It's the job of poets and historians to find adequate words to describe what we've all been through this past month. The B Monster's duty at such a moment in history is to entertain, very much in the spirit of the fright films we hold dear, which were conceived, by and large, as innocent sideshows; fantastic diversions concocted to send a chill up the spine and distract us from the very real horrors the world can inflict.


Many groundswell relief efforts have been springing up across the nation. The following entreaty comes from the folks at Midnight Marquee Press: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those lost or injured last week and with the brave volunteers, whose grief must be unbearable. We will be holding an auction at the November 3 "Fanex Spooktacular" show to benefit the Salvation Army Disaster Relief Fund. If you would like to send auction items, please send them to our address to arrive by Oct. 30." Gary and Susan Svehla Midnight Marquee Press 9721 Britinay Lane Baltimore, MD 21234 The show will be held at the Days Hotel in Timonium, Md. Film screenings, memorabilia dealers, panel discussions and a lecture from genre-film historian, Greg Mank, are all yours for a $5.00 admission. For more info, visit: http://www.midmar.com

Lindsay Dunlap and Ember Entertainment Group have sold the rights to "Forbidden Planet" to New Line Cinema. New Line production President Michael De Luca, and Richard Saperstein, senior executive vice president, will co-produce the film with "creative executive" Bryan Hickel. As De Luca told Variety, "Both Richard and I have been fans of this material since childhood. When 'Forbidden Planet' first hit theaters in the '50s, the idea of space exploration was a fantasy. Today, with space stations, shuttle missions and probes to Mars, the concept of space colonization is a reality." We're not sure why that makes this remake worthwhile. Let's hope the producers are aware that the 1956 classic is sacrosanct to most fans of science fiction cinema, and devotees will expect much from the studio whose dud overhaul of "Lost In Space" disappointed genre buffs and fizzled quickly at the box office.

One day you may well be asked, "Where were you 02 02 02?" February 2, 2002 marks the official opening of the "Sci-Fi London" festival. Actually occurring Feb. 1-3, the science-fiction, science-fantasy gathering is billed as a "celebration of the genre in film, television, print and performance." The three-day fest includes screenings of vintage and contemporary sci-fi films including some interesting double features: "La Jetee" and "12 Monkeys," "The Matrix," and "Soylent Green," "Pitch Black" and "Outland." It also provides an opportunity for filmmakers to meet and exchange views on everything from distribution to special effects. The festival organizers state that "part of our mission is to put down the giggles and glazed-looks some people give when you mention 'sci fi.' It is not just about 'Star Trek,' rayguns or Ewoks. Science fiction has a breadth of subject matter and style." For more info, visit: http://www.sci-fi-london.com/ And, of course, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Sighisoara, Romania, the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, will soon be the home of a Dracula theme park. Several Romanian cities were in the running but, according to authorities, Sighisoara won the $34.7 million project because of its proximity to railways, highways and an airport. "We are trying to rebuild this historic city and furthermore revive the tourist industry," Claudiu Lucaciu told the Associated Press. "Many people are very interested in knowing about Dracula." Vlad, of course, served as the inspiration for the world's No. 1 fictional neck biter, and the fight for the right to host the park was bitter. Authorities in Bistrita, 250 miles northwest of Bucharest were sorely disappointed, as the park would have created as many as 3,000 much-needed jobs. The park is expected to open in 2003.

The Sheraton Meadowlands in E. Rutherford, N.J., will once again host this year's Chiller Theatre convention. For the inexcusably uninformed, Chiller is the comprehensive pop-horror con including panel discussions, films, live music, model kit competitions, costume contests and hundreds of vendors selling collectibles and memorabilia of every description. And this show's guest list is an esoteric bag so mixed you won't know whose autograph to get first: Joe Pantoliano of "Matrix" and "Sopranos" fame, "Huggy Bear" himself, Antonio Fargas, actresses Carol Lynley, Stella Stevens and Linda Harrison, cult-film directors William "Sting of Death" Grefe, Fred Olen "Dinosaur Island" Ray and Ted V. "Astro Zombies" Mikels, actors Richard "Eegah!" Kiel, Ken Weatherwax and Lisa Loring ("The Addams Family's" Pugsley and Wednesday, respectively), not to mention cast reunions of "Lost in Space" and "F Troop!" There are too many more to list, so save us some work and visit: http://www.chillertheatre.com Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

This just in: People are smarter than you think! Tim Burton's plotless remake of "Planet of the Apes" took in $68 million its opening weekend ... and attendance dropped by 60 percent the next week. "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" scored $47 million the mid-June weekend it opened ... and attendance dropped by 60 percent the following week. DreamWorks' "Evolution," directed by Ivan "Ghostbusters" Reitman, cost $80 million and recouped just $38 million by summer's end. Far and away the biggest bomb of the summer was Sony's "Final Fantasy." The all-CGI epic geekfest cost $140 million to make and at last report had taken in a paltry $32 million. Revolution Studios' Tom Sherak told The Washington Post that "the core moviegoing audience, which is most reliably young men, is not expanding." According to DreamWorks marketing chief, Terry Press, (yes, that is his real name), "Everybody has a reason for why these movies dropped so much every week, but the reality is that very few of them were audience-pleasers." (No kiddin,' he really said that.) Way to sell it, Terry!

