MARCH 2004


Julius "Julie" Schwartz
A towering, benevolent and influential figure in the fields of science fiction literature and comics, Julius Schwartz, died at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, Long Island. He was 88. Schwartz had been hospitalized for several weeks following injuries sustained in a fall. Hailing from the Bronx, "Julie" was fascinated from an early age by science fiction. Beginning in 1932, he edited, along with Mort Weisinger and others, one of the first science fiction fanzines, "The Time Traveler." Two years later, he embarked on a career as a literary representative, forming the Solar Sales Service Literary Agency. His clients included Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester and Robert Bloch. (The company promos boasted "Bradbury, Bester, Binder, Bracket, and Bloch and that was just the B's. We also represent H. P. Lovecraft for the L of it.") In 1939, Schwartz helped organize the first "World Science Fiction Convention" in New York City.

According to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, it was Bester who introduced Schwartz to the comics field. When Schwartz was told of an opening as an editor at D.C. Comics, he applied for the job, later claiming that the first comic book he ever read was one he picked up on the way to his job interview. As the "Silver Age" of comics dawned in the late 1950s, Schwartz emerged as one of the medium's most important figures, editing such titles as "The Flash" (whose re-emergence under Schwartz's guidance -- with a new secret identity and an eye-catching red costume -- is largely regarded as the herald of comics' new age), "All Star Comics," "Green Lantern" (overseeing that character's "Silver Age" overhaul), "Mystery in Space" and "Strange Adventures." In addition, he edited every one of D.C.'s many "Superman" titles for 16 years. His association with comics spanned six decades as he continued to appear at conventions until relatively recently. Honors bestowed upon Schwartz include the "Eagle" and "Jules Verne" Awards and induction in the "First Fandom Hall of Fame." The DragonCon convention's "Julie" award "for universal achievement spanning multiple genres," is named for him. Schwartz's autobiography, "Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics," co-authored by Brian M. Thomsen, was published in 2000.

Bernard McEveety Jr.
Prolific television director Bernard McEveety Jr., who is perhaps best known for directing 31 episodes of the classic TV series "Combat," has died of natural causes. He was 79. McEveety was the son of director/production manager Bernard McEveety Sr., and the uncle of Stephen McEveety, whose collaborations as a producer with actor/director Mel Gibson include "Braveheart" and "The Passion of the Christ." Cult-film fans may recognize McEveety as the director of the 1971 shocker "The Brotherhood of Satan," which starred Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones, who also wrote the picture. One of McEveety's earliest credits was as the assistant director of "The Return of Dracula," the atmospheric 1958 thriller that starred Francis Lederer as the bloodthirsty Count. McEveety worked primarily in episodic television, directing episodes of "Gunsmoke," "Rawhide," "Bonanza," "The Untouchables," "The Virginian," "Hawaii Five-0," "Planet of the Apes," "The Incredible Hulk," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and many others.


The results of the second annual Rondo Awards, an honor originated by the denizens of the AOL Classic Horror Message Boards, have been tallied. Organized and overseen by the indefatigable David Colton, monster fan and nostalgia-holic without peer, the online voting was open to all fans of classic horror and science fiction. The big winner was "Monster Kid Memories," the memoirs of the original "monster kid" himself, Bob Burns, as told to film historian nonpareil, Tom Weaver. The success of this volume bodes well for the young publishing house, Dinoship (who also publish "The Crater Kid Collection," and the forthcoming "Haunters of the Dark" and "Dead Travel Fast."). "Monster Kid Memories" (with cover illustration and interior design by some guy whose name escapes me at the moment) has garnered unanimous rave reviews and broad recognition.

Video Watchdog won Best Magazine for the second straight year. The World 3-D Film Expo at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles was cited as Best Fan Event. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was named DVD of the year, while Bernard Herrmann's soundtrack for "The Day the Earth Stood Still" won the Best CD award. Sideshow Toy's 12-inch Creature figure was named Best Toy, while Vincent DiFate's Creature painting for the Monster-Mania Convention program won Best Cover.

