazi spies and addressing the looming threat of the German war machine. I think it was a great idea. Who wouldn't want Sherlock Holmes on their side during WWII, out-thinking an enemy who began the war far more technically advanced than the allies?

1943's "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon," the earliest film in this set, is one of the series' niftiest exploitations of the world war backdrop. The story centers on a top-secret bombsite that will greatly aid the allied cause. It is spirited from Switzerland by the great detective who brings it to London where it is, of course, coveted by enemy agents. And no one covets it more than Holmes' arch nemesis Professor Moriarty. Some mighty fine actors assumed the role of the evil Prof over the years -- Ernest Torrance, George Zucco, Henry Daniell -- and Lionel Atwill's interpretation in this film is as good as any of them. There are some bristling scenes of he and Rathbone squaring off. I could listen to these two actors talk all night and not get bored. And in the course of espionage, Rathbone assumes a series of disguises and voices. It's great fun to see the cultured actor hamming it up adorned with fake whiskers and spectacles. Nigel Bruce is, of course, the ever-befuddled Dr. Watson (his buffoonery is another departure from Doyle that fans took exception with). Rathbone and Bruce were, hands down, the movie's most entertaining Holmes-Watson team. Another asset is Dennis Hoey in the recurring role as the dyspeptic Inspector Lestrade, Holmes comic foil from Scotland Yard.

"The Woman in Green" is next, chronologically. Filmed in 1945, it features genre-faves Hillary Brooke and Paul Cavanagh and, as a perfectly unctuous, snide Moriarty, Henry Daniell. A veteran of 60-some films including such "A" list classics as "The Philadelphia Story," "Jane Eyre," "Random Harvest" and "Lust For Life," Daniell was no stranger to supernatural cinema. His eloquent, sinister delivery was expertly exploited in such genre assignments as "The Body Snatcher," "From the Earth to the Moon," "The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake" (a B Monster favorite) and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" (as Dr. Zucco!). Not to mention several classic episodes of "Thriller," most notably "The Cheaters." Daniell had parts in "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" (1942) and "Sherlock Holmes in Washington" (1943) before assaying the role of Moriarty, a character he inhabits with nefarious aplomb. The plot is an odd, entertaining concoction involving hypnotism and a glamorous mystery woman (Brooke). As Moriarty is long dead, it's assumed he couldn't possibly be involved. Holmes -- and his audience -- knows better.

"Terror By Night," filmed in 1946, is a minor gem with an enterprising premise. Holmes is hired to protect the Star of Rhodesia, a priceless gem belonging to the wealthy Carstairs family, as it is transported by rail to Edinburgh. You guessed it: During the trip the Star is snatched. What follows is a rousing, old-fashioned mystery, with Holmes bounding from one train compartment to the next, even duking it out between speeding Pullman cars. No Moriarty this time, but the next best thing; the theft bears the hallmarks of his henchman Colonel Sebastian Moran, ably played by -- oops, almost let the revelation slip out. Another first rate cast of B-movie stalwarts supports Rathbone and Bruce, including Alan Mowbray, Skelton Knaggs, Billy Bevan and Dennis Hoey returning as Lestrade. "Terror By Night" is a brisk, satisfying, 60-minute caper.

The final film in the Rathbone-Holmes series was "Dressed to Kill," filmed in 1946. It's a serviceable mystery, but simply not as entertaining as "Terror By Night" filmed the same year. The plot involves printing plates pilfered from the Bank of England and hidden by the bad guys in music boxes. When the unassuming owners of the boxes are bumped off, Holmes is called to action. There's just no way that examining music boxes is going to be as entertaining as chasing jewel thieves through a speeding train. Rathbone and Bruce are fine as usual, and Patricia Morison is a standout as Hilda Courtney. The usual B-movie suspects, including Holmes Herbert, Ian Wolfe and Harry Cording, populate the backdrop. And we'd be remiss should we neglect to mention Mary Gordon who appeared in every entry in the series as Holmes' housekeeper Mrs. Hudson. Neill, who began his directing career in 1917, made just one more film, "Black Angel," before succumbing to a heart attack in 1946.

This package also includes theatrical trailers, photo scrapbooks, rare on-camera interviews with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and 15 hours of original "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" radio broadcasts.

A note about quality: There seems to be a disparity in opinion among fans concerning the condition of the films included in this set. Many have condemned them as inferior -- scratchy, poor contrast, gaps in continuity -- others regard them as passable and cite the extras as invaluable and worth the cost of the package. Be aware that our focus is on the films themselves, the people who made them and their place in history.

