APRIL 2003

OBITUARIES

Dwight D. Frye
Dwight D. Frye, a theatre/record producer and the son of Golden Age horror actor Dwight Frye, died March 27, 2003 in New York City. He was 72.

Frye was born in Spokane, Washington, in December of 1930, shortly after his father completed his role as the lunatic Renfield in Dracula. He grew up in Hollywood, and in fact appeared as a child actor in "The Man Who Found Himself" (1937), in which his father also acted. His father, who gave macabre performances in such horror films as "Frankenstein," "The Vampire Bat" and "Bride of Frankenstein," died in Hollywood in 1943, achieving his real fame only posthumously.

Dwight D.Frye graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor's degree and Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering. However, after a stint in Europe with the U.S.Army, he became an actor, working in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. In 1965, he played a small role in the legendary Broadway musical "Man of La Mancha;" he also became an assistant to the play's director Albert Marre, and eventually traveled around the world supervising international productions of the show. In addition to over two decades assisting Marre, Frye worked for two years as the business manager for the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center and for nine years as a production associate for Broadway producer Frederick Brisson. He also co-produced several original cast recordings, including "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" and "The Secret Garden."

On the subject of his father, Frye collaborated with Greg Mank and Jim Coun on the book "Dwight Frye's Last Laugh," published by Midnight Marquee Press in 1997. He also appeared as a guest at various conventions and on camera in several documentaries celebrating the classic horror films.

Johny Carpenter
B-movie cowboy Johny Carpenter died of cancer in a Burbank nursing home. He was 88. Carpenter acted in, wrote and produced such low-budget Westerns as "I Killed Wild Bill Hickok," "Lawless Rider" and "Son of the Renegade." Carpenter was remembered by producer Alex Gordon as, "One of those people who could charm the fruit off the trees." Carpenter was one of the first film people Gordon looked up upon settling in the U.S. "I read in the L.A. Times that a man named Johny Carpenter, who had made a few low-budget westerns, had made his last one, 'Son of the Renegade,' for $17,500," Gordon told the B Monster. Gordon and Carpenter met and embarked on a project that eventually led to associations with such B-movie luminaries as Ed Wood and Sam Arkoff.

Carpenter may be best remembered for the western ranch he operated in Los Angeles. For years, Carpenter's Heaven On Earth Ranch, built with the help of volunteers, welcomed the handicapped, particularly children. He taught them to ride horses, and led guided tours through the old west-style saloon, jail and general store. Thousands of children visited the ranch over the years, riding the range and dining on barbequed hamburgers. Carpenter empathized with the handicapped as he once spent 119 days in a body cast following a hit-and-run accident that robbed him of a promising career as a major league ball player. After moving to Los Angeles, Carpenter went to work in the movies, performing stunts in such films as "National Velvet," "The Navajo Trail" and "The El Paso Kid." But the Heaven On Earth Ranch was the real joy of his life. As he once told Reader's Digest, "As you sow, so shall ye reap. Well, I've reaped two-hundred-fold." The ranch changed locations several times, but Carpenter sustained it with his personal savings, part-time work shoeing horses and contributions. "Everything I own is on my back," Carpenter said. "Yet because of the ranch, I can get up every morning and walk down the street like a king. If I get to heaven, it'll be on the coattails of those kids."

Fred Freiberger
Veteran television and screenwriter Fred Freiberger died at his Bel-Air, Calif., home, of natural causes. He was 88. A prolific television writer with many series to his credit, Freiberger served as producer of the original "Star Trek" series during its third and final 1968-69 season. Beginning as a screenwriter in the late 1940s, Freiberger's first major credit was his 1953 screenplay for "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms," based on a Ray Bradbury short story. (It was also the first solo effort of emerging special effects and stop-motion animation ace Ray Harryhausen.) Thereafter, Freiberger turned out scripts for films of all genres including "Garden of Evil," "The Black Pirates," "Egypt by Three" and "War Paint."

