MAY 2001

The B Monster sniffs spring in the air. The trees are bedecked with magnificent flora, and pollen run amok disrupts the lives of one-half of the world's population. This is, after all, the month that comes in like a lion, and goes out like a light. Or does it lie down with the lamb and go out with a bang? Maybe it creeps in like a wolf and flaps frantically away like a bat (or am I thinking of March and bewaring its ides and all that Shakespearean stuff?) In any case, enjoy the ensuing, all-encompassing and unimpeachable opining reflecting every facet of fright-film fact and ephemera.


Anthony Dexter
Actor Anthony Dexter, who achieved overnight fame following his star turn as Rudolph Valentino in a 1951 biopic, died at his home in Greeley, Colo. He was 88. Dexter's fame was fleeting, however, and the majority of the films in which he starred were low-budget affairs. Cult-film fans will recognize Dexter from his roles in B-level sci-fi films such as "Fire Maidens of Outer Space," "Twelve to the Moon" and "The Phantom Planet."

Born Walter Craig in Talmadge, Neb., he studied drama at the University of Iowa. Following a hitch in the Army Special Services during World War II, he began acting on Broadway in shows such as "The Three Sisters" and "Ah, Wilderness!" Producer Edward Small made much of his search for the ideal actor to impersonate Valentino, claiming it took 11 years and required 400 screen tests. Dexter was chosen from 75,000 applicants. Dexter appeared in several period dramas following "Valentino," including "Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl," "The Black Pirates," and "Captain John Smith and Pocahontas." He made guest appearances on television programs, including "Rawhide," "Bat Masterson" and "The High Chaparral."

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth
"Kustom Kar" counter-culture icon Ed "Big Daddy" Roth died in his Manti, Utah, studio of an apparent heart attack. He was 69. Roth created his cartoon character "Rat Fink," and a host of other similarly styled lovable grotesques (Drag Nut, Mother's Worry, Mr. Gasser) in the late 1950s. They appealed to a generation of teenage rebels, and their commercial success in the form of model kits, T-shirts and plastic figures helped finance his custom hot-rod design work.

The West Coast "Kustom Kar Kulture" thrived throughout the 1950 and 60s with Roth as its leading influence. Author Tom Wolfe described Roth as the "most colorful, the most intellectual and the most capricious" of the car customizers, adding, "He's the Salvador Dali of the movement." The craze spawned myriad Roth model kits, and the "Rat Fink" figure was a ubiquitous cultural fixture for nearly a decade. Many credit Roth with helping to inspire the underground comics movement of the 1960s. Roth once told the Associated Press, "My fanaticism with cars has just destroyed my personal life. ... It's an obsession, an addiction. Every day I pray to God, 'Release me from my calling!'"


First, let's get a gargantuan thank you out of the way. Much appreciation to all of the B Monster's rapacious readers for making last month our most popular to date. Amid news of a nose-diving NASDAQ and dying dot coms, the B Monster thrives -- with a little help, of course, from his friends -- Jim Arness, Bob Burns and David Hedison to mention but a few. Big Jim in particular extends his thanks for the torrent of e-mail he received by way of the B Monster.

Following the B Monster's ice-breaking interview with James Arness, it seems that the big man is going public in a big way. Not only is his autobiography soon to be published, but keep your eyes peeled for a segment on "A&E's Biography," the long-running cable program co-hosted by Jim's younger brother, Peter Graves. "People" magazine may soon have a profile, as will "Autograph Times." Even syndicated columnist Larry King is onboard, touting Jim's forthcoming book in his daily column.

Meanwhile, the James Arness Hall of Fame Committee is inviting fans and admirers of "Gunsmoke's" Matt Dillon and "The Thing From Another World," to join them in an effort to have him inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Arness portrayed Marshal Matt Dillon for a record-breaking 20 years on "Gunsmoke," making it the longest running show with continuing characters in television history. If you would like to help in this endeavor, send your cards and letters on his behalf to: Hall of Fame Selection Committee c/o ATAS 5220 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601

Hopefully, with a little prompting from Jim's fans and friends, the ATAS Selection Committee will be moved by the outpouring of support to endorse the induction of Arness into the Hall of Fame, formally acknowledging his considerable contributions to the television industry and American culture. You can contact the James Arness Hall of Fame Committee at: For the latest on Jim's activities, including news of his upcoming autobiography, check out:

Nominees for the 27th annual Saturn Awards bestowed by The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films have been announced, and we couldn't be prouder of our pal Bob Burns, who will be receiving the Service Award for his efforts to house and restore props from classic genre films. The presentation will be June 12th in Los Angeles. While the nomination criteria befuddles the B Monster (Why, for instance, has The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films nominated "Traffic" for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film?), and at least two nominees, "The Cell" and "Hollow Man," are malignant and undeserving, it's great to see that the Academy acknowledges Bob's devotion to the genre, and we salute them for saluting him.

