Valentines Day will be here before you know it, and we'd
like to do our part in helping you plan an elegant evening
with that special someone. Drawing upon our otherwise worthless
knowledge of celluloid arcania and worldwide web-known lack
of tact, here's a tip or two on how to make a soiree with
your sweetheart memorable. May we suggest champagne and
a copy of "The Leech Woman?" Nothing says love like "Hatchet
For A Honeymoon," and you could do worse than a Merlot and
"I Married a Monster From Outer Space." But remember, it's
white wine with "Die, Die, My Darling."
The actor best known to baby boomers as the rascally Uncle
Martin in the TV series "My Favorite Martian," Ray Walston
is dead at 86. According to the actor's agent he died of
natural causes at home with his wife by his side. Walston
rose to prominence after winning a Tony Award for his performance
as the devil in the Broadway smash "Damn Yankees." He began
appearing in films soon after. He starred in the movie version
of "Damn Yankees," and had roles in "South Pacific," "The
Apartment," "Kiss Them For Me" and many others. Walston
delivered solid characterizations in films as diverse as
the Academy Award-winning "The Sting," the sci-fi shocker
"Galaxy of Terror" and the cult-hit teen comedy "Fast Times
at Ridgemont High."
Walston worked extensively in television. In addition
to "My Favorite Martian," which ran from 1963-66, he made
guest appearances on programs such as "Mission Impossible,"
"Little House on the Prairie," "Starsky and Hutch," "Star
Trek: Voyager" and many others. He won back-to-back Emmy
Awards in 1995 and 1996 for his recurring role as the judge
on the television series "Picket Fences." As recently as
last year he appeared on an episode of the CBS series "Touched
By An Angel."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
DRACULA REGISTERS WITH LoC
"Dracula" has been added to the National Film Registry at
the Library of Congress. The 1931 classic starring Bela
Lugosi and directed by Tod Browning was one of 25 titles
added to the registry of 275 films considered worthy of
preservation for historical or artistic reasons. Also selected
was the 1928 version of "The Fall of the House of Usher,"
directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, and
animator Bob Clampett's "Porky in Wackyland." More than
1,000 films were nominated by the National Film Preservation
Board, the Library of Congress Motion Picture Division and
the public. As is our yearly tradition, the B Monster nominated
"Giant From the Unknown," which was snubbed as expected.
BUY BOB'S BOOK
More congratulations are in order for the B Monster's buddy,
Bob Burns. CNN recently did a nifty piece on the king of
scary-movie collectibles. The news peg was the forthcoming
publication of "It Came From Bob's Basement," co-authored
with pop-culture chronicler extraordinaire, John Michlig.
For the uninitiated, the CNN piece was a swell introduction
to Bob and his bounty of props, which includes the original
"Time Machine," Klatuu's saucer from "The Day The Earth
Stood Still" and the 18-inch metal framework of "King Kong."
Burns also cites among his most-prized possessions the lunar
panorama painted by Chesley Bonestell for George Pal's "Destination
Moon." But CNN's coverage is just the tip of the terrifying
iceberg (they barely mentioned Bob's film work). You'll
have to buy "It Came From Bob's Basement" for the full story
of fantasy filmdom's most beloved preservationist. Follow
this link to find out how: http://www.fullyarticulated.com/BobsBasement.html
WELCOME TO TIME WARNER'S DOMAIN
A word of warning to all you money-grubbing 10-year-olds
with your lucrative Harry Potter fan websites: Time Warner
Entertainment, the company that probably sold you the browser
you're reading this on, has successfully sued for ownership
of 107 Harry Potter-related domain names. The ruling was
handed down by the United Nations' World Intellectual Property
Organization. (Yes, there really is an organization called
that, probably run by guys with strange lumpy foreheads
named Roxor.) Take that, Becky Sue Wilson of Cedar Rapids.
How dare you generate free publicity for us! Drop the innocent
act, Rusty Hanley of Altoona, Pa. Welcome to life in the
Time Warner States of America.
