FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF SHAMELESS HYPE
The March 2 edition of "Entertainment Weekly" calls B Monster
"The best online journalism devoted to camp, monster, and
cult movies!" There's more, but the B Monster blushes easily.
Howard W. Koch
Veteran producer, director, writer Howard W. Koch has died
of complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 84. Koch's
long career began in Universal's contract and playdate department
in the 1940s. Moving to 20th Century Fox, he became an assistant
director. In the early 1950s, Koch formed BelAir Productions
with producers Aubrey Schenck and Edwin Zabel. Koch was
responsible for many classic cult-films, directing "The
Girl In Black Stockings," "Frankenstein 1970," "Untamed
Youth," and "Violent Road," and producing "Pharoah's Curse,"
"The Black Sleep," "Hot Cars," "Voodoo Island" and many
Koch also worked extensively in television directing episodes
of "Maverick," "Hawaiian Eye," "Cheyenne" and "The Untouchables."
In the early 1960s, Koch became vice president in charge
of production for Sinatra Enterprises. During his tenure,
he executive-produced the suspense classic "The Manchurian
Candidate." Remembered as one of the best-liked figures
in Hollywood, Koch received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian
Award at the 1990 Academy Awards ceremony.
Actress Rosemary DeCamp, 90, died at her home in Torrance,
Calif. She had pneumonia. DeCamp was perpetually cast as
a matronly figure, often being made up to look older than
she actually was. Her first film was 1941's "Hold Back The
Dawn," with Charles Boyer. She worked steadily throughout
the 1940s in "A" productions, including "Yankee Doodle Dandy,"
with James Cagney, "This Is The Army," "Rhapsody In Blue"
and many others. Her face was a familiar one to TV watchers
for her recurring roles in "Love That Bob," starring Robert
Cummings and "That Girl" with Marlo Thomas. Cult-film fans
will remember DeCamp for her role in William Castle's gimmicky
shocker "13 Ghosts."
Hugo Award-winning science fiction author Gordon Dickson
has died from complications from asthma. He was 77. His
work included 80 novels and 100 short stories. Dickson considered
his "Lost Dorsai" series to be his best work. He completed
eight volumes of the projected 16-volume series that dealt
with variant ideas of evolution and technology, faith and
philosophy covering the years 1400-2400. Dickson first rose
to prominence in the 1950s collaborating with Poul Anderson.
He won Hugo Awards for short fiction in 1965, and twice
in 1981. His books sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Prolific director and screenwriter Burt Kennedy is dead
at 78. The cause of death was not immediately known. Kennedy
was primarily identified with the western genre, and director
Budd Boetticher once called him the best western screenwriter
in Hollywood. Kennedy collaborated with Boetticher and actor
Randolph Scott on an influential series of westerns in the
1950s including "Seven Men From Now" and "The Tall T." Kennedy
also wrote a number of films for John Wayne's Batjac production
company. Kennedy's credits as a director include "The War
Wagon," starring Wayne and Kirk Douglas, "Support Your Local
Sheriff!" starring James Garner, and "Young Billy Young,"
starring Robert Mitchum.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
AIP CONQUERS CABLE, PART I
Coming your way May 1 on AMC is a nifty documentary that's
definitely a cut above the stuff that usually turns up as
filler on this otherwise laudable cable channel. "It Conquered
Hollywood" is the story of American International Pictures
as seen primarily through the eyes of its founders, Jim
Nicholson and curmudgeonly Sam Arkoff. Nicholson passed
away some time ago, but there's plenty of background and
even some vintage footage of he and Arkoff (defending the
1969 release "Wild in the Streets"). Also lending insight
is the former Mrs. Nicholson, actress Susan Hart (who seems
to have discovered the fountain of youth since retiring
from the beach films her husband produced in the1960s).
For the most part, all of the talking heads do a pretty
fair job. Standouts include director Joe Dante, AIP acting
vets Beverly Garland and Dick Miller, Propmeister General
Bob Burns, AIP art director and poster artist Al Kallis,
author Mark Thomas McGee, and, of course, Roger Corman.
Crusty, cigar-chomping Arkoff gets plenty of screen time
and, as you might expect, is unapologetic when discussing
the fine art of exploitation. A better-than-average, "warts-and-all"
portrait. Tune in.
AIP CONQUERS CABLE, PART 2
We told you a few months back that HBO was planning a spate
of American International horror flick remakes, but they've
only recently announced the directors who are slated to
bring these beasts back to life. Sebastian "Judas Kiss"
Gutierrez will direct Rufus "Dark City" Sewell and Carla
"Spin City" Gugino in "War of the Colossal Beast." Terence
"Hotel Splendor" Gross is set to direct "Day The World Ended,"
George "Swimming With Sharks" Huang will helm "How to Make
A Monster" and Larry Clark will tackle "Teenage Cave Man."
