Got that holiday shopping done yet? Avoid the bustling crowds
of last-minute shoppers. Browse the B Monster Store from
the comfort of your cubicle. Nothing says "Happy Horrordays"
like this classic B Monster memorabilia, illustrated by
the cartoon dean of the Monster Generation, Jack Davis!
And don't forget, a portion of the B Monster's proceeds
goes to Childhelp USA:
Buy something. NOW! What are you waiting for? Don't just
sit there. CLICK!
The actor beloved by baby boomers as Commander Buzz Corry
of television's "Space Patrol," Ed Kemmer died in New York
City following a stroke. He was 83. Kemmer became equally
well known as a TV soap opera star, appearing for 20 years
in daytime dramas. He also appeared in a pair of cult-horror
classics, "Giant From the Unknown" and "Earth vs. the Spider."
But it was his portrayal of Buzz Corry that influenced a
generation. The show was a smash success and mass merchandising
ensued. Kemmer's likeness appeared on cereal boxes, coloring
books, trading cards, buttons, comics and more. "I was in
a store once and saw my picture on a pair of suspenders,"
Kemmer once told the B Monster. His starting salary for
"Space Patrol" was $8.00 per episode.
The TV space hero was a real-life hero. He flew 47 missions
as a fighter pilot in World War II. Shot down on his 47th
mission, he was captured, later to escape from the German
prisoner of war camp that served as the inspiration for
"The Great Escape." He was recaptured and spent the duration
as a prisoner. Following the war, Kemmer used the benefits
of the G.I. Bill to attend the College of Theater Arts at
the Pasadena Playhouse. It was fellow actor and future "Space
Patrol" castmate Lyn Osborn who contacted Kemmer about auditioning
for the part of Buzz Corry. Kemmer impressed the producers
and won the role. He and Osborn were paid $8.00 per show.
Other cast members received $5.00. Their salaries were raised
when the show began airing nationwide on ABC. Television
was in its infancy, before the advent of videotape, and
the show was performed live. This was invaluable training
for Kemmer who developed an amazing facility for memorizing
dialogue. "You would remember everyone else's lines, too,"
Kemmer recalled. "In live TV, that's a big thing. You might
look at someone's face when it was their turn to speak,
and you knew they couldn't tell you their own name. So you
would take their line, adapt it, and try to get them back
into the scene." He remembered many seasoned actors who
couldn't handle the pressure. "They would walk off swearing
and sweating with blood in their boots saying, 'Never! Never
again will I do a live show!' 'Well,' I'd always say, 'the
first 500 shows are the toughest.'"
Following "Space Patrol," Ed appeared for two years in
the West Coast soap opera "Clear Horizon." He moved east
to join the cast of "Edge of Night." Fran Sharon was also
in the cast. The two fell in love and were married. "We
married on the show shortly before I was 'murdered,'" Ed
joked. He delivered their daughter himself in the back seat
of a police car that didn't make it to the hospital in time.
Kemmer played in various soaps for two decades and claimed
he was more often recognized on the street for his soap
opera roles than he was as Commander Buzz Corry.
Just prior to the commencement of his daytime drama career,
Kemmer appeared in a handful of B pictures, including the
aforementioned horrors, and worked extensively in episodic
television. In addition to his soap opera work, he appeared
in more than 50 television programs, including "Alfred Hitchcock
Presents," "Science Fiction Theater," "Gunsmoke," "Sugarfoot,"
"77 Sunset Strip," "Wanted: Dead or Alive," "Men Into Space,"
"Perry Mason," "The Rebel," "Combat" and many others. He
appeared in one of the classic "Twilight Zone" episodes,
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," playing a pilot who tries to
calm William Shatner after the latter sees a gremlin sabotaging
Retiring from acting after 20 years of daytime television
("I did 20 solid years of soaps, which were very good. But
20 years is enough!"), Ed maintained a home in New York
City and a place in the country with a workshop he enjoyed
immensely. He would attend the occasional autograph or movie
convention, where fans of Buzz Corry greeted him with adulation.
If you'll indulge the B Monster's personal reflections:
I attended several conventions with Ed. It was heartening
to see men and women in their fifties, wide-eyed and tongue-tied
upon meeting Commander Buzz Corry. Ed steadfastly refused
to charge for autographs, sometimes to the consternation
of the celebrities at adjacent tables who were asking $10,
$15 and $20 a pop. His giving nature was reflected in the
way he casually shared so many personal memories. Just when
you thought you knew all there was to know about the man,
he'd delight you with another anecdote or accomplishment
previously suppressed by his inherent modesty. For instance,
he was an accomplished singer. He and his brother formed
a musical trio, and to the best of Ed's knowledge, they
were the first to record the classic song "You Are My Sunshine."
When he moved East following "Space Patrol," he took all
of the show's miniatures -- rockets and space base -- with
him, but they vanished from the train car en route. He had
no idea what became of them. Just recently, I mentioned
to him that I'd seen the "Combat" episode that featured
he and Warren Stevens as suspected Nazi infiltrators. This
sparked a long reminiscence: Stevens, like Ed, was a pilot.
