DAVIS B MONSTERPIECES
Fearsome, fabulous, retro-tastic, Jack Davis B Monster collectibles!
Posters, shirts, sweats, mugs, mousepads and more, all graced
by the B Monster brand and the lurid, lovely artwork of
the cartoon dean of the monster scene, illustration legend,
Jack Davis! Get yours NOW at the B Monster's decidedly reasonable
prices, or risk the day when e-Bay mercenaries artificially
jack the prices beyond affordability! As always, the B Monster
donates a portion of his proceeds to Childhelp USA:
Prolific, multi-award winning film composer Jerry Goldsmith
has died following a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
Goldsmith studied music theory and composition with Mario
Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and learned film composition from Miklos
Rozsa at the University of Southern California. In the early
1950s, Goldsmith got a job as a clerk at CBS, which eventually
led to his first assignments scoring radio and television
programs. Genre-TV fans will recognize Goldsmith's work
from "The Twilight Zone" and "Thriller" series.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he broke into feature
film work, supplying scores for such movies as "Black Patch,"
"City of Fear" and "Lonely Are the Brave." Goldsmith assisted
composer Alex North on the 1965 film "The Agony and The
Ecstasy." When North turned down the job of scoring "The
Sand Pebbles," citing the film as too violent, he recommended
Goldsmith. The big budget film starring Steve McQueen and
directed by Robert Wise was Goldsmith's big break.
Among the many subsequent films with Goldsmith soundtracks
are "In Like Flint," "Planet of the Apes." "Bandolero!"
"The Illustrated Man," "Patton," "Rio Lobo," "Chinatown,"
"The Omen," "Alien," "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," "Poltergeist,"
"Gremlins," "Total Recall," "L.A. Confidential," "The Mummy,"
"The Sum of All Fears" and "Looney Tunes: Back in Action."
In all, Goldsmith scored over 300 film and television programs.
He was nominated for Academy Awards 18 times. His score
for "The Omen" won the Oscar for Best Music, Original Score
of 1976. He also won four Emmy Awards and was nominated
for nine Golden Globes.
Said film historian Bob Burns, "I lost one of my real
heroes. Jerry Goldsmith was the best. I feel like I lost
one of my best friends." Director Joe Dante offered the
B Monster the following tribute to Goldsmith:
I really can't put into words what Jerry Goldsmith meant
to me, both professionally and personally. If I could write
music, maybe I'd do a sonata.
Simply put, Jerry was probably the most talented individual
I have ever worked with. His mile-long list of credits is
astonishing in both its complexity and variety, from his
early TV scores through his feature compositions and concert
music. I used to kid him about "Black Patch," his first
feature score, which I first heard when it was new in 1957,
because it contains signature orchestrations and themes
that run throughout his work.
We developed a sort of aural shorthand over the years
in regard to which parts of a movie needed and didn't need
music; where the music should come in and where it should
go out. I would track in a lot of very eclectic temp music
(never by Jerry) and he would glean exactly what I was looking
for, responding with sonics that completely erased the memory
of the temp track despite the fact we'd gotten so used to
I learned the severity of his illness at the first scoring
session on "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," a problem-plagued
project which required a great deal of mathematically precise
music which would not have come easily even if Jerry had
been in normal health. His dedication and exhausting work
on this, his last score, was nothing short of courageous.
His last days were painful and frustrating because he could
no longer do what he loved best, compose music.
Whenever things got a little rocky during the shoot, I'd
always say, "Don't worry, Jerry will save it." I'm sure
I'm not the only director who ever said it. But now I'm
the last. And the world of movies has lost one of its greatest
artists. But we still have the music. And we always will.
Director Irvin S. Yeaworth, best known for such cult-film
classics as "The Blob" and Dinosaurus!," died in an automobile
accident in Jordan. He apparently fell asleep at the wheel,
according to his wife. He was 78. Born in Berlin, Germany,
Yeaworth began his entertainment career in radio, singing
(at age 10) on the first commercial radio station, KDKA
in Pittsburgh, Pa. He later became a radio and TV producer.
His first feature film, "Twice Convicted," was shot in Chester
Springs, Pa., in the early 1950s. He directed three sci-fi
films in the late '50s/early '60s ("The Blob", "4D Man"
and "Dinosaurus!"), then went back to his first love: making
religious movies (including some with Billy Graham). Yeaworth
made more than 400 films with religious or social themes.
