Spring is in the air, and with it comes a nostril-busting
epidemic of Sequelitis accompanied by Remake Fever! (See
news below.) In layman's terms, that means they take a movie
we grew up watching and make it shiny with computers. (I've
never understood the urge to make fictional things seem
more "real" if the whole purpose is escapism.) Some of today's
computer effects are mind-boggling. So why can't they come
up with software that generates original story ideas? Or
a program that scans a script for such phrases as "You're
goin' down," "This conversation is over" and "Don't even
go there" and eliminates them? Until they do, keep your
CGI -- gimme "Crash" Corrigan in a rubber suit!
1950s pinup queen and film star, Irish McCalla, is dead
at 72. She was battling a recurring brain tumor when she
succumbed to a fatal stroke at a nursing home in Tucson.
McCalla had lived in Prescott, Ariz., since 1982 but moved
to a Tucson facility after being diagnosed with her fourth
brain tumor. One of the top models for artists and photographers,
including a stint as a "Varga Girl" posing for the famed
artist whose work was featured on the cover of Esquire magazine,
McCalla was an ideal choice to portray "Sheena," the comic
book jungle queen, in the 1955 teleseries. She was tall
(5' 9 1/2"), athletic and performed her own stunts until
the day she grabbed a loose vine and crashed into a tree,
breaking her arm. McCalla appeared in such B-pictures as
"River Goddesses," "Five Gates to Hell" and "Hands of a
Stranger," but is certainly best known for her star turn
in director Richard Cunha's low-budget, horror classic "She
Demons." In it, McCalla plays a pampered debutante stranded
on a desert island populated by renegade Nazis led by a
demented scientist whose experiments transform native women
into hideous creatures.
The film has achieved well-deserved cult status. She also
appeared in producer Albert Zugsmith's "The Beat Generation."
The cast of this lurid curiosity reads like a B-movie "Who's
Who:" Mamie Van Doren, Dick Contino, Ray Danton, Fay Spain,
Jackie Coogan, Paul Cavanagh, Sid Melton and more. McCalla
retired from acting to take up work as a painter. She formed
McCalla Enterprises, Inc. and was a member of Woman Artists
of the American West. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor
in 1969, overcame the affliction and returned to work. It
recurred in 1981 and she again regained her health. She
eventually completed over 1,000 paintings. Her work is on
view at the Los Angeles Museum of Arts and Sciences, and
the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
Actor George Nader died of pneumonia at the Motion Picture
Country Home near Los Angeles. He was 80. Nader was a contract
player who starred in dozens of B-movies and several A-budget
features in the 1950s and '60s. He is best known to genre-film
buffs as the star of director Phil Tucker's 1953 sci-fi
camp classic "Robot Monster." In recent years, the amateurish,
no-budget film, shot in 3-D, achieved cult status. Born
in Pasadena, Nader's interest in acting led to performances
at the Pasadena Playhouse and, eventually, a studio contract.
His beefcake good looks put him in competition with such
rising stars as Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis and Jeff Chandler,
but Nader was generally relegated to lower profile films,
including "Six Bridges to Cross," "Carnival Story," "Four
Guns to the Border" and "Man Afraid."
Like his friend Hudson, Nader kept his homosexuality a
secret in an era when such knowledge would have damaged
his career irreparably. Nader starred briefly as Ellery
Queen in the 1958 TV series based on the fictional detective.
He also appeared in the short-lived series "Shannon" in
1961. Cult-film fans will also remember Nader for his role
in the 1964 sci-fi film, "The Human Duplicators," with Richard
Kiel and Hugh Beaumont. His career declined over the next
decade, and he retired to Hawaii.Nader's longtime partner,
Mark Miller, was Rock Hudson's secretary, and Nader was
one of the beneficiaries of Hudson's estate after the star
died of AIDS in 1985. Nader's nephew, Michael Nader, turned
up in bit parts in many of the 1960s "beach" movies, including
"Beach Party," "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "How to Stuff a
Lucille Lund, who portrayed the bride AND stepdaughter of
Boris Karloff in director Edgar G. Ulmer's horror classic,
"The Black Cat," died of natural causes in Torrance, Calif.