PLANT TO SPROUT AGAIN THIS SUMMER
Author Stephen King recently told "Entertainment Weekly"
that his serialized cyber-novel, "The Plant," will be resurrected
come summer. King abruptly halted the shareware publication
experiment when fewer than half of those who downloaded
the chapters actually paid for them. "Most Internet users
seem to have the attention span of grasshoppers," King said
at the time. (In fairness, it should be noted that the length
of time before the next chapter appears is longer than the
life span of an actual grasshopper.) King added, "book-readers
don't regard electronic books as real books." We have heard
of these "book-readers." How does a mere grasshopper become
a "book-reader?" I guess if you're reading this, you'll
ANYONE FOR A ROUND OF GOTH?
Production designer Timothy Bradstreet recently revealed
that the "Blade" sequel will feature an evil team of vampires
called -- wait for it -- "The Bloodpack," described as "battle-hardened
vampire warriors," which I guess is the coolest kind of
vampire warrior there is. Bloodpackers have really way-cool
names like Lighthammer and Verlaine and have tattoos on
all the spots where sane people don't get tattoos. Sounds
like a deadly serious take on the cornball conventions "Buffy"
and "Angel" have been presenting with tongue-in-cheek, week
in, week out for years. "Blade," "John Carpenter's Vampires,"
"Dracula 2000" -- does EVERY movie HAVE to have brooding,
cynical, pierced, spiky-headed, leather-wearing, emaciated
druggies splashing about in Niagaras of fake blood? Hollywood
answers with a resounding "Yes!" And personally, we hope
the media continues to churn out these trite cliches; it
makes the reviews so much easier to write.
READY FOR ROSS
The official website of B-movie tough guy Ross Hagen is
up and running. If your only exposure to Hagen's work is
via the films that were skewered by the robot pundits of
"Mystery Science Theater 3000," this site is a comprehensive
opportunity to skip the sarcasm and learn more about rugged
Ross and his lengthy career. Hagen's credits include "Sidehackers,"
"The Miniskirt Mob," "The Devils 8," a plum role as Elvis'
"Speedway," and more recently, a fistful of films with
director Fred Olen Ray. The site features a detailed filmography,
a revealing bio (hard to believe the star of "Hellcats"
was born Leland Lando Lilly), an expansive Q&A, fan
club info and more. As far as future projects are concerned,
Ross has been hard at work on a script described as a modern
retelling of Dante's "Inferno." "We're gonna take people
on this divine adventure, the journey of the soul," says
Hagen. You'll find it all at http://www.rosshagen.com/
CORMAN COUGHS IT UP
It's just what you'd expect from an incredibly prolific
director famous for shooting at a breakneck pace. According
to CNN, Roger Corman had all 22 episodes of his made-for-cable
series, "Black Scorpion," in the can before the first one
ever hit the air. Corman had such faith in the project that
he ponied up the $12 million production costs before a buyer
ever showed interest, something of an uncharacteristic risk
for the author of "How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood
and Never Lost a Dime." The Sci Fi Channel will air the
series about a sexy superheroine, which Corman co-created
with writer Craig Nevius.
MARCO POLO'S "SIERRA MADRE"
Another solid soundtrack reconstruction
from the Marco Polo team that ventures beyond genre-film
is this restoration of Max Steiner's score for the John
Huston-directed, Humphrey Bogart classic "The Treasure of
the Sierra Madre." Steiner was rarely one for subtlety and
this score is one of his most appropriately rousing. Restorationist
John Morgan once again oversees the project, which features
William T. Stromberg leading the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
Find out more at http://www.naxos.com
A TOLKIEN OF THEIR AFFECTION
E! Online blew the lid off this story: It seems that several
actors prominent in the cast of the forthcoming "Lord of
the Rings" film were given permanent mementos of the production
when principal shooting concluded. Elijah Wood, Sean Astin,
Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen,
John Rhys-Davies and Sir Ian McKellen were tattooed with
a special "Rings Brotherhood" design. Well, the B Monster
dug a little deeper and found that this bizarre and sadistic
practice has been going on for years. For instance, actors
returning for the "Blade" sequel will be tattooed a second
time. Courtney Cox and Neve Campbell each sport three "Scream"
tattoos, one for each entry in the series. I don't even
want to think about Burgess Meredith's decorated backside
following the 50 or so "Rocky" movies. And why do you think
Connery stopped playing James Bond, for Pete's sake? And
poor Warner Oland. Eeyouch!