In 1957, Freiberger scripted director Bert I. Gordon's dubious classic "Beginning of the End." The film showcased Gordon's crude special effects as Peter Graves and Peggie Castle battled giant grasshoppers. Freiberger found his true niche in television writing for such well-known series as "Bonanza," "Rawhide," "The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca," "The Wild, Wild West," "Ben Casey," "The Fugitive," "S.W.A.T.," "Starsky and Hutch," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Space 1999." Actor/director Leonard Nimoy told Startrek.com, "I knew Fred for many, many years, even before 'Star Trek' ... he was a gentleman and a gentle man."

THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW

"CREATURE" REMAKE CREEPS CLOSER TO PRODUCTION
According to Variety, screenwriter Tedi Sarafian will script Universal's forthcoming "Creature From the Black Lagoon" remake, which has been forthcoming for about 20 years. We suppose each little rumor brings this bad idea a dab closer to reality. The film will be produced by Gary Ross' Larger Than Life productions. Ross' father, Arthur, had a hand in conceiving the 1954 original. Sarafian's other credits include "The Road Killers," "Tank Girl," the made-for-TV "Tidal Wave: No Escape" and the upcoming "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines." That is all ... for now.

BOB'S STELLAR CELLAR
The legendary status of the Halloween extravaganzas staged by B Monster buddy Bob Burns is soon to increase immeasurably. A special DVD compilation composed of priceless footage from shows past is in the works and promises to be one of the genre-movie "must-have" items of the year. In addition to samples of the actual shows, many of the principal set-builders and special effects creators involved -- including some who went on to major motion-picture glory -- are on camera recounting the good times. "We recently spent a weekend shooting interviews," Bob reported. "And we got a wonderful on-camera interview with Julie Adams. She came to our Halloween "Creature" show 20 years ago. What a classy Lady." (Bob made a point of capitalizing the "L.") William Self, a co-star of "The Thing From Another World" turned out for last year's "Thing"-themed Halloween bash, along with thousands of kids of all ages who had the time of their lives being scared stiff.

Nearly as exciting is news of the nine-disk "Alien" DVD set that's in the works. (For the woefully uninformed, Bob is the world's premier Creature Curator and Sci-Fi Film Preservationist nonpareil. The Alien "Queen" resides in his Burbank, Calif. basement!) "A crew came over to shoot an interview with me," Bob said, "surrounded by my props from the 'Alien' movies. They've found tons of new footage from the films." The "Alien" volume will be jam-packed with extras, and it features a director's cut of the third "Alien" installment. For the documentary segment, Bob was, as always, generous to a fault, happily in his element, sharing his wealth of fantasy-film ephemera with the world. "It was one of the easiest shoots I've ever done," he concluded.

And, if you still don't have a copy of "It Came From Bob's Basement," you can procure a signed edition from the man himself at Burbank's Dark Delicacies bookshop April 26. Bob will be there cheerfully autographing copies beginning at 2 p.m., so, if you're anywhere in the vicinity, make haste to 4213 W. Burbank Blvd. You can call 818-556-6660 for more info, or drop a line to darkdel@darkdel.com.
It goes without saying ... tell 'em the B Monster sent you!

NOTE: While you're there, you might just catch a sneak peek of the forthcoming "Monster Kid Memories," a lavishly illustrated tome chronicling Bob's encounters with and heartfelt memories of the men who made the classic films we love. Published by Dinoship, Inc., the much-anticipated book is scheduled to debut in June.

RAY'S STAR TO SHINE SOON
Word is that the sidewalk ceremony honoring Ray Harryhausen with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame is scheduled for June 10th. Last we heard, movie heayweights including Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Frank Darabont were anxious to take part in the festivities. Again we ask: Hollywood, what took so doggone long?

