Richard Cunha
Cult-film director Richard Cunha, who helmed such genre classics as "Giant From the Unknown," "Frankenstein's Daughter" and "She Demons," died following a heart ailment. He was 84. The Hawaiian-born Cunha received his film training in the newsreel and motion picture units of the United States Air Corps during World War II. He made his first step into the civilian film business by making industrial films and commercials, and then moved on to write, shoot and direct such early TV shows as "The Adventures of Marshal O'Dell" and "Captain Bob Steele and the Border Patrol" for Toby Anguish Productions. Cunha and his friend Arthur A. Jacobs then plunged into the adventurous arena of shoestring '50s exploitation by forming Screencraft Enterprises and cranking out the horror/sci-fi films "Giant from the Unknown" and "She Demons." Cunha later added to his legend by directing two more classic drive-in schlock titles, "Frankenstein's Daughter" and "Missile to the Moon."  

Within a mere three-year span, Cunha directed "Frankenstein's Daughter" "Giant from the Unknown," "Missile to the Moon," "She Demons" and "The Girl in Room 13." Cunha was later to serve as principle photographer on another workmanlike yet enjoyable cult film outing, "Blood Lust" (1961), a low-budget, energetic retelling of the classic "Most Dangerous Game, " featuring Robert ("Brady Bunch") Reed and Wilton Graf as the deranged manhunter. Following his late-'50s spurt of creativity, Cunha moved into television commercial production even as his feature films were beginning to haunt the late show in syndication. He was never to direct another feature.

The mention of one of his best-known titles, "Frankenstein's Daughter," once prompted Cunha to recall its origin for the B Monster: "Producer Marc Frederic and I were given the title 'Frankensteinšs Daughter' by the distributors and told to develop a story to fit that title. We were lucky, I guess, that they didnšt say 'Frankensteinšs Mother-in-Law.'" Cunha also confided that he wasn't particularly a fan of horror films when he directed his genre quickies. "I had made some 200 half-hour films for television featuring a cowboy singer," Cunha recalled, "and another series with Bob Steele, the legendary Western movie hero. I spent a season in Africa filming an adventure travel program."

 Cunha pointed out that, after he began directing TV commercials, he realized "one minute of commercial time costs more than the cost of our feature films." Though the movies he directed were decidedly cheap and targeted a specific exploitation audience, in their defense, Cunha once related to the B Monster that "no one was ever 'stuck' in our films. We were very careful to lay out the ground rules before filming started for both cast and crew. The crew was handpicked and we had all worked together before and knew what to expect. The cast pitched in and moved furniture, cleared props and helped in every way they could to keep the company on schedule. We made these films in six 10-hour days and had lots of fun doing it."

Robert Wise
Director Robert Wise, a giant in the film industry who directed some of the most successful movies in Hollywood history, died of heart failure at the University of California, Los Angeles, Medical Center. He was 91. According to the Associated Press, Wise was in good health as he celebrated his 91st birthday just days before his death. At the time of his passing, Wise's wife, Millicent, was attending the San Sebastian Film Festival, which showcased a retrospective of his work.

After dropping out of college, Wise's film career got off to an auspicious start. His brother, an accountant at RKO Pictures, helped him land a job at the studio where he worked as a co-editor on such classic films as "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "All That Money Can Buy" aka "The Devil and Daniel Webster." In 1941, he worked with director Orson Welles as editor of the landmark film "Citizen Kane" and was nominated for an Academy Award. He also edited Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons." Wise got his first chance at directing when Gunther von Fritsch, who was helming "Curse of the Cat People" for producer Val Lewton, was drafted. Wise stepped in and completed the film. Also for Lewton, Wise directed "The Body Snatcher," a moody and eloquent shocker starring Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell and Bela Lugosi. The film is widely hailed as a genre classic. Wise went on to direct a handful of modestly budgeted, atmospheric movies including the films noir "Born to Kill," "Mystery in Mexico," and "Blood on the Moon," which is often described as a film noir Western, and the gritty and unsparing boxing drama "The Set Up."

Bigger budgets soon became available to Wise, who began the 1950s directing such dramas as "Three Secrets" and "The House on Telegraph Hill." In 1951, Wise chose to direct a science fiction film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a penetrating social commentary that has since accrued classic status. It was one of a triad of alien invasion films made that year (the others being "The Thing From Another World" and "The Man From Planet X") that brought distinction and a measure of legitimacy to the genre. Wise turned out highly regarded, profitable films throughout the 1950s, among them "The Desert Rats," "Tribute to a Bad Man," "Somebody Up There likes Me," "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "I Want to Live," all of them distinguished by crisp storytelling and unflinching realism.

In 1961, Wise and Jerome Robbins co-directed the film version of the Broadway smash "West Side Story," which featured groundbreaking music by Leonard Bernstein. The film won 10 Academy Awards. Wise returned to the horror genre in 1963, directing "The Haunting," considered by many to be among the most frightening ghost stories ever filmed. His next film, "The Sound of Music," the movie version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, garnered five Oscars and remained on the list of the highest grossing films in history for many years. Wise followed this with another high-profile, hard-hitting drama, "The Sand Pebbles." He turned again to science fiction with the 1971 thriller "The Andromeda Strain." Wise also directed the first of the big screen features based on the "Star Trek" television series, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," in 1979.

Wise won a total of four Academy Awards, and in 1966 he was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for sustained achievement. In 1988, he received the Directors Guild of America's highest honor, the D.W. Griffith Award. Wise served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and the Directors Guild of America. Addressing his versatility, Wise once said in an interview, "I don't have a favorite kind of film to make. I just look for the best material I can find... I'd rather do my own thing, which has been to choose projects that take me into all different kinds of genres."

