The B Monster was all set to seize this holiday season
as an opportunity to scold Americans for surrendering to
the lazy and all-too-familiar "Post-9/11" mentality when
our buddy, Joe Bob Briggs, penned some words that took the
venom right out of our mouth: "Am I the only one who thinks
the phrase 'in light of the events of Sept. 11' has become
the 21st century equivalent to 'the dog ate my homework'?
... They should actually just call it chapter nine eleven,
because it's become a form of continual bankruptcy." I fear
he's right, but I hope he's wrong.
Despite what Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, Jeff
Greenfield and their ilk keep repeating, you DID NOT "wake
up in a different country" September 11 -- you woke up in
a GREAT country with lousy airline security. Do not surrender
to that "malaise" malarkey. There IS something you can do:
Spread a little joy. 'Tis the season! Nod to a neighbor,
smile at a stranger, make nice with that monster down the
block. You'll cash in on the karma one day, I promise you.
I don't care if you're fat, thin, wealthy, jobless, good,
bad, ugly or on fire -- smile -- it won't cost you a dime.
Tony Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Anthony Shaffer
died at his London home following a heart attack. He was
75. Shaffer is perhaps best known for "Sleuth," the long-running
play for which he received the Tony. It ran on Broadway
for 2,300 performances. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed a
1972 film version that starred Laurence Olivier and Michael
Caine. Shaffer also wrote the screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock's
"Frenzy," and three Agatha Christie adaptations starring
Peter Ustinov as detective Hercules Poirot, "Death on the
Nile," "Evil Under the Sun" and "Appointment With Death."
Shaffer also wrote the cult-movie "The Wicker Man," a brooding
suspense film about a paganist cult living on a remote Scottish
isle. The film has a devoted following, and "Cinefantastique"
magazine once called it "the 'Citizen Kane' of horror films."
Shaffer began his career writing paperback mysteries with
his twin brother, Peter, who went on to author such plays
as "Equus" and "Amadeus."
Illustrator Gray Morrow died at his home, aged 67. Though
he had been in poor health in recent years, his death was
unexpected. Just a week before his passing, he appeared
at the Baltimore Comicon, autographing comics and magazines
he'd illustrated and sketching for fans. Morrow is perhaps
best known for comic stories that appeared in Warren Publishing's
"Creepy" and "Eerie" magazines. He was also a prolific painter,
illustrating many Warren covers and dozens of paperback
book covers. One high point was "The Illustrated Roger Zelazny,"
which appeared in the late 1970s. Morrow also rendered dozens
of movie posters, most notably for some of producer Sam
Sherman's Independent International Productions such as
"Dracula Vs. Frankenstein," and Mel Welles' "Lady Frankenstein."
More recently, Morrow had been drawing the "Tarzan" newspaper
strip as well as the Internet-syndicated daily comic strip,
"The Body." A collection of his work, "Gray Morrow, Visionary,"
was published by Insight Studios Group last summer.
William Read Woodfield
Writer, photographer William Read Woodfield died in Los
Angeles following a heart attack. He was 73. Woodfield first
made a name for himself as a photographer covering the Hollywood
personality beat, most notably photographing Jayne Mansfield
for an issue of Playboy magazine that sold more than 1 million
copies. He tried his hand at television writing, and later,
along with writing partner Allan Balter, utilized his love
of con games and chicanery to turn television's "Mission:
Impossible" into a smash hit, even producing the multiple
Emmy-winning series for a season. More recently, Woodfield
has scripted installments of "Columbo" and the feature-length
"Perry Mason" episodes. Cult-film fans know Woodfield as
the writer behind the lurid, 1960 gimmick shocker, "The
Raymond C. Sparenberg aka Selwin
One of television's earliest horror movie hosts, Raymond
C. Sparenberg, died of renal failure at 72. Sparenberg appeared
on WISH-TV, the Indianapolis CBS affiliate from 1958-63.
Sparenberg appeared on the weekly "Fright Night" as "Selwin,
son of Catwoman and Wolfman," introducing classic horror
films to baby boomers. "Fright Night" played with various
formats over the years, focusing on jungle films at one
point and space films at another. When the show ended, Sparenberg
began a sales job at WXIA in Atlanta. He later operated
a cheese shop, worked as a cab driver and in the records
department of a hospital.
