MARCH 2005


Simone Simon
The actress best known to horror film fans as the sultry star of the Val Lewton-produced classic "Cat People," Simone Simon, has died. While there are conflicting reports regarding her age, the Associated Press reported that she was 93. The confusion over her age apparently resulted from studio attempts to make her seem more exotic and appealing, plus her own reclusiveness. Simone was reportedly born in Marseille. She embarked on a modeling career before turning to acting. Following appearances in several French films in the early 1930s, producer Darryl Zanuck imported her to America. There was much ballyhoo surrounding her arrival, and she was reportedly squired about town by the likes of George Raft, George Gershwin and British secret agent "Dusko" Popov. But she soon found herself cast in a handful of mediocre programmers including "Girls' Dormitory," "Ladies in Love" and "Love and Hisses." Disenchanted, she was delighted to return to France to star in director Jean Renoir's 1938 drama "La Bete humaine." The film established her as a major star.

The advent of World War II prompted her return to Hollywood. In 1941, she starred as a hell-born temptress in "All That Money Can Buy," an acclaimed adaptation of Stephen Vincent Benet's "The Devil and Daniel Webster," featuring Walter Huston, Edward Arnold and James Craig. Despite the film's vaunted reputation, Simone expressed a low regard for the film in later years. The following year she appeared in the B-movie classic "Cat People." Directed by Jacques Tourneur, the film was the first of producer Val Lewton's series of low-budget, well-crafted atmospheric thrillers. Simone reprised her "Cat People" role with a ghostly cameo in the 1944 sequel, "Curse of the Cat People." In between, she was cast in such trifles as "Tahiti Honey," "Johnny Doesn't Live Here Any More" and "Mademoiselle Fifi," Following the war, she returned to France where she appeared in a handful of films, most notably director Max Ophuls' "La Ronde" (1950). Her final film appearance was in the 1973 comedy "La Femme en bleu." Always reclusive, she became more so following an accident with eye drops in the 1970s that left her nearly blind.

Dan O'Herlihy
Dan O'Herlihy, the distinguished Irish actor who won an Oscar nomination for his performance in director Luis Bunuel's 1954 production "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe," died at his home in Malibu, Calif. No cause of death was reported. He was 85. Cult-movie fans will recognize O'Herlihy from his roles in the 1952 sci-fi thriller "Invasion USA," the 1962 remake of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," "The Last Starfighter" and "RoboCop." O'Herlihy originally studied architecture. He took up acting to earn money for his education. Turning to acting full-time, he went on to appear in dozens of plays in Dublin before being singled out by director Carol Reed who cast O'Herlihy in the 1947 suspense film "Odd Man Out," starring James Mason. O'Herlihy's American film debut was opposite Orson Welles in "Macbeth." O'Herlihy's portrayal of Macduff caught the eye of Bunuel who had been asked by producers to consider Welles for the role of Robinson Crusoe. Bunuel preferred O'Herlihy who won an Oscar nomination for his portrayal. (Marlon Brando won for his performance in "On the Waterfront" that year.)

Throughout the 1950s, O'Herlihy appeared in a variety of high-profile costumers and melodramas including "The Black Shield of Falworth," "The Virgin Queen," "Home Before Dark" and "Imitation of Life." He played the pivotal role of Brig. Gen. Warren A. Black in the 1964 political thriller "Fail-Safe." He played Franklin Roosevelt opposite Gregory Peck's "MacArthur," appeared in the title role of the television production "Mark Twain: Beneath the Laughter" and played Joseph Kennedy in the 1998 telefilm "The Rat Pack." O'Herlihy worked extensively in episodic television, appearing in such series as "The Untouchables," "Rawhide," "Adventures in Paradise," "Route 66," "Bonanza," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "Battlestar Galactica" and "The Ray Bradbury Theater," among many others. He had recurring roles in several series including "The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters" (1963), "The Long, Hot Summer" (1966) and "Twin Peaks" (1991).

Sandra Dee
Actress Sandra Dee, best known for her roles as the love-struck teenagers "Gidget" and "Tammy," died following complications from kidney disease. She was 63 (some conflicting sources list her age as 62 and 60). She had been diagnosed with throat cancer and suffered kidney failure in 2000. Dee was born Alexandra Zuck in Bayonne, N.J. She began modeling at age 12 and was soon appearing in television advertisements. At 14, she landed a role in "Until They Sail," a big screen drama directed by Robert Wise that starred Paul Newman, Jean Simmons and Joan Fontaine. She became a teen idol with "Gidget," a love story set among the young surfing set that co-starred James Darren and Cliff Robertson. In 1960, Dee married pop singer Bobby Darin. The two appeared with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollabrigida in "Come September." They were divorced in 1967. Their marriage was portrayed in Kevin Spacey's 2004 musical biopic "Beyond the Sea," which featured Kate Bosworth as Dee. Of interest to cult-film fans is Dee's appearance in the 1970 thriller "The Dunwich Horror," based on the H.P. Lovecraft story, and co-starring Dean Stockwell and Ed Begley.

John Vernon
Character actor John Vernon, whose craggy countenance and booming voice were familiar to many cult-film and television fans, died from complications following heart surgery. He was 72. Vernon was born Adolphus Raymondus Vernon Agopsowicz in Canada, where he trained as a classical actor. His first major TV acting assignment was in the 1966 series "Wojeck," which featured Vernon as a crime-solving forensic pathologist. His first prominent big screen role was in the John Boorman crime thriller "Point Blank," opposite Lee Marvin. Vernon went on to work with big-name directors in such films as George Cukor's "Justine," Alfred Hitchcock's "Topaz," and Don Siegel's trendsetting "Dirty Harry," the classic Clint Eastwood cop drama that featured Vernon as the mayor of San Francisco. Vernon worked with Eastwood again in "The Outlaw Josey Wales." Vernon is also widely recognized as Dean Wormer of the 1978 comedy hit "Animal House." Cult-movie lovers are familiar with Vernon's portrayal of Curtis Mooney in the Chiodo brother's campy sci-fi shocker "Killer Klowns From Outer Space." Vernon also worked extensively as a voice actor, providing the voices of several Marvel superheroes in the 1960s (Sub-Mariner, Iron Man) and performing on such animated series as "Batman" and "Pinky and the Brain" in the 1990s.


1,614 fans cast ballots in the third annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards contest. "We thank everyone for their votes, comments and suggestions," said awards organizer David Colton. "The Rondos could not happen without all of you. The Rondos are intended not only to pick a winner but to showcase all the important, creative and fun work that is done in the classic horror genre year after year, too often without recognition." Winners in major categories were:

"Shaun of the Dead" (219 votes)

"Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments" (226 votes)

"Creature From The Black Lagoon Legacy Collection" (243 votes)

"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1932) (196 votes)

Universal Monsters Legacy Collection Busts (166 votes)

"Flip!" (210 votes)

"Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life" (217 votes)

Video Watchdog (156 votes) their third consecutive win.

Donnie Dunagan interview by Tom Weaver for Video Watchdog (193 votes)

Count Gore De Vol (159 votes)

Chiller Theatre (171 votes)

"The Black Forest" (195 votes)

"King Kong" (373 votes)

"Tom Weaver" (127 write-in votes) Weaver is currently entertaining contracting bids to build an extra room onto his house to contain the Rondos he's won.

Larry Blamire, the writer, director and star of the homage to vintage sci-fi, "Lost Skeleton of Cadavra"

And, inducted into the MONSTER KID HALL OF FAME: Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, makeup artisan Rick Baker, the late film historian William K. Everson and legendary producers Richard Gordon and his late brother Alex.

For the complete tally, tune in:
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Who are the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau? According to the brotherhood's Web site, they're "a secret organization solely dedicated to the preservation and promotion of rock 'n' roll sainthood in New Orleans." To that end, they're promoting Ponderosa Stomp #4, a two-day super-concert featuring an astonishing roster of legendary blues, rockabilly and Big Easy funk masters. What's all this got to do with B movies? Also on the bill is Arch Hall Jr. The guitar-pickin' star of "Eegah," "The Choppers" and "Wild Guitar," now 61, will share the stage with an impressive list of roots music luminaries including Elvis' venerated guitarist Scotty Moore, sax legends Plas Johnson and Ace Cannon, rockabilly kings Dale Hawkins and Joe Clay and blues giants Robert Jr. Lockwood, Lazy Lester and Johnny Jones. "I'm both flattered and rather terrified, but I'm going to do it," says Hall. "It sounds like a wonderful blend of folks, and I'm grateful to have been asked to participate." The stomping starts April 26 at the Mid-City Lanes Rock-n-Bowl in New Orleans. "I haven't really done any performing in 40 years," Hall told the B Monster, "but I'm going to try to get my chops up." Arch will be backed by the festival's house band. Will he be performing tunes from any of the aforementioned Fairway films he made with Arch Sr. in the early 1960s? "I might do 'Brownsville Road,' [featured in 'Eegah'] and there's a possibility I might do 'Konga Joe' [featured in 'The Choppers'], which I wrote when I was 13 or 14 years old."

This isn't the only big news for Hall's fans. Norton Records has just released "Arch Hall Jr. and the Archers: Wild Guitar!" The CD is packed with cues from the classic Fairway productions, as well as rediscovered tracks featuring the Archers performing live at a Pasadena night club and a Pensacola Drive-In. "Alan O'Day, who worked with me on the old Fairway pictures, discovered in some old boxes recordings we made in Pensacola, Fla., back in 1962. They worked on them, kind of cleaned them up a little bit, and put them out on a CD along with some of the movie stuff and some commentary and comedy stuff that's tied in to the Fairway movies." The disk is accompanied by a booklet packed with rare stills. Watch this space for a more expansive article on Arch, his music and his movies. (Can you picture a young Frank Zappa sitting in with Arch and the Archers at an L.A. club in 1962? It happened.) In the interim, check out the Norton Records Web site:
And take a peek at the festival page:
Tell Norton and the Knights the B Monster "sends" you!

Donnie Dunagan, the actor best known as the precocious moppet who cozied up to Karloff's monster in the Universal classic "Son of Frankenstein," now has a place in cyberspace. Dunagan's official Web site features a lengthy biography, an extensive photo gallery brimming with fabulous stills, a selection of autographed items for sale, a page devoted to news regarding personal appearances and DVD releases, a links page and a guest book that we encourage you to sign. Dunagan, who spent 25 year in the Marine Corps, makes it clear that he's happily surprised by the resurgence of interest in his film career. "It's a constant joy to talk to people who have such a love and appreciation for movies that I was a part of," says Dunagan. "It makes a fellow feel pretty lucky." In addition to portraying the curly-headed son of the "Son of Frankenstein," Dunagan provided the voice of Walt Disney's "Bambi." "I didn't discuss my Hollywood days with many people over the years. I kept that aspect of my childhood a rather private, but cherished, part of my life. While in the military, my reasons for keeping quiet were obvious. Having my fellow Marines find out that I was once Bambi was something I thought it best to avoid. I wasn't exactly proud of those curly locks of hair I had in my films, either, and didn't want to invite any teasing on that front." Dunagan's site, assembled by Monster Kid maven and illustrator extraordinaire, Kerry Gammill, is handsome and easily navigable. Drop by and give Donnie your regards. While you're at it, give him the B Monster's regards, too!

The "Cinema Wasteland Drive-In Movie and Memorabilia Expo Spring Spectacular" (Whew! I'm winded just from typing that title!) is coming to beautiful Strongsville, Ohio, April 1, 2 and 3. As usual, the focus is on the ambulatory dead, with veterans of myriad zombie films heading a guest list that includes:

-- Robert Quarry, Two words: "Count Yorga!"
-- William Smith, movie tough guy and quintessential badass biker
-- Reggie Bannister of "Phantasm" fame
-- Gigi Bannister, makeup wiz and Mrs. Reggie
-- John "Bud" Cardos, 1960-70s drive-in maverick
-- Greydon Clark, B-movie quadruple-threat: actor, writer, producer and director
-- Sybil Danning, B-movie Amazon
-- Eileen Dietz, actress and Linda Blair's demonic double
-- Kane Hodder, Jason ('nuff said)
-- Brett Kelly, who actually made a film called "Spacemen, Go-Go Girls and the True Meaning of Christmas." (No kiddin'!)
-- Gary Kent, movie cohort of Ray Dennis Steckler
-- Tom Sullivan, "Evil Dead" makeup maven And Karl Hardman, Bill Hinzman and Kyra Schon, all hailing from George Romero's watershed "Night of the Living Dead"

Among the special events will be a tribute to the films of Al Adamson. For the uninformed, these would include "Horror of the Blood Monsters," "Dracula Vs. Frankenstein," "Brain of Blood," "Blood of Ghastly Horror," "I Spit on Your Corpse!" and "Blazing Stewardesses."

For more info, visit:
By all means tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Also wafting on the spring breeze is news of the April Chiller Theatre con. Descending once more on the Sheraton Meadowlands in picturesque East Rutherford, N.J., the show boasts the usual impressive guest roster, special events and dealers rooms bursting with an unequalled selection of posters, lobby cards, DVDs, statues, swords, busts and assorted horror bric-a-brac. Among the scheduled guests:

-- Adrienne Barbeau, the apple of "Swamp Thing's" eye
-- Tom Atkins, whose credits include "Two Evil Eyes" and "Maniac Cop"
-- Angela Bettis, star of NBC's "Carrie" remake
-- Tim DeKay of HBO's "Carnivale"
-- Andrew Divoff of "Wishmasters" 1 and 2
-- Greg Evigan of TV's "B.J. and the Bear"
-- Ken Foree, original "Dawn of the Dead" star
-- Scott Reiniger, also of "Dawn of the Dead"
-- Gaylen Ross, likewise of "Dawn of the Dead" fame
-- Joseph Ruskin, veteran of myriad classic TV series
-- Tom Savini, goremeister and makeup effects ace
-- A "Day of the Dead" 20th Anniversary Reunion featuring Lori Cardille, Joe Pilato, Gary Klar and Antone Dileo
-- And it just wouldn't be Chiller without late-night legend Zacherley

It happens April 29-May 1. You can find out more at:
And make a point of telling 'em the B Monster sent you!

Fans of producer, director, editor, conventioneer, raconteur and Aloha shirt model Ted Bohus and his film progeny "The Deadly Spawn" should hustle on over to Ted's recently unveiled Web site. showcases a slew of rare pics, many behind-the-scenes shots and a complete production history detailing Ted's influences and casting a spotlight on the many artisans that brought the cult-favorite to life. For, instance, many B Monster readers are familiar with the art of the Hidebrandt brothers; Tim Hildebrandt played a substantial role in creating the Spawn, and even has a role in the film. The site also lists Bohus' other film credits that include "Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor," "The Regenerated Man" and "Vampire Vixens From Venus." Bohus is also the editor of SPFX Magazine, which focuses on cult, sci-fi and horror films. Back issues of the mag, as well as Ted's films, can be ordered at the site.

"I came up with the idea for The Deadly Spawn in 1979," Ted reveals, "after reading a National Geographic, or some such magazine, about seed pods brought back from the Arctic. They were thawed and grown. The seeds were thousands of years old. Why not put a 'seed pod' inside a meteor and have it crash, thaw and grow on Earth?" What's next for Bohus, a friendly, fiendish fixture, mover and shaker at each and every Chiller Theatre Convention? "I'm finishing a book called 'Making Low-Budget Science-Fiction Films: A Real Horror Story.' The first chapter is The Making of 'The Deadly Spawn.' I will present that here in the near future. Thank you all for remembering my first little film shot for about $20,000 and a lot of blood, sweat and tears." Check out the cyber-nesting ground of the Deadly Spawn:
Make a point of telling Ted the B Monster sent you!

Mark Clark writes authoritatively on the careers of horror film actors in his new book "Smirk, Sneer and Scream: Great Acting in Horror Cinema." As you might expect, there are chapters covering Karloff, Lugosi, Chaneys Sr. and Jr., Carradine, Lorre, Price, Cushing and Lee. There are also well-presented assessments of the careers of Lionel Atwill, Dwight Frye and George Zucco. Their contributions have been documented in the past by such writers as Tom Weaver and Greg Mank, yet they aren't singled out for commendation by the mainstream often enough, and it's good that Clark chronicles their work with respect and objectivity. And speaking of mainstream, Clark also turns the spotlight on such bankable big names as Fredric March, Charles Laughton and Anthony Perkins, lauded dramatic actors who gave signal performances in seminal horror films. Clark likewise examines the contributions of actors not immediately associated with horror, including Michael Rooker, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Montgomery and Robert De Niro.

Genre-film buffs certainly recognize Gloria Holden as "Dracula's Daughter," and Clark awards her unique and solemn performance the attention it deserves. His chapter on "Leading Ladies" also explores the horror film performances of such actresses as Simone Simon, Bette Davis, and the relatively more recent contributions of Mia Farrow, Linda Blair, Sissy Spacek and Jamie Lee Curtis. I particularly enjoyed the book's interesting appendices, including "Horror Cinema and the Academy Awards," which cites fright film performances that garnered an Academy nod, as well as "Noteworthy Performances That Did Not Receive Oscar Nominations." Among these Clark includes Lugosi in "Dracula," Karloff in "Frankenstein," Claude Rains in "The Invisible Man," Peter Lorre in "Mad Love," and Chaney Jr. in "The Wolf Man." Clark also cites horror film actors who received Academy recognition for non-horror performances, including Rains (four nominations), Basil Rathbone (two), Gale Sondergaard and Maria Ouspenskaya. By presenting the genre-film work of a Dwight Frye in the same volume as such diverse personalities as Willem Dafoe, Ellen Burstyn and Haley Joel Osment, "Smirk, Sneer and Scream" indirectly but interestingly addresses the shifting view of the mainstream that once held the horror film in low regard.

London's National Theater is presenting a stage adaptation of the 1973 Vincent Price shocker "Theater of Blood." The MGM thriller, which starred Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry and Price as the vengeful Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart, has been adapted by Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott, and is being presented by the National in collaboration with Simpson and McDermott's London-based theater company, Improbable. The role of Lionheart, the dejected and ultimately deranged thespian who exacts grizzly revenge on the snobbish critics who dissed him, will be played by Academy Award winner Jim Broadbent. For more info, visit:
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The Annual World Horror Convention takes place April 7-10 at the Park Central Hotel in New York City. Fans are being enticed by a roster of horror-lit luminaries and macabre artisans that includes authors Tom Piccirilli, Tim Lebbon, Harlan Ellison, Joe R. Lansdale and Jack Ketchum, filmmaker Mick Garris, artist Allen K (Koszowski), editors Tom and Elizabeth Monteleone, and author and teacher Mort Castle. Actress Amber Benson, best known as Tara of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" teleseries is an Author Guest of Honor. (Benson and Christopher Golden helped create the online animated "Ghosts of Albion" series, which led to a deal for a series of books based on the property.) F. Paul Wilson will receive the 2005 Grandmaster Award.

Interestingly, the con will hold "Pitch Sessions" in which aspiring horror authors can submit their work for critiquing. "The rumors are true," say organizers, "we've wrangled a number of editors and publishers and coerced them ... we mean asked them, to participate in pitch sessions." The rules are specific, so pay attention:

-- Pitch meetings are not guaranteed and are subject to cancellation or change
-- We will NOT honor specific requests; you agree to accept whomever you are assigned to

In order to participate in pitch meetings, you agree to the following:
-- You must purchase an Attending Membership in advance in order to participate in pitch meetings
-- Each author must have a complete manuscript to pitch and should be prepared to leave whatever materials are requested of him or her. This normally means at least three complete chapters plus a synopsis of the complete manuscript. This occasionally means the editor/agent/publisher wants to see your complete manuscript. Come prepared!
-- You agree to adhere to the time-frame assigned to you

So, if you're a budding author looking for constructive feedback and perhaps even a publisher, drop Jeannie Worthen a line at

Got it? Good. For more info, check out:
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We're often asked to define the term "B movie." Here's a definition offered by the organizers of the "2005 B-Movie Festival": "A production whose entertainment and artistic value exceeds the limitations of its budget." (Many of the B Monster's favorite films can be so described.) Organizers have announced that entries are now being accepted for the 2005 fest. Billed as an "annual celebration of low-budget/high-imagination cinema," the festival takes place April 8-14 in Syracuse, N.Y. Films in competition will be screened at the recently renovated Palace Movie Theater, a historic venue that seats 800. The judges for the 2005 festival are Ron Bonk, president of Sub Rosa Studios, Michael Haggerty, owner of the Palace Movie Theater, and Phil Hall, contributing editor for Film Threat and author of "The Encyclopedia of Underground Movies: Films from the Fringes of Cinema." There's a $45 entry fee per feature, $35 for a short film. Three copies of the film should be submitted in VHS (NTSC format), DVD or DVD-R. Complete rules, an application and more info can be found at:
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The Egyptian Theater at the American Cinematheque will present a special tribute to director Roland West on March 20. West has been cited as having influenced the film noir movement of the 1940s and movie thrillers in general. His directorial career began in 1916 and lasted only until 1931. Among the silent suspense films he directed, "The Monster," starring Lon Chaney and "The Bat," are standouts. The tribute will screen "The Bat" (1926), "Alibi" (1929) and the early talky "The Bat Whispers" (1930). The latter, which stars Chester Morris, finds West alternating between chatty, stagy scenes and bravura directorial experimentation, the camera swooping and panning about the spooky old house and the exterior miniatures. For more information regarding the tribute screenings, visit:
Let 'em know, as always, the B Monster sent you!

According to director William Winckler, "Nobody has done an honest-to-goodness homage to classic black-and-white horror films and monster movies." Winckler is best known as the director of "The Double-D Avenger," the campy story of a very generously endowed superheroine. (Somewhere, Russ Meyer is smiling.) His new project is described as "a loving homage to classic Universal-style horror films of the 1940s." The yet-to-be-titled shocker will feature Frankenstein's Monster and other classic creatures in the public domain. Winckler is incensed that the classic monster pictures of Hollywood's Golden Age "are mocked or parodied in big-budget adventures like 'Van Helsing,' but no modern producer has attempted to recapture the heart, soul and style of the classic monster films. We're changing that: We're going to give horror fans the type of serious monster picture that used to be explored at length in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland." Winckler's film, which began shooting in February, stars Larry Butler, Gary Canavello, Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman, and features a special appearance by Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick. Watch for a release later this year.


When I was first made aware of the pending release of this disk, I feared yet another, hacky, poorly researched, AV-club hodgepodge made for geeks by geeks. Geeks these filmmakers may be, but this is not just another junky assemblage of talking heads and stills. This documentary is first class, several cuts above your average History Channel fare, and far superior to the majority of hastily cobbled docs that pass for DVD extras. This two-disk set was assembled with great care and high regard for the subject. The story of EC Comics, it's legendary honcho William Gaines and the bullpen of talent that produced his books in the 1950s, is an important one. It's likely that comics will never again see such a roster of talent under one tent: Jack Davis, Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, Joe Orlando, Johnny Craig, John and Marie Severin, Frank Frazetta -- the list is astounding, and the truly geeky (not that there's anything wrong with that) will enjoy the lengthy interviews with Davis, Williamson, Marie Severin and Kamen that are featured on the second disk of bonus material. It gets a little esoteric and "inside baseball" at times, but comic buffs and horror fans will relish it.

Gaines, of course, famously stood up to the House investigation into juvenile delinquency spearheaded by Senator Estes Kefauver. The inquest was greatly aided by Dr. Fredric Wertham's treatise "Seduction of the Innocent." There is footage of both Wertham and Gaines testifying. Gaines equates explaining the innocent thrill of a horror story to someone like Wertham to conveying "the sublimity of love to a frigid old maid." Ouch! Gaines' piercing comparison notwithstanding, the comics industry buckled, instituted a self-imposed code and ruled out just about every word EC used in their titles: Horror, terror, blood, etc. Gaines experimented for a while, gave up, told them where they could stick their code and went "Mad," in a manner of speaking. Mad magazine was eventually published ad-free, and Gaines answered to no one, converting -- and subverting -- a generation of fans. In truth, a good many of the EC stories crossed the line, tongue-in-cheek or not. Even Feldstein doesn't dispute that. Davis sheepishly recounts that he was a churchgoer, Scout master and Sunday school teacher who had to come to terms with the potential detriments of the grisly art he was producing. One of his stories, the gruesome "Foul Play," was among the most visible during the controversy. In a fit of remorse, he actually burned some of his EC books.

The EC writing process as described in the film by Feldstein, editor of EC's horror, crime and science fiction titles, is one of the documentary's most interesting aspects. EC was producing several horror and sci-fi books every month, and he and Gaines had to produce four stories for each book. Gaines brought what he called "springboards" to work each morning; partial ideas and fragmented notions that he and Feldstein molded into sharp little tales with twist endings. Budding science fiction writer -- and EC comics reader -- Ray Bradbury recognized two such springboards as being poached from his short stories and sent them an invoice. The story of how this potentially prickly exchange blossomed into a friendly and mutually respectful relationship is cleverly and amusingly presented. Among the bonus features is a lengthy discussion between Bradbury and Feldstein as they pore over vintage EC pages. The camera work here leaves something to be desired, but the filmmakers make the most of this rare and, evidently off-the-cuff, meeting of talents. The feature documentary, however, is exemplary. For once, the video gimmicks are integral and entertaining, rather than window dressing. Using actual EC artwork for transitions and segues is appropriate and appealing, and having a talking head appear in a comics panel where a talking head would actually appear is engaging. Importantly, the on-camera experts who weren't actually on the scene, but were influenced by the EC books (George Romero, Bernie Wrightson, R.L. Stine, Joel Silver) aren't permitted to blather endlessly. The bulk of the talking is done by Feldstein, Davis and other EC vets, as it should be. The packaging, utilizing colorful EC artwork, particularly Davis's, is likewise first rate. Kudos to writer, producer, director Chip Selby for devotion and discretion.

Award-winning illustrator and author Vincent Di Fate is once more "in the zone." The noted film and sci-fi historian provides the following exhaustive and illuminating review:

In its first full season (1959-1960), "The Twilight Zone" proved to be an unqualified critical success, yet it failed to garner more than a modest albeit enthusiastic viewership. Airing on Friday nights, episodes like the first season's "Time Enough at Last" and "The After Hours," were the main buzz around the water cooler on Monday mornings. With word of mouth like that, CBS felt certain that if it bided its time the show would eventually soar in the ratings. Serling's name brought with it the stamp of prestige and, even if his efforts failed to attract and charm the masses, it nonetheless served to draw sponsors eager to be associated with his aura of class and high artistic achievement. Some of us lament the passing of those days when the studios, TV networks, stage and record producers and publishers of the popular culture still cared enough to place quality above commerce. Because of "The Twilight Zone's" less than stellar ratings, Serling had no real expectations for his Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama for his work on the show. Thus, as legend has it, Serling hadn't even bothered to shave when attending the Emmy Awards presentation on the evening of June 21, 1960, and had to walk to the dais to accept his fourth statuette.

Remarkably, season two was as good -- and, arguably in some ways was even better -- than season one. What had been the principal motivation in Serling's mind for creating the show in the first place was that the science fiction/fantasy anthology format afforded opportunities to deal with timely social and political issues that would otherwise fail to get past the networks, the censors and the sponsors without radical compromise. By the late 1950s, Serling had pretty much had his fill of outside tampering and believed that "The Twilight Zone," by virtue of its fantastic precepts, offered certain intrinsic immunities that allowed him to deal with the issues of the day. By the 1960-61 season, the world had moved dangerously closer to potential disaster with the building of the Berlin Wall and the attempt to overthrow Castro's Cuba with the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. At no more opportune point in its short history had American television offered a greater and timelier prospect for reflection on world events through the guise of popular entertainment.

To revel in the full glory of this historic science fiction TV show, Image Entertainment, which owns the worldwide VHS and DVD rights to the original Serling series, is issuing the much anticipated sequel to last December's release of "The Twilight Zone's" first season on DVD. The season 2 boxed set is scheduled for a March 29, 2005, release, will retail for about $100, and will feature in the six-disc set the entire 29 shows from the 1960-61 season in the order of their original airing. The episodes are as follows: "King Nine Will Not Return," "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," "The Man in the Bottle," "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," "The Eye of the Beholder," "Nick of Time," "The Howling Man," "A Most Unusual Camera," "A Thing About Machines," "The Prime Mover," "Back There," "Dust," "A Penny for Your Thoughts," "The Trouble with Templeton," "The Invaders," "The Odyssey of Flight 33," "The Lateness of the Hour," "Static," "The Whole Truth," "Night of the Meek," "Twenty-Two," "Long Distance Call," "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," "The Rip Van Winkle Caper," "Shadow Play," "The Silence," "The Mind and the Matter," "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up," and "The Obsolete Man." Supplementing the newly remastered, high-resolution episode transfers will be audio commentaries by Donna Douglas, Don Rickles, William Idelson, Bill Mumy, Cliff Robertson, Dennis Weaver and Shelley Berman, along with vintage audio recollections by Buzz Kulik, Douglas Heyes, Maxine Stuart, George Clayton Johnson, Robert Serling and Elliot Silverstein. As with the first set, this edition will also contain isolated music tracks of scores written by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and Fred Steiner. The set also features episodes from "The Twilight Zone" radio show, a selection of Rod Serling's weekly promos, an interview with Mike Wallace, rare appearances on "Tell It To Groucho" and "The Jack Benny Show" and the complete script from the episode entitled "Twenty-Two," replete with Serling's handwritten notes.

Even to those with only a nodding acquaintance with the series, episodes like "The Eye of the Beholder," and "The Invaders," will be familiar -- if not in name, then certainly in storyline. Less well-known, but of equal quality, are such segments as "Mr. Dingle, The Strong" (Martians experiment on meek vacuum-cleaner salesmen Luther Dingle [Burgess Meredith] endowing him with the strength of 300 men), "Nick of Time" (Don Carter [a pre-Star Trek William Shatner] develops an unhealthy obsession with a fortune-telling machine in a diner in rural Ohio while on his honeymoon), "The Howling Man" (David Ellington [H.W. Wynant] has an eerie encounter with an imprisoned man reputed to be the Devil [Robin Hughes]), "The Odyssey of Flight 33" (Commercial airline pilot Captain Farver [John Anderson] flies his plane into the prehistoric past, thanks to an extraordinary tailwind), "Twenty-Two" (showgirl Elizabeth Powell [Barbara Nichols] in the chilling, "Room for one more" episode) and "Long Distance Call" (A highly effective "ghost" story in which five-year-old Billy Bayles [Bill Mumy] speaks with his dead grandmother [Lili Darvas] on a toy telephone). Even the clinkers, like "A Most Unusual Camera" (about a stolen camera from a curio shop that can take pictures of events five minutes in the future) and "Back There" (in which Russell Johnson finds himself in the past on the day of the Lincoln assassination) contain compelling themes and are entertaining, though their realization on film fails to linger in memory as do the more successful segments.

The most amazing thing about the original "Twilight Zone" is how, after some 45 years, the show still remains vibrant and engaging. At the very least, "TZ" is a stunning time capsule of an era in which world tensions were bubbling up and television was proving to be a powerful new instrument for raising the nation's social and political consciousness.

To my mind, the quality of the series began its decline with season 3, yet it still managed to present an enormous amount of quality programming throughout its entire five-season run. Shows like "It's A Good Life," "The Shelter," "To Serve Man," "Kick the Can," "I Sing the Body Electric" (all from season 3), "In His Image," "Jess-Belle," "Death Ship," "Printer's Devil" (season 4), "The Mask," "Night Call" (a revisiting of Richard Matheson's "Long Distance Call" -- this time scripted by Matheson himself) and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" still loomed in the future. But the wear and tear on Serling's creativity with a weekly show was starting to become evident. Although he drew scores of talented writers, like Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson and others to his aid, as early as season two, Serling had gone on record complaining about the difficulties he was experiencing in coming up with new story ideas. Ironically, and especially when compared to the shows in season one, the output of season two was far more original, relying less on the appropriation of plots from pre-existing stories.

If truth be told, and as dearly as I love "The Twilight Zone," I'm really more of an "Outer Limits" man myself. (A "bear" a week will get an old monster-loving geek like me every time.) But that doesn't prevent me from greatly admiring Rod Serling and his enormous impact on the quality of early television. And in retrospect "TZ" has proven to be far more of a mirror of the world that was. I find myself using it in the college classroom more and more as entertaining and exemplary evidence of the white-knuckle tensions of the early Cold War/Civil Rights era -- easier to take and more valuable as an educational tool than a hundred of my own impassioned lectures. Sad that we've been exposed to so much concerning our fundamental humanity over the past half-century and have retained so little.

In the short list of "must have" DVDs devoted to vintage fantastic television, "The Twilight Zone" seasons one and two are certainly high on the list of essentials.


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

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards

Vincent DiFate

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


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