JUNE 2005


Frank Gorshin
Character actor Frank Gorshin, perhaps best known as The Riddler, the Caped Crusader's giggling nemesis on the 1960s "Batman" television series, died in Los Angeles. He was 72. He had been receiving treatment for lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia. Genre-film fans recall Gorshin's roles in the cult classics "Invasion of the Saucer Men," "Hot Rod Girl" and "Dragstrip Girl." In recent years, Gorshin appeared regularly at genre-movie conventions and autograph shows. He was born in Pittsburgh and attended the Carnegie-Mellon Tech School of Drama. Following an Army hitch, Gorshin was introduced to an agent and won a role in the 1956 war drama "The Proud and the Profane," which starred William Holden and Deborah Kerr. In 1957, while visiting his parents in Pittsburgh, Gorshin was asked to return to Hollywood to read for a part in "Run Silent, Run Deep," starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Gorshin drove cross-country, non-stop, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, fracturing his skull. The part went to Don Rickles.

Gorshin worked Las Vegas showrooms and Hollywood nightspots, exhibiting his remarkable talents as an impressionist, mimicking more than 40 celebrities. Sammy Davis Jr. once credited Gorshin with teaching him how to do impressions. Gorshin worked steadily in films throughout the 1950s and '60s, with roles large and small in movies of every description including "Runaway Daughters," "The True Story of Jesse James," "Tank Battalion," "Bells Are Ringing," "Where the Boys Are," "The George Raft Story," and "That Darn Cat!" and appeared on such TV showcases as "The Ed Sullivan Show" (on the same program as The Beatles) and "The Steve Allen Show." In 1966, he was approached to portray the comic book villain The Riddler in the "Batman" television series. "When I was first approached to play the Riddler, I thought it was a joke," Gorshin once said. "Then I discovered the show had a good script and agreed to do the role. Now I am in love with the character." Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the cackling maniac in green tights. He was nominated again in 1969 for his performance in the "Star Trek" episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield." Gorshin worked extensively in television, appearing on such programs as "The Untouchables," "Combat!" "The Munsters," "The Virginian," "Ironside" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century." He appeared on Broadway -- including a favorably reviewed one-man show as George Burns -- and in many touring companies. Recent credits include the films "Manna From Heaven," "Mail Order Bride" and "The Creature of Sunny Side Up Trailer Park," as well as the Roger Corman-produced series "The Phantom Eye" and "Black Scorpion."

Henry Corden
Character actor Henry Corden, former B-movie bad guy and voiceover artist who was the voice of Fred Flintstone, died of complications of emphysema in Encino, Calif. He was 85. Corden was born in Montreal and raised in New York. He was an established radio and stage actor when he moved to Hollywood in the 1940s. He made his film debut as one of Boris Karloff's henchmen in 1947's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Cult-movie buffs may also recognize Corden for his role in "The Black Castle," starring Karloff, and for small parts in "Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion," "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Scaramouche" and others. Corden appeared on dozens of television programs, including "Space Patrol," "Dragnet," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Perry Mason," "Gunsmoke," "Peter Gunn," "Have Gun-Will Travel," "Maverick," "The Twilight Zone" and others. Corden was also a prolific voice artist, lending his vocal talents to such animated programs as "Jonny Quest," "The Banana Splits," "The Scooby Doo Dynomutt Hour," "Thundarr the Barbarian" "The Atom Ant Show" and "Yogi's Gang." When the original voice of Fred Flintstone, Alan Reed, died in 1977, Corden assumed the role. Though the original series ended in 1966, the characters were revived for various new programs over the next three decades. At first, Corden did his best to imitate Reed. "Eventually, I got pretty close to him," Corden said, "but as the years progressed, I decided to make Fred more my own so I [didn't] have to imitate Alan so much." Corden and Reed had once appeared in the same film, "Viva Zapata!" though they had no scenes together.

Speaking of Karloff, Corden once told film historian Tom Weaver, "On my first picture 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,' the assistant director came over to me with Karloff to introduce me to him -- the a.d. said, 'Boris, this is Henry Corden. Would you please watch out for him and try to give him some tips? This is his first picture.' And the first thing Boris said was, 'Well, I'm sure Mr. Corden could give me far more than I could give him.' I mean, of course it was horrendously untrue [laughs]. But the kind of person who could say a thing like that has got to be a wonderful guy." When Weaver quizzed Corden about his hobbies, Corden responded, "My big hobby is my family. That's it. I don't know how long I've got to go, and whatever time I have, I want to get the pleasure of my children, of my grandchildren and of my wonderful, wonderful wife. We walk down the street hand in hand and people look at us, this old bastard and this good-looking chick. We get smiles all over the place. That's enough for me. ... THAT'S my hobby." "He was a great gentleman to work with," said animation producer and director Joseph Barbera. "His characterization of Fred Flintstone will never be duplicated."


