MARCH 2002

Spring is in the air, and with it comes a nostril-busting epidemic of Sequelitis accompanied by Remake Fever! (See news below.) In layman's terms, that means they take a movie we grew up watching and make it shiny with computers. (I've never understood the urge to make fictional things seem more "real" if the whole purpose is escapism.) Some of today's computer effects are mind-boggling. So why can't they come up with software that generates original story ideas? Or a program that scans a script for such phrases as "You're goin' down," "This conversation is over" and "Don't even go there" and eliminates them? Until they do, keep your CGI -- gimme "Crash" Corrigan in a rubber suit!


Irish McCalla
1950s pinup queen and film star, Irish McCalla, is dead at 72. She was battling a recurring brain tumor when she succumbed to a fatal stroke at a nursing home in Tucson. McCalla had lived in Prescott, Ariz., since 1982 but moved to a Tucson facility after being diagnosed with her fourth brain tumor. One of the top models for artists and photographers, including a stint as a "Varga Girl" posing for the famed artist whose work was featured on the cover of Esquire magazine, McCalla was an ideal choice to portray "Sheena," the comic book jungle queen, in the 1955 teleseries. She was tall (5' 9 1/2"), athletic and performed her own stunts until the day she grabbed a loose vine and crashed into a tree, breaking her arm. McCalla appeared in such B-pictures as "River Goddesses," "Five Gates to Hell" and "Hands of a Stranger," but is certainly best known for her star turn in director Richard Cunha's low-budget, horror classic "She Demons." In it, McCalla plays a pampered debutante stranded on a desert island populated by renegade Nazis led by a demented scientist whose experiments transform native women into hideous creatures.

The film has achieved well-deserved cult status. She also appeared in producer Albert Zugsmith's "The Beat Generation." The cast of this lurid curiosity reads like a B-movie "Who's Who:" Mamie Van Doren, Dick Contino, Ray Danton, Fay Spain, Jackie Coogan, Paul Cavanagh, Sid Melton and more. McCalla retired from acting to take up work as a painter. She formed McCalla Enterprises, Inc. and was a member of Woman Artists of the American West. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1969, overcame the affliction and returned to work. It recurred in 1981 and she again regained her health. She eventually completed over 1,000 paintings. Her work is on view at the Los Angeles Museum of Arts and Sciences, and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

George Nader
Actor George Nader died of pneumonia at the Motion Picture Country Home near Los Angeles. He was 80. Nader was a contract player who starred in dozens of B-movies and several A-budget features in the 1950s and '60s. He is best known to genre-film buffs as the star of director Phil Tucker's 1953 sci-fi camp classic "Robot Monster." In recent years, the amateurish, no-budget film, shot in 3-D, achieved cult status. Born in Pasadena, Nader's interest in acting led to performances at the Pasadena Playhouse and, eventually, a studio contract. His beefcake good looks put him in competition with such rising stars as Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and Jeff Chandler, but Nader was generally relegated to lower profile films, including "Six Bridges to Cross," "Carnival Story," "Four Guns to the Border" and "Man Afraid."

Like his friend Hudson, Nader kept his homosexuality a secret in an era when such knowledge would have damaged his career irreparably. Nader starred briefly as Ellery Queen in the 1958 TV series based on the fictional detective. He also appeared in the short-lived series "Shannon" in 1961. Cult-film fans will also remember Nader for his role in the 1964 sci-fi film, "The Human Duplicators," with Richard Kiel and Hugh Beaumont. His career declined over the next decade, and he retired to Hawaii.Nader's longtime partner, Mark Miller, was Rock Hudson's secretary, and Nader was one of the beneficiaries of Hudson's estate after the star died of AIDS in 1985. Nader's nephew, Michael Nader, turned up in bit parts in many of the 1960s "beach" movies, including "Beach Party," "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini."

