Got your official Jack Davis-illustrated B Monster merchandise, yet? Halloween will soon be upon us, and the holiday just won't seem complete unless you're sporting a B Monster T or sweatshirt! Why not toast All Hollow's Eve sipping a pungent brew from a B Monster mug? Or, adorn the vestibule with a ghoulish Jack Davis print? Get a jump on Holiday gift shopping! Nothing says love like this classic B Monster memorabilia! And don't forget, a portion of the B Monster's proceeds goes to Childhelp USA: http://www.childhelpusa.org Buy something. NOW! What are you waiting for? Don't just sit there. CLICK! http://www.cafeshops.com/bmonster


Russ Meyer
Producer-director Russ Meyer, among the most influential exploitation filmmakers ever, died from complications of pneumonia. He was 82. Meyer also suffered from dementia. He was best known for violent films starring large-breasted women, and his name was closely associated with "nudies" and "skin flicks," yet his movies featured surprisingly little graphic sex. Meyer served as producer, director, screenwriter, editor and cinematographer on more than two dozen films. Their titillating titles are a remarkable epitaph: "Wild Gals of the Naked West," "Europe in the Raw," "Heavenly Bodies!," "Mudhoney," "Motor Psycho," "Mondo Topless," "Common Law Cabin," "Vixen!," and perhaps his most highly regarded film, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the violent story of three murderous go-go dancers. Meyer ventured briefly into mainstream filmmaking with 1970's "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," co-scripted by movie critic Roger Ebert. But it was films such as "Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens" that made him internationally famous and he was invited to festivals around the world. Meyer once addressed criticism directed at "Faster, Pussycat" saying, "This film is not derogatory to women. There were three tough cookies to deal with. Besides, they get what's coming."

Suzanne Kaaren Blackmer
Actress Suzanne Blackmer, who, as Suzanne Kaaren, is perhaps best known to cult-film fans as the ingénue opposite Bela Lugosi in the 1940 shocker "The Devil Bat," died following a bout with pneumonia. She was 92. Kaaren also appeared in a number of Three Stooges shorts including "Disorder in the Court," "Yes, We Have No Bonanza" and "What's the Matador?" She had small roles and uncredited parts in many low-budget features throughout the 1930s and '40s. In 1943, she married actor Sidney Blackmer and retired from films. She made a cameo appearance in the 1984 feature "The Cotton Club."

Blackmer gained notoriety for a legal battle fought with Donald Trump in the 1980s. She resided in a rent-controlled apartment at 100 Central Park South, paying just $203.59 per month. Trump purchased the building and sought to convert the apartments into condos that would fetch up to $5,000 per month, as did many nearby apartments. Trump went to court in an effort to prove that Blackmer's primary residence was a mansion in Salisbury, N.C., but that home had been gutted in a 1984 fire. Blackmer prevailed over Trump. The court ruled that Trump could convert the apartments into condos, but tenants who wished to stay -- with rent control -- could do so.


Cult-film fans remember child actor Donnie Dunagan as Peter von Frankenstein, the moppet who befriended the Karloff Monster in "Son of Frankenstein." He next appeared with "Son" stars Karloff and Basil Rathbone in "Tower of London" and also provided the voice of young "Bambi" in the Disney classic. Dunagan later became a career Marine, serving in Vietnam and working in counter-intelligence. Tom Weaver interviews the actor, now 70, in the new issue of Video Watchdog, and it's a terrific read. What's more, the actor will be signing autographs for the first time in 60 years. A special Signature Edition of the issue, signed by Dunagan and featuring an exclusive four-sided cover, is available for $22.00. To find out more, check out:
And be sure to let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

Part one of Tom Weaver's interview with cult-movie favorite Arch Hall appears in the current issue of Fangoria magazine. Hall is funny, nostalgic and spares few details in recounting the making of "Eegah!" and other cult classics. Later this month, Weaver's interview with Peter Graves appears in Starlog magazine. Graves offers some wonderfully candid anecdotes regarding "Red Planet Mars" ("Boy, it sure was talky, wasn't it?") "Killers From Space" ("I thought, 'Boy, this is really some awful corny stuff! But I'm gonna give it my 100 percent'") and the fact that such films attract one generation of fans after another ("It makes you worry about the future of our country, doesn't it?")