She was 89. While a student at Northwestern University,
Lund won the Universal Studios-sponsored "All-American Girl"
contest, which resulted in a film contract. She beat out
1,200 other entrants. She made her film debut in 1933 co-starring
with Robert Young in "Saturday's Millions." She appeared
in more than 30 B-movies, serials and two-reelers with Kermit
Maynard, Ralph Byrd, The Three Stooges and Charley Chase,
among others. She retired from films in 1939 to raise two
children, but her role as Karen in Ulmer's cult classic,
which starred Karloff and Bela Lugosi, ensured her a lasting
place in the memories of genre-film fans. As Karen, Lund
appeared in several scenes suspended in a vertical glass
coffin from which she could not escape without help. One
day, Ulmer called a lunch break and forgot all about her.
"I couldn't get out," Lund told author Gregory Mank. "Everybody
thought somebody else was going to get me out, but nobody
took me out." She was stranded for an hour.
In the early 1990's, Lund was invited to attend the Memphis
Film Festival. Following an enthusiastic ovation, Lund told
the crowd, "I really think the reason you all remember me
is because I went to bed with Boris Karloff."
Gravel-voiced movie tough guy, Lawrence Tierney, who had
recently been in declining health, has died. He was 82.
Tierney was the quintessential B-movie hoodlum, identified
with roles in such films as "San Quentin," "The Devil Thumbs
a Ride," "Born to Kill'' and "Female Jungle." Cult-film
buffs may remember Tierney from roles in "The Falcon Out
West" and producer Val Lewton's "The Ghost Ship." Tierney
made his biggest splash in the low-budget 1945 hit, "Dillinger,"
in which Tierney played the notorious gangster. Tierney's
offscreen run-ins with the law mirrored his movie exploits,
with alcohol a contributing factor. He'd been involved with
assaults, trespassing, shoplifting, drunken-driving and
was even stabbed in a barroom brawl. His career went into
decline and work for the volatile actor became scarce.
It was years before he was clean and sober. "I'd say it
was about time," he told an interviewer. "Heck, I threw
away about seven careers through drink." Tierney began a
tenuous comeback, appearing in such television series as
`"Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Remington Steele,"
and such feature films as "Prizzi's Honor" and "Reservoir
Dogs." He also played the father of Elaine Benes on an episode
of the hit series "Seinfeld." Tierney was the brother of
actors Scott Brady and Ed Tracy.
Trendsetting animator Chuck Jones died of congestive heart
failure at his home in Corona del Mar, Calif. He was 89.
Jones grew up in Hollywood and began his show business career
as a child in Mack Sennett shorts. After graduating art
school, he found work with such famed animators as Ub Iwerks
and Walter Lantz. He later joined the Warner Bros. animation
team under the auspices of producer Leon Schlesinger. They
inhabited a ramshackle backlot office that they dubbed "Termite
Terrace." Jones directed cartoons featuring Warners' most
memorable characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck,
Porky Pig, Pepe Le Pew and, his own inspired creation, The
Road Runner. He went on to earn four Oscars in a career
that lasted nearly 60 years. Following his tenure at Warners,
and later MGM, he directed the 1966 television classic "How
the Grinch Stole Christmas," which was narrated by Boris
Karloff, as well as the 1969 feature, "The Phantom Tollbooth."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
JACK PIERCE'S STAR TURN
Legendary makeup artist, Jack Pierce, who created the look
of Universals' classic creatures including the Frankenstein
monster, The Mummy and The Wolf Man, will be honored with
a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The effort to secure
this honor for Pierce began to snowball in June 2000 when
a team of Hollywood artisans staged a live 78-minute multimedia
play about Pierce's life. In this tribute, a narrator speaking
as Pierce at age 79, recalls his memorable creations while
actors, sporting costumes and makeup by Robert Burman and
Jennifer McManus, bring them to life on stage. Early in
2001, Universal heard of the tribute and jumped on the tail
end of what should have been their own bandwagon. The studio
conscripted the tribute show's producer, Scott Essman, to
promote and publicize Pierce's life and legend. An archive
of Pierce material was established and the Hollywood Chamber
of Commerce's Walk of Fame Committee was informed that a
star for Pierce in their sidewalk pantheon should be considered.
