Character actor Tyler McVey died of leukemia
in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 91. McVey enjoyed a long
career in radio drama before taking on small movie roles
-- some without screen credit -- in many "A" list films,
including "From Here to Eternity," "All the Brothers Were
Valiant" and "The Caine Mutiny." Cult-movie fans will remember
McVey for his appearances in a handful of 1950s sci-fi and
exploitation films, including some as a part of producer/director
Roger Corman's familiar stock company. These include "Hot
Car Girl," "Night of the Blood Beast" and "Attack of the
Giant Leeches," all directed by Bernard L. Kowalski and
produced by Roger and Gene Corman.
McVey, who began his screen career with an uncredited
part in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," also worked extensively
in television, appearing in such series as "Gunsmoke," "Dragnet,"
"I Love Lucy," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Perry Mason,"
"Maverick," "Wagon Train," "Sea Hunt," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,"
"Daniel Boone," "Highway to Heaven" and many others. His
final role was in director Burt Kennedy's 1974 made-for-TV
western, "Sidekicks," which starred Larry Hagman and Louis
Gossett Jr., and boasted a "who's who" of familiar supporting
players, including Jack Elam, Harry Morgan, Gene Evans,
Noah Beery Jr. and Denver Pyle.
Character actor Carlos Rivas has died of prostate cancer.
He was 78. Although Rivas appeared in many "A" productions
during the 1950s and '60s, including "The King and I," Alfred
Hitchcock's "Topaz" and the John Wayne westerns, "True Grit
and "The Undefeated," cult-film fans will remember him best
for roles in a pair of films associated with stop-motion
animation pioneer Willis O'Brien; "Beast of Hollow Mountain"
and "Black Scorpion." Rivas also appeared in "Madmen of
Mandoras." Director David Bradley used large portions of
this low-budget thriller in his cobbled-together cult classic
"They Saved Hitler's Brain." Among Rivas' other film credits
are "The Unforgiven," "Tarzan and the Valley of Gold" and
producer George Pal's "Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze." Rivas
also worked extensively in television, appearing in such
series as "Zorro," "Cheyenne," "Gunsmoke," "Daniel Boone,"
"Mannix" and "The A-Team." He was also one of the founders
of "Nosotros," an organization that worked to improve the
image of Hispanics in the entertainment industry.
Japanese actor Ren Yamamoto died following a cerebral apoplexy.
He was 73. Yamamoto appeared in many of the early Japanese
giant monster films made by the Toho studio in the 1950s
and '60s. These include the original 1954 "Gojira," (which
was released in the United States as "Godzilla"), "Gigantis,
The Fire Monster," "Mothra," "King Kong vs. Godzilla," "Rodan,
The Flying Monster," "Frankenstein Conquers the World" and
others. His final screen appearance was in "The Battle of
Okinawa," filmed in 1971.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
"CRAWLING HAND" STAR MAINTAINS INNOCENCE
Former actor Rod Lauren, star of director Herbert L. Strock's
cult-horror classic "The Crawling Hand," was recently arrested
in Sacramento, Calif., by U.S. marshals. Lauren, whose real
name is Roger Lawrence Strunk, is wanted by authorities
in the Philippines who suspect he may be implicated in the
murder of his wife of 22 years, Filipino actress Nida Blanca.
Blanca, aka Dorothy Jones, was found stabbed to death in
her car in November. 2001. Strunk had moved from his home
in the Philippines to the United States after an initial
investigation appeared to vindicate him. The Philippine
National Bureau of Investigation continued to seek evidence
and, according to a State Prosecutor, Strunk remained the
primary suspect, based largely on circumstantial evidence
and statements from family members. An umbrella Strunk carried
was found in Blanca's car after the murder, but, according
to a witness, it had not been there earlier in the evening.
Blanca's daughter claims that Strunk may have been angered
by Blanca's refusal to continue sharing her money with him.
Strunk has maintained his innocence throughout, telling
a television interviewer, "Being a husband, I was a target.