A September 17 Washington Post review of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" pronounced Ray Harryhausen dead. "And when fanciful beasties appear," said the review, "as they inevitably must in a film that takes as much of its inspiration from comics as from cinema, you might almost convince yourself that special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen were still alive." The next day, The Post ran a correction stating that the review had "incorrectly implied that film producer and visual effects specialist Ray Harryhausen is dead." Harryhausen has a new book out and only recently completed a tour of personal appearances.

Once more, it descends upon the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel in otherwise peaceful, bucolic E. Rutherford, N.J. The "Chiller Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo" gets under way October 29. The massive dealer's room (or rooms), will be packed with entrepreneurs offering everything from "I Was a Teenage Werewolf" lobby cards to replicas of 6th-century Pictish dirks. In fact, demand for dealer space has reached the point where the Chiller conventioneers will be erecting an additional "Ringling Brothers"-size tent on the hotel grounds to accommodate the additional sellers. There's the usual frantic schedule of costume, model and art contests, and the Chiller guest list grows unabated. Kevin Clement and his Chiller co-conspirators have once more assembled an impressive and diverse line-up of genre-film and TV personalities. Highlighting the guest roster are:

Elvira, "Mistress of the Dark"
Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach
Julie Benz of "Angel" and "Buffy" fame
Linda Blair, Satan's favorite possession
Ricou Browning, the original underwater Gill Man
David "Kung Fu," Kill Bill" Carradine
Joseph D'Angeli, live bat exhibitioner (no kiddin'!)
Brad "Chucky" Dourif
Mark "Lost in Space" Goddard
Ernie "Ghost Busters" Hudson
Sam J. "Flash Gordon" Jones
Sara "Daughter of Boris" Karloff
"Star Trek's" Chekov, Walter Koenig
Lorenzo "Renegade" Lamas
Billy "Will Robinson" Mumy
Michael Kaluta, illustrator extraordinaire
John Kassir, TV's Crypt Keeper
The "Lost in Space" robot himself, Bob May
Dean "Quantum Leap," "Blue Velvet," "Boy With Green Hair" Stockwell
Tiffany (You remember '80s teen diva Tiffany, don't you?)
And, of course, late-night legend and Chiller Mascot, Zacherley

For more info check out:
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

The 2004 Eerie Horror Film Festival takes place October 8-9 at The Roadhouse Theatre in the heart of downtown Erie, Pa. The festival presents what promoters describe as "two days of wall to wall terror and fantasy featuring some of the best independent horror and science fiction movies from around the world!" The Eriefest conventioneers announced their call for entries at the 2004 Great Lakes Independent Film Festival. "Unlike many other film festivals, we felt that we were overlooking a very popular and important genre. For many filmmakers, sci-fi and horror films are among the first projects that they produce." Convention guests this year include Ed Wood-"Plan 9" alum, Conrad Brooks and horror-mystery writer Jamian Snow. For more info, visit:
By all means, mention that the B Monster sent you!

The Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona, is the site of "Horrorfind Weekend Halloween," ballyhooed as "the spookiest show on earth!" The show boasts celebrity Q&As, a costume ball, speakers, seminars, autograph signings, a vast dealers room and a guest list that includes:

Ardienne "Swamp Thing" Barbeau
Jeffrey "Re-Animator" Combs
Dee Wallace "The Howling" Stone
Reggie "Bubba-Ho-Tep" Bannister
Doug "Pinhead" Bradley
"Night," "Dawn" and "Day of the Dead" cast reunions
And an assortment of sci-fi and horror authors.

It all happens October 29-31. Single day admission is $20. A weekend pass is $40. For details, visit:
Why not let 'em know the B Monster sent you?

