Character actor Frank Gorshin, perhaps best known as The
Riddler, the Caped Crusader's giggling nemesis on the 1960s
"Batman" television series, died in Los Angeles. He was
72. He had been receiving treatment for lung cancer, emphysema
and pneumonia. Genre-film fans recall Gorshin's roles in
the cult classics "Invasion of the Saucer Men," "Hot Rod
Girl" and "Dragstrip Girl." In recent years, Gorshin appeared
regularly at genre-movie conventions and autograph shows.
He was born in Pittsburgh and attended the Carnegie-Mellon
Tech School of Drama. Following an Army hitch, Gorshin was
introduced to an agent and won a role in the 1956 war drama
"The Proud and the Profane," which starred William Holden
and Deborah Kerr. In 1957, while visiting his parents in
Pittsburgh, Gorshin was asked to return to Hollywood to
read for a part in "Run Silent, Run Deep," starring Clark
Gable and Burt Lancaster. Gorshin drove cross-country, non-stop,
fell asleep at the wheel and crashed, fracturing his skull.
The part went to Don Rickles.
Gorshin worked Las Vegas showrooms and Hollywood nightspots,
exhibiting his remarkable talents as an impressionist, mimicking
more than 40 celebrities. Sammy Davis Jr. once credited
Gorshin with teaching him how to do impressions. Gorshin
worked steadily in films throughout the 1950s and '60s,
with roles large and small in movies of every description
including "Runaway Daughters," "The True Story of Jesse
James," "Tank Battalion," "Bells Are Ringing," "Where the
Boys Are," "The George Raft Story," and "That Darn Cat!"
and appeared on such TV showcases as "The Ed Sullivan Show"
(on the same program as The Beatles) and "The Steve Allen
Show." In 1966, he was approached to portray the comic book
villain The Riddler in the "Batman" television series. "When
I was first approached to play the Riddler, I thought it
was a joke," Gorshin once said. "Then I discovered the show
had a good script and agreed to do the role. Now I am in
love with the character." Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy
Award for his portrayal of the cackling maniac in green
tights. He was nominated again in 1969 for his performance
in the "Star Trek" episode, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."
Gorshin worked extensively in television, appearing on such
programs as "The Untouchables," "Combat!" "The Munsters,"
"The Virginian," "Ironside" and "Buck Rogers in the 25th
Century." He appeared on Broadway -- including a favorably
reviewed one-man show as George Burns -- and in many touring
companies. Recent credits include the films "Manna From
Heaven," "Mail Order Bride" and "The Creature of Sunny Side
Up Trailer Park," as well as the Roger Corman-produced series
"The Phantom Eye" and "Black Scorpion."
Character actor Henry Corden, former B-movie bad guy and
voiceover artist who was the voice of Fred Flintstone, died
of complications of emphysema in Encino, Calif. He was 85.
Corden was born in Montreal and raised in New York. He was
an established radio and stage actor when he moved to Hollywood
in the 1940s. He made his film debut as one of Boris Karloff's
henchmen in 1947's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Cult-movie
buffs may also recognize Corden for his role in "The Black
Castle," starring Karloff, and for small parts in "Abbott
and Costello in the Foreign Legion," "Abbott and Costello
Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," "Scaramouche" and others.
Corden appeared on dozens of television programs, including
"Space Patrol," "Dragnet," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents,"
"Perry Mason," "Gunsmoke," "Peter Gunn," "Have Gun-Will
Travel," "Maverick," "The Twilight Zone" and others. Corden
was also a prolific voice artist, lending his vocal talents
to such animated programs as "Jonny Quest," "The Banana
Splits," "The Scooby Doo Dynomutt Hour," "Thundarr the Barbarian"
"The Atom Ant Show" and "Yogi's Gang." When the original
voice of Fred Flintstone, Alan Reed, died in 1977, Corden
assumed the role. Though the original series ended in 1966,
the characters were revived for various new programs over
the next three decades. At first, Corden did his best to
imitate Reed. "Eventually, I got pretty close to him," Corden
said, "but as the years progressed, I decided to make Fred
more my own so I [didn't] have to imitate Alan so much."
Corden and Reed had once appeared in the same film, "Viva
Zapata!" though they had no scenes together.
Speaking of Karloff, Corden once told film historian Tom
Weaver, "On my first picture 'The Secret Life of Walter
Mitty,' the assistant director came over to me with Karloff
to introduce me to him -- the a.d. said, 'Boris, this is
Henry Corden. Would you please watch out for him and try
to give him some tips? This is his first picture.' And the
first thing Boris said was, 'Well, I'm sure Mr. Corden could
give me far more than I could give him.' I mean, of course
it was horrendously untrue [laughs]. But the kind of person
who could say a thing like that has got to be a wonderful
guy." When Weaver quizzed Corden about his hobbies, Corden
responded, "My big hobby is my family. That's it. I don't
know how long I've got to go, and whatever time I have,
I want to get the pleasure of my children, of my grandchildren
and of my wonderful, wonderful wife. We walk down the street
hand in hand and people look at us, this old bastard and
this good-looking chick. We get smiles all over the place.
