Turkey is on the table this month.Sure, we could evoke some cheap giggles at the expense of such unqualified gobblers as "Robot Monster" or "Cat Women of the Moon," but haven't they endured more than their share of critical buckshot? Surely it's nobler to assail contemporary turkeys (see reviews below) for their dearth of originality and shameless attempts to camouflage incompetence with CGI trickery and pounds of make-up. In the old days, fantasy filmmakers had nifty ideas but nary a nickel to their names. Today, with unlimited funds, cineastes seem unable to concoct an original notion. In other words, it used to be about the bird, now it's all about the dressing.


Frederick Ziv
Pioneering television producer Frederick Ziv, known throughout the industry as "the father of syndication," died at his Cincinnati home. He was 96. With a University of Michigan law degree, Ziv landed a $10-a-week job with an advertising agency in 1929. The following year, he opened his own agency. He had a knack for concocting successful advertising slogans and campaigns and was soon applying his talents to the burgeoning radio market. Ziv traveled the country selling programs such as "Boston Blackie" and "Bold Venture" into radio syndication.

When the television era dawned, radio and movie producers thought TV was a fad with a short lifespan. Ziv thought otherwise. He staked his primetime claim before the major networks realized TV was here to stay. Among the now-classic programs Ziv brought to the small screen were "The Cisco Kid," "Sea Hunt," "Bat Masterson," "Whirlybirds" and "Highway Patrol." All were phenomenally popular and profitable. Ziv believed that a good script was the hallmark of any successful program, and on many occasions he personally hammered out first drafts. Seeing the sure-fire audience appeal of Ziv's action-adventure series, the networks soon followed suit. Many series, including the final two seasons of "The Adventures of Superman," were filmed at the Ziv facilities.

Ziv forever endeared himself to sci-fi fans with the seminal series "Science Fiction Theater." Hosted by radio vet Truman Bradley, the programs were earnest and intelligently scripted attempts to convey the wonders of science in a modestly budgeted, half-hour format. It featured top-flight actors and seasoned directors such as Jack Arnold and Herbert L. Strock. Strock, who recalls "directing two shows a week for five years" while working with Ziv, remembers Ziv as "charming, a very intelligent guy who knew his business. At the beginning, none of [the executives at ZIV] really knew much about TV; John Sinn, who was Ziv's son-in-law, ran the ZIV film production unit, he was the president of the company. Besides me, there WERE a couple of other directors there who had SOME TV experience, but I had a LOT of it. So they gave me 'Highway Patrol,' the pilot, to do, and things like that. And 'Highway Patrol' 'sold' 10 minutes into the screening! Ziv had a great sales organization -- they could sell anything to anybody [laughs]! They were wonderful!" Ziv sold his company to Universal Artists in 1960 and turned to teaching at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, which presents an annual broadcasting award in his honor.


The Chiller Theatre con's Q&A session with late-night horror icon John Zacherle was not untouched by the emotional turmoil brought on by recent events. Zach was engaged in a story about how the New York City Fire Department saved the life of his friend, actor Earl Rowe ("The Blob") some years ago when he mentioned he'd recently passed by the very fire station involved. He next mentioned the firefighters who lost their lives September 11. He fell silent, his eyes filling with tears. He tried to continue but, openly weeping, said only, "I - I ... can't. . ." The room was silent for some time when a fan called out from the back of the room, "That's why we need YOU, Zach!" His spirits buoyed, "The Cool Ghoul" was able to go on.

Another notable trooper was Yvonne "Brides of Dracula" Monlaur. She suffered a possible slight heart attack on the flight from France to the U.S. Hospitalized overnight, she headed straight to the Chiller con upon being discharged and was busy signing autographs for the duration of the show. For the record, the show was reportedly Chiller's biggest ever, terrorists be damned!

Madame Tussaud's, the legendary, centuries-old waxworks, has unveiled wax portraits of Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and the Mummy as a tribute to horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It's all part of a 70th anniversary celebration commemorating the debut of Universal's "big three" classic monsters. The event marks the first time in Madame Tussaud's 210-year history that wax figures of celebrities in costume and character make-up were created. The three likenesses were created in England and approved by Bela Lugosi Jr. and Sara Karloff at each step of their creation. The figures were displayed at Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando before being permanently installed at Madame Tussaud's in New York City on October 31.

The legendary Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif., was also caught up in the 70th anniversary hoopla. Prior to a screening of the Universal/Karloff "Frankenstein," make-up ace Kevin Haney ("Dick Tracy," "The Addams Family") and costumer Jennifer McManus created a monster of their own using actor Matt Thompson as their guinea pig. The finished product was presented in a pre-show celebration. The historic Alex was built in 1926 and has hosted many monster movie-related and Halloween events.

