Pat yourself on the back. If you're reading this you survived
one hell of a year. So we'll dispense with the de rigueur
digital diatribe and instead offer heartfelt hopes that
this year is better. No rant. You get off easy this time.
B-movie director Paul Landres died of cancer at his Los
Angeles home. He was 89. Landres began his film career as
an editor, working on films of all genres including the
Basil Rathbone-Sherlock Holmes entry, "The Scarlet Claw,"
"She-Wolf of London," "The Crimson Canary" and director
Sam Fuller's "I Shot Jesse James." Beginning in the late
1940s, Landres graduated to directing and is perhaps best
known to cult-film fans for "The Vampire" aka "Mark of the
Vampire," which starred John Beal, Kenneth Tobey and Coleen
Gray, and "The Return of Dracula," an efficient, atmospheric
shocker featuring Francis Lederer as one of the big screen's
most convincing vampires.
Landres also directed "The Flame Barrier," starring Arthur
Franz and Kathleen Crowley, and the rock 'n roll showcase,
"Go, Johnny, Go!" which featured Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran
and Richie Valens. Landres turned to TV in the 1950s, directed
over 350 episodes of such programs as "The Life and Legend
of Wyatt Earp," "Bonanza," "Death Valley Days," "The Lone
Ranger," "Maverick," "The Rifleman," "77 Sunset Strip,"
"Hawaiian Eye," "Sky King" and "Surfside 6."
Director Budd Boetticher died of multiple organ failure
at his home near Ramona, Calif. He was 85. Often cited as
a "maverick" filmmaker, Boetticher is perhaps best known
for a series of modestly budgeted westerns he made in collaboration
with Randolph Scott in the 1950s. "Seven Men From Now,"
"The Tall T," "Decision at Sundown," "Buchanon Rides Alone,"
"Ride Lonesome" and "Comanche Station" are considered some
of the very best westerns ever produced. Boetticher once
called them "morality plays," wherein Scott's near-mythic
integrity was tested in simple stories that nonetheless
had great impact.
Prior to his film career, Boetticher was trained by two
of Mexico's best-known matadors and became a professional
bullfighter. He came to Hollywood as a technical adviser
on director Rouben Mamoulian's 1941 version of "Blood and
Sand," which starred Tyrone Power. He gradually rose through
the B-movie ranks directing such potboilers as "Black Midnight,"
"Assigned to Danger" and "Behind Locked Doors."
Following his films with Scott, Boetticher devoted seven
years to filming a documentary about bullfighter Carlos
Arruza. During this time, his marriage to actress Debra
Paget ended in divorce, he went bankrupt, spent a week in
a mental institution after a drinking binge, served a week
in jail and nearly died of pneumonia. Later, Arruza and
some of Boetticher's film crew were killed in an automobile
accident. Returning to Hollywood, Boetticher scripted the
Clint Eastwood western "Two Mules for Sister Sara." His
final directing credit was 1971's "A Time for Dying," which
he co-produced with Audie Murphy.
Actress Pauline Moore, who appeared in two dozen B-pictures
in the 1930s and '40s, is dead at 87. She had amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis. Moore's career began with an uncredited
part as one of Mae Clarke's bridesmaids in the 1931 "Frankenstein."
She appeared in several westerns including "The Carson City
Kid," "Young Buffalo Bill" and "King of the Texas Rangers"
and portrayed Anne Rutledge opposite Henry Fonda in John
Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln." She also appeared in three Charlie
Chan films: "Charlie Chan at the Olympics," "Charlie Chan
in Reno" and "Charlie Chan at Treasure Island," which many
regard as among the best in the series. She was later an
inspirational speaker and a writer of poetry, short stories
and religious plays.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
Who is Steve Friedman and why is he known as "Mr. Movie?"
Friedman hosts a call-in radio show on WPHT-AM TalkRadio
in Philadelphia. Callers from 38 states and Canada regularly
test his knowledge of film archania. "The nickname 'Mr.
Movie' was given to me back in the early 1980's by another
talkshow host," says Friedman, "because of my nearly photographic
memory about all things cinematic. I've seen nearly 30,000
films (honestly!) and I can remember (selectively) almost
all of them. The point is, I'm a MOVIE maniac, not an EGOmaniac!
But the nickname stuck." "Mr. Movie" airs 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
on Philly's WPHT 1210-AM. The station's super-signal is
the reason Friedman reaches so many listeners without benefit
of syndication. Steve's also hosted "Movie Talk with Steve
Friedman" on cable TV, covered film and entertainment for
NBC TV's "News 10" for the past eight years, and served
as film critic for America Online's Digital City. Oh, and
he's a huge B Monster fan.
WHEN DOES WEAVER SLEEP?
Our own walking encyclopedia of film history, Tom Weaver,
has two new tomes we want to tout. "I Was a Monster Movie
Maker: Conversations with 22 SF and Horror Filmmakers,"
from McFarland & Co., is packed with fascinating ephemera
from the mouths of both the obscure and the renowned. No
one is better than Weaver at pushing the buttons of the
old pros, eliciting the strange, the startling and the endearing
anecdote. Featured subjects include Phil Brown, Faith Domergue,
Michael Forest, Anne Helm, Candace Hilligoss, Suzanna Leigh,
Norman Lloyd, Maureen O'Sullivan, Shirley Ulmer and Dana
Wynter. Ninety-seven rare photos round out the package.
Hard on the heels of the aforementioned release comes Weaver's
"Science Fiction Confidential: Interviews with 23 Monster
Stars and Filmmakers." This time around the lineup includes
David Hedison, Dan O'Herlihy, Eve Brent, Kate Phillips,
John Alvin, Anthony Cardoza, Tod Griffin, Alex and Richard
Gordon, Denny Miller, Audrey Dalton, Suzanne Kaaren, and
Warren Stevens discussing "The Fly," "The Blob," "It Came
from Outer Space," "Tarzan the Ape Man," "Star Trek," "The
Wild Wild West," "Somewhere in Time," "The Devil Bat," and
"Forbidden Planet," among others.
And if all this weren't enough, McFarland & Co. is soon
to publish "Double Feature Creature Attack: A Monster Merger
of Two More Volumes of Classic Interviews." This coffee
table-crushing collection combines Weaver's previous "Attack
of the Monster Movie Makers" and "They Fought in the Creature
Features," showcasing 43 revealing interviews with the stars,
writers, directors and producers who created some of our
favorite (and, less charitably regarded) films. If you missed
either of these volumes the first time around, the new edition
is a must.
Check out: http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
FANG TAKES A BYTE OUT OF CYBERSPACE
Our buddy "The Fang" has finally set up shop on the worldwide
Web. For 15 years, "The Fang" has sold top-quality, hard-to-find
titles on video (his sixty-page catalog, packed with vintage
ad art and video obscurities is itself a collectible!).
Where else will you find "Voodoo Tiger," "The Vampire's
Coffin," "Stakeout On Dope Street" and the complete Hugo
Haas/Cleo Moore oeuvre all in one place? Jungle Jim, Charlie
Chan, vintage trailers and classic TV, plus one sheets,
half sheets and lobby cards from your favorite cult films.
Hard-core horror fans will recognize "The Fang" as a perennial
presence at every "Chiller" con. Now, you can visit his
dark digital niche with the click of a mouse.
Check out: http://www.thefang.com
Be sure and tell him the B Monster sent you!
INVITATION TO THE RANKIN-PHILE
Come on, you remember "Mad Monster Party?" The 1967 animated
puppet bash was created by the Rankin/Bass Animagic process
(stop-motion photography using 3-D figures) and graced by
the voice talents of Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller. It
surfaces on cable occasionally, usually around Halloween,
and debuted on video just last year. Now, there's a Web
site devoted to the film that's brimming with trivia and
behind-the scenes production tidbits. In addition to a photo
gallery, a bit of Rankin/Bass history and answers to some
frequently asked questions, there's a lively discussion
of the film's production featuring Diller, Rankin/Bass expert
Rick Goldschmidt and others. (This feature was intended
as a supplement to a Deluxo Video DVD project that was scrapped
when Sony Columbia/Tri-Star discovered a 35mm print that
was superior in quality to the existing video version.)
According to the site, "Deluxo Video has ceased production
of MMP on VHS due to the discovery of a newly restored,
color corrected, 35mm print by Sony Pictures. Remaining
supplies are limited and are on a first come first served
basis. Please contact Half.com, Amazon.com, or eBay.com
for availability and pricing." Anchor Bay Entertainment
is scheduled to release "Mad Monster Party?" on DVD & VHS
in the summer of 2002.
You can check out the site at: http://www.madmonsterparty-movie.com
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Attention aspiring B-movie impresarios: If you've recently
produced a short film having anything to do with zombies,
ghosts, ghouls, goblins -- pretty much anything that creeps,
skulks, shambles or crawls -- entries are now being accepted
for the Fourth Annual ZombieDance (formerly ZXZW) Film Festival
to be held this March 9, 2002, in Austin, Texas. (The location
has yet to be announced.) "We established the festival because
we felt that zombie films weren't shown enough respect,"
says festival honcho Nathan McGinty. "But, over the past
few years, we've always shown films that - though not necessarily
featuring a zombie or member of the undead - were just too
good to pass up. This year we decided to go ahead and make
it official." Meaning that this year the criteria will encompass
all films of a "psychotronic" nature. "If you don't know
what psychotronic means," McGinty stresses, "don't waste
your money on postage sending us a tape. That means YOU,
art school goth kids." Deadline for entries is Feb. 1, 2002.
All the info you need can be found at: http://www.zombiedance.org.
AN E-BOOK SPIN ON SAUCERS
While no one is quite sure whether or not the "e-book" concept
is commercially viable, that's not to say there hasn't been
an interesting attempt or two. One recent example is "The
Flying Saucer Cinema" by Nigel Watson. According to publicity,
"This brand new e-book looks at how the images and stories
of spaceships and aliens have evolved on our cinema screens
over the past 100 years." Watson is the co-author of "Supernatural
Spielberg" and a contributor to Fortean Times and Magonia.
He's been the publisher of Talking Pictures magazine since
1991. The 26-page book "includes exercises on every page
to encourage the reader to explore and think more deeply
about this intriguing area of cinema." It costs $4.99 to
For more information or to order a copy go to:
GLASSY'S CLASSY SCI FI BIOLOGY
Our good friend and at-large book reviewer, Lawrence Woolsey,
offers the following review of a unique new tome from McFarland
Now when was the last time you wished you could find a
book that says something new about the classics we all love
(more or less)? Well, I found one: "The Biology of Science
Fiction Cinema," by one Mark C. Glassy, a cancer researcher
and horror buff at UC San Diego. The idea here is to examine
a bunch of pix ranging from "White Zombie" thru "Blade"
as to their scientific veracity. I know, I had the same
reaction -- we all know these are just movies, sci fi, horror
and fantasy at that, and are expected to have little or
no relation to reality ... but I must confess that even
though initially I thought this a sort of desperate gimmick
to justify yet another genre-related McFarland opus, I found
myself increasingly fascinated -- and yes, informed, by
the entries in this book.
Each pic is broken down into categories: Synopsis, Writing
credits (no auteurist tome this), Biological science principles
involved, What is right with the biological science presented,
What is wrong with same, What biological science is necessary
to actually achieve the results in the film, and Could it
actually happen. Naturally the better pix like "Them!" and
"Incredible Shrinking Man" get high marks for trying harder
to be realistic than "The Astro-Zombies," but there are
some highly informative notes on their various scientific
failings that future re-makers would do well to incorporate
into their thinking. The range of movies covered is bracingly
wide, and the affection of the author for most of them is
palpable. Where else are you gonna find a reasoned scientific
response to "Indestructible Man"? Or "House of Dracula"?
Or "The Ape Man"? Or, God help us, "Horror of the Blood
Monsters"? This may be the smartest book (of non-film-criticism)
ever published about these pictures. I bought mine as an
impulse-buy Christmas present and decided to keep it myself!
(And btw, on page 257 there's a still from "Bride of Frankenstein"
in which Colin Clive and Ernest Thesiger are eyeing a bespectacled
contemporary-looking character who's obviously not Dwight
Frye! Author, anyone?)
