NEW! NEW! NEW!
Announcing the latest addition to the B Monster's staggering
digital storehouse of genre-film fact and ephemera: "Voyage
to the Bottom of a Journey to the Center of the Land Unknown
on the Lost Continent that Time Forgot," or "Get Lost!"
Featuring: Actor Sid Melton on the making of Robert L. Lippert's
beloved "Lost Continent"!
Producer Alex Gordon on the harrowing genesis that begat
"The Underwater City"!
Actress Marilyn Nash on her tenuous steps into the "Unknown
A look at 10 of cinema's coolest airships, earthmovers and
A selection of 10 cinematic sorties into danger-fraught
So, you're sick of hearing us whine about Hollywood's dumbfounding
lack of originality and lazy reliance on shoddy remakes
of classic films, are you? It's one thing when the likes
of Ray Bradbury takes a personal hand in reproducing one
of his beloved properties. But the ongoing reguritation
of classic movies by lesser lights is disheartening. Would
you rather we didn't mention that director Neil LaBute is
remaking the 1973 cult-film, "The Wicker Man"? Shall we
conceal that there's a remake of Robert Wise's seminal boxing
classic, "The Set Up," in the pipeline? Rather not hear
that director F. Gary Gray is remaking the Oscar-nominated
"The Italian Job"? And, even though they're definitely remaking
"Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House," which originally
starred Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas, would
you prefer we not mention it? Are you looking forward to
Adam Sandler's remake of "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town?" It's
come to this? Adam Sandler instead of Gary Cooper? Excuse
me ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .... sorry
... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha .... No, really,
I ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ...
Jack Kruschen Character actor Jack Kruschen has died following
a long illness. He was 80. Kruschen appeared in nearly 90
films, beginning with "Red, Hot and Blue" in 1949. Throughout
the 1950s, he had small parts in major films, including
"Young Man with a Horn," which starred Kirk Douglas, "Where
Danger Lives," which starred Robert Mitchum, and "The Lemon
Drop Kid," which starred Bob Hope. Kruschen specialized
in playing toughs and ethnic types in both "A" and "B" features
throughout his career. Genre-film fans will recognize him
as Salvatore, one of the Martian death ray's first victims
in producer George Pal's 1953 classic "War of the Worlds."
The same year Kruschen appeared in "Abbott and Costello
Go to Mars." He later had a substantial role as space pilot
Sam Jacobs in the 1959 cult-favorite, "The Angry Red Planet,"
with Gerald Mohr. The following year, Kruschen landed a
plum role in director Billy Wilder's "The Apartment," which
starred Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Kruschen was nominated
for an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his role.
He later appeared in such films as "Studs Lonigan," "Cape
Fear," "The Happening," and "Freebie and the Bean." He also
worked extensively in television, appearing in such series
as "Gunsmoke," "The Adventures of Superman," "The Rifleman,"
"The Rockford Files" and "Lois & Clark."
Television producer John Nathan-Turner, who produced more
than 130 episodes of the sci-fi, cult-smash teleseries "Doctor
Who" died in Brighton, England, following a brief illness.
He was 54. Known to devoted fans of the program as JNT,
Nathan-Turner produced the show from 1980-89 and was responsible
for casting three of the actors -- Peter Davison, Colin
Baker and Sylvester McCoy -- who portrayed the beloved Doctor.
During his tenure, Nathan-Turner infused the series with
a sense of humor to the dismay of many hardcore fans who
preferred a more serious tone. Many, however, appreciated
his humorous spin on sci-fi. A former actor, Nathan-Turner
became interested in TV production while working in the
BBC costume department. At a friend's urging, he applied
for a job as a floor assistant and joined the "Doctor Who"
series in its sixth season, eventually graduating to producer
George Alec Effinger
Noted science fiction author George Alec Effinger is dead
at 55. The cause of death was not immediately known. The
Cleveland native attended Yale University, originally intending
to become a doctor. Effinger's first wife was a babysitter
for authors Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, who encouraged
him to pursue a career as a science fiction writer beginning
in 1970. His works include "What Entropy Means to Me," "Utopia
3," "The Zork Chronicles" and "Schrodinger's Kitten," which
won the Nebula Award for best novellette. Effinger also
turned out many novelizations based on the "Planet of the
Apes" television franchise. In the early 1990s, he created
"Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson." A collection
of stories featuring the character soon followed. Effinger
published 20 novels and six collections of short fiction
in all, many of them nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
TERROR IN "TODDLIN' TOWN"
Better hurry! This just in: The Chicago Fantastic Film Festival
starts today (June 1) at the majestic Gateway Theater located
on the windy city's blustery north side. According to promoters,
classic horror, science fiction and fantasy films will be
shown on the big screen "as they were meant to be seen."
