Ruth Hussey
Actress Ruth Hussey, perhaps best known to horror fans as the co-star of the classic 1944 ghost story "The Uninvited," died at a nursing home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., from complications following appendicitis. She was 93. In 1940, Hussey was Oscar-nominated for her supporting part in "The Philadelphia Story," which co-starred James Stewart, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. Born in Providence, R.I., Hussey studied acting, was a radio fashion commentator and a model before landing a role in the touring company of "Dead End," Sidney Kingsley's play about life in a New York slum. This brought her to the attention of an MGM talent agent and she was soon cast opposite Spencer Tracy in the 1937 feature "Big City." She had supporting parts in "Man-Proof," "The Women," "Blackmail," "Another Thin Man," "Northwest Passage" and others. Following her success in "The Philadelphia Story," she continued to work in supporting parts in such features as "H.M. Pulham, Esq.," "Tennessee Johnson" and "Tender Comrade." "The Uninvited," which co-starred Ray Milland, Gail Russell and Donald Crisp, is considered by many to be among the finest ghost stories ever filmed. In it, Hussey and her brother, played by Milland, purchase an old house on the Cornish coast. At night, they hear crying and ghostly sounds, experience strange depressions, and gradually learn about the house's dark past. Hussey later appeared as Jordon Baker in the second filmed version of "The Great Gatsby," starring Alan Ladd, and played the spouse of John Philip Sousa in the biopic "Stars and Stripes Forever," with Clifton Webb in the title role. She worked extensively in television throughout the 1950s, appearing on such programs as "The Ford Television Theatre," "Studio One," "General Electric Theater," "Science Fiction Theater" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."


So, you're a true horror fan, eh? You've made the hobby the center of your life, you attend all the conventions, own every special edition DVD, got a linen-backed "Nightmare on Elm Street" poster, a traffic citation autographed by Karloff, a Lugosi cigar stub, three copies of every Anne Rice book and a shrine to Chris Lee in your bathroom? You're just a beginner! The folks who stage HAuNTcon (and yes, the name is upper and lower cased that way) are dedicated to a degree you can scarcely fathom. What is HAuNTcon? It's the "National Attraction Tradeshow and Convention" for the Haunted Attraction and Halloween industries. This is a gathering of guys familiar with every nut, bolt, screw, plank and paint stroke on darned-near every spook house extant. They make the rides that make the whole world scream. You know those things that go "bump" in the night? These guys make 'em "bump." They know and celebrate the history of haunted attractions and host an exhibition demonstrating state-of-the-art Haunted House paraphernalia for those interested in expanding or upgrading their thrill rides.

HAuNTcon attendees can "visit the haunts you have always wanted to see. Board comfortable buses with 150 fellow haunters on a two-day trek for lights-on and lights-off tours of Haunted Attractions in a nearby city." And, when not busy attending costume balls and "haunted garage sales," guests are invited to "attend the many local Haunt Tour/Socials to get an off-season look at other Haunts and network with both amateur and pro Haunted Attraction owners, managers and key staff from the U.S. and Canada." There's also a lineup of celebrity guests. Last year's included Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen, Reggie "Phantasm" Bannister and George Lutz, the real-life owner of that horrible house in Amityville that spawned a best-selling book and several movies.

