The biggest B-movie news this month was the B Monster's
one-on-one with Big Jim Arness. "The Thing" himself,
Marshal Matt Dillon to millions of people worldwide, broke
his years of silence and went on the record, ending decades
of rumor and speculation -- and you read it here first.
The actress best known to genre-film fans for her role as
Vena Ray on the "Rocky Jones, Space Ranger" television program,
Sally Mansfield, is dead at 77. She had lung cancer. She
began her show business career with theater work in her
native Chicago. She switched to radio in the mid-1940s where
she was heard on many soap operas and commercials. She also
worked as a dancer in Las Vegas before winning a Paramount
Pictures contract in 1951. She had small roles in several
Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin films as well as "The Leather
Saint" opposite Paul Douglas and John Derek. She beat out
300 other actresses to win the role of Vena on the "Rocky
Jones" program, which starred Richard Crane as a two-fisted
space pilot. In 1954, she was selected to portray Miss Emmy,
a character used to publicize the annual television awards.
Pioneering animator William Hanna, who had been in declining
health for some time, died at his home in North Hollywood.
He was 90. Together with partner Joseph Barbera, Hanna created
some of the best-loved characters in cartoon history, including
"The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "Huckleberry
Hound" and many others. Hanna and Barbera won a total of
seven Academy Awards for the Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoons
they created for MGM in the 1940s. Shifting to television
in the 1950s, they won the first Emmy Award for an animated
series for "Huckleberry Hound and Friends." Other series
produced by the venerable Hanna-Barbera animation house
were "Jonny Quest," "Quick Draw McGraw," "Space Ghost" and
Sam Wiesenthal, who worked in a production capacity on classic
Universal horror films such as "Dracula" and "Frankenstein,"
passed away at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital
in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 92. While still in high
school, Wiesenthal worked at Universal's Manhattan office.
Along with Carl Laemmle Jr., he helped produce the 1930
Academy Award-winner "All Quiet on the Western Front." He
produced several films in the 1950s, including "Cry Danger,"
Tension at Table Rock" and "Second Chance."
Lancelot Victor Pinard, who helped introduce Americans to
calypso music using the stage name Sir Lancelot, died at
his home in Anaheim, Calif. He was 98. He debuted at New
York's Village Vanguard night club in 1940 and soon after
began a West Coast tour that caught the attention of filmmakers.
Cult-movie fans will remember Sir Lancelot's roles in some
of producer Val Lewton's classic RKO horrors, including
"I Walked With A Zombie," "The Ghost Ship" and "Curse of
the Cat People," as well as the 1950s shocker "The Unknown
Terror." He also had a small role in the Bogart-Bacall classic
"To Have and Have Not." His singing career was briefly resurrected
in the 1980s when he performed in the Los Angeles area accompanied
by Van Dyke Parks on piano, Ry Cooder on guitar and Jim
Keltner on drums.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
WICKER STICKS IN LEE'S CRAW
Brit horror icon Christopher Lee is in a tizzy over director
Joe Berlinger's plans to remake the cult film "The Wicker
Man" in which Lee starred. Speaking to the Empire Online
Website, Lee said, "I read a review that mentioned that
this person, whoever he is, had directed 'Blair Witch 2.'
Then it mentioned right at the end of this review that there
is talk that he is intending to remake 'The Wicker Man.'
There were three words after that: Somebody stop him!" Simultaneously
comes the news that Lee has been cast as Count Dooku in
the upcoming "Star Wars: Episode II." In his introduction
to "Christopher Lee: The Authorized Screen History," movie
mogul George Lucas reveals why Lee was chosen for the part:
"I knew that I needed someone who could convey evil."
ARE FANS CRAVEN A REMAKE?
Producer, director Wes Craven will film a new version of
"Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." The updated telling of Robert
Louis Stevenson's classic tale will be scripted by Craig
Rosenberg whose credits include "Hotel de Love" and the
upcoming "Jurassic Park 3." In a related story, following
an exhaustive study, scientists at the Mount Palomar Observatory
employing a Multichannel Spectrum Analyzer to determine
quantum efficiency issued the details of a new report that
finds there are no original ideas left.
To the delight of giant monster purists, and fans of men
in rubber suits in general, Toho plans to continue their
new "old" Godzilla series. Production will begin this May
on "Godzilla-Mothra-King Ghidorah: Daikaiju Sogougeki."
The new film, set in 2004, has Godzilla doing battle with
three of his most famous and formidable opponents: Mothra,
King Ghidorah and Baragon. The film will be released in
Japan this December.
DAVID "DARTH VADER" PROWSE RECOVERING
"Star Wars" actor David Prowse, the towering man in the
Darth Vader costume (and veteran of countless autograph
and memorabilia shows) who last month suffered what was
described as "a mysterious paralysis," is on the mend according
to the actor's official Website. Prowse entered a London
hospital after suffering a sudden paralysis in his arm,
which soon spread to his back. He was left with movement
in his legs but was unable to walk. According to Prowse's
personal assistant, Maxwell Patterson, "Dave is going to
be just fine ... and is not going to need any follow-up
treatment. The doctors have decided it was strictly an arthritis
attack in his shoulder and back. He is much better now."
ARE YOU A MONSTER KID?
Thank God there are still some sane people out there who
remember how to have fun with this hobby. We highly recommend
a visit to Kerry Gammill's "Monster Kid Magazine" Website,
which takes a loving and lighthearted look at classic horror
films -- and is quite edifying in the bargain. You'll find
affectionate articles and ultra-rare stills from vintage
films, most notably, several shots of Lon Chaney Jr. and
his faithful companion, Moose, the German shepherd who portrayed
the wolf whose bite made Chaney immortal. Moose followed
Chaney from set to set thereafter and the photos of the
pair are fabulous. You'll also find an engaging editorial,
a salute to "gorilla man," Charlie Gemora, and my personal
favorite, "Bela's Beards," comparing Lugosi's many bewhiskered
Gammill was an ace draftsman for the major comic companies
for years and is now the in-house conceptual artist for
Steve Johnson's XFX unit, designing creatures for films
such as "Virus" and "Species II." You'll find samples of
Kerry's fine line work at http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/
Check out "Monster Kid" at http://gammillustrations.bizland.com/monsterkid/
JUST WHAT WE NEED, A THOUSAND MORE CORPSES
Universal Studios decided to take a pass on rock singer-cum-moviemaker
Rob Zomibie's maiden film effort "House of 1,000 Corpses."
The decision follows hard on the heels of the recent rash
of violence in schoolrooms around the nation. Zombie's picture,
about two young couples who find themselves stranded in
a town filled with homicidal killers, was completed in January,
and supposedly shocked studio execs into backing away from
distribution. According to studio chief Stacey Snider, the
film had "a visceral tone and intensity that we did not
imagine from the printed page." At last report, Mr. Zombie
was seeking another distributor.
COUNT ON DRAC TO BOOST TRADE
The Aberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board representing Cruden
Bay in Great Britain, has issued a warning to the Yorkshire
fishing town of Whitby. For years, Whitby has claimed that
their hamlet served as crucial inspiration for Bram Stoker's
"Dracula." Not so, says the tourist board's marketing manager
Beverley Tricker. "It is very well documented that Slains
Castle [at Cruden Bay] is the true home of Dracula and the
Yorkshire Tourist Board has for years been luring our potential
visitors under false pretences." The Board claims that early
drafts of "Dracula" depict the vampire coming ashore at
Cruden Bay and that Stoker was inspired by Aberdeenshire's
rugged seascape. "We intend to sink our teeth into this
fable and bring tourists to the real home of Dracula," Tricker
declared. The board's reinvigorated tourism drive, with
the legendary Count leading the charge, comes at a time
when Britain's tourism industry is reeling from the effects
of the foot-and-mouth disease scare.
MARCO POLO TO THE MAX
John Morgan and William T. Stromberg have teamed up to restore
the scores of two more classic thrill films. We told you
some time ago that this was in the works and we're happy
to report that this immaculate restoration was worth the
wait. It's great to hear Max Steiner's characteristically
robust scores for "Son of Kong" and "The Most Dangerous
Game" re-created with loving care. Yet another nifty package
from the dedicated preservationists at Marco Polo. For more
information, check out http://www.naxos.com
OMEGA MAN IS NO PIECE KEEPER
According to a report in the Toronto Sun, Charlton Heston
literally flipped his wig at a recent personal appearance.
It seems he was waving from the sunroof of his limo just
as the driver decided to give 'er the gun. Heston's toupee
went flying and landed in the street, where it was retrieved
by a bemused onlooker and handed back to the NRA prez who
proceeded to berate his lead-footed chauffeur.