I have nothing to do with this. I couldn't think of such
a thing. I'm not clever enough." A U.S. District Court in
Sacramento denied Strunk's bail petition, and sources believe
he will be extradited to the Philippines. Philippine authorities
say they now have a stronger case against Strunk, including
proof that he hired Philip Medel to kill Blanca. Early in
the investigation Medel admitted to killing Blanca, but
later withdrew his confession in an animated court appearance.
During the hearing, Medel collapsed into semi-consciousness
several times, claiming he had been tortured into confessing
and begging authorities to "Kill me now." Medel is now on
trial for murder and has entered a plea of "not guilty."
THE FIRST NOEL MEMOIR
Our buddy, Jim Nolt, one of the world's premier chroniclers
of all things related to the classic George Reeves "Adventures
of Superman" TV series wants one and all to know that, even
though he is no longer issuing his regular e-mail and print
"The Adventures Continue" newsletter, his Web site continues
to be updated regularly with news of interest to the program's
devotees. Thanks to Jim's well-known devotion, it's just
about the best repository of knowledge regarding the series
available anywhere. For instance, Larry Ward only recently
published an authorized biography of Noel Neill aka Lois
Lane. Noel and Larry Ward will sign each copy that is purchased
through Jim's "The Adventures Continue" site:
And, according to Jim, "Randy Garrett continues to favor
us with his wonderful rendition of 'Superman and the Secret
Planet,' using the 1957 script for the feature film that
was never produced. Randy's version includes many of our
favorite character actors from the series in new roles.
I'm sure you'll enjoy it." If you are as yet unfamiliar
with "The Adventures Continue," speed like a bullet to:
And tell 'em without hesitation that the B Monster sent
ALL SINGING! ALL DANCING! ALL "DEAD!"
Fan's of director Sam Raimi's trilogy of "Evil Dead" films
might consider a trip to Toronto where they can catch the
debut of "Evil Dead 1 & 2: The Musical." The stage show
based on Raimi's low-budget horror flicks will debut August
14 at Toronto's Tranzac Theater. According to director Chris
Bond, "The trilogy delves further and further into farce
and camp ... turning them into a musical was just the next
logical step." StudioCanal and Anchor Bay Entertainment,
who control the rights to the film properties, enthusiastically
sanctioned the production, which features such show-stoppers
as "Cabin in the Woods" and "Do the Necromonacon!" The show
is being staged by Beyond Chutleigh Productions, a Kingston,
Ontario, theater company that, according to publicity, is
composed of "up-and coming theatre professionals with the
mandate of promoting work by emerging directors and creating
diverse and unique performance pieces in unconventional
venues." For more information check out:
And, by all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Bowing to pressure from some Asian-American groups, the
Fox Movie Channel abruptly canceled their Charlie Chan Film
Festival. According to sources, the groups feel that the
Chan films depict Asians and Asian-Americans in a negative
way. The Fox Movie Channel had planned to show 24 of the
Charlie Chan films that were restored two years ago. Die-hard
Chan fans say this decision will likely prevent the classic
Chan films from ever being released on DVD.
The following is from a Fox Movie Channel statement: "Originally
restored to meet the requests of mystery fans and film preservation
buffs, Fox Movie Channel scheduled these films in a showcase
intended to illustrate the positive aspects of these movies
such as the complex story lines [and] characters and Charlie
Chan's great intellect. Additionally, numerous subscribers
to Fox Movie Channel, as well as film historians, have long
requested that Fox Movie Channel broadcast these films.
However, Fox Movie Channel has been made aware that the
Charlie Chan films may contain situations or depictions
that are sensitive to some viewers. Fox Movie Channel realizes
that these historic films were produced at a time where
racial sensitivities were not as they are today. As a result
of the public response to the airing of these films, Fox
Movie Channel will remove them from the schedule."