It's billed as "three big shows in one!" "Nashville's Comic, Anime & Horror Fest" showcases horror, comics and anime this October 9-10 at the Exhibitor's Hall on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville, Tennessee. "The second year of the October Horror Fest promises to be bigger and better than ever," say promoters. "We had over 1,200 people attend last year, and look forward to an even bigger crowd this year, along with bigger name guests and events such as panels, free prizes, and a movie room." This year's guest list includes:

Troma mogul Lloyd Kauffman
Director, producer, graphic novel author Robert Tinnell
TV Captain Marvel Jackson Bestwick
"Stephen King's The Stand," and "Langoliers" producer Mitchell Galin
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3" director Jeff Burr
Tennessee's homegrown horror host Dr. Gangrene
And a selection of artists representing the comics and anime fields.
There will be panels on "How to be a Filmmaker" and "Breaking into Comics," and a live performance by "special musical guests, The Exotic Ones."

All this for five bucks? For more info, check out:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

Todd Livingston, co-creator with Bob Tinnell and Neil Vokes of Image Comics' monster rally graphic novel "The Black Forest," recently screened his horror-comedy "So, You've Downloaded a Demon," for a rapt audience at Atlanta's Dragon*Con. While the film actually premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Dragon*Con, one of the USA's largest science fiction, fantasy and gaming conventions, marked its American debut. Livingston's film is the maiden feature for Accidental Films, an L.A. production company owned and operated by Livingston and writer/producer Nicholas Capetanakis. They describe the film as the story of "four college students who hack into an occult Website and accidentally release a demon that is imprisoned there. Once free, it possesses the dumb one." The supernatural comedy, co-produced with Ireland's Compass Films and Germany's Zygomat Kino, stars Casidee Riley, Sommer Fain, Zak Kreiter, Daniel Paul Schafer and Xenia Seeberg. For more info, check out:
And let 'em know it was no accident -- the B Monster sent you!

Those ubiquitous Wayans brothers -- Keenan Ivory, Marlon, Damon, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Ziggy -- have sealed a deal with Universal to remake "The Munsters." According to Variety, their "modern-day take on the classic TV series" will be produced by Wayans Brothers Productions, but will not feature members of the show biz family. They no doubt have little spare time as they busily crank out "Scary Movie" sequels and pitch all manner of products for Madison Avenue. Keenan Ivory has considered directing the project, but has not signed a contract.

Many moons ago, we told you about ex-Eddie Munster Butch Patrick's local, Southern California TV program "Macabre Theater." Patrick, who has been on the stump promoting the release of "The Munsters: The Complete First Season" DVD, recently revealed to TV Guide that the series will be syndicated starting in late September. Usually seen on KHIZ Channel 64 Adelphia cable, the show features the voluptuous Ivonna Cadaver hosting classic horror films in campy fashion. Patrick contributes a "Haunted Hollyweird" segment, visiting allegedly spook-invested Hollywood locations and sharing stories about spirits and movie stars. The pair has appeared at several horror and comic conventions. For more on "Macabre Theater," check out: http://www.macabretheatre.com Kindly pass along the B Monster's regards.

As part of the ballyhoo surrounding the DVD release of "Van Helsing," publicists inaugurated "The Van Helsing John L. Balderston Writing Contest." (Screenwriter Balderston collaborated on such classic Universal horrors as "Frankenstein," "Dracula" and "The Mummy." He died in 1954.) Potential entrants were invited to submit a story involving the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man, consisting of 2,500 words or less. The contest was judged by "three literary specialists." Ten winners will receive the "Van Helsing Collector's DVD Set." The Grand Prize winner receives the DVDs, "plus a special phone liaison and story submission with screenwriter and director Stephen Sommers." The Grand Prize winning story will be posted at http://www.vanhelsing.net some time this month. Odds are it will be better than the script for "Van Helsing." (Special phone liaison?)

