Okay, we'll end the suspense. Last month, we related that the B Monster urged the L.A. Daily News to cite his favorite big bug flick in an article heralding the release of "Eight-Legged Freaks." They didn't, so B Monster readers were asked to speculate. Among the guesses were "The Black Scorpion," "Beginning of the End" and "Earth vs. the Spider." All incorrect. The clue was right there at the foot of last month's newsletter: "A new kind of terror to numb the nerves!" That's right, "Monster That Challenged the World" is the B Monster's favorite big bug B-movie. Admittedly, the recommendation comes with a qualification: The earth-challenging critter isn't exactly a bug but an outsized mollusk. So, to be precise, it's our favorite mammoth mollusk movie.


Kim Hunter
Actress Kim Hunter, who won an Academy Award for her performance in the film version of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," is dead following a heart attack. She was 79. Hunter will be remembered by cult-movie fans for her film debut in producer Val Lewton's atmospheric chiller, "The Seventh Victim." Genre-film devotees also recall her as a sympathetic chimpanzee scientist in the sci-fi classic, "Planet of the Apes." Laboring under pounds of makeup, she reprised the role in two sequels. Following her role opposite David Niven in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1946 British fantasy, "A Matter of Life and Death," she was absent from the screen until "Streetcar" was filmed in 1951. During this time, she appeared in such Broadway shows as "Darkness at Noon," "The Children's Hour" and the original Broadway production of "Streetcar." Listed in the notorious "Red Channels," a career-damaging book that cited people in the entertainment business who purportedly had communist sympathies, she was a victim of blacklisting, and film work was difficult to find for several years. She nevertheless appeared sporadically in films throughout the 1950s, including "Deadline: USA," "Storm Center" and "Bermuda Affair." She also worked extensively in television, appearing in such programs as "Columbo," "The Magician," "The Edge of Night" and many others.


The B Monster's pal, movie memorabilia maven, creature curator and premier protector of our fright-film heritage, Bob Burns, is staging a Halloween extravaganza much like those that once attracted droves of locals to his Burbank home. It's been 20 years since Burns, reinvigorated by sales of "It Came From Bob's Basement," a breathless round of personal appearances, and the ongoing good will he's engendered over the years through his generosity and dedication, has staged one of his live October spook shows. The effort that Bob, his wife Kathy and their dedicated friends poured into the productions made them the stuff of local legend.

"This year's show is going to be based on the original 'Thing,'" Burns reports. "Dorothy Fontana has written an incredible script for the show. A lot of the top effects people, makeup people and actors are going to be working on it as well." Original "Thing" cast members Robert Cornthwaite and Bill Self are being enticed to participate. Sadly, Captain Hendry himself, Ken Tobey, will be unable to attend. "We're doing the show for two nights," says Burns. "Thursday, October 31 (Halloween night) and Friday, November 1st. We'll start around 5:00 p.m. and go until approximately 11:00." If you find yourself in the L.A. area come Halloween, the show will be well worth seeking out. "We're going to have flyers at all of the monster-related shops in the area," Burns adds. "If this show comes anywhere close to what we've got planned, it will be fantastic and one of the best and scariest shows we've ever done. I don't want to give too much away, but I can guarantee that it's going to be pretty ambitious."

The latest in TV Guide's ongoing series of "Top 50" lists, keyed to their 50th anniversary in print, is the "50 Sexiest Stars of All Time." Coming in at No. 18 is the name-dropping B Monster's good friend, Anne Francis. The Guide cites TV's "Honey West" as "the femme-fatale who drove robots mad with lust in 1956's 'Forbidden Planet.'" (Better go back and watch that one again, guys. Robby didn't do any drooling that we can recall.) We're in total agreement, however, with their assertion that "this honey hasn't lost any of her luster." Just to put your curious minds at ease, ahead of Anne at No. 17 was Jimmy Smits. Number 50 was Gilligan's island-mate, Dawn Wells. Number one was a two-way tie between George Clooney and Diana Rigg. You wuz robbed, Anne!

October is an appropriate month to celebrate the life and career of Bela Lugosi. Belaphiles and horror fandom in general have a ghoulash of Lugosiana to feast on this month, some of it tasty, some of it sadly undercooked. Cape and shoulders above every project extant on the subject is "Lugosi: Hollywood's Dracula," a terrific two-DVD release from Lugosi expert nonpareil, Gary Don Rhodes. As the author of three exhaustive works on Lugosi's life and body of work, Rhodes brings a respectable resume to the table, and it shows. The documentary, narrated by beloved "Sun Demon" Robert Clarke, and actress Rue McClanahan, utilizes striking, rare stills and rarely seen footage of the actor, including snippets of his silent work, and an intriguing filmed interview from the early '30s. (Reporter: "Do you believe in vampires?" Lugosi: "Three of them I married.")

