Genre-film icon, Kenneth Tobey, renowned for his role as
the two-fisted Captain Pat Hendry in the sci-fi classic
"The Thing from Another World," has died. He was 85. Tobey
specialized in roles as hard-nosed cops and stalwart military
types and brought great authority to parts in such science-fiction
films as "It Came From Beneath the Sea," "Beast From 20,000
Fathoms" and "The Vampire." In supporting parts, Tobey also
appeared in classic pictures including "Gunfight at the
O.K. Corral" (as Bat Masterson, no less), and John Ford's
"The Wings of Eagles," opposite John Wayne. He was Colonel
Jim Bowie in Disney's "Davey Crockett" teleseries, which
starred Fess Parker.
Born in Oakland, California, Tobey was headed for a law
career when he first tried his hand at acting at the University
of California Little Theater. That experience led to a year
and a half of study at New York's Neighborhood Playhouse,
where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach
and Tony Randall. Throughout the 1940s, Tobey acted on Broadway
and in stock. He made his film debut in a 1943 short, "The
Man on the Ferry." Tobey made his Hollywood film bow in
a Hopalong Cassidy Western, going on to appear in scores
of features over the next four decades including "Cry Terror!,"
"The Search For Bridey Murphy," "Seven Ways From Sundown,"
"X-15," "Rage" and "Walking Tall." He also appeared in numerous
TV series including "Gunsmoke," "The Lone Ranger," "Science
Fiction Theater," "The Rebel," "Perry Mason," Sea Hunt,"
"Bonanza," "Night Gallery," "Mannix," "Cannon," "The Rockford
Files" and "Star Trek: Deep Space 9." He even starred in
his own show, the high-flying 1957 adventure series "The
One of Tobey's "Thing" co-stars, Robert Nichols, recalled
that, "It took nineteen weeks to shoot, and an interesting
nineteen weeks it was. Jim Young and I played Ken's buddies
on the plane crew, and from the very first day of shooting
we all got along great. There was some contention on the
set, but never with us. Ken was a good actor, very easy
and natural. He never looked like he was acting, which is
the essence of good film acting. Ken also had success in
the theatre, starring in several shows on Broadway. He had
a career that any actor would be proud of." Robert Cornthwaite,
who portrayed Dr. Carrington in the film, recalled for the
L.A. Times that Tobey "had a wonderful, understated kind
of [acting] style. He always played everything keyed way
down, but he made a very effective thing out of it, I thought."
It was Sammy Davis Jr., a big fan of "The Thing," who
was responsible for Tobey's return to the stage. Davis spotted
Tobey at an L.A. jazz club and offered him a part in his
1964 Broadway show "Golden Boy." Throughout the 1970s and
80s, Tobey continued to work in supporting roles in such
films as "MacArthur" (as Admiral William Halsey) and the
comedy hit, "Ariplane," as an air traffic controller. Director
Joe Dante cast Tobey in his hit films, "The Howling" "Gremlins"
and "Innerspace." "My experience with Ken Tobey was everything
I expected," said Dante. "He was a total pro, and after
"The Howling" I always tried to find something for him.
I had a scene in "Gremlins" where inventor Hoyt Axton was
supposed to unload a "smokeless ashtray" on somebody --
I don't think it was in the script. So I called Ken and
told him I didn't know exactly what I'd want him to do,
but he would be a gas station attendant and that we'd make
up something on the spot. He was game and we improvised
a funny bit, much of which made it into the picture. With
incredible economy Ken created a chainsmoking, taciturn
character not unlike himself. I loved working with him.
He was fond of noting that the brief scene he has with
Marty Short in "Innerspace" got the biggest laugh in the
picture. I know he was miffed at me for not hiring him to
play the General in the "Mant" section of "Matinee," but
in truth when he came in I realized he was recovering from
a stroke and it just wasn't going to work. Last time I saw
him was at one of Ray Courts' shows at the Beverly Garland
Holiday Inn in North Hollywood a few years ago and we parted
amicably. I would never have told him, but I always thought
he was criminally underrated as an actor and that he should
have had a much more mainstream career. But he made a major
impact nonetheless, and perhaps among a much more loyal
and appreciative audience than he might have found elsewhere."