There will also be programs showcasing the work of many
independent filmmakers. The fest also boasts the Midwest
premiere of director Stuart Gordon's latest, the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired,
"Dagon," with Gordon hosting the screening. An art show,
featuring some of the "best genre illustrators in the country,"
a memorabilia-packed dealers room and panel discussions
round out the festivities. Celebrity guests include:
"Blade Runner's" Joanna Cassidy
Hammer horror queen, Ingrid Pitt
"Father Knows Best," "Day the Earth Stood Still" star, Billy
"Famous Monsters" cover artist Basil Gogos, and more.
For more details, check out: http://www.CF3Fest.com
And give the B Monster's regards to the "Home of the Blues!"
HALLOWED HALL FOR HORROR HOSTS
Cleveland's Rock and Roll Museum is in for "stiff" competition.
Plans are afoot for Chiller Thriller, a museum celebrating
the golden era of late-night TV horror. This ambitious attraction
is the brainchild of promoter Nicholas Caesar who calls
it "the very first museum dedicated to all those long lost
horror movies and late night hosts of the past. You may
have seen it all, but you've never seen anything like this!"
According to publicity, this grisly gallery is "not a wax
museum, it's not a Halloween theme park. Chiller Thriller
is a year-round place where every boy and ghoul, young or
old, can go to reminisce." Caesar promises to showcase props,
posters and memorabilia "from The Abominable Dr. Phibes
to Vampira." Special focus will, of course, be placed on
the legendary late-night hosts. Photos, souvenirs and biographies
will illuminate the careers of such creature feature legends
as Bob Wilkins, Jon Stanley and Ghoulardi, not to mention
monster moderators of more recent vintage such as Will "The
Thrill" Viharo, Count Gore, Svengoolie and others!
Caesar has plans for a two-floor complex: The first, dubbed
a "Hall of Horrors," will be populated with video monitors,
movie sets, props, and personalized photos, and feature
a tribute to the alluring horror hostesses of TV history.
The second floor will function as a convention center of
sorts, with screenings of classic films and Q&A sessions
with guest speakers. A private bar and two fully equipped
guest rooms are also planned. Caeser, who moved from California
to Cleveland in order to scout locations, needs support
-- financial AND moral -- in order to make his projected
October 2003 opening. To find out more, visit: http://www.nicolasseizure.com/chiller.htm
Naturally, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
THE BASH BECKONS
Is it "Monster Bash" time already? This June 21-23, the
Days Inn Conference Center in beautiful Butler, Pa., will
host "Monster Bash, The International Classic Monster Movie
Convention and Expo." Presented by Scary Monsters Magazine
and Creepy Classics Video & DVD, the theme of this year's
festivities is a tribute to Abbott & Costello, with guests
of honor, Paddy Costello (Lou's daughter) and Vickie Abbott
(Bud's offspring). They'll be screening darned-near every
A&C flick you can think of with special focus on those occasions
when the boys came nose-to-nose with Universal's classic
monsters. Myriad memorabilia and film dealers will, of course,
be in attendance as will:
The B Monster's pal, prop preservationist and cult-film
curator number one, Bob Burns
Film historians Tom Weaver and Gary Don Rhodes
Hammer glammer girl, Caroline Munro
The Creature himself, Big Ben Chapman
and illustrator extraordinaire, "Monster Kid" Kerry Gammill.
It's happening soon, so get on the stick, (or stake, as
the case may be). Check out:
And I'll be personally disappointed if you don't tell 'em
the B Monster sent you!