So, there are these guys, the Hughes brothers. They've made violent films, such as "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents," and in the November issue of Premier Magazine, flakking their latest film, "From Hell," based on a comic book about Jack the Ripper, they're moaning about the usual studio meddling and discrimination.

They make several salient points in their argument to be taken more seriously as filmmakers. When asked by the magazine if they'd inserted a subliminal shot of a prostitute's crotch, Albert Hughes replied, "It's in there. And the only person who picked up on it was Marilyn Manson [who's supplying the closing-title track]. He saw it right away." When the executive producer, a woman, thought it was degrading to women, Hughes skillfully rationalized his decision: "It's two frames ... it's unsettling, they see it and go, 'Is that what I think it was?' and then start to create the picture themselves. Most people don't know [Jack the Ripper] was down there doing damage to the vagina, to the stomach, to the entrails ..." When asked about star Johnny Depp, Albert said, "We wanted to work with a Hollywood star so we could break our cherries and learn how to deal with the egos." As it turned out, Depp was supportive and cooperative. Regarding the studio's questioning of a graphic throat-slashing scene, Hughes said, "We're still going back and forth with them about this damned cut throat. Every film we do, we go up against this shit, and it's disgusting, because in a movie like 'Saving Private Ryan,' there's plenty more bloodletting ..."

How could anyone think these fellows aren't responsible? After all, is there any real difference between Jack the Ripper and thousands of brave men dying in the defense of freedom? And demeaning to women? Hughes claims that ONE woman told him she thought Jack the Ripper was "sexy." With an overwhelming mandate like that, we say hang in there guys. It was years before John Ford could insert his first subliminal crotch shot.

And in the same doggone issue of Premier, their DVD reviews make mention of the classic Universal horror double bills. We take umbrage at the fact that the snooty mag labels "Son of Frankenstein" a "Guilty Pleasure." Writer Christopher Kelly's review is respectful enough, but if this classic film is Premier's idea of cinematic "slumming," may we suggest "Man Beast" or "The Mighty Gorga?" You don't know guilt!

The dedicated preservationists at Marco Polo never seem to sleep. Nearly every month sees the release of another terrific reconstruction of a classic film score. Their latest disc focuses on the work of composer Bernard Hermann. Hermann's list of credits is distinguished to say the least -- from "Citizen Kane" to "Taxi Driver." John Morgan oversees the restoration of two of Hermann's lesser-known scores: The Gregory Peck-Ava Gardner melodrama "Snows of Kilimanjaro" and the James Mason spy classic "5 Fingers." William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra serve up 37 cues in all. For more info visit:

Shooting of Ted V. Mikels' "Mark of the Astro Zombies" began August 22, 2001, in Las Vegas, and concluded by the end of September. Mikels makes it clear that this is not a remake of his 1967 cult favorite, "Astro Zombies," but rather a "re-imagining of a similar concept. Good and evil aliens from asteroids travel intergalactic space to invade and repopulate the earth." The original film, starring John Carradine, Wendell Corey and Tura Satana, has recently been released on DVD. Satana returns to headline the new film, which also includes appearances by Liz Renay, Brinke Stevens and Shanti. According to publicity, the movie is expected to be available in a limited pre-release director's cut, autographed boxed video by January 2002.

Everything you need to know about the director of "Blood Orgy of the She Devils," "10 Violent Women," "The Doll Squad" and "Strike Me Deadly" awaits you at the official Ted V. Mikels Website. Ted's digital kiosk of curios includes an online photo album, filmography, complete contact info and memorabilia for sale. (Sadly, he doesn't include lessons on how to cook up memorable exploitation titles. No one does it better!) Check out And be sure and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

So, now I know who Bentmen are. A previous item concerning a recent Ted V. Mikels DVD release included a reference to the rock band Bentmen, whose music is featured on the disc. It seems that band member Frank Coleman comes by his love of B-movies naturally. He attended school with the daughter of film historian William K. Everson. He partook of student screenings at the Everson home along with Everson family friend Martin Scorsese. As a child of six he appeared in a play with Christopher Walken. A year later, he was befriended by Jim Warren. Following his gush of praise for B Monster, Coleman explained the Mikels association to us. "We struck a deal with Ted V. Mikels whereby we'd do the soundtrack for his next film, 'Mark of the Astro-Zombies' in exchange for putting one of our videos on the 'Corpse Grinders' DVD. Accordingly, we decided to make a full-blown musical tribute to 'Corpse Grinders' and sure enough, it's included on the just-released disc from Image." For more info, check out: It goes without saying -- tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

According to the B Monster's pal, Jim Nolt, the man behind the nifty "The Adventures Continue" newsletter, The Hollywood Reporter will host the Superman tribute ad originally intended for Variety. "Merry Elkin at The Hollywood Reporter has been an absolute delight to work with," says Jim, "and she went out of her way to be helpful. The ad will be published in their 71st anniversary issue on November 27. I felt this was an appropriate date since 'Superman and the Mole-Men' was released to theaters on November 23, 1951." Variety has hiked their ad rates since the idea was first hatched. Now there's money left over from the many contributions toward the print commemoration, all of it earmarked for charity. For a preview, check out:

The folks at have produced a pocket-sized guide to the gore-riffic side of popular culture. According to author Cheryl Duran, "The Guide to Horror" is "written just for Monster Boomer fans who dig classic horror movies and facts about favorite films, shows, stars and more." Following a foreword by the "Reel" Gillman, Ben Chapman, the book boasts chapters devoted to toys, comics & magazines, posters, vintage radio &TV, movie hosts and a whole lot more. For more info visit: You guessed it -- tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Remake fever, the dreaded ailment that seizes the brains of Hollywood hotshots bereft of original ideas, is again sweeping filmland. According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Andrzej "Exit Wounds" Bartkowiak will helm a remake of Fritz Lang's German crime classic "M." This will be the third time the story of police and criminal forces in pursuit of a child killer has been filmed. This time around, the gangland kingpin will be portrayed by DMX, who we suppose is either a Rap Music star or a sport utility vehicle.

Director Todd "Malcolm in the Middle" Holland is currently teaming with screenwriter Rand "The Astronaut's Wife" Ravich on an update of the sci-fi teleseries "The Time Tunnel." The original program, about two pioneering young scientists trapped in an experimental device that keeps them tumbling from one historic epoch to another, debuted in 1966. According to Variety, both ABC and FOX are interested.

The Hollywood reporter says that screenwriter Jonathan "Lethal Weapon 4" Lemkin will make his debut as a film director with "Howl." No, it's not based on the Ginsberg Beat Generation classic, it's yet another contemporary take on lycanthropy, this one concerning a werewolf hunter who tracks his prey for 500 years, finally to modern-day Texas. For some reason, werewolves have a tough time finding their place in modern pop culture. The TV series "Wolf Lake," about a community of lupine shape shifters, was yanked after just two episodes. Will "Howl" fare better?


People have said that you have to be 30 years old or younger to enjoy this film. This is unfair and untrue. You have to be 14 years old or younger. Yes, it really is a video game come to life, that bit of hype is indisputable. By the same token, it has the same warmth and humanity as a video game. In other words, none. These folks are always running and fighting and shooting and snarling, and who cares what happens to them? Angelina Jolie is ideally cast in the title role and Jolie's real-life Pop, Jon Voight, plays her deceased movie Dad, who it seems ran afoul of a sinister cabal seeking a mystical key to world conquest. Director Simon West had probably the easiest gig on Earth: Dress Angelina Jolie in tight leather pants, put her on a motorcycle and get out of the way. A few weeks later, a big fat paycheck arrives. I suppose the acting was adequate -- I really couldn't hear any of it over the gunfire and head-banging metal music. Watch for "The Haunting's" Richard Johnson as one of the head heavies.

It's just what you'd expect from Tim Burton: A classic story, eerily beautiful sets, moody photography, imaginative costuming and absolutely ZERO suspense. Burton seems incapable of conjuring tension in any of his films. His last, the lovely-to-look-at "Sleepy Hollow," was likewise inert, but at least it had a solid performance from Johnny Depp to anchor it. Burton's version of "Apes" has Mark Wahlberg leading a cast that features Helena Bonham Carter as the sympathetic ape-ette who looks alarmingly like a cross between Michael Jackson and "Three's Company's" Joyce DeWitt. There are lots of strained and insulting attempts to draw parallels with the civil rights movement and jokey references to the original 1968 film. Why the filmmakers feel the need to wink at the audience in this fashion, reminding us that what we're watching is just a bit of pop-culture candy, I don't claim to understand. Are they afraid that what they've produced wouldn't stand on its own dramatic merits otherwise? If so, they're correct, it wouldn't. For the record, the film had one of the biggest opening weekends in box-office history -- and business plummeted by 60 percent within a week.


Critics have never been kind to this space opera, but I'll take it over "Planet of the Apes" any day. Admittedly, it doesn't hold up under even the most cursory scrutiny. It is nonetheless a B-movie lover's dream come true. First of all, any film with oily-voiced Gerald Mohr delivering the bulk of the dialogue has a leg up. Mohr had labored in B's since 1939, playing everything from petty crooks to the dapper "Lone Wolf." By the late 1950s, he was the defacto gimmick-cinema king, appearing in "Terror in the Haunted House" and "A Date With Death," both filmed in "Psycho-Rama," wherein subliminal images were inserted before key scenes, and "Angry Red Planet," which boasted a revolutionary process called "Cinemagic." In the "Cinemagic" process, every scene of Mars takes on a scratchy, high-contrast, fuchsia glow. Producer Sid Pink's partner, comic book artist (and Moe Howard's son-in-law) Norman Maurer (there's no end to the interesting trivia surrounding this movie) brought in comics legend Alex Toth (who'd help bring both "Space Angel" and "Clutch Cargo" to life) to storyboard and conceive ideas. Carnivorous plants, a bubble-eyed sea creature, a gleaming Martian city, a snarling native and the now famous "bat-rat-spider-crab" -- what did they leave out?! The results may evoke some giggles today, but the attempt is no less audacious and applaudable. Cinematographer Stanley Cortez, whose credits ranged from "The Magnificent Ambersons" to "Ghost in the Invisible Bikini," manned the cameras. Accompanying Mohr to Mars are lovely Naura Hayden, crusty Les Tremayne and jovial Jack Kruschen. Goofy as it all sounds, director Ib Melchior manages to evoke more tension than 10 Tim Burton movies.