In a letter to FMC's Senior Vice President and General
Manager Mark Devitre, Dr. Howard Berlin, author of "The
Charlie Chan film Encyclopedia" and "Charlie Chan's Words
of Wisdom," stated, "I think that you and your firm have
taken a hypocritical position in bowing to pressure from
Asian groups who point to only the few negative aspects
of perhaps the most popular series of Hollywood's golden
age but condone many of the stereotypes that are staples
in many of today's Kung Fu-like movies. The real gripe here
is that the older Chan movies had a non-Oriental actor in
the lead role and ignores that the movies highlight the
positive side of Oriental culture, much of which the rest
of the world could profit from ... I am also sure that many
[fans] will now scrutinize each of your future film offerings
to see if you waver from your hypocrisy and will remind
you of the day you pulled the plug on Charlie Chan." According
to the "Tory's Mystery Movies Newsletter," the channel's
Chan message board was inundated with pro-Chan sentiments.
FMC later amended its initial statement to indicate that
the Chan film's had been suspended and could be rescheduled
depending on feedback from its viewers.
The B Monster grew up watching the classic Chan films
and continues to enjoy them. In every one of them, Charlie
is depicted as the smartest guy on the screen. This is a
BAD thing? True, white men portrayed the Asian detective
(twice, in silent films, Chan was played by Asian actors),
but white actors were also cast as bungling foils who interfered
with Chan's investigations, serving to showcase Charlie's
Vintage movie mystery buffs and Chan advocates are urging
fans to convey their opinions at:
TWIN CITY TERROR
Not so long ago, the B monster told you all about Thom Lange
and his labor of love, "Horror Incorporated." Lange writes,
co-produces and co-hosts the program screening vintage horror
flicks every Saturday on Minneapolis' KSTC TV FORTY5 at
3:00 p.m. and midnight. Lange and company garnered some
positive press recently in an article appearing in Minneapolis'
Sun newspapers. Lange relates how he grew up in the 1970's
watching the locally produced "Horror Incorporated," never
dreaming that he would one day host the show himself. Lange,
aka "Uncle Ghoulie," and partner Tim McCall had been collaborators
in local theater for many years as well as working together
in video production. Eventually, the two produced a feature-length
film. A friend introduced the pair to the station manager
at KSTC. "We met with KSTC.TV FORTY5 and put together a
10-minute intro tape showing what we do," Lange told the
Sun. "That tape included a trailer for the movie we had
made." The station decided to air the film. It drew a sizable
audience, and they were offered the "Horror Incorporated"
gig. Lange predicts that regional "horror hosts," long a
staple of local late-night TV, are making a comeback. "The
whole horror host thing has been a dying breed, but now
you're seeing a big resurgence across the country." Find
out more at:
BLOB STILL STALKS THE COLONIAL
The Fourth Annual BlobFest, held in Phoenixville, Pa., a
one-time steel town just outside Philadelphia, drew several
hundred devotees who took part in a re-enactment of the
"The Blob's" climactic scene. When the signal was given,
the crowd that had packed into the historic Colonial Theater
came bounding out the front door, fleeing the deadly Blob
just as cast members had done in the classic 1958 film.