Longtime B Monster readers are familiar with the fact that the B Monster donates a portion of the proceeds from t-shirt, sweatshirt, coffee mug, poster and mouse pad sales to a very worthy organization called Childhelp USA. Likewise, the B Monster's comic creation "The Crater Kid" has managed to raise donations to aid the abused and neglected kids who benefit from Childhelp USA's services.

A nifty bit of trivia you may not know: Childhelp USA was founded in 1959 by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson. You may know Mrs. Fedderson as Yvonne Lime, the same Yvonne Lime who had a recurring role on "Father Knows Best," who dated Elvis and who starred in the cult classics "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "Untamed Youth" and "High School Hellcats," among others. For 46 years Childhelp has carried on their crusade "to meet the physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of abused and neglected children. We do so by focusing our efforts in the areas of treatment, prevention, and research." Only recently, O'Meara and Fedderson were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their years of advocacy and service. I realize that there are a million worthy charities that seek our help, and no one is obligated to give beyond their means. But I think it is entirely appropriate to use this space to congratulate the Childhelp founders and to offer continued support, both moral and, to the degree we can afford, financial:

After a four-decade hiatus from the stage, B-movie legend Arch Hall Jr. recently performed at The Ponderosa Stomp, a New Orleans roots music festival featuring a roster of blues and rockabilly heavyweights. "It was awesome!" Arch told the B Monster. "We went on about 11:15 pm on night one of the festival, following Scotty Moore [the legendary guitarist who backed Elvis on the King's seminal early recordings] and Johnny Farina [best known as one half of Santo & Johnny]. Deke Dickerson was heading up the house band and was a real pro. Of course, I had my old guard with me, too. That is, The Archers. Alan O'Day on vocal and Hammond B-3 and piano and Joel Christie on bass and vocals." The two-day festival, staged at the New Orleans Rock and Bowl, boasted an impressive lineup of R&B icons, including sax men Plas Johnson and Ace Cannon, rockabillies Dale Hawkins and Joe Clay and such blues greats as Robert Jr. Lockwood, Lazy Lester and Johnny Jones. "I was made to feel very welcome," Hall said, "and struck up friendships with several other artists such a Eddie C. Campbell, a journeyman bluesman from Chicago, Roy Head, Scotty Moore and, of course, Dickerson, just to name a few. A good time was had by all!" A collection of Hall's soundtrack recordings featuring cues from "Eegah," "Wild Guitar" and "The Choppers," is available now from Norton Records. The set also features priceless live recordings of Arch and the Archers performing live at drive-in theaters and L.A. nightspots. Check out:
Tell 'em without hesitation, the B Monster sent you!

B Monster correspondent Tom Weaver has collated the following account, which may disturb horror fandom in general, and writers and creators in particular:

On May 18, 2005, at Tower Records in Manhattan, Mirek Lipinski, webmaster and writer for Latarnia: Fantastique International was leafing through the latest issue of the English genre magazine "The Dark Side" (#114) when he discovered to his amazement that a section of their review of German DVD box sets of Edgar Wallace thrillers had been lifted, verbatim, from his online writings. Back home with the purchased magazine, Lipinski did further research and discovered that another writer, Gary Banks, had also had HIS online writings used without permission in "Dark Side's" review.

Lipinski, who hosts the Latarnia Forums, went on his message board to alert members to this theft and then, figuring that where there's smoke there's fire, began examining other DVD reviews in the magazine. The simple process of entering sentences from "Dark Side" reviews into Google's search machine revealed that other reviews in that magazine's uncredited "DVD Video Library" section had been lifted, usually word for word, from online sources such as DVD Drive-in and DVD File. He contacted the webmasters of those sites and their writers to ascertain whether use of their reviews in "The Dark Side" had been authorized. The responses staggered him: Not one had been authorized.

With the scandal breaking, Lipinski set up a specific thread at the Latarnia Forums as an information center and to coordinate an Internet campaign of writers and horror film fans to determine if other copyright violations had occurred in previous issues of "The Dark Side." The results confirmed that this theft of online material was not exclusive to Issue #114. "What we are looking at is possibly the greatest consistent theft of online material by one magazine in the history of the internet," says Lipinski, who is continuing to collect and investigate material for a possible class action lawsuit against the magazine. "The Dark Side" ("The Magazine of the Macabre and Fantastic") premiered in October 1990. Although informed of the Latarnia thread, editor-publisher Allan Bryce has made no public comment about these troubling findings, which continue to escalate. Check out the Latarnia forums thread and follow this evolving story.