NEW ON DVD
ATLANTIS: THE LOST CONTINENT
I didn't like this film very much, but just the same, I
believe it was unfairly overlooked by critics AND audiences,
considering all of the crap that's out there for kids to
see. (The Washington Post named "Atlantis" one
of the 10 worst films of 2001. Curiously, "Pootie Tang"
and "Corky Romano" did NOT make their list). Its
good points? Much of the bric-a-brac and undersea ship design
is clever and the voice talent is top-notch: ingratiating,
recognizable actors who nevertheless don't overshadow the
material (e.g., Eddie Murphy's degrading, jive-talking jackass
in "Shrek.") Its bad points? Hollywood's always predictable
predictability, for starters. Even a toddler will know where
this horse is going right out of the gate. More egregious
is the character design. Each character -- and there are
many -- is rendered in a distracting, conflicting, unique
style. One is realistic, one is pure Japanamation, one is
so stylized it's barely recognizable as human. The variety
does NOT add spice to this mix.
DR. ORLOFF'S MONSTER
At last count, Jesus Franco has directed roughly 6,000 films
under about 2,000 aliases -- which in an odd coincidence
is also the number of films about mad surgeons who mutilate
innocent women in an attempt to restore the beauty of their
dead, dying, comatose or disfigured wives -- which is what
Franco's 1962 shocker, "The Awful Dr. Orloff," was about.
Also known as "Gritos en la noche," (and about 20 other
titles), it warranted a sequel, known in America as "Dr.
Orloff's Monster." Also directed by Franco, the follow-up
features the somewhat less intimidatingly named Dr. Fisherman,
a demented disciple of the late Dr. Orloff, who stimulates
a kill-crazy zombie into action with the aid of a high-frequency
signal. According to publicity, "this [DVD features] the
full length version with sequences shot especially for French
audiences." (Ooh la la, you know what that means!) With
or without found French footage, diehard Euro-horror completists
are sure to add this Spanish- French- German- Italian- Dutch-
Romanian- Latvian- Lichtensteinian- Luxembourgian co-production
to their collections.
Probably the best film based on a Stephen King book. William
Goldman's script is taut as a drumhead, and Rob Reiner's
knack for conveying suspense is surprisingly deft. Between
the two of them, not a single frame of film is wasted. Kathy
Bates is appropriately over the top (and subsequently won
an Oscar) as deranged nurse Annie Wilkes. James Caan, to
everyone's surprise, gives a restrained performance, and
the always reliable Richard Farnsworth, a criminally underrated
performer who brought great humanity to any role he assumed,
is absolutely terrific as the local lawman. Key scenes are
served up with knuckle-whitening suspense. Some might call
it a horror film. That's arguable, but then, who cares?
It's scary as heck, and that's what's important.
The first video game movie (I think). Now there's a watershed
worth celebrating. I didn't get it then, and I don't get
it now, but there's a core group who were first exposed
to the wonders of special effects via this film, and I suppose
they should buy this DVD. The effects are badly dated, but
I certainly don't hold that against it. (I can't very well
defend "The Brain Eaters" and then proceed to denigrate
the effects in "Tron.") Glitzy and innovative it may have
been, but the film is just kind of flat and soulless and
Steven Spielberg's "Duel" meets "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,"
with a little of Cornel Wilde's "Gargoyles" thrown in, all
set to the hummable, bouncy Johnny Mercer tune from which
the film takes its name. If you're thinking these elements
are too divergent to coalesce into a satisfying film, you're
right. The car chase over barren desert is initially exciting,
but as the film's makers add one supernatural cliche after
another to the pile, the whole thing collapses. Those who
disagree, take heart: "Jeepers Creepers" made back its nut
and then some, and I'm confident there will be a "Jeepers
BUFFY, THE FIRST SEASON
No television program in recent memory has delivered what
its fans want so consistently. Producer Joss Whedon and
the "Buffy" team take all of that neo-Goth, pierced-punk
doo-doo and stand it right on its head with skewed humor
served up by a likable ensemble. It's a sophisticated Archie
comic come to life (yes, that's a compliment). These kids
don't brood when the going gets tough. They're resourceful.
(Now there's a concept.) These estimable resources often
take the form of convincing battles with various ghouls
that are better staged and more engaging -- week-in, week-out
-- than those in most major motion pictures. B Monster buddy
Michael F. Blake won a well-deserved Emmy for the stunning
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
"Co-ed beauty captive of man-monster!" -- Monster on the