Gary Don Rhodes' two-part article for Monsters From the Vault, chronicling the horror movie controversy of the early 1930s was named Best Article, while Tom Weaver smoked the competition for the second consecutive year, walking off with the Best Writer honors. (Time for Weaver to buy a bigger mantel; the awards are only in their second year, and Tom's won four of them!) Emmy Award-winning makeup ace, Michael F. Blake, won for the eloquent and edifying audio commentaries that accompany the Lon Chaney Collection DVDs.

An episode of the new "Twilight Zone" series featuring Billy Mumy in a sequel to the classic 1960s episode "It's a Good Life," (in which Mumy starred as a moody kid with frightening powers), was named best TV program, while "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" was named best movie.

The Count Alucard's Controversy of the Year award went to Fox Movie Channel; bowing to political correctness, FMC dumped their lineup of Charlie Chan films last summer following complaints that they showcased negative Asian stereotypes.

California schoolteacher, Arnold Kunert, was named Monster Kid of the Year, owing to his tireless five-year campaign to secure Ray Harryhausen's star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. According to co-coordinator Colton, so many names were suggested in this category, that a "Monster Kid Hall of Fame" was established this year. The first inductees are:

-- Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren, whose Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine influenced a generation.

-- Bob and Kathy Burns, not only for being involved first-hand in the making of genre-movie history, but for salvaging so many of the artifacts, props and movie paraphernalia that are a part of our fantasy film legacy.

-- Zacherley and Vampira, horror movie host and hostess who helped make the late-night presentation of classic monster films an American institution.

And finally, The Astounding B Monster was named best Website. The B Monster is humbled, and extends his sincerest gratitude to all those he crushed in his remorseless climb to fame. Just joshing. My heartfelt thanks to one and all.

Once more, special recognition should go to Dave Colton, for readying the ballot and tallying the vote, and Kerry Gammill for sculpting one humdinger of a statuette.

Everyone's favorite creature curator and prop preservationist, Bob Burns, recently met with director Peter Jackson, arguably the most powerful man in the movie biz at the moment, owing to the staggering success of the "Lord of the Rings" films. Following a series of photo ops with what is perhaps Burns' most valued artifact, the original 1933 "King Kong" armature, Jackson sought Bob's counsel regarding the "Ring"-master's forthcoming "Kong" remake. The two pored over dozens of production sketches with Jackson soliciting Bob's opinions and advice regarding the look of the great village wall, the foreboding jungle and its dinosaur denizens. This seems only fitting, as Burns spent half his life in a gorilla suit as the cuddly, quarrelsome Kogar, and is likely the most knowledgeable "Kongaphile" alive. It's a testament to Jackson's dedication to the project that he's recognized this. The lauded director even extended an invitation to Bob and his lovely bride Kathy (whose generosity and patience have made possible what is probably the greatest accumulation of fantasy film memorabilia in existence) to visit the set (with the skeletal Kong in tow) once shooting commences in New Zealand this summer.

Cult-film fans know by now that Buena Vista cancelled the much-anticipated released of the "Ed Wood: Special Edition" DVD. So why are reviews of it turning up all over the place? According to some reports, copies had already been shipped to some stores -- a few actually had the title on their shelves -- only to be hastily recalled. High-profile mags like Premier may have rated a screener before Buena Vista changed their minds. In an editor's note, the DVD Authority Website claims that "though this wasn't sent to us for review, we managed to track down a copy." The IGN Website says that, "some [copies] made it to the shelves, which is how we got one at IGN, thanks to a helpful insider." A customer reviewing the film at Review says, "[they] goofed and actually sent out a limited number to some unspecified number of independent video stores!!! Or at least that's the story I got from the mom 'n pop joint in Phoenix where I rented a copy!" The same site asserts that "this title will be released on January 1, 2010." This is reiterated word-for-word at the AAA Movie Search Website. Ditto Who confirmed this date for them? Buena Vista hasn't uttered a peep of official explanation or offered any rescheduling info. The B Monster took the bull by the horns and called Buena Vista Entertainment. They were extremely courteous but maintained that their computer records cited no reason for the recall, only that it was officially listed as postponed. No release date has been established. They were quite surprised when informed that copies had fallen into the hands of a few, stating -- very politely -- that no copies should be available anywhere.