Lucille Lund
Lucille Lund, who portrayed the bride AND stepdaughter of Boris Karloff in director Edgar G. Ulmer's horror classic, "The Black Cat," died of natural causes in Torrance, Calif. She was 89. While a student at Northwestern University, Lund won the Universal Studios-sponsored "All-American Girl" contest, which resulted in a film contract. She beat out 1,200 other entrants. She made her film debut in 1933 co-starring with Robert Young in "Saturday's Millions." She appeared in more than 30 B-movies, serials and two-reelers with Kermit Maynard, Ralph Byrd, The Three Stooges and Charley Chase, among others. She retired from films in 1939 to raise two children, but her role as Karen in Ulmer's cult classic, which starred Karloff and Bela Lugosi, ensured her a lasting place in the memories of genre-film fans. As Karen, Lund appeared in several scenes suspended in a vertical glass coffin from which she could not escape without help. One day, Ulmer called a lunch break and forgot all about her. "I couldn't get out," Lund told author Gregory Mank. "Everybody thought somebody else was going to get me out, but nobody took me out." She was stranded for an hour.

In the early 1990's, Lund was invited to attend the Memphis Film Festival. Following an enthusiastic ovation, Lund told the crowd, "I really think the reason you all remember me is because I went to bed with Boris Karloff."

Lawrence Tierney
Gravel-voiced movie tough guy, Lawrence Tierney, who had recently been in declining health, has died. He was 82. Tierney was the quintessential B-movie hoodlum, identified with roles in such films as "San Quentin," "The Devil Thumbs a Ride," "Born to Kill'' and "Female Jungle." Cult-film buffs may remember Tierney from roles in "The Falcon Out West" and producer Val Lewton's "The Ghost Ship." Tierney made his biggest splash in the low-budget 1945 hit, "Dillinger," in which Tierney played the notorious gangster. Tierney's offscreen run-ins with the law mirrored his movie exploits, with alcohol a contributing factor. He'd been involved with assaults, trespassing, shoplifting, drunken-driving and was even stabbed in a barroom brawl. His career went into decline and work for the volatile actor became scarce.

It was years before he was clean and sober. "I'd say it was about time," he told an interviewer. "Heck, I threw away about seven careers through drink." Tierney began a tenuous comeback, appearing in such television series as `"Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Remington Steele," and such feature films as "Prizzi's Honor" and "Reservoir Dogs." He also played the father of Elaine Benes on an episode of the hit series "Seinfeld." Tierney was the brother of actors Scott Brady and Ed Tracy.

Chuck Jones
Trendsetting animator Chuck Jones died of congestive heart failure at his home in Corona del Mar, Calif. He was 89. Jones grew up in Hollywood and began his show business career as a child in Mack Sennett shorts. After graduating art school, he found work with such famed animators as Ub Iwerks and Walter Lantz. He later joined the Warner Bros. animation team under the auspices of producer Leon Schlesinger. They inhabited a ramshackle backlot office that they dubbed "Termite Terrace." Jones directed cartoons featuring Warners' most memorable characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Pepe Le Pew and, his own inspired creation, The Road Runner. He went on to earn four Oscars in a career that lasted nearly 60 years. Following his tenure at Warners, and later MGM, he directed the 1966 television classic "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," which was narrated by Boris Karloff, as well as the 1969 feature, "The Phantom Tollbooth."


Legendary makeup artist, Jack Pierce, who created the look of Universals' classic creatures including the Frankenstein monster, The Mummy and The Wolf Man, will be honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The effort to secure this honor for Pierce began to snowball in June 2000 when a team of Hollywood artisans staged a live 78-minute multimedia play about Pierce's life. In this tribute, a narrator speaking as Pierce at age 79, recalls his memorable creations while actors, sporting costumes and makeup by Robert Burman and Jennifer McManus, bring them to life on stage. Early in 2001, Universal heard of the tribute and jumped on the tail end of what should have been their own bandwagon. The studio conscripted the tribute show's producer, Scott Essman, to promote and publicize Pierce's life and legend. An archive of Pierce material was established and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's Walk of Fame Committee was informed that a star for Pierce in their sidewalk pantheon should be considered. It was. The official ceremony and dedication is scheduled for Halloween 2002.

A special edition Pierce DVD is being compiled using material from the tribute show, including the entire performance, a behind-the-scenes short, archival photos and memorabilia, and a detailed chronicle of Pierce's life and contributions. To herald the release, Essman and his collaborators plan a celebration at the Hollywood History Museum, where a permanent Jack Pierce exhibit is on display.
For more info, contact Essman at: or call (626) 963-0635.