An article in the Los Angeles Times was the most recent nod of appreciation to Bob Burns and his tireless efforts to preserve our B-movie heritage. "King Kong resides at Burns' Burbank home, and he has plenty of company," wrote Al Ridenour in an essay headlined "Preserve All Monsters!" "Lavishly showcased in 'It Came From Bob's Basement' (Chronicle Books), written by Burns and John Michlig, Burns' vast trove of sci-fi, horror and fantasy film artifacts is one of the world's largest private assemblages of movie props ... perhaps it's a sense of boyish wonder that makes him a monster's best friend." Anyone who hasn't procured their copy is urged to do so ASAP! Visit http://www.fullyarticulated.com/ORDERPAGE.html You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Our friends at "Monsters From the Vault" have at last unveiled their much-anticipated secret project: "Shock Theater! An illustrated History" is a nifty book idea you'd think someone would have had long before now. 128 pages on glorious, glossy stock (black and white and color images) chronicling the rise of the late-night "Shock" package that introduced a generation to the classics of horror film. Following an introduction by the "Cool Ghoul," Zacherley, the complete "Shock Theater" promo book is reproduced, followed by various items culled from the personal scrapbook of fright-film authority John Brunas. In addition, some of the more notable scribes in horror fandom proffer contributions describing the impact "Shock Theater" had on them. Do you have to be 40 or older to enjoy this book? Nope. Will it be available at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Tower et al? Nope. Can you pre-order a copy from MFTV today? Yes! And it's just 20 bucks! ($25 outside the U.S.) Send check or money order to: Monsters From the Vault PO Box 981 Abingdon, MD 21009-0981 Or visit: http://www.monstersfromthevault.com It goes without saying, tell 'em the B Monster sent you.

Superman Web Central is campaigning for a DVD release from Warner Home Video of the legendary 1950s television series "The Adventures Of Superman". The petitioners seek nothing less than a multi-volume DVD package, each episode uncut and remastered from the original 35mm prints in original broadcast order. Hopefully, surviving cast members Jack Larson and Noel Neill would provide audio commentary. Added bonuses could include original commercials, background info on each episode, cast and crew lists, original television trailers and more. To add your name, visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/hiphats/

Author Scott Essman describes his forthcoming "A Century of Creature People: 1900-1980" as "the first part in a series of special publications focusing on the pioneering makeup and creature artists who created some of cinema's most memorable characters." The 48-page magazine-style black and white publication is organized as a series of photo-essays profiling significant "creature people." Those showcased include Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce ("Frankenstein," "The Mummy," all of the Universal classics), Jack Dawn ("The Wizard of Oz"), The Westmore Brothers ("Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Island of Lost Souls"), William Tuttle ("The Time Machine"), John Chambers (the original "Planet of the Apes"), Stan Winston ("Terminator," "Aliens") and others. The book is scheduled for an October 15 release. It will also be available for retail purchase via the Internet and directly from the publisher, Visionary Media. For more information, contact Scott Essman at scottessman@yahoo.com

We recommend a visit to "Midnight Marquee's" new DVD Review department. For the young or otherwise uninitiated, Midmar has been in the horror biz for four decades, and it's nice to know that they'll be sharing their views in this new forum covering a format just made for the hard-core film collector. (Not that kind of hard-core. Get your mind out of the gutter.) According to Midmar founders (and Fanex conventioneers), Gary and Sue Svehla, "we felt it would serve the film community well if Midnight Marquee Press inaugurated a DVD on-line review magazine which hopefully will be updated once a week, adding two or three new DVD reviews per week." The immediacy of weekly updates is most welcome as is their soliciting of "alternative opinions" to posted reviews. The first batch includes "Sullivan's Travels," "O Brother, Where Art Thou," "Twitch of the Death Nerve," "The Blob," "The Big Combo" "Rio Bravo," "The Goonies," "Some Like It Hot" (is there a genre they've missed?) and more. Check it out at: http://www.midmar.com/DVD.html

In last month's report on Hollywood's unbreechable policy against producing anything original, we mentioned the forthcoming remake of "Dawn of the Dead," the sequel to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead." Goremeister Tom Savini DID NOT direct the original sequel to Romero's original film. He DID, in fact, direct the remake of the original, NOT the sequel to the original, "Dawn of the Dead," which is what they're remaking now and which should not be confused with "Day of the Dead," "Return of the Living Dead," "Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn," "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Red Dawn," "Three For Jamie Dawn," "The Dawn Patrol" (both the 1930 and 1938 versions) Tony Orlando and "Dawn" or anything featuring big band vocalist Dolly Dawn. (Whew, I'm glad we've cleared that up.)