Make it on down to Louisville, Ky., this May 15-16 for Wonderfest, a friendly con for and about modelers, movie maniacs and miscellaneous monsters. This year's guests include Ben (the "Reel" Gill Man) Chapman and Julie Adams, stars of the classic "Creature from the Black Lagoon," Emmy Award-winning makeup artist John Goodwin, movie prop archivist and film historian Bob Burns (and, of course, his better half, Kathy, the woman behind the incorrigible collector), Bill Campbell, designer of the infamous "Weird-Ohs" model kits of the 1960s, "Enterprise" production artist John Eaves, artist William Stout, cartoonist/screenwriter Frank Dietz and more. Chapman and Adams will introduce a 3D screening of "Creature," and Burns will be signing his critically acclaimed, Rondo Award-winning book, "Monster Kid Memories." And, our favorite Southern Fried spook, UPN's Dr. Gangrene, will host a late-night showing of the Alex Gordon-produced, AIP classic, "The She-Creature." Burns, who collaborated behind the scenes with 1950s creature creator Paul Blaisdell, will introduce the film and offer some first-hand "Monster Kid Memories." Watch the Wonderfest site for developments and details:
And don't hesitate to tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

You can likewise begin gearing up for the "Monster Kid"-friendly con, Monster Bash. The show commences June 25 at the Days Inn Conference Center in beautiful Butler, Pa. This year, the "International Classic Monster Movie Convention and Expo" is "dedicated to the memory of Evelyn Ankers," and the daughter of Ankers and actor Richard Denning is a special guest. Ron Chaney and Forry Ackerman will also be on hand, as will members of "The Old Dark Clubhouse" and "The Lugosiphilia Society." You can scope out the convention dope for yourself at:
By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

And if you're the kind that REALLY likes to plan ahead, the folks behind the Monster-Mania con, which takes place August 27-29 in beautiful Cherry Hill, N.J., have already posted a data-packed preview of their second annual show. "If you don't have fun at this con," says the hype, "you're already dead!" The show's official site features scheduling and hotel info, and an intriguing lineup of guests. Perhaps the most interesting of the attendees is Lupita Tovar, star of Universal's 1931 Spanish "Dracula." Other guests on the impressive roster include:

Candace Hilligoss of "Carnival of Souls" fame
Freddy himself, Robert Englund
Ricou Browning, the man who swam as the "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
Robert (Count Yorga) Quarry
Betsy Palmer, probably best known today as Mrs. Vorhees of "Friday the 13th"
"Spider Baby's" Sid Haig
Three queens who presided over Hammer horror's Halcyon days; Hazel Court, Ingrid Pitt and Caroline Munro
Artist Vincent DiFate
Filmmaker/publisher Ted Bohus
AND, billed as "The Grand Poobah of Classic Horror" (and we're not about to argue his right to that title), author Tom Weaver

There will, of course, be a dealer's room, multiple film screenings and a special tribute to Vincent Price hosted by Hazel Court, Caroline Munro and horror wax museum curator, Cortland Hull. For more info, check out:
It should go without saying; tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Okay, one more you can get a jump on: Horrorfind Weekend IV is happening August 13-14 at the Marriott Hunt Valley Inn just outside Baltimore, Md. Billed as a "one of a kind horror Halloween and spooky convention," the celebrity guests include:

"Night of the Living Dead" director George Romero
Adrienne ("Swamp Thing") Barbeau
Actor/stuntman and former "Jason," Kane Hodder
Barbara ("Space Truckers," "Castle Freak") Crampton
"Dawn of the Dead's" Scott Reiniger
Dee Wallace Stone of "Howling" and "Cujo" fame
Sid ("Spider Baby") Haig and more to be announced.