Marlon Brando was supposed to earn a tidy $2 million for four days' work in this summer's "Scary Movie 2," a sequel to last year's comedy blockbuster that lampooned all of the latest horror movie conventions. According to CNN, the reclusive actor jumped at the chance to perform a cameo as a priest performing an exorcism, inviting director Keenan Ivory Wayans to his home to discuss the role. The Weinstein brothers of Dimension Films wanted a startling stunt to kick off the film, and were happy to pony up the dough. (Charlton Heston was originally approached but declined the offer). A case of pneumonia has since forced Brando to withdraw from the film, which stars Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Tori Spelling, Kathleen Robertson, Andy Richter, Christopher Masterson, Chris Elliott, Tim Curry, David Cross, Natasha Lyonne and Richard Moll.

Plans are being finalized for a weeklong, sci-fi film festival to be staged in Kansas City this June 16-24. The event will celebrate the 50th anniversary of two of science fiction's unmitigated classics -- "The Thing From Another World" and "The Day The Earth Stood Still." Scheduled guests include Patricia Neal and Billy Gray from the latter film, composer Bernard Herrmann's widow, Lucy Anderson, and "The Thing's" Professor Carrington, Robert Cornthwaite. (That's as much info as we have at present. Details are forthcoming.) While we're sure many of you pre-date the mid-century mark, we're guessing most readers weren't even born when these classic films premiered. In either case, if things go as planned, you can revel in retro for a solid week.

recently announced that Steven "Thirteen Days" Culp, Clea "Girl Interrupted" DuVall, Tyler "X-Men" Mane, and Jason "White Squall" Marsden have been cast in the cable network's remake of director Herb Strock's AIP shocker "How To Make A Monster." The original film was all about an alienated makeup man who took revenge on the studio that employed him by creating genuine monsters to snuff out the suits responsible for his imminent firing. The update involves ex-con computer programmers conscripted to create a computer-game monster. Who knows? It could be good? No, really. It could. No, seriously.

According to Zentertainment, CBS is producing a pilot for a potential series about a werewolf. (Didn't Fox try this 10 years ago?) Categorized as a drama, "Wolf Lake" will star Tim "West Wing" Matheson, Lou "La Bamba" Diamond Phillips and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

We received a very nice note from Sumishta Brahm, daughter of director John Brahm, whose work includes classic thrillers such as "Hangover Square," "The Lodger" and "The Undying Monster." Turns out she produces the official John Brahm Website, dedicated to chronicling her Dad's life and work. You'll find some terrific backstage shots of the director clowning with Vincent Price on the set of "The Mad Magician," and chatting with celebs such as Ava Gardner and Fred MacMurray. Family photos of a young John Brahm are also included. There's a complete filmography and a list of the prolific director's television credits, which include classic episodes of "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "The Outer Limits" and many others. Sumishta is an artist in her own right, and you'll find links to examples of her work as well. Check it out at:

Billed as a "unique vacation experience," Ben Chapman, "The Reel Gillman," will host a seven-day cruise affording fans the opportunity to hit the high seas with the original Creature From The Black Lagoon. Departing Los Angeles on May 6, you can cruise to the Mexican Riviera, indulging in delicious meals, duty-free shopping and, of course, unlimited access to one of the big screen's legendary monsters. Rates begin at $905 per person (based on double occupancy, port charges included). Time is tight, so check out for details, or call 1-877-685-4450.

Leonard Nimoy has donated $1,050,000 toward sprucing up the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. As "Star Trek's" Mr. Spock told the World Entertainment News Network, "By observing the sky and pondering our place in the universe, people gain a new perspective on their daily lives. The observatory gives visitors that opportunity." The 66-year-old observatory has served as a location backdrop in films as diverse as "Phantom From Space," "Curse of the Faceless Man" and "Rebel Without A Cause." (There's a bust of James Dean in the observatory forecourt.) As a director, Nimoy shot scenes for "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" in Griffith Park.

Another fine CD from the folks at Marco Polo showcases the beautiful film scores of French composer Georges Auric as played by The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Swiss-born maestro, Adriano. Auric is renowned for his collaborations with filmmaker Jean Cocteau, including "Beauty and the Beast" and "Orpheus." He also scored "Moulin Rouge," "Roman Holiday" and the classic thriller "The Innocents." The suites and cues contained on this nifty restoration are culled from "La Syphonie Pastorale," "Macao, l'enfer du jeu," director Jules Dassin's caper classic, "Riffifi," and Henri-Georges Clouzot's nail-biter "Wages of Fear." It may be esoteric stuff as far as you hard-core, b-movie junkies are concerned, but why not treat yourself to a "suite" taste of the lush life. For more info, check out

The Harry Thomas tribute Web page has moved to a new address: The site is dedicated to the late, great monster makeup man who brought life to "Frankenstein's Daughter," the "Killers From Space" the "Unearthly" and countless others. You'll find a complete filmography, loads of stills, a listing of Thomas' television credits, and a collection of Harry's convention sketches and concept drawings. Tell 'em the B Monster sent you.