"I've had a career," Tobey once told genre-film historian
Tom Weaver. "Maybe not a great career, but what the hell.
I won't retire, I'll just be found one morning, dead, with
one shoe on and one shoe off. And with a script clutched
in my hand!"
Actress, model Adele Jergens died at her home in Camarillo,
Calif. The cause of death was not reported. She was 84.
Jergens, a former Rockette, specialized in roles as earthy,
wisecracking gun molls and streetwise showgirls. Beginning
in the mid-1940s, she landed parts in such B pictures as
"The Corpse Came C.O.D." "The Dark Past," "The Woman from
Tangier," and "Ladies of the Chorus." The 1950s found her
in such crime-dramas as "Armored Car Robbery" and "Side
Street," directed by Richard Fleischer and Anthony Mann,
respectively. She also appeared in comedies opposite Abbott
& Costello, The Bowery Boys and others. She is perhaps
best known to genre-film fans for her role as Ruby in the
Alex Gordon-produced Roger Corman thriller "Day the World
Ended." She appeared in several of Gordon's pictures including
"Runaway Daughters" and "Girls in Prison," her final film
in 1956. Jergens married B-movie leading man Glenn Langan
in 1949. Langan is well known to sci-fi fans as "The Amazing
Colossal Man." They remained married until his death in
Science fiction author Jerry Sohl, whose works include "The
Mars Monopoly" and "The Altered Ego," is dead at 88. The
cause of death was not immediately known. In addition to
such well-regarded books as "The Lemon Eaters," "The Resurrection
of Frank Borchard" and "The Spun Sugar Hole," Sohl also
wrote for science fiction and fantasy-related television
programs including "Star Trek," "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred
Hitchcock Presents," "The Outer Limits" and "The Invaders."
Prior to his success as an author of science fiction, Sohl
had worked as a police reporter, a photographer and a critic
for newspapers in the Midwest. Sohl occasionally used such
pen names as Sean Mei Sullivan, Nathan Butler and Roberta
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
JAMMIN' IN JERSEY
What if selected members of Black Sabbath, Los Straightjackets
and Bobby "Boris" Picket's Crypt Kickers got together to
form a surf-metal party band? Such a collaboration might
sound like The Dead Elvi, a hard-rockin' New Jersey combo
that draws upon classic horror for musical inspiration.
The horror movie muse comes naturally to guitarist Kevin
Clement. The self-proclaimed "Jerry Garcia of Horror Fandom,"
Clement spearheads the twice-annual Chiller Theatre conventions
in East Rutherford, New Jersey, showcasing vintage film
stars and attracting thousands of fans and collectors. Clement
and company -- John "Skullhead" Kullberg, Chris "Criswell"
Palmerini, Tom "Da-Blur!" Seeselberg and Vincent Priceless
-- authored the bulk of the tunes on their new CD "Graveland."
A glance at the titles will tell you where these cats are
coming from: "Wolfman Road," "The Creature Stole My Surfboard"
and the B Monster's personal favorite, "John Agar Rules."
Loudmouth Goth-rockers like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson
get all the hype, but grassroots bar bands like The Dead
Elvi have more spirit. To learn more, check out:
And tell 'em the B Monster says, "Rock on!"
WHO IS HORROR INCORPORATED?
They're a pack of gruesome TV emcees currently terrorizing
the Twin Cities. The institution of the TV horror host not
only refuses to die, "we're bringing them back with a vengeance,"
crows executive producer/writer Thom Lange AKA Uncle Ghoulie.