He went on to a career designing World's Fair and theme
park displays and pavilions.
He was in Jordan completing work on the Jordanian Experience
at the Aqaba Gateway, an entertainment complex that Yeaworth
hoped would help bridge the cultural gap between Arabs and
Israelis. For more than 25 years, the deeply religious Yeaworth
led Bible tours of the Middle East. According to his wife,
he hoped to bring more attention to Biblical sites of historical
significance in Jordan. The Jordanian Experience was scheduled
to open next month. Just a week before Yeaworth's death,
promoters staged the annual "BlobFest" at the Colonial Theatre
in Phoenixville, Pa., where the scene of screaming moviegoers
fleeing the oozing "Blob" was shot. Though it had been years
since his days a sci-fi filmmaker, and he had accomplished
much through his missionary wok, Yeaworth told his wife
that "the Blob is going to follow me to the grave."
Voice-over artist Jackson Beck, perhaps best known for the classic "It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" radio introduction, died from complications that followed a series of strokes suffered five years ago. He was 92. As the spokesman for such products as Sugar Frosted Flakes, GI Joe, Pepsi, Brawny paper towels, Combat insect killer and Aqua Fresh toothpaste, Beck's voice was ubiquitous to radio and television audiences. The son of silent film actor, Max Beck, he not only introduced and narrated the classic "Superman" radio show, but played various villains and supporting characters, as well, including Beany, the Daily Planet copyboy.
Beck also served as the announcer for the pioneering "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet" television program. According to "Space Cadet" co-star, Jan Merlin, "Jackson became a fine friend, and was a regular at card games with various radio and TV folk. His laughter and jokes were traded with all the other well-known comedians, such as Arnold Stang, Henry Morgan and Minerva Pious. He was gracious enough to help me unload some kittens of mine to homes filled with show folk like himself. I most enjoyed working with him when he'd add to his announcement duties on the 'Tom Corbett, Space Cadet' TV and radio shows by playing roles in a few of the episodes, sometimes doubling by changing his voice for an additional role in the same episode. We had the pleasure of seeing one another after forty years, when we did an original cast re-creation of a 'Space Cadet' radio episode for the 1993 SPERDVAC Old Time Radio convention in Newark, N.J."
Beck was also the voice of Bluto in more than 300 "Popeye" cartoons. He later performed voice-over for the Woody Allen features, "Take the Money and Run" and "Radio Days," and was heard on "Saturday Night Live."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
"LEGACY COLLECTIONS" ON THE WAY
The queries have been many and the answer is "yes." There
will be "Monster Legacy Collections" for the Creature from
the Black Lagoon, The Mummy and The Invisible Man. Universal
Home Video is set to release them October 5. The Mummy collection
will include the "The Mummy," (the Karloff original, of
course!) "The Mummy's Hand," "The Mummy's Tomb" and "The
Mummy's Curse." The Invisible Man collection will feature
the James Whale-directed Claude Rains original, along with
"The Invisible Man Returns," starring Vincent Price, "Invisible
Agent" and "The Invisible Woman." The Creature Collection
will feature the "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "Revenge
of the Creature" and "The Creature Walks Among Us." Film
historian and invaluable B Monster correspondent, Tom Weaver,
accompanied by star Lori Nelson and Creature authority Bob
Burns, only recently recorded audio commentary for "Revenge,"
and, with actor Gregg Palmer, taped an audio track for "Walks
Among Us." More details to come. Stay tuned!