Mark Redfield is nothing if not laudably ambitious. The Fort Meade, Maryland, native, whose Redfield Arts studio is based in Baltimore, premiered his production of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" at the Walters Art Gallery in 2002. Redfield co-produced and co-wrote the film with Stuart Voytilla, he designed the sets, directed it and stars in the dual role assayed before him by the likes of John Barrymore, Frederic March and Spencer Tracy. It was shot entirely at his Baltimore facility. Redfield, founder of two theater companies, has directed over 70 plays. He's worked in movies, TV and radio. He's done Shakespeare, sci-fi, Scrooge. From whence comes his penchant for Gothic horror? Redfield cites the Hammer films of the '50s and '60s. "I grew up loving them," he says, "and no one else seems to be doing 'period horror.'" Redfield's production of the Stevenson classic won the Best Independent Film award at the Festival of Fantastic Film in Manchester, England, and has only recently debuted on DVD. "We are continuing with the production of some other period films in the Hammeresque vein," Redfield says. To stay abreast of the production schedule or for more information, check out:
Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!


This odd and atmospheric film enjoys a reputation as one of the best and most innovative B's of the '50s, and deservedly so. I'm sure the title was perceived by many as light-hearted ballyhoo when the film first appeared, but one of its chief virtues is its rather serious tenor. Star Gloria Talbott does a terrific job of conveying, by turns, effervescence, disillusionment, suspicion and ultimately, abhorrence. And the script is credible, literate, leavened with just a bit of humor, and cleverly manages to cultivate the topic of sex with an alien-possessed spouse without openly addressing the subject. Director Gene Fowler Jr. ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf") ably conveys the feel of small-town America gradually corrupted by outside forces. (I'll leave the theorizing about parallels to the Communist threat of the 1950s to other scholars. It's been argued to death!) Screenwriter Louis Vittes might have been more at home with TV and Western fare, as his credits include episodes of "Gunsmoke" and "Rawhide" and the features "Showdown at Boot Hill" and "The Oregon Trail" (we won't mention the egregiously schlocky "Monster from Green Hell"!) but he displays a knack for making the horrific credible through minimal dialogue.

As already mentioned, Talbott turns in her best performance as the befuddled bride. The rest of the cast is likewise sturdy, with handsome, all-American boy-turned brooding extra-terrestrial Tom Tryon particularly effective. And one of the B Monster's favorite character players, Ken Lynch, portrays Dr. Wayne, the only male in town that Talbott can trust. Lynch was the reedy-voiced veteran of many features and countless television episodes. He's possessed of a face and a voice that are instantly recognizable, even though his name may not be. (You've seen him, trust me.) The same goes for John Eldredge, who portrays Captain H.B. Collins. Eldredge appeared in hundreds of feature films and television shows. Supporting players such as these lend realism and humanity to genre movies. Their performances in this film are understated and believable. Without these qualities, an enterprise called "I Married a Monster from Outer Space" would likely fall apart.

Listen up, all you self-appointed "bad film experts," it's time once again to dust off your clubs and posthumously whack poor old Ed Wood over the noggin. For the record, Wood's movies are laughably bad, but, off the top of my head, I can think of two or three dozen non-Wood movies that are worse than anything Ed concocted. I'm telling you for the last time (okay, that's a lie), Wood did NOT make the worst films of all time. Those who think he did are in for one hell of a shock when they finally scratch through the Wood layer of the barrel and behold the cinematic travesties and obscurities that lie beneath. If you are as yet unfamiliar with Ed Wood and his films (and I don't see how that's possible if you can see or hear), then this set will serve as a fine introduction. Six disks! 467 minutes of Ed Wood! Only in America, baby!

You get Ed's transvestism expose, "Glen or Glenda?" a plea for tolerance and understanding interrupted by shots of Bela Lugosi as God (I think), reciting poems about green dragons and snails, inciting stock footage buffalo to stampede and imploring us to "pull the string!"

You get the seedy underworld drama "Jail Bait," which features the same maddening flamenco guitar score used in "Mesa of Lost Women," and a burly, young, pre-Hercules Steve Reeves.

You of course get Wood's best-known film, the often-pilloried "Plan 9 from Outer Space," a dizzying mélange of scenes seemingly from three or four different movies, forced into an oh-so-tenuously coherent plot about aliens resurrecting human corpses. (And, NO, it is NOT the worst movie ever made!)

