Actor/stuntman Chuck Courtney has taken his own life at
the age of 69. Courtney had suffered a series of strokes
in recent years and was reportedly despondent over their
lingering effects. Friends said that while Courtney had
remained active, he had great difficulty speaking.
Courtney may be best known for his appearances in the
cult-film classics "Teenage Monster" (aka "Meteor Monster")
and "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula," which starred Courtney
and John Carradine in the title roles, respectively. He
also enjoyed popularity as Dan Reid, nephew of "The Lone
Ranger" on the television series, which starred Clayton
Moore as the masked lawman. After breaking into feature
films, Courtney played opposite one of his best friends,
Robert Fuller, in "Teenage Thunder." Fuller recalls that
Courtney helped him win his role in the film by staging
a fight between the two for the director's benefit. "Chuck
and I played the scene and Paul [Helmick] just stood there,
dumfounded. After it was all over we were lying on the ground,
and he said, 'That's it! All right! You've got the damn
In addition to his work as a stuntman and second unit
director on films ranging from "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960)
to Clint Eastwood's "The Rookie" (1990), Courtney appeared
in many westerns, including three starring John Wayne: "El
Dorado," "Rio Lobo" and "The Cowboys." Courtney's TV credits
include appearances on "Wagon Train," "The Adventures of
Wild Bill Hickok," "The Fugitive," "The Wild, Wild West"
and "Star Trek."
"He was a great guy and will be sorely missed by all who
knew him," says Courtney's close friend, movie production
coordinator Nancy Barr. "We were the Four Musketeers: Chuck
Courtney, Bob Fuller, Doug McClure and me. I was so proud
to be one of the guys. Now there are just two of us left."
(McClure passed away in 1995). Courtney's son and stepson
have followed in his footsteps, pursuing careers as stuntmen.
The actor best known as the brother of Jimmy Stewart's character,
George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life," Todd Karns, is
dead at 79. The cause of death was not immediately known.
It is Karns who proffers the film's classic toast, "To my
big brother, George, the richest man in town!" The actor
may also be recognized by cult-film fans for his small role
as Jim, the service station attendant in the original "Invaders
From Mars." He also had supporting parts in a pair of the
"Andy Hardy" pictures, as well as "China Venture," "The
Caine Mutiny" and others.
Karns was the son of character actor Roscoe Karns who,
beginning in 1915, appeared in over 130 films, including
"The Jazz Singer," "20th Century," "It Happened One Night"
and "His Girl Friday." The father and son team appeared
together in the television series "Rocky King, Inside Detective"
beginning in 1950. The younger Karns later moved to Mexico
to pursue a career as a painter.
French film director Roger Vadim is dead at 72. He had cancer.
Vadim is perhaps best known for "And God Created Woman,"
the film that made an international sensation of his then-wife,
Brigitte Bardot, who starred as a sensual young woman who
was, according to the director, "without any sense of guilt
on a moral or sexual level." To cult-film fans, Vadim may
be better known for films such as "Blood and Roses," a 1960
filming of Sheridan La Fanu's classic vampire tale, "Carmilla,"
and the high camp sci-fi romp, "Barbarella," which starred
his third wife, Jane Fonda, as the sexy space heroine. Prior
to his marriage to Fonda, Vadim lived with French actress
Catherine Deneuve, with whom he had a child. He had four
children by four women, three of whom he married. He is
survived by his fifth wife, actress Marie-Christine Barrault.
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Rhythm and Blues performer Screamin' Jay Hawkins has died
at a clinic in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine. The
singer had suffered multiple organ failure after emergency
surgery to treat an aneurysm.
Following a stint as a pianist and sometime valet to jazz
guitarist Tiny Grimes, Hawkins recorded his first hit, the
pounding, minor-key blues anthem "I Put A Spell On You,"
which was subsequently covered by singer Nina Simone, Creedence
Clearwater Revival and others. Hawkins never scored another
hit, but continued to record songs such as "Little Demon,"
"Feast of the Mau Mau" and "Constipation Blues." Hawkins
was an outlandish performer, even by today's standards,
appearing onstage in full voodoo regalia, sometimes emerging
from a coffin to perform, clutching a human skull he dubbed
Henry. His musical number in the 1957 film "Mr. Rock and
Roll," performed in a white loincloth and face paint, wound
up on the cutting room floor. He later appeared in films
such as "American Hot Wax," "Two Moon Junction" and "Mystery
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
We extend our sympathies to our friend, John Agar, and his
family. Mrs. Agar passed away just days before a special
celebration of John's 79th birthday.