Mary Foote, executive director of the Association for the
Colonial Theatre, told the AP, "Every year this event has
taken on a life of its own ... I'm glad so many people came
out for it." Attendees were attired in everything from 1950s
greaser garb to gorilla suits. (One enthusiast was dressed
as game show personality Kitty Carlisle.) Of course, screenings
of the film are a part of BlobFest, as are classic cars
and vintage music. Best of all, the original Blob -- that
is, the prop used in the film -- is displayed by its owner,
science fiction fan and movie memorabilia collector, Wes
FANATICS CAREY ON THE LEGEND
How esoteric can cult-film fans get? There is a considerable
audience devoted to the work of Timothy Carey, a compelling
and truly unusual character actor perhaps best known for
his disturbing performances in the Stanley Kubrick classics
"The Killing" and "Paths of Glory." No actor's career wandered
the film map like Carey's. From "Poor White Trash" to "One
Eyed Jacks" to "Chesty Anderson, USN" to "Beach Blanket
Bingo," he also appeared in several episodes of "Columbo,"
the Monkee's experimental "Head," Elvis Presley's nadir
"Change of Habit," and worked with maverick filmmaker John
Cassavetes. There is a fanatical following devoted to "The
World's Greatest Sinner," a truly bizarre, nearly indescribable
1962 film Carey wrote, directed and starred in. It chronicles
the life of a salesman who leaves his job, enters politics
and cultivates a following that refer to him as "God." A
film so offbeat would have to spawn a following, so it naturally
follows that there would be a "World's Greatest Sinner Timothy
Carey Film Fest." Hosted by Romeo Carey, the fest took place
recently at the Maestri Gallery in Bakersfield, Calif. "Actor
Timothy Carey worked with Dean, Brando, Cassavetes, Zappa
and more," says festival publicity, "but his own rare films
are known worldwide for their unique vision and incredible
strangeness!" The Carey-fest marked the Bakersfield Alternative
Movie Society's 21st presentation. For information on future
events, e-mail: BakAlt@yahoo.com
MTI BACK WITH "ARACHNIA"
MTI Home Video recently sent out an alert that after a 12-year
hiatus, they're back in the horror film biz. The announcement
is accompanied by their release of "Arachnia," a new film
from director Brett Piper, whose name has been associated
with such minor cult-classics as "Psyclops," "They Bite"
and a dubious 1986 collaboration with producer/director
Sam Sherman, "Raiders of the Living Dead." According to
hype, "Arachnia" is the "film, where grad students become
spider food." Look for an August 5, 2003, release.
BLACK LAGOON BIRTHDAY BASH
Can't get enough of "The Creature?" The Tallahassee Film
Society, promoters of Creaturefest, offer you the opportunity
to fill your gills with all things Creature-related at their
one-of-a-kind gathering billed as "The Creature From the
Black Lagoon/Wakulla Springs Film Event," featuring "Ben
Chapman and Ricou Browning together ... for the 50th anniversary
of the filming."
Guests of honor include:
Ben Chapman (Original Gill Man in all land-based sequences)
Ricou Browning (Underwater Gill Man and surrogate father
Julie Adams (The lovely object of the Gill Man's affection)
Ginger Stanley (Adams' swimming stuntwoman and a former
Wekie Wachie Mermaid)
In addition to film screenings, autographing and meet
and greet opportunities, festival highlights include a twilight
river cruise touring the locations where the Creature films
and Tarzan pictures were shot and a special VIP, "creature-themed"
dinner (Rotenone on your salad, sir?) with Ben, Ricou, Julie
and Ginger in the fabulous Wakulla Lodge dining room. (These
features are available to VIP pass holders who have ponied
up the $50 VIP fee.)
You have plenty of time to plan, as the festivities don't
commence until November 7th, 2003. For more information
Or call (850) 386-4404
By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON DVD
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA
Say what you will about corporate monolith Disney, but when
it comes to giving their classic works the DVD treatment,
nobody does it better. For instance, we'd love to review
their spectacular "Davy Crocket" set, but it falls a little
beyond the B Monster's purview. However, their two-disc
"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" package is right up our street,
and it is no less amazing. They've put more loving care
into creating an eye-popping, inviting, easily navigable
DVD interface than most filmmakers put into the actual movies.
Hunting and pecking is half the fun, and the incredible
extras that comprise this set will keep you entertained
There is a "making of" featurette that's as informative
as any documentary we've seen concerning genre-films. It
chronicles the film's genesis from its beginnings as an
embryonic idea of production designer Harper Goff, through
Disney's desire to transform the classic story into an animated
feature and finally, its complicated execution as one of
the most ambitious live-action films of its time. Goff,
matte artist Peter Ellenshaw (whose paintings, profiled
in some detail in the film, are jaw-dropping), director
Richard Fleischer and others appear on camera with eloquent
recollections. Especially entertaining and informative are
Kirk Douglas and collector/historian Bob Burns, whose trove
of behind-the-scenes knowledge is an ongoing source of amazement.
