The big 2000 is just around the corner, and everybody's
counting down the days by naming the best of the year, the
decade, the century, the millennium. Well, we're shameless
enough to jump on the bandwagon. Every day in December,
we'll count down to the year 2000 with a different Top-10
list. Check in every weekday for a salient sampling of 10
indispensible B-movie facts, served up "In No Particular
Now, because you demanded it, we've gathered all the "Wax
Facts" that accompanied our Vincent Price Tribute last month
into one handy list. Fifteen tidbits, trivia and tales related
to the making of "House of Wax." The regular news follows.
1. "Wild effects tests" were shot a few weeks prior to
the start of production; Andre de Toth directed Paul Picerni
(who would play Scott Andrews), "Paddleball Man" Reggie
Rymal and Warners contractee Vera Miles in this test footage.
House of Wax began shooting (under the title The Wax Works)
on January 19, 1953, with scenes shot on the Morgue and
Lower Floor Boarding House sets.
2. According to star Paul Picerni, Vera Miles was considered
for the female lead: "I wanted her to get that part so badly.
I tested with Vera, I assisted her on her test, and I just
adored her -- she was so gorgeous and such a nice girl.
I didn't know Phyllis Kirk at that time, so I really was
rooting for Vera to get the part. Phyllis ended up getting
it, and she was fine, of course."
3. In one early version of the script, Prof. Jarrod (Vincent
Price) is seen alone in the fiery wax museum after his fight
with Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts); his clothes are smoking,
so he dumps a bowl of water over himself. In an effort to
escape the burning building, Jarrod drags a ladder toward
a skylight window, climbs it and smashes some panes. But
by now the foot of the ladder is in flames. Jarrod (his
clothes blazing) tries to pull himself through the opening
he has made in the skylight, but the burning ladder collapses
and he topples backward. Described in the script is a shot
from the floor as the ladder (with Jarrod clinging to the
top rung) plunges directly at the camera lens and into the
4. The wax figures seen in the movie (over 50 of them)
were acquired in a large rental deal with "The Stuberghs,"
3680 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, a company known in the
commercial field for their line of window-display mannequins
and dress forms. Two midget extras were employed for scenes
shot on the Second Museum set, perhaps as wax figures, perhaps
as background museum patrons.
5. According to a (possibly bogus) publicity blurb, three
women extras working in a museum crowd scene fainted when
a guillotine blade dropped and snapped the head off one
of the lifelike wax dummies. De Toth explained that the
women's tightly laced corset costumes of the Gay '90s period
may have been a contributing factor. After first aid on
the set, the three women returned to their places in the
6. "House of Wax" had been slated for a 24-day shoot;
it went five days over schedule. On the 29th, and last,
day of production (Friday, February 20, 1953), Kirk, Picerni,
Charles Bronson and "Paddleball Man" Reggie Rymal worked
from late afternoon until the middle of the night.
7. It was originally planned that "House of Wax" should
end with the death of Jarrod and the rescue of Sue, but
an additional scene was shot on Saturday, March 7, 1953
(the "capper" in Lt. Brennan's office). In the script pages
for this extra scene, Sue and Scott's upcoming wedding is
mentioned; this reference didn't make it into the release
8. Minuetta Kessler of Cambridge, Mass., wrote in a June
4, 1953, letter to Warners, "Last night I walked out on
one of your pictures and I think you should know why. It
is entitled "The House of Wax," [sic] and it shows an appalling
lack of conscience on your part. It is obviously the product
of a demented mind and can appeal only to similarly morbid
and demented minds. I shudder to think that my child might
have been exposed to this monstrosity, and I am taking steps
to warn other parents of this destructive and shocking picture.
To show so little concern for decency is a criminal act
against the public."
9. Winifred Marguerite Heath of Santa Barbara, Calif.,
reacted unfavorably to "House of Wax" and wrote Warner Bros.
a scathing letter, quoting Jesus Christ: "Whoso shall cause
one of these Little Ones to stumble, it is profitable for
him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck
and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea." She
added, "I don't, of course, advocate such a fate for all
movie producers [but] I would not mind a bit if all the
purveyors of pornographic tripe were given a near-to-death
10. During a conversation with authors Tom Weaver and
Lucy Chase Williams, director Andre de Toth said that, during
his preparations to direct "House of Wax," he was shown
the original "Mystery of the Wax Museum" (1933) and said
that he thought highly of its director, fellow Hungarian
Michael Curtiz. He went on to say that, in the opening scene
of "House of Wax," the museum fire got out of control (the
blue of the sky was visible through a hole burned in the
soundstage ceiling). The director called the Warner Brothers
firemen "the real heroes of the picture."
11. The movie never reveals where Prof. Jarrod (Vincent
Price) bided his time between the burning of his first museum
and the opening of his second. In an early script, Jarrod
tells Sidney Wallace (Paul Cavanagh) that, after the fire,
a doctor took him to a sanatorium in the country, and it
was there that he recovered his memory. (Jarrod: "Strangely
enough, the doctor died before I could tell him my story.")