One of the horror genre's pre-eminent writers, David J. Skal, will be lecturing April 5 at The Louvre in Paris. Skal, author of "Hollywood Gothic" and "The Monster Show," as well as the premier packager of Universal's classic monster DVDs, is speaking as a part of the museum's series "Makeup: The Painted Face of Cinema." "I'll be introducing the screening of the restored version of 'Frankenstein,'" Skal said, "as well as clips from 'The Monkey Talks.' Obviously, I'll be talking mostly about Jack Pierce and his legacy. I'm giving the talk in French, and am busily brushing up." Wish them "Bon soir" for the B Monster.

Another nifty tribute was recently afforded the B Monster's buddy, Bob Burns. The sci fi-horror genre's most lauded collector and curator was invited to the set of the new "Time Machine" movie. (The original "Time Machine" prop, built for producer George Pal's classic film, is housed in Bob's world-famous basement.) Just before leaving the set, producers invited Bob to take a seat in the spanking new Time Machine for a photo or two. Bob struck a pose quite similar to the one he assumed in the familiar snapshot of him at the controls of Pal's original device.

Is it possible to produce "intentional camp?" Certainly one can lampoon the films of old a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000," or take off on the sci-fi genre's timeworn conventions as in "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." But while these productions laugh heartily at the cliches and naivete of the 1950s, the producers of "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" were smart enough to laugh at themselves, as well. That's what lends charm to what would otherwise have been just another cruel sendup of vintage science fiction cinema. Producer F. Miguel Valenti and writer-director-star Larry Blamire have an obvious affection for boomer-horror flicks and have done their homework when it comes to staging and pacing in the fashion of Corman and his contemporaries. The plot is a hash of "Robot Monster," "Day The World Ended," "Cat-Women of the Moon," "The Astounding She Monster," and predictably, "Plan 9 From Outer Space." The actors are all pros with resumes that include "Eyes Wide Shut," "The Majestic" and myriad TV shows. (Leading lady Faye Masterson, in her 1962 hairdo, puts one in mind of Candace Hilligoss.) A special screening at L.A.'s Egyptian Theater recently wowed an audience of 600. "I've seen some unsuccessful spoofs in the past," says Blamire, "[but] we were blessed with a terrific, talented cast; instead of hamming it up -- acting 'bad' -- we all play it pretty straight." They even bothered to film it in our beloved Bronson Canyon, location of innumerable sci-fi shoots. Next up for this production team: "Trail of the Screaming Forehead."
For more information visit: Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Another killer Chiller Theatre con will soon be upon us. Your unflappable host, Kevin Clement, the "Jerry Garcia of Horror Fandom," will once more swing wide the doors of the Sheraton Meadowlands to welcome the throng that seems to grow exponentially every year. (Heck, they may be queing up right now!) The show thrives with minimal press and maximum word-of-mouth. There are acres of models, modelers, memorabilia dealers, scantily-clad scream queens and burly men with swords -- and kids get in FREE! Take a gander at the spring show's guest roster:

Bubbly Ben Chapman, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" himself
"Spider Baby's" Beverly Washburn
Character actor Charles Napier
Darlene Tompkins of "Beyond the Time Barrier"
David "Kung Fu" Carradine
David "Help me, help me!" Hedison
David "Darth Vader" Prowse
Everyone's prized possession, Linda Blair
Deana Lund, Don Marshall and Don Matheson, all late of "Land of the Giants"
"Addams Family" siblings Ken Weatherwax and Lisa Loring
Lou "Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno
and, I'm not sure why, but what the heck -- Ray Manzarek of The Doors

There are so many more, but I'm tired of typing! It all starts Friday, April 19 at the Sheraton Meadowlands located opposite Giants Stadium in beautiful East Rutherford, NJ.
For more info visit:
Odds are Kevin will know the B Monster sent you!

There's a new con creeping its way east this summer. F.o.D. Entertainment & Kaos Films is staging the first Charm City Creep Con at the Baltimore Convention Center. According to publicity, it's "three great days packed with all the horror, sci-fi and music you can handle. From special celebrity guests, to contests with great prizes." Special events and fearsome features include guest Q & A discussions, film screenings, live music, a costume contest and "hundreds" of horror and sci-fi memorabilia dealers. "Charm City Creep Con hopes to make a name for itself as one of the best and most noted Horror and Sci-Fi conventions in the United States," say its promoters. "If the show is a success, we plan on taking it to the West Coast later in the year." The guest roster includes:

"Buffy's" Watcher in absentia, Anthony Stewart Head
"Leprechaun's" Warwick Davis
The return of Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse
Gill Man, Ben Chapman, surfacing once again
Troma bunny, Debbie Rochon Scream
Queens Jewel Shepard and Linnea Quigley
"Dracula A.D." 's Caroline Munro
Dick "Swamp Thing" Durock
The return of "Hulk"ing Lou Ferrigno
Plus various Playmates, extras and bit players from any number of "Star Wars" and "Return of the Children of the Dawn of the Living Dead" films.