Stevens had access to a light plane and, after "Combat"
filming was concluded, Ed recalled, "we flew north out of
L.A. and had a great Sunday breakfast at an airport he was
familiar with. He was a good pilot, and we enjoyed a good
day's flying." Ed recalled many details of the programs
he appeared on, but often had trouble remembering names.
Struggling to recall William Shatner during one of our conversations,
Ed said, "Oh, you know, the fellow with the wig." He meant
nothing derogatory. Ed was without guile, a gentleman in
When "Space Patrol" was at the zenith of its popularity,
Ed, Lyn Osborn and a vocal chorus recorded the show's theme
song and the rousing "Up Ship and Away." Ed transferred
the 78 rpm disk to cassette and sent it to me. It's an exhilarating
piece of nostalgia with Ed, his voice brimming with confidence,
belting out the song's infectious, optimistic refrain: "Close
ports, fire jets, up ship and away! We'll take it slow and
only go a million miles today."
Victor aka Katherine Victor
Actress Kathrin Victor, whom cult-movie fans know best from
her appearances in the films of ultra-low budget producer-director
Jerry Warren, died in Los Angeles following a stroke. She
was 81. Born Katena Ktenavea in the Hell's Kitchen district
of Manhattan, the future TV and movie actress grew up in
L.A. and began her acting career on the stage and radio
in the late '40s. She made her film debut in the campy sci-fi
adventure "Mesa of Lost Women" in 1952. In 1957, she starred
as the imperious Dr. Myra in director Jerry Warren's "Teenage
Zombies," which led to a series of roles in Warren's impoverished
productions. Always busy outside of acting, she worked as
a model, real estate agent, and, for 40 years beginning
in 1960, she worked as an animation checker for such cartoon
studios as Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng, Filmation, Don
Bluth, Box Office Originals and Disney TV Animation. Victor
felt that the stigma of being a regular in Warren's movies
stymied her mainstream acting career. Her final screen appearance
was in the 2002 film Superguy: Behind the Cape."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
WARS OF THE WORLDS
We were trying to pretend it wasn't true. You know, the
story that Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise were co-producing
a new version of "War of the Worlds." OK, we admit it, it's
true. We were in denial because both Spielberg and Cruise
made a point of informing the world that their version would
be "dark." Their concept was described to Variety as "a
dark action picture." David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Spider-Man,"
"Panic Room") will script the film, darkly, of course. John
Williams will compose a dark score. Dark Tom Cruise will
star. The latest to be added to the dark supporting cast
are Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto and Tim Robbins.
Meanwhile, England's Pendragon Films has produced what
they claim is "the first authentic movie adaptation of the
1898 H.G. Wells classic novel." Filmed entirely in England,
the period science-fiction picture was completed in just
two and a half months, according to sfcrowsnet.com. Despite
the rapid production schedule, director and Pendragon CEO
Timothy Hines stressed that great attention was paid to
period detail and that special effects would be state of
the art. Pendragon received impressive moral support during
production. Charles Keller, director of the H.G. Wells Society,
expressed his enthusiasm. Ann Robinson, co-star of the classic
1953 George Pal production of "War of the Worlds," wrote
the Pendragon staff, "I am so pleased that you are creating
the film around the original timeframe that H.G. Wells depicted
in his book. When we filmed the George Pal version, it was
right after WW2 and George Pal wanted to show that technology
is not the answer to all human problems. Faith in oneself
and a higher order is necessary to meet the challenges of
everyday life." Hines says that attorneys for Spielberg
and Cruise gave them their consent to film the story way
back in 2001. Even so, the Pendragon production was filmed
in secret under the false title "The Great Boer War."
RAY'S ROOTS: HARRYHAUSEN "EARLY YEARS"
special, two-DVD "Collector's Edition" called "Ray Harryhausen:
The Early Years," is soon to be released by Sparkhill DVD.
The set contains all of the Harryhausen "Fairy Tales" and
"Mother Goose" films, with new introductions by Ray himself.
There's a peek-behind-the-curtain at the making of "The
Tortoise and the Hare," obscure film clips that have been
restored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
heretofore unseen screen tests and rare stills and concept
sketches from Harryhausen's private collection. The set
also features what is described as "a star-studded tribute
by the industry's best and most respected filmmakers and
visual effects masters," and "hours of supplemental material,"
including interviews with Harryhausen, his lifelong friend
Ray Bradbury and Forry Ackerman. The set is scheduled for
a January 2005 release with a premiere, attended by Harryhausen,
at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater on January 15th. For more
information check out:
Make a point of telling 'em the B Monster sent you!