It was. The official ceremony and dedication is scheduled
for Halloween 2002.
A special edition Pierce DVD is being compiled using material
from the tribute show, including the entire performance,
a behind-the-scenes short, archival photos and memorabilia,
and a detailed chronicle of Pierce's life and contributions.
To herald the release, Essman and his collaborators plan
a celebration at the Hollywood History Museum, where a permanent
Jack Pierce exhibit is on display.
For more info, contact Essman at: email@example.com
or call (626) 963-0635.
BON VOYAGE, MONSIEUR SKAL
One of the horror genre's pre-eminent writers, David J.
Skal, will be lecturing April 5 at The Louvre in Paris.
Skal, author of "Hollywood Gothic" and "The Monster Show,"
as well as the premier packager of Universal's classic monster
DVDs, is speaking as a part of the museum's series "Makeup:
The Painted Face of Cinema." "I'll be introducing the screening
of the restored version of 'Frankenstein,'" Skal said, "as
well as clips from 'The Monkey Talks.' Obviously, I'll be
talking mostly about Jack Pierce and his legacy. I'm giving
the talk in French, and am busily brushing up." Wish them
"Bon soir" for the B Monster.
A TIMELY NOD TO BOB
Another nifty tribute was recently afforded the B Monster's
buddy, Bob Burns. The sci fi-horror genre's most lauded
collector and curator was invited to the set of the new
"Time Machine" movie. (The original "Time Machine" prop,
built for producer George Pal's classic film, is housed
in Bob's world-famous basement.) Just before leaving the
set, producers invited Bob to take a seat in the spanking
new Time Machine for a photo or two. Bob struck a pose quite
similar to the one he assumed in the familiar snapshot of
him at the controls of Pal's original device.
"CADAVRA": CAMP WITH A HEART
Is it possible to produce "intentional camp?" Certainly
one can lampoon the films of old a la "Mystery Science Theater
3000," or take off on the sci-fi genre's timeworn conventions
as in "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." But while these productions
laugh heartily at the cliches and naivete of the 1950s,
the producers of "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" were smart
enough to laugh at themselves, as well. That's what lends
charm to what would otherwise have been just another cruel
sendup of vintage science fiction cinema. Producer F. Miguel
Valenti and writer-director-star Larry Blamire have an obvious
affection for boomer-horror flicks and have done their homework
when it comes to staging and pacing in the fashion of Corman
and his contemporaries. The plot is a hash of "Robot Monster,"
"Day The World Ended," "Cat-Women of the Moon," "The Astounding
She Monster," and predictably, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
The actors are all pros with resumes that include "Eyes
Wide Shut," "The Majestic" and myriad TV shows. (Leading
lady Faye Masterson, in her 1962 hairdo, puts one in mind
of Candace Hilligoss.) A special screening at L.A.'s Egyptian
Theater recently wowed an audience of 600. "I've seen some
unsuccessful spoofs in the past," says Blamire, "[but] we
were blessed with a terrific, talented cast; instead of
hamming it up -- acting 'bad' -- we all play it pretty straight."
They even bothered to film it in our beloved Bronson Canyon,
location of innumerable sci-fi shoots. Next up for this
production team: "Trail of the Screaming Forehead."