FRANTIC FOR FRANCIS
It's our civic duty to remind you that the Anne Francis
Millennium Edition Calendars are going fast! It might be
March already, but the indispensible, ultra-rare pinups
that accompany each month will provide you all the feminine
pulchritude you'll need to get through the next millennium.
Better still, a portion of the proceeds go to charity. Visit
the official Anne Francis website at http://www.annefrancis.net
IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN
Talks are reportedly under way to film a new version of
H.G. Wells classic novel "The Time Machine." Sources say
screenwriter John Logan, who scripted "Bats," "RKO 281"
and "Any Given Sunday," has been hired for the project.
No word as to whether or not the film will resemble George
Pal's classic 1960 interpretation, which starred Rod Taylor.
HOPEFULLY NOT ANOTHER BRONZE BOMB
Speaking of George Pal, plans are afoot to lense "Doc Savage:
The Man of Bronze." Pal's final project was a flop film
based on Lester Dent's popular pulp character who paved
the way for future comic book supermen such as, well, Superman.
Ex-TV Tarzan Ron Ely played the well-read, philanthropist/superhero
in Pal's version. This time around, if director Frank Darabont
("The Green Mile") has his way, it'll be Arnold Schwarzenegger.
How to explain Doc's thick, Austrian accent? Perhaps one
of the millionaire hero's clever disguises. Darabont and
Chuck Russell ("Eraser") are developing the project with
Schwarzenegger in mind. (NOTE: This is the only Schwarzenegger
item you'll read all year that does not refer to the actor
Director Oliver Parker is slated to film Davide Ferrario's
novel "Fade To Black." Set in post-World War II Rome, the
story's protagonist is none other than Orson Welles, who
gets caught up in the investigation following a string of
murders that take place on the set where he's filming. Kenneth
Branagh is in negotiations to play Welles. That's right,
Word is that Tim Burton will direct the long-awaited remake
of "Planet of the Apes." His considerable talents seem poorly
matched to the material, as his work has always reminded
us of the direction of film design wizard William Cameron
Menzies ("Invaders From Mars," "Things to Come," "The Whip
Hand.") Each creates pictures that are beautiful to look
at, filled with actors who seem to have no idea what's happening
around them, making for a suspenseless film experience.
FURTHER PROOF THAT HOLLYWOOD IS ON AUTOMATIC PILOT
Get out your cliche-o-meter. This is the promotional text
that appears on the official "Red Planet" website: "In the
near future, Earth is dying. A new colony on Mars could
be humanity's only hope. A team of American astronauts,
each a specialist in a different field, is making the first
manned expedition to the red planet and must struggle to
overcome the differences in their personalities, backgrounds
and ideologies for the overall good of the mission. When
their equipment suffers life-threatening damage and the
crew must depend on one another for survival on the hostile
surface of Mars, their doubts, fears and questions about
God, man's destiny and the nature of the universe become
defining elements in their fates. In this alien environment
they must come face to face with their most human selves."
And now, from the official "Mission to Mars" website:
"When the first manned mission to Mars meets with a catastrophic
and mysterious disaster, a rescue mission is launched to
investigate the tragedy and bring back any survivors. Exciting
and realistic, "Mission to Mars" is the inspirational story
of the astronauts of the hurried Mars Recovery mission,
the almost insurmountable dangers that confront the heroic
crew on their journey through space, and the amazing discovery
they make when they finally reach the Red Planet."
And finally, from the Cyber Sci-Fi Network's "Mars and
Beyond": "In the year 2014, an international team of astronauts
is sent to Mars. Officially, their dangerous mission is
to explore the planet most like Earth. But a privileged
few know their real mission is to answer the question: "Are
Are we alone? Are we AWAKE?
DVD purists were given a bit of a scare when "Stir of Echoes"
was recently released in that format. As "DVD Review" points
out, the release is clearly labeled "fullscreen," and a
previous item of ours reflected that. Rest assured, the
release is "anamorphic widescreen." "Echoes" isn't a bad
little film, and would probably hold up in "full-frame"
format, but, as DVD is widely considered the choice of video
purists who are quite serious when it comes to things like
aspect ratios and audio fidelity, you gotta wonder about
A LIVING DUD
Here's another puzzler. The "Night of the Living Dead: 30th
Anniversary Edition" contains two versions of the film.
One has additional footage whipped up by a co-writer and
a co-producer (original director George Romero was not involved),
the other is the original film intact, but with a tacky
new score subbing for the original's stock, library music.
Why were the changes and additions made? Aren't they merely
gimmicks employed to squeeze every last buck out of Romero's
influential flick? More importantly, half the charm of the
original film derives from it's grainy look and harsh lighting.