COHEN DOESN'T MAKE THE ACADEMY CUT
According to the niece of recently departed, legendary film producer, Herman Cohen ("I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "How to Make a Monster," "Horrors of the Black Museum"), she attempted to convince the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to include Herman in its annual tribute segment, devoted to film greats who passed away during the preceding year. The "In Memoriam" sequence is usually a highlight of the otherwise fatuous and self-congratulatory broadcast devoted largely to mutual ego-stroking. Bruce Davis, Executive Director of the AMPAS, informed Gail Cohen that "too many prominent people have died this year." On another front, Gail reports that, once "Horrors of the Black Museum" debuts on DVD, she hopes to work on a retrospective of her late uncle's films, possibly in collaboration with the American Film Institute or American Movie Classics.

REJOICING IN ROSWELL
A proposal introduced by a Roswell lawmaker that would allow New Mexicans to celebrate every second Tuesday in February as "Extraterrestrial Culture Day" won approval in the State House. According to Rep. Daniel Foley (R), extraterrestrials "have some sort of culture, whether it's something we understand or not." Roswell, N.M., was, of course, the purported site of a 1947 UFO crash-landing. The "Roswell Incident" fostered terrific interest in flying saucers and government cover-ups and eventually spawned a cottage industry for the local community.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG IN SWAMPY JERSEY
Chiller convention-meister Kevin Clement invites one and all to "join us in the Swamps of New Jersey." That must mean it's time for the Spring 2003 Chiller Theatre Expo at the lovely Meadowlands Hilton in beautiful East Rutherford. Doors open at 6 p.m., Friday the 25th, and judging by the expansive guest list, you'll need every second to schmooze with pop-culture stars and add to your autograph collection. The guest roster is positively pan-categoric:

The "Creature from the Black Lagoon's" paramour, Julie Adams, tops the list.
And you DO want see Andrew Robinson of "Dirty Harry" fame? (Well, do ya, PUNK?)
There's long tall Angus Scrimm of "Phantasm"
And how 'bout the "Lost in Space" cast -- June Lockhart, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristin -- reunited!
There's Jerry Seinfeld's TV parents Barney Martin and Liz Sheridan
The "Reel" Gill Man himself, big Ben Chapman
The voice of Chucky, Brad Dourif
Lovely Carol Lynley
Hammer glamorette and former Bond girl, Caroline Munro
Mistress of the Martial Arts, Cynthia Rothrock
TV's Kung Fu-master, David (son of John) Carradine
"E.T.'s" surrogate Mom, Dee Wallace Stone
Don Calfa and Linnea Quigley of "Return of the Living Dead"
"Beetlejuice" co-star Glenn Shadix
Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hansen
Jeremy "Boba Fett" Bulloch
Stuntman Kane Hodder
Larry Matthews, better known as "The Dick Van Dyke Show's" Ritchie Petrie
TV's Nancy Drew, Pamela Sue Martin
Soupy Sales (That's right, Soupy Sales)
The object of "The Nutty Professor's" affection, Stella Stevens
Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig
Yvette Vickers, famed victim of the "Giant Leeches" (and probably the only woman who could lure a man away from "50 Foot Woman" Allison Hayes)

There are many more, but I'm just plain tired of typing! As far as ticket info goes, general admission at the door is $15 per day. Paid in advance, it's $12 per day. Children age 12 and under get in free when accompanied by an adult. According to Kevin, "pre-show tickets give you access to the show one hour earlier than the general public on Friday night or Saturday morning. Ideally, pre-show tickets are usually purchased by those wanting access to very limited sale items at the show before general ticket holders enter the show. Pre-show tickets give you access to purchase limited model kits, movie classic items and other items." It all happens April 25-27, 2003, and you can write for tickets: Chiller Theatre, Inc. P O Box 23 Rutherford NJ 07070 But it's even easier to download the ticket order form at the official Web site, where even MORE info awaits you:
http://www.chillertheatre.com
Tell 'em without hesitation, the B Monster sent you!

