Image Comics' "Astounding Space Thrills," featuring Steve
Conley's Argosy Smith and, of course, "The Crater Kid,"
is now on newsstands! Legendary illustrator Jack Davis (EC
Comics, "The Crypt of Terror," "Creepy," "Mad" magazine
and countless movie posters) embraced "The Crater Kid" and
his message, and has recently completed a cover/poster featuring
"The Kid" that will turn up in a future edition.
And a tip of the hat to the folks at enews.com who've
just made "The Crater Kid" daily e-mail strip available
to 65,000 affiliate sites. Reaction to the character has
been heartening, given the fact that the comics market (or
what's left of it) is still dominated by busty wenches with
big guns and remorseless vigilantes with hairy arms and
And last, we'll once again shamelessly plug the official
"Crater Kid" t-shirt. Half the proceeds benefit abused and
neglected children. Get out your credit card -- the cause
is a worthy one. http://www.craterkid.com/shirts.htm --
End of shameless plug.
One of the most prolific and important B-movie directors,
Edward Bernds, is dead at 94. The cause of death was not
reported. Bernds' impressive career began when radio broadcasting
was in it's infancy, and lasted into the 1960s. He will
probably be best remembered for his associations with The
Three Stooges and The Bowery Boys as well as for the B science-fiction
pictures he turned out in the 1950s.
Bernds was an early radio enthusiast, and that made it
easy for him to find work in Hollywood as talkies were being
ushered in. For Columbia, he worked as a sound technician
on dozens of features, including some of Frank Capra's early
films. By the 1940s, he had graduated to directing shorts
for the studio, beginning with the Stooge comedies. Bernds
directed some of Curley's last and best films ("Micro-Phonies,"
"A Bird in the Head"), as well as some of the funniest shorts
featuring Curley's elder brother, Shemp ("Fright Night,"
"The Hot Scots").
Between shorts, Bernds directed several films in the "Blondie"
series ("Blondie's Big Deal," "Blondie Hits the Jackpot")
starring Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton. In the 1950s,
he began working with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and company,
directing some of the Bowery Boys better comedy features
("Clipped Wings," "Bowery to Bagdad"), collaborating with
them on eight films in all.
Bernds turned his hand to science fiction beginning with
the 1956 feature "World Without End." The low-budget tale
of astronauts transported to a dystopic future earth is
one of the most enjoyable of the "time-travel" sub-genre.
"Space Master X-7," "Valley of the Dragons" and the notorious
cult-classic "Queen of Outer Space," were soon to follow.
The director rounded out his schedule of exploitation features
with titles such as "High School Hellcats" and "Reform School
Bernds was also present at the Three Stooges revival that
took place when their films went into television syndication.
He directed two Stooge features ("The Three Stooges in Orbit,"
"The Three Stooges Meet Hercules") that starred the team's
latest incarnation, Moe, Larry and Curley Joe DeRita, before
retiring from directing in 1962.
Actor Francis Lederer has died at his Palm Springs home
at the age of 100. According to his wife, he had been in
excellent health until very recently. The Prague-born actor
was already a successful stage performer in Europe when
he was cast opposite Louise Brooks in director G.W. Pabst's
silent classic, "Pandora's Box."
Lederer landed a role on Broadway in 1932, and Hollywood
soon took notice. Often typecast as the cultured cad, he
made notable appearances in "One Rainy Afternoon" opposite
Ida Lupino, "Confessions of a Nazi Spy" with Edward G. Robinson
and director Jean Renoir's "The Diary of a Chambermaid"
with Paulette Goddard. He also took his turn portraying
the jewel-thief-turned-sleuth, The Lone Wolf, a role also
assayed by Melvyn Douglas, Warren William and Gerald Mohr,
Cult-film buffs will perhaps remember Lederer best for
his appearance in "The Return of Dracula," the 1958 film
the actor once claimed he would like to forget. Low budget
notwithstanding, Lederer made one of the screen's most sinister
and intimidating Draculas in the underrated film. Soon after,
he founded the American National Academy of Performing Arts,
which taught a form of method acting derived from the famed
Lewis Allen, who directed one of Hollywood's most chilling
and fondly remembered thrillers, "The Uninvited, is dead
at 94. The cause of death was not immediately known. Allen
was born in London, beginning his career as a stage director
in the early 1930s. He was lured to Hollywood by a Paramount
Pictures contract. For Paramount, he directed "The Uninvited,"
starring Ray Milland and Gail Russell. The film was a beautifully
crafted ghost story and is still considered by many to be
one of the best supernatural thrillers ever made.