We also get to see the famed, "sunset squid fight," which
Disney deemed unsatisfactory (wires and cables are clearly
visible, and the squid appears rigid and unwieldy.) He ordered
it re-shot, this time in a raging storm. There's also a
guided tour of the Nautilus, one of filmdom's most memorable
and truly unique props, as well as a featurette called "Jules
Verne and Walt Disney: Explorers of the Imagination," which
compares the lives and contributions of the two visionaries.
Want more? There's footage of the Humboldt Squid (a real-life
giant of the deep), a Disney studio album, unfilmed script
excerpts, a production gallery, cartoons, trailers and audio
extras that include original radio spots, snippets of Peter
Lorre's looping session, Captain Nemo's organ music and
commentary from Fleischer and author Rudy Behlmer.
Oh, yeah, the movie's not bad, either. We all know the
story of the enigmatic, world-hating Captain Nemo, his abhorrence
of war-mongering men and his search for sanctuary beneath
the sea. The film embellishes Jules Verne's original narrative
-- thank God! (Fleischer describes in the documentary how
he was "appalled" to discover upon reading the book that
there was absolutely NO plot). Screenwriter Earl Felton
wisely reckoned that "20,000 Leagues" should resemble "a
prison-break picture," and proceeded to fashion a compelling
script that places sailor Ned Land, Prof. Pierre Arronax
and his assistant Conseil at the mercy of Nemo, prisoners
aboard his undersea ship. James Mason is terrific as the
brooding Captain, as is Kirk Douglas as the irascible seadog
Ned. But the real star of the film is the Nautilus. Few
film props can be deemed truly "timeless," but I think this
DOCTOR OF DOOM/WRESTLING WOMEN VS. THE AZTEC MUMMY
Let's browse through the musty catalog of video categories.
What am I in the mood for? There are B-movies. There are
horror B-movies. There are Mexican B-movies. There are Mexican
horror B-movies. There are Mexican wrestling B-movies. There
are Mexican wrestling horror B-movies. There are Mexican
wrestling WOMEN horror B-movies. That's the one! Just what
the doctor ordered. In this case, the "Doctor of Doom."
For those as yet unfamiliar with the Mexican wrestling horror
sub-genre, we can think of no finer initiation than this
feckless frolic of a film. It is one of many imported by
master salesman and schlockmeister K. Gordon Murray in the
early 1960s. While we make no claims to specialization in
this very special film category, a quick primer for the
uninitiated is warranted: All of the Mexican Bs seem to
star the same actors and were apparently all made by the
same director, producer, writer and crew. More significantly,
they all have essentially the same plot. (Mad doctor murders
women. Wrestlers to the rescue.) They were played relentlessly
on the late, late show throughout the early 1960s.
Neither "Doctor of Doom" nor "Wrestling Women vs. the
Aztec Mummy" strays very far from the very sketchy premise
outlined above. In the former, there is indeed a crazed
medico bent on transplanting the brain of an ape into the
body of a woman. I'm not exactly sure why. Failure after
failure ensues until he finds a female body strong enough
to endure the surgery. Yep, a woman wrestler! Only with
the aid of the voluptuous Gloria Venus and the ravishing
Golden Rubi can the feckless police force stop the murderer's
rampage. The second tier of this double bill features the
same pair of body-slamming babes going toe-to-toe with a
Fu Manchuish madman who's after ancient Aztec treasure.
(With a title like "Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy,"
do you really need a more detailed synopsis?) Both films
feature the formidable feminine attributes of Lorena Valazquez
and Elizabeth Campbell as Venus and Rubi, respectively.
This disk is part of Something Weird Video's "K. Gordon
Murray Collection" available through Image Entertainment,
and a significant highlight is the edifying booklet included
in this "special edition." "The Wonder World of K. Gordon
Murray" is an amusingly illuminating article, much of it
culled from cult-film expert Charles Kilgore's "Ecco" magazine.