12. In a scripted scene (not in the movie), Police Sgt.
Shane (Dabbs Greer) questions Wallace and shows him a photo
of Dr. Craig Bennett, a plastic surgeon who had a sanatorium
in Chappaqua, N.Y. — and who disappeared some months
after the museum fire. Wallace thinks he
recognizes Dr. Bennett as Jarrod's new wax figure of Louis
XVI, but he keeps this to himself. In yet another scripted
but unseen moment, Sue later finds Wallace's cloth-wrapped
body in a box at Jarrod's new museum.
13. Script description of Vincent Price's character, Prof.
Jarrod: "In his early forties. A well-proportioned man with
the face of a poet. When we first see him, his hair is slightly
long and touched with gray, his features fine and sensitive."
14. Warner Brothers was thrown when the Pennsylvania Board
of Censors demanded a double fee for the showing of 3-D
pictures (Pennsylvania statutes required a set fee for every
foot of film exhibited in the state).
15. The world premiere of "House of Wax" was held at New
York's Paramount Theater with the picture's stars (and singer
Eddie Fisher) in attendance. It amassed an estimated gross
of close to $75,000 over a three-day period there, one of
the Paramount's biggest weekends.
William "Billy" Benedict Billy Benedict, the character
actor who may be best known to cult-film fans as "Whitey,"
one of "The Bowery Boys," is dead at 82. He had a heart
ailment. In addition to the long-running series of "East
Side Kids/Bowery Boys" films, Benedict acted in hundreds
of films ranging from Ed Wood's "Bride of the Monster,"
to roles in big-budget screen hits such as "The Sting."
Benedict also acted in the classic serials "The Adventures
of Captain Marvel" and "Perils of Nyoka" and had numerous
bit-parts as caddies, bellboys and newsboys in classics
such as "Bringing Up Baby," "The Ox-Box Incident" and "The
Albert J. Whitlock
Oscar-winning visual effects artist Albert J. Whitlock has
died in Santa Barbara, Calif., following a long illness.
He was 84. Whitlock was regarded by many as a pioneer in
the art of matte painting, the blending of realistic paintings
with live-action photography. Following a stint with Disney
(where he created the titles for "20,000 Leagues Under the
Sea"), he began an association with Alfred Hitchcock working
on such films as "The Birds," "Marnie," "Torn Curtain" and
"Topaz." In all, Whitlock worked on more than 150 films,
winning back-to-back Oscars for "Earthquake" and "The Hindenburg."
Longtime film and TV director James Goldstone is dead at
68. He had cancer. Following his work on "The Outer Limits"
series, Goldstone was hired by producer Gene Roddenberry
to direct the "Star Trek" pilot episode, "Where No Man Has
Gone Before." The two had worked together on the "Highway
Patrol" series in the 1950s. Goldstone's feature films include
"Red Sky At Morning" and "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight."
Goldstone claimed he never saw the "Star Trek" pilot because
he didn't enjoy watching television.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: One of my favorite drive-in classics, Richard Cunha's
"Frankenstein's Daughter," features a poolside performance
by The Page Cavanaugh Trio. Why does the name of this musical
aggregation sound so familiar?
A: Anytime Frank Sinatra wanted to gig around Hollywood
with a small combo, Ol' Blue Eyes often called upon pianist
Page Cavanaugh to back him up. Cavanaugh was managed by
Marc Frederic, Cunha's production partner at the time Frankenstein's
Daughter was shot. More recently, Cavanaugh released a CD
paired with piano-lounge fave, Michael Feinstein.
THE B-MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
RAY BRADBURY RECOVERING FROM STROKE
The wife of science fiction author Ray Bradbury confirms
that he is recovering from a stroke suffered in mid-November.
Bradbury's contribution to the fantasy field can't be overestimated
and we're sure that all B-Monster readers join us in wishing
Ray a complete and speedy recovery.
JACK PIERCE REMEMBERED
Makeup legend Jack P. Pierce ("Frankenstein," "The Mummy,"
"The Wolf Man") was the subject of a special Internet webcast.
The program is a preview of Scott Essman and Visionary 2000's
live theatrical biography of Pierce to be performed in the
Los Angeles area. This Live Audio preview showcases the
actors and production team behind the multi-media show,
makeup experts, Pierce historians and "people actually connected
to the Pierce legend." You may still be able to listen in
Essman is also the man behind a special museum exhibit
dedicated to Pierce's life and work. A live dedication took
place November 20 at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum.
A video celebrating Pierce's work was also unveiled. For
more information, check out http://www.jackpierce.com
WHAT DO YOU REALLY THINK?
Here's what Nelson Gidding, screenwriter of the original
1963 version of "The Haunting," had to say when asked if
he'd been invited to the premiere of the recent remake:
"No, I just went on my own once it had been released. I
don't know if [original director] Bob Wise was invited to
the premiere or not. You know, the whole thing isn't worth
talking about much. It's a bad movie, and there's no sense
flogging a dead piece of horse s--t!"