Much ground is covered with great economy, and minimum gimmickry (e.g., scene changes accompanied by a lighting bolt, or clusters of split-second glimpses at still photos). The talking heads, Rhodes included, are generally succinct, with the screen time of contemporary Lugosi experts balanced with that of people who actually knew him and have first-hand stories to relate. Much to Rhodes' credit, the hyper-analyzed "Ed Wood" period of the actor's life is covered with restraint. No pop-psyche tea-leaf reading, just a straightforward account of the sad end to a once-promising career. Significant among the on-camera commentators are Richard Gordon, Frank Dello Stritto, Richard Sheffield and makeup man Harry Thomas. Special notice must be paid to the abbreviated, and decidedly unsettling interview with Lugosi's truculent last wife, Hope. In the documentary, she almost comes across as an angel of mercy, writing to Bela when he was in rehab, seeing to his needs and marrying him upon his release. In footage shot in Hawaii a year before her death, she seems edgy, disdainful and gives the impression that she'd like nothing better than to be left alone. When asked to comment on her marriage to the actor she sneers, "He saw a sucker and I was it."

Other illuminating extras include nearly half an hour of footage that was cut from the final documentary, a 1949 clip of Bela and Milton Berle on TV's "Texaco Star Theater" and a disintegrating segment of film shot in 1918. A bonus audio CD features a handful of Lugosi's radio appearances opposite such luminaries as Fred Allen and Ozzie and Harriet, and as the star of such dramas as "Mystery House" and "Command Performance." Completing this wondrous package is an "Easter Egg" hidden at the end of the disk's "DVD Notes." Toggle to the final screen of notes, highlight the "Back" button and press your "Up" arrow. Bela's medallion will highlight. Press "Enter," and up pops "Chair," a mockumentary about Rhodes' procurement of Lugosi's chair, and the travails he endures as a consequence. It's priceless, and thank God there's a film historian out there who doesn't take himself or his subject so damned seriously! It's a comprehensive package to say the least, and far superior in content and approach to most of the junky documentaries AMC cobbles together. (Did you catch "Behind the Scenes: The Making of 'Predator?'") To find out more, or to purchase a copy, visit: http://www.lugosidvd.com Most definitely tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

B Monster associate Bob Madison contributes the following recommendation:

Dracula once more invades England, thanks to the indefatigable researches of two top-tier film scholars, Andi Brooks and Frank Dello Stritto. "Vampire Over London -- Bela Lugosi in Britain" is Brooks' and Stritto's exhaustive examination of Lugosi's final tour of Dracula in Great Britain. This road show failed to generate the comeback Lugosi so desperately wanted (and, at this point of his career, desperately needed), and the 1951 stage "Dracula" is now remembered as something of a failure. Not so, say the authors. Though Lugosi's 1951 "Dracula" never made it to the West End, it was a considerable success in post-war British provincial theaters.

The authors back up their contention with a wealth of interviews (a surprising number of Lugosi's English co-stars still survive) and some fascinating archival material never before seen in the States. Another key element to the success of the book are the reminiscences of B-movie legend Richard Gordon, who was instrumental in making the tour come about. It is rare to find so lovingly designed and executed a volume, with a superb cover, classy endpapers and a glossy center-section of little-seen photos. It's the Holy Grail for Dracula and Lugosi completists. "Vampire Over London - Bela Lugosi in Britain" is 368 pages plus illustrations, hard bound with dust jacket, and is available by mail order for $29.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling (in the USA). Each of the 1,000 copies is hand-numbered, and signed by at least one of the authors. For your own copy, send a check to: Frank Dello Stritto, 644 East 71/2 Street, Houston, Texas. 77007 USA.