Roger "King of the Bs" Corman and David "Trash Film King"
(the promoter's sobriquet, not mine) Freidman are the special
guests at this year's "Shock-A-Go-Go" 24-hour film-a-thon
hosted by Anxiety Films. The fest takes place Dec. 3-4 at
The Vine Theater in Hollywood. More than 20 films will be
screened at this year's gathering, including "Not of This
Earth," "Masque of the Red Death," "Infra-Man" and "Death
Race 2000." Prizes and giveaways DVDs, videos, T-shirts,
buttons and other incentives and merchandise will be offered,
as will a musical program featuring TFMU, Mucus, and The
Gabba Gabba Heys. Promoters are especially proud to present
"a predominance of 35 and 16 mm prints for your viewing
pleasure. Though a few video projections are still on the
bill, we are very excited to screen many very rare film
prints for this year's festival attendees." They also point
out that "Bride of the Monster" will be screened "for those
who loved Ed Wood long before his recent resurgence in popularity."
For more info, check out:
By all means, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
As we reported some months back, screenwriter-film historian
and B Monster pal, David J. Schow, was stationed in New
Zealand when he spotted "Creature From the Black Lagoon,"
"Invisible Man" and "Mummy" Legacy Collections for sale
months before they were scheduled for release in the U.S.
Aside from the familiar, ghoulish, gray-green color scheme,
different packaging was created for release outside the
States. The Creature and the Mummy were released as a double
feature, all were branded with a "Universal Monsters" medallion
bearing the Karloff-Frankenstein Monster likeness, and for
some reason, Richard Carlson is prominently billed above
the "Creature" title. Take a look for yourself:
LURID LIDS: THESE BOXES ARE TOPS!
movie storyboard artist Pete Von Sholly, the talent responsible
for the "Morbid" fumetti series, and the delightful dig
at monster mags past called "Crazy Hip Groovy Go-Go Way
Out Monsters," has a new project sure to pique the interest
of monster aficionados. Von Sholley is now marketing a series
of "Horrora Model Boxes." They're actual boxes (fashioned
by David Vaughn), that you can store your stuff in, each
adorned with one of Pete's mirthful monster paintings, rendered
in a style akin to James Bama's beautiful box art for the
classic Aurora monster model kits of the 1960s. There's
the "H.P. Lovecraft Series," featuring "The Dunwich Horror,"
The Deep One" and "The Fungus From Yuggoth," among others;
the "Monster Odd Rod Series," featuring "The Thingster,"
The Sassy Saucer" and Cthulhu's Cthot Rod"; the "Modern
Monster Series," featuring "The Thing" and "The Blob," and
the "Prehistoric Monster Series," featuring "Tyrannostein."
Collect 'em all! The boxes are $24.95 each. Buy three or
more and save yourself $2.95 per box. For more info, check
For Pete's sake, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
FOREST" TEAM IS BUSTING WITH NEWS
The limited edition bust featuring characters from the Robert
Tinnel-Todd Livingston-Neil Vokes graphic novel, "The Black
Forest," is now available. The monster rally comic, set
amid the real-life horrors of the First World War, was a
big hit for Image Comics. The bust, sculpted by Shawn Nagel
and limited to 1,500 copies, depicts aviator-hero Jack Shannon,
magician Archie Caldwell and the Frankenstein Monster. The
piece stands over 9 inches tall, weighs 3.5 pounds, "and
features a paint scheme following the black and white wash
look of Neil Voke's distinctive cinematic styled artwork."
And word is that the chiseled triumvirate will return in
subsequent "Black Forest" installments; "The team claims
that this will be an ongoing project over the years to come,"
declares the PR. To procure your sculpture, inquire at a
comic shop near you, or visit:
For more about the "Black Forest" team, check out:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
MAN'S PLANS TO GENERATE BUZZ
Last month, we told you all about C.S. Lamb, a modern-day
B-movie impresario who has procured the trademarks and all
other indicia pertinent to Monogram, PRC and various other
old-time "Poverty Row" movie studios. Mr. Lamb has more
recently unveiled the American International Pictures Website.
It isn't clear to me exactly how Lamb came to possess said
trademarks and indicia. It is clear how he plans to employ
them, however. Lamb outlines his mission thusly: 1. To produce
and distribute new B-films, made both by our production
unit, and by independent filmmakers. 2. To release official
versions of many great B-movie classics, on their original
banners. 3. To preserve the history of B-cinema. 4. To protect
the rights of fans, historians, producers, and artists,
by assembling a great storehouse of cinematic intellectual
properties. There isn't much info on the sites as yet, apart
from thumbnail histories of the various studios. "I am currently
in the middle of several productions," says Lamb, "and am
trying to wrap up the construction of a sound stage, so
I don't have much time, at present, to dedicate to
the websites. Rest assured, I will make improvements
to the AIP site, and the other sites, in the near future."
Check out the AIP site at:
MONSTERS BY WAY OF RAY
"Monster Island" director Jack Perez reminds us that the
DVD, enhanced with nifty bonus features, is now available.
The campy monster romp, admittedly geared to a youngish
audience, aired on MTV a few months ago. It's a frothy and
affectionate nod to B-movie creatures in general, and Ray
Harryhausen's stop-motion monsters in particular. (Adam
West portrays one Dr. Harryhausen.) According to Perez,
in addition to cast interviews, the disk features "some
cool behind-the-scenes featurettes on the stop motion [process]."