For more information visit: http://lostskeleton.com Naturally,
tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
MONSTERS IN THE MEADOWLANDS
Another killer Chiller Theatre con will soon be upon us.
Your unflappable host, Kevin Clement, the "Jerry Garcia
of Horror Fandom," will once more swing wide the doors of
the Sheraton Meadowlands to welcome the throng that seems
to grow exponentially every year. (Heck, they may be queing
up right now!) The show thrives with minimal press and maximum
word-of-mouth. There are acres of models, modelers, memorabilia
dealers, scantily-clad scream queens and burly men with
swords -- and kids get in FREE! Take a gander at the spring
show's guest roster:
Bubbly Ben Chapman, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon"
"Spider Baby's" Beverly Washburn
Character actor Charles Napier
Darlene Tompkins of "Beyond the Time Barrier"
David "Kung Fu" Carradine
David "Help me, help me!" Hedison
David "Darth Vader" Prowse
Everyone's prized possession, Linda Blair
Deana Lund, Don Marshall and Don Matheson, all late of "Land
of the Giants"
"Addams Family" siblings Ken Weatherwax and Lisa Loring
Lou "Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno
and, I'm not sure why, but what the heck -- Ray Manzarek
of The Doors
There are so many more, but I'm tired of typing! It all
starts Friday, April 19 at the Sheraton Meadowlands located
opposite Giants Stadium in beautiful East Rutherford, NJ.
For more info visit: http://www.chillertheatre.com
Odds are Kevin will know the B Monster sent you!
There's a new con creeping its way east this summer. F.o.D.
Entertainment & Kaos Films is staging the first Charm City
Creep Con at the Baltimore Convention Center. According
to publicity, it's "three great days packed with all the
horror, sci-fi and music you can handle. From special celebrity
guests, to contests with great prizes." Special events and
fearsome features include guest Q & A discussions, film
screenings, live music, a costume contest and "hundreds"
of horror and sci-fi memorabilia dealers. "Charm City Creep
Con hopes to make a name for itself as one of the best and
most noted Horror and Sci-Fi conventions in the United States,"
say its promoters. "If the show is a success, we plan on
taking it to the West Coast later in the year." The guest
"Buffy's" Watcher in absentia, Anthony Stewart Head
"Leprechaun's" Warwick Davis
The return of Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse
Gill Man, Ben Chapman, surfacing once again
Troma bunny, Debbie Rochon Scream
Queens Jewel Shepard and Linnea Quigley
"Dracula A.D." 's Caroline Munro
Dick "Swamp Thing" Durock
The return of "Hulk"ing Lou Ferrigno
Plus various Playmates, extras and bit players from any
number of "Star Wars" and "Return of the Children of the
Dawn of the Living Dead" films.
For a complete list of guests, schedule of events and tickets
(available at prices ranging from $15 to $125) check out:
Of course, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
IT ONLY TAKES A MAMET
Celebrated playwrite David Mamet is set to write and direct
yet another take on the Jekyll and Hyde story. It's called
"Diary," and currently, the frontrunner for the starring
role is "A.I." 's Jude Law. Why do we need another version
of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"? I dunno. And I'm not gonna
fight it. Remake it! Remake 'em all! Anyway, Mamet is a
hell of a writer.
AND SPEAKING OF POINTLESS REMAKES ...
Here's two we should have seen coming: Michael "Armageddon,"
Pearl Harbor," "Let's blow everything up and add a plot
later" Bay will produce a remake of director Tobe Hooper's
1974 cult smash, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Hooper is
co-writing the new version with his original partner, Kim
Henkel. I guess the question they're wrestling with is,
"How do you make a film called 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'
And New Line Cinema is remaking the 1971 shocker "Willard."
Replacing Bruce Davison as the nerdy, homicidal ratkeeper
will be the truly strange Crispin Glover, best known for
his role as Michael J. Fox's milquetoast dad in the "Back
to the Future" films. Glen "Final Destination" Morgan will
"JEEPERS!" SAY IT AIN'T SO!