Every Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm you'll find Ghoulie
and his incorporated cadavers presenting horror films on
KSTC-45. Recent "in-person" guests have included "Tor Johnson,
Count Dracula, the moldering corpse of Bela Lugosi and Godzilla
himself," according to Lange. For info, photos, bios and
more, check out:
For scheduling and contest information you can visit:
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Last year's first ever Sci Fi London convention was such
a smashing success, they're throwing another super sci-fi
party this year. Billed as "the UK's only dedicated science
fiction and fantasy film festival," the con will run from
Thursday, January 30th through Sunday, February 2nd, 2003
at The Curzon SOHO and The Other Cinema in London. Highlights
include the "Sci Fi London Trailer Challenge," wherein,
with your own two hands (and the aid of the Digital Guerrilla
Filmmakers), you can make the trailer for the sci-fi feature
of your dreams in less than a week! Documentaries on the
work of Philip K. Dick and Douglas Adams will be screened
and seminars concerning scriptwriting, editing and low-budget
home computer special effects will be presented. Among the
classic films being showcased are "Quatermass and the Pit,"
"The Man in the White Suit" and "Fahrenheit 451," as well
as back-to-back, all-night screenings of "Blade Runner,"
"The Matrix," "Gattaca," "Mad Max II," "The Day the Earth
Stood Still," "Village of the Damned," "Invasion of the
Body Snatchers," "Terminator II," "Predator," "Aliens" and
"Starship Troopers." And that's just the FIRST night! For
more info visit:
And, as always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
SHORT CYBER SUBJECTS
Toronto-based mise-en-chien productions is premiering a
short, made-for-Web horror/comedy called "The Secret of
Zombie Mountain" at the iFilm.com Website. "After Zombies
overrun a small university town," says the publicity blurb,
"a misfit group of survivors unite to unravel an ancient
secret that threatens to destroy us all." Just when we thought
the public's fling with downloadable multi-megabyte movies
was long over, here come filmmakers Chris McCawley and Craig
Macnaughton with this digital diversion. The producers encourage
visitors to the iFilm site to "make sure to rate and review
each film whether you liked them or not. Take a peak at:
"TAKEN" SERIES A GIVEN
The Sci Fi Channel nabbed its biggest numbers ever with
"Steven Spielberg Presents Taken," the mammoth miniseries
about UFO abductees and the sinister government cover-up
of the flying saucer phenomena. Six million viewers tuned
in to the premier episode. That number dipped to 4.8 million
the second night, but the show still outdrew Sci Fi's previous
record holder, their "Dune" miniseries, which peaked at
1.1 million. "Taken" was barely two days old before CNN
reported that Dreamworks was considering making "Taken"
a weekly series. This begs a question: What could they possibly
explore that wasn't covered in "Taken's" 20-hour running
time? There was scarcely a new idea in it. The title might
as well refer to elements appropriated from myriad films,
books, comics, magazines, TV shows -- as though the producers
wanted to round up all the clichés and do 'em up
right, once and fer all! (Let's hope it was once and for
all). The show was certainly well mounted, but was seriously
flawed with plot holes big enough to park a mother ship
(Sounds like something "Space Patrol's" Cadet Happy might
exclaim). Actor/rapper Will Smith will star in a big-budget
sci-fi film based on Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot," to be directed
by Alex "Dark City" Proyas. Asimov's robot canon, written
in the 1940s, helped define the shape of futuristic fiction
and film and introduced the author's now-famous three laws
of robotics: 1. A robot may not injure a human or, through
inaction, allow a human to come to harm. 2. A robot must
obey orders given to it by a human, except where it would
conflict with the first law. 3. A robot must protect itself,
as long as that protection doesn't violate either the first
or second law. "The big idea here," 20th Century Fox film
president Hutch Parker told Variety, "is that if the robots
have found a way to violate the laws, there is nothing to
stop them from taking over." The production is scheduled
to begin shooting in April.
THE THRILLVILLE BILL
Our martini-totaling buddy, cult-movie enthusiast non-pareil,
Will "The Thrill" Viharo, is kicking off the New Year in
fine filmic fashion with a slate of cinematic pleasures
bound to lure Bay Area B fans to his Parkway Theater haunt.
Thursday, January 2 at 9:15 Will screens "Gamera: Guardian
of the Universe" along with an episode of the 1960s cult-TV
fave "Johnny Socko and his Flying Robot." According to Viharo,
he'll share the stage with "Japanese fantasy film experts
Bob Johnson, August Ragone ... and Gamera himself!"
Thursday, January 16 at 9:15, the feature attraction is
the 1961 Ray Harryhausen take on Jules Verne's "Mysterious
Island" along with selected short subjects.