The convention Website features ticket, scheduling and hotel info, as well as a message board and pics from previous shows. Visit:
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

In 1999, Hollywood voice actor Doug Higley self-published "Scary Dark Rides: One Hundred Years of Spooks, Fantasy & Adventure," which featured "the personal recollections, reflections and observations of a Darkrider (with a flashlight)." A "Darkrider," apparently, is one who loves to be scared in the dark, particularly when riding the gut-stirring mechanical contraptions found on America's midways. Higley's nostalgic ode to theme park thrill rides -- particularly those with a macabre motif -- sold out multiple printings and garnered the unqualified praise of screenwriters, Disney "Imagineers," thrill ride historians and theme park freaks in general. Higley is currently putting the finishing touches on an update/rewrite. "It's about the past, present and a bit of the future of entertainment in the dark," says Higley. "It's about perception, it's about growing up in an America of the 1950's and beyond. It is for those who ride, rode or will ride." Higley will be releasing the volume packaged with an audio CD. For more information, you can check out:
Tell Darkrider Doug the B Monster sent you!

It's been two years since we first told you about the loving sci-fi send up, "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra." This cult-movie parody is unique in that it doesn't descend to outright ridicule. It was made by people with enough humility to poke fun of themselves as well as the genre, and their nostalgic affection for 1950s fright-films is evident. Sony Pictures picked up "Cadavra" and it will soon be in wide release, turning up in major market multiplexes across the country. We just wanted to take a little space to congratulate producer F. Miguel Valenti, writer-director-star Larry Blamire and the whole "Cadavra" crew. You owe it to yourself to visit the official Website:
Click on "Virtual Skelectables" and check out the "vintage" Cadavra-related memorabilia.
Be sure and give 'em the B Monster's regards!

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dark Castle Entertainment, the spawn of producers Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis, will be releasing a "House of Wax" remake this November. Previous Dark Castle offerings have included absolutely dismal re-hashes of William Castle's "House on Haunted Hill" and "13 Ghosts," which were bereft of fun and larded with mean-spirited gore. Maybe they'll do a better job on this "House," but the B Monster's expectations are not high. A television commercial director, Jaume, (full name Jaume Collet-Serra), whose previous credits include ads for 7Up and Budweiser, has been assigned to the project. Teen fave Chad Michael Murray, who stars in the WB series "One Tree Hill," will play one of the leads. And no, it will NOT be filmed in 3D as was its eye-popping predecessor.

Fans of the sultry, star-crossed B-movie starlet Barbara Payton will be pleased to discover John O'Dowd's Website, devoted to the life and films of the 1950s bombshell. O'Dowd, a film scribe and frequent contributor to such cult-movie periodicals as Filmfax, has recently completed a Payton autobiography that's piqued Hollywood's interest in her tragic story. Payton starred in a handful of B pictures and genre-films, including "Bride of the Gorilla" and "Four Sided Triangle." Her career as a contract player was derailed in part by a real-life love triangle involving actors Tom Neal and Franchot Tone, which led to a much-publicized brawl that landed Tone in the hospital. Payton eventually drifted into obscurity, took to drinking, passing bad checks and prostitution. According to the site, "a feature film project ... based on the work and research of John O'Dowd, is currently being developed by producer Barrett Stuart in Los Angeles." The site, part of which is still "under construction," also showcases a Payton filmography, a selection of photos, and an update on O'Dowd's concurrent projects, "including collaborating with legendary cult movie actress and fan favorite Yvette Vickers on her memoir, tentatively titled 'A Lusty Wench With Dignity.' " The Payton bio is scheduled for a 2005 release. You can find out more at:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Some time ago, we turned you on to the swingin' surf sounds of a B movie-inspired Chicago combo called The Moon Rays. Their forthcoming CD, "The Ghouls Go West," features "Thrillville," a theme composed for the B Monster's Bay Area buddy and Parkway Theater spook show host Will "The Thrill" Viharo." Sporting a kitschy, creepy, comic art cover, the disc, pays "homage to 50's B Sci-fi movies, Spaghetti Westerns, Surfing Bulls, Horror Television, Martians, and our favorite honey, Vampira." You can glom a sneak peek at:
Sing it loud ... the B Monster sent you!

MTV's next original, made-for-cable movie is called "Monster Island." While it seems to bear no resemblance to that favorite stomping ground of the Toho Studios crew, producers do say that it will have a retro feel. According to hype, the film "will be a tongue-in-cheek, comedic send up of the classic 'monster movies' from the 50s and 60s as well as MTV events" (No, I don't know why they put "monster movies" in quotes). The film stars Adam West, who's made a cottage industry of camping it up at his own expense, and Carmen Electra. Publicity says that "to give the film a unique and fresh visual style, 'Monster Island' will feature special effects techniques used in the classic creature features of the 50s and 60s such as stop-motion animation and puppetry, as opposed to the more contemporary special effects methods used today." We've seen stills of Electra in the clutches of a "Them!"-like ant and, well, we'll reserve judgment until we've seen it in context. It airs March 7 at 7:00 pm.

It was just a matter of time before somebody pointed out that Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch (you may have heard of it) is situated in Los Olivos, Calif., adjacent to the property of B Monster favorite Fess Parker. A recent edition of Parade Magazine's "Walter Scott's Personality Parade" points out that Parker, whom Walt Disney spotted during a screening of the big-bug classic "Them!" (subsequently casting the strapping Texan as Davy Crockett), has a winery, spa and much real estate in the mountains above Santa Barbara. "I share a barbed-wired fence with Michael Jackson," Parker told Parade. For those too young to recall, the obsessive fan base inspired by "Jacko" is NOTHING compared to the Crockettmania that peaked in the mid-1950s. What a difference a little dignity makes. (Fess never dangled a baby over the Alamo wall.)

Some salient trivia: The next town over from Los Olivos, Solvang, was the setting for William Castle's twisted cult classic "Homicidal," which involved gender-bending and obsessive compulsion.

Evidently, the ad for "Van Helsing," Universal's forthcoming monster rally film, due for release May 17, raised a few hackles when it aired during the Super Bowl. Since critiquing and analyzing the advertisements that air during the big game has become every bit the vacuous spectacle the game itself has become, it's to be expected that this particularly gory promo for the as-yet-unrated film would raise some eyebrows. The Washington Post, for one, pointed out that "it contained extremely disturbing and graphic images of brutality and gore. ... If the film were eventually to be rated NC-17, it would be contrary to [CBS] policy to carry any commercials for it." Noting that the promo aired in what was once dubbed "the family hour," the article continued, "The ad was "wall-to-wall with monsters baring fangs and implied horrific violence." A 30-second ad spot during this year's Super Bowl cost $2.25 million. Do you know how many movies Richard Cunha could make for $2.25 million?! Judge for yourself. You can view the spot at:

Filmmaker Andy Kumpon is proud to point out that his horror short, "Last Stop Station," was made for under $1,200. Kumpon's indy quickie is a part of the anthology of horror shorts called "Monstersdotcom." You might recall that, some months back, the B Monster plugged "Shadows in the Garden," a spooky no-budget short from Kumpon's friend, "mentor" and "Station" co-star Wayne Spitzer, which is also a part of the "Monstersdotcom" collection. "Station" concerns a pair of seedy tabloid journalists (perhaps there's a redundancy in that description) who happen upon a decrepit gas-and-go operated by faceless, supernatural ghouls. It's shot on tape in glorious black and white and is not without its VERY budget-constricted innovations. To find out more, drop 'em a line at:

Classic monsters continue to rear their hideous heads in comic book form, and while some might say it falls a bit beyond the bailiwick of the B Monster (they'd be wrong), we shall, nonetheless cite several pertinent examples:

We've told you on several occasions about the Todd Livingston, Bob Tinnell, Neil Vokes graphic novel "The Black Forest," a heady mix that posits classic monsters amid the all-too-real terrors of World War I trench warfare. h

And, we salute the ongoing efforts of artist Todd Tennant, whose American Kaiju site showcases artwork influenced in equal parts by Jack Kirby, Dan Dare and all things Toho.

Ted Seko produces "Attack of the Super Monsters," featuring the likes of Monster Monolith and Fusion Man, for Big Umbrella Comics, publishers of Javier Hernandez "El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie."