And speaking of Savini, fans of the makeup maestro who are eager to get to work on their winter tans may be interested to know that he's hosting a seven-day Caribbean cruise that sets sail from New Orleans this November 12. Along with Bill Mosely and Owl Goingback, Tom will host seagoing makeup workshops, take part in Q&A and autograph sessions, dine with guests and down a few drinks at a "creepy cocktail party." Rates begin at $495 per person (based on double occupancy, port charges included). You can find out more at: http://www.adventurecruises.net


Samuel Z. Arkoff
Garrulous, cigar-chomping B-movie Producer Samuel Z. Arkoff has died at a hospital in Burbank, Calif. He was 83. The cause of death was not immediately given. A prime purveyor of exploitation pictures for over a third of a century, the Iowa-born Arkoff co-founded American International Pictures with his partner James H. Nicholson in 1954. Under the aegis of Nicholson and Arkoff, the company survived in a constricting industry by catering to the whims of the teenage trade. AIP's long (350-plus) roster of kitsch classics, running the gamut from horror to rock 'n 'roll, from juvenile delinquency to Italian musclemen, and from Edgar Allan Poe to Annette Funicello, have formed their own unique niche in film history.

American International Pictures released some of the best known and best liked horror and sci-fi films of the 1950s ("I Was A Teenage Werewolf," "Beast With a Million Eyes," "Invasion of the Saucer Men") and helped launch the careers of actors such as Michael Landon, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Charles Bronson, Barbara Hershey, Peter Fonda and Mike "Touch" Connors. Among the directors who got their start at AIP were Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Peter Bogdanovich. After Nicholson's 1971 resignation, Arkoff assumed full control of the company and remained in charge until the 1979 merger with Filmways prompted his own departure. At the time of his death, he headed up Arkoff International Pictures.

Producer Louis M. "Deke" Heyward offers these memories of Arkoff and AIP: "I worked for and with Sam Arkoff for many years, eleven plus. They were not all bright or pleasant, because I found Sam to be a man of wavering loyalties. I tried to do my job as Managing Director of AIP London/Chief of Foreign Production more than to the best of my abilities. Sam, because he was not completely familiar with the arts and crafts of picture making, was frequently in an annoying back-up situation with me, a sort of second guessing of any given situation. I loved the job, loved being in Europe, making deals and pictures, had fun with Sam on his twice-yearly visits, and was proud of most every picture I made. I will miss Sam. I still miss Jim Nicholson."

Julie Bishop
Actress Julie Bishop, who began her acting career using her birth name, Jacqueline Wells, died Aug. 30, her 87th birthday. She had pneumonia. Bishop appeared in more than 80 films beginning in the silent era in a range of roles that spanned every genre and budget. She appeared opposite such stars as Humphrey Bogart ("Action in the North Atlantic"), John Wayne ("Sands of Iwo Jima"), W.C. Fields ("Tillie and Gus"), and Errol Flynn ("Northern Pursuit"). Her first roles were as a child in silent films featuring the likes of Clara Bow and Mary Pickford. She retained her original name through several adult roles, but was asked by Warner Brothers to change it to Julie Bishop in 1940.

Her busy acting schedule included appearances in westerns opposite Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, suspense potboilers ("Escape from Crime," "Behind Prison Gates," "I Was Framed"), and "A" features including "Westward the Women," "The High and the Mighty" and "The Big Land," her final film produced in 1957. Genre-film devotees will remember her roles in "Tarzan the Fearless," starring Buster Crabbe as the ape man, a pair of Laurel and Hardy features, "Any Old Port" and "The Bohemian Girl," and director Victor "White Zombie" Halperin's weird cheapie, "Torture Ship." She is perhaps best known as the ingenue in the 1934 horror classic, "The Black Cat." The stylish thriller, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, was the first screen pairing of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and is hailed by horror-film enthusiasts as one of the best, not to mention one of the most unusual, films in the genre.