MORE TIMELY CASTING
Jeremy "Dungeons and Dragons" Irons and Mark "Viva Rock
Vegas" Addy will join Guy "L.A. Confidential" Pearce in
the cast of director Simon Wells' "Time Machine," based
on the book written by the director's granddad, H.G., way
back when. Addy is set to play Philby, the time-traveling
protagonist's best friend. The film boasts a budget of $85
million, a quarter of which will be devoted to special effects.
A DECIDEDLY CYCLOPIC VIEW
Actor James Marsden who portrayed Cyclops in "X-Men" (you
remember that big, fat, noisy, dumb movie that came out
last summer) seems a trifle bitter at having to take a backseat
to Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character. "Of course there
will be a sequel," Marsden said, "but I'm a pretty low priority
... Of course I'm glad I was part of X-Men, but it wasn't
a great acting experience. It's all about special effects."
Marsden acknowledged that the film "made a dump-load of
money, [but it] benefits the studio, not me." Speaking as
one who contributed to the initial "dump-load," I promise
readers here and now that I'll be ready and willing to dump
on the sequel when it arrives.
AND SPEAKING OF POUTY YOUNG GUYS ...
Spawn creator Todd MacFarlane recently announced that a
sequel to the 1997 film based on his comic book character
is in the works. The original film was dark, dreary dreck
that managed a PG rating, but MacFarlane makes it clear
the followup will be rated R (and we thought it couldn't
get any darker or dreckier). "It's not a special-effects
movie," said MacFarlane, who has more money than all the
Saudi royalty combined. "This'll be one of those sequels
that will have nothing in common from the first to the second
(sic). It's a suspense thriller -- a spooky, creepy movie
that'll scare people," that being pretty much the intention
of things that are spooky and creepy. MacFarlane went on
to say, "When New Line's rights lapsed, it took us, like,
72 hours to sell it to another studio." The sequel will,
like, have a new cast, and, like, be released sometime in,
10 REASONS TO PICK UP "IT CAME FROM BOB'S BASEMENT"
The beautiful new tome by Bob Burns and John Michlig chronicling
Burns' career as a monstermaker and fright-film historian
is garnering universally positive reviews. Our opinion is
no exception. But if you're on the fence about picking up
a copy, here are 10 solid reasons to procure one today:
1. A glowing introduction by Industrial Light & Magic's
2. Impeccable reproductions of Chesley Bonestell's
3. Bob's collection of serial props and costumes,
from Flash Gordon's tunic to Captain America's cowl
Mars (Just the name should be enough)
5. "Invasion of the
Saucer Men" vehicle with motorized gadgetry that STILL works
6. Wonderful color pencil sketches by Paul Blaisdell and
7. Life masks of Lugosi, Price, Karloff, Bogart
-- even Beethoven!
8. Major Mars Returns
9. Everything you
ever wanted to know about what made "Kong" king
is one heck of a nice guy
What are you waitin' for? Follow
this link: http://www.fullyarticulated.com/BobsBasement.html
BELA ON eBAY
Bela Lugosi's personal scrapbook was sold last month by
Todd Feiertag through the auspices of the online auction
house, eBay. According to the description it was, "A massive,
hardcover 78-page scrapbook (approx. 17x17) once belonging
to Bela Lugosi and highlighting his film career from 1931-1933.
The scrapbook consists of nearly 1,100 individually hand-pasted
newspaper clippings made up of articles, movie ads, reviews,
photos, etc., obtained from newspapers across the country.
Portions of the actual pressbooks along with several pressbook
covers and a number of poster images were clipped out and
also appear in the book. Of particular interest is an entire
page of advance publicity dealing with the original casting
of Lugosi as the monster in Universal's "Frankenstein."
The scrapbook is in generally good condition with moderate
wear to the dark brown covers. A number of pages are somewhat
brittle with some browning due to age. Some pages are loose,
having separated from the two binder posts, which connect
the pages to the covers. This hasn't affected the content;
all of which is very readable." How much would YOU pay?
The item sold for $2,649.99.
"JUST THE FACTS," AND LOTS OF 'EM
Jack Webb was a true auteur in our estimation. No filmmaker
ever conveyed his ideas and visions -- like them or not
-- more clearly than this enigmatic, taciturn actor, writer,
producer, director. Shedding new light on this unusual visionary
is author Michael Hayde's new book, "Dragnet: My Name's
Friday," which chronicles the genesis of Webb's landmark
series, from radio to television, in loving detail. There's
lots of behind-the-badge production data, a collection of
some of Friday's most memorable speeches, a radio and television
episode guide, a glossary of police terms and, perhaps best
of all, a foreward by actor Harry Morgan, who worked Webb's
caseload during "Dragnet's" second TV incarnation in the
late 1960s. You can order a copy at: http://www.amazon.com
MARCO POLO CUES UP NEWMAN
The hits keep coming from the folks at Marco Polo. "The
Classic Film Music of Alfred Newman," as restored and reconstructed
by John Morgan and William Stromberg, is stirring stuff.