John Bromfield
Actor John Bromfield, who portrayed Frank Morgan in the Western TV series "The Sheriff of Cochise" from 1956 to 1960, died of kidney failure in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 83. Bromfield may be best known to cult-movie fans for his roles in "Revenge of the Creature" and "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon." Born in South Bend, Ind., Bromfield was a star athlete in college, excelling at boxing and football. Following a hitch in the U.S. Navy, he became a commercial fisherman in Santa Monica, Calif., before taking up acting at the La Jolla Playhouse. His good looks and athletic build caught Hollywood's eye and he made his screen debut in the 1948 documentary "Harpoon." The same year, he appeared as a detective in the thriller "Sorry, Wrong Number," with Burt Lancaster and Barbara Stanwyck. While filming "Rope of Sand" in 1948, Bromfield married actress Corrine Calvet. The marriage lasted five years. Parts in such films as "The Cimarron Kid," "Ring of Fear" and "The Black Dakotas" followed. In 1955, he costarred with John Agar and Lori Nelson in "Revenge of the Creature" (wherein he met a grisly end at the hands of the Gill Man), sequel to "Creature From the Black Lagoon." In 1956, he landed the starring role in "The Sheriff of Cochise." The series name was later changed to "U.S. Marshal," as the format changed to allow Bromfield's character to tackle bigger cases. Also in 1956, Bromfield costarred in the low-budget actioner "Hot Cars," as well as director Curt Siodmak's "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon," with Beverly Garland. Bromfield retired from acting when "The Sheriff of Cochise" ended its run in 1960.


Arch Hall Jr. and the original Archers may soon be producing new music, the "Eegah" star and Wild Guitarist tells the B Monster. "There is an upcoming project planned for the former members of the original Archers in the near future," said Hall, "but I am not at liberty to provide any details at this time." In April, Arch & Co. appeared at a roots music festival held in New Orleans. "We got together at the request of [organizer] Dr. Ike for the Ponderosa Stomp, which was a hoot!" While details concerning the pending Archers project are a secret, Arch did reveal that "the name The Archers will probably be scrapped in favor of a newer more 'edgy' name. The project will be under the direction of former Motown producer/writer/performer Deke Richards, my oldest friend on earth. Also contributing will likely be the incredibly talented, Alan O'Day and the awesome Joel Christie. However, no plans for touring are in the works at this time. Alan is still very active in the biz and lives in L.A. Joel still performs nightly, but is temporarily recovering from recent back surgery. Joel lives in Pagosa Springs, Colo. I'm in Florida dodging hurricanes flying a corporate jet. You can see we are geographically challenged, somewhat, but we will be getting together for the second time in 2006."

Film historian and prop preservationist Bob Burns will be making an appearance at the Dark Delicacies store in Burbank on October 4 to sign copies of the new DVD "The Fly II." Burns provides the audio commentary for the disk, along with effects master/director Chris Walas. Walas and composer Chris Young will be appearing, as well. "This is the time to have these great talents sign the DVDs that are purchased at the store," said Burns, "plus, fans might have some of Chris Young's fantastic music scores in their collections that they would like to have signed. I know I sure do. Both of the guys rarely make public appearances, so I'm really excited that they agreed to it." According to Bob, "The Fly II" DVD features "some really neat behind-the-scenes footage of creating the Fly creature and effects. I'm also going to bring some of the props and items from the film to have on display." For more info, check out:
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Halloween '05 is practically upon us, and the season just wouldn't be as festive without the Chiller Theatre con, staged once more in happily haunted East Rutherford, N.J. Kevin Clement & Co. will again roll out the blood red carpet to the crowd of convention carousers that seems to grow exponentially with each show. The convention, which is part celeb meet-and-greet, part rock concert, part Egyptian bazaar, part flat-out freak show (and we mean that in the most affectionate sense) will include the usual costume contests, autographing opportunities, rock bands and dealers' rooms that seem to stretch across two counties. The guest list is, as always, an eclectic mix of vintage film veterans and actors who have appeared in more recent shockers. This year's celeb attendees include:

-- An "I Dream of Jeannie" cast reunion, featuring Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman and Bill Daily
-- A "Dark Shadows" cast reunion, featuring Nancy Barrett, Diana Millay, Denise Nickerson, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby and Marie Wallace
-- TV Batman Adam West
-- One-time Beatle Pete Best
-- 1953 "War of the Worlds" star Ann Robinson
-- William Schallert, TV's favorite Dad
-- Noel Neill, beloved as Lois Lane of the classic "Adventures of Superman" series
-- "A-Team"ster Dirk Benedict
-- William Katt, aka "The Greatest American Hero," "believe it or not ..."
-- Fred "The Hammer" Williamson
-- "Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis
-- Linda Blair, Satan's prized possession
-- Pro wrestling legends Chief Jay Strongbow, Nikolai Volkoff, the Iron Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher
-- Noah Hathaway, featured in the original "Battlestar Galactica" and the notorious "Troll"
-- "Lost In Space" star Mark Goddard, who deserves special kudos for his work with children through the Head Start program and the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
-- Claudia Wells, who played Jennifer Parker in the first "Back to the Future" film
-- Kim Richards, perhaps best known for starring in "Escape To Witch Mountain" and its sequel
-- Steve Dash, who, among other film credits, was stunt double for Jason in "Friday the 13th Part 2"
-- Lydia Cornell, veteran of TV's "Too Close for Comfort" and "Quantum Leap"
-- Tawny Moyer, who appeared in "Halloween II" and "The Sorority House Murders," among others
-- Nikita Brenikov, manager of professional wrestlers, including the legendary Iron Sheik
And what kind of show would it be without late-night horror hosting legend and Chiller Theatre mascot Zacherley?

It happens October 28-30 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. For more info, check out:
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"New Orleans getting drowned is on historical par with the sinking of Atlantis," says B Monster pal and big-hearted spook show host Will "The Thrill" Viharo, who has helped organize a San Francisco Bay Area benefit to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Co-hosted by a local fitness center called Curves, the festivities will feature a Mardi Gras theme and include live music, dancing, a silent auction, Cajun cooking and a screening of "The Big Easy." "Admission price will be $20," says Will, "with all door proceeds going to AmeriCares for rescue and renewal efforts. Curves will have a table set up for more donations." The event takes place Thursday, Oct. 6 beginning at 6:00 pm at "The Thrill's" usual haunt, The Parkway Theater. Details are still being hammered out as of this writing. For more info, check out:
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The folks at Midnight Marquee Press will host a charity raffle, the proceeds of which will go toward aiding those in the horror fan community affected by Hurricane Katrina. "We know of two right now," say the Midmar folks, "Lynn Naron and Gary Dorst's brother. So we thought first we'd ask everyone to send us something for the raffle prizes. Anything would help: a book (signed if you're a writer), or a poster, or comic or mag, anything collectible. Then we'll start selling raffle tickets on our website." Tickets are expected to go for $5.00 with a special PayPal account set up to host the transaction. "And then if any horror film fan or relative of yours has been badly hit by the storm," adds Midmar, "let us know and we'll add their name to the recipients." In the past, Midnight Marquee has hosted auctions benefiting The Salvation Army, Hero, The Arthritis Foundation and the Cancer Research Center. Donations can be sent to Midnight Marquee Press, 9721 Britinay Lane, Baltimore, MD 21234. For more info, visit:
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The folks promoting the New Jersey Halloween Expo don't mince words. "It will scare the hell out of you." It says so on their Web site, right under the sign that says, "Welcome to New Jersey." 18 bucks buys you a weekend pass to all events taking place at two separate locations, the Sussex County Fairgrounds and West Patterson Park ("Two blood, guts and gore events"). The Web site promises "over 50 costumed actors just waiting for you. Bloodthirsty Vampires exhibits, out of this world space alien exhibits, frightening Frankenstein exhibits and over 100 variety of lifestyle monster movie props" (whatever that means). There are also food and merchandise vendors and a haunted hayride. This immersive Halloween horror experience happens over two weekends at two different New Jersey locations: October 20-23 and 27-31 at West Paterson; October 20-22 and 27-29 at the County Fairgrounds. The West Paterson locale also offers a "Children's Halloween Show" featuring "friendly ghouls." (All the same, the Expo posts the following disclaimer: "Parental guidance suggested. Not for pregnant women or those with heart conditions." For more info, visit:
By all means, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!

San Francisco's historic and palatial Castro Theater will be the scene of "Shock it To Me! Revenge of Creature Features, a three-day filmfest hosted by TV ghouls Mr. Lobo, Doktor Goulfinger and Ms. Monster. " 'Shock it To Me' is more than just a film show," say promoters. The fest features "monsters running loose in the audience, grotesque burlesque dancers, eerie experiments, mass hypnosis, zombies, electrified seats, rubber bats, price fixing, tire rotation and fabulous prize giveaways! Who knows what strange and weird things will happen?" The film lineup includes:

-- "The Creeping Unknown"
-- "The Revenge Of Frankenstein"
-- "The Vampire Lovers"
-- "Night Of The Living Dead"
-- "The Horror Of Party Beach"
-- "Nightmare In Blood"
-- "The Fearless Vampire Killers"
-- "The House Of Usher"
-- "The Comedy Of Terrors"
-- "The Abominable Dr. Phibes"
-- "Curse Of The Demon"

Plus a screening of "The Haunting" with star Russ Tamblyn appearing in person. Also appearing will be West Coast horror hosting legends Bob Wilkins and John Stanley. It happens Oct. 28-30. For more info, check out any or all of the following.
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The Third Annual Screamfest Horror Festival is billed as "the largest horror event in Florida," and they back up the claim with a guest list exceeding 40 celebs. Staged Oct. 14-16 at the Marriott Coral Springs Hotel & Convention Center, the show, produced by the Spooky Empire organization, promises "three days of monsters, music and Mayhem!" Special attractions include live bands, independent film screenings, makeup workshops and The Great Orbux Circus Stunt Show, an old-fashioned sideshow starring -- who else -- The Great Orbux! Prominent among the celebrity attendees are:

-- Linda Blair, who apparently is yet to be completely exorcised
-- Corey Feldman of "Lost Boys" fame
-- Betsy Palmer of "Friday the 13th" and "I've Got a Secret" renown
-- Lisa Loring, Wednesday of TV's original "Addams Family"
-- Makeup maven Tom Savini
-- Ricou Browning, who did all of the swimming for the original "Creature From the Black Lagoon"
-- The "Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis
-- "Famous Monsters" cover artist Basil Gogos
-- Florida's own cult-filmmaker William Grefe
Plus various and sundry veterans of "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead, "Nightmare on Elm Street" and other slash and gore films of more recent vintage.

To find out more, drop by:
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And speaking of William Grefe (and in case you're skimming, we were), the maverick producer/director has a classy new Web site that merits the perusal of any died-in-the-wool B-movie buff. Grefe is best known to cult-film fans for such budget-strapped 1960s shockers as "Death Curse of Tartu," and "Sting of Death," not to mention the "troubled youth" classics "The Wild Rebels" and "The Hooked Generation." In the 1970s, Grefe turned out "Alligator Alley," "Impulse" and "Jaws of Death." In the 1980s, he produced "Cease Fire" (starring Don Johnson) and "Master Blaster." He continued to work in films through the 1990s. The official William Grefe site features a filmography, a brief but informative bio, a selection of press accolades (Entertainment Revue once called Grefe "the man who IS Florida film") and a listing of awards accrued over the years. And you can e-mail the man himself. Check out:
And be sure to tell Bill the B Monster sent you!

The 12th annual Cult TV Festival is also happening in the UK. The Renaissance Solihull Hotel, Birmingham, to be precise. "Take Control Of Your Telly!" is the catchphrase of this esoteric confab, which offers a 73-hour celebration of beloved and obscure television programs and personalities. "Celebrating cult fictional television, old and new, from a multitude of genres," say promoters, "the Cult TV Festival may on the surface look similar to numerous media conventions staged around the country, but we are about far more than just autographs and merchandise dealers. The experience is all about finding out more about the various TV series that endure, the shows that people love to see again, and discovering new television treats that to some are previously unheard of." The B Monster applauds this organization for their charitable intentions. Organized and staffed entirely by volunteers, over the past 11 years this show has raised money for various causes. This year's program, benefiting UNICEF, will again present a diverse mix of celebrity guests including:

-- Prentis Hancock of "Space:1999," "Doctor Who" and "The New Avengers"
-- Jean-Pierre Dorléac, costume designer for "Quantum Leap," "Buck Rogers," "Battlestar Galactica"
-- Peter Tork, one-fourth of The Monkees!
-- Michael Keating of "Blake's 7"
-- John Saxon, cult-film and TV mainstay and star of "Queen of Blood" "Enter The Dragon" and much more
-- Kim Darby, costar of "True Grit: and veteran of "Star Trek" and "The X Files"
-- Pamela Sue Martin, Nancy Drew herself!
-- Philip Madoc of "UFO" and "Doctor Who"
-- Tanya Roberts, one time "Sheena" and "Angel" for Charlie
And many more.

It all happens Oct. 28-31. For more information, visit:
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It's a terrific idea for a comic: a horror movie director working in 1960s Britain who spends his off hours battling "real life" occult forces. Terry Sharp is the two-fisted filmmaker at the center of "The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story," published by Image Comics. Terry is the creation of writer/director Robert Tinnell, whose "Frankenstein and Me" is a cult favorite, and British illustrator Adrian Salmon. Tinnell once described his concept to the B Monster as "The Saint meets 'Curse of the Demon,'" and that description is spot on. Set in 1962, Terry is busy directing "The Return of Frankenstein" at Midwich Studios. When he isn't at odds with a quarrelsome, meddling producer, or sorting out woman trouble, he's stalked by a sinister cult employing the supernatural to accomplish their sub rosa agenda. Terry is abetted by a well-realized coterie of characters, the most likable of which are the stalwart Major Harvey Clarke (movie fans, think Finlay Currie or a pumped up C. Aubrey Smith) and the medium Sybil. Tinnell's dialogue is crisp and colorful, and B-movie buffs will relish the details, asides and homages that are tossed into the mix of names and places. (Francis Frederick, a nod to Brit director Freddie Francis and Midwich as in "Midwich Cuckoos," source novel for the film "Village of the Damned," etc.) Illustrator Salmon draws in a hyper-stylized fashion, a minimalist who employs bulky black shadows to maximum effect. He utilizes a vivid but wisely limited color palette to compartmentalize sequences; lurid greens and yellows, cool blues and violets against glowing red backgrounds and intense, red figures contrasted with subdued cyan backdrops.

Some nifty extras will further endear the book to B movie fans; there's an entry from the "upcoming book," "Sixties Shockers: Horrors Films of the 1960s," in which real-life film historians Mark Clark and Bryan Senn catalog "The Return of Frankenstein," the film Terry is directing in the story. Next up is an excerpt from an interview with "Return of Frankenstein," costar Suzanne Morell, conducted by author Tom Weaver at a London Pub in 1998 for "Fangoriatastique" magazine. Finally, we get to see a sequence from "The Return of Frankenstein," as it is being presented in a film class by a professor who points out that Terry Sharp's films influenced the likes of Roman Polanski and Michael Reeves -- even Woody Allen! In summation, "The Faceless" is a treasure chest of trivia that B-movie geeks will no doubt savor. You can find out more by visiting:
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Mark Redfield, who produced, directed and starred in a well-received 2002 video adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," recently announced that Redfield Arts' latest project, "The Death of Poe," is in post-production. Shot on location in Baltimore, Md., and Virginia, the film speculates upon the final days of the famed writer who, in 1849, died in Baltimore under somewhat mysterious circumstances as he was traveling to New York City. Says the Redfield Arts promo, "he was discovered ... raving and incoherent, in a Baltimore gutter. For three days he lay delirious in a hospital (renowned for bodysnatching) and there he died. To this day, the cause of his death remains a mystery. Mixing authentic recreations of Poe's life and last days with terrifying imagery from his stories, 'The Death of Poe' is a cinematic chronicle of the great writer's final journey into madness and fear." Redfield, who stars as Poe, directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Stuart Voytilla. The film is scheduled for a January 2006 premiere, with a DVD release to follow. For more info, visit:
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As pointed out last month, myriad genre films have fallen into the public domain and any number of video companies have repackaged and re-released them in various configurations. In our last newsletter, we ran down the entries contained in the "50 Sci Fi Classics" collection. We again feel bound to provide thumbnail overviews of the films contained in the "50 Horror Classics" package. Some are, without a doubt, "classic," in some cases it's a judgment call, in others, categorizing them as "classic" is a very broad and charitable generalization:

This is the archaic silent version starring John Barrymore. It is positively antiquated and genuinely creepy.

Despite some protracted talky patches and puppet shows, director Edgar G. Ulmer's no-budget knack for invention is winning, as is John Carradine in the title role.

There were umpteen films about mad doctors killing young women in misguided efforts to restore life and beauty to their beloved spouses. Half of them starred Bela Lugosi.

George Romero's trendsetting cheapie about gut-guzzling zombies. I don't think there's a video company that HASN'T released this one.

Not horror. Not "classic." It's Boris Karloff as the inscrutable Asian sleuth, Mr. Wong.

"Classic" without question. Lon Chaney Sr. delivers a benchmark performance in a film filled with startling scenes and set pieces.

Hardly a classic but still great fun with Chaney Jr. as an executed con, resurrected and bent on revenge.

Another amazing and indelible performance by Chaney Sr. in an ambitious, opulent silent classic.

It's been more than 80 years since its release, and F.W. Murnau's Gothic silent starring Max Schreck is STILL the best vampire movie ever made.

What the heck is this film doing here? No supernatural elements whatsoever in Roger Corman's "female-cons-on-the-run" caper starring Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland and "Touch" Connors.

Again I ask: What the heck is this film doing here? A 1933 crime-drama starring Pat O'Brien.

Considered by many to be quintessential Corman, this story of a talking carnivorous plant was filmed in two days (and nights!) with no budget to speak of ... and it shows!

Director Bert I. Gordon's unconvincing stab at psychological horror stars Richard Carlson as a pianist suffering the titular torment.

Moldy "old dark house" shenanigans about a killer gorilla stalking the dark hallways. Directed by Frank R. Strayer, who later helmed "The Vampire Bat" and a fistful of "Blondie" movies.

You may know him as "Gappa," the Japanese monster described in advertising as "even mightier than King Kong!" My money's on Kong.

Here we go again. Another murderous ape on the loose in a spooky house. Featuring the comic stylings of The Ritz Brothers, this one boasted a terrific tagline: "Thrills + laughs = entertainment!" (Wow, killer gorillas were HOT in the '30 and '40s, weren't they?)

Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot as bickering reporters out to solve a murder. Horror? Nope. "Classic?" By no means.

I have great affection for this lurid, energetic, 1961 "Most Dangerous Game" knock-off. Photographed by B Monster fave Richard Cunha.

More noir than horror, but an interesting cast, including Turhan Bey, Lynn Bari and Richard Carlson, keep it lively.

Betsy Jones-Moreland is the eponymous female survivor of Roger Corman's low-budget holocaust, courted by Anthony Carbone and Edward Wain (Robert Towne).

Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead slog through this untenably dull 1959 filming of the Mary Roberts Rinehart chestnut.

Now THIS is a "classic." Corny as all-get-out and spooky fun from start to finish, this may just be the B Monster's favorite William Castle film.

Vincent Price stars as the lone male to survive a plague that's transformed the populace into zombies. A fitfully atmospheric shocker based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend."

This low-rent 1963 psychodrama -- an early credit for Francis Ford Coppola -- with elements presaging the rash of psycho-slasher flicks that cropped up in the '70s and '80s.

This is one of those vintage Bs you find yourself rooting for, what with its irresistible title and a cast that includes Kent Taylor and Cathy Downs. Alas, the film never finds traction.

Another cult favorite with many devoted advocates, and perhaps an equal number of detractors who think it very overrated.

Tacky horror Italiano about a disfigured stripper and the quack scientist who restores her beauty by -- you guessed it -- murdering other beautiful women and siphoning off their essential fluids.

Roger Corman's no-budget send up of ... Roger Corman! The stars of "Last Woman on Earth" -- Betsy Jones-Moreland, Anthony Carbone and Edward Wain -- ham it up shamelessly.

I realize that, as a cult-movie critic, I'm supposed to love everything Barbara Steele has ever done. Well, I don't. I DID like "Black Sunday!"

A strange, interesting, cheap WW II propaganda horror film featuring Lugosi (as Monsieur Colomb!) Clayton "Lone Ranger" Moore and a nest of Japanese spies.

They actually write treatises and hold seminars in an effort to discern which of Lugosi's Monogram cheapies is the best. I like this one, an early effort from film noir-meister Joseph H. Lewis.

Cornball comedy/mystery starring Tin Man Jack Haley. Lugosi appeared in numerous thankless roles as creepy butlers throughout the 1940s. This is one of the least distinguished films to feature him as a red herring.

"Classic" without question. Terminally stodgy when viewed through a contemporary lens, but terrific entertainment for those who view it in context. Lugosi is in top form as zombie master Murder Legendre. Filled with ripe dialogue and atmospheric trappings.

What do you know? Two "classics" in a row. Of course, this is a "classic" of another stripe altogether. No one was striving to be profound when they made this one. Still, much of Leo Gordon's dialogue is decidedly soulful. Lusty Yvette Vickers, sweaty Bruno Ve Sota and ... giant leeches! What more do you want?

Ah, it's the old "drive the newlywed bride of her mind" routine. John Hudson and Peggy Webber are the young couple who settle in a spooky house with a skull in every closet. Slow and predictable.

There must be SOMETHING good I can say about this one. I'll get back to you.

Corman had Karloff under contract, so he had Leo Gordon and Jack Hill slap together a script. The resulting film, featuring Jack Nicholson as an officer in the Napoleanic era, is alternately stilted and spooky.

The Halperin brothers' 1936 follow-up to their exemplary "White Zombie" is a just-plain-boring stinker starring a very young Dean Jagger.

Well, it's a "classic" in MY book, featuring hot-rodding teens, corny tunes crooned by Don Sullivan, a humongous lizard and the drunken comic relief of Shug Fisher!

Another turgid Mr. Wong mystery that doesn't belong in this set, starring Karloff as the cagey Asian gumshoe.

Unusual programmer with the great George Zucco in a dual role as Dr. Lloyd Clayton and his twin brother, an evil magician named Elwyn. Dwight Frye is the hunchbacked Zolarr.

Zucco's back, and madder than ever, transforming his gardener, played by Glenn Strange, into a murderous, werewolfish beast.

Director Dwain Esper's ugly, cheap, 1934 exploitation flick about a deranged actor who murders a doctor. Esper manages to wedge Poe's "The Black Cat" into this tedious mix.

Another indisputable "classic." Not much left to say at this point about Fritz Lang's ambitious and influential science fiction story. Futuristic skylines, seductive robots, a mad doctor and legions of drones rebelling against the idle rich.

Shadowy cheapie with atmosphere to spare and a winning cast that includes Melvyn Douglas, Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill and Dwight Frye.

This time, Karloff is the kindly, misguided doctor. He seeks to cure polio by dressing as a gorilla and murdering people for their spinal fluids. Why didn't Jonas Salk think of that?

A truly disturbing quickie starring J. Carrol Naish as a mad medico who injects people he doesn't like with the disfiguring acromegaly virus.

James Best finds himself stranded on an island that's crawling with wig-wearing dogs that are supposed to be giant shrews. The drive-in companion to "Giant Gila Monster," both films were co-produced by Ken "Festus" Curtis.

Another crazy doctor trying to restore life and beauty to the love of his life. In this one, the doc keeps his fiancée's severed head alive while he cruises strip joints in search of the perfect body.

Dick Purcell, John Archer and Mantan Moreland crash-land on an island where a Nazi madman is exploiting the powers of voodoo on behalf of The Third Reich. This wasn't the only time Mantan saved a film with his comedic talents.


"Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat," "The Raven," "The Invisible Ray," "Black Friday"

The films showcased in this collection provide an interesting horror film history lesson for the unenlightened. Lugosi was often overshadowed by Karloff, and eventually eclipsed. Lugosi's films, viewed chronologically, show him in gradual decline as Karloff retained his respectability and star power. Many theories have been advanced to the cause of Lugosi's deterioration: The language barrier worked to Bela's disadvantage; drug abuse took its toll; Lugosi was temperamental and egotistic; all of the above. Whatever the reason, it's sad to witness Lugosi's eventual relegation to thankless roles as henchmen, butlers and mutes, a trend presaged by the films in this set.

"Murders in the Rue Morgue," based loosely on Poe's signal detective story, was to have been the "booster shot" film that would sustain the career of the "Dracula" star who had recently turned down "Frankenstein." Directed by Robert Florey, with many fine, shadowy sequences lovingly photographed by the great cinematographer, Karl Freund, the film is decidedly lurid. Lugosi, as Dr. Mirakle, is in fine form. He's bent on proving man's kinship to simians. How better to prove this than by kidnapping prostitutes and injecting them with ape blood? The film suffers irreparably from the clumsy intercutting of a real-live simian's face with that of a man in an ape suit. The effect is jarring and distracts from the fine set design and carefully fomented atmospherics.

"The Black Cat" was the first film in which Lugosi was paired with Universal's emerging horror superstar, Karloff. It is a truly bizarre film. Its every aspect is calculated to disarm the viewer. The sets can best be described as "Deco-surreal," stylized in the extreme with twisting staircases, streamlined bedchambers and sleek glass tubes for the preserving of corpses. Classical themes play incessantly beneath the dialogue like the Devil's own muzak. And both leads deliver wonderful performances. Lugosi, as Dr. Vitus Werdegast, one-time victim of Karloff's wartime treachery, is just a breath away from hysteria. Karloff is commanding as Hjalmar Poelzig, the wife-stealing Satanist who lives in an ultramodern home built atop the ruins of a leveled fortress. Directed with flair and economy by Edgar G. Ulmer, "The Black Cat" is arguably the best film in this set, and easily the best paring of the twin kings of horror.

Lugosi was again paired with Karloff in "The Raven," a film even stranger and more hysterical than "The Black Cat." Bela throws caution to the wind, chomping and chewing away at the scenery as a demented neurosurgeon who is positively obsessed with Poe, and relishes the notion of avenging the troubled author by means of torture. The plot finds Lugosi pressed by an influential judge into operating on the judge's daughter, a celebrated dancer who's been brain-damaged in a car accident. His genius restores her to health, and he becomes convinced that she is his "Lenore," equivalent to the "Lenore" for whom Poe poetically pined. And for anyone who dares come between them, the penalty is ... torture! Karloff plays an escaped con who comes to Lugosi for plastic surgery. Lugosi promises a complete transformation, but intentionally disfigures Karloff for purposes of blackmail. Only Lugosi can restore his features to normalcy, and until then, he'd better do Lugosi's bidding. It's a sick, twisted, fun little film.

"The Invisible Ray" is prescient of the often formulaic science fiction films of the 1950s, foretelling the dangers of radiation and reckless experimentation by maverick scientists. It's also notable in that it presents the first indications of Lugosi's gradual demotion to subservience. Karloff stars as a scientist leading an expedition to Africa in order to study a fallen meteorite that may contain elements of great healing power. What he discovers is Radium X. In fact, it isn't long before Karloff is loaded with the stuff, nearly dying from radioactive contamination. Lugosi's character, Dr. Benet, saves Karloff's life by means of an antidote, and is later able to restore eyesight to the blind with controlled applications of Radium X. But Karloff discovers that his very touch can kill. He's positively glowing with deadly Radium X. What's more, the element has affected his mind, turning him into a paranoid killer determined to destroy those he sees as having robbed him of scientific glory.

Lugosi's role in "Black Friday" can best be described as "thankless." In fact, most of Lugosi's film roles following "Black Friday" can best be described as "thankless." He's not only second fiddle to Karloff in this one, he's third fiddle to Stanley Ridges in a dual role as kindly Professor Kingsley and gangster Red Cannon. (Dual role? That makes Bela FOURTH fiddle!) When Ridges is near death, Karloff is able to save his life by transplanting a portion of mobster Cannon's brain into Ridges body. In the finest B-movie tradition, Ridges begins exhibiting the personality traits of the vengeful gangster, sort of Jekyll and Hyde meets "Donovan's Brain" ("Donovans' Brain" author Curt Siodmak co-scripted "Black Friday"). When Karloff learns of the money Red Cannon has stashed away, he manipulates Ridges in an attempt to track down the loot. Where is Lugosi as all of this is happening? He's been sidelined in a somewhat abbreviated role as a rival gangster.

This Midnite Movie perennial has been kicking around the cult-film circuit for more than two decades and is only now making its DVD debut. Director Marius Penczner's ode to Republic serials, 1950s space creatures and "Red Scare" docu-dramas is ambitious, to say the least. When it first appeared in 1982, the send-up's deliberate, deadpan presentation was undoubtedly effective. But there have been more than 20 years of 1950s film parodies and homages -- to say nothing of the flat-out contempt for the more innocent era's naiveté -- since its release, and this has likely inured contemporary audiences to the film's understated humor. You might go into the film expecting "Airplane"-style riffs on the genre's clichés or Leslie Nielsen-esque pratfalls and puns. What you'll find instead is an earnest attempt to replicate the look and feel of the vintage films that inspired the project. The actors play it straight, spouting ripe dialogue and engaging in macho histrionics, which, 20 years ago, were probably funny and disarming enough. It's a shame that so many years of much broader parody intervened before a new generation could experience this more subtle and heartfelt salute.

The story, divided into chapters with serial-style title graphics, is frantic stuff about a pair of space aliens who conscript the notorious gangsters, the Brazzo brothers, into helping them steal the secret formula for Uni-Cola, the nation's favorite soft drink. A pair of stalwart, sardonic G-Men (Ace Evans and Rex Armstrong) portrayed by brothers Larry and James Raspberry, wind up in the midst of all manner of mayhem, much of it concerning pretty Penny, the feisty reporter who ends up a pawn in the evil scheme. Throughout, we catch fleeting glimpses of the alien Zbeast. When he is revealed in full, he's rendered in somewhat crude, but nonetheless laudable, Harryhausen-like stop-motion animation. The battle between G-men and Zbeast is no doubt intended to evoke the confrontations with Harryhausen's Ymir depicted in "20 Million Miles to Earth."

You're likely not familiar with anyone in the cast, as most have no other credits beyond this low-budget pet project. Two nifty bits of trivia worth noting: Larry Raspberry was lead singer for the rock and roll group the Gentrys, whose "Keep on Dancin'" was a smash hit that made it to No. 4 on the charts in 1965, and director Penczner works mostly as a political media consultant, and contributed his skills to the Clinton and Gore campaigns, among others.

All things considered, Penczner's parody is a success (despite a decidedly annoying and anachronistic electronic music score), and vintage film buffs will recognize that he's done his homework and has genuine affection for the movies he's sending up. He keeps the plot moving along smartly, and the actors seem to be approaching the material with some humility. It's as though they realize they're satirizing conventions that genre-film fans hold dear, and so never stoop to outright ridicule. For this we salute them.

"Horror of the Blood Monsters," "The Blood Drinkers," "Doctor Dracula"

"Horror of the Blood Monsters," (1971) is not very good, but it makes for a fascinating B-movie history lesson. For instance, many of you probably think that the drive-in movie phenomenon died abruptly at the end of the 1950s. Wrong! And a great debt of thanks is owed producer Sam Sherman for his attempts to pump fresh blood (play on words intended) into the waning institution. Throughout the 1970s, Sam's Independent International productions lit up drive-in screens with such lurid titles as 1971's "Horror of the Blood Monsters," a crazy pastiche of color-tinted B&W footage culled from a Filipino caveman film, stock shots of lizards and men in dinosaur suits we've seen a zillion times elsewhere, and crudely staged new scenes concocted by Sherman's most notorious partner in crime, director Al Adamson. (Adamson was murdered in mysterious circumstances a few years back, but that's grist for another treatise.)

Easily the best feature of the DVD release is Sam's audio commentary. The uninitiated might expect the recollections of an embittered B-movie "genius" whose work was misunderstood. Wrong again! Sam is terrific! Affable, wry and self-effacing, sarcastic but rarely at the expense of the people behind the scenes, he recognizes the film for what it is, a "mish-mosh" (to use his phrase) drawn from disparate sources that all involved hoped would turn a profit. His insights make it worth your while to endure the film. Case in point: When it came time to concoct a title, he sat down with pen and paper and made a list of all the words appropriate to the genre, deciding that the three most marketable were "monsters," "horror" and "blood." He scrambled the order of the words and, voila! At one juncture, Sam realized that red, blue and green-tinted Filipino filler, padded with endless Adamson scenes of people walking, stopping, talking and walking some more, didn't make for a very coherent package. At Sam's request, Adamson rounded up family and friends and took to the streets of L.A., where they filmed themselves as vampires putting the bite on innocent citizens. These new scenes were tacked onto the existing film. Apparently, the ludicrous narration overdubbed by cult-figure Brother Theodore was supposed to explain how footage of cave-dwelling Filipino vampires and David Hewitt's space effects from "Wizard of Mars" ended up in the same film. The icing on this curious cult-movie cake is the presence of John Carradine as a pontificating scientist, gnawing the scenery to shreds, as usual.

"The Mad Doctor of Blood Island" himself, Ronald Remy, portrays a vampire named Marco in the 1966 cheapie "The Blood Drinkers." Marco is 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 amid 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 good, gory fun.

Producer Sam Sherman and director Al Adamson were still cranking out drive-in product such as "Doctor Dracula" as the 1980s dawned, and it's interesting to note that, while this film is more polished than, say, "Horror of the Blood Monsters" (it would HAVE to be), it is also far less interesting. Adamson had matured a bit as a director, blocking scenes more effectively (though in one poorly cropped shot, a wayward boom mike descends into frame and lingers for several seconds), but the film has the drab look of a shoddy TV movie that no one seemed particularly interested in making. While there's no commentary track accompanying its DVD release, Sherman could have employed the same term he used to characterize Blood Monsters: "Mish-mosh." Muddled and confusing, it's as though two films are running at once and the audience has no choice but to wait until they converge.

The premise is mildly intriguing. It seems that Svengali (treated here as a real person rather than a fictional figure) has been reincarnated, and must rely upon John Carradine's satanic cult to supply fresh souls to sustain his longevity. Meanwhile, Dracula himself, disguised as Dr. Gregorio, has hung out his shingle across town. For reasons not entirely clear, he and Svengali dislike each other intensely, and Drac seems determined to debunk Satanism and prove that fresh blood is the only sure prescription for everlasting life.

In 1980, age and sickness were visibly taking their toll on Carradine. He seems pained and distracted throughout the film, and his hands have been turned to claws by crippling arthritis. (Even so, he continued to appear in films for seven more years.) An R-rated version of "Doctor Dracula" containing some (ahem) more explicit footage was released as "Lucifer's Women."

I'm writing this review especially for all those B Monster readers who complain that we trash every new genre-movie that comes along. Admittedly, we do hate 90% of them. But we choose to praise "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for the singular virtue it wears on its sleeve: Humor. You remember humor, an ingredient that once was vital to genre-films; the ingredient that George Lucas forgot to include in the last three oh-so-solemn "Star Wars" debacles. The original "Star Wars" had it in abundance. Sadly, since then most sci-fi fans have "matured." Well, not the makers of "Hitchhiker's Guide." The late Douglas Adams, upon whose radio plays and books the film is based, managed to complete a script before his passing, and preserved the satire and self-deprecation that makes this film a blessed breath of fresh air in this post-"Matrix" era. The film certainly is not perfect. Its plot requires the transversing of galaxies and the passage of eons, so it is by its very nature, incredible and unwieldy and just barely coherent. But this doesn't matter. It doesn't matter, because the film is so ambitiously loony, because it is cleverly scripted with bright, ear-catching dialogue, because it is broadly acted by an animated cast. The players, including shlubby everyman Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy and John Malkovich, seem to be having the time of their lives. And, if you can manage to temporarily dismiss from your mind the gloomy prognostications of other recent sci-fi adventures, you might have a good time, too.

There's something very weird in Boris Karloff's basement. It's the talk of the town, the curse of the countryside and it mutates everything within a hundred yards into something unspeakable. In "Die Monster, Die!" (1965), Nick ("The Rebel") Adams plays a young scientist engaged to Karloff's daughter. When the couple pay a visit to the family manse, Nick stumbles upon the secret of the glowing meteorite in his future father-in-law's cellar. The gruesome ingredients are all present, but the filmmakers neglected to include "events" in the script. Daniel Haller directed this talky "shocker" which is based loosely on an H.P. Lovecraft story.

Now, let's see a show of hands: How many of you remember the H.P. Lovecraft fad that flashed across the pop-culture landscape in the late-60s? It lasted about six weeks. But it spawned a spate of films, comic book stories, short fiction and novels (Lovecraft fashioned the blueprint for Clive Barker and his myriad disciples), all aping the reclusive author's mordant tone. There are still vestiges -- references in movies and comics to Arkham, The Necronomicon, The Old Ones and Cthulululu or whatever. Ex-Corman art director Daniel Haller contributed "The Dunwich Horror" (1970), one of the better attempts to bring Lovecraft to the big screen. Haller is aided by an able cast, featuring creepy Dean Stockwell -- who's REALLY good at "creepy" -- as Wilbur Whateley, the wacko who needs the Necronomicon (and, for some reason, Sandra Dee), to open up a portal for the Old Ones to enter our dimension. Seasoned oldsters such as Ed Begley, Lloyd Bochner and Sam Jaffe lend authenticity to a script by Curtis ("Wonder Boys") Hanson.

"The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake" (1959) is one of the B Monster's very favorite Bs. And, yes, I know exactly how goofy it is. It has what is arguably the single most ludicrous twist in B-horror history -- and I'm not about to give it away. Whatever you might think of its production values, plotting and direction, it is perhaps the horror movie that most resembles the blatant and bloodthirsty EC horror comics of the '50s, involving, as it does, voodoo, shrunken heads, decapitations, spooky crypts, a zombie henchman, a centuries-old family curse and that all-important twisteroo. Depicted in very broad strokes by the venerable director Ed Cahn, it isn't hard to reimagine the film's iconic horror imagery as it might have flowed from the pens of EC greats Graham Ingels or Jack Davis. (Interestingly, a 1970s horror comic cover -- "House of Mystery" #214 -- depicted a voodoo ghoul, his hand in the foreground, a tiny face etched into the tip of each finger, much like the skulls on the fingers of Paul Wexler's character in this film.) An able cast of B-film stalwarts, including Henry Daniell, Grant Richards, Valerie French, Eduard Franz, Lumsden Hare and Frank Gerstle, sells the hell out of the outlandish premise. Credibility? Out the window. Fun? 70 minutes worth.

"Voodoo Island" (1957) is passable, but it won't make anyone's "Karloff Top-10" list. In this rather sluggish jungle shocker, Boris plays Phillip Knight, a debunker of the supernatural conscripted to investigate the presence of voodoo on a tropical isle being considered for commercial development. Written by Richard Landau, whose credits include "The Quatermass Xperiment," "Pharoah's Curse" and "Frankenstein 1970," and directed by veteran Reginald LeBorg, who helmed "Jungle Woman," "The Mummy's Ghost," "The Black Sleep" and about a zillion other Bs, the film just doesn't happen. The premise is slight and the atmospherics unconvincing. An interesting cast, including Murvyn Vye, Rhodes Reason, Beverly Tyler and Elisha Cook Jr., try vainly to pump life into a dull premise. This certainly wasn't the worst of the voodoo sub-genre. (That's a debate I don't want to instigate at this time.) You could do a lot worse. But everyone involved had done a lot better.

"War-Gods of the Deep" (1965) a Jules Vernesque outing supposedly inspired by a passage from a Poe poem, isn't exactly sci-fi, it isn't exactly horror, and it isn't exactly good. That's a painful realization, given the talent involved. The imaginative story is by Louis "Deke" Heyward, it stars peerless Vincent Price, comely Susan Hart and handsome teen heartthrob Tab Hunter, and it was directed by Jacques "I Walked With A Zombie," "Curse of the Demon" Tourneur. (As it turned out, this was Tourneur's cinematic swan song.) The elements are all there: The creepy Cornish coast, the submerged enclave of cutthroat pirates, a civilization of gooey gill-men. Sadly, tedium prevails. The climax, in which hero and heroine make good their sub-aquatic escape, is so protracted you'll know why God invented fast-forward.

Check credibility at the door if you plan on viewing "At the Earth's Core" (1976) with any degree of objectivity. If you don't come to it as a 12-year-old, well, then, don't come. Based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs tale, it's fairly silly stuff about a squirrelly scientist, played in shamelessly flighty fashion by Peter Cushing, and a brawny American adventurer, played by Doug McClure, burrowing to the planet's center in Cushing's fantastic, auger-nosed, rock-busting tank. Reaching the core, they discover a race of cowed humans enslaved by lizard-like birds that are gifted with a facility for telepathic communication. Of course, it falls to Cushing and McClure to free the subterranneans. There are lots of cheap fireworks, floppy rubber creatures and characters with names like Ra, Ghak, Sagoth and Hoojah. And wolfish male viewers who make this trip will likely enjoy the eyeful provided by Caroline Munro as Princess Dia.


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, 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

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


"No girl was safe as long as this head-hunting thing roamed the land!" -- Night of the Blood Beast

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