CAN IT GET ANY MORE THRILLING?
Thrilling Will Viharo, the lounge lizard/horror movie host
with a heart 'o gold has at long last launched thrillville.net,
the digital guide to the complete thrillville experience.
Will's live stage shows and cult-film screenings are something
of a Bay Area institution, but if you can't catch the Frisco
fright firsthand, this site is the next best thing. As the
home page proudly proclaims, "Thrillville is a city of B-movie
dreams in a state of culture shock, where time stands still
and aesthetics supercede politics." Whew! You'll find a
schedule of screenings, some groovy snapshots, a fistful
of links and the complete lowdown on The Thrill's plans
for "expanding 'Thrillville Theater' into the 'Thrillville
Revue' and taking it on the road." It's all waiting at http://www.thrillville.net/
MONSTERS FROM THE VIRTUAL VAULT
Fans of the classy "Monsters From the Vault" magazine will
be glad to know that the mag's official website is a going
concern. If you're not familiar with "MFTV," the site is
a nice compliment to the paper product. (It's a tad "graphic-intense,"
so readers with a speedier connection will have the advantage.)
If you've been keeping up with cult-film writing over the
past few years, then the names of "MFTV's" knowledgeable
contributors will be familiar ones: Steve Kronenberg, Gregory
William Mank, Mark A. Miller, John E. Parnum, Michael H.
Price, Gary Don Rhodes, Bryan Senn, John Stell, Gary J.
Svehla, Tom Weaver and others turn in top-flight writing.
You'll also find editor Jim Clatterbaugh's editorial, a
featured article, reviews, subscription info, convention
dates and recommended links. Check it out at: http://www.members.home.net/editormftv/MFTVMagazine.html
Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
PARADISE, SUZANNA STYLE
Elvis fans remember her as the King's co-star in "Paradise,
Hawaiian Style;" to horror and Hammer buffs, she's the leading
lady of shockers like "The Deadly Bees" and "The Lost Continent;"
her famous friends know her as a self-made film and TV actress
who's had shots at stardom on both sides of the Atlantic.
Suzanna Leigh's busy life -- complete with a few dark corners
-- is described in her new autobiography "Paradise, Suzanna
The book is not only her life story, it's an opportunity
to revisit the Swinging Sixties, a time of change for just
about everything connected with music, fashion, attitudes
about sex and drugs, politics and, of course, the movies,
as seen through the eyes of a rags-to-riches British beauty
just out of her teens. Although the book is generally upbeat,
Leigh isn't afraid to discuss the dark times, including
the early death of her father, her hell-on-wheels mom and
the outrageous behavior of some of her celebrity colleagues.
Laurence Harvey, Roman Polanski, Col. Tom Parker, Michael
Caine, Steve McQueen and Peter Finch are among the names
dropped. Leigh calls her life "a rollercoaster ride through
Wonderland," a good description of her book as well. You
can learn more about it at: http://www.suzannaleigh.com
As always, tell her the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON DVD
BULLDOG DRUMMOND DOUBLE FEATURE
This nifty pairing of vintage detective flicks features
an unjustly forgotten fictional sleuth. Captain Hugh "Bulldog"
Drummond was the subject of a number of films, both "A"
and "B." Ronald Colman, Walter Pidgeon, John Lodge and others
took their turn impersonating Drummond, Colman's 1929 outing
arguably the best of the lot. Paramount's B-movie unit kept
the series rolling throughout the 1930s and '40s and this
twin bill is culled from that period. "Bulldog Drummond
Escapes" stars a dashing young Ray Milland as the dauntless
detective. Venerable Reginald Denny appears as his sidekick
Algy Longworth and Heather Angel plays "Bulldog's" paramour,
Phyllis Clavering. For our money, it's the smaller character
roles that keep these Bs perennially entertaining. Watch
for Porter Hall, E.E. Clive and Walter Kingsford in supporting
John Howard assumes the lead in "Bulldog Drummond's Secret
Police" (he would portray Drummond seven times in all),
with Denny and Angel returning as Algy and Phyllis. E.E.
