Dean Fredericks
The ruggedly handsome star of the sci-fi cult film "The Phantom Planet," Dean Fredericks, has died of bone cancer. He was 75. Prior to the film, Fredericks had been ideally cast as Milton Caniff's two-fisted pilot "Steve Canyon" in the 1958 television series inspired by the classic comic strip. Earlier in his career, using the name Norman Frederics, he often appeared in non-caucasian roles -- particularly as Native Americans -- in films such as "Disembodied," "Savage Sam," "The Light in the Forest" and the "Jungle Jim" TV series.

Ruth Roman
Actress Ruth Roman has died at her home in Laguna Beach, Calif. She was 75. Roman rose slowly through the B-movie ranks in the course of a career that lasted five decades. Genre-film buffs may remember her best for her role as the "Jungle Queen" in the 1945 Universal serial of the same name. From there, Roman moved on to roles in films opposite Errol Flynn ("Mara Maru"), Gary Cooper ("Dallas"), James Stewart ("The Far Country") and others. Later in her career, Roman starred in director Ted Post's uncategorizable 1973 film, "The Baby," wherein she portrayed the crazed mother of an infantalized adult man. She may have accrued her greatest fame, however, as a passenger on the ill-fated ocean liner Andrea Doria, as she and her son narrowly survived the shipwreck.

Marguerite Chapman
Actress Marguerite Chapman has died at 81. The cause of death was not reported. Chapman rose to prominence in WWII suspense films such as "Appointment in Berlin" with George Sanders and "Destroyer" opposite Edward G. Robinson, but a career as a major film star never materialized. Cult-film fans will remember Chapman from early-40s B movies such as "Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum" and the classic "Spy Smasher" serial. Following appearances in low-budget, post-war programmers such as "Mr. District Attorney" and "Kansas Raiders," Chapman co-starred with Arthur Franz and Cameron Mitchell in "Flight to Mars," a 1951 color space opera. She may be best known to fans of sci-fi fans, however, for her role in director Edgar Ulmer's dismal "Amazing Transparent Man" (1960), her final theatrical film.


The official Web site of B Monster fave Anne Francis is up and running at last. The design is lean and clean while retaining a personal touch. An online photo album packed with pinups is a highlight and there's tons of background about Anne's interests and career. A forthcoming multimedia section sounds promising, as well. There's also a listing of collectibles for sale. In her newsletter, Anne states, "I will tithe any income generated from the sale of my memorabilia on this site to causes that especially move me." Check it out at:
http://www.annefrancis.net ! Tell Altaira the B Monster sent you!

Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, who's currently making the talk show rounds in recognition of the centennial of her father's birth, reports that her old man's favorite flick was "Smoky and the Bandit." This proves that the master of menace is still able to horrify his fans nearly 25 years after his death.

In addition to the blockbuster action pics and raunchy comedies that filled theaters this summer, there was also one dumbfounding mystery: Why did Warner Bros. pull the plug on its most enjoyable animated venture in years, "The Iron Giant"? It's family-friendly, well-plotted, and some scenes are stunningly animated. Yet only six weeks into release, the film has all but disappeared. The promotional campaign was almost non-existent. (We can can't recall seeing a single television ad for the film.) It's truly a mystery as to why the studio doomed this obviously heartfelt project right out of the gate.

According to Mitchell Fink's column in the New York Daily News, Alec (Obi-Wan Kenobi) Guinness hated appearing in the "Star Wars" series, wishes he HADN'T done 'em, and doesn't understand why anybody likes them. The actor also expresses a "distaste" for George Lucas and throws away all the "Star Wars" photos he receives for autographing. Guinness states that his "Star Wars" experiences were SO bad, he plotted the death of his character by convincing Lucas that Obi-Wan would be more poignant as a ghost. "And he agreed with me. What I didn't tell him was that I just couldn't go on speaking those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo jumbo." Look for Guinness' new book, the autobiography "A Positively Final Appearance."

According to the London Sunday Times, Steven Spielberg intends to complete the late Stanley Kubrick's film-in-the-works, "A.I." (Artificial Intelligence), a project the two had originally intended to collaborate on. Based on Brian Aldiss' short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long," the film had already moved into the conceptual stage at the time of Kubrick's death, with artist Chris Hall ("Judge Dredd") doing the conceptualizing. Some storyboarding had been done and test footage has reportedly been shot. Spielberg's next project will be "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise. No production date for "A.I." has been mentioned.

Hollywood big shots Robert ("Back To The Future," "Forrest Gump") Zemeckis and producer Joel ("Lethal Weapon," "Die Hard") Silver joined forces awhile back to form Dark Castle Entertainment, a company created expressly to produce lower-budgeted horror films, the first of which will be "House on Haunted Hill." William ("Tales From The Crypt") Malone will direct the remake of the Vincent Price classic, which stars Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, Elizabeth Hurley and Famke Janssen. It sounds like sacrilege to us, but the daughter of original director William Castle is reportedly on board as a co-producer. The film opens October 29.

And speaking of "House on Haunted Hill" (not to be confused with the recent rotten remake of "The Haunting"), star Geoffrey Rush says he didn't watch the original film so as not to be influenced by Vincent Price's interpretation of the role he is assuming. If Hollywood is so starved for fresh ideas that they MUST remake this cult gem, then they should cling to its chief asset, Price's sophistication and sinister charm. Please, watch the original, Geoffrey.