Kilgore writes with wit and clarity of Murray's life and
career in exploitation cinema, and the piece is punctuated
by the recollections of master exploitationist David F.
This is the 1963 Robert Wise version, not by any stretch
to be confused with the wretched and misguided overhaul
that appeared a couple of years ago. It's just one of the
best spooky movies ever made. It pulls no punches, offers
no natural explanations for the supernatural phenomena that
occurs; it takes its ghosts very seriously, even though
the film is leavened with just a touch of wry humor. The
first time I saw the film (on television, long after its
theatrical release), at its conclusion, I felt compelled
to switch on a sitcom, a documentary, a newscast -- anything
that felt "less real" than the eerie claustrophobia created
by "The Haunting." Should you watch the film with anyone
born post-"Exorcist," you'll likely witness a different
reaction on their part; perhaps an inappropriate "seen-it-all"
chuckle, or a blase "not bad for its time." But I'd like
to be a fly on the wall as they watched it alone in a darkened
room. I'm betting that their less-jaded, truer colors would
show. By now, the ghost-hunter premise -- housebound psychic
investigators exploring the supernatural -- is timeworn,
but rarely has it been done better.
Wise's direction is deft and unfussy; there are few gimmicky
shots (the famous "breathing door" is a notable exception)
and together with cinematographer Davis Boulton he renders
a dreadful atmosphere with the simplest of strokes. In large
measure, the burden of convincing the audience falls on
the shoulders of a very small cast: Richard Johnson, Claire
Bloom, Russ Tamblyn and especially Julie Harris. They approach
the material with conviction. They seem like real people,
and Nelson Gidding's clever script supplies them with dialogue
that rings authentic. They say things that real people might
say. Simplicity and authenticity as opposed to computer
graphics and jingoistic catch phrases. Real people versus
malevolent ghosts. That's what makes "The Haunting" so doggone
scary. That could be ME trapped in that house!
HOUSE OF WAX
This is the movie that exploited 3-D best, packed with memorable
scenes that utilize the gimmick to maximum effect -- wax
statues decomposing and tumbling forward in the catastrophic
fire, the cloaked cadaver-snatcher stalking Phyllis Kirk
through gas-lit New York, Vincent Price's disfigured mug
in close-up and, of course, Reggie Rymal's paddle balls.
Interestingly, the film was directed by Andre de Toth, who
had only one eye and couldn't appreciate the effect. (At
a screening at the American Film Institute attended by the
B Monster, the bespectacled audience emitted an audible
"oooh!" when the eye-popping titles hit the screen.) But
the true test is this: Strip away all the 3-D gimmickry,
the in-your-face visual starts that had that AFI audience
hopping, and you've still got one snappy, scary little movie.
Based on the once-lost horror classic "Mystery of the
Wax Museum," a spectacularly grisly exercise (for 1933)
filmed in primitive Technicolor by Michael Curtiz and starring
Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Glenda Farrell, "House of Wax"
could be dismissed simply as a remake with 3-D paddle balls.
But keep in mind, the original was then thought "lost,"
and Warner Brothers reckoned (correctly) that its premise
was well-suited to 3-D exploitation. "House of Wax" isn't
better or worse than "Mystery of the Wax Museum," it's just
different in significant ways. The 1953 film is able to
amplify different aspects of the story just by virtue of
the personalities of the lead actors. Vincent Price is a
far more tragic figure than Lionel Atwill could EVER be.
Don't get me wrong, Lionel Atwill is a B Monster favorite
-- but he's Lionel Atwill! There's only so much sympathy
one can muster for one so gleefully deranged. Price is more
a romantic than a wacko, his cultured delivery lending great
legitimacy to his tragedy.