That's enough for me. ... THAT'S my hobby." "He was a great
gentleman to work with," said animation producer and director
Joseph Barbera. "His characterization of Fred Flintstone
will never be duplicated."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
CHAMPS AWARDED NOBEL NOMINATION
Longtime B Monster readers are familiar with the fact that
the B Monster donates a portion of the proceeds from t-shirt,
sweatshirt, coffee mug, poster and mouse pad sales to a
very worthy organization called Childhelp USA. Likewise,
the B Monster's comic creation "The Crater Kid" has managed
to raise donations to aid the abused and neglected kids
who benefit from Childhelp USA's services.
nifty bit of trivia you may not know: Childhelp USA was
founded in 1959 by Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson. You
may know Mrs. Fedderson as Yvonne Lime, the same Yvonne
Lime who had a recurring role on "Father Knows Best," who
dated Elvis and who starred in the cult classics "I Was
a Teenage Werewolf," "Untamed Youth" and "High School Hellcats,"
among others. For 46 years Childhelp has carried on their
crusade "to meet the physical, emotional, educational, and
spiritual needs of abused and neglected children. We do
so by focusing our efforts in the areas of treatment, prevention,
and research." Only recently, O'Meara and Fedderson were
nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their years of advocacy
and service. I realize that there are a million worthy charities
that seek our help, and no one is obligated to give beyond
their means. But I think it is entirely appropriate to use
this space to congratulate the Childhelp founders and to
offer continued support, both moral and, to the degree we
can afford, financial:
HALL ROCKS 'EM DEAD!
After a four-decade hiatus from the stage, B-movie legend
Arch Hall Jr. recently performed at The Ponderosa Stomp,
a New Orleans roots music festival featuring a roster of
blues and rockabilly heavyweights. "It was awesome!" Arch
told the B Monster. "We went on about 11:15 pm on night
one of the festival, following Scotty Moore [the legendary
guitarist who backed Elvis on the King's seminal early recordings]
and Johnny Farina [best known as one half of Santo &
Johnny]. Deke Dickerson was heading up the house band and
was a real pro. Of course, I had my old guard with me, too.
That is, The Archers. Alan O'Day on vocal and Hammond B-3
and piano and Joel Christie on bass and vocals." The two-day
festival, staged at the New Orleans Rock and Bowl, boasted
an impressive lineup of R&B icons, including sax men
Plas Johnson and Ace Cannon, rockabillies Dale Hawkins and
Joe Clay and such blues greats as Robert Jr. Lockwood, Lazy
Lester and Johnny Jones. "I was made to feel very welcome,"
Hall said, "and struck up friendships with several other
artists such a Eddie C. Campbell, a journeyman bluesman
from Chicago, Roy Head, Scotty Moore and, of course, Dickerson,
just to name a few. A good time was had by all!" A collection
of Hall's soundtrack recordings featuring cues from "Eegah,"
"Wild Guitar" and "The Choppers," is available now from
Norton Records. The set also features priceless live recordings
of Arch and the Archers performing live at drive-in theaters
and L.A. nightspots. Check out:
Tell 'em without hesitation, the B Monster sent you!
THE DARK SIDE OF FANDOM?
B Monster correspondent Tom Weaver has collated the following
account, which may disturb horror fandom in general, and
writers and creators in particular:
On May 18, 2005, at Tower Records in Manhattan, Mirek
Lipinski, webmaster and writer for Latarnia:
Fantastique International was leafing through the latest
issue of the English genre magazine "The Dark Side"
(#114) when he discovered to his amazement that a section
of their review of German DVD box sets of Edgar Wallace
thrillers had been lifted, verbatim, from his online writings.
Back home with the purchased magazine, Lipinski did further
research and discovered that another writer, Gary Banks,
had also had HIS online writings used without permission
in "Dark Side's" review.
Lipinski, who hosts the Latarnia
Forums, went on his message board to alert members to
this theft and then, figuring that where there's smoke there's
fire, began examining other DVD reviews in the magazine.
The simple process of entering sentences from "Dark Side"
reviews into Google's search machine revealed that other
reviews in that magazine's uncredited "DVD Video Library"
section had been lifted, usually word for word, from online
sources such as DVD
Drive-in and DVD
File. He contacted the webmasters
of those sites and their writers to ascertain whether use
of their reviews in "The Dark Side" had been authorized.
The responses staggered him: Not one had been authorized.
With the scandal breaking, Lipinski set up a specific
thread at the Latarnia
Forums as an information center and to coordinate an
Internet campaign of writers and horror film fans to determine
if other copyright violations had occurred in previous issues
of "The Dark Side." The results confirmed that this theft
of online material was not exclusive to Issue #114. "What
we are looking at is possibly the greatest consistent theft
of online material by one magazine in the history of the
internet," says Lipinski, who is continuing to collect and
investigate material for a possible class action lawsuit
against the magazine. "The Dark Side" ("The Magazine of
the Macabre and Fantastic") premiered in October 1990. Although
informed of the Latarnia thread, editor-publisher Allan
Bryce has made no public comment about these troubling findings,
which continue to escalate. Check out the Latarnia
forums thread and follow this evolving story.