Artist/film designer Bill Stout's lovingly detailed comic renditions of Kong are available at his Website:

The prolific Frank Dietz's mirthful renderings of the monstrous movie stars of horror's Golden Age can be found at his Sketchy Things Website:

Mark Wheatley combines classic monsters and gangland intrigue in his Image Comics series, "Frankenstein Mobster."

And fans of classic sci-fi can do no better than Steve Conley's long-running "Astounding Space Thrills."

Tell 'em all the B Monster sent you!


This head-spinning mix of live action and animation was unjustly overlooked by theatergoers who either heeded the singularly poor advice of snobbish critics, or just didn't know about the film, owing to extraordinarily inept marketing. If you didn't see it, you missed a treat that boasts likable leads (particularly Brendan Fraser, who plays a stuntman doubling for ... Brendan Fraser!) and spirited character turns from Steve Martin and Joan Cusack. Director Joe Dante wrangles his actors -- both flesh and animated -- with distinction, crafting an adventurous confection that's funny, nostalgic and breathlessly paced. Dante indulges his monster kid proclivities in a sequence staged at "Area 52," a government enclave more closely guarded even than Area 51, as it houses the Metaluna Mutant, Triffids, the "Fiend Without a Face," "Robot Monster's" Ro-Man, and any other cult-film icon deemed worthy of homage that could be crowded into the sequence. Especially noteworthy is Kevin McCarthy -- standing out from the color backdrop in startling black and white -- still issuing his signature "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" warning, "They're coming!" (Veteran monster manipulator Bob Burns was on hand to help operate props.) Thank Ramboona that Dante is willing to display his love of these characters at any opportunity.

In fact, "Back In Action" strikes me as a salute to what ought to be conserved by a neglectful filmland -- snappy pacing, clever scripting, winning protagonists, memorable characterizations and actors with enough humility to laugh at themselves. Even if you don't like the film, there's no denying its unbridled energy. There's scarcely a wasted frame. Making the picture was surely arduous; the intermingling of live actors and cartoon characters was doubtless painstaking, the editing process laborious. And we can safely assume there was front office tampering by suits far too young to recall Marvin the Martian or "This Island Earth." Notwithstanding these injurious circumstances, the film entertains. Isn't that the very nature of showbiz professionalism?

Suddenly, it's all the rage to remake contemporary Japanese horror films. There are at least three that I can think of currently in the works, all hoping, no doubt, to duplicate the success of "The Ring," a sleeper hit if ever there was one, based on the Japanese horror gem, "Ringu." If you've yet to explore Japanese horror films -- beyond Godzilla and his Toho brethren, that is -- begin your education with "Onibaba," a 1964 masterwork directed by Kaneto Shindo.

This is a terrific film. "Haunting" is a descriptive that critics toss around indiscriminately, but it's an understatement where "Onibaba" is concerned. It's long been a B Monster favorite, and it's surprising that more critics and horror movie-lovers don't cite its achievement. Its release on DVD is long overdue, and Image Entertainment by way of Criterion are to be saluted for making it available to a broader audience. Set in samurai-era Japan, "Onibaba" presents the desperate, harrowing predicament of a peasant widow and her mother-in-law, who ambush and kill warriors returning from combat, robbing them of their armor and dumping their bodies in a hidden pit. They sell the armor, and whatever other belongings can be scavenged, to keep from starving. Greed, suspicion, jealousy and an overwhelming fear of abandonment come into play as the young widow takes up with a wandering samurai and the mother-in-law will stop at nothing to prevent her leaving the squalid home they share in a grassy swamp. This field of head-high grass is a major player in the film. The ambient sound of the unceasing wind, wafting and wailing through the stalks provides a spine-tingling undercurrent. (Some might compare it to the way sound was utilized in a sequence from "I Walked With a Zombie," as a frightened nurse leads her somnambulant charge through a wind-blown cane field on their way to a voodoo ceremony.) The tall grass is employed visually, of course, acting as a curtain that might be torn away at any moment to reveal a hidden horror. But what lingers in memory is the sound of that wind, disturbing the cloistered, desperate lives of the two women, pushing them relentlessly toward their fate. I realize I'm getting all poetic on you. Indulge me. Indulge yourself. See this movie.