In this era crowded with digitally generated denizens, the
B Monster finds it heartening that folks of a similarly
nostalgic bent did it the old-fashioned way.
ON A CRACK ... GODZILLA'S BACK!
The "King of the Monsters," Godzilla himself, came stomping
down Hollywood Boulevard to attend a ceremony in his honor.
After 50 years and 28 big screen appearances, the city-smashing
lizard from Japan was honored with his own star on Hollywood's
legendary Walk of Fame. The ceremony took place Nov. 29
in front of famed Grauman's Chinese Theater, where the latest
-- and allegedly last -- Godzilla movie, "Godzilla: Final
REALLY INTO IT
Author-producer Scott Essman recently announced the release
of "A Century of Creature People," a 48-page magazine that
pays tribute to some of the best and most famous makeup
artisans in movie history. According to Essman, this is
the first in a planned series of printed tributes to filmland's
creature creators and makeup mavens. Among those cited in
this profusely illustrated tome are Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce,
Jack Dawn, William Tuttle, Bob Shiffer, Dick Smith, John
Chambers and Rick Baker. In all, 14 key figures are celebrated
in what the author describes as a series of photo-essays.
"Readers will learn the secrets of their most beloved screen
heroes and villains," says Essman. The book will retail
for $9.95. For more info, check out:
You know the drill: Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
The rumors have been kicking around since "The X-Files"
was at the peak of its popularity (can you believe that
was nearly 10 years ago?!): Kolchak, TV's beloved "Night
Stalker," could/maybe/will be making a comeback. "X-Files"
honcho Chris Carter made no secret of the fact that the
1970s "Night Stalker" series served as partial inspiration
for his own show. There were even hints in various interviews
that Darren McGavin, Carl Kolchak himself, might pop up
in a cameo on an "X-Files" episode. Nearly a decade later,
Variety reported that "X-Files" writer-producer Frank Spotnitz,
was developing an updated "Night Stalker" as a weekly series
for Touchstone Television. Spotnitz told Variety that "the
chance to return to this character and find another great
storytelling vehicle for smart, scary television was very
appealing." As of this writing, there is still no confirmation
as to who would be replacing McGavin in the lead role. Casting
rumors will no doubt persist, as fan interest in the show
is still keen. Moonstone Books recently inaugurated a "Night
Stalker" comic book, remarkable as the original series lasted
just one season.
DOIN' HIS "THING"
And speaking of persistent rumors, a remake of the classic
"Thing From Another World" has been whispered about for
years. At one point, it was rumored that George Clooney
had proposed a live TV staging of the story. Reportedly,
talks got serious following Clooney's live production remake
of "Fail-Safe," but nothing materialized. It was later reported
that a mini-series based on the "Thing" source material,
John Campbell's story "Who Goes There?," was on the table.
That languished, as well. Then Variety reported that Frank
Darabont, director of the exemplary "Shawshank Redemption"
and "The Green Mile" (both adapted from Stephen King's work),
among others, would be helming the new multi-part TV adaptation.
As the B Monster goes to press with the bulldog (the B Monster
just loves that old-time newspaper lingo), Darabont planned
on a four-hour adaptation to air on the Sci Fi Channel.
Of course, a whole lot can happen between now and the tentative
air date -- December 2005 or early spring 2006. The B Monster
wears his very high regard for the taut and tension-filled
1951 "Thing From Another World" on his proverbial sleeve.
Darabont has his work cut out for him, extrapolating that
compact model of a thriller into a four-hour TV epic. Granted,
the '51 film used only the skeleton of Campbell's story,
and there is material yet to be mined. I'm just hoping Frank
doesn't supplant ingenuity with gore, as did John Carpenter.
Another big-time, big-screen director is turning to TV.
The Sci Fi Channel reported that Ridley Scott will oversee
a four-hour overhaul of "The Andromeda Strain." Robert Wise
directed the 1971 original, based on Michael Crichton's
novel. Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan is slated
to script the new version. The Sci Fi Channel's executive
VP of program development Mark Stern told Variety, "The
filmmakers will get more creative flexibility. They'll go
into greater depth with the characters and storyline." The
B Monster's expectations are lofty, but no further details
on either film, regarding casting, plot or production, have
CONTENTFILM'S IMAGE ENHANCEMENT
ContentFilm, a London-based film production and distribution
company with operations in Los Angeles and New York, is
teaming up with Image Entertainment, a leading independent
licensee, producer and distributor of home entertainment
-- including many hard-to-find cult, horror and sci-fi DVD
releases -- to produce and distribute feature films. The
films will be produced for theatrical release, "with the
revenues primarily driven by worldwide DVD distribution,"
according to a press release. "Our goal," says ContentFilm
co-CEO John Schmidt, "is to bring together clever scripts,
original direction, recognizable casts and sensible budgets
to create films with worldwide video appeal and theatrical
potential." Image's CEO and President, Martin W. Greenwald,
said, "Image is well-positioned to be a force in the world
of high concept but lower budget, genre-specific theatrical
WEST: THE "UNHOLY THREE OF MONSTER NOIR" RIDES AGAIN!