Tom Weaver's new tome, "Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers," is everything we've come to expect from the cult-movie world's most dedicated chronicler and indefatigable researcher, an indispensable and generous walking encyclopedia of monster film fact and ephemera. His latest volume features 20 interviews complimented by myriad photos (not to mention an eye-catching cover created by the bashful B Monster himself after the assiduous art direction of Mr. Weaver). USA Today once called Weaver "the king of the monster hunters," and the variety and depth of the interviews justifies the compliment. Among those offering revealing recollections are Gene Barry, Gary Clarke, Gary Conway, Robert Dix, Donnie Dunagan, Alex Gordon, Peter Graves, Gary Gray, Arch Hall Jr., Stephen Kandel, Carolyn Kearney, Ken Kolb, Robert L. Lippert, Jr., Jan Merlin, Mary Mitchel, Frankie Thomas and Burt Topper. The Graves and Hall interviews, alone, are worth the price. Many fans have long assumed that these two were reluctant to speak of their cult-film contributions. To the contrary, they're among the most giving and candid subjects. Hall's memories are vivid and brim with nostalgia, and Graves speaks with good humor about "Red Planet Mars" and "Killers From Space." He's a very, very funny guy. So, what are you waiting for? Check out:
You know the password: The B Monster sent you!

The American Cinematheque's summer calendar is bound to appeal to B-movie buffs and giant monster mavens. Under their auspices, the noted Aero Theatre, a landmark located at 1328 Montana Avenue in the heart of Santa Monica, Calif., will host a very special screening of the trendsetting 1950 George Pal classic "Destination Moon" on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00 pm. Directed by Irving Pichel, Pal's colorful depiction of the first manned moon trip was dedicated to nailing down the details of space flight as they were known at the time, with technical assistance provided by German rocket scientist Hermann Oberth and author Robert Heinlein. The cast of B-movie stalwarts includes John Archer, Warner Anderson and Tom Powers. The film won an Academy Award for its special effects. Legendary moonwalker, astronaut Buzz Aldrin will introduce the screening and lead a reading of moon stories at Every Picture Tells a Story, located near the Aero at 1311 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

On Sunday, June 12, you can re-experience the kitschy, glitzy, pop art 1960s via this special screening of the 1966 big-screen version of "Batman," starring Adam West and Burt Ward. The twice-weekly teleseries was popular enough to spawn this theatrical feature directed by TV veteran Leslie Martinson, which features such adversaries of the Caped Crusader as The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether). Schedule permitting, Ms. Meriwether will take part in a post-screening discussion. (You'll notice that I did not include the words, "Bam!," "Pow!," "Zowie!' or "Holy anything" anywhere is this write-up. A little credit, please.)

Later in the month, the Cinematheque will host the likes of Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and Ultraman during their "Japanese Giant Monsters Festival." Billed as "a 4-day fun-fest of city-stomping action," the fest will screen such Japanese monster classics as "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla," "Godzilla vs. Megalon," "The H-Man" and "Attack of the Mushroom People." One special highlight is the L.A. premiere of Tsuburaya Productions "Ultraman: The Next," featuring everyone's favorite fin-headed, silver spandexed giant monster smasher. The stomping takes place June 24-29 at the Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, nestled in the heart of downtown Hollywood, moving to the Aero July 1-3.

And if that isn't enough Kaiju action to sate you, the Cinematheque's Egyptian will host the exclusive L.A. theatrical engagement of "Godzilla: Final Wars," allegedly the last installment in the 50-year-plus Godzilla canon. According to the official hype, "bad-boy Japanese director Ryuhei Kitamura reinvents the classic Godzilla formula while bringing back some of the Big G's most famous foes from past classics!" (Just how does one become a "Bad-boy director"?) The exclusive three-day showing happens July 1-3.

And coming to the Aero in July, it's yet another in-person tribute to Ray Harryhausen. The legendary special effects maestro will be on hand for an exhibition of his artwork at Every Picture Tells a Story, adjacent to the Aero, where a slate of Harryhausen films will be screened in conjunction with the event. For more info, check out:
And by all means, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

Here's an eBay find we thought might be of interest to monsterphiles and comic fans (and often the interests overlap). A drawing of John Carradine by comics legend Wally Wood was recently offered at the online auction house. Described as "a very rare piece [this] pen and ink drawing of the actor [is] simply a stunning piece of artwork by one of the last great masters of comic art." Wood's ink-on-acetate Carradine portrait measures 2 5/8 X 4 3/8 inches. No one bid on the piece, which was listed with a starting bid of $249.99.