B Monster confidante Lawrence Woolsey offers the following review of a long overdue documentary:

What can you say about a DVD documentary about Mario Bava that says, "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs further extended his directorial range"? That's one specious statement in this overdue and interesting but disappointing video assessment of the career of the late Italian director who, while defining what came to be derided as the "slasher movie," also contributed one of the most indelible and pictorially/thematically brilliant bodies of work in the genre.

This 60 minute Image DVD suffers from the exclusion of material that Image doesn't have the rights to, such as clips from "What!" and "Kill Baby Kill," while others like "Caltiki" are actually photographed off a tv screen! Various directors and talking heads extoll the subject's virtues, but only Bavaphile Tim Lucas says much of interest (we're still waiting anxiously, Tim!). To be fair, there are a lot of interesting observations sprinkled throughout this biodisc, but on too many occasions the copycat versions of Bava's original concepts occupy more screen time than the originals that inspired them. And while the whole project is presented in widescreen ratio, some of the dupey clips, especially from "Planet of the Vampires," simply consist of grainy pan and scan versions with black bars over the top and bottom! Still ... what Bava fan could resist this, the first onscreen tribute to an artist who never realized during his lifetime how much he meant to so many? Worth a visit!

In one of his last horror hurrahs, Bert I. Gordon turned once more to his obsession with gigantism. Yes, the director who gave the world "The Beginning of the End" and "Earth vs. the Spider," had giant bugs hopping over cardboard cutouts as late as 1977. "Empire of the Ants" was Gordon's follow-up to the previous year's profitable "Food of the Gods," both of which are tenuously based on stories by H.G. Wells. The too-familiar theme involves voracious ants gobbling up bio-hazardous waste at an isolated resort. They get bigger and hungrier and completely ruin summer vacation for Joan Collins and Robert "4-D Man" Lansing.

Richard Boone -- you like him or hate him. "Have Gun Will Travel" fans adore him. Anyone who's seen "The Last Dinosaur" will never forgive him. As a cemetery manager teetering on the brink of sanity, he's spot on. In director Albert Band and writer Louis Garfinkle's minor gem, "I Bury the Living," Boone finds himself vested with the unwelcome power over life and death. He need only stick a black pin into a vacant graveyard plot and -- whammo! Plot filled! Atmospheric, albeit budget-conscious sets, lighting and a bit of unsettling camera trickery place this one a notch above similar fare. Theodore Bikel, Peggy Maurer, Herbert Anderson and AIP stalwart, Russ Bender make for a credible cast of familiar faces. Stephen King has called this one of his favorite horror films. That doesn't surprise us.

We know, it was made in 1983, but give this one a chance. "American Graffiti's" Paul Le Mat is a likeable schmo, Nancy Allen's not bad, and the rest of the cast is comprised of seasoned pros -- Louise Fletcher, Wallace Shawn, Fiona Lewis -- and lovable veterans, including Kenneth Tobey, June Lockhart and Charles Lane, who we're delighted to see working in the sunset of their careers. The story, about crashlanding aliens who pass as human for 25 years, is in part a well-meaning homage to timeworn sci-fi conventions.

This Jules Vernesque outing isn't exactly sci-fi, it isn't exactly horror, and it isn't exactly good. That's a painful realization given the talent involved. The imaginative story is by Louis "Deke" Heyward, it stars peerless Vincent Price, comely Susan Hart and handsome teen heartthrob Tab Hunter, and it was directed by Jacques "I Walked With A Zombie, " Curse of the Demon" Tourneur. (As it turned out, this was Tourneur's cinematic swan song.) The elements are all there: The creepy Cornish coast, the submerged enclave of cutthroat pirates, a civilization of gooey gill-men. Sadly, tedium prevails. The climax, in which hero and heroine make good their sub-aquatic escape, is so protracted you'll know why God invented fast-forward.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at

Scott Essman,

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at

PARTING BLURB "Spectacular Adventure Beyond Time and Space!" -- The Angry Red

 All contents copyright The Astounding B Monster®