UNE 2002

Announcing the latest addition to the B Monster's staggering digital storehouse of genre-film fact and ephemera: "Voyage to the Bottom of a Journey to the Center of the Land Unknown on the Lost Continent that Time Forgot," or "Get Lost!"
Featuring: Actor Sid Melton on the making of Robert L. Lippert's beloved "Lost Continent"!
Producer Alex Gordon on the harrowing genesis that begat "The Underwater City"!
Actress Marilyn Nash on her tenuous steps into the "Unknown World"!
A look at 10 of cinema's coolest airships, earthmovers and supersubs!
A selection of 10 cinematic sorties into danger-fraught lost worlds!

So, you're sick of hearing us whine about Hollywood's dumbfounding lack of originality and lazy reliance on shoddy remakes of classic films, are you? It's one thing when the likes of Ray Bradbury takes a personal hand in reproducing one of his beloved properties. But the ongoing reguritation of classic movies by lesser lights is disheartening. Would you rather we didn't mention that director Neil LaBute is remaking the 1973 cult-film, "The Wicker Man"? Shall we conceal that there's a remake of Robert Wise's seminal boxing classic, "The Set Up," in the pipeline? Rather not hear that director F. Gary Gray is remaking the Oscar-nominated "The Italian Job"? And, even though they're definitely remaking "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," which originally starred Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas, would you prefer we not mention it? Are you looking forward to Adam Sandler's remake of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town?" It's come to this? Adam Sandler instead of Gary Cooper? Excuse me ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .... sorry ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .... No, really, I ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ...

Jack Kruschen Character actor Jack Kruschen has died following a long illness. He was 80. Kruschen appeared in nearly 90 films, beginning with "Red, Hot and Blue" in 1949. Throughout the 1950s, he had small parts in major films, including "Young Man with a Horn," which starred Kirk Douglas, "Where Danger Lives," which starred Robert Mitchum, and "The Lemon Drop Kid," which starred Bob Hope. Kruschen specialized in playing toughs and ethnic types in both "A" and "B" features throughout his career. Genre-film fans will recognize him as Salvatore, one of the Martian death ray's first victims in producer George Pal's 1953 classic "War of the Worlds." The same year Kruschen appeared in "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars." He later had a substantial role as space pilot Sam Jacobs in the 1959 cult-favorite, "The Angry Red Planet," with Gerald Mohr. The following year, Kruschen landed a plum role in director Billy Wilder's "The Apartment," which starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Kruschen was nominated for an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his role. He later appeared in such films as "Studs Lonigan," "Cape Fear," "The Happening," and "Freebie and the Bean." He also worked extensively in television, appearing in such series as "Gunsmoke," "The Adventures of Superman," "The Rifleman," "The Rockford Files" and "Lois & Clark."

John Nathan-Turner
Television producer John Nathan-Turner, who produced more than 130 episodes of the sci-fi, cult-smash teleseries "Doctor Who" died in Brighton, England, following a brief illness. He was 54. Known to devoted fans of the program as JNT, Nathan-Turner produced the show from 1980-89 and was responsible for casting three of the actors -- Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy -- who portrayed the beloved Doctor. During his tenure, Nathan-Turner infused the series with a sense of humor to the dismay of many hardcore fans who preferred a more serious tone. Many, however, appreciated his humorous spin on sci-fi. A former actor, Nathan-Turner became interested in TV production while working in the BBC costume department. At a friend's urging, he applied for a job as a floor assistant and joined the "Doctor Who" series in its sixth season, eventually graduating to producer in 1979.

George Alec Effinger
Noted science fiction author George Alec Effinger is dead at 55. The cause of death was not immediately known. The Cleveland native attended Yale University, originally intending to become a doctor. Effinger's first wife was a babysitter for authors Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, who encouraged him to pursue a career as a science fiction writer beginning in 1970. His works include "What Entropy Means to Me," "Utopia 3," "The Zork Chronicles" and "Schrodinger's Kitten," which won the Nebula Award for best novellette. Effinger also turned out many novelizations based on the "Planet of the Apes" television franchise. In the early 1990s, he created "Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson." A collection of stories featuring the character soon followed. Effinger published 20 novels and six collections of short fiction in all, many of them nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.