Horror buffs in the Midwest are readying themselves for the "Flashback Weekend's Horro'Rama Drive-In and Convention." The con billed as "Chicago's most complete horror/movie memorabilia convention" features, as one might expect, celebrity guests, a humongous dealers' room, a costume contest, and myriad other special events. Among said events is a "marvelous, nostalgic re-creation of the drive-in at night, featuring 35mm screenings of classic [films] and premiere showings of [new] horror films on a huge 20 x 40 screen." The screenings are accompanied by vintage trailers, celebrity speakers, even a well-stocked concession stand. Headlining the guest list this time is contemporary cult-film icon Bruce Campbell, star of the "Evil Dead" films and director Sam Raimi's mascot and favorite punching bag. Also on the agenda is a "John Carpenter/Debra Hill Cast Reunion" (pioneering producer Hill passed away in March) highlighted by a 25th anniversary screening of the Carpenter-directed shocker "The Fog" attended by Carpenter/Hill alumni Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers and Nancy Loomis. It takes place July 29-31 at the Crown Plaza Chicago O'Hare in beautiful Rosemont, Ill. For more info, check out:
Leave no doubt the B Monster sent you!

Pete Von Sholly, artist, writer, movie storyboarder and classic creaturephile, has produced mock monster magazines, riotous fumettis, satiric superhero comics and lovingly illustrated "Horrora" model kit boxes. His singular sardonic streak is likewise on exhibit in his latest project, one bound to appeal to monster kids of a certain vintage. Pete describes this new offering, "Sergeantstein and his Maraudin' Monsters," as a satirical monster war comic touching on many aspects of the horror genre from films, TV and literature." There's a "Sergeantstein" promo in this month's Diamond Previews, and Pete will be appearing at the San Diego Comicon next month with advance copies for sale. The bulk will ship in August. Via the tongue-in-cheek tales of the Maraudin' Monsters, Pete manages to skewer darn-near every horror and sci-fi hallmark, from Lovecraft to Poe, Jason to Chucky, "Star Wars" to "Matrix." Even the current political climate including the situation in the Middle East, is broached "Harryhausen style," says Von Sholly, "but seen in the light of political reality and twisted accordingly." The 96-page trade paperback from Vonshollywood Press retails for $14.95. For more info, visit Pete at:
You know by now to tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Pop-culture quiz: What three words guarantee success for an exploitation movie? A: Slimy mutant monsters B: Grisly special effects C: Coeds in lingerie D: Lesbian nude scenes If you guessed D, you are absolutely correct. And if you're looking for a film that features A through D, and then tosses in E, F and G-G-G, have we got a film for you. "Frog-g-g," the first-time feature from writer-director Cody Jarrett, begins with a protracted lesbian nude scene and gets more exploitative from there. "Exploitation films have always been my biggest influence," says Jarrett, a part-time actor, stand-in and lead singer of the L.A. rock band Teen Machine, who cites Russ Meyer, Jack Hill and, curiously, the 1980 horror "Humanoids From the Deep," as inspirations. "We set out to make a 1970s exploitation film," says Jarrett, "and we did it!" The story follows a time-honored formula; an unscrupulous small-town chemical distributor is dumping excess waste illegally. The runoff spawns the humanoid amphibian of the title, whose biological urges drive him to mate with the local females. The heroine of the piece, as played by Kristi Russell, is a buxom EPA biologist who just happens to be a lesbian and who, it would seem, doesn't believe in buttons. In nearly every scene her blouse is open to her navel -- that is, when it's on at all. In accordance with said formula, none of the local yokels will believe her story of a chemically altered amorous amphibian until it's too late.

It isn't surprising that reviewers have drawn comparisons to Roger Corman. The MSN Movies Web site called "Frog-g-g," a terrific new exploitation film, masterfully modeled after drive-in classics from the 1970's. This movie doesn't just take a page from the Roger Corman book, it IS the Roger Corman book!" Film Threat said, "Frog-g-g" blends "the aesthetics of Roger Corman/Samuel Z. Arkoff '60's and '70's monster flicks with a touch of Russ Meyer flair." They might have tossed in Larry Cohen's "It's Alive," as well, not to mention the quick and dirty AIP remakes of Larry Buchanan. All involved seem devoted to re-creating the lurid '70s drive-in zeitgeist, and Jarrett's cast, featuring cameos by James DuVal and exploitation vet Mary Woronov ("Death Race 2000," "Silent Night, Bloody Night") plays in earnest. Jarrett says he'd love to see more, new "old-school" exploitation movies. "No one's making them anymore, so I am!"