Tom Weaver's new tome, "Earth vs. the Sci-Fi Filmmakers,"
is everything we've come to expect from the cult-movie world's
most dedicated chronicler and indefatigable researcher,
an indispensable and generous walking encyclopedia of monster
film fact and ephemera. His latest volume features 20 interviews
complimented by myriad photos (not to mention an eye-catching
cover created by the bashful B Monster himself after the
assiduous art direction of Mr. Weaver). USA Today once called
Weaver "the king of the monster hunters," and the variety
and depth of the interviews justifies the compliment. Among
those offering revealing recollections are Gene Barry, Gary
Clarke, Gary Conway, Robert Dix, Donnie Dunagan, Alex Gordon,
Peter Graves, Gary Gray, Arch Hall Jr., Stephen Kandel,
Carolyn Kearney, Ken Kolb, Robert L. Lippert, Jr., Jan Merlin,
Mary Mitchel, Frankie Thomas and Burt Topper. The Graves
and Hall interviews, alone, are worth the price. Many fans
have long assumed that these two were reluctant to speak
of their cult-film contributions. To the contrary, they're
among the most giving and candid subjects. Hall's memories
are vivid and brim with nostalgia, and Graves speaks with
good humor about "Red Planet Mars" and "Killers From Space."
He's a very, very funny guy. So, what are you waiting for?
You know the password: The B Monster sent you!
CINEMATHEQUE'S AERO TARGETS RETRO AUDIENCE
The American Cinematheque's summer calendar is bound to
appeal to B-movie buffs and giant monster mavens. Under
their auspices, the noted Aero Theatre, a landmark located
at 1328 Montana Avenue in the heart of Santa Monica, Calif.,
will host a very special screening of the trendsetting 1950
George Pal classic "Destination Moon" on Sunday, June 5
at 2:00 pm. Directed by Irving Pichel, Pal's colorful depiction
of the first manned moon trip was dedicated to nailing down
the details of space flight as they were known at the time,
with technical assistance provided by German rocket scientist
Hermann Oberth and author Robert Heinlein. The cast of B-movie
stalwarts includes John Archer, Warner Anderson and Tom
Powers. The film won an Academy Award for its special effects.
Legendary moonwalker, astronaut Buzz Aldrin will introduce
the screening and lead a reading of moon stories at Every
Picture Tells a Story, located near the Aero at 1311 Montana
Avenue in Santa Monica.
On Sunday, June 12, you can re-experience the kitschy,
glitzy, pop art 1960s via this special screening of the
1966 big-screen version of "Batman," starring Adam West
and Burt Ward. The twice-weekly teleseries was popular enough
to spawn this theatrical feature directed by TV veteran
Leslie Martinson, which features such adversaries of the
Caped Crusader as The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Joker
(Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Catwoman
(Lee Meriwether). Schedule permitting, Ms. Meriwether will
take part in a post-screening discussion. (You'll notice
that I did not include the words, "Bam!," "Pow!," "Zowie!'
or "Holy anything" anywhere is this write-up. A little credit,
Later in the month, the Cinematheque will host the likes
of Godzilla, Mechagodzilla and Ultraman during their "Japanese
Giant Monsters Festival." Billed as "a 4-day fun-fest of
city-stomping action," the fest will screen such Japanese
monster classics as "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla," "Godzilla
vs. Megalon," "The H-Man" and "Attack of the Mushroom People."
One special highlight is the L.A. premiere of Tsuburaya
Productions "Ultraman: The Next," featuring everyone's favorite
fin-headed, silver spandexed giant monster smasher. The
stomping takes place June 24-29 at the Cinematheque's Egyptian
Theatre, nestled in the heart of downtown Hollywood, moving
to the Aero July 1-3.
And if that isn't enough Kaiju action to sate you, the
Cinematheque's Egyptian will host the exclusive L.A. theatrical
engagement of "Godzilla: Final Wars," allegedly the last
installment in the 50-year-plus Godzilla canon. According
to the official hype, "bad-boy Japanese director Ryuhei
Kitamura reinvents the classic Godzilla formula while bringing
back some of the Big G's most famous foes from past classics!"
(Just how does one become a "Bad-boy director"?) The exclusive
three-day showing happens July 1-3.
And coming to the Aero in July, it's yet another in-person
tribute to Ray Harryhausen. The legendary special effects
maestro will be on hand for an exhibition of his artwork
at Every Picture Tells a Story, adjacent to the Aero, where
a slate of Harryhausen films will be screened in conjunction
with the event. For more info, check out:
And by all means, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
Here's an eBay find we thought might be of interest to monsterphiles
and comic fans (and often the interests overlap). A drawing
of John Carradine by comics legend Wally Wood was recently
offered at the online auction house. Described as "a very
rare piece [this] pen and ink drawing of the actor [is]
simply a stunning piece of artwork by one of the last great
masters of comic art." Wood's ink-on-acetate Carradine portrait
measures 2 5/8 X 4 3/8 inches. No one bid on the piece,
which was listed with a starting bid of $249.99.
