... as Cadet Happy was wont to exclaim, "Space Patrol" is
now available on video. Three episodes of the pioneering
sci-fi series starring Ed Kemmer as Commander Buzz Corry
have been released by the folks at Englewood Entertainment,
who it seems own darned-near every 1950s genre film worth
watching. The quality of the tapes is as astounding as the
content. These live broadcasts were originlally captured
as kinescopes, meaning a camera was simply pointed at one
of the studio monitors. How so sharp a picture could be
salvaged from so primative a process I'll never know.
The episodes concern "The Giants of Pluto 3," once-normal
men who've been transformed into zombie soldiers by a mad
scientist hiding out on one of Pluto's moons. Naturally,
Kemmer and company find themselves in the thick of things,
but still make time to sell Wheat Chex and Nestle bars.
That's right, the live commercials are included. (Kemmer
describes the Nestle Krunch bar as milk chocolate wrapped
around a 'mystery consistency.') And one Chex box top and
a quarter bought you a "Space Patrol" periscope, a 24-inch
device that held two 'magic mirrors' and an illustrated
guide to the inhabitants of the nine planets. Now that's
value! (I'm still waiting for one to turn up on E-bay --
opening bid? -- I don't want to think about it.
And speaking of Ed Kemmer, You've got less than a week to
make it to Monster Rally '99 where Kemmer is part of an
impressive guest list that includes Christopher Lee, Colleen
Gray, Anne Francis, Yvette Vickers, Terry Moore, Rex Reason,
Ingrid Pitt, the Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi kids and many
more. Check out the web site at http://www.fanex.com
ANOTHER KILLER "CHILLER"
And while we're on the
subject of conventions, here's how the Chiller Theatre guest
list is shaping up: Carroll Baker, June Lockhart, Cynthia
Rothrock, those crazy Chaney, Karloff and Lugosi kids again,
Karen Black (listed as 'tentative') and our personal favorite
attendee, Jane (Trixie) Kean of "Honeymooners" fame. It's
happening October 29-November 1. You'll find the web site
LON WOULD BE PROUD
Makeup ace, author (and B Monster contributor)
Michael F. Blake has been nominated for his second consecutive
Emmy Award for his work on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine."
Blake copped the award last season for his makeup wizardry
on behalf of "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." Michael is THE
peerless authority on the life and work of Lon Chaney. His
seminal "Lon Chaney Trilogy" of books (the latest available
through Vestal Press) is must reading for film devotees.
Director Edward Dmytryk died at his home in Encino, California,
aged 90. Doctors cited heart and kidney failure as the causes
of death. Dmytryk directed some of the definitive film noir
features of the 1940s, most notably the classic "Murder
My Sweet" which starred Dick Powell as Raymond Chandler's
detective Phillip Marlowe. He also directed a pair of noteworthy
thrillers, "The Devil Commands" starring Boris Karloff and
"Captive Wild Woman" featuring John Carradine and Aquanetta.
Dmytryk became the subject of controversy as one of "The
Hollywood 10" who were brought before the House UnAmerican
Activities Commitee during the "Red Scare" of the 1950s.
He later directed such big-budget films as "The Caine Mutiny,"
"The Young Lions" and "The Carpetbaggers."
Special effects designer John Stears is dead at 64 following
a stroke. Stears worked on many of the early James Bond
films, designing most of OO7's ingenious weapons. He also
designed R2-D2 and the Death Star for "Star Wars" and worked
closely with John Dykstra on the major battle sequences.
Strears won two Academy Awards, one for his work on "Thunderball"
and a second for "Star Wars." Among Stears' impressive list
of credits are such films as "Theatre of Blood," "The Awakening,"
"Escape 2000," "Outland," "F/X," the television mini-series
"The Martian Chronicles" and the "Babylon 5" pilot film.
NEW ON VIDEO
The selection of shockers we're scrutinizing this time
around should make plain how crucial casting can be to the
success of a fright film. Each entry stands or falls on
the merits of it's characters and how they're interpreted.
Industrial Light and Magic be darned -- whether we're talking
about an offbeat oldie, or a contemporary, big-budget, special
effects blowout, without convincing characterization, you
We've celebrated the films of director Richard Cunha several
times in our pages, and many consider this twisted shocker
his magnum opus. It's got everything necessary to keep a
cult-film fan happy: A mad doctor, scantily-clad native
gals, Nazis hoping to resurrect the Reich, and, of course,
sappy racial references that must have seemed harmless at
Tod Griffin, who'd previously starred in TV's "Operation:
Neptune," portrays a treasure hunter for hire, conscripted
by a wealthy backer to explore an uncharted Pacific island.