Author Justin Humphreys contributes the following assessment of two neglected scores that accompanied a pair of producer George Pal's less memorable films.

Film Score Monthly's dual "Atlantis/The Power" soundtrack album marks the first CD release of nearly 45 minutes of previously unreleased musical cues from these George Pal films -- in stereo, no less. Many of the finest of these films' musical cues are, understandably, nowhere to be found on La-La Land Records' "Fantasy Film Music of George Pal" album, which was strictly a Pal soundtrack sampler. Fantasist George Pal's "Atlantis" (1961, directed by Pal) and "The Power" (1967 -- produced by Pal, directed by Byron Haskin) are, possibly, his greatest misfires. Both are sporadically impressive -- i.e.: "Atlantis'" gorgeous, antiquated submarine; certain sequences in "The Power" -- but neither delivers on the tremendous promise that their basic concepts hold. Atlantis, a sword-and-sandal fantasy about the legendary, super-scientific lost continent, rehashes fantasy ideas (and dusty MGM science fiction movie props) that seemed dated in 1961. It is a sorry follow-up to Pal's previous film, "The Time Machine" (1960). "The Power," which follows the hunt for a super-normally evolved, murderous mental giant, hardly hints at the enormous cinematic possibilities that teem in Frank Robinson's eponymous novel. Time after time, "The Power" approaches being something extraordinary. And, just as often, it narrowly misses its mark. But the two films' merits aren't at issue, here -- their scores are. Both of these films are bested by their own soundtracks. Composer Russell Garcia, returning from "The Time Machine," created a score for "Atlantis" exponentially grander and more affecting than the film itself. (That Garcia cribbed portions of his own "Time Machine" music for his "Atlantis" cues in no way detracts from the score's beauty and evocative power.)

These two films' scores complement each other well -- both have outstanding moments of epic power, which find their counterpoint in poignant, lilting melodies, tailored to the respective films' more intimate moments. Golden Age film composer Miklos Rozsa ("Spellbound," "The Killers") scored "The Power" with more flair than any of the film's finest moments. Rozsa used a Hungarian instrument that he had previously (intentionally) avoided, the Gypsy cimbalom. (The cimbalom, like Rozsa and Pal, originates in Hungary.) This bizarre instrument's loud, jangling chords give "The Power's" music a distinctly European sound. (Rozsa's work, here, seems most influenced by Bernard Herrmann's wild "North By Northwest" fandangos.) Rozsa's "Power" score creates the mood of a Cold-War era, Euro-spy movie far more successfully than that of the film's distinctly mundane, American milieu. But, at the same time, Rozsa's "Power" score seems too ferocious and unrestrained for inclusion in a spy film. The score's European flavor also gives the film an eerie, fairy-tale-like quality -- something all Pal films have, more or less. One cut that this disc mercifully lacks is the bland rock number used during "The Power's" most clumsy, embarrassing scene -- an inappropriate go-go party at some conventioneers' hotel room. The release of these two extended scores is marvelous news. Like most Pal film soundtracks, neither has ever received its due praise. It is a joy to finally be able to listen to, for instance, tracks 4-7 of the CD, the transitional music between "Atlantis'" bombastic opening cue and Garcia's lush "Love Scene/Submarine Scene." These cuts are five-minutes, 33 seconds of gorgeous, subtle, unobtrusive film music, at its neglected best.

The only way that this CD seems wanting, is in its liner notes. There is little new information here, about Pal or his films. (At the risk of sounding like a complete lout, you'll have to buy my upcoming Pal biography, for that.) With that said, they are well written. But who buys CDs for liner notes? These soundtracks and their stereo transfers are top-of-the-line. We have been reminded, once again, that the original score to a mediocre Pal film is better than the music accompanying many filmmakers' masterworks. This CD is available directly from Film Score Monthly at, in a limited edition of 3,000 copies.


Just as myriad cult, horror and sci-fi films are revived, repackaged and re-released in retitled collections, so we've recycled some salient observations we've expounded over the years, inserting new info, re-writing and revising our reviews. So, if selected portions of the following have a familiar ring ...

("Brain From Planet Arous," "Cat-Women of the Moon," "Missile to the Moon," "The Day It Came to Earth")

This just may just be THE quintessential John Agar film, suited as it is to his unique brand of deliberate, yet oddly convincing acting. Agar portrays a dedicated scientist baffled by a confounding series of signals emanating from Mystery Mountain, a rugged, desolate area near his desert home. Against the better judgment of his lovely fiancé, Joyce Meadows, Agar treks toward the source of the readings accompanied by his young assistant, Robert ("Emergency!") Fuller (who had only just finished filming the J.D. classic "Teenage Thunder").

Upon spelunking a newly hewn cave (actually the familiar confines of Hollywood's oft-filmed Bronson Canyon), the mystery of the emanations is revealed in the form of an immense floating brain with eyes. Agar reacts as any scientist would, emptying his pistol into the brain to no avail (oddly, when his wife-to-be and her father later confront the same brain in the same spooky cave, they don't seem particularly startled). The brain, named Gor, telepathically dispatches Fuller, then slips into Agar's cranium, replacing the good doctor's personality with its own.

Under Gor's control, Agar heads to the home of his intended. Meadows is flustered by his aggressive sexual advances, and her dog barks at him suspiciously. His future father-in-law (Thomas Browne Henry), exhibits little concern when his daughter describes Agar's odd behavior. The next day, Gor/Agar drops in on a nearby atomic test facility, casually announcing his plans for world conquest to an assemblage of top brass. To impress them, he detonates a devastating explosion with one glance.

Following the maxim that two heads are indeed better than one, the filmmakers introduce a second alien brain named Vol. It seems that Vol is sort of an Arousian cop, hot on Gor's trail (admit it, it's an auspicious twist for a budget-conscious horror flick). He's shadowed the renegade brain all the way from Arous. (Curiously, both Gor and Vol are voiced by associate producer Dale Tate, who also has a role in the film as ... Dale Tate.) Vol explains that Gor must temporarily leave Agar's body every 24 hours to recharge his battery. Once floating freely, Gor is vulnerable at a specific spot on his bloated lobes. A single blow to this region will do him in.

If you're only going to see one John Agar film, make it this one. He demonstrates a range he rarely had the opportunity to exercise, from laid-back, pipe-smoking professor to grinning deviant (Agar noted in later years that the black lenses he was required to wear while inhabited by the evil Gor were decidedly uncomfortable and may in fact have caused genuine damage to his vision.) Respect should be paid to this guy. A decorated war hero who survived a marriage to Shirley Temple, Agar descended rapidly from John Ford classics ("She Wore A Yellow Ribbon") to such low-budget films as "The Mole People" in a matter of a few years. Yet, even in such indefensible bombs as "Zontar, The Thing from Venus," his performances were quite serviceable and far better than the films deserved. Even in dogs, he never "dogged it."

Director Nathan Juran (here, using the name Nathan Hertz, as he occasionally did), dabbled in darned-near every genre. His collaborations with animator Ray Harryhausen are outstanding, but it is for impoverished fare like "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" that he'll long be remembered. Here, he stages an inventive shot or two, but he's hampered by sub-standard props and a small cast saddled with a first-draft script. He paces the film briskly, however, diverting attention from the inadequacies.

This cheap 3-D curio, one of the best-remembered exploitation titles of the '50s, benefits marginally from an experienced cast who must be credited with delivering sturdy performances in the midst of what must have seemed insurmountable circumstances. Sonny Tufts, nearing the end of a respectable career as a B-movie everyman, soldiers bravely through scenes looking positively forlorn as the film's ostensible hero. And one glance at the faces of Victor Jory and Marie Windsor as they strap themselves into castered office chairs (standing in for rocket cockpit seats), is most revealing. Are they straining not to laugh, or literally in pain? What senses of humor these hearty thespians must have possessed, maintaining poker faces from blast-off to closing credits.

Veteran director Herbert L. Strock once told the B Monster that Victor Jory drove him crazy with scene-stealing facial ticks and gestures: nose-pulling, ear-tugging, etc. In "Cat-Women," the actor's countenance gets a vigorous workout as Jory and his fellow players tread water frantically throughout, hoping to distract the audience from the absurd, stilted screenplay.

It's a skeletal story about a mission to the moon, which is populated by a subterranean race of slinky women sporting black tights. Initially hostile to the newcomers, it isn't long before they're bedazzling the male crewmembers with attempts at flirting and exotic dancing. One of the Cat-Women, Betty Arlen, choreographed the lazy terpsichore. Billed in the opening credits as Hollywood Covergirls, the moon's busty rulers are never referred to as "Cat-Women" at any point. Beyond any inference stemming from their black attire, they possess no feline attributes.