Troy Donahue
Actor and 1950s and 60s teen heartthrob Troy Donahue died at a hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., following a heart attack. He was 65. Donahue skyrocketed to stardom as Sandra Dee's lover in the 1959 hit "A Summer Place." Following the film's success, he was cast in a string of teen-oriented dramas such as "Parrish," "Rome Adventure" and "Palm Springs Weekend." Cult-film fans may recall Donahue's supporting role in "Monster on the Campus." He also had roles in two popular early '60s television series, "Surfside Six" and "Hawaiian Eye." By the mid-1960s, teen romance films had fallen from fashion. His career went into decline. and Donahue began abusing drugs and alcohol. He spent one summer homeless in Central Park. "I realized that I was going to die," Donahue told the AP. By the early 1980s, he was clean and sober. He began acting again, mostly in low-budget exploitation films, and attracted some critical notice when cult-movie director John Waters cast him in 1990's "Cry-Baby."

John Chambers
Special makeup effects innovator John Chambers is dead at 78. The cause of death was not immediately known. Chambers' groundbreaking makeup creations for the 1968 "Planet of the Apes" won an Oscar. Chambers had to train and oversee an army of makeup artists to realize his Academy Award-winning vision. He began working with prosthetics during WWII, creating medical appliances for veterans who had been wounded. He moved to Los Angeles in 1953 and landed a job in NBC's makeup department. Chambers made the jump from television to movies when he joined the Universal staff in 1960, working under department head Bud Westmore, creating makeups for feature films such as "The List of Adrian Messenger." His creations were also featured prominently in "The Munsters" television series. By the mid-60s, his reputation allowed him to freelance, and he created makeups for such TV series as "I Spy," "Mission: Impossible," "The Outer Limits" and "Star Trek," creating Leonard Nimoy's "Spock ears." He retired in the 1980s, one of only two makeup artists given an honorary Oscar, and one of three to have a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.


In a word, it's "Im-Ho-tepid." How did they manage to pack relentless action into every scene and still come up with a boring movie? I don't care about these characters. They've done nothing to win me over. They hit the ground running from people with swords, guns, spears, scorpion claws, fondue forks -- and I never really cared whether or not they got caught. The obligatory "precocious kid" (who is given way too much screen time) is kidnapped and his parents decide that the most expedient way to pursue his kidnappers is in a flying pirate ship piloted by the obligatory "superstitious scaredy-cat guy." The big climax features a giant CGI scorpion with the grinning head of wrestling star The Rock digitally stitched (MOST unconvincingly) to its body. There ARE conditions under which you may enjoy the film. If Arnold Vosloo is your idea of a compelling super-villain, see it. If you feel you should give likable goofball hero Brendan Fraser one more chance (and bear in mind that "George of the Jungle II" is coming soon), see it. If a ride in a hot air balloon-powered frigate moving at a brisk three knots is your idea of pulse-pounding action, see it.

Tom Weaver proffers his opinions of this pair of low-budget 1951 oddities, early credits on the resume of future AIP star producer Herman Cohen ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "Horrors of the Black Museum," "Konga," etc.), then working as "Assistant to Producer" Jack Broder.

The pick of this two-movie litter is "Two Dollar Bettor." John Litel plays a widowered bank comptroller with a Santa Claus complex and a newfound interest in betting on the ponies. Unfortunately for Litel, his beginner's luck quickly runs out, and he resorts to embezzling. Marie Windsor, the local bookies' go-between, lends a sympathetic ear and seems to muster up some romantic interest in him. But this IS Marie Windsor, after all: In reality, she and her beau, con man Steve Brodie, are plotting to dupe Litel into bringing them 20,000 more dollars out of that oft-visited basement safe, and then leave Litel holding the proverbial (and empty) bag. The film is setbound and, needless to say, never gets within 100 furlongs of an actual race track (all horse racing scenes are stock footage). Other minuses include unfunny comic relief from Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as a local football hero (!) and much screen time devoted to some of the squarest kids ever seen in a 1950s movie; the local teens' idea of a hot time is a square dance in the parlor, with somebody's grandmother pounding out "Golden Slippers" on the piano.

In "The Basketball Fix," a crooked gambler and his henchmen put pressure on a star player -- a premise that, on its surface, seems to promise more excitement than "Two Dollar Bettor's" cautionary tale of an old coot who doesn't know you can't beat the horses. But Marshall Thompson is so miscast as the basketball ace, and the story features so many weak elements, that it emerges as the lesser of the two. John Ireland is top-billed as a sports columnist who sees great promise in high school hoop star Thompson (who in 1951 was closer to 30 than 20 and had been playing adult roles for years). Perhaps a greater understanding of college basketball would lead to a greater respect for "The Basketball Fix." But a movie about an amiable soul who is considering exchanging his life of poverty for a promise to win by a few less points hardly quickens the pulse. (The movie was made and released at a time when a real-life college basketball/gambling scandal was very much in the news.) Both movies have just enough splices and cue marks to give the prints some much-needed "character," a very real part of the charm of watching oldies of this sort.


