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
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, 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:
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"
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
THE "HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL"!
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!
COAST HOST TOAST
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
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!
DIETZ AND HIS FRANTIC "SKETCH-ULE"
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
You can learn more about Frank and his varied endeavors
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!"
MAY "FIND" HORROR IN YOUR PRICE RANGE
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
-- "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,"
-- "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
-- 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
-- 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
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 ..."
MATH OF CONS
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.
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.
DO I GET TICKETS FOR CHAKA CON?
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:
TERROR:" A HAMMER HOMAGE
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
Check out the trailer online:
Make sure they know the B Monster sent you!
OUT "CHARM CITY'S" COMICON
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!
WOOLEY HAVE GONE HOG WILD
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!
NEW ON DVD
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).
EVENING WITH SHERLOCK HOLMES
"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"
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?
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
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
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