Allen's subsequent films, including a half-hearted follow-up
to "The Uninvited" called "The Unseen," never lived up to
the standard set by "The Uninvited." Throughout the 1950s,
he directed workmanlike crime dramas and thrillers including
"Suddenly," starring Frank Sinatra," "Desert Fury" with
Burt Lancaster, " "Appointment with Danger" and "Chicago
Deadline," both starring Alan Ladd, and "Illegal" and "A
Bullet for Joey," both starring Edward G. Robinson.
Allen later made the transition to television, his career
lasting well into the 1970s. Among programs directed by
Allen were "Bonanza," "Little House on the Prairie," "Mission
Impossible," "The Rifleman," "The Fugitive," "Route 66,"
"Perry Mason," "To Catch a Thief," "I Dream of Jeannie"
The actor best known as debonair TV sleuth "Peter Gunn,"
Craig Stevens, is dead at 81. He had cancer. Director-producer
Blake Edwards created "Peter Gunn," the weekly exploits
of a wry, lady-killing detective dwelling in a film-noir
world of hoodlums and beatniks, in 1958. The series was
a smash, Stevens became a star and Henry Mancini's jazz-tinged
theme was one of the most catchy and recognizable in history.
A 1967 feature-film version called "Gunn" failed at the
Stevens may be better known to cult-film enthusiasts as
the hero of producer William Alland's "The Deadly Mantis,"
or for his appearance in "Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde." Born Gail Shikles Jr. in Liberty, Mo., Stevens
planned on becoming a dentist before taking up acting in
college. He spent years as a Warner Brothers contract player
prior to his rise to TV stardom, churning out dozens of
B pictures including "Secret Enemies," "The Hidden Hand,"
"Spy Ship" and "Secret Enemies." While working at Warner
Brothers, Stevens met his wife-to-be, actress Alexis Smith,
who also died of cancer in 1993 at age 72.
The actor known the world over as Hercules, Steve Reeves,
is dead at 74. He died at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido,
Calif., of complications from lymphoma, which had been diagnosed
just eight weeks before. A bodybuilder all his life, Reeves
was named Mr. America in1947, and went on to win the Mr.
World and Mr. Universe competitions in 1948. He was named
Mr. Universe a second time in 1950.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Reeves made his screen debut in
Ed Wood's 1954 film "Jail Bait." In the film, co-scripted
by Alex Gordon, Reeves and Lyle Talbot portrayed detectives
investigating a blackmail caper. But it was his series of
Italian-made, "sword-and-sandal" films that made him an
international star and, in 1967, the highest paid actor
in Europe. The films, including "Goliath and the Barbarians,"
"Hercules Unchained," "Last Days of Pompeii" and "Thief
of Baghdad," featured European casts and were dubbed in
English for American release. With his third film, "Hercules,"
Reeves became one of the world's biggest box-office draws.
Reeves retired from acting at 43, but maintained his tireless
fitness regiment to the end. He promoted drug-free bodybuilding
and wrote "Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way."
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Film star Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is died at 90. The cause
of death was not reported. Fairbanks, debonair and dashing,
sporting a perpetual tan, is best known for his roles in
"Gunga Din," "Catherine the Great" and "The Prisoner of
Fairbanks' father was, of course, one of the true legends
of the silent screen. Fairbanks Jr. claimed that he never
sought to emulate his famous father, but admitted that the
well-known name afforded him many show business opportunities.
Fairbanks also tried his hand at producing films, "Chase
a Crooked Shadow, "Another Man's Poison" and "The Fighting
O'Flynn" among them. He also hosted the television series
"Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents" in the 1950s.
One of Fairbanks' final film appearances was in the 1981
supernatural thriller "Ghost Story." Directed by John Irvin,
the film also starred screen legends Fred Astaire, Melvyn
Douglas, John Houseman and Patricia Neal.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: Whatever happened to Dana Wynter? Has the "Invasion
of the Body Snatchers" star become a total recluse?
A: Well, not total. Ms. Wynter had been slated to appear
along with "Body Snatchers" co-star, Kevin McCarthy, at
the "Classic Filmfest 2000," this July 28-30 in Crystal
City, Va. She has only recently canceled, but did at least
entertain the idea of appearing publicly.