Culled from three classic films, this disc features a four-and-a-half-minute
suite from "All About Eve," eight selections from the Gary
Cooper version of "Beau Geste," and no fewer than 17 rousing
cues from the 1939 "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" starring
Charles Laughton. For more information, check out: Find
out more at http://www.naxos.com
ANG, THE ANSWER IS ...
Question: What's next for Ang Lee, acclaimed director of
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (a martial arts fairy tale
about the quest for a magic sword), and "The Ice Storm"
(an unsparing tragedy about social mores)? Answer: "The
Incredible Hulk," (a comic book about a big, green angry
guy). That's right, a feature film based on Marvel's long-running
comic series is set for a 2003 release. But don't expect
Jack Kirby's original Jekyll and Hyde parable. "I'm familiar
with the comic," Lee told Eon Magazine, "but not as fanatic
as some of the people. I'm just beginning on the script
and [will] probably be changing it entirely ... I would
like to have a new approach to the material. I like to bring
drama and character study into a pop-entertaining genre."
AND YOU THINK WE'RE TOUGH
Syndicated columnist Donna Britt on last month's box-office
record-breaking release of "Hannibal:" '... today, another
indefensible example of beautifully rendered filth becomes
part of the cultural lexicon that depletes us all. If Columbine
and myriad other kiddie killings didn't convince you that
real-life mayhem results from the artistic variety, how
about the troubled boy, 13, who [recently] was convicted
of murdering his playmate, 6, after stomping and punching
her -- just like he'd seen on WWF Smackdown? Yet all we
feel we can do is refuse to patronize swill like "Hannibal."
Far too few of us even do that. God forbid that we appear
un-hip. So nothing changes. The nation stays on the same
tragic, breakneck course.'
NEW ON DVD
We never get tired of writing about this one, so here's
hoping you don't get tired of hearing about it. For our
money, it's producer Alex Gordon's most enjoyable film (and
that includes "She Creature," "Voodoo Woman" and "Runaway
Daughters"). A cast that only good ol' Gordon could assemble
- Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey, Victor Varconi,
Tom Conway, Bob Steele -- the only one missing is Marla
English. (Instead there's Joi Lansing, so who's complaining?)
The plot is 14 karat sci-fi corn, and we mean that in the
most affectionate sense. A furry cyclops of an alien has
burrowed his saucer beneath the polar ice cap and it's up
to the intrepid crew of the Tiger Shark to blast him in
the ice hole. I like this movie and I don't care what you
ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE
When Bert I. Gordon got tired of making things big ("Amazing
Colossal Man," "War of the Colossal Beast," "The Spider"),
he took to shrinking them. Even died-in-the-wool fans of
Mr. B.I.G.'s work will have to admit that there's a macbre,
morose tone to this stinker that keeps it from being enjoyable
on even a camp level. John Hoyt, master of the vaguely Germanic
hautre, is a pathetic dollmaker who shrinks John Agar and
June Kenney in a jealous snit. It's his way of dealing with
his insurmountable fear of being alone. It's just like "Doctor
Cyclops" and "The Incredible Shrinking Man" only really,
THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES
Big, big fan of Vincent Price, not so big a fan of the Phibes
films. It definitely has its adherents, and some of it is
artfully executed and eccentrically realized. But one man's
"eccentricity" is another man's "just plain weird." Plotwise,
it's about as Grand Guignolly as they come: The doctors
who botched a life-saving operation on the late Mrs. Phibes
are being murdered in the fashion of the nine deadly Biblical
plagues. But is Doc Phibes the culprit? By all accounts,
consumed by inconsolable grief, he crashed his car into
a tree. Although the key roles go to American actors (Price
and Joseph Cotten), the film has a "teddibly" British feel,
which is fine if you like to feel "teddibly" British.
DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN
The profitable first "Phibes" spawned this lurid follow-up
just a year later. Robert Fuest is again the director and
the sequel's cast is arguably more interesting. Robert "Count
Yorga" Quarry, Hugh Griffith and TV's "Inspector Morse,"
the indefatigable John Thaw. This time around, Phibes has
pilfered some Egyptian scrolls, hoping their magic may resuscitate
his deceased wife. The scrolls are, in turn, pilfered from
Phibes who trains his bloody wrath on the pilferers. Like
the initial Phibes film, it's ghoulish, quirky and very
DIE MONSTER, DIE!
There's something very weird in Boris Karloff's basement.