Bela Lugosi's son, Bela G., is a practicing trial and entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles. He's made the rounds of the horror conventions, experiencing firsthand the love of his father's fans. He's now founded Lugosi Enterprises, which will produce "a line of products spotlighting his father's works and accomplishments." Heralded by the release of two DVDs, the Lugosi line is touted as a "celebration of [Lugosi's] mystique, with more to come from Lugosi Enterprises. Comic, cook and trivia books, as well as home video, collectibles and apparel will all be part of the Lugosi Enterprises line." Of the twin films in question (both in the public domain, incidentally), "The Devil Bat" is easily the best. It's one of Bela's finest low-budget outings, enjoyable by virtue of its ghoulish details (an after-shave that attracts vicious, oversized vampire bats) and priceless dialogue -- not to mention Lugosi's usual, full-throttle performance as the revenge-bent mad doc at the center of the action. Less auspicious is "Bowery at Midnight," a creakily paced thriller from producer Sam Katzman featuring a cast of usual suspects that includes Tom Neal, Wanda McKay and John Archer.

Audio commentary is provided by Bela G. and author Ted Newsom. A passing listen to the troubling audio tracks is revealing. He seems so distracted and disinterested, you'd swear Bela G. had to be dragged into the sound booth kicking and screaming, and chose to pout rather than enlighten listeners. Doesn't the launch of a Lugosi line of fine products deserve a more auspicious inauguration? Nevertheless, rest assured, the B Monster will be sporting Lugosi commemorative apparel the minute it becomes available. (Are those Bela Blue Jeans zipper or button-fly?)

October means Chiller season is upon us. We refer, of course, to the nation's premier gathering of genre fanatics, anxious to avail themselves of this one-stop, horror sensory overload. (This year's show is laudably dedicated to the late John Agar.) Con-meister Kevin Clement has wrangled the usual throng of memorabilia dealers and model-kit builders to pack the teeming dealer's room. And, as always, the guest list is composed of retro-celebs of every stripe:

Tippi Hedren of Hitchcock's "The Birds" and "Marnie"
"Forbidden Planet's" Warren Stevens
Dr. Smith himself, Jonathan Harris
Mark Goddard also of "Lost In Space" fame (does anyone ever ask him about "Johnny Ringo?")
Kenny Miller of "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" and "Attack of the Puppet People"
"Love Boat's" Bernie Kopell
Deanna Lund and Don Marshall, late of "Land of the Giants"
"Star Trek's" Walter Koenig
Those lovely "Ladies of Evil Dead," Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Sarah York
Sarah Karloff (the surname says it all)
And how could Chiller get rolling without a benediction from TV's foremost horror host, Zacherley?

There's also the usual model-kit and costume contests, seminars and a Saturday night monster party. It all starts October 25 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in beautiful East Rutherford, NJ. For more info, check out: http://www.chillertheatre.com By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Scott Hamilton and Christopher Holland, the digital deans of bad movie knowledge behind a quirkily acerbic website called stomptokyo.com, have unleashed their first paper compilation. "Reel Shame: Bad Movies and the Stars Who Made Them," is a self-published collection of essays and analysis addressing the embarrassing film forays of stars ranging from Harrison Ford ("The Star Wars Holiday Special") to Kevin Costner ("Sizzle Beach"). The "Trancers" series is soundly skewered, as are "Zardoz," "Tentacles" (ouch! That one embarrassed a lot of people), "Caligula," "Anaconda" and more. There are also some handy appendixes with capsule descriptions of the films mentioned, recommended reading and web resources.
For more info, check out: http://www.reelshame.com
And, as always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!


A round of applause for 1970s drive-in king Sam Sherman and his DVD-era counterparts at Image Entertainment, who have tapped into the B-movie mother lode that is the prodigious output of Sherman's Hemisphere/Independent International canon. Image now offers the "Blood Collection," which showcases Hemisphere's incredible "Blood Island" films. Why incredible? Consider not only the content of the films, but the backstory of their making. AIP's top teen heartthrob, John Ashley, star of "Hot Rod Gang," "High School Caesar," "Frankenstein's Daughter" and many more, quit the Hollywood scene in the '60s and headed to the Philippines, there to inveigle his way into the Filipino film industry and learn the ropes of producing. (Upon returning to the states, he would produce such hit TV series as "The A Team.")

Filipino producer Eddie Romero and director Gerardo DeLeon were already on the B-movie map, having lensed their impromptu "Island of Dr. Moreau" remake, "Terror Is A Man," starring Francis Lederer, which was widely screened in the U.S. under the alternate title, "Blood Creature." Ashley fell in love with the Philippines where he, Romero, DeLeon and producer Kane Lynn cemented a pandering movie partnership in 1967. Sounds like a match made in B-movie heaven: Expatriate American B king meets the Filipino Roger Corman! The team proceeded to churn out some of the most giddily gory low-budget horrors in history, all produced on a shoestring, every frame of film packed with the stuff of drive-in dreams: Monsters, mutants, spies, scantily-clad lasses, superstitious natives and obsessed mad doctors.