PORTRAIT OF BELA
Heritage Movie Poster Auctions recently auctioned off a
portrait of Bela Lugosi that "hung in a place of honor in
Lugosi's home for many years, until his death," according
to auctioneers. The 47" x 61" oil on canvas portrait was
painted by Hungarian artist Geza Kende in the early 1930s,
and depicts the actor as a young, swarthy, nattily dressed
man with a bit of a sneer on his face. "On the back of the
canvas," reads the description, "Bela Lugosi has signed
his name in pencil with an illegible inscription above the
signature. This painting, which is offered in its original
frame, has had some expert conservation work performed upon
it, and is beautifully preserved. It will make a marvelous
centerpiece to any film aficionado's collection." Offered
along with the painting is a funeral plaque that was on
view when the actor was laid to rest. "We expect the painting
to bring close to $100,000, or more," said Heritage director,
Grey Smith. There were 14 bids in all. The painting sold
"Space Patrol" historian and cadet emeritus, Jean-Noel Bassior,
reports that "Space Patrol," published by McFarland
& Co., "is on track for publication this fall." Says
Bassior, addressing fellow "Space Patrol" enthusiasts, "I
want to thank everyone once again for your incredible input
into this book. Without your comments, it wouldn't be complete,
particularly the last chapter, 'Where Have All the Heroes
Gone?,' about what TV was like when we were growing up and
how it has changed." Subtitled "Missions of Daring in the
Name of Early Television," Bassior's nostalgic, informative
tome recounts "a time when the compassionate hero was still
revered, when kids and adults alike drew inspiration from
role models such as The Lone Ranger, Captain Video, Hopalong
Cassidy and Commander Buzz Corry of the Space Patrol. It's
a book about live television, when just about anything could
happen -- and did -- before millions of viewers." In assessing
the show's impact, Bassior points out that after more than
50 years, star Ed Kemmer still receives fan mail from adoring
viewers who were inspired by his portrayal of Buzz Corry.
For more information, visit:
Tell the McFarland folks the B Monster sent you!
TREK'S" SCOTTY HAS ALZHEIMER'S
James Doohan, known and loved the world over as "Star Trek's"
Scotty, is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, according
to the actor's wife, Wende. "With Jimmy it's the loss of
words," she said. "He is not so sick yet that he doesn't
know people. And there are times when he is sharp as a tack.
But it's the older memories that stick. What he had for
breakfast might be an iffy thing, but by golly he could
tell you all about how he got the part on 'Star Trek.' "
Only recently, the 84-year-old actor announced his retirement
from the convention and personal appearance circuit. A special
convention event advertised as "Beam Me Up Scotty, One Last
Time," was held in his honor. Doohan also suffers from Parkinson's
disease, lung fibrosis and diabetes.
I THOUGHT IT WAS "MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN"
Final casting choices have been made, and production is
under way, on NBC Universal Entertainment's "Dean Koontz's
Frankenstein" which will air on the USA Network. Thomas
Kretschmann, whose showiest role to date was as a sympathetic
Nazi officer in director Roman Polanski's "The Pianist,"
will portray Dr. Frankenstein. Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg
and Michael Madsen will co-star. Marcus Nispel (the 2003
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre") will direct, and Martin Scorsese
and Tony Kranz will executive produce Koontz's modern spin
on Mary Shelley's classic. Kretschmann was also added to
the cast of director Peter Jackson's "King Kong" remake.
The German actor's previous genre-film credits include "Blade
II" and Dario Argento's "The Stendhal Syndrome." I know,
you're waiting for the B monster to come down hard on yet
another remake/update/rehash/patchwork project, but having
seen "Van Helsing," I had to ask myself, "could it get any
worse?" They might surprise me.
WILL YOU SEE "SENOR?"
Backlot Pictures is currently preparing "Senor Dracula,"
a film that takes place amid the shooting of the 1930 Spanish-language
"Dracula," which was shot concurrently with the Lugosi version
using the same sets. The Spanish-language cast included
Lupita Tovar as Eva and Carlos Villarías as Dracula.
According to Variety, the film depicts an off-screen romance
between a Hispanic actress and an American actor. Cheech
Marin -- yes THAT Cheech Marin -- will direct.
We alerted you some months back; now, the time draws near.
The Hilton Hotel in beautiful Cherry Hill, N.J., will host
the Monster-Mania convention this August 27-29. Billed as
"three days of sheer terror," the con is in its second year
and boasts an impressive and diverse guest list including:
Candace Hilligoss of "Carnival of Souls" fame
Robert "Count Yorga" Quarry
Ben Chapman, the Creature by land
Ricou Browning, the Creature by sea
Robert "Freddy Kruger" Englund
Ken "Jason" Kirzinger
Sid "Spider Baby" Haig
Betsy Palmer, whom you may remember fondly from "I've Got
Ingrid "Vampire Lovers" Pitt
Caroline "Dracula A.D. 72" Munro
Hazel "Curse of Frankenstein" Court
Robert Tinnell, Todd Livingston and Neil Vokes, co-creators
of "The Black Forest"
Vincent Di Fate, master sci-fi painter and historian
Ted "Deadly Spawn-meister" Bohus
Plus myriad supporting players and assorted victims.