The 1933 original was set in contemporary New York and
audiences identified with feisty firecracker Glenda Farrell
whose rapid-fire one-liners provided welcome relief from
the grim goings on. "House of Wax" is a period piece, however,
and even though Kirk and Carolyn Jones look like the very
contemporary 1950s ingenues they are, there's no slang or
snappy patter to alleviate the suspense. Paul Picerni is
a standout as the aspiring sculptor and de facto hero of
the piece, and crusty, tenacious Frank Lovejoy is -- no
matter WHAT period the film is set in -- crusty, tenacious
So, Atwill or Price? Primitive Technicolor or 3-D? "Mystery"
or "House?" It's apples and oranges, really. Just be thankful
that, as is so often the case with remakes, we didn't end
up with a lemon.
Spoiler warning! Let's get the obvious out of the way. We
all know what Soylent Green is made from. Charlton Heston's
over-the-top, climactic declamation is one of several elements
that ensures this film's cult status. Based on a Harry Harrison
novel, "Soylent Green" is an effective treatise on overpopulation
set in the New York of 2022 that hosts some 40 million under-fed
residents. (That's less than 19 years away! Better get busy,
New Yorkers!) Heston is Detective Robert Thorn, who uncovers
the secret ingredients of Soylent Green, the only foodstuff
plentiful enough to feed so many starving maws. (Another
spoiler warning: Colonel Sander's seven herbs and spices
are NOT a part of the recipe.) Thorn's mentor is elderly
Sol Roth, effectively played by Edward G. Robinson in his
final screen appearance. Robinson's performance is the heart
of the movie and the scene depicting his demise -- in a
voluntary euthanasia chamber -- is genuinely moving and
a highlight of the film (made more poignant by the fact
that Robinson died prior to the film's release, and was
awarded a posthumous Oscar for lifetime achievement).
In fact, a very interesting cast is one of the best reasons
to watch "Soylent Green," as it features Joseph Cotten,
Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, former Tarzan Mike Henry, even
Whit Bissell in a smallish role. Director Richard Fleischer
was no stranger to large-scale sci-fi, having helmed "20,000
Leagues Under the Sea" and "Fantastic Voyage." With Richard
H. Kline behind the camera, and photographic effects by
Matthew Yuricich and Robert R. Hoag (Hoag had worked with
George Pal on several productions), Fleischer presents a
convincing depiction of our overcrowded future. Some hail
"Soylent Green" as a classic. It's just shy of "classic"
status, but well worth examination.
THE DEVIL COMMANDS
This is arguably the least seen and very best non-Universal
Karloff film. Its release on DVD is long overdue (thanks,
Columbia!) and anyone passingly familiar with the Karloff
canon who has not had the opportunity to see this film is
in for a real treat. Studio notwithstanding, it's one of
Boris' best showcases. Karloff plays Dr. Julian Blair, a
mad but well-meaning scientist obsessed with communicating
with his dead spouse. To achieve this, he assembles a round
table of the recently deceased and, surrounded by laboratory
equipment of his own design, holds an electronic seance.
This premise may sound strained, but the otherworldly feel
created by director Edward Dmytryk and cinematographer Allen
G. Siegler is as chilling as anything concocted for the
classic Universal thrillers. (Siegler was a Columbia studios
workhorse with hundreds of films to his credit including
entries in the Blondie, Whistler, Lone Wolf and Three Stooges
series. He also photographed the underrated Karloff thriller
"The Black Room," as well as the low-budget "Journey to
the Center of the Earth" knockoff, "The Unknown World.")
Karloff is convincing, as always, as the tortured scientist.
This is the period in his career when he played essentially
the same melancholy medico in rather bland and low-budget
shockers like "The Ape," "Before I Hang" and "The Man with
Nine Lives." (In addition to these titles, he also appeared
in "Black Friday," "British Intelligence," the horror/comedy
"You'll Find Out" and two "Mr. Wong" flicks ALL in 1940!)
But 1941's "The Devil Commands" is head and shoulders above
any film he made the previous year. One gets the feeling
that all involved really cared about this one.
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, 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/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"Wherever you sit it watches you and makes you part of
the show!" -- The Hypnotic Eye