David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards and frequent
B Monster contributor, authored the following rapturous
Even the undead must have their own "good old days." You
know, back in the day -- er, night -- when just a menacing
look was enough to send a chill through dinner and a vampire's
fangs never came out in public. But that was before splatterfests
on screen, and lately in comic books, replaced such Old
Ghoul sensibilities. With Buffy impaling classmates, Blade
slicing heads, and red ink spurting across the pages in
Steve Niles' groundbreaking '30 Days of Night,' a certain
bit of gentleman-dread has been lost.
Enter "The Wicked West,' a subversive bit of western horror
from the Unholy Three of monster noir -- writers Todd Livingston
and Robert Tinnell and illustrator Neil Vokes. From the
Dark Knight homage of its lightning bolt opening to its
satisfying conclusion of wistful memory, TWW delivers a
neck-ripping tale of cowboys and innocents battling a mean-as-a-snake
vampire nest in 1870 Texas.
As in the trio's first graphic horror, "The Black Forest,"
there's plenty of horror and blood-letting in this gruesome
take on the Old West, but there's also an elegant storyline
of doom and redemption that makes each bite matter. When's
the last time you actually rooted for someone to get away
from a monster in a comic book? You will here. No one is
anonymous in "The Wicked West," not even the victims. "I
think I'll stay pretty a real long time,'' says a sweet-faced
vampire girl in one perfect moment of sagebrush terror,
her face framed by shadow and light from a campfire we've
seen in a thousand less-dangerous westerns. Vokes' artwork
is evocative, and the spare dialogue by Livingston and Tinnell
carries the reader to each new page.
What makes this more than a Zane Grey gone batty is a
delightful time travel trick -- we won't give it away --
that straddles past and future in a comprehensible way.
Too many graphic novels indulge themselves in layered narratives
and complex edits that leave the reader baffled. In "The
Wicked West," you always know where you are, and more importantly,
when you are. It is no small feat, and more comic books
should be this accessible.
Tinnell's movie background -- as both writer and director
-- gave the trio's acclaimed first effort, "The Black Forest,''
something of a breathless, storyboard feel. Not so here,
where the story takes all the time it needs to come to its
inevitable conclusion. It's a bargain, too. Just $9.95 for
96 pages, including a four-page text extra and seven pages
of pinups. In lesser hands, "TWW" might have been just another
"Wild, Wild West" sendup, or a "Jonah Hex" gone wild. Instead,
we visit a place and a time we think we've seen before,
but through more somber eyes. We expect we'll be shuddering
through these ghost towns again. And if a Texas Ranger does
come to the rescue, even a masked one, he better bring a
NEW ON DVD
WITHOUT A FACE: SPECIAL EDITION
Mad movie surgeons have a long tradition of kidnapping innocent
young women and employing them as guinea pigs in their outlandish
experiments. Karloff, Lugosi, Zucco, Atwill, Brasseur; that's
Pierre Brasseur, star of what may be the most stylish and
haunting Euro-horror film of the 1960s, "Les Yeux sans visage"
or "Eyes Without a Face." (It was dubbed in English and
renamed "Horror Chamber of Doctor Faustus" for its 1962
American release.) Georges Franju, an important figure in
French cinema, directed the film with laudable finesse --
and maybe a little too much restraint for American moviegoers.
Franju was known for such films as "Judex" and "Thomas l'imposteur,"
and was famed as a film archivist and co-founder of France's
Cinematheque Francaise. He presented this tale of a surgeon,
tormented by guilt because the accident he caused has disfigured
his beautiful daughter, with more calculated nuance than
American audiences expected from their horror films. Many
familiar with the movie's reputation as a shadowy, atmospheric
jewel of a film are disappointed upon viewing it. There
are stomach-turning scenes of implied gore, but a generation
reared on Romero films -- or those assaulted by the more
graphic violence common to the endless parade of forensic
evidence TV shows -- will find "Eyes Without A Face" fairly
But it isn't the gory surgeries and skin grafts that make
the film unsettling; it's the haunted doctor's futile obsession,
the daughter's living death as a disfigured experimental
subject whose hopes are repeatedly dashed. The facemask
she wears to cover her scarred visage is expressionless,
the visible eyes desperately plaintive. The doctor, his
daughter and his loyal assistant Louise inhabit a twilight
world between life and death. Franju ably conveys this tentative
existence and lingering dread. We know from the first frame
that this can't end well. Those in tune with this crafty
school of filmmaking, a layering of tensions and emotions,
a slow build to a disturbing climax, will appreciate the
film. Those hoping for more visceral and immediate gratification
should switch on "CSI" or rent one of those crappy Hannibal
The "Special Edition" extras include Franju's acclaimed
1949 short documentary "Le Sang des bêtes" ("The Blood
of the Beasts"). A curious choice to complement the feature
film, it is Franju's artfully photographed exploration of
Paris slaughterhouses. There is also a gallery of rare production
stills, promotional material and essays by novelist Patrick
McGrath and film historian David Kalat.