BLOWS INTO WINDY CITY
Horror buffs in the Midwest are readying themselves for
the "Flashback Weekend's Horro'Rama Drive-In and Convention."
The con billed as "Chicago's most complete horror/movie
memorabilia convention" features, as one might expect, celebrity
guests, a humongous dealers' room, a costume contest, and
myriad other special events. Among said events is a "marvelous,
nostalgic re-creation of the drive-in at night, featuring
35mm screenings of classic [films] and premiere showings
of [new] horror films on a huge 20 x 40 screen." The screenings
are accompanied by vintage trailers, celebrity speakers,
even a well-stocked concession stand. Headlining the guest
list this time is contemporary cult-film icon Bruce Campbell,
star of the "Evil Dead" films and director Sam Raimi's mascot
and favorite punching bag. Also on the agenda is a "John
Carpenter/Debra Hill Cast Reunion" (pioneering producer
Hill passed away in March) highlighted by a 25th anniversary
screening of the Carpenter-directed shocker "The Fog" attended
by Carpenter/Hill alumni Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles
Cyphers and Nancy Loomis. It takes place July 29-31 at the
Crown Plaza Chicago O'Hare in beautiful Rosemont, Ill. For
more info, check out:
Leave no doubt the B Monster sent you!
SHOLLY ON MONSTER MANEUVERS
Pete Von Sholly, artist, writer, movie storyboarder and
classic creaturephile, has produced mock monster magazines,
riotous fumettis, satiric superhero comics and lovingly
illustrated "Horrora" model kit boxes. His singular sardonic
streak is likewise on exhibit in his latest project, one
bound to appeal to monster kids of a certain vintage. Pete
describes this new offering, "Sergeantstein and his Maraudin'
Monsters," as a satirical monster war comic touching on
many aspects of the horror genre from films, TV and
literature." There's a "Sergeantstein" promo in this
month's Diamond Previews, and Pete will be appearing at
the San Diego Comicon next month with advance copies for
sale. The bulk will ship in August. Via the tongue-in-cheek
tales of the Maraudin' Monsters, Pete manages to skewer
darn-near every horror and sci-fi hallmark, from Lovecraft
to Poe, Jason to Chucky, "Star Wars" to "Matrix." Even the
current political climate including the situation in the
Middle East, is broached "Harryhausen style," says Von Sholly,
"but seen in the light of political reality and twisted
accordingly." The 96-page trade paperback from Vonshollywood
Press retails for $14.95. For more info, visit Pete
You know by now to tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
DIRECTOR HOPPED UP ON B-MOVIES
Pop-culture quiz: What three words guarantee success for
an exploitation movie? A: Slimy mutant monsters B: Grisly
special effects C: Coeds in lingerie D: Lesbian nude scenes
If you guessed D, you are absolutely correct. And if you're
looking for a film that features A through D, and then tosses
in E, F and G-G-G, have we got a film for you. "Frog-g-g,"
the first-time feature from writer-director Cody Jarrett,
begins with a protracted lesbian nude scene and gets more
exploitative from there. "Exploitation films have always
been my biggest influence," says Jarrett, a part-time actor,
stand-in and lead singer of the L.A. rock band Teen Machine,
who cites Russ Meyer, Jack Hill and, curiously, the 1980
horror "Humanoids From the Deep," as inspirations. "We set
out to make a 1970s exploitation film," says Jarrett, "and
we did it!" The story follows a time-honored formula; an
unscrupulous small-town chemical distributor is dumping
excess waste illegally. The runoff spawns the humanoid amphibian
of the title, whose biological urges drive him to mate with
the local females. The heroine of the piece, as played by
Kristi Russell, is a buxom EPA biologist who just happens
to be a lesbian and who, it would seem, doesn't believe
in buttons. In nearly every scene her blouse is open to
her navel -- that is, when it's on at all. In accordance
with said formula, none of the local yokels will believe
her story of a chemically altered amorous amphibian until
it's too late.
It isn't surprising that reviewers have drawn comparisons
to Roger Corman. The MSN Movies Web site called "Frog-g-g,"
a terrific new exploitation film, masterfully modeled after
drive-in classics from the 1970's. This movie doesn't just
take a page from the Roger Corman book, it IS the Roger
Corman book!" Film Threat said, "Frog-g-g" blends "the aesthetics
of Roger Corman/Samuel Z. Arkoff '60's and '70's monster
flicks with a touch of Russ Meyer flair." They might have
tossed in Larry Cohen's "It's Alive," as well, not to mention
the quick and dirty AIP remakes of Larry Buchanan. All involved
seem devoted to re-creating the lurid '70s drive-in zeitgeist,
and Jarrett's cast, featuring cameos by James DuVal and
exploitation vet Mary Woronov ("Death Race 2000," "Silent
Night, Bloody Night") plays in earnest. Jarrett says he'd
love to see more, new "old-school" exploitation movies.