These "dark ride" devotees are hardcore horror fans. Still, there is one sub-specialty that must be cited for singular devotion, one that truly separates the doers from the dabblers; HAuNTcon is sponsored by Haunted Attraction Magazine, the Halloween Vendor Coalition, The Scream Syndicate and Dallas Trocars Funeral Car Club. The latter aggregation is made up of mechanics and car customizers who restore hearses and other funeral vehicles. They hold funeral car rallies boasting such events as "Casket Racing Soap Box Style!" One such rally is a part of this year's HAuNTcon festivities. Following a hearse parade, funeral car buffs are encouraged to "share tips on hearse customization and restoration with other funeral car owners ... so polish up your coffin and spruce up your corpse." HAuNTcon happens April 22-24 at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Dallas. To learn more, check out:
While you're at it, rev up your rod and roll on over to:
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It is a good thing to cite those who are uniquely dedicated to preserving classic films. This particular citation goes to an uncommon group of musicians known as the Alloy Orchestra. This three-man aggregation has worked with such groups as Film Preservation Associates, The Rohauer Collection, and George Eastman House to present beautiful prints of silent classics accompanied by their unorthodox musical scores. According the group's Web site, "An unusual combination of found percussion and state-of-the-art electronics gives the Orchestra the ability to create any sound imaginable. Utilizing their famous 'rack of junk' and electronic synthesizers, the group generates beautiful music in a spectacular variety of styles. They can conjure up an entire symphony or a simple German bar band of the '20's." Among the films restored, re-scored and presented by Alloy are "The Lost World," "The Black Pirate," "A Trip to the Moon," "Metropolis," "The Unknown" and "Nosferatu." Only recently, the Orchestra presented the silent classic "Phantom of the Opera" at the Maryland Film Festival" accompanied by their peculiar instrumentation. Sampled organ music and traditional instruments including accordion, clarinet and glockenspiel were employed, as well as truck springs, horseshoes and other found objects. According to a Washington Post account, Ken Winkour (who co-founded the group with Roger C. Miller and Terry Donahue) and his wife, filmmaker Jane Gillooly, purchased their own "Phantom" negative and personally oversaw its restoration. Now in their 12th year, the Alloy Orchestra has appeared at dozens of national and international film festivals, and several of their restorations are available on CD, VHS and DVD. For more info, check out:
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Filmmaker, writer and cinemonster historian Ted Newsom recently unveiled his film, "The Naked Monster," at the RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C. "It really, honest to God, was 20 years in the making," says Newsom. The film is an homage to vintage creature features, and was originally titled "Attack of the B-Movie Monster" when Ted began piecing together this labor of love way back when. His nostalgic monster romp is filled with familiar faces doing star turns and cameos. Some are now, sadly, dear and departed. "I think I have the most wonderful cast anybody could ever ask for," says Ted. The late, great Ken Tobey is prominently featured, as is scream queen Brinke Stevens, with cameos by John Agar, Lori Nelson, Jeanne Carmen, John Harmon, Les Tremayne, Ann Robinson, Robert Clarke, Robert Cornthwaite, Robert Shayne, Paul Marco, Forry Ackerman, Gloria Talbott, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley, Bob Burns (in ape-suit and out) and Daniel Roebuck. "Plus," Newsom adds, "we've got a 60-foot green Monstersaurus (Erectus) who sinks the Titanic, smashes a dam, prowls through Bronson Caverns, destroys the Eiffel Tower, the Capitol and Big Ben, kicks a T-Bird over the Golden Gate Bridge, juggles a school bus, pulls James Dean apart at Griffith Observatory and lays eggs at Vasquez Rocks!" Add just a dash of nudity and a Ronald Stein score. What B-movie booster could resist? Watch this space for developments regarding availability.

An opera based on the science fiction classic "The Fly"? It's the truth, so "help me! Help me!" The Associated Press reported that Academy Award-winning composer Howard Shore is currently working on an opera based on the David Cronenberg remake of the classic 1957 film that starred Vincent Price and David Hedison. Cronenberg is collaborating with playwright David Henry Hwang. Hwang's play "M. Butterfly" was turned into a feature film by Cronenberg in 1993. Shore has scored nine of Cronenberg's films, including "The Fly." Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis starred in Cronenberg's graphic 1987 remake. Shore is one busy composer these days, touring the world conducting his "Lord of the Rings Symphony" and scoring director Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake. "The Fly," which is to be staged by the Los Angeles Opera, is tentatively scheduled for a 2007 premiere.