CIRCUS OF HORRORS If you've been scouring video store shelves in search of the best "plastic-surgeon-turned-circus-owner" movie ever made, look no further. It's pretty goofy stuff, but not as goofy as it might have been, thanks largely to screenwriter George Baxt. Baxt was the crafty scripter behind "Burn Witch, Burn," aka "Night of the Eagle," and "City of the Dead," aka "Horror Hotel," two of the best and most atmospheric Brit shockers of the '60s. Alas, "Circus of Horrors" is neither terribly compelling nor as creepily claustrophobic as the aforementioned titles. But Anton Diffring as the face-lifting ringmaster employs an enjoyable hauteur that enhances Baxt's dialogue. And what a racket this guy's got, transforming disfigured women into circus cuties. When they tire of his advances -- well, that's when Scotland Yard steps in. It's worth a look if you don't expect too much. (C'mon, a circus can only be so scary ... unless, like the B Monster, you're terrified of clowns.)

Isn't it high time Florida-based B-movie maven William Grefe got his due? The guy kept drive-in screen's alight with titles such as "Naked Zoo," "Wild Rebels" and the twin horror titles in question. And what the films lack in budget, they make up for in audacity. "Tartu" is a 400-year-old Seminole witch doctor. He gets so ticked at some go-go-dancing college students that his decomposed corpse returns to life to seek vengeance. Of the pair, "Sting of Death" is marginally more outlandish. A marine biologist goes off his rocker, retreats to a sub-aquatic laboratory, and re-emerges as a sort of half-man, half-jellyfish. Once more, co-eds are the target. The slimy stalker is none too convincing and bound to evoke more giggles than shivers, but what is a half-man, half-jellyfish supposed to look like? Ever seen one? How do you know Grefe's depiction is inaccurate? The icing on Grefe's cake? Neil Sedaka warbling "Do the jella-jella fish." (No kiddin'!) DVD extras include Grefe's running commentary, trailers for "Sting," "Tartu," "The Jaws of Death," "Naked Zoo," "Racing Fever" and more. Best of all, you can "Sting" along with Neil Sedaka; the complete lyrics to "The Jellyfish Song" are part of the package!

LADY FRANKENSTEIN 30th Anniversary Special Edition
This DVD release of director Mel Welles' Euro-horror concoction gets the official sanction of the garrulous former beatnik, director, producer, psychologist and self-proclaimed 'Godfather of the Voice-over Industry' ("When I got into adapting and dubbing European films," Welles told the B Monster, "I was one of the major voices in the business. I dubbed over 800 films.") Welles was well-connected in the European film industry and turned out a handful of thrillers in the late '60s-early-'70s, the best known of which is probably "Lady Frankenstein." Joseph Cotten was in Europe, was available and amenable to appearing as Baron Frankenstein. After his stitched-together offspring snuffs him out, the Baron's daughter tackles the test tubes in an effort to transplant her lover's brain into a strapping new body. The tantalizing tagline says it best: "Only the monster she made could satisfy her strange desires!" Bonus features include interviews with Welles and star Rosalba Neri, the theatrical trailer, TV, radio ad spots and more!

No, not the Karloff classic or the ho-hum 1999 CGI showcase. This is the Hammer depiction of the moldy Egyptian, scripted by Jimmy Sangster and directed by Hammer workhorse, Terence Fisher. This flick bears no resemblance to Karl Freund's original 1932 mood piece. That having been said, it may also be worth pointing out that everyone who likes the original Universal horror classics harbors unbridled contempt for everything Hammer ever produced -- and Hammer adherents hate any film that doesn't feature purple drapes and women in crinoline -- so you must choose a camp! No waffling! Pick one! Now! In Hammer's 1959 "Mummy," Christopher Lee plays Kharis, mummified guardian of the tomb containing an ancient Egyptian Princess. When some huffy Brit archeologists pillage her resting place, it's "rag time," as Kharis is rankled to no end. With Peter Cushing, Yvonne Furneaux, Felix Aylmer, Eddie Byrne and Michael Ripper.


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

Scott Essman, Visionary Media scottessman@yahoo.com

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

Bob Madison, whose books are available 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

PARTING BLURB "See giant tarantulas eat men alive!"

 All contents copyright The Astounding B Monster®