Though memorable for Bela Lugosi's unforgettable presence and Karl Freund's artful photography, the original 1931 film version of "Dracula" was stodgy and stagebound. The glaring lack of a musical score was never felt more keenly. Seventy years later, Universal is set to release a new video version, boasting an atmospheric score by renowned composer Phillip Glass. "I felt the score needed to evoke the feeling of the world of the 19th century," says Glass. "For that reason I decided a string quartet would be the most evocative and effective."

Universal's so-so "Mummy" remake surprised darned-near everybody by raking in $300 million at the box office this summer. That spells sequel, and Universal has conscripted Stephen Sommers to write and direct the next installment due out some time in 2001. "I'm dying to do it again -- only better," said Sommers. No plot details were immediately available but, according to Universal, Brendan Fraser will reprise his role as soldier of fortune Rick O'Connell.

Tom Weaver's new tome on the films of John Carradine is available at last. It's exhaustive, informative, funny -- all the things you've come to expect of Weaver's work. In addition, there are intros by directors Joe Dante and Fred Olen Ray, as well as a brief Carradine bio from Greg Mank. In short, a darned-good read that belongs on the shelf of every B-movie fan. You can find it at the McFarland & Co. Web site -- http://www.mcfarlandpub.com

A third installment of the CGI dino-franchise, "Jurassic Park," is in the works. Director Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids") is set to direct "Jurassic Park 3." Steven Spielberg hopes to begin production late in 2000. The first two reptilian tales earned bronto-sized bucks, grossing more than $1.5 billion in combined worldwide box office revenue.

Universal reportedly has a "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" remake in the pipeline. Whereas Lugosi and Chaney played the Monster and lycanthrope, respectively, in the original, this time around, the creatures are entirely CGI (For the uninformed, that's computer animation in lieu of real live actors. We suppose that Bill Pullman and Skeet Ulrich were otherwise obligated). No release date has been announced as yet.

Small fries Artisan Entertainment paid $1.1 million for worldwide rights to the Sundance Festival shocker "The Blair Witch Project." While the majors think of the Web as a place to sell logo-emblazoned caps and theme park tickets, Artisan shrewdly employed the Internet to generate unprecedented "Blair Witch" word of mouth. The film, which was made for $150,000, has so far earned about $140 million.


Q: "Settle a bet. My wife says that Rex Reason ("This Island Earth") and Rhodes Reason ("King Kong Escapes") are the same person. She says Rex changed his name. I say they're brothers. What's the deal?"

A: You're one up on your wife. Brothers Rex ("The Creature Walks Among Us") and Rhodes ("Voodoo Island") are, in fact, two different people. Both are in robust health at roughly 70 years of age.

Q: "My friend says that Nathan Juran, director of one of my all-time faves, "20 Million Miles to Earth," is also Nathan Hertz, who directed the somewhat less-than-auspicious "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." I bet him a beer he's wrong."

A: The brew is on you. Director Juran ("Brain From Planet Arous") did indeed resort to the Hertz alias when directing the camp classic "50 Foot Woman."

Q: "There's a steak dinner riding on this. I say that former child star Frankie Darro was the actor inside "Forbidden Planet's" Robbie the Robot. My buddy claims it was Bob May, who later played the "Lost in Space" robot. What's the inside line?"

A: Enjoy the steak. Darro inhabited Robby's shell until, according to star Anne Francis, he had to be replaced due to drinking on the job. "Drunken robots are not to be countenanced," she recalled."


Stop me if you've heard this one ... the future is going to be really lousy and everyone will wear leather and dark glasses -- that's according to "The Matrix," a sleek, eerily staged, but hopelessly muddled, sci-fi thriller that's derivative of "Blade," "Blade Runner" and "Terminator" in all the aforementioned ways. Keanu Reeves stars as the potential savior of mankind (well, he WAS "Little Buddha"), and the great Laurence Fishburne wastes his time spouting portentous lines like, "Soon, all will be revealed," "No one can be told what The Matrix is," and "Can I tempt you with something from our dessert cart?" (Okay, I made that last one up -- but it's no more abstract than the others.) Perhaps The Daily Show's Jon Stewart described it best as "the coolest movie I didn't understand."

A crystal-clear print of the Corman-produced, Monte Hellman-directed "Beast From Haunted Cave" is now available. Englewood Entertainment offers a video print that's a far cry from the smudgy stock that champions of this genre chestnut are used to seeing. It's basically an overhaul of a plot Corman had filmed once or twice before, but it does feature some scenes that are strikingly eerie, despite the goofy monster. This low-budget shocker is underrated, and devotees still wonder why Hellman's career never really took off.

Hard on the cosmic heels of the "Giants of Pluto #3" trilogy comes another set of three vintage "Space Patrol" episodes. The forthcoming video release, dubbed from astonishingly clear kinescopes, finds Buzz Corry (the unflappable Ed Kemmer) and company at odds with the "Amazons of Cydonia!" Viewers will note that actor Ben Weldon, though portraying a scientist's assistant in the far-flung future, still speaks like the Brooklyn mug he was born to play. It's all innocent fun, reminding us that there actually was a time when people believed in a brighter future -- unlike the dystopic misery predicted by modern sci-fi films (see "Matrix" review).


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at http://www.amazon.com

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com

Bob Madison, whose books are available through Midnight Marquee Press or at http://www.amazon.com

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

"The nightmare terror of the slithering eye that unleashed agonizing horror on a screaming world!" -- The Crawling Eye

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