FANEX 16, PUTS THE EMPHASIS ON "FAN"
The folks at Midnight Marquee promise a more fancentric
festival this year. As of this writing, two celebrity guests will be in attendance; John Saxon and Carol Lynley. Otherwise, the agenda includes screenings
of rare and beloved films, and panel discussions with some
of the most noteworthy chroniclers of genre movies. According
to publicity, "this year films, panels and informative talks
by filmmakers and film historians will take center stage."
The list of attendees includes Michael H. Price, Fred Olen
Ray, Bryan Senn, Ted Bohus, Greg Mank, Paul Jensen and many
more. Highlighting the festivites will be a special Saturday
night screening at legendary Bengie's Drive-in. It's happening
August 16-18 at the Days Inn Timonium, just outside beautiful
Baltimore, Md. Midmar makes the mission of this year's con
clear: "If you love movies and want to meet others
with your obsession, well, this is the place to be."
For details, visit: http://www.midmar.com
And, you know the drill: Tell 'em The B Monster sent you.
The good folks at Percepto Records have released a soundtrack
triple threat that belongs in the CD collection of every
discriminating fan of sci-fi cinema. The musical scores
for "The Fly," "Return of the Fly" and "Curse of the Fly"
get the royal treatment in this two-disk tribute to composers
Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter. Sawtell and Shefter's other
genre-film credits include "The Black Scorpion," "Kronos"
and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." The three rousing
scores showcased in this package -- 49 cues, in all -- are
being released for the first time in any format. As an unbeatable
bonus, the disks are accompanied by a mammoth, data-crammed,
56-page booklet researched and compiled by film historian
Tom Weaver and movie music maven Randall Larson. This special
pressing is limited to 3,000 copies.
Check out: http://www.percepto.com/projects/008/index.html
Tell our pals at Percepto the B monster sent you!
Film historians Tom and Jim Goldrup have added another indispensable
tome to their canon: "Growing Up on the Set" showcases the
careers and comments of 39 former child actors based on
personal interviews. Of primary concern to B Monster readers
are the insights of Jimmy Hunt ("Invaders From Mars"), Billy
Gray ("The Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Navy vs. the
Night Monsters" and, of course, "Father Knows Best") and
"The Invisible Boy" himself, Richard Eyer. According to
the Goldrup boys, "The kids speak of their careers, what
they did afterwards and about the pros and cons of being
a working kid in Hollywood." It's available now from McFarland
Or you can order directly from the authors: PO Box 425,
Ben Lomond, CA 95005. $35 plus $4 shipping (USA) or $9 (international).
It goes without saying, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
ARE YOU NOW, OR HAVE YOU EVER BEEN A TROMITE?
Is there anything those lovable, schlock-film madcaps at
Troma won't try? The topic is not open to debate; the answer
is NO! As if to confirm once and for all their complete
insanity, they've entered a domain into which only the demented
would dare venture: POLITICS! Announcing the Partie Tromatique
Francais, which planned a "massive" demonstration march
in Cannes on May 21. According to publicity, the march "[continued]
all the way to the Grand Palais in a manner reminiscent
of the brave students who protested against the evils of
The World Trade Organization." Their slogan is "Give art
back to the people," and their mission is to "create worldwide
awareness of the fact that the art world is becoming the
private domain of a privileged few. Movie theatres, video
chains, TV networks and museums, among other artistic media,
must be freed from the stranglehold of cartelism and returned
back to a system of fair competition and independent endeavor."
In the midst of the hoity-toity Cannes commotion, Troma
established a Tro-Media Center, fostering political discourse
and screening many Troma films, which they maintain emanate
from "the world's oldest independent film studio [which]
on a miniscule budget, has stayed in fierce competition
with the giant media conglomerates." To join the party,
Or, e-mail Doug Sakmann at Doug@troma.com
From England comes a bizarre new sketch comedy teleseries (targeting a "mature" audience)
described by producers as "an unexpurgated blend of 'Kentucky
Fried Movie' and 'The Groove Tube' ... the inspiration lies
in the genres of classic 50's B movie creature features,
60's psych-out flicks, 70's prison and TV cop dramas, spoof
adverts and pretentious Arthouse cinema." The premise is
certainly pregnant with potential for punditry: A pair of
media-numbed film and TV addicts, Max and Moritz, are accosted
by all manner of psychotronic ephemera as they channel surf.
According to producer Jason De l'orme, a self-proclaimed
"psychotronic filmmaker," the protagonists are "young men
in their late 20s, both eccentric armchair anarchists attempting
to fathom the fickle media-saturated world they almost inhabit."
The show will present parodies inspired by everything from
"House On Haunted Hill," "Revenge of The Living Dead" and
"The Monster of Piedras Blancas" to TV's "Quincy" and "Ironside."
A recent premier screening at Planet Hollywood in London's
Piccadilly was heralded by an eight-foot cut-out "Slithis"
monster in the theater lobby. "William Castle would've been
proud," says De l'orme.
To find out more, visit: http://www.theincrediblystrangepeopleshow.co.uk/
Be sure and tell 'em the B Monster told you to tune in!
WE'RE GETTING WARMER
Speculation as to who will direct the forthcoming big screen
version of "Farenhiet 451" is at an end. Director Frank
"Green Mile," "Shawshank Redemption" Darabont is officially
on board to direct a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's cautionary
sci-fi story. The project will be a collaboration between
Castle Rock and Mel Gibson's Icon Entertainment. Originally,
Gibson was expected to star, but will now only produce.
"Mel's been really sweet about letting me come and overtake
the project," Darabont told Sci Fi Wire. "He's just been
really supportive." Director Francois Truffaut filmed a
version of the Bradbury classic in 1966. Darabont is also
working on an adaptation of Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles."
He expects to complete the screenplay by the end of the
AND AWAAAY WE BLOW!
Well, it's not horror, but it certainly is horrifying. They're
making a feature film version of "The Honeymooners" (recently
named the third best series in television history by TV
Guide) and, according to Variety, "Sopranos" star James
Gandolfini wants to play Ralph Kramden. Ba-da-Bang! Zoom!
NEW ON DVD
The crew of the Mary Celeste, which last set sail from New
York in 1872, disappeared without a trace. The ship was
found with everything on board, but not a clue as to the
fate of the vanished seamen. What became of them is one
of the most enduring maritime mysteries. "Phantom Ship,"
known also as "The Mystery of the Mary Celeste," offers
an intriguing and outlandish "what if" scenario. The real
crew's destiny may be unknown, but thank Neptune Bela Lugosi
is on this fictional manifest. Without Bela, it would be
mighty rough sailing through an awfully talky sea of exposition.
Filmed during a post-"Dracula" foray to Great Britain, Bela
is billed above the title, playing a grizzled, vengeful,
one-armed sailor with a religious complex. It's giving nothing
away to reveal that Lugosi is responsible for the crew's
elimination -- his agenda is written plainly on that famous,
expressive mug. And the filmmakers were wise enough to get
out of the way and let him deliver a soliloquy or two (markedly
similar in tone to his "Bride of the Monster" grandstanding
20 years later). As always, despite a less than auspicious
production, Lugosi goes at the material full bore. Some
genre-film buffs -- even diehard Lugosi fans -- have been
quick to dismiss his work in this picture. The way I see
it, he could have sleepwalked through this very predictable,
weakly mounted suspenser. Instead, he chews the scenery
like beef jerky. You gotta love him for that. All Lugosiphiles
and Bela completists will want this 1935 rarity on their
FIEND OF DOPE ISLAND/PAGAN ISLAND
To begin with, how could you NOT be ensnared by a title
like "Fiend of Dope Island?" The film was also released
under the substantially less intriguing title "Whiplash."
(In fact, the "Whiplash" title sequence is an added attraction
of this DVD package.) What's it about? Go back and read
the title again. 'Nuff said. Bruce Bennett (more on him
presently) is the eponymous, whip-wielding "Fiend," exporting
pot to buy arms for commie rebels. But the commie part of
the plot is buried -- but DEEP -- under layers of some of
the most overt exploitation-movie titilation. For starters,
there's Bennett's whip, cracking away in darned near every
scene, disciplining upstart natives, drunken beach bums
or whoever else is handy. One handy handful is Tania Velia
-- billed here as "The Yugoslavian Bombshell" -- as an exotic
dancer imported for Bennett's personal "amusement." Undulating
to jazzy Latin rhythms, she proves she can't dance a lick
(probably roaming the islands, fleeing charges of "attempted
Rhumba"). But man, she's built like a Bosnian brick house,
and there's just a glimpse or two of "side-al" nudity. Velia
was the former Miss Yugoslavia, and had bit roles in both
"Queen of Outer Space" and "Missile to the Moon."
Square-jawed Robert Bray sets out to overthrow Bennett's
tropical tyranny in a series of disjointed shootouts and
chase scenes that never quite ad up to a coherent coup.
Bray was no stranger to bit parts himself, appearing in
nearly 70 films and dozens of TV shows including "Rocky
Jones" and "The Twilight Zone." He may be best known to
cult-movie buffs as the big screen's stiffest Mike Hammer
in "My Gun is Quick." Now, about Bruce Bennett, veteran
of over 100 films. He played Tarzan and Daniel Boone. He
appeared in some of Bogie's best, including "Sahara" and
"Treasure of the Sierra Madre." He was in major "A" pictures
("Mildred Pierce," "The More the Merrier") and his fair
share of "Bs" ("The Cosmic Man," "The Alligator People").
Most often, he was a restrained underplayer, deliberate
and convincing. As the "Fiend of Dope Island," all bets
are off. Rarely has such shameless, frenzied overacting
graced a film of any sort. He's absolutely possessed by
a "ham demon," hooting, stomping, sneering and bellowing,
with the least-convincing evil laugh ever heard in a B movie.
It's worth noting that Bennett co-authored the screenplay,
and perhaps wrote himself a part letting him vent his stifled
rage, accumulated after years of stuffy supporting roles.
You have to see this performance to believe it.
The lesser half of this "tropical double feature" is "Pagan
Island," produced and directed by the notorious Barry Mahon.
Why notorious? Consider the titles that pepper his resume:
"Cuban Rebel Girls," "The Beast That Killed Women," "Fanny
Hill Meets Dr. Erotico," "Naughty Nudes," "Nudes on Tiger
Reef" and, of course, "Santa and the Three Bears"(!) "Pagan
Island" is one of Mahon's earlier, more restrained attempts
at exploitation, starring Edward Dew as a sailor shipwrecked
on an island populated by man-hating women, among them,
Nani Maka as ... Nani Maka, and someone named Trine Hovelsrud
(if that's an anagram for something, I've yet to figure
out what). There's a deadly giant clam and a tiki god that
looks like the ugly cousin of "From Hell It Came's" walking
tree, Tabanga. The cast was assembled by Bunny Yeager, the
best-known pinup wrangler of the 1950s and 60s. (Trine Hovelsrud?)
THE THING (1982)
There is a cadre of genre-film devotees who love everything
that John Carpenter has ever produced. This is unfair, both
to him and to them (If you love all his work uniformly,
how can you tell whether or not he's growing artistically?)
He's made some pretty good stuff ("Halloween" "Starman")
and some inexcusably bad stuff ("Escape From L.A.," "Vampires").
"The Thing" falls somewhere in the middle. He set out to
make a faithful adaptation of John Campbell's "Who Goes
There?" which, every genre-film fan knows, served as the
inspiration for the 1951 classic, "The Thing From Another
World." Why, then, did he call his film "The Thing," drawing
comparisons to one of science-fiction cinema's undeniable
masterworks, especially since it is in no way an homage
to an original which took great liberties with the source
material? Anyway, the cast is good: Kurt Russell, Wilford
Brimley, Richard Dysart. The effects are astounding and
quite gross. Parts of it are genuinely exciting, but it
kind of deteriorates into a gussied-up slasher movie. It's
almost pretty good.
At last, a film that truly lives up to its reputation --
it really is as terrible as everyone says it is. So, the
world is covered with water. This is the springboard to
breathless intrigue and knuckle-whitening action? The first
45 minutes of the film, in which absolutely nothing of consequence
transpires, answers that question. Kevin Costner is completely
lifeless in every scene. He looks to be genuinely in pain
and is decidedly non-heroic. Bad guy Dennis Hopper steals
the show. He seems to be the only one in the cast not taking
the proceedings seriously -- which, it turns out, is a good
thing. The plot? The world is covered with water, so dry
land is quite valuable. A little girl has a map to said
dry land tattooed on her back, and Kevin becomes her protector.
(Bad guys want the map too.) It takes 135 minutes for them
to say this.
THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES
We're always hesitant to begin a review with the words,
"better than you might think," but it's valid in this case.
If you don't go in expecting an "Alien"-style thrill ride,
then it's better than you might think. If you don't approach
it anticiipating an "Exorcist"-like stomach-turner, then
it's better than you might think. Richard Gere (we know,
but keep reading) plays a Washington Post reporter who loses
his wife in a tragic accident caused by the appearance of
a mysterious, fleeting winged shadow. Gradually, he's drawn
into a strange investigation that leads to a West Virginia
hamlet whose residents have been haunted over the years
by the clairvoyant proclamations of a ghostly "Moth Man."
Wisely, the filmmakers didn't hire a special effects shop
to concoct a man-shaped latex bug. Much of the horror is
implied, with just enough visual provocation to induce a
goosebump or two. The cast, including Laura Linney, Will
Patton and Alan Bates, is quite convincing, and the notion
that the film was inspired by actual events lends a bit
of cachet. It's no horror masterwork, but, all in all, it's
better than you might think.
MISSION TO MARS
I've seen this movie three times; the first time, I'll admit,
I actually paid to see it. I saw it a second time while
attending a convention, the third time while trapped on
a coast-to-coast flight ... and it gets funnier every time
I see it. No, not "Ha ha," intentionally funny. I mean "corny,
cliche-riddled, shamelessly overacted and poorly written"
funny. And it's no B-list cast; these are reputable thespians
hamming it up. Director Brian De Palma, who "borrows" the
style of a different director with every film, (Hitchcock,
Eisentein, Antonioni) failed to employ any style at all
this time. And what a concept! It's "Robinson Crusoe on
Mars" ... on Mars! The marooned astronaut's forlorn fate
is heavy handedly foreshadowed; his young son is reading
"Robinson Crusoe" just as Dad sets off for the red planet.
(Wow! Think he'll be the one who gets stranded?) The mysterious
"Face on Mars" could have been grist for an intriguing story.
What they settled for is a dopey hodgepodge of Kubrick and
"Close Encounters" that just doesn't play. The effects are
laughably uneven, from an impressive sandstorm to Gumby-
and Pokey-like miniature cavemen. The film also features
some of the most shameless product placement in film history.
(Thrill to the heartstopping "M&Ms scene.")
HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER
Yet another of those made-for cable "Creature Features"
supposedly filmed under the aupices of effects master, Stan
Winston, each borrowing the title of a 1950s AIP shocker.
This redo, bearing no resemblance to the original, is about
a team of computer geeks conscripted to design the scariest
computer game imaginable. It starts out with a bit of humor,
and a dash of storytelling innovation -- and then rapidly
decays into one of the worst horror movies I've ever seen.
There are gaping plot holes and about 10 hackneyed endings.
There's lots of spurting blood and dismembered appendages,
and scream queen Julie Strain -- playing scream queen Julie
Strain -- is made to jiggle her bare breasts for the drooling
nerds. More egregious is the movie's theme -- sledgehammered
home repeatedly -- that it pays to be evil, good people
should die and only the mean survive. Just what the world
needs to hear. Talented people made this movie. It is unworthy of them.
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, who wrote the liner notes for the upcoming CD featuring
music from the original "The Fly," "Return of the
Fly" and "Curse of the Fly," available from Percepto
"The newest in terror-tainment!" -- Billy the Kid vs. Dracula