For a complete list of guests, schedule of events and tickets (available at prices ranging from $15 to $125) check out:
Of course, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Celebrated playwrite David Mamet is set to write and direct yet another take on the Jekyll and Hyde story. It's called "Diary," and currently, the frontrunner for the starring role is "A.I." 's Jude Law. Why do we need another version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"? I dunno. And I'm not gonna fight it. Remake it! Remake 'em all! Anyway, Mamet is a hell of a writer.

Here's two we should have seen coming: Michael "Armageddon," Pearl Harbor," "Let's blow everything up and add a plot later" Bay will produce a remake of director Tobe Hooper's 1974 cult smash, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Hooper is co-writing the new version with his original partner, Kim Henkel. I guess the question they're wrestling with is, "How do you make a film called 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' MORE lurid?"

And New Line Cinema is remaking the 1971 shocker "Willard." Replacing Bruce Davison as the nerdy, homicidal ratkeeper will be the truly strange Crispin Glover, best known for his role as Michael J. Fox's milquetoast dad in the "Back to the Future" films. Glen "Final Destination" Morgan will direct.

Once more, the B Monster is willing to take his lumps and own up to his mistakes. We reported last time that "Jeepers Creepers," the horror cheapy about a truck drivin' cannibal gargoyle, was being turned into a television series. We were wrong. It's being turned into a television series AND has spawned a feature-film sequel. Last we heard, the teleseries would focus on the search for the winged flesh-eater who has more traffic violations than any monster in California. Meanwhile, writer-director Victor Salva is hard at work on the feature "Like a Bat Out of Hell (how's that for original?): Jeepers Creepers 2." This time, the monster's target is a busload of school children. We know what you're thinking and the answer is, no, we're not making this up!

Okay, here's where we stand: In 1966, ABC optioned the rights to Murray Leinster's 1964 sci-fi novel "The Time Tunnel." In 2001, Fox optioned the rights to Irwin Allen's 1966 teleseries "The Time Tunnel," which, oddly enough, originally ran on ABC. Let the suing begin! ABC says Fox's rights to Leinster's novel expired in 1992 and weren't renewed so they, ABC, should have control of any new series. Fox counters that ABC only bought the Leinster book in 1966 to get on Leinster's good side and that the original series was, in fact, based on an idea of Allen's. Though each camp is suspiciously eyeing the other, no one has officially thrown down the legal gauntlet. Keep in mind, these are the networks that brought you "The Chair" and "The Chamber." Do they really deserve any more of our time?

Has it been five years already? Then it must be time for another "Alien" sequel! Director Ridley Scott has been openly discussing story ideas for the fifth installment in the "Alien" series. "I say we should go back to where the alien creatures were first found and explain how they were created," Scott told the "Coming Soon" Web site. "No one has ever explained why. I always figured that a battleship carrying bio-mechanical organisms that could be weapons was sent into space with some space jockey who didn't last long." Sigourney Weaver will once again play Ripley, believe it or not.


Talk about mixed reviews. It seems that critics and the public either loved it or hated it. I hated it. It was heavily publicized to look like a kid-friendly movie and a revisionist science fiction film with a soul. What it is is "Pinnochio" as "Blade Runner," a morose, protracted, unsatisfying hash of ideas that have been kicking around the genre for decades. It begins as a Kubrickian rumination on inhumanity and devolves into a sordid preview of future dystopia, wherein castoff humanoid robots, whose families no longer love them, are kidnapped and fed into cannons and wood chippers to be ripped limb-from-limb before cheering crowds. (Enjoy, kids.) Oh, and it's 144 minutes long. Director Steven Spielberg (who inherited the project from the late Stanley Kubrick) mitigates the film's length by giving audiences at least four different endings to choose from. The film winds down to a leaden pace, you wait for the credits to roll and ... wait, there's more! We had high hopes for this film and we were still rooting for it even after we were an hour into it, but it's a major disappointment that too many critics have tried unconvincingly to defend.

How many special edition, director's cut, digitally-restored, surround-sound-enhanced versions of this flick are floating around out there? Anyhoo, it's three-fourths of a decent movie. Director James "King of the World" Cameron keeps things moving at a brisk clip. He has an unerring knack for choreographing action, to be sure. But "The Abyss" is not unlike "A.I." in several important regards. For starters, it clocks in at a titanic (sorry) 167 minutes. More significantly, it would be a much better film if Cameron just knew when to stop. There are nearly two hours crammed with Republic Serial-level chills and thrills and eye-popping special effects, and then a sappy ending with a tacked-on feel that seems to want to emulate the sweet tone of "Close Encounters." Did they leave ANYTHING on the cutting-room floor?

A very intriguing film with a semi-sci-fi theme starring one our most intriguing actors, Kevin Spacey, as a mental patient who maintains he is from the distant planet K-Pax. Jeff Bridges is a rumpled, frustrated shrink who is drawn into Spacey's conviction that he truly is an alien inhabiting a human body. There's lots of cat and mouse with the audience as to Spacey's genuineness as his cover story is peeled away and the details of his "human" past are exposed. It isn't an entirely satisfying film, but the ambiguous, hopeful ending leaves one thinking about its strengths, rather than its weaknesses, long after it's over. If you're not expecting jaw-dropping profundity, it's well worth your time.

This needless, humdrum overhaul of H.G. Wells' classic story is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Despite top-flight makeup and special effects, a director (John Frankenheimer) who was once tops in his craft and a story you'd think would be Hollywood-proof by now, what emerges is just plain farcical. Even the most charitable critic will have to admit that there's just no getting around Marlon Brando's presence in the title role -- figuratively and literally. Weighing at least 300 pounds, swathed in an immense sarong, his face plastered with white makeup, Marlon mumbles and chortles his way through a gimmicky performance. No one ever got more mileage out of being loutish and eccentric. He'll probably make more movies, but will he ever act again? What a waste of time and talent.

Hey, kids! Did you know that before Bill Murray was born, there was this guy, Bob Hope, who made this terrific movie about a skittish wisecracker who is drawn into an investigation of the supernatural? It's true! And it's one heck of a lot of fun. This 1940 entry, deftly directed by George Marshall, finds Hope at the top of his lovable schtick. And the supporting cast is pure gold. Paulette Goddard, Richard Carlson and Paul Lukas are all top-notch. Willie Best's turn as a pop-eyed coward is sure to press some political hot-buttons, but there's no denying that this African-American artist was a rock-solid comedic performer, vital to the film. "Ghost Breakers" is funny, scary, then funny again, then scary again -- the ingredients are mixed to near-perfection. Watch it.

We refer to the original "take your stinking paws of me, damn you all to Hell, Planet Of The Apes." This 1968 sci-fi neo-classic made director Franklin Schaffner's career and gave Charlton Heston one of his meatiest roles -- and that takes into account a heck of a lot of meat. This adaptation of Pierre Boulle's novel broke a lot of new ground, the stunning makeup effects, for starters. And the presence of so many respected performers reflected most positively on the genre. The masses accepted it and made it a hit. It spawned several sequels, a TV series, comics, toys, etc. The solid supporting cast includes Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, and of course, comely Linda Harrison as Nova. It holds up quite well after 34 years and easily shames the recent remake. (And it's an hour shorter than "The Abyss.")

This is nearly always the first film mentioned when the topic turns to "respectable" 1950s sci fi. (Non-genre types likewise apply the label to "Forbidden Planet," Pal's "War of the Worlds" and "The Thing From Another World.") I respect darned-near EVERY 1950s renegade filmmaker who was able to bring his ideas to the screen, but very few of the resulting movies measure up to this standard. Critics have invested so much subtext in the film over the years (The Red Scare, The Bomb, McCarthyism), it's hard for us to watch it objectively. Read into it what you will, but what I know for sure is that it's a snappy, scary film, handily directed by Don Siegel, with great performances from Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones and Kevin McCarthy at his hysterical, sweaty best.


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

Scott Essman,

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at


"You'll scream yourself into a state of shock!" -- Horror of the Blood Monsters

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