By the very slimmest of plot contrivances, the millionaire's
shapely daughter, as played by 1950s pin-up queen Irish
McCalla, decides to go along for the ride. McCalla, some
may recall, starred as "Sheena, Queen of the Jungle" three
years prior to the filming of "She Demons." Rounding out
the intrepid team is Griffin's right hand man, Sammy, played
by Charlie Chan's ex-number-two son Victor Sen Yung, who
was soon to find lasting employment as the Ponderosa's head
chef on TV's "Bonanza." And let's not forget the Diana Nellis
Dancers as the "She Demons."
Easily stealing the show, however, is actor Rudolph Anders
who hams shamelessly as the Mengele-like mad doctor. Anders
must have been near the top of the list when casting directors
went looking for a codgerly Germanic type. Nobody, with
the possible exception of Martin "Flesh Eaters" Kosleck,
did it better. Anders' poised dementia and convincing delivery
make you forget, just for a moment, the cardboard sets and
tin foil gadgets surrounding him.
The film kicks off with newsreel footage of a devastating
typhoon that's currently pounding the very area our heroes
are headed for (someone didn't plan this trip very well).
Our bedraggled band soon find themselves washed ashore wthout
provisions, and are forced to go foraging. (Somehow, they've
managed to salvage Irish's comely sun dress). It isn't long
before they stumble upon the caged "She Demons," native
girls who were subject to Anders' misguided efforts to restore
the beauty of his disfigured wife. Naturally, our friends
are captured and, according to the unwritten movie law that
states that all villains must explain their motives to the
victims as they'll never live to tell anyway, Anders describes
how Der Furher himself sent him to the desolate isle during
the war to conduct Third Reich research.
Aided by, of all people, Herr Doctor's scarred wife, the
trio escape in a rowboat that had been stashed elsewhere
on the island just as the U.S. Air Force, on a test run,
is commencing to bomb the atoll. All the doc's atomic-powered
apparatus goes up in smoke as Yung utter's the film's best
line: "Let's blow this crazy fire trap!"
It's all great fun and, though I've always preferred Cunha's
"Giant From the Unknown," I couldn't recommend a cult film
more highly than "She Demons." Who cares if it was tongue-in-cheek,
the best they could produce with the budget they had --
or maybe both? Watch this movie!
This odd combination of "Gulliver's Travels" and "This Island
Earth" isn't as good as it sounds nor as bad as baby boomers,
who caught it on the late, late show years ago, may remember
it. Dean Fredericks, who'd portrayed comic strip hero "Steve
Canyon" on television, stars as an astronaut who crash-lands
on a planetoid, the atmosphere of which shrinks him to Lilliputian
proportions. When the doll-sized Dean emerges from his discarded,
gargantuan space suit, the local citizenry, who are justifiably
suspicious, "take him to their leader" in accordance with
that time-honored cliche.
Said leader is an elderly fellow called Sesom (spell it
backwards), who patiently explains that their planet is
perpetually under attack by an alien race. In an effort
to avert the enemy, they've devised a way to literally steer
the planet out of harm's way whenever the shooting starts.
A captured specimen of this hostile race, which look a little
like the basset hound from the old Hush Puppies shoe advertisements,
eventually escapes, causing all heck to bust loose.
Having helped the little ones quash the latest invasion,
Fredericks is rescued by an earthbound ship and reverts
to his normal stature. But who would ever believe his fantastic
tale? Was it all a dream? Sure enough, there in the palm
of his hand is a keepsake given to him by the tiny loved
one he left behind -- though it's somehow grown to match
his full human size.
The cast is a terrific mish-mash of B-movie greats. Sesom
is portrayed by former silent movie megastar Francis X.
Bushman ("Ben-Hur") in his final screen role. Cult-film
fans might recall Tony Dexter from "Fire Maidens From Outer
Space." Lovely Colleen Gray made dozens of films, but may
be best-remembered as "The Leech Woman." Lastly, there's
Richard Kiel, known the world over as Jaws from the James
Bond movies "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker." His
role as the droopy dog alien was one of his first screen
There's a very fine line between a hybrid and a rip-off.