DAY AFTER TOMORROW
Legendary screenwriter William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance Kid," "The Princess Bride") once speculated
that the outlook for writers in Movieland was dim, as computers
were being employed by so many filmmakers to execute their
visions. His agent told him that he was being foolish; that
even if they were to devise a way to beam movies from the
Moon directly into people's brains, filmmakers would STILL
need stories and ideas to make movies. Director-writer Roland
Emmerich seems determined to prove Goldman's agent wrong,
as his "The Day After Tomorrow" is every bit as soulless
and mechanical as Goldman might have feared. The film is
a nifty demonstration of what state-of-the-art computer
software can accomplish. The computer artisans realize ice
storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods -- just about every
natural catastrophe you can name. Everything else about
the film is silly. Its science is ludicrous, the dialogue
is laughable and the plot holes are larger than that gap
in the ozone layer. Of course, saying there is a plot at
all is being very generous. Global warming causes weather
disasters. That's the plot. There are trifling, soapy subplots
about inter-family tensions, but these superficial attempts
to engender pathos are utterly lost in all the computer
noise. Even Irwin Allen, the 1970s disaster master whose
films Emmerich seems to be trying to emulate, brought more
humanity to his star-studded calamity orgies ("The Towering
Inferno," "The Poseidon Adventure," etc.).
I must describe my two favorite scenes in the film: Scientist
Jack Hall, as played by Dennis Quaid, urges everyone to
remain indoors. The minute they step outside, he warns,
they'll be frozen to death. A few minutes later, upon learning
that his son may be in danger, he decides to walk from Washington,
D.C. to New York City to rescue his kid.
Because of the intense flooding, a ship has sailed right
down Wall Street, very near where Hall's son (Jake Gyllenhaal)
and others have taken refuge. Jake & Co. board the abandoned
ship in search of medical supplies. It so happens that a
pack of ravenous wolves, escaped from the zoo during the
chaos, are also foraging aboard the boat. They chase the
humans from cabin to galley where Jake and his pals barricade
a door. Jake devises a plan whereby he will create a diversion
so his pals can escape. As the wolves are just on the other
side of the door, the plan has to be whispered. Apparently,
the wolves understand English, and Jake can't risk being
50 WORST MOVIES EVER MADE
I'm tempted to write a one-word review. The word? "NOT!"
Or a three-word review: "Not even close." It's fun to speculate
in private company on what might be the most incompetent
or offending statements committed to celluloid. But to try
to narrow the selection to 50 films is senseless and unfair.
A more appropriate title might be "The 50 Worst Films in
the Public Domain Or That We Could Easily Obtain the Rights
To." The compilation contains few entries that will be unknown
to cult-film fans. For the uninitiated, it might prove amusing
or illuminating, otherwise. ... As you might suppose, genre-film
whipping boy, Ed Wood, with THREE entries on the list of
50, is pilloried, yet again. And, of course, another big,
fat, easy target, "Robot Monster," makes the cut. In fairness,
if forced to choose, "Howard the Duck" or "They Saved Hitler's
Brain" might make anybody's top 50. But "The Killer Shrews"
and "Voodoo Woman?" I'll put "Voodoo Woman" up against anything
directed by Joel Schumacher. In the case of "Wild Women
of Wongo," surely the producers of this disk are aware that
there were hundreds of thousands of similar, naughty, semi-nudies
produced, some far worse than this film. Ditto the "blaxploitation"
movies cited. "Trog" is ludicrous, but one of the 50 worst?
And "Creature From the Haunted Sea" was INTENTIONALLY campy,
so how does it qualify? And the film chosen the WORST movie
of all time? We won't spoil it for you, but we will tell
you that, while it is less than inspiring, it definitely
is NOT the worst.
ZONE -- SEASON 1: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION
Talk about totally "in the Zone": Award-winning artist,
author and science fiction historian Vincent Di Fate offers
It is hard to imagine, in this era of inane reality shows,
vulgar comedies and jaundiced cable journalism, that television
had once experienced a "Golden Age." There were classic
comedy shows then, like "The Honeymooners," adult, talking-heads
westerns, like "Gunsmoke," informative news programs, like
"See It Now" with Edward R. Murrow, and -- perhaps best
of all -- intense, character-driven dramatic anthologies
like "Playhouse 90," "The Lux Video Theater," "Hallmark
Hall of Fame" and "Studio One." Along with the literary
darlings of early dramatic TV -- such as Paddy Chayefsky,
Abby Mann and Reginald Rose -- was one Rodman Edward Serling,
a young writer from Binghamton, New York, who rose to fame
with the scripting of such searing TV dramas as "Patterns,"
("Kraft Television Theater," January 12, 1955) and "Requiem
for a Heavyweight," ("Playhouse 90," October 11, 1956).
But, by the late 1950s, Serling had pretty much had his
fill of sponsor and network-initiated tampering with his
scripts, and struck on the idea that science fiction might
offer enormous opportunities for social and political commentary
under the buffering intrinsic immunities of fantasy.