On Wednesday, January 29, Will and company hit the road
to spend "A Wild Night with Ray Dennis Steckler" at Berkeley's
Fine Arts Cinema. The schlock classic "Wild Guitar" starring
Arch Hall Jr. will be shown at 7:00 pm, followed at 9:15
by "Wild Ones On Wheels," described by Viharo as "the torrid
tale of hell-raising hot-rodders in the desert, starring
Ray and sexy Francine York." Following the show, Steckler
will be signing and selling rare videos, posters, and memorabilia.
The Fine Arts is located at 2451 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley,
Ca. To find out more about the Fine Arts, visit:
Then, it's back to the Parkway for a Ray Dennis Steckler
birthday celebration. Steckler will appear in person along
with frequent co-star Herb Robbins to present Ray's 1967
superhero oddity "Rat Fink A Boo Boo," as well as Steckler's
1960 short, "Goofs On the Loose" and a "lost" featurette
starring Steckler's Bowery Boys-inspired Lemon Grove Kids,
"The Lemon Grove Kids Go Hollywood." Once more, Steckler
tapes and posters will be on sale in the lobby. The Parkway
is located at 1834 Park Blvd. Oakland, Calif. For more info,
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
RIPOFF VAN WINKLE
Veteran TV producer Steven Bochco has a new, sci-fi themed
series slated to appear on the Fox network. According to
the Hollywood Reporter, "NYPD 2069" is about "an officer
partnered with a New York cop revived and put back to work
after spending 66 years cryogenically frozen." Actor Danny
Pino ("The Shield") will portray the partner of the thawed
flatfoot. Nothing new here, premise-wise. Sci-fi filmmakers
have been thawing the long-frozen for years. Now, if they
thawed out Ted Williams and he came back batting .400 for
the season ...
RETURN OF THE BIG RED CHEESE
New Line Cinema plans to produce a feature film based on
the Golden Age comic book character Captain Marvel (referred
to tauntingly by his nemesis Dr. Sivana as "that big red
cheese.") According to Variety, New Line is in final negotiations
with DC comics, who appropriated the character from Fawcett
years ago following one of the most protracted legal battles
in history. (DC contended that Captain Marvel bore too striking
a resemblance to their own Superman). In the comics, meek
newsboy Billy Batson meets up with the wizard Shazam. The
mention of Shazam's name transforms Billy into the all-powerful
Captain. Let's see what dark, cynical spin contemporary
filmmakers can put on that innocent scenario. Michael Uslan,
the executive producer responsible for the Batman franchise
will be in charge.
NEW ON DVD
The scariest thing about the summer thriller "Signs" may
be the way critics pounced with a vengeance on one-time
darling director M. Night Shyamalan, and the arguments they
used to justify their vitriol. Shyamalan's sleeper hit "The
Sixth Sense" caught every critic sleeping. But the public
ate it up and it brought a touch of class to the horror
genre after decades of slasher-mania. The critics were quick
to cover their tracks by over-praising the director's follow-up,
"Unbreakable." Now, they seem to genuinely resent Shyamalan's
consistency and success, mostly because they didn't "discover"
him at Sundance or Cannes and present him to the public
as "someone you should like" the way they did Tarentino
or Soderbergh. It would seem their scorn is symptomatic
of a phenomena that screenwriter William Goldman dubbed
the "Supercritic," those pontificating pundits more concerned
with their own public standing and snappy wordplay than
the actual merits of the film in question. (You can read
the first six grafs of a "Supercritic's" review and still
not know if they liked the film). The predictability is
Hollywood.com, who seem to exist only to drive people
sheeplike to their local megaplexes, rendered an ineptly
"rah-rah" review, calling "Signs" "thrilling, sad and hysterical
... you have to experience this one for yourself." And Roger
Ebert, who, when it comes to genre-films, we disagree with
approximately 99.7 percent of the time, gave "Signs" an
unqualified endorsement. Otherwise ...
As one might expect from something called Salon.com, lots
of big words were employed to trash Shyamalan: "... promiscuous
geysers of sentimentality and random New Age brain fog ...
vague, pseudo-universal nostrums ... a specific meaning
in Christian eschatology." (Wha? Did you like it or not?)