The Ashley/Romero/DeLeon/Lynn collaborations commenced with this title, one of four (including "Terror is a Man") set on Blood Island. Ashely plays government agent Jim Farrell, who travels to this mysterious atoll accompanied by B-movie stalwart, Kent Taylor ("Brain of Blood," "The Mighty Gorga") and his voluptuous wife, Beverly Hills ... that's right, Beverly Hills. Ostensibly conscripted to investigate reports of mutated flora and fauna (the result of atomic testing, of course), they quickly find themselves fending off mutated plants, snaky strangling vines and a monstrosity known only as "The Evil One." And wouldn't you just know it, "The Evil One" must be appeased with virgin sacrifices. (You'd think the supply of Polynesian virgin girls would have been exhausted long ago!) It's sometimes goofy, mostly gratuitous, but served up with such immense gusto -- another word might be conviction -- that it's darned near irresistible. The film's release was heralded by one of the more original ballyhoos of the drive-in era; female patrons were invited to become Brides of Blood, and "receive a free engagement ring set." This shameless B-movie betrothal come-on is included in this DVD release. Sadly, rings are not included. Sherman's audio embellishments are most edifying, and he does a laudable job of conveying Hemisphere's history with equal deference to both novices and hardcore B-movie enthusiasts.

Another, grisly, in-you-face frightfest, another gory gimmick; packets of green goo were given to film patrons ("for those who dare to drink the blood of the mad Dr."), and the notorious "Green Blood Prologue" is intact on this DVD. This one's wildly erratic, daffily entertaining, and possessed of much chutzpah. As Dr. Bill Foster, Ashley returns to The Evil One's sandy stomping grounds accompanied by Angelique Pettyjohn, who has come in search of her drunken father. Another hapless islander, Don Ramon, is being sought by the island maiden he once took as a lover. Though Ramon was declared dead seven years earlier, Ashley and company suspect otherwise. While searching for the missing Don, they run afoul of the slimy green chlorophyll monster who stalks this deadly dot in the Pacific, disemboweling islanders in fits of pique. Is the green monstrosity actually Don Ramon, victim of one of the mysterious Dr. Lorca's experiments gone hideously awry? Lorca is portrayed with great bravado by Ronald Remy, star of "The Blood Drinkers," (see below) and one of Hemisphere's dependable stock players (who were not unlike the Corman crew that turned up in Roger's casts time and again). Producer Sherman's commentary is, as always, enlightening and entertaining (though he does attempt to defend what is undoubtedly the most annoying abuse of a zoom lens in film history).

The top half of this twin bill easily ranks with the most stupefying, outrageous concoctions in B-movie history. Boasting VERY graphic gore (gouged eyes, slashed throats, TWO open heart surgeries) and wanton violence, this 1968 (some sources say 1969, others 1972) Mexican mishmash seems to have been both conceived by AND aimed at 12-year-old boys, exclusively. Its flashes of pandering nudity and unashamed bloodletting are the result of the most childish, ill-conceived plot contrivances imaginable. To wit: A doctor's son lies dying of leukemia (pronounced "loosemia" by one of his colleagues). The doctor's desperate solution? Kill a gorilla and transplant its heart into his dying son's body. He "feels" that ape blood is "more potent" than human blood and will therefore eradicate the cancerous cells from the lad's bloodstream. Instead, the boy's head is transformed into that of a gorilla (well, sort of), and he goes on a murderous rampage.

Now, do your best to link these shenanigans to reams of footage of cute Mexican women wrestling. The leading lady sports a skin-tight devil costume while in the ring, and In one exuberant bout, she tosses an opponent into the front row. The foe lands on her head and she's rushed to the hospital in a coma. And who is the brain specialist called to the scene? You guessed it, the mad medico with the gorilla fixation, who casts a covetous eye at the fallen female's comatose brain. It might fit nicely into sonny's cranium, so. ... All of this is peppered with the most ludicrous, laughable and wildly entertaining dialogue in dubbing history. For instance, the grief-stricken doc confides to his assistant, "We must wait and trust in God. Come, help me drag the cadaver of the gorilla over to the incinerator." And an impatient police chief, frustrated by a detective's theory that the murders are the work of a "half-man, half-monster," admonishes, "It's more probable that of late more and more you are watching on your television many of those pictures of terror." (I'd love to get a copy of THAT Spanish-to-English dictionary.) This one's a wild ride, strewn with amateurish coincidences and predictable ploys, too unashamedly exploitative to be labeled "bad." Let's charitably call it a fascinating glimpse into the hysterical miasma that is Mexican horror.