Following his graduation from Antioch College in Ohio
in 1950, Serling wrote a 30-minute time-travel story for
"The Storm," an anthology show that aired in the Cincinnati
area. Returning to that script in 1957, Serling expanded
it to an hour-long drama and offered the revised script
of "The Element of Time" to CBS as the pilot entry for a
proposed science fiction and fantasy anthology series entitled
"The Twilight Zone." The network quickly rejected his proposal,
but the script for "The Element of Time" was bought by Bert
Granet, a producer at Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and
the teleplay, starring William Bendix as Pete Jenson, a
man who journeys back in time to warn of the attack on Pearl
Harbor, finally aired on CBS on November 24, 1958. The viewer
response was overwhelming, CBS relented, and "The Twilight
Zone" finally premiered on October 2, 1959, with the pilot
episode, "Where is Everybody?" And the rest, as they say,
To celebrate this historic science fiction TV show, Image
Entertainment, which owns the worldwide VHS and DVD rights
to the original Serling series, is issuing the entire first
season on DVD. Featured in the six-disc set are 36 shows
from the 1959-1960 season (this includes the original, unaired
version of the pilot episode, "Where is Everybody?"), with
audio commentary by Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor,
Martin Milner, Ted Post and William Self, and archival audio
recordings about the show featuring Burgess Meredith, Douglas
Hayes, Richard L. Bare, Buck Houghton, Ann Francis and Richard
Matheson. Also included are a series of audio recordings
of lectures by Serling himself, delivered at Sherwood Oaks
College, and many of the filmed weekly promos and outtakes,
as well as musical extracts featuring the scores of Bernard
Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. The boxed set will contain
approximately 15 hours of program material and has a suggested
retail price of about $120. The episodes included, in order
of original airing, are: "Where is Everybody?," "One for
the Angels," "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "Sixteen Millimeter
Shrine," "Walking Distance," "Escape Clause," "The Lonely,"
"Time Enough at Last," "Perchance to Dream," "Judgment Night,"
"And When the Sky Opened," "What You Need," "The Four of
Us Are Dying," "Third from the Sun," "I Shot an Arrow into
the Air," "The Hitch-Hiker," "The Fever," "The Last Flight,"
"The Purple Testament," "Elegy," "Mirror Image," "The Monsters
Are Due on Maple Street," "A World of Difference," "Long
Live Walter Jameson," "People Are Alike All Over," "Execution,"
"The Big Tall Wish," "A Nice Place to Visit," "Nightmare
as a Child," "A Stop at Willoughby," "The Chaser," "A Passage
for Trumpet," "Mr. Bemis," "The After Hours," "The Mighty
Casey," and "A World of his Own." Even those who have only
a peripheral interest in the series will recognize that
many of these segments are television classics. It should
be noted, however, that since the late 1990s, Image Entertainment
has issued nearly 50 Twilight Zone-related DVDs, but this
set marks the first time the shows have been organized chronologically
and released in their original seasonal context.
Without going into great detail about each episode, let
me say that, unlike other early SF and horror anthology
shows that maintained a focus on the genre for its own sake
-- like "Tales of Tomorrow," "The Inner Sanctum," "Thriller"
and "The Outer Limits" -- "The Twilight Zone" was primarily
focused on the human condition and the pressing societal
issues of the day -- and most especially, the Cold War.
Perhaps the single best-known episode of the entire series,
"Time Enough at Last" -- the episode in which the bookish
bank teller, Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith), survives a
nuclear war while hiding in a bank vault so he can read
undisturbed, and ends up breaking his glasses after discovering
that he's the world's sole survivor with time enough at
last to read the books he so cherishes -- is clearly about
the fear that the Cold War might suddenly be turning hot.
So, too, is "Third from the Sun," in which two government
workers, scientist William Sturka (Fritz Weaver) and test
pilot Jerry Riden (Joe Maross), conspire to hijack an experimental
spacecraft to flee the planet with their respective families
in order to avoid nuclear Armageddon, only to find themselves
on a trajectory toward a planet called "Earth" whose people
are preoccupied with their own reckless descent toward nuclear
Two Serling penned time travel episodes of the first season,
"Walking Distance," and "A Stop at Willoughby," are somewhat
autobiographical in nature and nostalgically recall the
quaint, small town serenity of upstate New York where Serling
grew up. In "Walking Distance," harried advertising executive
Martin Sloan (Gig Young) drives upstate to visit Homewood,
the town where he was born. Leaving his car at a gas station
on the way and proceeding on foot, Sloan soon discovers
that he's somehow traveled back in time. In an attempt to
speak to his younger self and counsel the youth to savor
this precious period of his life, the adult Sloan inadvertently
frightens the child, causing him to fall and break his leg.
Finally realizing that he has no place in the past, Martin
Sloan reluctantly returns to the present -- now with a limp
sustained from having broken his leg as a youngster.