CULT-FILM FOOTHOLD AT FOOTHILL
The Foothill College Psychotronic Film Festival in Los Altos Hills, Calif., ran from 7 pm until midnight March 15, screening an esoteric collection of Scopitones, cartoons, short subjects, trailers, episode 16 of "Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot," "Space Angel" segments and a vintage filmed performance by Bill Haley and the Comets, not to mention the feature attractions that held the audience enthralled for four hours. And all for a five dollar donation that benefited the college. Why is this event, programmed and hosted by West Coast cult-film fixture Buzz Bob Ekman remarkable? They've been doing it for 22 years! Now that's true, genre-film fanaticism. The proliferation of events such as this (small town filmfests, the stubbornly growing number of regional TV horror hosts) are well worthy of mention, in our book.

THE SCI-FI SURF IS UP
Who are the Moon-Rays? We'll let them describe their corner of the culture and musical mission: "Surfing, monsters and spies. What could these three totally different subjects have to do with each other? Plenty, when thrown into the kooky, spooky world of the Moon-Rays." Chicago's WXRT cited the hometown group's twang-fueled "Thrills and Chills" CD as the best instrumental release of 2002. "The Moon Rays were born of a concept brought on by the recording of the theme from WGN's Creature Features TV show," says the group's official Web site. "About six months later they were approached to do a full length CD by the same studio. The decision then was to do a mixture of spy-surf with a Halloween overtone to it." A sampling of titles will tell you exactly where these cats are coming from: "1313 Mockingbird Lane," "Shot In The Dark," "Hypnotique," "Beat Girl," "The Bat." Not unlike New Jersey's Dead Elvi, the Moon-Rays are swingin' cult-film buffs deserving a taste of the success that headbangin' loudmouths like Rob Zombie continue to accrue undeservedly. Find out more at:
http://www.ravenscott2000.com/Moon-Rays.html
And, natch, daddy-o, 'em the B Monster sent you!.

WILL SUPERMAN GO POSTAL?
The cable channel TRIO recently polled its viewers to determine their favorite comic book-to-movie superhero. Thirty-five percent cited Superman. Spider-Man trailed at a distant 19 percent. The fantasy character they'd most like to see honored by a U.S. postage stamp? Superman again, followed by E.T. Favorite villain -- and we find this striking -- Hannibal Lecter followed by Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter -- not a fantasy character, mind you, but an amalgam of many heinous, unrepentant, REAL-LIFE serial killers. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" was cited as the sequel that most improved upon the original, while "Men in Black II" proved the most disappointing. "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" was named "the worst sequel of all time." Harris Interactive conducted the three-day poll for TRIO, which is a part of the Universal Television Group, owners of the Sci Fi Channel.

IT'S A BIRD, IT'S A PLANE ... ...
either of which would make a better Superman than Josh Hartnett. After testing for the role, the teen heartthrob has decided not to play Krypton's favorite son. Phew! According to the Hollywood Reporter, also rumored to be in the running for the role of the Man of Steel are Brendan Fraser, (okay, not too bad) David "Angel" Boreanaz, "Timeline's" Paul Walker and "The Guiding Light's" Matthew Bomer. The B Monster must confess, he's never heard of "Timeline," never seen "The Guiding Light" and is not familiar with the latter two actors mentioned. If you think this kind of baseless specualtion is amusing, get a load of the next item ... The Sci Fi Channel's Science Fiction Weekly reports that Ain't it Cool News reports that Nicholas Cage "was recently overheard at the gym telling his trainer that he was getting in shape for the upcoming Sub-Mariner film." That's it. That's the whole item. Fourth-hand news given headline treatment all over the Web, credited to "a source" who overheard it in a gym. True or not, it's a gem of an example of how desperate genre-nerds are to devour any morsel of Hollywood hearsay.

HAND ME DOWN MY SILVER CANE
According to Variety, Dimension Films has signed Academy Award-nominee Robert Nelson Jacobs to script a big-screen adaptation of the 1970s Marvel Comics series "Werewolf by Night." Jacobs is best-known for such high-profile films as "Chocolat" and "The Shipping News," both directed by Lasse Halstrom. "It is our aim to bring the werewolf genre to mainstream audiences in the same character-driven way we have done with our other superhero films," Marvel Studios maven, Avi Arad, told the magazine. " 'Werewolf by Night' is at its core a beautiful love story reminiscent of the great Shakespearean tragedies." [editor's note: Huh?] "It needs the meticulous heartfelt crafting that Robert Nelson Jacobs is known for." Make no mistake, we're all for "meticulous heartfelt crafting," but in this case, I think I'd rather just see a scary comic book werewolf. Better still (prepare to hear our broken record one more time), forget the 30-year-old werewolf comic, stop rehashing old stuff and come up with NEW ideas.

SCOOBY DON'T
We're sure to get this confused, but they're remaking "Dawn of the Dead," which was the sequel to George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," which was itself remade at one point. According to CNN, James Gunn, who scripted the absolutely awful "Scooby Doo" live-action film, has written a "reinvention" of Romero's film, which cost a paltry (by contemporary Hollywood standards) $640,000 to make back in 1979. The sequel combined outlandish gore with tongue-in-cheek humor as a gaggle of zombies invaded a Pennsylvania shopping mall in search of victims. Zack Snyder, a veteran director of TV commercials will direct. He had planned to direct a remake of the TV series "S.W.A.T." but reportedly left the production because "he wanted to make an R-rated film." (God knows we need more of those.)

THEIR CHILDHOOD, YOUR MEMORIES
A question for Hollywood's big shots, most of whom are roughly in the B Monster's age bracket: Why should your children be forced to relive YOUR childhood? For God's sake, you're creative people. Marshall your creativity and give your kids something of their own to cherish in the years to come. Here's just a sampling of the Hollywood retreads currently "greenlighted," in "turnaround," "on the slate" or otherwise being discussed:

Fat Albert
The Green Hornet
Black Sunday
I Am Legend aka Last Man on Earth aka The Omega Man
Six Million Dollar Man
The War of the Worlds
Around the World in 80 Days
The Stepford Wives
Dark Shadows
The Incredible Shrinking Man
Forbidden Planet
Clash of the Titans
Death Race 2000
Fahrenheit 451
Speed Racer
Get Smart
Westworld

Naturally, you want to share happy memories with the next generation, but don't you also want them to believe in your creative abilities and artistic originality? Junk like "I Spy" and "Wild, Wild West" abounds. Jewels such as "The Iron Giant" grow more scarce. And don't cite "Harry Potter" as an example of kid-friendly Hollywood fare. Tinsel Town wouldn't have touched that property had it not been a proven commodity.

NEW ON DVD

INVISIBLE INVADERS/JOURNEY TO THE SEVENTH PLANET
We write affectionately about a lot of silly movies. "Invisible Invaders" is one of them. It's a lot of fun, and we don't care WHAT you say. There are all kinds of gaffs and plot holes, shoddy sets and erratic pacing, but it's got a gritty feel that might be viewed as prescient of Romero's "Night of the Living Dead." It's also got a terrific B-movie cast: John Carradine, John Agar, Robert Hutton and, an underrated B-Monster favorite, Philip Tonge (you'd know the face, trust me). In the film's opening moments, Carradine, a scientist experimenting with atomic-type stuff, blows himself to smithereens. Later, when his zombified self is revived by aliens, his cadaver has nary a scratch or smudge on it. And here's a nifty bit of trivia: Carradine plays Dr. Karol Noymann. In "The Giant Claw" (1957), also scripted by Sam Newman, Edgar Barrier plays a Dr. Karol Noymann. (Perhaps Newman's tribute to a family friend?) Curiouser, the end credits list him as CARL Noymann. In any event, it isn't long after Noymann's resurrection that the transparent aliens begin reviving hordes of unstoppable human corpses. And what better place to deliver their inter-galactic ultimatum than a hockey game. They stroll into the announcer's booth, strangle the announcer and commandeer his microphone. Why a hockey game? When a premise is this giddy, why ask "why?" Agar plays the no-nonsense Major Bruce Jay, forever at odds with Robert Hutton's cowardly Dr. John Lamont. Barricaded in a bunker outfitted with lab equipment, they develop a zombie-snuffing weapon not unlike the ones used in "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," "Target Earth" and "Mars Attacks!" But why did the invaders need human cadavers at all? Wouldn't it be much more effective to remain invisible?