The second tier of this DVD double-header is a B-movie stink bomb called "Feast of Flesh," a 1967 Argentine shocker (presumably filmed between military coups) originally released in South America as "Placer sangriento." It was directed by the same craftsman who gave the world "The Curious Dr. Humpp," "Blood of the Virgins" and "Violated Love." If that track record doesn't tell you what's in store, you deserve to sit through this disjointed, protracted turkey. In preparing it for release in the U.S., Jack Curtis was brought in to write new English dialogue, peppering it with lots of beatnikish "cools," "cats" and "drags," seeing as how much screen time is spent in a seaside jazz club patronized by the same six people every night. Jack must have left the looping sessions with his hands raised in frustration, because no amount of verbal exposition can salvage the nonsensical plot. I'd love to provide a synopsis, but I simply cannot begin to tell you what the film is about. There's a guy in a silly rubber mask injecting girls with heroine and a spooky song that plays whenever he's about to claim a victim and. ... I give up. You watch it and tell ME what it's about! The Argentinians were ahead of us in one respect -- half the film's characters are openly homosexual. Sadly, they do nothing to ameliorate the stereotypes that still exist.

What do you think this one's about? The "Mad Doctor of Blood Island" himself, Ronald Remy, portrays Marco, a vampire who sets up shop in the hamlet that is home to the twin sister of his beloved. The twin is near death, and Marco wants to snatch her still beating heart and install it in the dormant chassis of his girlfriend. The ingredients are all here; the superstitious townsfolk, torch-bearing mobs, the lusting, thirsty troupe of vamps, funeral coaches and spooky mansions. In short, an enthusiastic effort on the part of director Gerardo DeLeon and his Filipino film team to recreate a Euro-Gothic milieu amidst a jungle backdrop with the most meager funds. We applaud them for this. But jarring shifts between atmospheric, tinted, black and white footage, and full-color stock that looks too much like it came from a South Seas travelogue, tend to undermine credibility. Even so, if you're a vampire/Goth-film completist, you may find it great, gory fun.

A trio of Herman Cohen-produced "shockers," fresh out on DVD, demonstrate just how varied the prodigious output of the late B-movie meister could be:

This horror-comedy absurdity (originally released soon after Cohen's fun-filled stomach-turner "Horrors of the Black Museum") can only be of interest to widescreen, DVD purists. As patently dopey as "Black Museum" is horrific, this trite tale of a trio of fortyish-looking college students sequestered in a British castle doesn't deliver a single thrill. The ghosts are bumbling and grumpy, and the insipid banter of the protagonists wears thin in the early going. For what it's worth, the ad art is great.

We've reviewed this classic, pandering shocker in the past, but it's now been re-released in letterbox DVD format so that fright film fans might enjoy it in all its 'Hypno-Vistic' glory. Vividly recalled by even casual viewers, it stars unctuous Michael Gough as a killer exacting varied and hideous methods of murder. Fans who haven't watched the film in 30 years recall with disgust the "binoculars scene." Just mention it to any baby boomer. They might not know the film by title, but odds are they'll recall that grisly -- and STILL quite shocking -- scene. Gough, Cohen's British psycho go-to guy, is a mystery writer who hypnotizes his assistant into committing gory crimes that Gough can incorporate into his "fictional" paperbacks. The gimmick this time was "Hypno-Vista," and features a "renowned" specialist explaining the process to the audience at the start of the film.

This incessantly talky jungle melodrama serves up more chatter than a barrel of starving monkeys. Poor Raymond Burr (as a Brazilian plantation overseer) is surprisingly credible as the loutish killer who believes he's turning into a gorilla. Paul Cavanaugh barely survives the opening credits, and Tom Conway seems humbled by another thankless role as a jaded physician. Sarong-wrapped Barbara Payton is the principal attraction, but her formidable feminine allure is stretched thin. (Director Curt Siodmak delivered another lifeless Amazonian shocker some years later -- "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon.") This werewolf tale transplanted to the South American jungle was Cohen's first producer credit. Siodmak had scripted Universal's classic "Wolf Man" 11 years earlier -- and "The Wolf Man" himself, Lon Chaney, is on hand as the local constable investigating the titular "were-ape."


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

Scott Essman, 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


"Creeping horror from the depths of time and space" -- Invasion of the Saucer-Men

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