Interestingly, the possibilities of the 3-D process are neglected throughout the film. You'd think that jutting moonscapes, giant spiders and soaring spacecraft would be fully exploited to showcase the eye-popping potential of the pioneering process. Yet, most of the picture lies flatter than a rug instead of leaping at thrill-hungry moviegoers. A floppy spider-doll is tossed at the hapless troop of explorers, then hastily dispatched, its thrill potential minimally exercised. Marie Windsor recalled that frustrated puppeteers couldn't quite manage the unwieldy, stuffed arachnid. At one point, one of its legs fell off. "Oh gosh, it's almost embarrassing," she told the B Monster. "I just wanted to work. And if they handed me almost anything -- if I didn't have to strip -- I would work ... I wasn't that particular, shall I say. I never asked who the costars were or anything like that. I just asked when it was and how much money."

At the suggestion of Astor Pictures, director Richard Cunha and producer Marc Frederic mounted this remake of Astor's notorious schlock space opera "Cat-Women of the Moon." The film that resulted may not be intrinsically better, (it COULDN'T be worse), but it is every bit as fascinating. Cunha and company tossed every sci-fi, B-movie cliché into the pot -- bulky rockets, giant spiders, leering juvenile delinquents, lumpy, shambling rock men, a subterranean city and a bevy of slinky beauties living on a manless satellite -- and came up with a corny, defiantly entertaining hodge-podge that never fails to make me smile. And what a cast -- Richard Travis, Cathy Downs, Tommy Cook, Nina Bara, Gary Clarke, Leslie Parrish. Anyone expecting plausibility will be sorely disappointed. Anyone looking for a good time will wear this DVD out.

Are you a compulsive credit watcher like the B Monster? Do you pore over the names of cinematographers, stunt men and grips, searching for significant bits of trivia? Sometimes, that's the only entertainment a dud film can deliver. Take "The Day It Came to Earth" for instance, a 1979 sci-fi shlocker directed by one Harry Thomason, a TV veteran whose credits include horrors such as "Revenge of Bigfoot," sitcoms such as "Designing Women" and "Evening Shade," the cooking show, "Emeril," even documentaries for the Democratic National Committee! Wait a minute. ... That's right, it's THAT Harry Thomason, famous friend of the Clinton clan. Okay, now, let's scan the cast list. It's composed primarily of nobodies: Wink Roberts, Roger Manning, Robert Ginnaven, George Gobel. ... What? Yep! It's TV funnyman Lonesome George Gobel. Keep scanning; Delight De Bruine, Lyle Armstrong and Rita Wilson. Yes, it's THAT Rita Wilson. Mrs. Tom Hanks. Now the veteran of two dozen movies and zillionaire co-producer of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." (See, I told you credit watching was fun.)

("Lost Continent," "The Giant Gila Monster," "She Demons," "Monster From Green Hell")

Note to the uninitiated: Go ahead and laugh at the "Davey and Goliath"-like dinosaurs, the padded rock-climbing sequences, the green-tinted footage and the bravado performances. Go ahead and laugh at everything I think makes this picture terrific! With the possible exception of Alex Gordon, only Robert L. Lippert could assemble such a cast: Cesar Romero, Hugh Beaumont, John Hoyt, Whit Bissell, Chick Chandler, Hillary Brooke, Sid Melton -- and Acquanetta, for cryin' out loud! Let's say they were burying a time capsule and someone said, "Quick, pick one picture that showcases the most and the best B-movie actors in top form!" I'd be tempted to toss in "Lost Continent." It's cheap and kooky and slow in spots, but every performer goes at the material as though it were Shakespeare -- much like Lugosi in his waning days. I like that about this picture. The plot is a shameless, "atom-age" take on Conan Doyle: An atomic-powered rocket goes off course and crash-lands on an uncharted island. Many of the aforementioned players make up a government search-and-rescue team. Upon reaching the summit of the island's mysterious, dino-populated mountain, the black and white film is thereafter tinted green. Director Sam Newfield had many a B under his belt by the time he helmed the Lippert-produced "Lost Continent." If only his pacing were as tight as the budget. Nevertheless, this is flat-out, cult-film fun. If you don't have a ball watching this one, you're in the wrong cult.

Actor Ken Curtis, second unit director Ray Kellogg and a Texas radio station owner pooled their resources and produced two bona fide exploitation classics. "The Killer Shrews" starred James Best, Curtis and the father of director Sidney Lumet, menaced by a pack of dogs draped with crepe hair. "The Giant Gila Monster" has marginally more of what cult-movie lovers look for in a film. For starters, there's a GIANT gila monster. Though he trundles some less-than-convincing miniatures, he's a bit more credible than the painfully obvious canine "shrews." There are also souped-up hot rods, a hangout for swingin' teens, a hep cat deejay emceeing a sock hop, the comic stylings of local drunk Shug Fisher, and a handful of peppy pop tunes crooned by star Don Sullivan. Who can forget "The Mushroom Song" ("laugh children, laugh ...") and that hummable "sings whenever she swings whenever she stings ..." ditty? Sullivan was a serviceable actor and a passable singer who dropped out of showbiz after appearing in a batch of "Bs" that are much revered by cult-film enthusiasts, including "Monster of Piedras Blancas," "The Rebel Set," and director Jerry Warren's execrable "Teenage Zombies."

