It's June. The onset of another sweltering summer. To
the average B-movie nut, that means pulling those blousy
"Aloha" shorts out of mothballs, stocking the fridge with
Slim Jims and Mountain Dew, and curling up in the air-conditioned
comfort of the den, preparing to man that home entertainment
center like a nuclear missile silo until the big heat blows
over. Hopefully the following frosty verbiage, chilly commentary
and icy opining will help cool the fevered mind of even
the most ardent videophile. But should you venture from
your Arctic inner sanctum, braving the inferno after discovering
you're running low on Cheetos, for God's sake, don't forget
The actress best known for her breakthrough role as the
quirky beach bunny, Gidget, Deborah Walley, has died following
a battle with cancer. She was 57. Walley was everywhere
when the beach movie craze swept America in the 1960s, appearing
in films such as "Gidget Goes Hawaiian," "Beach Blanket
Bingo," "Ghost in the Invisible Bikini" and "It's a Bikini
World." She also performed opposite Elvis Presley in the
King's 1966 film, "Spinout." In 1967, Walley appeared in
director Arch Oboler's low-budget science-fiction film,
"The Bubble," also known as "The Fantastic Invasion of Planet
Earth." The same year, she landed a regular role on the
television sitcom, "The Mothers-In-Law."
Walley's personal Website -- http://www.deborahwalley.com
-- featuring photos and biographical information, kept fans
apprised of her ongoing battle with illness and provided
a forum for her to express her gratitude for their devotion.
"I want to thank all of you who have sent so many prayers,
letters, e-mails, gifts, and contributions," read the most
recent update. "All the love you are sending me is making
me better every day ... I am doing well, my faith and resolve
have not wavered. They tell me that this is probably the
greatest battle I will ever fight, but I know that with
my determination and all of the love I am receiving I will
have everything I will need to win. I am truly blessed,
and I hold you all in my heart."
British film director Ken Hughes has died of complications
from Alzheimer's disease. He was 79. Hughes wrote and directed
the 1968 fantasy film hit "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" based
on Ian Fleming's children's book about a flying car. The
previous year he'd co-directed the star-studded James Bond
film "Casino Royale," which featured Peter Sellers, David
Niven, Orson Welles, Ursula Andress and Woody Allen. (His
co-director was Val "The Quatermass Xperiment" Guest.) Hughes
may be better known to cult-movie aficionados for the 1956
sci-fi film "Timeslip," also known as "The Atomic Man,"
which starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue.
Author Douglas Adams, best known as the creator of the cult
science-fiction comedy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,''
has died following a heart attack. He was 49. The "Guide"
began life as a radio series broadcast by the BBC in 1978.
It was later made into a television series and the companion
book sold 14 million copies. Combining satire and sci-fi,
the series addressed philosophical issues through quirky
characters with names such as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin
the Paranoid Android. Adams started out as a writer and
script editor for the British Broadcasting Corp., working
on programs such as the BBC's cult-favorite, "Doctor Who.''
For the last several years, he had been working on a big-screen
adaptation of the "Hitchhiker's Guide." For more on the
author and his career following "The Hitchhiker's Guide
to the Galaxy,'' visit http://douglasadams.com
Actor, playwright Jason Miller has died of a heart attack
at 62. The actor was nominated for an Academy Award for
his role as Father Damien Karras in the horror blockbuster
"The Exorcist," released in 1973. It was a banner year for
Miller, who also completed his Pulitzer Prize-winning play,
"That Championship Season," which ran for 700 Broadway performances
and went on to win a Tony Award. In "The Exorcist," Miller
made an enduring impression as the troubled, brooding priest
who leaps to his death after inviting Satan to leave the
body of Linda Blair and take him as its vessel. Miller made
only sporadic film appearances thereafter, including a cameo
in an "Exorcist" sequel. Among his survivors are his son,
actor Jason Patric.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
HUGO BACK IN TIME
The World Science Fiction Convention, being held August
30-September 3 in Philadelphia, has added a retro category
to the long list of awards they annually bestow. Billed
as "The Millennium Philcon" (Get it? Millennium Philcon?