How is that enhanced by DVD?
ON THE HOLMES FRONT
In other DVD news, sources say that Focusfilms will release
four of the Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes films in packages
that will include 15 hours of the Sherlock Holmes radio
series featuring Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, as well as an
interview with Holmes' creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. Look
for a mid-March release.
NEW ON VIDEO
Once again, the good folks at Englewood Entertainment score
high marks for helping to preserve our B-movie heritage.
Another batch of pristine prints of some (arguably) classic
film gems is now available.
No, not the crappy 1968 Hammer dog, but the 1951 Lippert
classic starring Cesar Romero, John Hoyt, Hugh Beaumont,
Whit Bissell and, who can forget the poignant death scene
of Sid Melton, seen intact for the first time in years?
There's also one of "Captive Wild Woman" Acquanetta's last
screen hurrahs, as well as a bit part from Hillary Brooke.
Best of all, the green-tinted sequences have been restored,
lending a genuinely weird quality to the Gumby-like, animated
dinosaurs. True, there's some padding (the notorious rock-climbing
sequences), but it barely detracts from the cult-film fun.
If you don't have a ball watching this one, you're in the
This atmospheric, 1960 chiller from the Amicus studio is
everything the Hammer gothics should have been. Where the
Hammer films tended to waste too much screen time showcasing
velvet drapery and Victorian bric-a-brac, this tidy, contemporary
shocker from "Night Stalker" director John Moxey utilizes
shadowplay and claustrophobic atmosphere to good advantage
in chronicling the dilemma of a coed caught up in a New
England coven of witches. Patricia Jessel, Betta St. John,
Dennis Lotis and Venetia Stevenson give first-rate performances.
Oh, yeah -- Christopher Lee is in it, too.
GALLERY OF HORRORS
From David L. Hewitt, the man who gave us "Wizard of Mars,"
"Journey to the Center of Time" and, of course, "The Mighty
Gorga," come five tales of terror hosted by John Carradine
at his most vociferous. The segment titles alone should
whet your appetite: "The Witches Clock," "King Vampire,"
"Monster Raid," "The Spark of Life" (featuring Lon Chaney
Jr. in one of his final screen appearances) and "Count Dracula."
Throughout his career, Hewitt has proven himself nothing
if not ambitious, and for that we applaud him. Everything
about this flick is bare-bones and that's probably why it's
so enjoyable. (As a crowning touch, this video presents
it in the original widescreen, letterbox format.)
Director John Landis candidly states, "I've always felt
that Schlock should have a title card saying, 'Made for
$60,000 in 12 days by a 21-year-old." Excuses, excuses --
that's how most of my favorite films were made. This was
Landis' first film, directed while sporting the monster
makeup he wore as the titular character. The makeup effects
were created by Rick Baker in the first of many collaborations
with Landis. The movie isn't very good, but does that mean
it isn't any fun? That's hard to determine. The more revealing
question is whether it's a parody or an "homage" to its
forerunners. The answer isn't clear.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: I was so happy when Bill Warren's two-part "Keep Watching
the Skies" was finally released as one giant volume. Do
you know if any of Tom Weaver's previous works will get
a similar royal treatment?
A: As we speak, McFarland & Co. is releasing "Return
of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes," which combines
two of Tom's earlier volumes into one, indispensible tome
packed with more than 50 interviews. Tom's seminal "Poverty
Row Horrors!" is also being reissued. Along with Bill's
exhaustive "Keep Watching the Skies," these belong on the
shelf of every fright film fan. Get 'em at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Q: Whatever became of sci-fi film producer Sid Pink? His
"Angry Red Planet" and "Journey to the Seventh Planet" are
among the most fondly remembered sci-fi films of my youth.
A: Funny you should ask! Also moving into literary release
is "Reptilicus: The Screenplay," by Pink and Kip Doto. Even
though many genre-film fans wouldn't mention "Reptilicus"
in the same breath with "Angry Red Planet," Pink purists
will get more than their fill with this offering. Get it
via snail mail from Doto at P.O. Box 8050, Coral Springs
FL. 33075 (And be sure and tell 'em the B Monster sent you).
Thanks again to all B Monsterites who follow the daily adventures
of "The Crater Kid." Special thanks to the good folks at
Comics Scene for the lavish spread they did on the Kid and
the impact that Internet comic syndication is having. Merchandising
is coming soon, and half of all proceeds will go to help
abused and neglected children. The Kid will make his Image
Comics print debut this spring. http://www.craterkid.com
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
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 through Midnight
Marquee Press or 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, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"Recommended by the Young America Horror Club!" -- Robot
vs. the Aztec Mummy