Special event seminars include:
"Hammer: The Studio That Dripped Blood" with Ms. Pitt, Ms.
Court and Ms. Munro,
"Legends of the Silver Screen, hosted by Tom Weaver," featuring
Ms. Hilligoss, Mr. Browning and Mr. Chapman
"The Women of Modern Horror" with Ms. Palmer, Danielle Harris
and Lisa Wilcox
A special tribute to Vincent Price called "Remembering the
Master" And much more.
For more info, check out:
Leave no doubt as to who sent you!
Our old pal Dr. Gangrene's live Chiller Cinema Spookshow
at Nashville's Bongo Java After Hours Theatre was such a
triumph, it may become a regular haunt for the eerie MD.
"It was a big success ... the owners of Bongo Java [a happenin'
mid-south coffee emporium] want to have us back again for
another show as soon as we're ready!" crows the macabre
medico. While several details are yet to be ironed out,
the next shows are scheduled, appropriately enough, for
Friday, August 13, and Saturday August 14, both commencing
at 10:00 pm. "Mark your calendar," says the Doc, "and come
prepared to be scared out of your wits as we present a classic
horror film and monsters tear through the audience!" For
more info regarding this swingin' Tennessee venue, check
For more about the Doc and his ongoing monster movie missionary
By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
"QUARTERLY'S" NEW EDITION
A brand new issue of "B-Movies Quarterly" is now available.
Produced by the same team of pop-culture wags responsible
for the "Stomp Tokyo" Website and the print collection,
"Reel Shame," issue No. 4 features a one-on-one with Larry
Blamire, director/star of the campy sci-fi homage "The Lost
Skeleton of Cadavra." The cover also promises "Expanding
Universes," "Robot Lobsters" and "Psychotic Santas!" (How's
that for fright-film esoterica?) Copies are available pre-ordered
for $3 postpaid ($5 international) from the Website:
Don't hesitate to mention that the B monster sent you!
Spooklight Entertainment's short film, "FLiP," has been
making the rounds of film fests and monster cons and has
been greeted warmly by members of the "Monster Kid" generation.
According to producer Todd Knowlton, "FLiP" chronicles "the
exploits of eight-year-old Flip, a little boy with a big
imagination, who must decide how best to spend a birthday
dollar which arrives in the mail from his grandmother. Being
a child of the late 1960's, and a fan of monster movies
and comic books, Flip decides his money is best spent on
one of the novelties found in the back of an old comic.
'Six to eight weeks later,' what he receives in the mail
is a far cry from what he imagines during the course of
the short film."
As of this writing, "FLiP" has been named an official selection
of five festivals; The Florida International Children's
Film Festival, The San Diego Comic-Con International Independent
Film Festival, The Dallas Video Festival, and The 2004 Fayetteville
Film Fest, where it was cited as an "Audience Choice" winner.
The work of first-time director Kirk Demarais, "FLiP" originally
debuted as a "Web Toon" on the director's Website. Knowlton
later optioned it for a live-action short. According to
executive producer, Scott Alan Kinney, "This film was written,
filmed, and produced by comic book and monster fans." With
that in mind, you can find out more at:
Make a point of saying the B Monster sent you!
Professor Griffin aka Joseph Fotinos, is the deep South's
pallid presenter of "The Midnight Shadow Show," hosting
classic horror pictures for terrified Texans. Described
as "a journey back to the fright filled late-nights of horror
shows," Griffin's creature features air Fridays at 11:00
pm on Time Warner Cable Channel 16 in Austin, and Sundays
at 11:00 pm as part of the Austin Music Network on Time
Warner Channel 15. According to Website hype, "The Shadow
Show brings its viewers face to face with the monsters,
spectres, phantoms, ghosts, ghouls, vampires, and creatures
that thrill and chill us." The Prof recently sold Forry
Ackerman on the idea of providing the voice of Griffin's
"boss," Prof. Bruno Lampini. "He was overjoyed to read this
opening that I wrote for him which was then taped out in
California," Fotinos told the Austin Chronicle. "Basically
I'm just using the voice track and then I'm going to put
it over this sleek new opening that we've got going." For
more information concerning the gruesome Griffin and his
cadaverous cast mates, check out:
Let the Prof know that The B Monster sent you!