"Invisible Invaders" is a fun, flawed, nostalgic diversion, and it's comfortably paired with Sid Pink's "Journey To The Seventh Planet," also starring John Agar, this time as no-nonsense Captain Don Graham. It isn't nearly as enjoyable as "Invisible Invaders," but it has its attractions, among them Greta Thyssen, who stands out in the largely Scandanavian cast. Pink, of course, was the man behind "Angry Red Planet" and "Reptilicus" among other sci-fi oddities. Here, he teams again with frequent partner Ib Melchior who's credited as co-writer. The story involves an ill-fated mission to Uranus -- and keep your smart-ass remarks to yourself! I'm sure Sid heard 'em all.

VOYAGE TO THE PLANET OF PREHISTORIC WOMEN
This Roger Corman-produced patchwork of Russian sci-fi footage and new scenes directed by a young Peter Bogdanovich requires the audience to work harder than the cast and crew that made the film. The movie cuts back and forth between crudely dubbed cosmonauts, and scantily-clad babes in clamshell bras led by bodacious Mamie Van Doren (The costumer must have searched high and low to procure clams of a suitable size.) Your job as viewer is to match up the footage of the wandering Russians with the grainy shots of Mamie and her telepathic posse. Apparently, they're on opposite sides of the planet and establish some tenuous mental link -- at least, I think that's what happens. Perhaps you'll be more successful at completing this international film jigsaw puzzle. Evidently, even Mamie didn't quite understand it, as she told the B Monster, "I really don't know why I did it. I guess I just wanted to work. I didn't have one bit of dialogue. Nothing! We just hummed. We'd go MMMMMMMMMMM! It was sort of like the 'Planet of the Apes.' I thought, 'Hell, if Charlton Heston can do it, I can do it.' Peter was kind of an oddball. He was always sticking the camera up my rear end." According to the folks at Retromedia, Bogdanovich "declined our offer to do a commentary track." But the Retro crew more than compensates with the 20-minute mini-documentary, "Being Mamie," which promises to be worth the price of admission. Also included are a gallery of stills and "a complete 50 page scan of the Foto Novel of the original Russian movie."
http://www.retromedia.org

FAHRENHEIT 451
With a remake imminent, this may be a good time to re-evaluate director Francois Truffaut's 1967 take on Ray Bradbury's important and much-celebrated novella. Bradbury took on bold themes with abbreviated accuracy. There's scarcely a wasted word in his treatise, a cautionary tale regarding the fate of free speech in a war-plagued future society. Truffaut made changes to Bradbury's narrative for cinematic purposes, but the spine of Ray's story is unaffected. Contemporary audiences may be put off by the film's "new wave" directorial flourishes (Truffaut was one of the most prolific sons of that largely French film movement of the '50s and '60s) but it holds up well after 35 years.

The cast is an international mix headed by Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack and Anton Diffring. They act well but are all decidedly "cold" performers (which is, arguably, appropriate to material about an unfeeling, totalitarian, future bureaucracy). The performers' aloofness combined with the film's overt "1960s-ness" (if we may coin a clumsy but accurate phrase to describe the aforementioned experimental camera work) may leave viewers a little TOO cold, but the film is an interesting and noble effort, nonetheless.