"No one's making them anymore, so I am!"
THE LOST CONTINENT/THE POWER, DUAL SOUNDTRACK
Author Justin Humphreys contributes the following assessment
of two neglected scores that accompanied a pair of producer
George Pal's less memorable films.
Film Score Monthly's dual "Atlantis/The Power" soundtrack
album marks the first CD release of nearly 45 minutes of
previously unreleased musical cues from these George Pal
films -- in stereo, no less. Many of the finest of these
films' musical cues are, understandably, nowhere to be found
on La-La Land Records' "Fantasy Film Music of George Pal"
album, which was strictly a Pal soundtrack sampler. Fantasist
George Pal's "Atlantis" (1961, directed by Pal) and "The
Power" (1967 -- produced by Pal, directed by Byron Haskin)
are, possibly, his greatest misfires. Both are sporadically
impressive -- i.e.: "Atlantis'" gorgeous, antiquated submarine;
certain sequences in "The Power" -- but neither delivers
on the tremendous promise that their basic concepts hold.
Atlantis, a sword-and-sandal fantasy about the legendary,
super-scientific lost continent, rehashes fantasy ideas
(and dusty MGM science fiction movie props) that seemed
dated in 1961. It is a sorry follow-up to Pal's previous
film, "The Time Machine" (1960). "The Power," which follows
the hunt for a super-normally evolved, murderous mental
giant, hardly hints at the enormous cinematic possibilities
that teem in Frank Robinson's eponymous novel. Time after
time, "The Power" approaches being something extraordinary.
And, just as often, it narrowly misses its mark. But the
two films' merits aren't at issue, here -- their scores
are. Both of these films are bested by their own soundtracks.
Composer Russell Garcia, returning from "The Time Machine,"
created a score for "Atlantis" exponentially grander and
more affecting than the film itself. (That Garcia cribbed
portions of his own "Time Machine" music for his "Atlantis"
cues in no way detracts from the score's beauty and evocative
These two films' scores complement each other well --
both have outstanding moments of epic power, which find
their counterpoint in poignant, lilting melodies, tailored
to the respective films' more intimate moments. Golden Age
film composer Miklos Rozsa ("Spellbound," "The Killers")
scored "The Power" with more flair than any of the film's
finest moments. Rozsa used a Hungarian instrument that he
had previously (intentionally) avoided, the Gypsy cimbalom.
(The cimbalom, like Rozsa and Pal, originates in Hungary.)
This bizarre instrument's loud, jangling chords give "The
Power's" music a distinctly European sound. (Rozsa's work,
here, seems most influenced by Bernard Herrmann's wild "North
By Northwest" fandangos.) Rozsa's "Power" score creates
the mood of a Cold-War era, Euro-spy movie far more successfully
than that of the film's distinctly mundane, American milieu.
But, at the same time, Rozsa's "Power" score seems too ferocious
and unrestrained for inclusion in a spy film. The score's
European flavor also gives the film an eerie, fairy-tale-like
quality -- something all Pal films have, more or less. One
cut that this disc mercifully lacks is the bland rock number
used during "The Power's" most clumsy, embarrassing scene
-- an inappropriate go-go party at some conventioneers'
hotel room. The release of these two extended scores is
marvelous news. Like most Pal film soundtracks, neither
has ever received its due praise. It is a joy to finally
be able to listen to, for instance, tracks 4-7 of the CD,
the transitional music between "Atlantis'" bombastic opening
cue and Garcia's lush "Love Scene/Submarine Scene." These
cuts are five-minutes, 33 seconds of gorgeous, subtle, unobtrusive
film music, at its neglected best.
The only way that this CD seems wanting, is in its liner
notes. There is little new information here, about Pal or
his films. (At the risk of sounding like a complete lout,
you'll have to buy my upcoming Pal biography, for that.)
With that said, they are well written. But who buys CDs
for liner notes? These soundtracks and their stereo transfers
are top-of-the-line. We have been reminded, once again,
that the original score to a mediocre Pal film is better
than the music accompanying many filmmakers' masterworks.
This CD is available directly from Film Score Monthly at,
in a limited edition of 3,000 copies.
NEW ON DVD
Just as myriad cult, horror and sci-fi films are revived,
repackaged and re-released in retitled collections, so we've
recycled some salient observations we've expounded over
the years, inserting new info, re-writing and revising our
reviews. So, if selected portions of the following have
a familiar ring ...
("Brain From Planet Arous," "Cat-Women of the Moon," "Missile
to the Moon," "The Day It Came to Earth")
BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS
This just may just be THE quintessential John Agar film,
suited as it is to his unique brand of deliberate, yet oddly
convincing acting. Agar portrays a dedicated scientist baffled
by a confounding series of signals emanating from Mystery
Mountain, a rugged, desolate area near his desert home.