I won't concoct a clever lead; this thing just plain stinks. Directed by Mike Figgis (who made "Leaving Las Vegas," one of the most relentlessly depressing, annoyingly overrated and terminally pointless films in history), this mish-mosh of horror movie cliches is predictable at every turn. Stop me if you've heard this one: With a strain on their marriage, a couple decides to move to the country and ... oh, you have? When they arrive at the seedy small town, the locals act suspiciously about ... oh, you have? You see, something terrible happened in their new house many years ago and ... oh, you have? The grubby handyman makes lascivious eyes at the wife and ... oh, you have? One of the family's animals turns up mysteriously drowned in ... oh, you have? Turns out, the redneck locals are trying to scare the family by ... oh, you have? When the hero finally gets the best of the bad guy, he sneers a snappy one-liner that ... oh, you have? Juliette Lewis plays a loose woman ... oh, you have? Well, Stephen Dorff plays the surly redneck who... oh, you have? Sharon Stone plays the high-strung wife, who ... oh, you have? Dennis Quaid is the ineffectual father who finally summons enough courage to ... oh, you have?

It's as though Stephen King got drunk and hammered out a first draft screenplay for "Cape Fear." Want another analogy? Somebody said, "Well, we've got this creepy old house, so everybody take a piece of paper, write down a plot contrivance from a horror movie you've seen, and drop it in this hat." This is an overwrought, cliche-filled, fleabag of a film with absolutely nothing to recommend it.

The Good folks at Good Times Entertainment are regurgitating these three cult classics (okay, two-and-a-half cult classics) as a triple feature. So, we've regurgitated prior reviews and peppered them with illuminating quotes and trivia:

According to director Richard Cunha, makeup man Harry Thomas, working with NO budget, had all of two hours to transform a male stuntman into "Frankenstein's Daughter" (1958). "We just hadn't given the Daughter of Frankenstein enough preparation, time or thought," Cunha told the B Monster. "What the hell does the daughter of Frankenstein made from a squashed Sally Todd look like? I thought to myself, 'Not like this,' but the show must go on so we put her in front of the camera and kept filming. Never was any blame put on Thomas for his creation. The fault was entirely on poor pre-production planning. I remember the crew applauding when Harry proudly presented his creation." Another of the film's highlights is Harold Lloyd Jr. singing "Daddy Bird," poolside, backed by the swingin' Page Cavanaugh Trio.

"The Bat" (1959) is uphill sledding for Vincent Price fans. There's little life in writer-director Crane Wilbur's tedious adaptation of the classic story by Mary Roberts Rinehart. All the ingredients are there -- the spooky house, the hooked-handed killer and a solid story that had already been filmed three times before. But Price is wasted as the prime red herring, as is Agnes Moorehead as the family matriarch. Watch for Our Gang's Darla Hood in an adult role, and dig that crazy "Bat" theme by steel guitar ace Alvino Rey.

"Carnival of Souls" (1960) has accrued an estimable reputation among some cult-film enthusiasts as an eerie testament to budget-conscious innovation. Others find it startlingly overrated. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. The film echoes the classic story "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," as Candace Hilligoss survives a car crash (or DOES she?) and wanders a surrealistic, Midwestern landscape, menaced at every turn by zombie-like figures that, while repellant, seem to beckon her to her destiny. Clearly, the filmmakers had no budget to speak of. They nevertheless wring some suspense from what is, essentially, a rumination and not a plot. You'll find it spooky or stilted, endearing or just plain laughable. Everyone seems to regard it as either great or lousy. I may be the only one who thinks it's just okay.