Q: Is L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology Guru, science fiction
writer and author of "Battlefield Earth" (currently playing
to disastrous reviews) the same L. Ron Hubbard credited
with scripting several movie serials prior to his pulp and
A: Yep. The Dean of Dianetics wrote at least four of them
in the 1930s and '40s, including "The Spider Returns" (1941),
starring Warren Hull, "Wild Bill Hickok" (1938), featuring
Wild Bill Elliott in the title role, "The Secret of Treasure
Island" (1938) and "The Mysterious Pilot" (1937), which
was directed by Spencer Gordon ("Atomic Submarine") Bennet.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
JURY FINDS FOR FORRY
If you've only just emerged from a five-year hibernation,
we'll bring you up to speed: Collector, editor and self-named
"Mr. Sci-Fi," Forrest J. Ackerman, has been locked in a
court battle over rights to his well-known sobriquets such
as "Dr. Acula." Ackerman and publisher Ray Ferry have sued
and countersued one another for four years. Well, after
four days of deliberations, a Superior Court jury in Van
Nuys, Calif., ruled that Ferry, who continues to publish
"Famous Monsters of Filmland" magazine, owed Ackerman pay
for his writings, wrongly claimed ownership of his pen name
"Dr. Acula," and committed libel by saying he was just a
hired contributor, not an editor. Ferry was also found guilty
of trademark infringement, breach of contract, misrepresentation
and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
Ackerman was awarded $382,500 in compensatory and $342,000
in punitive damages.
Celebrity heavyweights such as author Ray Bradbury and
director John Landis testified on Ackerman's behalf. As
he signed autographs for jurors, Ackerman mused, "The first
thing is -- am I going to be able to collect the money?"
Good question. Ferry has vowed to appeal, and says he's
confident the verdict will be overturned. Ferry told the
Los Angeles Times, "This case was one of sympathy vs. fact.
It's what you get when you paint the poor old man against
the young entrepreneur. We left a lot of hard factual evidence
out of our case because we thought it would get ugly, but
that will now come out on appeal." Get ugly? How much uglier
can it get?
Ferry revived "Famous Monsters of Filmland" in partnership
with Ackerman a few years back, and then booted him from
the payroll, claiming Forry wasn't living up to his obligations.
Ackerman maintained that he was dismissed unfairly and that
he coined his trademark puns and pen names years before
"Famous Monsters" hit the stands. The original magazine,
published from 1958 to 1982, brought many vintage science
fiction and horror films to the attention of a new generation
In a personal note to supporters, Ackerman declared, "Four
years of anguish on my part, sacrifice of five of my favorite
paintings and 100 inscribed First Edition sf books and a
six figure mortgage on my home to pay my legal bills, all
have finally culminated in an overwhelming moral victory."
Ackerman has tried unsuccessfully to find a permanent
home for the legendary collection of fright-film memorabilia
that fills his 18-room, Loz Feliz "Ackermansion." The cache
includes 125,000 movie stills, 50,000 books, 400 paintings
and numerous movie props. One rumor maintains that a planned,
future-themed, Las Vegas resort may be interested in acquiring
Ackerman's invaluable stash.
THING YOU'VE HEARD EVERYTHING?
Actor George Clooney will produce a live television production
of "The Thing," based on John W. Campbell's novella, "Who
Goes There?" Campbell's story inspired the 1951 classic
"The Thing From Another World." Producer Howard Hawks greatly
simplified the story and turned it into the textbook "alien-invasion"
flick. Director John Carpenter's gorey 1982 film, "The Thing,"
bore more resemblance to the source material than the Hawks
version. It remains to be seen whether Clooney will choose
either for a model. Clooney's previous live TV event, "Fail
Safe," was a noble effort with a big-name cast that failed
to bring in big ratings.
JUDGE AT THE HELM OF "LIMPET" REMAKE
Mike Judge, best known as the creator of the animated series
"Beavis and Butthead" and "King of the Hill," is likely
to direct a big-budget remake of "The Incredible Mr. Limpet."
The original film featured Don Knotts in live-action and
animated sequences, as a milquetoast-turned-talking fish
who helps the U.S. Navy battle Nazi U-boats during World
War II. How they'll update this one is anybody's guess.
The more relevant question is "why?"
AGAIN WE ASK ... "WHY?"
Looks like the "Incredible Shrinking Man" remake starring
Eddie Murphy is a go. Peter Segal, director of "Tommy Boy"
and "Nutty Professor 2" is set to direct.
DON'T MAKE US ASK A THIRD TIME ...
Christopher Plummer, who only recently assayed the role
of TV newsman Mike Wallace in the Oscar-nominated film "The
Insider," has signed on to portray Professor Van Helsing
in a project called "Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000."
WE ASSURE YOU, WE'RE NOT MAKING THIS STUFF UP
Another William Castle "classic" will be dusted off and
updated. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the remake
of "13 Ghosts" "will be a scarier take on the original."
Granted, the original wasn't the most spine-tingling flick
ever, and it is refreshing to see them remaking a mediocre
film rather than trying to improve upon a good one (see
"Incredible Shrinking Man" item above), but why "13 Ghosts"?
AND THE REMAKES ROLL ON
"Rollerball?" Yes, the original was less-than-auspicious,
but it's barely cold in it's celluloid grave. The remake
of Norman Jewison's 1975 futuristic action pic is under
way with "Die Hard" director John McTiernan at the helm.