Many monster devotees are already familiar with the work of artist Joe DeVito. He's recently been on a breathless book tour to promote his "Kong: King of Skull Island." The veteran painter and sculptor collaborated with writers Brad Strickland and John Michlig to produce this unique illustrated novel, which was sanctioned by the estate of Kong creator Merian C. Cooper and features an introduction by Ray Harryhausen. Devito is also featured in Illustration '05, the debut issue of a planned quarterly mag. The initial offering also spotlights the art of Peter De Seve, Marc Gabana and Joseph Csatari. Also commendable is Devito's participation in the "One Book" initiative, "a nationwide effort to broaden and deepen an appreciation of literature. The intent is to bring people of all backgrounds and ages together to foster unity and literacy through sharing books and discussing the important issues raised by their reading." DeVito will be presenting "Kong" readings, slide shows and Q&A sessions at various Pennsylvania county libraries. For more about Joe and his work, check out:
To take a sneak peak at Illustration '05, visit:
For more on the "One Book" program, go to:
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Luminaries from the worlds of horror literature, horror films and music have donated collectibles to be auctioned for the benefit of Devon Doherty, a 12-year-old girl with terminal cancer. Devon's illness was in remission until recently. Now celebs including MGM Studios, science fiction author Nancy Osier and rock band Cold Play are banding together to raise money for medical bills and to make her final days with her family as happy as possible. Proceeds will also go toward establishing an organization in her name dedicated to assisting local families in the early stages of a child's diagnosis of a serious illness. The auctions are organized and sponsored by bookseller Matt Schwartz, Brian Knight, Harry Shannon and Mark Tyree. Among items auctioned so far are two rare autographed advance reading copies of the Christopher Golden novels "The Ferryman" and "The Boys Are Back in Town," donated by Golden; an advance reading copy of the Richard Laymon novel "The Lake," with a letter of authenticity, plus 6 months' free membership to the Leisure Paperback Horror book club donated by Leisure Books; an autographed first edition 1981 hardcover copy of Bill Pronzini's novel "Masque," donated by Pronzini and a 2003 Coldplay tour program book autographed by all members of the band. Other donors, according to the horror fan site "," include Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Tenacious D, Miramax, Disney and Warner Bros. Many of the auctions have ended as this is being written, but Schwatrz's "Shocklines" Web site promises that "many more" are forthcoming. For more information, visit:
For more about Devon, visit:
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The 4th Fantastic Films Weekend, staged by the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford, UK, happens May 20-24. Because the three previous fests were so successful, promoters have extended the show to a three-day event. Highlights this year include an "Exorcist Marathon" featuring back-to-back-to-back-to-back screenings of all four "Exorcist" films, special screenings of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead, Fritz Lang's silent classic "Der Mude Tod" accompanied by live music and a 70mm print of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" shown on a giant curved screen. Of special interest to B Monster readers is a screening of Jacques Tourneur's "Night of the Demon," shown in conjunction with the release of "Beating the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon," by Tony Earnshaw. Fans of contemporary (and decidedly downbeat) sci-fi will be treated to Imax screenings of all three "Matrix" films. For more info, check out:
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On 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues in New York City, you'll find a swinging club called Cellar. Five bucks will get you their special "Spiked Prom Punch." In fact, every Monday you can treat yourself to a "scary movie and a spine tingling drink special," according to Heather, Cellar's bartender and self-described "horror nut." (They're also outfitted with a full espresso bar for you cafe gourmands.) May is "Horror on the Dance Floor" month (hence the prom punch) and the schedule of films is as follows:

-- May 2: "Carrie"
-- May 9: "My Bloody Valentine"
-- May 16: "Pep Squad"
-- May 23: "The Prowler"
-- May 30: "Prom Night"

There's never a cover and the popcorn is free! You can give 'em a buzz at 212-477-7747. Or pay 'em a visit and raise a toast "to Gods and monsters" (and remember to tip Heather and her co-workers generously). In either case, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

We told you a while back about filmmaker William Winckler and his determination to produce a film that does justice to the legacy of the classic Universal horrors. The director recently announced that principle photography of his black-and-white tribute, "Frankenstein vs. The Creature From Blood Cove," has wrapped. "We really captured the look of a multimillion-dollar, widescreen, Panavision film," Winckler said in a press release. "The closer we're getting to completion, the happier I am with the production. There's no question that 'creature feature' fans are going to love it!" Winckler has been vehement in his contention that the classic horrors of the past have been "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." Winckler's film takes place in a seaside village where the Monster is resurrected, encountering an amphibious man-beast. The film stars Larry Butler and Alison Lees-Taylor and features Butch Patrick of "Munsters" fame, as well as Troma Films honcho Lloyd Kaufman. Winckler is perhaps best known as the director of the Russ Myer-inspired exploitation feature "The Double-D Avenger."

You've got plenty of time to plan for this one: L.A.con IV aka The 64th World Science Fiction Convention, aka Worldcon, will take place August 23-27th, 2006, in Anaheim, Calif. Confirmed guests as of this writing include author Connie Willis, artist and "Dinotopia" creator James Gurney, longtime fan, organizer and sci-fi enthusiast Howard DeVore and, billed as a "special guest," Frankie Thomas," the actor best known as "Tom Corbett" of the pioneering 1950s TV series "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet." Details are still sketchy at this early juncture, but the sprawling convention will occupy two Anaheim hotels AND the Anaheim Convention Center. To keep track of developments, check out:
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Portions of the following may be familiar to long-time B Monster readers, but if distributors can repackage and re-release films, we can do the same with reviews. Fair enough?

("Invaders From Mars," "Attack From Mars," "Flight to Mars")

Let's start with the ending, one which has been confusing genre-film fans for a generation. It's certainly giving nothing away at this late date to pose the question: Was it, in the end, all a dream? Dreams are key to this classic film's success and, some would say, failings. John Tucker Battle, who conceived the basic idea for the film, was inspired by a dream his wife had. But Battle wanted the filmed story to be portrayed as reality without the dream-ending cop-out. In fact, when a condensed script based on his idea transformed his reality-based story into a dream, he insisted his name be taken off the film. And what of the varying endings that have puzzled sci-fi buffs for years? The fact that multiple versions of the film have existed for decades might explain the fan's confusion. (Maybe the VIEWERS dreamed the whole thing.) Fact is, when the film was sold in the U.K., distributors said it wasn't long enough, insisting that new scenes be shot. Producers complied, recutting existing U.S. copies and shipping them overseas. Fans remember long versions, short versions, color and black and white versions, versions cut for TV. Oh, it was a mess. But rest easy. A 35mm negative, color separations and Cinecolor master print now reside safely in a climate-controlled vault in Kansas.

So, what about the movie itself? Dreamlike doesn't begin to describe it. Many baby boomers, upon viewing the film as adults, are surprised that, even as children, they ever found the film frightening, suspenseful or otherwise entertaining. It IS one bizarro movie; a candy colored, blatantly simplistic fable designed and directed with Spartan integrity by William Cameron Menzies. But the stripped-down sets, broad acting, choir soundtrack, forced perspectives and gorgeously fake backdrops are PRECISELY why the movie works. It's a kid's-eye view of a terrifying event. It's supposed to reach the child in you. If you can't come to it on those terms, you probably shouldn't bother -- but you'll be missing a one-of-a-kind film. Nothing quite like it has been made since. (The remake was a disastrous miscalculation. Its makers missed the point entirely.) A hallmark of the films Menzies designed ("Things To Come," "Gone With The Wind," "The Whip Hand") was a calculated artificiality from which "Invaders From Mars" benefits greatly. The cast is a Who's Who of B-movie favorites -- Arthur Franz, Hillary Brooke, Morris Ankrum, Robert Shayne, Milburn Stone and, of course, Jimmy Hunt as the pint-sized Martian fighter who MAY have dreamed the whole darned thing. "Invaders From Mars" is many things, but it is NOT dated. It's just too strange, too unlike other films of its vintage to BE dated. (David Lynch may well have learned a thing or two about pacing, composition and the tenuous line separating dreams and reality from this film.) That strangeness has kept it alive in the memories of sci-fi fans for 50 years. But, if you think you're too grown up to enjoy it, then you probably are.

Wade Williams is a science fiction fan, collector, producer and all-around entrepreneur. He holds the rights to the films in this package, which have been distributed via his Englewood Entertainment company. Williams met sci-fi star Robert Clarke while the actor was touring with The King Family and made a stop in Williams' native Kansas. The collector and "The Hideous Sun Demon" struck up a friendship and Clarke eventually sold Williams the rights to "Sun Demon" and helped him secure the rights to other films, including "The Astounding She Monster" and "Monster From the Surf." Fast forward to 1988, the year Williams bankrolled the Kansas-based sci-fi homage "Attack From Mars," originally titled "Midnight Movie Massacre." Williams brought Clarke and "War of the Worlds" star Ann Robinson to Kansas to perform featured cameos. Directed by Mark Stock and featuring an amateur cast, the film is a hash of ideas culled from such cinema and TV sources as "American Graffiti," "Space Patrol," "Revenge of the Nerds," "Back to the Future" and "The Blob." The plot involves patrons of a Burbank movie theater who find themselves under attack by an alien creature. It's a crude but affectionate salute to the '50s. Sort of a homemade "Happy Days" Halloween episode.

I have great affection for this incredibly dull film and I'll make a brief, labored attempt to explain. It's got rocketships, it's colorful (love those Crayola-hued, "Destination Moon" suits), it's cute and wistful, and the cast is great fun to watch, but I can't defend the pacing and laughable gaffs in storytelling. (Our heroes begin hatching an escape plot while their captors are still in earshot. Oh, well.) Director Lesley Selander was one of the most prolific in B-movie history, from "Hopalong Rides Again" to "The Vampire's Ghost" to "Arizona Bushwhackers" (So, what can I tell you? Cut the man some slack.) Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz and Virginia Huston fly to Mars, where they find some of the most seasoned supporting players in B-movie history running the planet: Morris Ankrum, Robert Barrat, Trevor Bardette, Stanley Blystone and Tristram Coffin, among others. Heck, I'd go to Mars in a heartbeat if I could hang out with those guys.

Both of these films are the product of Dark Castle Entertainment, the company founded by Hollywood big shots Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis to produce modestly budgeted shockers that, so far, have been "in name only" remakes of vintage films. This "Ghost Ship" bears no resemblance to the Val Lewton/RKO "Ghost Ship," and none was intended. It was just a good title. It begins rather wistfully aboard an Italian cruise ship circa 1962. Passengers and crew are enjoying a cocktail party and dance on deck, when suddenly a cable snaps and, before the movie is three minutes old, people are mutilated, decapitated, limbs severed, in some cases heads are sliced neatly in two, noggins slowly splitting in half as the camera savors the moment. Hundreds of bodies litter the deck in pools of blood. The only survivor is (shades of Stephen King) a little girl. (What prurient interest do contemporary filmmakers have in seeing children terrified?) Cut to the present day. Crusty old skipper, Gabriel Byrne, leads a team of greedy salvagers who've discovered the derelict Italian liner adrift in the Bering Sea. The law of the sea is "finders keepers," so they board the cavernous hulk to claim whatever booty may be left. All the character types are present: the hotheaded guy, the suspicious-looking guy, the feisty chick-in-a-man's-world, the doomed black guy. Keep score as they get picked off, one-by-one, done in by various grisly methods by the malevolent spirits that haunt the floating graveyard. Truth be told, there are one or two impressive shots, but the predictability and sheer mean-spiritedness of the enterprise dilute their merit.

The laughable tagline used to promote "Thir13en Ghosts," a completely unnecessary remake of William Castle's schlocky 1960 gimmick-shocker, should tell you all you need to know about it: "Misery loves company." We'll assume that applies to everyone who recommended this film to a friend. The unmitigated nastiness this film oozes might reflect an astounding laziness on the part of the filmmakers, apparently working under the assumption that moviegoers are so callous, numb and jaded that an utterly vacuous parade of gore effects is the only thing that will sell tickets. Sadly, the box office returns suggest that their assumption is entirely correct. The movie cost relatively little to make (these days, $20 million is relatively little), with most of the money presumably going to "respectable" actors -- Tony Shaloub, Embeth Daidtz, F. Murray Abraham -- in order to bring a whiff of class to the enterprise. The film turned a tidy profit. Some critics might be tempted to draw comparisons to the grisly EC horror comics of the '50s, but there was an element of humor about the EC stories that has somehow changed with the passage of time into the just-plain-abusive cynicism evident in too many contemporary horror films.

I thought the premise was very promising. The title refers, of course, to the static and fuzz that is forever in the ether, emanating from our radios and televisions when they have no fixed signal. Many ghost hunters believe that the voices of the dead are decipherable in this hissing as they try to make verbal contact from the great beyond. It's called EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomena. Sounds like a great hook for a spooky movie? It is! Did they mount a successful shocker using EVP as a springboard? Well, sort of. Most scary movies these days are half-premise and half-payoff, with very little character-building or layered tension. The shocks all come in a rush of loud music and crashing glass. With but a few exceptions, gone are the days of establishing mood and generating atmosphere. "White Noise" tries a little harder than most to create an unsettling ambiance, but (a semi-spoiler coming here) it betrays its intriguing postulations by deteriorating into the same old serial killer, manhunt mish-mash we've seen a thousand times.

Michael Keaton plays Jonathan Rivers, a bereaved husband who stumbles upon EVP in the course of his grieving. In no time, he's positively obsessed with the practice, installing all manner of electronic gadgetry in his home in hopes of discerning his departed wife's voice amid all the crackling and popping. Debra Kara Unger portrays a simpatico EVPer who is driven to drastic ends by the ghostly utterings indirectly foretelling the fates of several missing persons. There are some creepy scenes of misty faces -- including that of Keaton's dead wife -- appearing in snowy TV screens, accompanied by unearthly screams and chilling noises. All moderately astute moviegoers will have figured out midway through this picture (spoiler alert!) that the voices are dropping clues regarding the strange disappearances and apparently preventable deaths of several young women. This revelation signals the film's rapid degeneration into a fairly predictable detective yarn. It's a shame, too, because the EVP canard could have been exploited to produce a very effective ghost story. Exploring the mysteries of the afterlife is a far more intriguing prospect than tracking down one more crazed killer.


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


"Thrills come rocketing to the screen as science smashes a new frontier!" -- Project Moon Base

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