You get the untenably protracted, endlessly talky, intolerably austere "Night of the Ghouls," (which is more cheaply made even than "Plan 9"), featuring ex-wrassler Tor Johnson reprising his Lobo role from Wood's previous "Bride of the Monster."

You get "The Haunted World of Ed Wood," a documentary chronicling the director's life and career, written and directed by Brett Thompson.

Extras include the feature-length doc, "Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion," "Crossroads of Laredo," a 23-minute Western short directed by Wood, audio commentary by Thompson and Bela Lugosi, Jr., and footage from the Ed Wood Reunion at the Palm Springs Film Festival. All this PLUS a stills gallery, production documents and theatrical trailers.

So, you're just 467 minutes away from being a "bad movie expert" yourself. You'll be able to discuss "Plan 9" with confidence at cocktail parties. When you find yourself bandying such names as Mona McKinnon and Duke Moore, you'll be ready to move on to the "hard stuff," to plunge deeper into the B-movie mire, to scrape through to the level beneath Ed Wood, there to discover "Curse of the Stone Hand," "The Monster and the Stripper," "Carnival of Blood" and just about anything directed by Michael Bay! The horror!

The open-minded critic must ask himself if he would appreciate "Night Gallery" more had there been no "Twilight Zone." The highest praise one can pay "Twilight Zone" is to recognize the lofty expectations it raised of "Night Gallery." It is impossible to address the latter without comparing it to creator Rod Serling's prior, seminal anthology series. "Night Gallery" has its devoted adherents and it did present some genuinely affecting episodes. Most could be described as "psychological horror," that post-Lewton, post-Hitchcock euphemism employed to describe horror without monsters or blood. But the best of the episodes aspire to be "Twilight Zone"-ish thought-provokers, character studies, examinations of flawed and often doomed personalities. Serling himself admitted little affection for "Night Gallery," citing his participation as a mistake. Even so, he wrote or adapted a handful of memorable teleplays for this first season, one of which, "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar," was Emmy nominated as Outstanding Single Program, Drama or Comedy, of the 1970-71 season. The episode stars William Windom as a washed up salesman confronting ghost-like figures from the "good old days." Serling indulged his oft-cited nostalgic side and delivered a first-rate script.

Many of the "Gallery" episodes, like "Thriller" before it, were adaptations of magazine stories by such authors as Davis Grubb, Algernon Blackwood, A.E. van Vogt, August Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft. Some were exercises in neo-Gothic horror. For instance, the pilot episode includes "The Cemetery," featuring Roddy McDowall as the greedy, scheming nephew of George Macready. Following Macready's death, McDowall finds himself at odds with the deceased's longtime butler, played by Ossie Davis. McDowall is driven to his wit's end by a painting of the family burial plot that seems to change as Macready's vengeful spirit approaches the mansion now occupied by McDowall. And -- beware: spoiler of sorts -- there are TWO twist endings. The segment, though well-executed, is about 10 minutes too long. But duration isn't its most obvious fault -- COLOR is. The story would have so much more effective had it been filmed is glorious, shadowy, atmospheric black and white. The same can be said of most of the "Gallery" episodes. The black-and-white era was past, and advertisers and public alike demanded color programming, but color nonetheless does the stories a disservice.

Also memorable, for different reasons is "Eyes," starring Joan Crawford as a wealthy, blind dowager who blackmails a pioneering surgeon (Barry Sullivan) into performing an experimental eye transplant, even though it will allow her to see only for a few moments. Tom Bosley plays a nebbish with a gambling debt who sells his eyes to Crawford. Serling's script is eloquent, as might be expected, but Joan Crawford is, well, Joan Crawford near the end of her career, thundering every line, relishing every insinuation. The episode also marks one of the first efforts of Steven Spielberg, and he directs as though it was to be his last! Every gimmick, every "New Wave" film school trick is crammed into the episode -- POV shots, slo-mo, and the jarring jump-cuts that he managed to tame and employ to better effect in later films.

Richard Kiley and Sam Jaffe also appear in the pilot, and subsequent episodes featured such established players as Burgess Meredith, Louis Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Raymond Massey, Ray Milland, Leslie Nielsen, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Gale Sondergaard, Edward G. Robinson, Elsa Lanchester, Cameron Mitchell, Kim Hunter and Julie Adams. This is, I believe, why "Night Gallery," its sometimes shaky scripts notwithstanding, should be celebrated. It was a prime-time showcase for veteran actors, offering respectable employment to many in the twilight of their careers.

What's this? A non-horror documentary is fodder for the B Monster's punditry? Look, just because it can't be labeled "horror" doesn't mean it isn't "horrifying." And it does base its arguments on one of the famed prognostications of science-fiction/futuristic literature. But before we get into it. ... There is no way to address this film without pushing someone's political panic buttons, so spare me the partisan diatribe -- and I don't care if it comes from the left OR the right. The film's greater message -- that a few conglomerates have a virtual stranglehold on the media -- should not be obscured by partisanism. I don't care if you're the last of the Haight-Ashbury hippies or a button-down banker. A soccer mom or a tree-hugger. Hawk, Dove, Republican, Democrat, Communist or Whig. The fact that a handful of very wealthy men dispense ALL of the news and entertainment you see and hear should frighten you. Also frightening is the fact that this probably doesn't come as a complete surprise to you; that you've likely resigned yourself to the situation. But, if I might paraphrase what the man once said, "the devil is in the details."

The film is largely talking heads and ominous music, and was obviously made on a shoestring by director Robert Kane Pappas. But many of its arguments are compelling, and conveyed with heartfelt conviction. And there is no single personality narrating the movie, characterizing the events and contributing intrusive, "stand-up"-style sarcasm a la Michael Moore. Among those filmed discoursing on the subject of centralization are the BBC's Greg Palast, New York University Professor Mark Crispin Miller, author Danny Schechter and, of course, Michael Moore (by the way, don't some of those huge conglomerates the film assails publish the books that made Moore rich and famous?). Many reviewers have pointed to the film as a liberal polemic, but this does a disservice to the greater theme: that the media is complicit in a quid pro quo that accrues more power to itself and the federal government. Ably demonstrating that the topic should be a nonpartisan one is Bernie Sanders, an Independent congressman from Vermont, who is probably the film's most insightful and passionate voice.

"Orwell Rolls In His Grave" is most persuasive when it shifts its focus from partisan politics, and turns the bright light on the complicity of the media. The coercion, corruption and spinelessness the film alleges is its most compelling element. The film chronicles partisan politics, to be sure, but it is more precisely about power and money. And the media doesn't seem to care which sides prevails, they just want to be on the side that does. (To make it even more personal for you; who do you think controls the rights to all of those classic and obscure films we've been waiting so long to see on DVD?) Watch the film. Make up your own mind ... before Big Brother robs you of the opportunity.

B Monster buddy David Colton, an editor at USA Today and the organizer of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards (now accepting nominations for 2004: http://www.rondoaward.com), contributes the following:

Talk about a Munster Bash! There hasn't been this much activity at 1313 Mockingbird Lane since pretty Marilyn brought home her boyfriend to meet Uncle Herman.

First came "The Munsters'" high-rated revival on cable's TV Land, turning on a new generation to suburbia's most distinctive neighbors. (Would there have been the Coneheads, or even a "Third Rock," without "The Munsters" of 1964?)

Then what looked to be a Munster Summer went bust: A smart two-disc DVD documentary from Image, "The Munsters: America's First Family of Fright," was to come out the very same day as Universal's long-anticipated three-disc set, "The Munsters: The Complete First Season."

But wait. Faster than Grandpa could whip up a Transylvanian love potion, the Image documentary disappeared -- pulled from release over what Universal acknowledges are "rights issues concerning the property." Fans fumed.

And last month, as summer waned and the Image documentary faded into obscurity, the Wayans Brothers announced they would revive the Munster franchise in a "Scary Movie"-era revamp. Now fans shuddered. So where does this leave Munster Kids? With plenty, truth be told, even if some Munsteribilia remains on the castle shelf.

First off, the aborted Image discs. Only reviewers got a chance to see the fan-friendly Image package, which included three versions of the 15-minute "My Fair Munster" pilot (color and black-and-white), a documentary featuring recollections from everyone in the cast except the late Fred Gwynne, three A&E biographies, ephemera such as "The Munsters at Sea World," CBS promos with Buddy Ebsen and even a strange segment in Portuguese.

Cover art was ready, press releases and demos sent out and buzz was high before the two-disc set, lovingly compiled by filmmaker Kevin Burns, was scrapped, two weeks before the August 24 release date. Universal Home Video addressed the matter just before the B Monster's press time, acknowledging that the rights issues are complex, but that the future of the Image documentary material remains in negotiations. "Once Universal Home Video, Image and Foxstar can reasonably determine that all rights holders' interests can be properly observed, available content can be released," Universal said in a statement to USA Today. A spokeswoman would not comment on speculation in fan circles that some of the Burns material could end up on a future Season Two DVD.

For now, though, Universal says the authorized "The Munsters: The Complete First Season" set is "flying off the shelves," and well it should. Viewed in these crisp and pristine transfers, the first season's 38 episodes are revelatory, proving to even the crabbiest monster purist that no matter how zany the series became, "The Munsters" was a worthy descendant of the classic Universal canon. Whether Fred Gwynne's lovable hulk of a monstrosity, Herman Munster, Yvonne DeCarlo's white-faced homemaker, Lily, Al Lewis' too-mischievous-to-stay-dead Grandpa or Butch Patrick as the Beav--, er, Wolf Boy, the Munster clan would be as at home in Vasaria as in the Cleaver's backlot, where indeed it was filmed.

Early episodes, particularly "A Walk on the Mild Side," when Herman sleepwalks through town, or "Pike's Pique," when Herman awakes from his laboratory table and looks into the window of a neighbor's Thanksgiving dinner, "Ghost of Frankenstein"-style, have actual chills, even if the laughs come quickly.

Shadows are long in these pre-farce offerings. Faces are creepy, the electrical machines in Grandpa's basement offer the same crackles as any Frankenstein sequel, and B-movie guest stars abound, John Carradine and John Fiedler among them. In "Rock-a-Bye Munster," featuring Paul Lynde, the writers mention in a throwaway line a whimsical "Batman TV show,'" a joke that would come back to haunt, and help doom the series. Indeed, ABC's "Batman" franchise in 1966 stole "The Munsters'" young audience, and Herman and kin were cancelled after only two seasons.

Perhaps the show would have been doomed anyway. The sight-gags wore thin and the writers put the Munsters into increasingly far-fetched situations, especially in the second season (not included here). It's eye-opening to realize there was a new "Munsters" episode for 38 of the 52 weeks in 1964-65. In comparison, "Friends'" last season offered only 14! The Universal packaging is snug, the menu fun and each episode has a plot summary and occasional cast notes. The 38 episodes are presented on three double-sided discs. Beyond the brief pilot, there are no extras.

The pilot episode, included here for the first time, offers two cast oddities: Herman's wife is played by Joan Marshall in a Morticia-style vampire manner, before being replaced by a more fussbudget DeCarlo. And little Eddie is played for this brief first episode by David "Happy" Derman, who clearly would have been a far more feral Wolf Boy than the benign Butch Patrick.

The Munster clan is usually dismissed by fans of the hipper and more beatnik "Addams Family", which also debuted on ABC in September 1964 in one of television's more bizarre sitcom battles. But these "Munsters," viewed today, have a sly wink as well, and play perfectly 40 years later. Children, it appears certain, will always love the Harvard-educated, 6'5" Fred Gwynne, especially his wheezing laugh and innocent smile. As Beverley Owen's Marilyn tells her boyfriend about the family, in the very first scene, "Oh don't worry about them. They're always up all night."


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

David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com

ClassicSciFi.com http://www.classicscifi.com

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

Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.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.dinoship.com


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

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