NEW ON CD
FANTASY FILM MUSIC OF GEORGE PAL
Justin Humphreys, author of a forthcoming book on the life
and films of George Pal, offers the following review:
One of the most integral -- and criminally neglected --
elements of George Pal's films is their musical scores. Pal
was, in many ways, an extremely musically inclined man,
and that interest permeates each of his films. Even his
lesser productions -- "Atlantis, The Lost Continent," "The
Power," etc. -- have scores bespeaking a grandeur that the
films themselves almost entirely lack. Particularly in his
Puppetoon shorts, Pal distinguished himself at choosing
exceptional music, and, again, at melding it with images.
(I reiterate, ESPECIALLY in the Puppetoons.) At their best,
Pal's films' scores rank among the finest in fantasy film
La-La Land Records has reissued several outstanding tracks
from Pal's films in their new album, "The Fantasy Film Music
of George Pal." A select few of these cuts -- hitherto,
incredibly rare -- are cause for celebration. Among them
are Leigh Harline's wholly unique Chinese/Western theme
to Pal's "7 Faces of Dr. Lao," and the madcap "Pan's Dance,"
from the same film. Another high point is Miklos Rozsa's
soaring, desperate theme for "The Power," which never sounded
better, its Gypsy cymbalom chords pounding in gorgeous stereophonic
More common, but equally welcome, tracks include Russ
Garcia's excellent, nearly interchangeable music for "The
Time Machine" and "Atlantis," which are represented well
with choice selections, as well as the cheery, appropriately
European theme to "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm."
The CD comes highly recommended, but with a few caveats.
Its liner notes reveal little new information about Pal
or his films (with the exception of some unusual comments
by composers Garcia and Rozsa.) This album also has an excess
of cuts from the dismal "Doc Savage." The disc would have
been infinitely better served with excerpts from Leith Stevens'
immortal "Destination Moon" and "War of the Worlds" scores.
However, considering the Byzantine rights and source material
issues that go into discs such as this, the producers can't
be faulted but so much.
My final suggestion to La-La Land Records: Why not follow
this up with an album of Pal movie SONGS? His films are
splitting at the seams with marvelous tunes, begging to
This album, whatever its slight flaws may be, is one of
the finest releases of Pal's film music yet to come down
the pike. For genre aficionados and soundtrack collectors
alike, it is a reminder that Pal was as gifted an impresario,
as he was a filmmaker.
NEW ON DVD
Historians, critics, fans and friends, can we all now reach
consensus and admit, after all of the hyper-criticism and
retroactive psychological tea-leaf reading, that "Freaks"
just isn't a very good film? Which is not to say that it
isn't significant. It is. Director Tod Browning made a film
about circus freaks starring real circus freaks, mainstreaming
what was typically hidden behind sideshow curtains, and
people have been arguing for nearly 75 years over whether
or not he sought to engender sympathy for them, or simply
exploited them. That the argument is in its eighth decade
is significant. The film was banned in many areas for years.
Its scarcity added to it an undeserved cachet, a "classic"
status it may not have earned.
"Freaks" certainly contains some genuinely chilling moments.
The rain-soaked climax showing the vengeful freaks stalking
their victim, slithering and sliding between muddy wagon
wheels, is truly memorable, and ranks among the creepiest
sequences of the early sound period. Other than this rather
Gothic, shadowy climax, it's a film made seemingly of whole
cloth. It doesn't bear the hallmarks of any studio or "school"
of filmmaking. It is decidedly "non-Hollywood." The cast
is made up predominantly of circus sideshow performers.
Not a lot of mainstream studios -- in this case, MGM --
were putting them in starring roles in those days. The plot,
based on Tod Robbins' "Spurs," is a spurned-lover's-revenge
tale that functions pretty much as an excuse to show ...
freaks! It's a very thin premise and barely sustains the
brief 64-minute run time.
Who did Browning think would want to see this picture?
Those truly concerned with the inner natures of disfigured
circus performers and their yearning for acceptance? Those
who might re-examine society's doctrinaire standards of
outer beauty? Or those who simply want to gawk at freaks?