Against the better judgment of his lovely fiancé,
Joyce Meadows, Agar treks toward the source of the readings
accompanied by his young assistant, Robert ("Emergency!")
Fuller (who had only just finished filming the J.D. classic
Upon spelunking a newly hewn cave (actually the familiar
confines of Hollywood's oft-filmed Bronson Canyon), the
mystery of the emanations is revealed in the form of an
immense floating brain with eyes. Agar reacts as any scientist
would, emptying his pistol into the brain to no avail (oddly,
when his wife-to-be and her father later confront the same
brain in the same spooky cave, they don't seem particularly
startled). The brain, named Gor, telepathically dispatches
Fuller, then slips into Agar's cranium, replacing the good
doctor's personality with its own.
Under Gor's control, Agar heads to the home of his intended.
Meadows is flustered by his aggressive sexual advances,
and her dog barks at him suspiciously. His future father-in-law
(Thomas Browne Henry), exhibits little concern when his
daughter describes Agar's odd behavior. The next day, Gor/Agar
drops in on a nearby atomic test facility, casually announcing
his plans for world conquest to an assemblage of top brass.
To impress them, he detonates a devastating explosion with
Following the maxim that two heads are indeed better than
one, the filmmakers introduce a second alien brain named
Vol. It seems that Vol is sort of an Arousian cop, hot on
Gor's trail (admit it, it's an auspicious twist for a budget-conscious
horror flick). He's shadowed the renegade brain all the
way from Arous. (Curiously, both Gor and Vol are voiced
by associate producer Dale Tate, who also has a role in
the film as ... Dale Tate.) Vol explains that Gor must temporarily
leave Agar's body every 24 hours to recharge his battery.
Once floating freely, Gor is vulnerable at a specific spot
on his bloated lobes. A single blow to this region will
do him in.
If you're only going to see one John Agar film, make it
this one. He demonstrates a range he rarely had the opportunity
to exercise, from laid-back, pipe-smoking professor to grinning
deviant (Agar noted in later years that the black lenses
he was required to wear while inhabited by the evil Gor
were decidedly uncomfortable and may in fact have caused
genuine damage to his vision.) Respect should be paid to
this guy. A decorated war hero who survived a marriage to
Shirley Temple, Agar descended rapidly from John Ford classics
("She Wore A Yellow Ribbon") to such low-budget films as
"The Mole People" in a matter of a few years. Yet, even
in such indefensible bombs as "Zontar, The Thing from Venus,"
his performances were quite serviceable and far better than
the films deserved. Even in dogs, he never "dogged it."
Director Nathan Juran (here, using the name Nathan Hertz,
as he occasionally did), dabbled in darned-near every genre.
His collaborations with animator Ray Harryhausen are outstanding,
but it is for impoverished fare like "Attack of the 50 Foot
Woman" that he'll long be remembered. Here, he stages an
inventive shot or two, but he's hampered by sub-standard
props and a small cast saddled with a first-draft script.
He paces the film briskly, however, diverting attention
from the inadequacies.
CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON
This cheap 3-D curio, one of the best-remembered exploitation
titles of the '50s, benefits marginally from an experienced
cast who must be credited with delivering sturdy performances
in the midst of what must have seemed insurmountable circumstances.
Sonny Tufts, nearing the end of a respectable career as
a B-movie everyman, soldiers bravely through scenes looking
positively forlorn as the film's ostensible hero. And one
glance at the faces of Victor Jory and Marie Windsor as
they strap themselves into castered office chairs (standing
in for rocket cockpit seats), is most revealing. Are they
straining not to laugh, or literally in pain? What senses
of humor these hearty thespians must have possessed, maintaining
poker faces from blast-off to closing credits.
Veteran director Herbert L. Strock once told the B Monster
that Victor Jory drove him crazy with scene-stealing facial
ticks and gestures: nose-pulling, ear-tugging, etc. In "Cat-Women,"
the actor's countenance gets a vigorous workout as Jory
and his fellow players tread water frantically throughout,
hoping to distract the audience from the absurd, stilted
It's a skeletal story about a mission to the moon, which
is populated by a subterranean race of slinky women sporting
black tights. Initially hostile to the newcomers, it isn't
long before they're bedazzling the male crewmembers with
attempts at flirting and exotic dancing. One of the Cat-Women,
Betty Arlen, choreographed the lazy terpsichore. Billed
in the opening credits as Hollywood Covergirls, the moon's
busty rulers are never referred to as "Cat-Women" at any
point. Beyond any inference stemming from their black attire,
they possess no feline attributes.
Interestingly, the possibilities of the 3-D process are
neglected throughout the film. You'd think that jutting
moonscapes, giant spiders and soaring spacecraft would be
fully exploited to showcase the eye-popping potential of
the pioneering process. Yet, most of the picture lies flatter
than a rug instead of leaping at thrill-hungry moviegoers.