Producer/director Eli Roth says that, in making "Cabin Fever," he set out to make a film that was even grosser than "Dead Alive." For the uninitiated, "Dead Alive" is director Peter Jackson's homegrown New Zealand "slashterpiece," which made a mockery of all gore films, depicting the grisly with such abandon that subsequent slasher films can have virtually no visceral impact on you once you've seen it. (Jackson contributes a promotional blurb for the "Cabin Fever" box art.) Making a grislier film is no mean feat, and for the record, "Cabin Fever" is NOT gorier than "Dead Alive." Nor does it tap the wellspring of humor that is latent in the now played-out genre the way Jackson so ably did. It does attempt a few yucks, but they're fairly sophomoric. Let's put it this way: The filmmakers set out to make a commercial, teen-horror-sex-romp and succeeded. Is it more scary than funny or vice-versa? That depends on how many of these types of films you've seen. To its credit, I went in thinking I'd be able to easily predict the order in which the coeds would die based on their cliche personality type. They fooled me. And, instead of a rampaging, chainsaw-wielding wildman, the menace in question is a flesh-eating virus. This is a novel turn, but not as scary as a rampaging, chainsaw-wielding wildman. In one of the "making of" DVD extras, Roth explains that he got the idea for the film when he actually contracted a flesh-eating virus. Evidently, it wasn't as aggressively virulent as the one in his film, the effects of which are depicted in very graphic fashion, no imagination required. Other extras include no less than FIVE audio commentaries (sheesh, "Citizen Kane" only got two!) and a gag reel labeled "Family Friendly Version."

Dinoship CEO and film historian Bob Madison weighs in with the following:

MGM presents another in its series of double-features with the release of "The Raven" (1963) and "The Comedy of Terrors" (1964). Many genre fans have nostalgic feelings for both of these horror comedies, so it's something of a disappointment to see them again in the harsh light of adulthood. Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff star as rival wizards in "The Raven." Price on the side of the angels, Karloff the villain and Lorre the wild card. Of the three performances, Lorre easily comes off best, with a natural comic timing and an energy his co-stars lack. Price, usually excellent in comedic roles, seems curiously flat, while Karloff's delivery is tired. The major set piece of the film is the climactic duel between Price and Karloff. This, again, does not quite live up to memory (or expectation), and seems weak tea indeed.

"The Raven" is significant today mostly for its look at a young Jack Nicholson. Nothing in his performance would indicate that one day he would be a major American film actor with a dozen Oscar nominations to his name. Here, he seems somewhat cowed by the stars of the film, and, perhaps, by the threadbare quality of the proceedings. "The Raven," directed in record time by Roger Corman, is guilty of comedy's greatest sin -- it's not funny. The set-ups are clumsy, the script laugh-free. The extensive campaign art (once a staple of long-gone horror movie magazines) was the best thing about it.

Some of the same malaise infuses the companion film, Jacques Tourneur's "The Comedy of Terrors." This film, with much the same cast plus a terrific, dynamic Basil Rathbone, is never quite as funny as it should be, but is a much better film than "The Raven." Price and Lorre play undertakers who re-use the same coffin, and sometimes commit murder to build their customer base. Karloff is Price's vague father-in-law, and Rathbone their landlord. Joyce Jameson (in a performance that nearly sinks the picture) is Price's would-be opera singing wife.

Most of the comedy revolves around Price and Lorre plotting to kill (and almost killing) Rathbone, in order to evade back rent, and Rathbone's unwillingness to stay dead. In between some of the clunky scenes are moments of real comic inspiration: Karloff delivering a eulogy when he clearly cannot remember what he was going to say or the name of the deceased; Lorre building a makeshift coffin; and, Rathbone's over-the-top vengeful Macbeth. It's dangerous to dissect humor (nothing is unfunny like a joke explained), but "Terrors" works so much better than "Raven" simply because the premise itself is funny, and the jokes progress naturally. In addition, Price, Karloff, Lorre and Rathbone play characters who are ridiculous in and of themselves -- so there is none of the forced "humor" of the "Raven" performances. (Also -- for what it's worth -- in this film Price has a remarkable and inexplicable vocal resemblance to James Garner. I don't know if it's his relaxed, "drunken" delivery, or some trick of cadence and script, but the similarity is uncanny.)

MGM has released both films in beautiful, widescreen transfers. The colors are lush and vibrant, and it is the best representation I have ever seen of either film. They are packaged complete with Corman interviews, still galleries and trailers. But don't say you haven't been warned ... if you have fond memories of either film, perhaps this is one purchase you shouldn't make.


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

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc.

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at


"Roaring guns against raging monster!" -- Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

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