The second of the two stories, "A Stop at Willoughby,"
owes much, I think, to Jack Finney's classic 1950 short
story, "The Third Level," and herein lies one of the great
complaints that many SF authors have against the series
-- that a number of the ideas for "The Twilight Zone" had
been freely appropriated from other literary sources without
proper payment or attribution. The "Willoughby" teleplay,
like "Walking Distance," begins with a beleaguered ad executive,
Grant Williams (James Daly), who, after being fiercely berated
by his boss, finds himself on a train after the day's work
headed not for home, but for the idyllic town of Willoughby,
in which time seems to have stood still sometime in the
1880s. He's greeted by the locals who seem to know him and
is treated to the hospitality and leisurely pace of small-town
American life as it once was before the turn of the century.
Still bound to his life in the present, however, Williams
hustles back to catch the train for home as evening descends.
He can't, however, seem to shake his preference for that
more tranquil time, and in the end, boards the train for
the return trip to Willoughby. As his stop is announced,
he leaps from the train to his death. The parting shot shows
his sheet-wrapped body being loaded on a hearse that displays
the words, Willoughby Funeral Home. Thus, we are left to
ponder the notion that Grant Williams ultimately succumbed
to a nervous breakdown from the pressures of his life and
job, and committed suicide.
While admittedly different in some significant ways from
Finney's "The Third Level," it is difficult to imagine that
Finney's story isn't at least one of the inspirational sources
for "A Stop at Willoughby." In the Finney story, a put upon
businessman named Charley gets lost in a subway tunnel below
Grand Central Station and finds his way to the station's
non-existent third level, where it is the year 1894. He
attempts to buy two tickets for Galesburg, Illinois, a tranquil
town that he learned of from his grandfather, from whom
he also inherited a priceless stamp collection. But Charley's
money is no good in this 19th century netherworld, and the
ticket agent sends him away, accusing him of trying to perpetrate
a fraud. He arrives home, tells his wife Louisa of his experience
and soon ends up telling his tale to a seemingly skeptical
psychiatrist named Sam Weiner. Sam reminds Charley that
we live in troubling times, that the pressures of modern
life take their toll on us and, occasionally, even challenge
the sanity of those who seem the most emotionally stable.
Months pass and then, mysteriously, Sam Weiner vanishes
without a trace. Charley doesn't know what to make of Sam's
disappearance until, one day while idly looking through
his grandfather's stamp collection, he finds a letter addressed
to him from Sam. The unopened letter is dated 1894 and is
postmarked Galesville, Illinois. By story's end, we leave
Charley vowing to renew his search to find that elusive
third level at Grand Central Station.
Certainly, there were other, more personal, sources of
inspiration for the plot of "A Stop at Willoughby." Rod
Serling was born in Syracuse, New York (on Christmas Day
1924), and his family subsequently moved 70 miles south
to Binghamton. Between Binghamton and Syracuse is the village
of Skaneateles -- a town ordained by its city council to
remain physically unchanged from its appearance in the late
19th century. To walk the streets of Skaneateles today is
to, almost literally, step back in time to the Victorian
But there were other pre-existing literary sources for
the tales of "The Twilight Zone." Certainly another first
season show, "The After Hours" -- the episode starring Anne
Francis about department store mannequins who come to life
after the close of the workday -- owes at least something
of its central idea to John Collier's 1940 short story,
It should be noted that, in Rod Serling's original agreement
with CBS for the show's first season, Serling was contractually
obligated to write 80 percent of "The Twilight Zone's" teleplays.
I offer this not as a rationale for the possible pirating
of story ideas, but rather as a possible explanation for
why it might have happened at all. It is also important
to keep in mind that, in accordance with the letter of the
law, ideas in themselves are not protected by copyright;
only the specific means by which those ideas are expressed.
Having said all that, I must admit that I still remain,
after 45 years, a diehard fan of the series. "The Twilight
Zone -- Season 1: The Definitive Edition" is, if nothing
more, a stunning time capsule to an era when we first began
to truly grasp the wonders of the modern age, and to develop
an awareness of how what we chose to do as a nation, could
impact the broader global community. But The "Twilight Zone"
is something more -- it is television at its best; well
written, provocative, challenging to our critical thinking,
and consciousness-raising in the extreme -- and all of it
wrapped up neatly in the clever camouflage of science fiction.
As a reflection of who we were in those disconcerting days
of racial unrest and Cold War tension, the series is a sociologist's
dream come true -- a veritable window to the past. In the
present day, with our moral and social values so very much
at issue in the political dialogue, we need challenging
television of the caliber of Rod Serling's "The Twilight
Zone" to help us better appreciate that it is not so much
our national prestige, prosperity and security that is at
stake, but rather that our very sense of humanity might
be endangered by our actions.
So, climb aboard for "The Twilight Zone," if you dare.
The last stop is Willoughby and points beyond -- and with
them, a rendezvous with a time no less troubling than our
own, and a look at who we once imagined ourselves to be.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Jean-Noel Bassior, whose "Space Patrol" book will soon
be available from http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com
Vincent Di Fate, Hugo Award-winning science fiction artist
and author http://www.VincentDiFate.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
"A new kind of terror to numb the nerves!" -- Monster
That Challenged the World