It's the talk of the town, the curse of the countryside
and it mutates everything within a hundred yards into something
unspeakable. Nick "The Rebel" Adams plays a young scientist
engaged to Karloff's daughter. When the couple pay a visit
to the family manse, Nick tumbles to the secret of the glowing
meteorite in his future father-in-law's cellar. The ingredients
are all there, but the filmmakers neglected to include events
in the script. Daniel Haller directs this talky 1965 "shocker"
based loosely on an H.P. Lovecraft story.
BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS
An evil brain from space named Gor holes up in Bronson Canyon.
It kills Robert Fuller and takes over John Agar's body,
transforming the affable actor into a lustful mad scientist
who can blow up planes with his laser gaze. Hot on Gor's
trail is a good brain named Vol who comes to earth to terminate
the garrulous Gor. B-movie stalwart Thomas Browne Henry
("Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, " "Blood of Dracula," "20
Million Miles to Earth") lends solid support as the father
of Agar's bride-to-be, Joyce Meadows. Floating brains with
bulging eyes, Bronson Canyon AND John Agar! It's great.
NOTE: The voice of frequent B Monster scribe and all-around
cult-film authority Tom Weaver is becoming a familiar one
to the DVD connoissieur. His expert commentary is garnering
rave reviews, and we thought we'd sample a recent writeup
by Gary L. Prange:
FIEND WITHOUT A FACE
As enjoyable as the movie is, the value of this DVD is boosted
immeasurably by the atomic commentary provided by affable
"Fiend" executive producer Richard Gordon and genre writer
Tom "He's Everywhere" Weaver. Weaver sets 'em up and Gordon
knocks 'em down as the duo wring out a commentary juicier
than the inside of a Faceless Fiend. And speaking of Fiend
innards, if you ever wondered just what that stuff is inside
them, my wife Anne, watching the movie for the first time,
guessed the right substance but the wrong flavor. Yep, Gordon
goes into plenty of detail about Fiendish special effects
and how Ruppell & Nordhoff built and animated the true
stars of the motion picture. Also, there's plenty of production
history and behind-the-scenes info. Find out what Boris
Karloff thought about leading lady Kim Parker and what the
British parliament(!) thought about "Fiend Without a Face."
(Parliamentary reaction was such that I can't help but imagine
that had the House of Commons been invaded by actual Fiends,
the poor little Fiendies would have died of starvation.)
After watching the movie, I initially intended to only sample
the commentary and save the rest for later but wound up
listening all the way through. Gordon is a smooth, witty
raconteur with an ironclad memory and Tom is downright uncanny
asking the right question or volunteering the perfect cue
at precisely the right time, making this easily one of the
most enjoyable commentaries I've heard.
NEW ON VIDEO
TALES OF TOMORROW, VOL. 4
Time travel, its nature, and the uses and abuses thereof
are the sci-fi thread linking three more episodes of "Tales
of Tommorow," the pioneering live TV series restored and
re-released by the folks at Englewood Entertainment. The
most enjoyable of the trio is 1953's "Past Tense," in which
Boris Karloff stars as a scientist who travels back in time
in order to introduce penicillin to the understandably skeptical
doctors of the past. "All the Time in the World" features
Esther Ralston and Jack Warden in a time-travel story supposedly
sold to the series by Arthur C. Clarke for $400. "Another
Chance" stars Leslie Nielsen as a petty crook who, in desperation,
trusts a mysterious stranger to send him into the past for
an opportunity to mend his ways. As always, one of the more
entertaining aspects of these historical broadcasts is observing
the innovative corner-cutting that was so much a part of
live television, not to mention the chance to watch budding
young stars and seasoned veterans chewing the scenery to
First the plot: Explorers go to Mars and find it hostile.
That's it. Ah, but there's a twist. No, wait. There isn't.
That's really the plot. In time-honored fashion, their robot
goes nuts and starts killing the crew, but that doesn't
qualify as a twist. More like a snarl or a kink. Or, more
pointedly, a cliche. Val Kilmer took time out of his busy
schedule cultivating his image as a "difficult" actor to
star in this thuddingly dull, by-the-numbers redundancy.
Also in the cast are Carrie-Anne Moss, Benjamin Bratt (rapidly
making a career of that one expression), Tom Sizemore (Hollywood's
crusty-doomed-sidekick go-to guy), and Terrance Stamp who
must have needed the money.
THE 6th DAY
Arnold Schwarzenegger's clone movie comes along about three
years too late to have any relevancy. The film takes place
in the future -- I think about six weeks in the future.
And what a tired, trite story. Two Arnolds! Which one's
the REAL Arnold? By the time you've struggled to the climax
of this snoozer you just don't care. Schwarzenegger and
Michael Rapaport play hotshot helicopter pilots who fly
rich people to ski resorts. How's that for excitement? Roger
Spottiswoode, whose previous credits include "Stop! Or My
Mom Will Shoot" and "Turner & Hooch," directs.
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
"Incredible revelations from the blackest chapters of unholy
medicine!" - The Man Who Turned to Stone