The preceding item was relayed to us by our buddy, Boyd
Magers, publisher of "Western Clippings," a bi-monthly newsletter
dedicated to preserving our western movie heritage. Boyd
and wife Donna jam-pack the publication with all manner
of western movie news, interviews, reviews, TV listings,
and columns by the likes of Will "Sugarfoot" Hutchins, Michael
"Curse of the Undead" Pate and others. Westerns fall wide
of the B Monster's field of expertise, so if you've a fondness
for sagebrush-and-saddle cinema, the Magers' heartfelt film
mag is the source we recommend. And if that weren't reason
enough to write them, "Western Clippings" has recently assumed
publication of "Serial Report," a periodical dedicated to
chapterplays that has been published in one incarnation
or another since 1975. For more info, contact: Western Clippings,
1312 Stagecoach Road, SE, Albuquerque, NM, 87123 Or e-mail
them at email@example.com Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Fans of the palpably moody films of director Jacques Tourneur
might enjoy "Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall,"
a trade paperback version of the book originally published
by McFarland & Co. in 1999, chronicling the life and
career of the man who directed such cult classics as "Cat
People" and "I Walked With A Zombie." According to The Johns
Hopkins University Press, author Chris Fujiwara's book,
with a foreword by director Martin Scorsese, is "the first
in-depth exploration of Tourneur's entire career ... [featuring]
a detailed film-by-film analysis of this influential director's
work." You can find out more at: http://www.press.jhu.edu/press/books/titles/s01/s01fuja.htm
Here's a nifty tome that recently came to our attention:
"Feature Players: Stories Behind the Faces, Volumes 1 and
2," by Tom and Jim Goldrup is a self-published compilation
of personal interviews with 40 film performers, including
John Archer, Whit Bissell, Phyllis Coates, Harry Carey Jr.
and Ross Elliott, whose careers range from the silent era
to the early days of television. (Some are STILL active).
There are only a limited number of copies of volumes two
and three still available (volume one is long out of print).
Each contains photos and filmographies of the performers,
and both are over 350 pages in length. They're $24.95 each.
The postage (in USA) is $5 for one book, $6 for two. Send
check or money order to: Tom and Jim Goldrup, PO Box 425,
Ben Lomond, CA, 95005 For more info, you can reach the authors
via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
KILLER CHILLER LINEUP
A sure sign that spring is fixin' to bust out in horrific
fashion is the spring "Chiller Theatre" con in East Rutherford,
N.J. Topping the bill this time around are "Star Trek's"
Walter Koenig, and a "Babylon 5" reunion featuring darned-near
the entire cast of the sci-fi TV series. In addition, meet
and greet actors and actresses such as Linda Blair, David
Carradine, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Yvonne Craig, Mark Goddard
and Cynthia Rothrock, artists Ken Kelley, Bernie Wrightson
and Russ Jones, festival mascot Zacherley, and too many
others to name. It all starts April 27. For more info, check
out: http://www.chillertheatre.com Tell 'em the B Monster
GOLDEN GIRLS AND GHOULS
Last, a plug (or re-plug) for Stephen Potter's Website devoted
to "Universal's Leading Ladies of the Golden Age of Horror."
It's been revamped (no pun intended) and spiffed up with
more photos and profiles of actresses such as Jane Adams,
Anne Gwynne, Peggy Moran, Evelyn Ankers, Lois Collier and
others. Take a look at: http://www.angelfire.com/movies/spotter/
Like we said before, tell 'em the B Monster sent you.
NEW ON DVD
THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T
Long before Ron Howard and Jim Carrey mounted their massive
live-action "Grinch," producer Staney Kramer collaborated
with Dr. Seuss on this bizarro exploration of childhood
fears and frustrations. Tommy Rettig, of "Lassie" fame,
is so bored with his piano lessons he dozes off and dreams
of a surreal world ruled by his domineering piano instructor,
Dr. Terwilliker as played by Hans Conried. The doctor's
evil plan involves luring 500 students to perform in a sinister
symphony overseen by himself. Yes, it's as weird as it sounds.
MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL |
Probably the only film we'll review this month that stars
"Pollock" screenwriter and mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Barbara Turner. And throughout the film she looks just about
as bored as anyone who watches this stinker has a right
to be. Jim Davis, later to star in TV's "Dallas," is sent
to Africa with Turner in tow to determine the whereabouts
of a lost test rocket. The trip is disastrous. Not only
does the airline lose their Geiger counter, it seems the
atomic contents of said rocket have turned a hive of wasps
into gigantic mutations. No, it's not as exciting as it
THE FLYING SAUCER
"Officially" the first flying saucer movie, this strange
pastiche of crude special effects and travelogue footage
barely qualifies as science fiction. Mikel Conrad directed
and stars in this oddity about Commies in Alaska racing
to secure a sequestered saucer before the USA can get their
hands on it. Much of the "action" is comprised of what seems
to be vacation footage shot while Conrad was salmon fishing
in the Yukon. Thrill-packed it ain't.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
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, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.com
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"Natural or Supernatural?" - The Thing From Another World