Clive, Leo G. Carroll and Forrester Harvey are the familiar
faces to watch for in support. Howard was a likable, B-movie
workhorse with several notable horror and sci-fi credits,
including "The Undying Monster," "The Mad Doctor" and "Invisible
Woman." Both Drummond features were directed by low-budget
journeyman James P. Hogan, who also directed entries in
the Ellery Queen series. His final film was 1943's "The
Mad Ghoul," starring George Zucco and David Bruce.
This often-overlooked, juvenile delinquent opus is one of
Roger Corman's best films. The B-movie speed demon was famous
for the number of set-ups he could pack into a day's work,
but with "Teenage Doll," his artsy side is showing. There
are a number of flourishes -- intriguing shadows, realistically
staged fighting, clever cutting from scene to scene -- that
lead us to suspect he really cared about this one. Cute
June Kenney is the eponymous "Doll" who's fallen in with
the wrong crowd. Fetching Fay Spain, the "Dragstrip Girl"
herself, is terrific as the "bad chick," Helen ("Hel," for
short). All in all, one of best JD films of the '50s. (It
has no bearing here, but the poster art for "Teenage Doll"
was a real grabber, simple and atmospheric).
NEW ON VIDEO
We hate to start a review by saying 'this one's not as bad
as you might think, all things considered,' but, 'this one's
not as bad as you might think, all things considered.' Director
James Wong worked previously on such television series as
"The X-Files," "Millennium" and "The Others" (usually in
a production capacity), so a story centered around frightened
teens attempting to outwit death seems right up his street.
This movie covers familiar ground, to be sure, but in a
number of scenes, Wong takes the path less beaten. (He finds
some inventive ways to showcase a plane catastrophe and
a near-electrocution.) As is usual with contemporary horror
films, it's the trite dialogue that undoes much of the suspense.
The film begins with a harrowing, gut-wrenching, flat-out
horrific airport scene, in which students preparing to fly
to France encounter delays, cancellations, snarling flight
attendants -- you know, the same stuff you and I encounter
every time we fly. Sure, their plane blows up, but the airline
gave 'em those vouchers for free "jalapeno poppers" at T.G.I.
Fridays, so it wasn't a total loss.
Just what this troubled young millennium needs, another
dumb devil movie. This one -- produced by Meg Ryan! -- stars
Wynona Ryder and John Hurt. There are plot holes big enough
to drive a Humvee through and more dangling loose ends than
a bowl of linguini. It's all about the chosen one, the son
of Satan himself, who at the appointed hour will become
manifest, blah, blah, blah. This stuff hasn't been scary
since Travolta was a Sweathog. "Lost Souls" marks the directorial
debut of Janusz Kaminski, a truly talented, Oscar-winning
cinematographer ("Saving Private Ryan," "Schindler's List"),
and it is a nice-looking movie -- if you like brown. Everything
but EVERYTHING is some shade of sepia. Beams of autumnal
light shower every scene as the dry ice machine works overtime.
But why do people simply entering a room do so in super-slow
motion, the camera shooting from the floor and panning up
their pant legs? It's gimmicky and cliched, a cross between
"The Exorcist" and a Calvin Klein ad. All in all, a big
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, 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
"How much shock can the human brain endure before it cracks?"
-- Crypt of Horror