In the final analysis, it all comes back to this. Scholars
more enlightened than I will continue debating whether or
not Tod Browning was strangely drawn to deformity and physical
abnormality (after all, his best films were his silent features
displaying Lon Chaney's gallery of grotesques), whether
he simply enjoyed the company of carny folk and wanted us
to understand them better (if so, why the decidedly freakish
scene at the dinner table, the freaks mindlessly chanting
"gooble, gobble," over and over to the horror of the "normals?"),
or, whether we were just supposed to leer at some unfortunate
people who'd found a way to survive with what nature gave
MONSTER/THE FEAR CHAMBER
I doubt that this disk will be marketed as "The Worst of
Boris," but it's an accurate description. This double-bill
will make Karloff completists happy, all others, well ...
Between filming "Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde" and "The Hindu" (both 1953) Karloff managed
to squeeze "Il Mostro dell'isola" (American title "Island
Monster") into his schedule. He shouldn't have bothered.
The film is trivial in every respect. And, there are no
monsters, no supernatural or horror elements of any kind.
Karloff is the symbolic monster living on an island off
the coast of Napoli, Italy. There, he's bamboozled the locals
into thinking he's a kindly pediatrician. His children's
hospital, however, is a front for his drug-smuggling operation.
This is what makes him "monstrous." Filmed under the aegis
of Italy's Paolis Studios, it was reportedly released in
the U.S. only to Italian-language theaters. (They have Italian-language
theaters?) This English-language version may just be the
most poorly dubbed film I've ever seen. It's as though the
voice actors weren't even watching the film they were looping.
The dubbing work on Mexican wrestling pictures is far superior.
One of the central characters is a kidnapped girl, who is
obviously voiced by an adult woman forcing her larynx into
a high-pitched, shrieky register. Worse, it isn't even Karloff
looping his own dialogue! It sounds like Bobby "Boris" Pickett
of "Monster Mash" fame executing a sloppy imitation. The
plot (as it will be charitably called) is a muddle of disjointed
chases and misunderstandings involving an undercover narcotics
agent, his wife and a buxom lounge singer.
And then there's "The Fear Chamber," aka "Chamber of Fear,"
one of that ill-fated batch of Mexican-financed shockers
directed by Jack Hill in the late 1960s. Lurid? The ad blurb
says it all: "In the name of science he created ... The
Torture Zone!" It's exploitative and degrading right from
the opening titles. The storyline involves living rocks
that thrive on human hormones, or something like that. Pity
poor Hill who was delighted to work with the seriously ailing
Karloff, but saw the handful of films they made together
butchered into incoherence by the Mexican side of the production
and editing team. "I had to write the scripts in such a
way that all [Karloff's] scenes could be shot in Hollywood,"
Hill told the B Monster, "with the minimum of actors brought
from Mexico, with sets that wouldn't have to be duplicated
in Mexico. We'd shoot all his scenes in Hollywood and finish
the rest of the picture in Mexico. It was a disaster right
from the beginning." While Hill had the fondest memories
of Karloff, who was then in a wheelchair and breathing with
the aid of an oxygen tank, he recalled that, years later,
he "finally saw one [of the films] on tape and it just broke
my heart to see what they'd done to it in Mexico."
OF ECHOES: SPECIAL EDITION
David Koepp may be best known as a screenwriter ("Jurassic
Park," "Spider-Man," "Panic Room") but he's a pretty fair
director, as well. 1996's "Trigger Effect" was interesting,
"Secret Window" was predictable but entertaining and "Stir
of Echoes," based on Richard Matheson's novel (sharp-eyed
trivia hounds can catch a glimpse of a babysitter reading
a paperback copy of Matheson's "The Shrinking Man" partway
through the film) is pretty darned effective. Somehow, it
got lost in the shuffle of supernatural films that came
out around the end on the millennium, and that's too bad.
Star Kevin Bacon is very good, the pacing is very snappy,
and stretches of it are very suspenseful.
Bacon plays an average Joe named Tom Witzky who is dubious
on the subject of psychic phenomenon in general and hypnotism
in particular. After a few beers, he defies his sister-in-law,
a great believer in the power of the subconscious, to hypnotize
him. She plants a post-hypnotic suggestion that pierces
Bacon's skeptical mindset, and unlocks his hyper-perceptive
id. Before long, he's picking up paranormal signals like
a shortwave antenna, some of them decidedly violent and
unsettling. When he sees the ghost of a neighbor woman who
went missing, he becomes obsessed with deciphering the meaning
of the visions and determining the whereabouts of the woman's
body. Bacon is quite good at conveying this frenzied desperation.