Film Journal International was likewise eager to flaunt
their lexicon of psycho-babble: "Shyamalan is no doubt sincere
about [religious] issues, but he's just as sincere about
wanting to be an entertainer, which tends to undermine any
real potential for theological depth ... the audience is
left more convinced about the hand of Shyamalan than the
hand of God." Entertainment Weekly allowed as to how Shyamalan,
"has a sixth sense for how to transport an audience," but
railed against the film's "goofy, contrived formalism."
("Formalism?" Is that even a word?)
The New York Post was a tad resentful: "As sometimes happens
with Spielberg, you're constantly aware you're being manipulated,
even if by a master." The Hollywood Reporter felt likewise
duped: "If you think you're being manipulated, you are.
Big time." The Christian Science Monitor got sucked in,
too: "Every time the story promises to get really thoughtful,
Shyamalan douses it with overwrought emotion, family-values
clichés, and tepid space-monster suspense." (What
the heck is a "family-values cliché?" And how can
something be tepid AND suspenseful. Doesn't it have to be
one or the other?)
Okay, so let's look to the heartland for honest analysis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch found "Signs" "shallow as Ozark
topsoil - [there's] the unharvested cornfield, which the
family apparently enters only to look for space creatures."
They enjoyed the film for the most part, but were ultimately
distracted by the film's unconscionable waste of valuable
cropland. Yeehaw! Well then, let's hop to the great northwest.
The Seatlle Post-Intelligencer smugly asserted that Shyamalan's
entire career was predicated on "pulp thrill rides of Hollywood
exploitation ... reborn as crucibles for the exploration
of loss, self discovery, acceptance and faith." Whew! Does
this guy also write fortune cookie slips for Seattle's Chinese
Then there were those who made it personal. The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution dismissed Shyamalan resentfully as
"Newsweek's latest cover boy." (The great majority of reviewers
mentioned the director's appearance on the cover of Newsweek
with tweaking disdain). The voice of the stereotypical cranky
New Yorker, The Daily News, assailed Shyamalan as, "the
31-year-old Indian-born acolyte of Steven Spielberg," calling
the film, "a cockeyed alien-invasion yarn." (Salon likewise
cited the director's ethnicity and religious beliefs. Interestingly,
none of the critics signed their reviews, "Joe Blow, White
Episcopalian.") Surely The Village Voice, liberal guardians
of free expression and artistic tolerance would provide
fair-minded analysis. Their eloquent, erudite critic wrote,
"This shit made the cover of Newsweek."
Our favorite criticism by far comes from Jerry Shier,
president of the Greater Washington Allergy, Asthma and
Immunology Society. Shier took child star Rory Caulkin to
task for his inhaler "technique," telling the Washington
Post he was "horrified" by the film's depiction of an asthmatic.
(The photo accompanying the article was captioned "Rory
Caulkin needs work on inhaler technique.")
Throughout the reviews, there are common threads. First,
most of the critics were willing to acknowledge Shyamalan's
talent, up until the point they actually felt moved by the
film. He drew them in emotionally and they felt manipulated.
(Isn't that technique the heart of EVERY Frank Capra film?)
Second, they hate him for his success. Why? Because YOU
made him a success, and you didn't get THEIR permission.
Whether or not you or I agree on "Signs" is beside the point.
The point is, beware the "Supercritic."
I know the question that's troubling you: Is the B Monster
a "Supercritic?" We celebrate old movies and you never have
to read deeper than a paragraph to know where we stand (this
essay being a justifiable exception). Hopefully we write
in an entertaining rather than pontific fashion. We've never
called a filmmaker's ethnicity or religiosity into question.
All of the critics cited above are paid handsomely by major
syndicates and publishers supported by millions of advertising
dollars. Many are wooed, courted and comped by movie studios.
Isn't it the duty of these critics to objectively dispense
enlightening critical judgments to major metropolitan markets
populated by readers who look to them for guidance? Please,
Mr. "Supercritic," kindly stow the hot air and personal
aspersions. You may well be the snappiest wordsmith this
side of Alexander Woolcott, but it's expensive to go to
the movies these days. Just tell me if you liked it!