A floppy spider-doll is tossed at the hapless troop of explorers,
then hastily dispatched, its thrill potential minimally
exercised. Marie Windsor recalled that frustrated puppeteers
couldn't quite manage the unwieldy, stuffed arachnid. At
one point, one of its legs fell off. "Oh gosh, it's almost
embarrassing," she told the B Monster. "I just wanted to
work. And if they handed me almost anything -- if I didn't
have to strip -- I would work ... I wasn't that particular,
shall I say. I never asked who the costars were or anything
like that. I just asked when it was and how much money."
MISSILE TO THE MOON
At the suggestion of Astor Pictures, director Richard Cunha
and producer Marc Frederic mounted this remake of Astor's
notorious schlock space opera "Cat-Women of the Moon." The
film that resulted may not be intrinsically better, (it
COULDN'T be worse), but it is every bit as fascinating.
Cunha and company tossed every sci-fi, B-movie cliché
into the pot -- bulky rockets, giant spiders, leering juvenile
delinquents, lumpy, shambling rock men, a subterranean city
and a bevy of slinky beauties living on a manless satellite
-- and came up with a corny, defiantly entertaining hodge-podge
that never fails to make me smile. And what a cast -- Richard
Travis, Cathy Downs, Tommy Cook, Nina Bara, Gary Clarke,
Leslie Parrish. Anyone expecting plausibility will be sorely
disappointed. Anyone looking for a good time will wear this
THE DAY IT CAME TO EARTH
Are you a compulsive credit watcher like the B Monster?
Do you pore over the names of cinematographers, stunt men
and grips, searching for significant bits of trivia? Sometimes,
that's the only entertainment a dud film can deliver. Take
"The Day It Came to Earth" for instance, a 1979 sci-fi shlocker
directed by one Harry Thomason, a TV veteran whose credits
include horrors such as "Revenge of Bigfoot," sitcoms such
as "Designing Women" and "Evening Shade," the cooking show,
"Emeril," even documentaries for the Democratic National
Committee! Wait a minute. ... That's right, it's THAT Harry
Thomason, famous friend of the Clinton clan. Okay, now,
let's scan the cast list. It's composed primarily of nobodies:
Wink Roberts, Roger Manning, Robert Ginnaven, George Gobel.
... What? Yep! It's TV funnyman Lonesome George Gobel. Keep
scanning; Delight De Bruine, Lyle Armstrong and Rita Wilson.
Yes, it's THAT Rita Wilson. Mrs. Tom Hanks. Now the veteran
of two dozen movies and zillionaire co-producer of "My Big
Fat Greek Wedding." (See, I told you credit watching was
("Lost Continent," "The Giant Gila Monster," "She Demons,"
"Monster From Green Hell")
Note to the uninitiated: Go ahead and laugh at the "Davey
and Goliath"-like dinosaurs, the padded rock-climbing sequences,
the green-tinted footage and the bravado performances. Go
ahead and laugh at everything I think makes this picture
terrific! With the possible exception of Alex Gordon, only
Robert L. Lippert could assemble such a cast: Cesar Romero,
Hugh Beaumont, John Hoyt, Whit Bissell, Chick Chandler,
Hillary Brooke, Sid Melton -- and Acquanetta, for cryin'
out loud! Let's say they were burying a time capsule and
someone said, "Quick, pick one picture that showcases the
most and the best B-movie actors in top form!" I'd be tempted
to toss in "Lost Continent." It's cheap and kooky and slow
in spots, but every performer goes at the material as though
it were Shakespeare -- much like Lugosi in his waning days.
I like that about this picture. The plot is a shameless,
"atom-age" take on Conan Doyle: An atomic-powered rocket
goes off course and crash-lands on an uncharted island.
Many of the aforementioned players make up a government
search-and-rescue team. Upon reaching the summit of the
island's mysterious, dino-populated mountain, the black
and white film is thereafter tinted green. Director Sam
Newfield had many a B under his belt by the time he helmed
the Lippert-produced "Lost Continent." If only his pacing
were as tight as the budget. Nevertheless, this is flat-out,
cult-film fun. If you don't have a ball watching this one,
you're in the wrong cult.
THE GIANT GILA MONSTER
Actor Ken Curtis, second unit director Ray Kellogg and a
Texas radio station owner pooled their resources and produced
two bona fide exploitation classics. "The Killer Shrews"
starred James Best, Curtis and the father of director Sidney
Lumet, menaced by a pack of dogs draped with crepe hair.
"The Giant Gila Monster" has marginally more of what cult-movie
lovers look for in a film. For starters, there's a GIANT
gila monster. Though he trundles some less-than-convincing
miniatures, he's a bit more credible than the painfully
obvious canine "shrews." There are also souped-up hot rods,
a hangout for swingin' teens, a hep cat deejay emceeing
a sock hop, the comic stylings of local drunk Shug Fisher,
and a handful of peppy pop tunes crooned by star Don Sullivan.