Millennium Falcon?), this year's con will honor the projects
of writers, artists and filmmakers whose work appeared prior
to the advent of the Hugo Awards. This year's Hugos will
focus on works appearing in 1950. Five films of that vintage
have been nominated. It's anybody's guess what the criteria
is, but the nominees are: - "Cinderella" - "Destination
Moon" - "Harvey" - "Rabbit of Seville" - "Rocketship X-M"
Two bona fide sci-fi film classics, a glossy animated Disney
fairy tale, a Chuck Jones cartoon and the film version of
a smash hit Broadway play. Make no mistake, they're all
exemplary works -- but science fiction? Why not "All About
Eve," "Sunset Boulevard," or "An American Guerrilla in the
BRANDO BACKS OUT, WOODS WALKS IN
Marlon Brando had been slated to perform a cameo in the
forthcoming sequel to last summer's smash horror-film parody
"Scary Movie," but after showing enthusiasm for the part,
even meeting with director Keenen Ivory Wayans, Brando backed
off, citing illness. James Woods will now assume the cameo
role of an exorcist in the film's opening segment. The part
had been offered originally to Charlton Heston, who declined.
TEMPTRESS TAPPED OUT
Give her points for frankness. Actress Cassandra Peterson,
aka the buxom Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, says her upcoming
flick, "Elvira's Haunted Hills," may be her last. "If it
doesn't do well," the actress told E! Online, "I'll be living
in my car." According to Peterson, the film "is a parody
of Roger Corman horror movies. The sort of gothic creature
feature that would have starred Vincent Price." Well. OK.
"Haunted Hills" was shot on location in Romania because,
Peterson adds, "It's cheap, cheap, cheap, incredibly cheap."
HALFWAY TO A SUPER SALUTE
Our pal, Jim Nolt, who publishes the nifty "The Adventures
Continue" newsletter chronicling all things pertaining to
the classic George Reeves/Superman TV series, has been spearheading
a campaign to raise funds for an ad in "Variety" that would
commemorate the show's 50th anniversary. According to Jim,
"As of yesterday, our total stands at $2,023. We're now
more than halfway to our goal of $4,000, the amount needed
to publish nationally in 'Variety' later this year." If
you've yet to make a contribution and would like to do so,
contact Jim at: firstname.lastname@example.org In the most recent "TAC"
newsletter, Nolt writes, "Many of you have written to say
you wish you had some way to thank all those involved in
the 'Adventures of Superman' for the great memories we've
carried with us for so many years. This is your chance."
PROCLAMATION CITES SUPERMAN'S STATION
And speaking of Nolt's terrific "TAC" newsletter, it's the
source of the following info regarding La La Land's official
recognition of the big man in the blue tights. Thanks to
the tireless work of Superman enthusiast nonpareil, Armand
Vaquer, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will
proclaim July 10, 2001, opening day of Superman Week in
Los Angeles. A ceremony will be held at the Kenneth Hahn
Hall of Administration, 500 West Temple Street, in downtown
L.A. An official proclamation will be introduced by Supervisor
Mike Antonovich and will be signed by all of the presiding
supervisors. For more about Nolt's "The Adventures Continue,"
newsletter, check out: http://www.jimnolt.com
CRESCENT CITY CINEMA
Beginning June 9th, The New Orleans Worst Film Festival
will celebrate its 11th year of bringing the worst of Hollywood
to the sultry Southeast. The fun begins at noon and goes
on until midnight with a lineup that includes the dubious
classic, "Equinox," and everyone's favorite giant-rabbit
film, "Night of the Lepus." A veritable B-movie Mardi Gras!
All this fun can be had for a paltry seven bucks and a sack
of non-perishable food items for the second Harvesters Food
Bank of New Orleans. For more info, check out: http://www.nowff.com
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
CUTS FROM "THE ROOTS"
Another plentiful musical platter from the folks at Marco
Polo, this one spotlighting the scores of Sir Malcolm Arnold.
There are 13 cues culled from the classic 1933 David O.
Selznick production of "David Copperfield," and 21 cuts
from director John Huston's 1958 drama, "The Roots of Heaven,"
which starred Errol Flynn, Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert and
Orson Welles. A half hour of music from each classic film,
restored by John Morgan and played by the Moscow Symphony
Orchestra. Sorry, no theramin. Find out more at: http://www.naxos.com
TOURNEUR FOR THE BETTER
Coming your way June 15 is author Chris Fujiwara's scholarly
and exhaustive examination of the career of director Jacques
Tourneur. "Cinema of Nightfall" spares little detail in
covering each of Tourneur's films, and B-movie buffs are
well-served by the perceptive coverage of the classic Val
Lewton-produced horrors such as "Cat People" and "The Leopard
Man." (Did you know that, critical favor notwithstanding,
Tourneur always preferred "I Walked With a Zombie" to "Cat
People," and cited it as one of his personal favorites?)
With plenty of stills and a foreword by Martin Scorsese.
For more info, check out: http://www.jhupbooks.com
ONE MORE PLUG FOR OUR PARTY-THROWING PALS
The "Monster Bash" is nearly here. Our buddy, creature curator
without peer, Bob Burns is scheduled to appear, as are gore
guru Tom Savini, actress Jane Adams and the offspring of
Bela Lugosi and Dwight Frye. It's all happening June 22-24
at the Days Inn Conference Center in beautiful Butler, Penn.
(handy to Pittsburgh). For details, visit: http://www.creepyclassics.com/bash.html
And "Fanex 15" is right around the corner, back in its
former, friendlier venue at the Hunt Valley Inn in Baltimore,
Md. The usual pomp and spooky ceremony will abound, and
this year's guest list includes directors Blake Edwards
and Curtis Harrington, "Little Shop of Horrors" castmates
Jonathan Haze and Jackie Joseph, Barbara Shelley, Veronica
Carlson, Yvonne Monlaur and more. It gets under way July
6. For more info, check out: http://www.midmar.com
Finally, a note of thanks to the fine folks at "Atomic"
magazine for the helping of humbling praise lavished upon
the B Monster in their most recent issue. The subject in
question was B-movie Websites, and the scribe was lovable
lounge lizard and ardent B Monsterite, Will Viharo. "Atomic"
is a nifty mag, chronicling the retro culture of the 1940s-60s.
From Deco to Tiki, they've got a take on it. Where else
are you gonna find sock hop instructions, a tribute to bandleader
Les Brown and the B Monster all in the same volume? Find
out more at: http://www.atomicmag.com/ Drop 'em a line and
tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON VIDEO
We'll tell you up front, it's well worth watching this film
twice. Maybe even three times. Why? Because each time you'll
rewind to a different spot and say, "If only they'd ended
it there ... or there ... or there. "Unbreakable," writer-director
M. Night Shyamalan's follow-up to the supernatural smash,
"The Sixth Sense," is four-fifths of a good movie. He manages
to build suspense masterfully, layer-by-layer, adding or
deleting nothing that might disturb the film's hypnotic
momentum. Samuel L. Jackson is rock-solid as the brittle-boned,
embittered superhero-seeker. Even smirky Bruce Willis is
desmirked in order to sustain the eerie buildup. And then,
that ending -- a "Dragnet"-like denouement slapped on like
some made-for-TV cop-drama. The only thing missing is George
Fenneman's voiceover: "In a moment, the results of that
NIGHT OF THE GHOULS
Look, we're all tired of arguing about Ed Wood -- Bad? Good?
Nut case? Genius? Hack? Auteur? We'll let the pop-psyche
mavens sort it out. His movies are pretty doggone bad but,
by God, he got 'em made. "Night of the Ghouls" is perhaps
his most desperate effort, grimy and threadbare even by
Wood's standards. Watching it you experience joy, contempt,
pity and finally, boredom. Wood was a strange man of boundless
enthusiasm who evidently had a good time making movies with
his friends, in this case, Duke Moore, Tor Johnson, the
ubiquitous Criswell, Keene Duncan and Paul Marco. Given
half a chance, wouldn't YOU want to have a good time making
movies with your friends? Of course you would.
NEW ON DVD
Probably the snappiest adaptation of Curt Siodak's trendsetting
sci-fi novel with the possible exception of the radio play
starring Orson Welles, Jeanette Nolan and John McIntire
(enthusiasts would be well-served to seek it out on cassette).
Here, too, solid performances aid greatly in sustaining
the suspense -- Lew Ayres in the lead, ably assisted by
Gene Evans and future first lady, Nancy Davis. We're sure
you don't need to be reminded that this is the classic tale
of a dead tycoon's brain kept alive in a bell jar by an
ambitious scientist who gradually falls under its evil influence.
Such a plot hinges on the credibility of its leading man,
and Ayres is up to the task. Handily directed by Felix Feist.
DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE
This horrific hybrid should leave even the most hardened
B-movie nut cringing in a corner. It's a half-hearted attempt
to breath new life into two fading film genres by slamming
them headlong into one another. By 1965, beach movies had
been sooo played, and the first wave of "monster kids" were
growing their hair long and "turning on." Enter Vincent
Price and his bikini-clad robots bent on separating rich
fuddy-duddies from their money. Stir in teen idol Frankie
Avalon, Dwayne "Dobie Gillis" Hickman and the "Ghost in
the Invisible Bikini" herself, Susan Hart, and you end up
with a concoction that isn't kitschy, cute, funny or memorable.
PIT AND THE PENDULUM
Arguably the most consciously "artsy" of director Roger
Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, due in large measure
to Richard Matheson's full-blooded screenplay, through which
Vincent Price chews quite a wide swath of scenery (and we
mean that in a good way). Which is not to discount the work
of the supporting players -- John Kerr, Barbara Steele,
Luana Anders and Corman regular Antony Carbone are all top-notch.
Even so, the film's most memorable assets are that terrible
torture chamber and its titular pendulum. (Where do you
get those spring-loaded, counter-balanced pendulums with
the razor-sharp blades? Not at my local Home Depot.) It's
bedlam on a budget with a running commentary by Corman.
THE THING WITH TWO HEADS
If you saw this upon its initial release in 1972, you probably
had friends who asked you the next day, "What did you do
last night?" Could you blame them for laughing when you
described this aggressively bad stinker? Academy Award winner
Ray Milland's head is nailed onto the body of Los Angeles
Rams star Roosevelt Grier. Do we really have to go into
detail? Very well. Milland is a dying, wealthy bigot, Grier
is a black ex-con. Get it? They hate each other but share
the same body. The special effects are something less than
convincing, as is the film as a whole.
X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES: Special Edition
This film is hailed by some as director Roger Corman's finest
hour, and we've never quite understood why. It's filled
with nasty, greedy people who behave predictably. There
are no surprises, but that doesn't mean the film is altogether
bad. In fact, thanks to a cast that includes Ray Milland,
Harold Stone, John Hoyt, Don Rickles and Morris Ankrum,
it's fitfully entertaining and probably a little better
than the plot makes it sound. Milland is a maverick researcher
developing an X-ray vision serum. When his research funding
is cut off, he designates himself the guinea pig. Before
you know it, he can see through walls, clothing, flesh --
farther and deeper, out of his control until he's nearly
insane. The film wants to be touching and philosophical
a la "The Incredible Shrinking Man," but it just doesn't
wash because we just don't like the guy all this bad stuff
is happening to.
VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS
First of all, dig the cast: Beau Bridges, Johnny "Rifleman"
Crawford, Ronny "That's RON" Howard, Tommy "Mars Needs Women"
Kirk! And, it's directed by the one-and-only Bert I. Gordon
who gave the world "The Amazing Colossal Man," "Attack of
the Puppet People" and "War of the Colossal Beast"! Plus,
the mop-topped 60s combo, The Beau Brummels, pounds out
a tune or two. There, that's the good news. What remains
is a fairly bad and boring film about a band of rowdy teens
who eat an experimental compound that transforms them into
Gulliveresque giants who terrorize a small town until "Opie"
develops an antidote.
DRIVE-N DISCS #2: Giant Gila Monster, The Wasp Woman
We defy you to beat this B-movie double-bill. "Gunsmoke's"
Festus, Ken Curtis, second-unit man Ray Kellogg and a local
Texas deejay pooled their resources to produce "Gila Monster"
AND "The Killer Shrews" back-to-back on a shoestring. "Shrews"
may be more memorable: It's got James Best, Ingrid Goude
and a bunch of flesh-eating, stringy-haired dogs. But "Gila
Monster" features Don "Monster of Piedras Blancas" Sullivan
crooning "The Mushroom Song" and "My Baby She Sings Whenever
Swings Whenever She Slings" or whatever it is he's saying,
fast cars, French import Lisa Simone and "comic" support
by Shug Fisher as the local drunk.
Of the pair, "Wasp Woman" boasts the more lofty reputation,
owing largely to its title, poster art and writer Leo Gordon's
stinging take on aging and the battle of the sexes. The
film has one central failing: It was impossible to make
lovely Susan Cabot look old and haggard as the script would
have us believe. (I wish my sixth-grade teacher looked that
old and haggard.) Anyhoo, it seems that beeswax is one of
the keys to everlasting youth. Side effects include the
whacky rubber hornet mask that Cabot nearly suffocated in
during filming. You guessed it: directed by Roger Corman.
This DVD package includes a drive-in style "countdown clock,"
concession stand ads, trailers and cartoons.
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
"Here is horror that can happen NOW ... TO YOU!" -- Creature
With the Atom Brain