INVADERS FROM MARS, 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
Let's start with the ending, one which has been confusing
genre-film fans for a generation. It's certainly giving
nothing away at this late date to pose the question: Was
it, in the end, all a dream? Dreams are key to this classic
film's success and, some would say, failings. John Tucker
Battle, who conceived the basic idea for the film, was inspired
by a dream his wife had. But Battle wanted the filmed story
to be portrayed as reality without the dream-ending cop-out.
In fact, when a condensed script based on his idea transformed
his reality-based story into a dream, he insisted his name
be taken off the film. And what of the varying endings that
have puzzled sci-fi buffs for years? The fact that multiple
versions of the film have existed for decades might explain
the fan's confusion. (Maybe the VIEWERS dreamed the whole
thing). Fact is, when the film was sold in the U.K., distributors
said it wasn't long enough, insisting that new scenes be
shot. Producers complied, recutting existing U.S. copies
and shipping them overseas. Fans remember long versions,
short versions, color and black and white versions, versions
cut for TV. Oh, it was a mess. But rest easy. A 35mm negative,
color separations and Cinecolor master print now reside
safely in a climate controlled vault in Kansas. Both this
version and the European version are included in this package.
So, what about the movie itself? Dreamlike doesn't begin
to describe it. Many baby boomers, upon viewing the film
as adults, are surprised that, even as children, they ever
found the film frightening, suspenseful or otherwise entertaining.
It IS one bizarro movie; a candy colored, blatantly simplistic
fable designed and directed with Spartan integrity by William
Cameron Menzies. But the stripped down sets, broad acting,
choir soundtrack, forced perspectives and gorgeously fake
backdrops are PRECISELY why the movie works. It's a kid's-eye
view of a terrifying event. It's supposed to reach the child
in you. If you can't come to it on those terms, you probably
shouldn't bother -- but you'll be missing a one-of-a-kind
film. Nothing quite like it has been made since. (The remake
was a disastrous miscalculation. Its makers missed the point
entirely.) Everything Menzies designed ("Things To Come,"
"Gone With The Wind," "The Whip Hand") was imbued with a
calculated artificiality from which "Invaders From Mars"
benefits greatly. The cast is a who's who of B-movie stalwarts
-- Arthur Franz, Hillary Brooke, Morris Ankrum, Robert Shayne,
Milburn Stone and, of course, Jimmy Hunt as the pint-sized
Martian fighter who MAY have dreamed the whole darned thing.
"Invaders From Mars" is many things, but it is NOT dated.
It's just too strange, too unlike other films of its vintage
to BE dated. (David Lynch may well have learned a thing
or two about pacing, composition and the tenuous line separating
dreams and reality from this film.) That strangeness has
kept it alive in the memories of sci-fi fans for 50 years.
But, if you think you're too grown up to enjoy it, then
you probably are.
BLOODLUST/THE AMAZING TRANSPARENT MAN
If you're not yet familiar with the folks at Marengo Films,
let us put you wise. They've got some pristine prints of
classic films on DVD, and cult-film lovers will surely dig
this initial double feature:
"Bloodlust" is one of many, many, many variations on the
classic "Most Dangerous Game" theme -- a depraved "sportsman"
hunts human beings on his private jungle island -- which
in this case was a soundstage cluttered with foliage that
director Ralph Brooke shoved into various arrangements to
evoke different locales. Filmed on a budget of barely $80,000,
"Bloodlust" showcases some blatantly gory scenes (blatantly
gory, that is, for 1959) and an enjoyably hammy performance
by co-producer Wilton Graf as the mad hunter. Director Brooke's
wife (and, incidentally, notorious schlock-film director
Jerry Warren's EX-wife) Bri Murphy, told author Tom Weaver,
"I thought it was very good for what it was." And you know
what? It is! (Watch for Murphy's cameo as a dead victim
floating in a tank of formaldehyde). Sure, there are loads
of implausabilities, over-the-top performances by amateur
actors and a network of caves that are quite clearly made
of crumpled paper. Even so, it's credibly creepy, all things
considered. Still not sold? "Bloodlust" is bursting with
bits of trivia. It stars "Brady Bunch" dad Robert Reed,
who was, at the time, about to star in the much-acclaimed
teleseries, "The Defenders." The feminine lead is the "Teenage
Doll," herself, June Kenney, who also starred in "Hot Car
Girl," "Attack of the Puppet People" and "Earth vs. the
Spider." And director of photography is none other than
Richard Cunha, the man who helmed "Giant From the Unknown,"
Frankenstein's Daughter," "Missile to the Moon" and others.