Better hurry! This just in: The Chicago Fantastic Film Festival starts today (June 1) at the majestic Gateway Theater located on the windy city's blustery north side. According to promoters, classic horror, science fiction and fantasy films will be shown on the big screen "as they were meant to be seen." There will also be programs showcasing the work of many independent filmmakers. The fest also boasts the Midwest premiere of director Stuart Gordon's latest, the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired, "Dagon," with Gordon hosting the screening. An art show, featuring some of the "best genre illustrators in the country," a memorabilia-packed dealers room and panel discussions round out the festivities. Celebrity guests include:
"Blade Runner's" Joanna Cassidy
Hammer horror queen, Ingrid Pitt
"Father Knows Best," "Day the Earth Stood Still" star, Billy Gray
"Famous Monsters" cover artist Basil Gogos, and more.
For more details, check out: http://www.CF3Fest.com
And give the B Monster's regards to the "Home of the Blues!"

Cleveland's Rock and Roll Museum is in for "stiff" competition. Plans are afoot for Chiller Thriller, a museum celebrating the golden era of late-night TV horror. This ambitious attraction is the brainchild of promoter Nicholas Caesar who calls it "the very first museum dedicated to all those long lost horror movies and late night hosts of the past. You may have seen it all, but you've never seen anything like this!" According to publicity, this grisly gallery is "not a wax museum, it's not a Halloween theme park. Chiller Thriller is a year-round place where every boy and ghoul, young or old, can go to reminisce." Caesar promises to showcase props, posters and memorabilia "from The Abominable Dr. Phibes to Vampira." Special focus will, of course, be placed on the legendary late-night hosts. Photos, souvenirs and biographies will illuminate the careers of such creature feature legends as Bob Wilkins, Jon Stanley and Ghoulardi, not to mention monster moderators of more recent vintage such as Will "The Thrill" Viharo, Count Gore, Svengoolie and others!

Caesar has plans for a two-floor complex: The first, dubbed a "Hall of Horrors," will be populated with video monitors, movie sets, props, and personalized photos, and feature a tribute to the alluring horror hostesses of TV history. The second floor will function as a convention center of sorts, with screenings of classic films and Q&A sessions with guest speakers. A private bar and two fully equipped guest rooms are also planned. Caeser, who moved from California to Cleveland in order to scout locations, needs support -- financial AND moral -- in order to make his projected October 2003 opening. To find out more, visit: http://www.nicolasseizure.com/chiller.htm
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Is it "Monster Bash" time already? This June 21-23, the Days Inn Conference Center in beautiful Butler, Pa., will host "Monster Bash, The International Classic Monster Movie Convention and Expo." Presented by Scary Monsters Magazine and Creepy Classics Video & DVD, the theme of this year's festivities is a tribute to Abbott & Costello, with guests of honor, Paddy Costello (Lou's daughter) and Vickie Abbott (Bud's offspring). They'll be screening darned-near every A&C flick you can think of with special focus on those occasions when the boys came nose-to-nose with Universal's classic monsters. Myriad memorabilia and film dealers will, of course, be in attendance as will:
The B Monster's pal, prop preservationist and cult-film curator number one, Bob Burns
Film historians Tom Weaver and Gary Don Rhodes
Hammer glammer girl, Caroline Munro
The Creature himself, Big Ben Chapman
and illustrator extraordinaire, "Monster Kid" Kerry Gammill.
It's happening soon, so get on the stick, (or stake, as the case may be). Check out:
And I'll be personally disappointed if you don't tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

The folks at Midnight Marquee promise a more fancentric festival this year. As of this writing, two celebrity guests will be in attendance; John Saxon and Carol Lynley. Otherwise, the agenda includes screenings of rare and beloved films, and panel discussions with some of the most noteworthy chroniclers of genre movies. According to publicity, "this year films, panels and informative talks by filmmakers and film historians will take center stage." The list of attendees includes Michael H. Price, Fred Olen Ray, Bryan Senn, Ted Bohus, Greg Mank, Paul Jensen and many more. Highlighting the festivites will be a special Saturday night screening at legendary Bengie's Drive-in. It's happening August 16-18 at the Days Inn Timonium, just outside beautiful Baltimore, Md. Midmar makes the mission of this year's con clear: "If you love movies and want to meet others with your obsession, well, this is the place to be."
For details, visit: http://www.midmar.com
And, you know the drill: Tell 'em The B Monster sent you.

The good folks at Percepto Records have released a soundtrack triple threat that belongs in the CD collection of every discriminating fan of sci-fi cinema. The musical scores for "The Fly," "Return of the Fly" and "Curse of the Fly" get the royal treatment in this two-disk tribute to composers Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter. Sawtell and Shefter's other genre-film credits include "The Black Scorpion," "Kronos" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." The three rousing scores showcased in this package -- 49 cues, in all -- are being released for the first time in any format. As an unbeatable bonus, the disks are accompanied by a mammoth, data-crammed, 56-page booklet researched and compiled by film historian Tom Weaver and movie music maven Randall Larson. This special pressing is limited to 3,000 copies.
Check out: http://www.percepto.com/projects/008/index.html
Tell our pals at Percepto the B monster sent you!

Film historians Tom and Jim Goldrup have added another indispensable tome to their canon: "Growing Up on the Set" showcases the careers and comments of 39 former child actors based on personal interviews. Of primary concern to B Monster readers are the insights of Jimmy Hunt ("Invaders From Mars"), Billy Gray ("The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Navy vs. the Night Monsters" and, of course, "Father Knows Best") and "The Invisible Boy" himself, Richard Eyer. According to the Goldrup boys, "The kids speak of their careers, what they did afterwards and about the pros and cons of being a working kid in Hollywood." It's available now from McFarland Publishing: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Or you can order directly from the authors: PO Box 425, Ben Lomond, CA 95005. $35 plus $4 shipping (USA) or $9 (international).
It goes without saying, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Is there anything those lovable, schlock-film madcaps at Troma won't try? The topic is not open to debate; the answer is NO! As if to confirm once and for all their complete insanity, they've entered a domain into which only the demented would dare venture: POLITICS! Announcing the Partie Tromatique Francais, which planned a "massive" demonstration march in Cannes on May 21. According to publicity, the march "[continued] all the way to the Grand Palais in a manner reminiscent of the brave students who protested against the evils of The World Trade Organization." Their slogan is "Give art back to the people," and their mission is to "create worldwide awareness of the fact that the art world is becoming the private domain of a privileged few. Movie theatres, video chains, TV networks and museums, among other artistic media, must be freed from the stranglehold of cartelism and returned back to a system of fair competition and independent endeavor." In the midst of the hoity-toity Cannes commotion, Troma established a Tro-Media Center, fostering political discourse and screening many Troma films, which they maintain emanate from "the world's oldest independent film studio [which] on a miniscule budget, has stayed in fierce competition with the giant media conglomerates." To join the party, visit http://www.troma.com
Or, e-mail Doug Sakmann at Doug@troma.com

From England comes a bizarre new sketch comedy teleseries (targeting a "mature" audience) described by producers as "an unexpurgated blend of 'Kentucky Fried Movie' and 'The Groove Tube' ... the inspiration lies in the genres of classic 50's B movie creature features, 60's psych-out flicks, 70's prison and TV cop dramas, spoof adverts and pretentious Arthouse cinema." The premise is certainly pregnant with potential for punditry: A pair of media-numbed film and TV addicts, Max and Moritz, are accosted by all manner of psychotronic ephemera as they channel surf. According to producer Jason De l'orme, a self-proclaimed "psychotronic filmmaker," the protagonists are "young men in their late 20s, both eccentric armchair anarchists attempting to fathom the fickle media-saturated world they almost inhabit." The show will present parodies inspired by everything from "House On Haunted Hill," "Revenge of The Living Dead" and "The Monster of Piedras Blancas" to TV's "Quincy" and "Ironside." A recent premier screening at Planet Hollywood in London's Piccadilly was heralded by an eight-foot cut-out "Slithis" monster in the theater lobby. "William Castle would've been proud," says De l'orme.
To find out more, visit: http://www.theincrediblystrangepeopleshow.co.uk/
Be sure and tell 'em the B Monster told you to tune in!

Speculation as to who will direct the forthcoming big screen version of "Farenhiet 451" is at an end. Director Frank "Green Mile," "Shawshank Redemption" Darabont is officially on board to direct a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's cautionary sci-fi story. The project will be a collaboration between Castle Rock and Mel Gibson's Icon Entertainment. Originally, Gibson was expected to star, but will now only produce. "Mel's been really sweet about letting me come and overtake the project," Darabont told Sci Fi Wire. "He's just been really supportive." Director Francois Truffaut filmed a version of the Bradbury classic in 1966. Darabont is also working on an adaptation of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles." He expects to complete the screenplay by the end of the year.

Well, it's not horror, but it certainly is horrifying. They're making a feature film version of "The Honeymooners" (recently named the third best series in television history by TV Guide) and, according to Variety, "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini wants to play Ralph Kramden. Ba-da-Bang! Zoom!


The crew of the Mary Celeste, which last set sail from New York in 1872, disappeared without a trace. The ship was found with everything on board, but not a clue as to the fate of the vanished seamen. What became of them is one of the most enduring maritime mysteries. "Phantom Ship," known also as "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste," offers an intriguing and outlandish "what if" scenario. The real crew's destiny may be unknown, but thank Neptune Bela Lugosi is on this fictional manifest. Without Bela, it would be mighty rough sailing through an awfully talky sea of exposition. Filmed during a post-"Dracula" foray to Great Britain, Bela is billed above the title, playing a grizzled, vengeful, one-armed sailor with a religious complex. It's giving nothing away to reveal that Lugosi is responsible for the crew's elimination -- his agenda is written plainly on that famous, expressive mug. And the filmmakers were wise enough to get out of the way and let him deliver a soliloquy or two (markedly similar in tone to his "Bride of the Monster" grandstanding 20 years later). As always, despite a less than auspicious production, Lugosi goes at the material full bore. Some genre-film buffs -- even diehard Lugosi fans -- have been quick to dismiss his work in this picture. The way I see it, he could have sleepwalked through this very predictable, weakly mounted suspenser. Instead, he chews the scenery like beef jerky. You gotta love him for that. All Lugosiphiles and Bela completists will want this 1935 rarity on their shelves.

To begin with, how could you NOT be ensnared by a title like "Fiend of Dope Island?" The film was also released under the substantially less intriguing title "Whiplash." (In fact, the "Whiplash" title sequence is an added attraction of this DVD package.) What's it about? Go back and read the title again. 'Nuff said. Bruce Bennett (more on him presently) is the eponymous, whip-wielding "Fiend," exporting pot to buy arms for commie rebels. But the commie part of the plot is buried -- but DEEP -- under layers of some of the most overt exploitation-movie titilation. For starters, there's Bennett's whip, cracking away in darned near every scene, disciplining upstart natives, drunken beach bums or whoever else is handy. One handy handful is Tania Velia -- billed here as "The Yugoslavian Bombshell" -- as an exotic dancer imported for Bennett's personal "amusement." Undulating to jazzy Latin rhythms, she proves she can't dance a lick (probably roaming the islands, fleeing charges of "attempted Rhumba"). But man, she's built like a Bosnian brick house, and there's just a glimpse or two of "side-al" nudity. Velia was the former Miss Yugoslavia, and had bit roles in both "Queen of Outer Space" and "Missile to the Moon."

Square-jawed Robert Bray sets out to overthrow Bennett's tropical tyranny in a series of disjointed shootouts and chase scenes that never quite ad up to a coherent coup. Bray was no stranger to bit parts himself, appearing in nearly 70 films and dozens of TV shows including "Rocky Jones" and "The Twilight Zone." He may be best known to cult-movie buffs as the big screen's stiffest Mike Hammer in "My Gun is Quick." Now, about Bruce Bennett, veteran of over 100 films. He played Tarzan and Daniel Boone. He appeared in some of Bogie's best, including "Sahara" and "Treasure of the Sierra Madre." He was in major "A" pictures ("Mildred Pierce," "The More the Merrier") and his fair share of "Bs" ("The Cosmic Man," "The Alligator People"). Most often, he was a restrained underplayer, deliberate and convincing. As the "Fiend of Dope Island," all bets are off. Rarely has such shameless, frenzied overacting graced a film of any sort. He's absolutely possessed by a "ham demon," hooting, stomping, sneering and bellowing, with the least-convincing evil laugh ever heard in a B movie. It's worth noting that Bennett co-authored the screenplay, and perhaps wrote himself a part letting him vent his stifled rage, accumulated after years of stuffy supporting roles. You have to see this performance to believe it.

The lesser half of this "tropical double feature" is "Pagan Island," produced and directed by the notorious Barry Mahon. Why notorious? Consider the titles that pepper his resume: "Cuban Rebel Girls," "The Beast That Killed Women," "Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico," "Naughty Nudes," "Nudes on Tiger Reef" and, of course, "Santa and the Three Bears"(!) "Pagan Island" is one of Mahon's earlier, more restrained attempts at exploitation, starring Edward Dew as a sailor shipwrecked on an island populated by man-hating women, among them, Nani Maka as ... Nani Maka, and someone named Trine Hovelsrud (if that's an anagram for something, I've yet to figure out what). There's a deadly giant clam and a tiki god that looks like the ugly cousin of "From Hell It Came's" walking tree, Tabanga. The cast was assembled by Bunny Yeager, the best-known pinup wrangler of the 1950s and 60s. (Trine Hovelsrud?)