Despite all the hoopla, this comes off as one of those "wouldn't it be cool if we made a movie about" ideas that someone forwarded at a cocktail party full of cineastes. Even if you're comfortable with the liberties taken with reality, it's hard to find much of a point to this indulgent film. John Malkovich, who's usually pretty good, is not very good. He portrays legendary silent film director F.W. Murnau, who cast a largely forgotten actor named Max Schreck (who went on to act in 20 more films) as a vampire in his horror film classic "Nosferatu." As "Shadow" would have it, Schreck was a REAL vampire who was allowed to kill crew members as part of his payment. (This was long before the Sreen Actors Guild allowed key grips to be eaten by film stars). As Schreck, Oscar-nominee Willem Defoe renders the term "over-the-top" inadequate. He's not funny, he's not scary -- he just talks funny and gives the impression that he must have the world's worst case of "old person smell."

This is probably the least accessible of director Irvin S. Yeaworth's fright films. The director of "The Blob" and "Dinosaurus" seems unable to overcome a dull script and an ice-cold performance by leading man Robert Lansing, who plays the brother of a scientist who has developed a way to pass organic matter through solid material. Lansing designates himself the human guinea pig, and before long, he's walking through walls, aging a bit in the process each time. He's also going quite insane in the finest "scientist treading where man should not go" tradition. Lee Meriwether figures in an awkward love triangle with the scientific siblings, and gruff-but-lovable Robert Strauss is terribly miscast as Lansing's nemesis. It would be wrong to compare the film to "The Invisible Man," wherein Claude Rains, although unseen and quite insane, was nonetheless riveting -- so we won't.


Not the bombastic musical version, but the Roger Corman quickie that's twisted many an impressionable young mind over the years. It's probably the director's best-known movie, but according to one of the film's stars, Mel Welles, one he never intended to make: "Roger didn't like comedy. He didn't believe in it. He had tried with 'Bucket of Blood' and it failed. So he didn't want to do 'Little Shop' at all. We had to beg him and cajole him. Ironically, it's his most famous picture. What sticks in his craw is that he had very little to do with it. All the exteriors were done by me and Chuck Griffith." Corman regular Jonathan Haze is great fun as Seymour, and lovable Jackie Joseph is, well, lovable Jackie Joseph.

Some would argue that this is the most satisfying of the Roger Corman-Poe adaptations. Maybe it is. Vincent Price is fabulous, of course, but the film benefits as well from Richard Matheson's script, Floyd Crosby's photography, Les Baxter's terrific music and some very nifty production design from future director Daniel Haller, incorporating pallid colors and dry-ice fog to grand effect. There are slow patches, to be sure, but lenient critics will be compensated by the claustrophobic atmosphere that's so successfully conveyed.

No, not the Corman classic that featured Beverly Garland, Jonathan Haze, Dick Miller and the imposing Paul Birch as the sullen space vampire Mr. Johnson, sent to earth to collect blood for the inhabitants of his plasma-starved planet. This is the 1995 version featuring Michael York in the Birch role, employing myriad acting ticks and gimmicks to great distraction. His fidgety performance should have carried the film, but sinks it instead. Parker Stevenson, Elizabeth Barondes and Richard Belzer round out the cast of this very unnecessary and uninspired remake.

A drive-in double bill that offers up two decidedly disparate slices of 1960s teenage America, the most striking thing about "Teenage Gang Debs" is the fact that it looks as though in were made in 1956, not 1966. It's a roughhewn, gritty, near-documentary depiction of the sleazy side of teen life in the big city, containing surprisingly blatant displays of violence. Great cinema it ain't. But it's a terrific time capsule and an interesting example of maverick exploitation filmmaking.

"Teenage Strangler" is no less interesting in that it is the only horror film we can think of filmed entirely on location in Huntington, W.Va. Not much plot to speak of -- supposedly, there's a teenager strangling people -- and Huntington's high school student body is terrified. But even with a deranged killer on the loose, the town teens are not so scared that they can't take time out to perform a nifty musical number called "Yipes Stripes" at the local malt shop.

The package includes trailers for "Teenage Gang Debs," "Teen-Age Strangler," "The Cats," "The Crawling Hand," "Damaged Goods" and others, and a gallery of drive-In exploitation art.

This oddball Euro-horror used to play incessantly on the late show a couple of decades ago. Now it's being hyped by distributors as a "seldom-seen 1964 horror classic." Well, not exactly. American actors Barry Sullivan and Martha Hyer were imported to Spain to star in this negligible shocker about a jealous woman who sets her lover's home ablaze, killing his wife and child, and leaving her paramour hideously disfigured. He then burns her cabana to the ground, snuffing out her family in the bargain. "Pyro" is not likely to turn up on AMC's "Romance Classics" anytime soon. Sometimes known as "Pyro - The Thing Without a Face," it was directed by Julio Coll and co-stars Fernando Hilbeck, Luis Prendes and Carlos Casarivilla.


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

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at

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