The lower tier of this double bill is director Edgar G.
Ulmer's ultra-cheap "Amazing Transparent Man." There's nothing
original to see here. Like its co-feature "Bloodlust," it's
a most "transparent" derivation. In this case, the purloined
plot, as you may have guessed from the title, is "The Invisible
Man." The film is notable chiefly because it was filmed
simultaneous with Ulmer's "Beyond the Time Barrier," in
and around the site of the Texas State Fair, although it's
tough to see how this film benefited from that locale. The
top secret lab is a farmhouse attic covered with corrugated
tin. The effects are laughable, even by the standards of
the day (1960), and the performances, wherein the players
must pretend to be choked, slapped and punched by an actor
who isn't there, are unintentionally hilarious. Ulmer, who
gave us "The Black Cat," "Detour" and "Bluebeard" is hamstrung
by a near-non-existent budget, and isn't entirely to blame.
But little thought went into this potboiler, which clocks
in at barely an hour, an hour which is not Edgar's finest.
Author, film historian and frequent B Monster scribe Bob
Madison weighs in with the following review:
PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT
Recently released on DVD is director Kevin Connor's adaptation
of Edgar Rice Burrough's "People That Time Forgot" (1977).
Released under MGM's Midnight Movies banner, the film is
presented in pristine wide screen format and includes the
original trailer. I'm an unabashed apologist for this film
-- it has long been one of my favorites, despite its many
flaws. Screenwriter Patrick Tilley completely catches the
spirit and rhythms of Burrough's original novel, and the
film may be one of the best adaptations of his work. (And
that's the catch, the film, like Burroughs himself, is something
you either love -- or don't.)
People is a direct sequel to "The Land That Time Forgot,"
with Patrick Wayne returning to Caprona (Burrough's Lost
World) to rescue friend Doug McClure lost at the end of
the earlier film. Wayne is ably accompanied by paleontologist
Thorley Walters (a welcome addition to any genre film),
photographer Sarah Douglas and pilot Shane Rimmer. The action
starts early on when a pterodactyl attacks the expedition's
amphibian plane. Now -- I'm the first to admit that the
effects in this sequence are somewhat cheesy. But I first
caught this film at the right age (15) when my sense of
wonder was still intact. To me, gliding pterosaur and all,
it's one of the most thrilling sequences on film. Stranded
on Caprona while Rimmer makes repairs to the aircraft, the
rest of the group march off into the horizon, finding primitive
tribes, dinosaurs, villains who live inside an active volcano
and, of course, the missing McClure.
This is pulp entertainment in its purest form -- it has
no pretensions of meaning, it's just fun. "People" comes
complete with vintage planes, savages, an active volcano,
and, of course, dinosaurs. In the climactic battle, Professor
Walters even manages to pull his sword cane. I mean -- what
more could you want? Something like a live-action "Jonny
Quest," "People" is the kind of fantasy film that (gulp!)
the whole family can watch with satisfaction if the kids
are not too spoiled by recent high-tech extravaganzas.
Like the latest "Lost World," the weakest part of the
ensemble is the leading player. Patrick Wayne manages to
perform heroically, but not memorably. The film is easily
stolen by the many supporting players who went on to better
things, including Douglas ("Superman" and "Superman II"),
Rimmer ("The Spy Who Loved Me") and Walters ("David Copperfield").
Special marks must go to Douglas, who plays her part as
a tough-as-nails flapper. At the end of the film, she manages
to pull her gun and hand it to a hard-pressed Wayne. "I
was saving it in case we got into a jam," she deadpans.
The best of the Burroughs adaptations from American International
(others include "Land" and the psychedelic "At the Earth's
Core"), "People" was one of the last fantasy films made
with a B budget and B sensibilities before "Star Wars" made
the whole thing big box office and big business. I miss
movies like "The People That Time Forgot."
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
"Every chilling moment a shock-test for your scare-endurance!"
-- The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas