MARCH 2000


Chuck Courtney
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 part!'"

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.

Todd Karns
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.

Roger Vadim
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 Train."


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.

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

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.

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 as "Ahnuld.")

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, Kenneth Branagh.

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.

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 we alone?"

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 the snafu.

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?

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.


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 wrong cult.

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.

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.


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

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.


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available through Midnight Marquee Press or at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at

"Recommended by the Young America Horror Club!" -- Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

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