Who can forget "The Mushroom Song" ("laugh children, laugh
...") and that hummable "sings whenever she swings whenever
she stings ..." ditty? Sullivan was a serviceable actor
and a passable singer who dropped out of showbiz after appearing
in a batch of "Bs" that are much revered by cult-film enthusiasts,
including "Monster of Piedras Blancas," "The Rebel Set,"
and director Jerry Warren's execrable "Teenage Zombies."
Appearing as Sullivan's exchange student girlfriend is
French import Lisa Simone, who is also credited as one of
the "moon girls" in Richard Cunha's "Missile to the Moon."
Fred Graham, who co-stars as the town sheriff, was one of
the Republic studio's legendary stuntmen, working alongside
Tom Steele and Dave Sharpe in countless Westerns and serials.
His speaking parts prior to "Gila Monster" were usually
small ones as henchmen or posse members. Shug Fisher appeared
in dozens of films by virtue of the fact that he sang with
the famed Sons of the Pioneers. Later in his career, he
made roles as scruffy drunks and incorrigible schemers,
his bread and butter. Curtis, of course, went on to TV immortality
as Festus of "Gunsmoke" fame. He'd begun his career as a
big band vocalist before turning to acting, most notably
as one of John Ford's stock players. He appeared in 10 Ford
films with a sizable role in Ford's "The Searchers." No
doubt Curtis and his partners made back the money they invested
in their twin terror films, and then some. Whether or not
the films convinced audiences, they delivered the monsters
promised by their delightfully lurid titles.
Now THIS is an exploitation movie -- and nobody exploited
the exploitable quite like director Richard Cunha. Many
consider this twisted shocker his magnum opus. It's got
everything necessary to keep a cult-film fan happy: A mad
doctor, scantily-clad native gals, Nazis hoping to resurrect
the Reich, and, of course, un-P.C. references to race that
must have seemed harmless at the time.
Tod Griffin, who'd previously starred in TV's "Operation:
Neptune," portrays a treasure hunter for hire, conscripted
by a wealthy backer to explore an uncharted Pacific island.
By the very slimmest of plot contrivances, the millionaire's
shapely daughter, as played by 1950s pin-up queen Irish
McCalla, decides to go along for the ride. McCalla, some
may recall, starred as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle three
years prior to the filming of "She Demons." Rounding out
the intrepid team is Griffin's right-hand man, Sammy, played
by Charlie Chan's ex-No. 2 son Victor Sen Yung, who was
soon to find lasting employment as the Ponderosa's head
chef on TV's "Bonanza." And let's not forget the Diana Nellis
Dancers as the "She Demons."
Easily stealing the show, however, is actor Rudolph Anders
who hams it up as the Mengele-like mad doctor. When a script
called for a wild-eyed Aryian-type, Anders name must have
been near the top of every casting director's list. Nobody,
with the possible exception of Martin "Flesh Eaters" Kosleck,
did it better. Anders' poised dementia and convincing delivery
make you forget, just for a moment, the cardboard sets and
tin foil gadgets surrounding him.
The film kicks off with newsreel footage of a devastating
typhoon that's currently pounding the very area our heroes
are flying into. (Didn't they check the forecast? Wasn't
there a radio on board?) Ditching their plane, our bedraggled
band soon find themselves washed ashore without provisions,
and are forced to go foraging. (Somehow, they've managed
to salvage Irish's comely sun dress.) It isn't long before
they stumble upon the caged "She Demons," native girls who
were subject to Anders' misguided efforts to restore the
beauty of his disfigured wife. Naturally, our friends are
captured and, according to the unwritten movie law that
states that all villains must explain their motives to the
victims as they'll never live to tell anyway, Anders describes
how Der Furher himself sent him to the desolate isle during
the war to conduct Third Reich research. Aided by, of all
people, Herr Doctor's scarred wife, the trio escape in a
rowboat that had been stashed elsewhere on the island just
as the U.S. Air Force, on a test run, is commencing to bomb
the atoll. All the doc's atomic-powered apparatus goes up
in smoke as Yung utters the film's best line: "Let's blow
this crazy fire trap!"
We could debate whether the movie is a tongue-in-cheek
exercise, or was simply the best they could produce with
the budget they had. (Maybe both?) Who cares? It's all great,
goofy, grotesque fun and, though I've always preferred Cunha's
"Giant From the Unknown," I couldn't recommend a cult film
more highly than "She Demons."
MONSTER FROM GREEN HELL
Probably the only film we'll review that stars "Pollock"
screenwriter and mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barbara
Turner. And throughout the film she looks just about as
bored as anyone who watches this stinker has a right to
be. Jim Davis, later to star in TV's "Dallas," is sent to
Africa with Turner in tow to determine the whereabouts of
a lost test rocket. The trip is disastrous. Not only does
the airline lose their Geiger counter, it seems the atomic
contents of said rocket have turned a hive of wasps into
gigantic mutations. No, it's not as exciting as it sounds.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.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.dinoship.com
"See screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of
horror by a blood-starved ghoul from hell!" -- Beast From