The results of the Annie Awards, recognizing excellence
in animation are in, and it looks as though "The Iron Giant"
is finally getting the respect that Warners, the studio
that released it, never showed the film. "The Iron Giant"
won in every category in which it was nominated, including
Best Animated Theatrical Feature, Best Character Animation,
Best Direction, production design, writing, storyboarding
-- in other words, a film that actually deserved greater
recognition got it. When was the last time that happened?
TWO OF THE 50's FINEST ON DVD
Two more 1950s sci-fi classics are soon to get the royal
DVD treatment. "Creature From the Black Lagoon" and "It
Came From Outer Space" are now being prepared for DVD release
and will feature the same types of extras that have complimented
other recent horror and sci fi DVD packages: behind the
scenes footage, complete cast and crew credits and bios,
and voice-over blow-by-blow from peerless fright-film historian
TCM TO SHOWCASE CHANEY DOCUMENTARY
Silent-screen legend Lon Chaney will be the subject of a
one-hour documentary slated to appear on Turner Classic
Movies sometime in 2000. Noted silent film historian and
documentary filmmaker Kevin Brownlow is producing. Chaney
expert and author of the Lon Chaney Trilogy, Michael F.
Blake, will act as special consultant to the project. Bronlow
produced a highly regarded, 13-part documentary on the silent
era, as well as documentaries on Buster Keaton, Charles
Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and D. W. Griffith. No air date for
the Chaney film has been determined.
NEW ON VIDEO
The latest releases from the folks at Englewood Entertainment
are interesting examples of two, "no-budget," schlock-film
masters in peak form:
Early in his career, a young Brit named Alex Gordon -- later
to produce "She-Creature," "Day The World Ended" and many
more -- came up with a pair of screenplays that were the
stuff of cult-film legend. One became "Bride of the Monster,"
the other, "Jail Bait." Both were directed by Ed Wood. The
latter is hardly as entertaining as "Bride," but contains
more than enough Woodian flourishes to keep things interesting.
For instance, the cast: Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Tim
Farrell and the screen debut of Steve "Hercules" Reeves
-- not to mention the same flamenco guitar and piano soundtrack
heard in Ron Ormond's "Mesa of Lost Women." Think you know
Ed Wood because you've seen "Plan 9"? Better check out "Jail
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME
David L. Hewitt can arguably be called the Ed Wood of the
60s. His ambitious, zero-budget epics ("Wizard of Mars,"
"The Mighty Gorga") were chock-full of stiff dialogue, cheesy
special effects, plot holes -- and HEART! It's easy to laugh
at these backlot eccentrics in hindsight, but damned few
could do more with less than Hewitt. In addition, he gave
plum roles to B-movie stalwarts who gave it their all, budget
notwithstanding. "Journey" is a good case in point, as it
features Scott Brady, Gigi Perreau and Anthony Eisley.
THE IRON GIANT
If you didn't go see "The Iron Giant" in theaters, shame
on ya -- you missed one of the year's best movies. But there's
a chance to redeem yourself -- pick up the video version
and enjoy. It's heartfelt and well-crafted and possesses
the four key elements missing in most contemporary movies:
a beginning, a middle, an end and a moral. What's more,
no one wears black leather or gets disemboweled.
The completely unnecessary remake of "The Haunting" is currently
taking up space at a video store near you. It's chock-a-block
with computer-generated visual effects, not one of which
manages to evoke the slightest scare. It squanders a decent
performance by a good actress, Lily Taylor, and (spoiler
warning: if you read any further it may dilute the film's
"impact") it tacks on about the dopiest ending you could
ever imagine. All-in-all, just a plain waste of time.
For those of you who missed it as it flashed briefly on
the big screen, "The Rage: Carrie 2" is now available on
home video. So, why would you wait 23 years to make a sequel
to a cult hit such as "Carrie?" Has the cult grown? Apparently
not enough to keep this film in theaters for more than a
week or two. It's directed by Katt Shea, whose past credits
include "Stripped to Kill" and "Stripped to Kill 2." If
that doesn't impress you, Amy Irving reprises her role from
the original movie.
Don't dare miss the launch of the sci-fi strip that already
has fans and pros buzzing. "The Crater Kid" daily adventures
commence January 1, 2000! The six-shootin' star of this
freewheeling sci-fi story is a 10-year-old whose heroic
fantasies become reality when he's spirited light-years
from earth to aid the inhabitants of the distant planet
Meta 4. Having caught a preview recently, comics legend
Jim Steranko called the strip, "Fun, far-out and fantastic,"
proclaiming that Marvel Comics' Wolverine had definitely
"met his match!"
Readers will be able to add the strip to their own pages
by cutting and pasting a simple code. The strip is delivered
to the reader's page (along with the advertising of some
canny sponsor), or fans can simply visit the Crater Kid
website each day for the latest episode. Keep an eye out
for the Kid's print debut in the Image Comics title "Astounding
Space Thrills" due to hit newsstands next spring. For a
sneak peek, check out http://www.craterkid.com
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
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
"In Monsta-scope!" -- Valley of the Dragons