Actor Byron Sanders, best known to cult-movie fans as the
star of "Flesh Eaters," is dead at 76. Sanders acted in
many long-running daytime dramas including "Love of Life,"
"The Doctors" and "One Life to Live." He also served as
the model for Salvador Dali's painting "Crucifixion" which
is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
"Flesh Eaters" was a low-budget, 1964 cult favorite filmed
on Long Island. It featured veteran character actor Martin
Kosleck as a former Nazi scientist developing a strain of
Diana van der Vlis Actress
Diana van der Vlis died in Missoula, Mont., following a
brief illness. She was 66. She appeared with Walter Pidgeon
in the Broadway hit "The Happiest Millionaire," and in such
feature films as "The Girl in Black Stockings," "The Incident"
and "The Swimmer." Her television work included roles in
the soap opera "Ryan's Hope," and such dramas as "The Fugitive,"
"Naked City," "Route 66," and others. Fans of horror and
suspense may remember her appearances in "Alfred Hitchcock
Presents," "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and director Roger
Corman's 1963 B-movie gem "X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
MASTERS OF SCARE-A-MONY
If you think that a late-night horror host renaissance is
long overdue, then an interesting missive The B Monster
recently received from our friend Dr. Gangrene at chillercinema.com
may prove inspiring. For those unfamiliar with "Horror Host
Underground," it's a ghoul talent pool of monster-movie
hosts ready and willing to bring screenings of horror classics
to regional TV markets through the miracle of syndication.
The good doctor queries, "Don't have a horror host in your
area? Dying to see some schlocky old films hosted by even
schlockier movie hosts, doing their best to keep the horror
host spirit alive, or at least have a little fun doing so?
Then the Horror Host Underground could just be the ticket
for you." A rotating roster of hideous hosts includes Halloween
Jack, Dr. Sarcofiguy, A. Ghastlee Ghoul, and Dr. Gangrene,
with more signing on soon. If you want 'em to air in your
hometown, check out: http://www.horrorhostunderground.com
Horror hosts are now being aired in Dayton, Ohio, Toms River,
N.J., Washington D.C. and Greensboro, N.C. You'll find Dr.
Gangrene skulking at: http://www.chillercinema.com Be sure
and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Last month in the Bay Area, B Monster-buddy and life-loving
lounge lizard, Will "The Thrill" Viharo hosted the "Thrillville
Psychotronic Holiday Toy Show" at the historic Parkway Theater.
Festivities included 16mm cartoons, trailers, scopitones
and commercials, plus episodes of "Gigantor" and "The Adventures
of Superman." Will has also organized a toy drive at the
theater benefiting a local elementary school. Upcoming special
events occurring in "Thrillville" include screenings of
"20 Million Miles to Earth" and "First Men in the Moon,"
and a special "Valentine's Day with Ray Dennis Steckler"
taking place Thursday, Feb. 14 at the Parkway's Speakeasy
Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. in Oakland. An eight buck admission
gets you proximity to Steckler and screenings of "The Incredibly
Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed Up
Zombies" and "The Thrill Killers." Will also promises some
special surprise guests. To find out more, visit: http://www.thrillville.net
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you.
"SHOCK THEATER:" MAKE IT A GHOUL YULE
We warned you it was on the way. Just in time for the holidays,
the much-anticipated "Shock Theater, An illustrated History"
from the good folks at "Monsters From the Vault" is here,
and it is terrific. This soft-bound extravaganza belongs
on the coffee table of every fright-film fan (presuming
that, like the B Monster's palatial pad, your place has
a table designated for coffee and monster memorabilia).
One hundred and twenty-eight pages of stunningly reproduced
art -- movie stills, posters, ad mats and more. The peerless
prose notwithstanding, the book's most remarkable feature
may be the reproduction of the complete "Shock Theater"
press package sent out to stations nationwide by Screen
Gems. Other contributions come from "Cool Ghoul" John Zacherle,
and scare-movie scribes John Brunas, Steve Kronenberg and
MFTV editor Jim Clatterbaugh. There are also a number of
heartfelt recollections of hometown horror-movie hosts (one
standout is by a guy named Baumann). Order a copy from MFTV
today. Just 20 bucks! ($25 outside the U.S.) Send check
or money order to: Monsters From the Vault PO Box 981 Abingdon,
MD 21009-0981 Or visit: http://www.monstersfromthevault.com
Tell 'em the B Monster sent you.