"Snowbeast," "Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot," "Snow Creature"

"Snowbeast" screams "1970s made-for-TV movie!" 1977, to be precise. It was written -- apparently on a bad day -- by Joseph Stefano of "Psycho" and "Outer Limits" fame. This rehash of plot elements from various Yeti and wild animal-on-the-loose movies offers nothing new. It seems there's this snowbeast that's killing people who stray too far from a ski resort. That's pretty much it. "Snowbeast" cribs a bit from the tried-and-true "Jaws" formula in that the killings happen during the height of the ski season, and the greedy, stubborn lodge owner refuses to close the resort, insisting that the tales of the snowbeast are bull. Oh, how many have to die before they believe?

The cast is the usual mix common to so many telefilms of this period, made up of actors on their way up, on their way down, or just trying to hang on to their careers by keeping their faces in front of a camera. A sappy love triangle involves Yvette Mimieux, Bo Svenson and Robert Logan. Mimieux, known and loved by genre fans as Weena of George Pal's classic "The Time Machine," was in the midst of a dubious comeback. Having recently starred in the sleeper hit exploitation film "Jackson County Jail," she'd soon appear in "Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell" and Disney's "The Black Hole." Svenson, who plays an Olympic skiing champion and the ostensible hero of the film, apparently never came across a B-movie, TV movie or direct-to-video part he could turn down. He played the Monster in the 1973 telefilm "Frankenstein," which also starred Robert Foxworth and Susan Strasberg. He replaced Joe Don Baker in all of those "Walking Tall" sequels. He did a batch of foreign films and a bunch more TV movies. He's never NOT been on the screen. He popped up recently in "Kill Bill: Vol. 2." Sylvia Sidney portrays the money-grubbing ski lodge owner who pooh-poohs the Big Foot stories. Her credits date to Hollywood's Golden Age and include such film classics as "Sabotage," "You Only Live Once," "Fury" and "Dead End." She was still working in the '90s (well into her 80s) with significant roles in Tim Burton's "Beetle Juice" and "Mars Attacks!" Clint Walker assumes the ultimately thankless role of the local sheriff. He's dubious, then determined, then dispensed with. This material is not unlike 1966's "The Night of the Grizzly" in which Clint starred. No man looked more at home in the rugged outdoors, and we'll never forget him as "Cheyenne" or as the brawniest of "The Dirty Dozen." I WOULD like to forget that he was in 1970s TV junk like "Scream of the Wolf," "Killdozer" and "Snowbeast." Maybe he would, too!

Bigfoot was, for some reason, very big in the 1970s. There was a passel of Bigfoot films made during that decade, some horror, one or two feature documentaries. 1977's "Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot," is sort of a quasi-semi-docu-drama about an expedition into the great Northwest to find the hairy critter. A handful of researchers, a rugged mountaineer and a Native American are engaged in the search. Plot outlines and promo material hint that this could, might, maybe, possibly, potentially be based on an actual incident. Whatever. It's very cheap and made by folks who I'm willing to bet you are not familiar with. I know I'm not. It is the only feature film credit for director Ed Ragozzino and writer Ed Hawkins. Several of the actors had small parts in television shows or did voiceover work. Theirs was not the best of the Bigfoot movies, but with its novel docu-dramatic spin, it wasn't the worst either.

"Snow Creature," (1954) the first of the Abominable Snowman movies, was directed by W. Lee Wilder, brother of big-time director Billy Wilder. It was written by Myles Wilder, who collaborated with his dad W. Lee on the schlock classics "Killers from Space," "Phantom from Space" and others. It is bad. Not because of the low-low-budget or perfunctory script, but because, like all of W. Lee Wilder's films, it is so deadly serious, so earnest, so lacking in humor. This is fine if you're directing "Judgment at Nuremburg," but "Snow Creature?" Which is not to say I don't appreciate that Wilder took his subject matter seriously, but we're never allowed to see the lighter side of the personalities involved. (The humanizing fact that one of the characters is an expectant father is shoehorned into the script late in the film.) The actors are furniture placed on sets and given dialogue. They exist only to move the plot to its conclusion. We don't know them and, subsequently, don't care what happens to them. This may be far too much analysis to apply when reviewing an exploitation quickie called "Snow Creature," but it's an interesting common thread in all of Wilder's films.

"Snow Creature" runs just over an hour and feels like two because so many scenes are milked untenably. The most egregious and amusing example is the single shot of the Yeti emerging from the shadows. This brief sequence is run forward, then backward, then forward, then backward. Even on a budget this modest, couldn't they afford just one more take of the creature coming out of the shadows, rather than replay this single sequence to hilarious effect?


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

Classic Sci Fi 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

Jan Merlin

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

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


"See screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of horror by a blood-starved ghoul from hell!" -- Beast From Haunted Cave

 All contents copyright The Astounding B Monster®