THE THING (1982)
There is a cadre of genre-film devotees who love everything that John Carpenter has ever produced. This is unfair, both to him and to them (If you love all his work uniformly, how can you tell whether or not he's growing artistically?) He's made some pretty good stuff ("Halloween" "Starman") and some inexcusably bad stuff ("Escape From L.A.," "Vampires"). "The Thing" falls somewhere in the middle. He set out to make a faithful adaptation of John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" which, every genre-film fan knows, served as the inspiration for the 1951 classic, "The Thing From Another World." Why, then, did he call his film "The Thing," drawing comparisons to one of science-fiction cinema's undeniable masterworks, especially since it is in no way an homage to an original which took great liberties with the source material? Anyway, the cast is good: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Richard Dysart. The effects are astounding and quite gross. Parts of it are genuinely exciting, but it kind of deteriorates into a gussied-up slasher movie. It's almost pretty good.

At last, a film that truly lives up to its reputation -- it really is as terrible as everyone says it is. So, the world is covered with water. This is the springboard to breathless intrigue and knuckle-whitening action? The first 45 minutes of the film, in which absolutely nothing of consequence transpires, answers that question. Kevin Costner is completely lifeless in every scene. He looks to be genuinely in pain and is decidedly non-heroic. Bad guy Dennis Hopper steals the show. He seems to be the only one in the cast not taking the proceedings seriously -- which, it turns out, is a good thing. The plot? The world is covered with water, so dry land is quite valuable. A little girl has a map to said dry land tattooed on her back, and Kevin becomes her protector. (Bad guys want the map too.) It takes 135 minutes for them to say this.

We're always hesitant to begin a review with the words, "better than you might think," but it's valid in this case. If you don't go in expecting an "Alien"-style thrill ride, then it's better than you might think. If you don't approach it anticiipating an "Exorcist"-like stomach-turner, then it's better than you might think. Richard Gere (we know, but keep reading) plays a Washington Post reporter who loses his wife in a tragic accident caused by the appearance of a mysterious, fleeting winged shadow. Gradually, he's drawn into a strange investigation that leads to a West Virginia hamlet whose residents have been haunted over the years by the clairvoyant proclamations of a ghostly "Moth Man." Wisely, the filmmakers didn't hire a special effects shop to concoct a man-shaped latex bug. Much of the horror is implied, with just enough visual provocation to induce a goosebump or two. The cast, including Laura Linney, Will Patton and Alan Bates, is quite convincing, and the notion that the film was inspired by actual events lends a bit of cachet. It's no horror masterwork, but, all in all, it's better than you might think.

I've seen this movie three times; the first time, I'll admit, I actually paid to see it. I saw it a second time while attending a convention, the third time while trapped on a coast-to-coast flight ... and it gets funnier every time I see it. No, not "Ha ha," intentionally funny. I mean "corny, cliche-riddled, shamelessly overacted and poorly written" funny. And it's no B-list cast; these are reputable thespians hamming it up. Director Brian De Palma, who "borrows" the style of a different director with every film, (Hitchcock, Eisentein, Antonioni) failed to employ any style at all this time. And what a concept! It's "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" ... on Mars! The marooned astronaut's forlorn fate is heavy handedly foreshadowed; his young son is reading "Robinson Crusoe" just as Dad sets off for the red planet. (Wow! Think he'll be the one who gets stranded?) The mysterious "Face on Mars" could have been grist for an intriguing story. What they settled for is a dopey hodgepodge of Kubrick and "Close Encounters" that just doesn't play. The effects are laughably uneven, from an impressive sandstorm to Gumby- and Pokey-like miniature cavemen. The film also features some of the most shameless product placement in film history. (Thrill to the heartstopping "M&Ms scene.")

Yet another of those made-for cable "Creature Features" supposedly filmed under the aupices of effects master, Stan Winston, each borrowing the title of a 1950s AIP shocker. This redo, bearing no resemblance to the original, is about a team of computer geeks conscripted to design the scariest computer game imaginable. It starts out with a bit of humor, and a dash of storytelling innovation -- and then rapidly decays into one of the worst horror movies I've ever seen. There are gaping plot holes and about 10 hackneyed endings. There's lots of spurting blood and dismembered appendages, and scream queen Julie Strain -- playing scream queen Julie Strain -- is made to jiggle her bare breasts for the drooling nerds. More egregious is the movie's theme -- sledgehammered home repeatedly -- that it pays to be evil, good people should die and only the mean survive. Just what the world needs to hear. Talented people made this movie. It is unworthy of them.

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

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

Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.com

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

Tom Weaver, who wrote the liner notes for the upcoming CD featuring music from the original "The Fly," "Return of the Fly" and "Curse of the Fly," available from Percepto Records: http://www.percepto.com/projects/008/

"The newest in terror-tainment!" -- Billy the Kid vs. Dracula http://www.bmonster.com

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