Appearing as Sullivan's exchange student girlfriend is French import Lisa Simone, who is also credited as one of the "moon girls" in Richard Cunha's "Missile to the Moon." Fred Graham, who co-stars as the town sheriff, was one of the Republic studio's legendary stuntmen, working alongside Tom Steele and Dave Sharpe in countless Westerns and serials. His speaking parts prior to "Gila Monster" were usually small ones as henchmen or posse members. Shug Fisher appeared in dozens of films by virtue of the fact that he sang with the famed Sons of the Pioneers. Later in his career, he made roles as scruffy drunks and incorrigible schemers, his bread and butter. Curtis, of course, went on to TV immortality as Festus of "Gunsmoke" fame. He'd begun his career as a big band vocalist before turning to acting, most notably as one of John Ford's stock players. He appeared in 10 Ford films with a sizable role in Ford's "The Searchers." No doubt Curtis and his partners made back the money they invested in their twin terror films, and then some. Whether or not the films convinced audiences, they delivered the monsters promised by their delightfully lurid titles.

Now THIS is an exploitation movie -- and nobody exploited the exploitable quite like director Richard Cunha. Many consider this twisted shocker his magnum opus. It's got everything necessary to keep a cult-film fan happy: A mad doctor, scantily-clad native gals, Nazis hoping to resurrect the Reich, and, of course, un-P.C. references to race that must have seemed harmless at the time.

Tod Griffin, who'd previously starred in TV's "Operation: Neptune," portrays a treasure hunter for hire, conscripted by a wealthy backer to explore an uncharted Pacific island. By the very slimmest of plot contrivances, the millionaire's shapely daughter, as played by 1950s pin-up queen Irish McCalla, decides to go along for the ride. McCalla, some may recall, starred as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle three years prior to the filming of "She Demons." Rounding out the intrepid team is Griffin's right-hand man, Sammy, played by Charlie Chan's ex-No. 2 son Victor Sen Yung, who was soon to find lasting employment as the Ponderosa's head chef on TV's "Bonanza." And let's not forget the Diana Nellis Dancers as the "She Demons."

Easily stealing the show, however, is actor Rudolph Anders who hams it up as the Mengele-like mad doctor. When a script called for a wild-eyed Aryian-type, Anders name must have been near the top of every casting director's list. Nobody, with the possible exception of Martin "Flesh Eaters" Kosleck, did it better. Anders' poised dementia and convincing delivery make you forget, just for a moment, the cardboard sets and tin foil gadgets surrounding him.

The film kicks off with newsreel footage of a devastating typhoon that's currently pounding the very area our heroes are flying into. (Didn't they check the forecast? Wasn't there a radio on board?) Ditching their plane, our bedraggled band soon find themselves washed ashore without provisions, and are forced to go foraging. (Somehow, they've managed to salvage Irish's comely sun dress.) It isn't long before they stumble upon the caged "She Demons," native girls who were subject to Anders' misguided efforts to restore the beauty of his disfigured wife. Naturally, our friends are captured and, according to the unwritten movie law that states that all villains must explain their motives to the victims as they'll never live to tell anyway, Anders describes how Der Furher himself sent him to the desolate isle during the war to conduct Third Reich research. Aided by, of all people, Herr Doctor's scarred wife, the trio escape in a rowboat that had been stashed elsewhere on the island just as the U.S. Air Force, on a test run, is commencing to bomb the atoll. All the doc's atomic-powered apparatus goes up in smoke as Yung utters the film's best line: "Let's blow this crazy fire trap!"

We could debate whether the movie is a tongue-in-cheek exercise, or was simply the best they could produce with the budget they had. (Maybe both?) Who cares? It's all great, goofy, grotesque fun and, though I've always preferred Cunha's "Giant From the Unknown," I couldn't recommend a cult film more highly than "She Demons."

Probably the only film we'll review that stars "Pollock" screenwriter and mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barbara Turner. And throughout the film she looks just about as bored as anyone who watches this stinker has a right to be. Jim Davis, later to star in TV's "Dallas," is sent to Africa with Turner in tow to determine the whereabouts of a lost test rocket. The trip is disastrous. Not only does the airline lose their Geiger counter, it seems the atomic contents of said rocket have turned a hive of wasps into gigantic mutations. No, it's not as exciting as it sounds.


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

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.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/books.html

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

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