The supporting cast, including Kathryn Erbe and Illeana
Douglas are likewise convincing.
The "Special Edition" features a short film on hypnotism,
a special effects featurette, screen tests, deleted scenes
and audio commentary by Bacon, Erbe and Douglas.
At last count, Jesus Franco has directed roughly 6,000 films
under about 2,000 aliases -- which in an odd coincidence
is also the number of films about mad surgeons who mutilate
innocent women in an attempt to restore the beauty of their
dead, dying, comatose or disfigured wives -- which is what
Franco's 1962 shocker, "The Awful Dr. Orloff," is about.
We don't claim to understand the appeal of Franco's films.
We can overlook their cheapness, tenuous continuity and
wooden acting. But the majority of them are also pandering,
sex-obsessed and sadistic. One generous critic points out
that "The Awful Dr. Orloff" "[strikes] a genuine chord of
Gothic horror reminiscent of the great classics of Universal,
and the silent masterworks of Germany's UFA." That's what
we call an overstatement. Also known as "Gritos en la noche"
(and about 20 other titles), it warranted a 1964 sequel,
known in America as "Dr. Orloff's Monster." Also directed
by Franco, the follow-up features the somewhat less intimidatingly
named Dr. Fisherman, a demented disciple of the late Dr.
Orloff, who stimulates a kill-crazy zombie into action with
the aid of a high-frequency signal. This set also includes
"Orloff and the Invisible Man," (no kiddin'!) and "Revenge
in the House of Usher," a low-rent, Euro-horror take on
the Poe classic. Diehard Euro-horror completists are sure
to add these Spanish- French- German- Italian- Dutch- Romanian-
Latvian- Lichtensteinian- Luxembourgian co-productions to
their collections. Non Euro-horror buffs beware.
Originally released in 1980 as "Harlequin," this Australian
horror/political drama might be described as "The Manchurian
Candidate" meets "The Omen" meets "Jesus of Nazareth." In
fact, star Robert Powell holds the singular distinction
of having played both Jesus and Dr. Frankenstein, the former
in Franco Zefferelli's "Jesus of Nazareth," the latter in
a 1984 TV movie co-starring Carrie Fisher and John Gielgud.
He appeared in the original "Italian Job" and the remake
of Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps," and, for reasons that are
lost on me, Powell won the best actor award at the Paris
Film Festival for his role in "Harlequin" aka "Dark Forces."
It's not that it's a particularly bad performance, but the
film is so muddled and turgid, it's difficult to see why
any panel of judges, no matter how lenient, would bother
to search for virtues in the film.
David Hemmings plays a compromised politician whose marriage
is on the rocks, and whose child is dying of leukemia. A
mysterious stranger, Gregory Wolfe (Powell), endowed with
magical powers appears out of nowhere, heals the child,
and is welcomed by the politician's wife to live with the
family. He becomes a Rasputin-like character, counseling
the wife, nearly seducing her. He's given total freedom
to care for the child, who may or may not be falling under
his influence. Powell assaults and later murders the housekeeper
-- at least I think he does. The movie attempts to be artfully
oblique and mysterious. Well, it's oblique, all right, to
the point where I gave up trying to decipher who was being
killed and why. Director Simon Wincer ("The Phantom," "Operation
Dumbo Drop," "Free Willy") trifles with all manner of artsy
farsty camera trickery. It's distracting, to say the least.
Broderick Crawford, in one of his last roles, plays Doc
Wheelan, the political power broker with a stranglehold
on Hemmings' career. He's the only one in the cast without
an Aussie or Brit accent, even though, based on several
political references in the dialogue, the film would seem
to be taking place in America. Crawford's political string-pulling
is pitted against the strange, supernatural influence of
Powell's character who, I suppose, was called "Harlequin"
because in a scene near the film's climax, he dons a clown
suit and floats around Hemmings' living room. So, who is
Harlequin/Wolfe? Is he devil or guardian angel? Will you
care by the time the "twist" ending rolls around?
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.dinoship.com
"See a woman fight to save her man from becoming a hunted
forest animal!" -- The Werewolf