ALL THE KIDS ARE DOING IT!
The TromaDance, that is. The "TromaDance 2002 Film Festival"
is officially calling for entries. According to the indy
filmfest's organizers, "TromaDance celebrates the independent
way of life with the finest selections of truly independent
films, animation, music and live performance art. We are
looking for entries of all genres and lengths, including
but not limited to short films, features, animation and
music videos." The festival takes place Jan. 11-19, 2002
in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah. There are no entry
or admission fees. Submissions can be sent to: TromaDance
Selection Committee 733 Ninth Avenue New York, NY 10019
All submissions must be on VHS 1/2" cassette. The committee
says that "due to the mass numbers of videotapes we receive,
films cannot be returned." To find out more, e-mail: TromaDance@troma.com
War continues to rage in the Balkans over who gets to host
the Dracula theme park. Romanian Tourism Minister Dan Matei
Agathon recently unveiled the concept for "Dracula Park,"
a tourist attraction built at the birthplace of Drac's real-life
inspiration, Vlad the Impaler. According to Agathon, it
would create 3,000 new jobs and cost $30 million to build.
But according to the AP, Romania's Liberal Party says the
park should be built in the Transylvanian town of Brasov,
near Bran Castle, which is considered by many to have been
Vlad's home. The Liberals also claim that their version
of the park would cost just $18 million. The original plan
has worried environmentalists as well as religious leaders
who suspect the park will attract Satanists.
Our buddy, Jim Nolt, longtime publisher of "The Adventures
Continue" newsletter, devoted to the Superman series starring
George Reeves, has decided to draw the curtain on his labor
of love. "'To everything there is a season, and a time to
every purpose under the heaven.' And now I feel it's time
for 'The Adventures Continue' to end," said Nolt. "At least
the magazine and newsletter portions. We've learned so much
through their pages, but I no longer have the time to give
them the attention they deserve. And because I'm so proud
of both, I'd not want, due to my own neglect, to see either
one deteriorate into anything less than it's been these
many years ... a first class publication." For those unfamiliar,
Jim's publication has been an exhaustive chronicle, bringing
readers in touch with the program's surviving stars and
guest stars and detailing the minutiae of their careers
and the production of the series. lts most recent accomplishment
was spearheading a fundraising campaign to place an ad in
the Hollywood Reporter commemorating the show's 50th anniversary.
(Unused funds were given to charity.) Thanks, Jim, for your
Our friends at Retromedia have announced their first batch
of DVD releases for 2002 and promise monthly releases thereafter.
First up is Full Moon's "Witchhouse 3: Demon Fire." Director
J.R. Bookwalter's latest is set for a January 21 release.
This one's being hawked as a "Mega-Disk," featuring nearly
three hours of material. Brinke Stevens and Troma-bunny
Debbie Rochon star in the flick publicity calls a "must
for Full Moon enthusiasts."
The 21st will also see the resurrection of schlockmeister
Jerry Warren's rambling, mind-numbing 1958 stinker, "Teenage
Zombies." It's a 35mm transfer with the original 35mm trailer.
That means die-hard, cult-film fans can see every frame
of Warren's endless padding in crisp DVDetail. Which is
not to say you shouldn't watch it. Enduring this interminable
talkfest will separate the true B-movie hound from the rank
amateur -- and we're just sadistic enough to recommend it.
Extras include video interviews with star Katherine Victor
and "zombie" Chuck Niles.
Retromedia's third January release is arguably the most
interesting. "The Cremators" was directed by Harry Essex,
best known for scripting such classics as "Creature From
The Black Lagoon," "It Came From Outer Space," "The Sons
of Katie Elder" and, of course, "Teenage Crime Wave." This
little-seen, 1972 sci-fi schlocker was produced when Roger
Corman's New World Pictures was in its infancy. It may not
be top-flight filmmaking, but what drive-in devotee could
walk away from this blistering ad blurb?: "From the Sun
Come the Fire-People to Incinerate All Mankind!" Check out
http://www.retrovision.org (The immature should avert their
eyes upon clicking on director Fred Olen Ray's prominently
linked "Nite Owl Theater.")