Slated to star are Jean Reno ("The Professional," "Godzilla"),
Chris Klein ("American Pie") and LL Cool J ("Deep Blue Sea").
SLEEZY IN "THE BIG EASY"
The 10th Annual New Orleans Worst Film Festival gets under
way June 10. Headlining this year's bill: "Attack of the
Crab Monsters" "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero" "Hillbillys in
a Haunted House" "My Son, the Vampire" And, of course, "Plan
9 from Outer Space." Appearing in person will be Kitten
Natividad ("Valley of the Ultra Vixens"), and an assortment
of TV horror hosts and hostesses including Tabitha, Diabolica,
Count Gore DeVol and Doctor Gangrene. While we may not agree
with some of the festival's citations, (come on, "Attack
of the Crab Monsters" is a fabulous movie!) the money goes
to a good cause. The seven buck admission is earmarked for
the Second Harvesters Food Bank. For more info, check out
IT CAME FROM ENGLEWOOD
Hopelessly addicted B-movie fans will soon get another fix
from, who else, those dedicated preservationists at Englewood
Entertainment. Just take a gander at the titles slated for
release in the near-future: "Tormented": One of Bert I.
Gordon's most overlooked and uncharacteristic titles. Richard
Carlson stars as the guilt-ridden one in torment. "Fright":
The dark little shocker that probably sealed Vincent Price's
fate to be a horror movie icon. "The Screaming Skull": John
(twin brother of William) Hudson gaslighting his wife into
insanity via the titular skull. "Invisible Ghost": Film
noir-meister Joseph H. Lewis directing one of Lugosi's better
Monogram thrillers. "Horrors of Spider Island": An oddball
1959 horror flick from what was then West Germany. The title
says it all. The B Monster will, of course, offer his unassailable
assessment of these titles upon release. Watch this space!
MORE MUSIC FROM MARCO POLO
The good folks at Marco Polo music have scored again (yes,
pun intended!) with the latest in their series of Universal
music re-creations. Spotlighted are composers Hans J. Salter
(to whom the disc is dedicated) and Frank Skinner. John
Morgan orchestrates the proceedings with the exception of
two tracks orchestrated by William T. Stromberg. The bulk
of the cues are culled from "Ghost of Frankenstein." Music
from Son of Dracula," Black Friday," "Man Made Monster"
and "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror is also featured.
AN OUTLET FOR INDYS
Fans of independent cinema may want to check out "Shortcuts,"
a TV short film showcase from Vision Entertainment Inc.
The PBS series airs independent short films, many of which
are Oscar, Sundance and Cannes-award winners and nominees.
Among those featured: Rachel Griffiths' "Tulip," Ted Demme's
"The Bet," Billy Bob Thornton's original short "Some Folks
Call It a SlingBlade," which inspired the feature, Aardman
animation's Oscar nominee "Humdrum," and many others. For
more info, visit http://www.shortcuts.org
NEW ON VIDEO
Robin Williams as a robot? It's a natural. His film performances
have become more predictable and robotic over time -- the
sensitive, sentimental Robin stops the action at any given
moment to engage in his trademark, hyper-Jonathan Winters
schtick and then -- back to the movie. Based on an Issac
Asimov story, this film chronicles Williams' journey toward
becoming human. Williams and director Chris Columbus are
the same team who produced the monstrously overrated comedy
THE GREEN MILE
It's unabashedly sentimental and filled with terrific performances.
It's genuinely moving, expertly directed and scripted and
then -- that ending! I may be dead wrong, but it sure feels
like something that got tacked on following a preview audience's
negative response to the original ending. In any case, up
to that moment, it's top-flight film making. Based on Stephen
King's serial books, "The Green Mile" is beautifully staged
by director Frank Darabont, whose filming of King's "Shawshank
Redemption" a few years back was likewise excellent.
WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM?
It's a one-joke plot that must have sounded awfully funny
in the conference room, but director Mike Nichols and his
team simply aren't able to flesh out this thin tale of a
dying, all-male alien race who turn to earth women in order
to procreate. Sound like an uncredited remake of "Mars Needs
Women"? If only it were that funny. Garry Shandling is a
talented guy, and starred in one of the very best shows
television has ever produced, "The Larry Sanders Show."
Much of the same production team crafted this film, so the
results are doubly disappointing. It might have been a very
funny half-hour skit, but a feature-length film?
NEW ON DVD
This nifty repackaging of the 1963 Hitchcock classic is
loaded with added goodies unique to the DVD format. In addition
to the crystal clear print of the film, there's Tippi Hedren's
original screen test, a gallery of storyboards, theatrical
trailers, an original documentary called "All About 'The
Birds'" and a peek at original script pages for scenes that
never made it into the film.
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 through Midnight
Marquee Press or 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
"It will scare the living yell out of you!" -- How To Make