Ross Elliott
Character actor Ross Elliott, known to B-movie lovers through his roles in genre classics such as "Tarantula" and "Indestructible Man" has died of cancer. He was 82. Often portraying a garrulous wiseguy, be it a reporter, cop or con man, Elliott had small but significant roles in "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "Monster on the Campus" and "The Crawling Hand." While many remember Elliott for his recurring role as Ricky Ricardo's Hollywood agent on the "I Love Lucy" series (named, coincidentally, Ross Elliott), he may be best known for his role as Sheriff Abbott on "The Virginian" television series of the late 1960s.

Elliott's other TV credits include episodes of "Superman," "Science Fiction Theatre," "One Step Beyond," "Men into Space," "Boris Karloff's Thriller," "Twilight Zone," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," "Time Tunnel," "The Invaders," "Wild Wild West," "The Bionic Woman," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Wonder Woman."

Brion James
Brion James, the hulking character actor best known to sci-fi fans as Leon, the homicidal replicant in "Blade Runner," has died of a heart attack. He was 54. James made a specialty of portraying bloodthirsty, remorseless villains in such films as "KISS Meets the Phantom," "Enemy Mine," "The Annihilator," "Steel Dawn," "Dead Man Walking," "Cherry 2000," "Mutator," "Nemesis," "Time Runner," "Scanner Cop," "Knight Rider 2010," "Future Shock," "Steel Frontier," "Cyberjack" and "The Fifth Element." His numerous television appearances include episodes of "Galactica 1980," "Amazing Stories," "The Hitchhiker," "Tales from the Crypt" and "Highlander."

Charles Macaulay
Known to genre-film buffs for his portrayal of Count Dracula in the 1972 blaxploitation film "Blacula," actor Charles Macaulay has died at 73. William Marshall portrayed the titular African-American vampire in the film, which has since become something of a cult classic. Macaulay also appeared in "The Twilight People," "The House of Seven Corpses" and the offbeat Monkees vehicle "Head." His TV appearances include the Star Trek episodes "The Return of the Archons" and "Wolf in the Fold," as well as episodes of "Wild Wild West," "Night Gallery," "Wonder Woman" and "V."


Record-breaking temperatures have prompted the following B Monster back-to-school special -- a not-so-fond salute to films about heat. Most often it's the horror film that relies heavily on the power of suggestion, convincing its viewers that the depicted dangers are real and perhaps lurking in the seat beside them. But startling shifts in climate are even easier to convey to a susceptible audience, and producers have banked on that supposition for decades. I, for one, have been known to loosen a collar button when a hot and thirsty cowpoke nears the end of the trail. I've shared the same parched sensation as Humphrey Bogart's dehydrated "Sahara" brigade. After viewing "Lawrence of Arabia," I fashioned a makeshift burnoose from my wife's sundress -- but that's another story.

White Cargo (1942) This steamy tropical saga provided Hedy Lamarr with a role that was much parodied and publicized at the time. As Polynesian temptress Tondelayo, she vamps the white colonials, setting an already turgid plantation populace on its ear. Amid the oppressive humidity, Walter Pidgeon and Richard Carlson fight to become "acclimatized" whilst vying for the sultry sarong girl's affections.

White Heat (1949) The great James Cagney is clearly having a ball chewing the scenery to shreds as psychotic killer Cody Jarrett. The film is loaded with dynamite dialogue ("I told you not to turn that radio on. If that battery goes dead, it'll have company.") and over-the-top scenes, none more memorable than the "Top of the world, Ma!" climax that finds Cagney engulfed by flames. And who can forget Cagney employing his pistol to ventilate a car trunk so that a captive within might get a little air?

Sahara (1943) One of Bogie's very best wartime films features an international battalion of desert troops valiantly fighting to survive the barren sands. Bogart is the crusty tank commander who leads this motley brigade through the blistering heat. The film's true highlight is his hard bargaining with the thirsty Nazi horde that wants his precious water.

Inferno (1953) Flame-haired vixen Rhonda Fleming lures unsuspecting husband Robert Ryan to his potential desert doom. Stranded 100 miles from the nearest liquid, he's forced to crawl for his life. Vivid desert sequences stand out in this time-worn caper, originally released in 3D.

Some Like It Hot (1959) Maybe the heat connection is a metaphoric one, but this classic comedy's sexual tensions are steamy enough: Marilyn Monroe never looked more fetching. The plot involving Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag needs no recounting at this point, as this much-examined film is considered by many the jewel in Billy Wilder's comic crown.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) You want heat? No film ever conveyed the raw beauties and savage dangers of the desert better than this one. Omar Sharif's description of a barren stretch known as The Devil's Anvil proves to be an understatement, as Peter O'Toole and company barely survive the brutal solar assault. Massive vistas of sand and sun overwhelm the viewer in scene after scene.

Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962) Atomic detonations knock the Earth from its axis, sending her slowly spiraling toward the sun. This credibly acted sci-fi feature is far more sober and engrossing than the title lets on. Tension mounts most believably as temperatures rise. Civil disobedience and natural disasters ensue. Edward Judd, Janet Munro and acerbic Leo McKern stand out.

In The Heat of the Night (1967) This one scooped up a mantel-full of Oscars, most deservedly Rod Steiger as the hate-filled hayseed lawman. The Southern setting provides the titular swelter as urban detective Sidney Poitier treads none too softly on redneck Rod's turf.

Caged Heat (1974) Jonathan Demme's directorial debut could have emerged as a run-of-the-mill women's prison flick, but its tongue-in-cheek tone helped it accrue its cult following. Lensed for producer Roger Corman, it features its fair share of lingering and lascivious shots, as well as a bizarre turn by Euro-horror queen Barbara Steele as the wheelchair-bound warden.

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) A sweat-soaked Bruno Ve Sota stands out in this sultry sci-fi saga starring Yvette Vickers at her most tauntingly torrid. The humidity is palpable in the tension-fraught exchanges between the two stars. Nighttime dashes through the mossy swamp were actually filmed in the light provided by the cast members' car headlights.


Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal Press or at

Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at

Bob Madison, whose books are available at

Bryan Senn, whose books are available at and at

Tom Weaver, whose books are available at and at

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