RED DRAGON
May I borrow your thesaurus? I've worn mine out looking up alternate words for "garbage." This trashy, clumsy and altogether unnecessary excuse to wheel Hollywood's favorite cannibal, Hannibal Lecter, into public view one more time should be avoided. It wastes the talents of some people who should have had more sense than to contribute further to Movieland's epoch of serial-killer glorification. And won't you be proud two decades hence, when documentary reflections on the current era are compiled; when the times we currently live in will be referred to in nostalgic terms as "The Serial Killer Era," showcasing clips from "Silence of the Lambs," "Hannibal," "Red Dragon," "Kiss the Girls," "Along Came A Spider," "The Cell ..." But gosh, that Anthony Hopkins -- sorry, SIR Anthony Hopkins -- is so doggone charming! Yes, we're being sarcastic. That Hannibal bit is sooooo played. Director Brett Ratner, who turned out one of our favorite action comedies, "Rush Hour," should be ashamed. I just can't say enough bad things about this film. Oh, maybe one more bad thing: It was No. 1 at the box office the very week a REAL serial killer in the Washington, D.C. area was mowing down innocent victims -- including children -- from the trunk of his car.

Genre-film historian and Dinoship founder and CEO Bob Madison weighs in with the following:

MURDER BY DECREE
The hysteria surrounding the Jack the Ripper murders was probably reason enough for Arthur Conan Doyle not to write an adventure pitting Sherlock Holmes against the infamous serial killer. But, as the decades piled up and the Ripper murders faded more and more into legend, it was only natural that London's greatest mass murderer meet up with the era's most celebrated hunter of men.

Bob Clark's "Murder By Decree" was just released by Anchor Bay on DVD, and it is a splendid transfer of a particularly effective movie. Made in 1979 -- just a few years after the Watergate scandals rocked America and the rest of the world -- Clark and screenwriter John Hopkins posit the Ripper murders within a large-scale government conspiracy. This was heady stuff for the late 70s when trust in government was at a low."Murder By Decree" is superbly mounted and almost never betrays its modest budget. It also boasts the greatest cast of any Sherlock Holmes films: along with Christopher Plummer and James Mason as Holmes and Watson, watch for Anthony Quayle, David Hemmings, John Gielgud, Susan Clark, Genevieve Bujold, Donald Sutherland and Frank Finlay. It is not a perfect film -- the middle sections gets a bit "flabby" as the plot meanders a bit -- but it is certainly the best Holmes film since 1939's "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," and no subsequent film has surpassed "Decree."

The mark of any Sherlock Holmes film always boils down to the performances of Holmes and Watson themselves. Bob Clark -- in the director's commentary track -- discusses his efforts to woo Mason into playing Watson. It was worth the effort. While still not the Watson of Doyle, Mason manages to make the doctor a capable companion. Christopher Plummer's Holmes (Clark's second choice after Peter O'Toole!) is also a revelation. His performance never descends into easy caricature (a trap for many actors playing the role), managing to convey both brilliance and humanity. In "Decree," Holmes perhaps spends too much of his time like an angry man with a mission, but the interpretation certainly fits the script and the circumstances of the character. While not quite the iconic interpretation of Rathbone, Plummer's Holmes is infinitely preferable to the mannered, quirky performances of Peter Cushing, Nicol Williamson and Jeremy Brett.

Along with Clark's commentary track, "Murder By Decree" includes the original theatrical trailer, photos from Clark's private archive, and the complete screenplay. This may not be the greatest Jack the Ripper film ever made (that is probably "The Lodger"), but it is certainly superior to the turgid, vermilion "From Hell." "Murder By Decree" is one for your personal collection.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

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

Joe Dante

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

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

Greg Mank, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html

David J. Schow, http://charon.gothic.net/~chromo/

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

PARTING BLURB

"The newest thing in thrill-chill pictures!" -- Voodoo Man



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