Universal's "Alien"-esque opus, "Virus," doesn't cautiously
tread that line as say, "Event Horizon" or "The Relic" previously
did -- it leaps across it like a graceless gazelle. In deference
to the film's snazzy production design and rather impressive
effects, it may be kinder to refer to it as an "homage"
to the aforementioned films, themselves derivations of "The
Thing From Another World," "It! The Terror From Beyond Space,"
For those who demand a plot synopsis of their beleagured
film reviewers: A very nasty electronic entity from space
("Lightning that thinks," aptly suggests one character)
gets loose on an abandoned research vessel and sneaks around
in dark places devouring the actors one-by-one. It uses
parts of its victims bodies to construct a sort of robo-skeletal-human
hybrid ("Virus" and "Terminator" were both produced by Gale
Ann Hurd, so the resemblence is no accident). To the film's
credit, there is a twist: The electro-robotic aliens stalking
Jamie Leigh Curtis and her castmates regard MAN as the "Virus"
-- one which must be exterminated in order for its kind
to inhabit our planet.
The cast turns in adequate if unexciting performances
("Virus" marks Curtis' second consecutive horror outing
(last year's "Halloween H20" marking her return to the genre).
Spooky old Donald Sutherland, who seems to turn down very
few scripts these days, isn't bad and there's a Baldwin
brother on board (William, for the record) as the ostensible
"Virus" is aimed at the "hard-gore" horror completists
who'll pay to see any big-budget sci fi film, and it will
probably please them. But as far as substance or innovation
are concerned, it's just too darn derivative to satisfy
the average video devotee. Like so many monster flicks of
recent vintage, if you've seen the trailer, you've pretty
much seen the movie.
Tapping into the angst of teens who've long regarded teachers
as the enemy, "The Faculty" succeeds as an enjoyable thriller
on several levels. First of all, you can't go wrong when
you borrow liberally from the basic paranoid premise perfected
by "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" over four decades ago.
It's been done to death, but switching the invasion's epicenter
to a suburban high school is sort of a nifty twist. In fact,
the scholastic setting is what saves the film. What might
have emerged as another teen-slasher romp is redeemed by
the presence of adult actors (the eponymous "Faculty") who
seem to be having a ball as teachers-turned-aliens.
The fact that several "name" actors appear in the film
and approach their roles with such gusto elevates the proceedings
considerably. Check it out: there's sultry Salma Hayek as
Nurse Harper, modelicious Famke Jansen ("Goldeneye") as
Miss Burke, Bebe Neuwirth of "Cheers" fame as Principal
Drake, film vet Piper Laurie appears as Mrs. Olson, comic
Jon Stewart (my personal favorite among the faculty) as
Mr. Furlong and, who else but "Terminator II's" shifty-eyed
Robert Patrick to play Coach Willis.
"The Faculty" deserved better business when initially
released. Marketers seemed confused as the whether to sell
the film as a thriller, a comedy, a comedy-thriller or some
other uncategorizable hybrid. This schizophrenic marketing
plan was reflected in the trailers and television ads and
the box office take was less because of it. ("Faculty" director
Robert Rodriquez' ugly "From Dusk to Dawn" suffered a similar
fate). Let's just call it a thriller that doesn't take itself
too seriously, but provides enough scares to satisfy die-hard
horror buffs. The added bonus is watching likeable actors
having fun with their roles. Give "The Faculty" a chance.
Who knows? You might learn a thing or two -- like how a
horror film can be fun without being stupid.
STORM OF THE CENTURY
Slap Stephen King's name on a box of rotten eggs and people
will buy it, right? Apparently producers of this bloated
opus weren't so confident. King himself made the rounds,
hawking "Storm of the Century" with appearances on chat
shows such as "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Appearing
originally as a TV mini-series, it was scheduled against
the much bally-hooed departure of George Clooney from TV's
number one drama "ER." The short version is, the ratings
were low and the film is a dud.
It's all about a horrendous blizzard that pounds an island
off the coast of Maine. In the storm's wake comes Satan
himself as embodied by creepy Colm Feore. It seems the devil's
got the goods on everyone in town. He knows their darkest
secrets and uses the knowledge to wreak havoc. "Give me
what I want and I'll go away," he scrawls here and there.
Contrary to what we've been told in countless volumes of
lore, evidently the devil isn't immortal. What he requires
of the town is a child. An heir to his hellish mantle who
can ascend to the Satanic throne. Only the town sheriff,
as played by Tim Daly, is strong-willed enough to resist
Lucifer's evil. (When Tim Daly is the toughest dude in town,
you know you're in trouble). It's all kinda gory, kinda
goofy, and way too long.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Harris Lentz III whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.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
A PARTING BLURB
"See Frankenstein do the Twist with Miss Hollywood!" House
on Bare Mountain