SCI FI RALLIES WRITERS
The Sci Fi Channel Web site has assembled a collection of
written tributes following the terrorist attacks of September
11. Many noted science fiction authors have contributed,
but "Apologue," by James Morrow, might ring truest with
the B Monster's audience. It's a fictional essay wherein
three of New York's most notable nemeses come out of retirement
to do their bit in the relief effort. Example: "The instant
they heard the news, the three of them knew they had to
do something, and so, joints complaining, ligaments protesting,
they limped out of the retirement home, went down to the
river, swam across, and climbed." It's heartfelt but maybe
a little too wry for its own good. Another example: "The
mutant lizard helped the incontinent ape remove his disposable
undergarments and replace them with a dry pair. The rhedosaur
reminded the mutant lizard to take her Prozac." Even so,
monster lovers may find it affecting. One more example:
" 'Maybe they won't understand,' said the rhedosaur. 'They'll
look at me, and all they'll see is a berserk reptile munching
on the Coney Island roller coaster.' He fixed his clouded
gaze on the ape. 'And you'll always be the one who shimmied
up the Empire State Building and swatted at the biplanes.'
" Morrow has a New York fireman sum up the situation cleverly
and succinctly: "Actions speak louder than special effects."
Other contributions range from the immediacy of Kit Reed's
essay, "Missing," to comic book writer Neil Gaiman's pretentious,
baffling poetry. You'll find them all at http://www.scifi.com/tribute
ANOTHER PIERCE-ING LOOK AT HISTORY
Movie folk were out in force to herald the opening of the
Hollywood History Museum. Located in the old Max Factor
building on Highland Avenue, in Hollywood, the show includes
vintage posters and memorabilia and a new exhibit celebrating
Universal monster makeup legend, Jack Pierce. Bronze busts
of Pierce by Brent Armstrong, as well as fiberglass busts
of Pierce's Im-Ho-Tep mummy and Karloff Frankenstein monster
were part of the display. Scott Essman co-curated the exhibit
which officially opens to the public in the near future.
NEW ON VIDEO
JURASSIC PARK III
Let's run through the checklist: CGI dinosaurs? Check! By-the-numbers
script? Check! Good actors in undemanding roles? Check!
Predictability fully deployed! Engage automatic pilot! The
preceding could well have been said on the first day of
shooting this utterly unnecessary film. The dinosaurs look
cool, the cast is likable for the most part, and director
Joe Johnston is a snappy storyteller. But before you've
even opened your Junior Mints you'll be able to predict
who gets killed and who doesn't. And you'll learn once more
of the inherent dangers of genetic engineering. (For the
record, the lesson to be gleaned from all three "Jurassic
Park" films seems to be that manufacturing gigantic, ferocious,
uncontrollable monsters is a bad thing.) William H. Macy
plays a wealthy exec whose son has disappeared on the infamous
isle of cloned dinosaurs. Scientist Sam Neill is conscripted
to lead Macy and his ex, Tea Leoni, back to Jurassic Park
in an attempt to find their kid. They see dinosaurs, run,
see more dinosaurs, run, see still more dinosaurs, run.
With a Godzillion dollars' worth of technology at their
disposal, the film's makers bring absolutely nothing new
to the terrain. It's predictable at every turn. But, if
you really enjoy watching people run from dinosaurs -- or
if you want to leave the screening feeling like the Amazing
Kreskin -- this is the film for you.
NEW ON DVD
LOST CONTINENT (1951)
This film isn't very good, and I like it a lot. That's due
in large measure to an appealing cast of familiar B-movie
players including Cesar Romero, Hugh Beaumont, Whit Bissell,
John Hoyt, Chick Chandler, Sid Melton, Hillary Brooke, even
Acquanetta! A B-movie who's who! Admittedly, there are talky
stretches and more padding than a Posturepedic, including
long, thuddingly-dull scenes of rock climbing. But it's
great fun to watch these seasoned thespians giving it their
all, cheesy sets and Gumby-like dinosaurs notwithstanding.
The plot is a shameless, "atom-age" take on Conan Doyle:
An atomic-powered rocket goes off course and crash-lands
on an uncharted island. Many of the aforementioned players
comprise a government search-and-rescue team. Upon reaching
the summit of the island's mysterious, dino-populated mountain,
the black and white film is thereafter tinted green. Director
Sam Newfield had many a B under his belt by the time he
helmed the Lippert-produced "Lost Continent." If only his
pacing were as tight as the budget.
THE CRAWLING EYE
Known in England, its country of origin, as "The Trollenberg
Terror," this grisly little shocker (it opens with an off-screen
decapitation) has its share of genuinely tense moments and
an equal number of dull ones. The film stars beefy American
actor Forrest Tucker, whose foray into British fright films
in the mid-1950s included "The Abominable Snowman of the
Himalayas" and "The Cosmic Monsters" aka "The Strange World
of Planet X." In "The Crawling Eye," scripted by Jimmy Sangster
after a Peter Key story, Tucker stumbles upon a breed of
unseen creatures who communicate telepathically with vacationers
at a remote Swiss resort, causing no end of mayhem. In the
grand finale, the movie delivers on its eponymous promise
and we get to see crawling, slithering, tentacled, giant
eyeballs attacking the cowering tourists. The eyes are actually
fairly well-executed special effects for their day, but
we're sure there's a CGI remake in the works with 800 digital
artists, broken down into teams of 200 per tentacle, working
around the clock to satisfy a more demanding, contemporary
This film's chief virtues are the very reasons it's so underrated
by sci-fi fans. It's well-reasoned, heartfelt and serious.
But it's a little too quiet and dignified to go toe-to-toe
with rock 'em sock 'em junk like "Armageddon" and "Starship
Troopers." This stylishly staged, beautifully photographed
movie addresses the ramifications of genetic engineering
far more coherently than any other contemporary film. Ethan
Hawke plays a brave, determined aspiring astronaut who was
born physically imperfect and therefore unsuitable for space
travel. So strong is his passion for flight, he enlists
Jude Law in a scheme to circumvent the system by submitting
Law's "healthy" blood samples instead of his own. The cast,
including Uma Thurman and Gore Vidal, is uniformly convincing.
Yet, it is the quiet tone of circumspection that keeps "Gattaca"
from gaining wider acceptance. It is not a perfect film,
by any means. But imagine if this script had fallen into
the hands of Jerry Bruckheimer, who would have cast Bruce
Willis as a vengeful, world-weary, mercenary astronaut and
added exploding heads, car chases and Aerosmith music. Or
maybe you like that kinda thing?
Another Tim Burton film, spilling over with fascinating
elements that evokes not a single moment of tension or suspense.
The cast is great, the photography is terrific, the story
is unique, the design work is engaging. Yet, as with every
Burton movie, the elements do not congeal into a satisfying
whole. Vincent Price stands out in a touching role as the
creator of an artificial son, a freakish mop-top with snippers
for digits. Johnny Depp, one of the best actors working
today, is excellent as the sensitive, bewildered, wide-eyed
Edward. Dianne Wiest is a good-hearted suburbanite who takes
pity on Edward, introducing him to her circle of friends.
Soon, he's dazzling the community with his topiary and pet-grooming
skills. In the end, society simply cannot accept his differentness,
and Burton does manage to bring home this sad aspect of
the story. It's entertaining enough, very fanciful and fairy-tale-like,
but it just kind of lays there like a beautiful suit without
Any attempt to describe this film could ultimately do it
a grave disservice. That having been said, it's stylish,
calculated, taught and handsome. AND there's a fascinating
story supporting Director Darren Aronofsky's filmic flourishes.
Sean Gullette plays a frenzied, pill-popping mathematician
on the brink of an earth-shattering discovery, the numerical
pattern that could unlock the secrets to financial domination
as well as the holy origins of ancient Judaic texts. Gullette
finds himself the prey of a high-powered Wall Street firm
and a band of Jewish Kabbalists. It's not exactly science
fiction, but it's not exactly anything else, either. It's
an audacious film, imaginatively conceived and starkly photographed
in black and white. It's fast-paced an unsettling. Fevered
storytelling with an ice cold heart.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Scott Essman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.amazon.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
"The screen's new high in naked, shrieking terror!" -- Day
the World Ended