Once more, the B Monster is willing to take his lumps and
own up to his mistakes. We reported last time that "Jeepers
Creepers," the horror cheapy about a truck drivin' cannibal
gargoyle, was being turned into a television series. We
were wrong. It's being turned into a television series AND
has spawned a feature-film sequel. Last we heard, the teleseries
would focus on the search for the winged flesh-eater who
has more traffic violations than any monster in California.
Meanwhile, writer-director Victor Salva is hard at work
on the feature "Like a Bat Out of Hell (how's that for original?):
Jeepers Creepers 2." This time, the monster's target is
a busload of school children. We know what you're thinking
and the answer is, no, we're not making this up!
WHOA! TIME OUT!
Okay, here's where we stand: In 1966, ABC optioned the rights
to Murray Leinster's 1964 sci-fi novel "The Time Tunnel."
In 2001, Fox optioned the rights to Irwin Allen's 1966 teleseries
"The Time Tunnel," which, oddly enough, originally ran on
ABC. Let the suing begin! ABC says Fox's rights to Leinster's
novel expired in 1992 and weren't renewed so they, ABC,
should have control of any new series. Fox counters that
ABC only bought the Leinster book in 1966 to get on Leinster's
good side and that the original series was, in fact, based
on an idea of Allen's. Though each camp is suspiciously
eyeing the other, no one has officially thrown down the
legal gauntlet. Keep in mind, these are the networks that
brought you "The Chair" and "The Chamber." Do they really
deserve any more of our time?
ALIEN 5 SOON TO ARRIVE?
Has it been five years already? Then it must be time for
another "Alien" sequel! Director Ridley Scott has been openly
discussing story ideas for the fifth installment in the
"Alien" series. "I say we should go back to where the alien
creatures were first found and explain how they were created,"
Scott told the "Coming Soon" Web site. "No one has ever
explained why. I always figured that a battleship carrying
bio-mechanical organisms that could be weapons was sent
into space with some space jockey who didn't last long."
Sigourney Weaver will once again play Ripley, believe it
NEW ON DVD
Talk about mixed reviews. It seems that critics and the
public either loved it or hated it. I hated it. It was heavily
publicized to look like a kid-friendly movie and a revisionist
science fiction film with a soul. What it is is "Pinnochio"
as "Blade Runner," a morose, protracted, unsatisfying hash
of ideas that have been kicking around the genre for decades.
It begins as a Kubrickian rumination on inhumanity and devolves
into a sordid preview of future dystopia, wherein castoff
humanoid robots, whose families no longer love them, are
kidnapped and fed into cannons and wood chippers to be ripped
limb-from-limb before cheering crowds. (Enjoy, kids.) Oh,
and it's 144 minutes long. Director Steven Spielberg (who
inherited the project from the late Stanley Kubrick) mitigates
the film's length by giving audiences at least four different
endings to choose from. The film winds down to a leaden
pace, you wait for the credits to roll and ... wait, there's
more! We had high hopes for this film and we were still
rooting for it even after we were an hour into it, but it's
a major disappointment that too many critics have tried
unconvincingly to defend.
How many special edition, director's cut, digitally-restored,
surround-sound-enhanced versions of this flick are floating
around out there? Anyhoo, it's three-fourths of a decent
movie. Director James "King of the World" Cameron keeps
things moving at a brisk clip. He has an unerring knack
for choreographing action, to be sure. But "The Abyss" is
not unlike "A.I." in several important regards. For starters,
it clocks in at a titanic (sorry) 167 minutes. More significantly,
it would be a much better film if Cameron just knew when
to stop. There are nearly two hours crammed with Republic
Serial-level chills and thrills and eye-popping special
effects, and then a sappy ending with a tacked-on feel that
seems to want to emulate the sweet tone of "Close Encounters."
Did they leave ANYTHING on the cutting-room floor?
A very intriguing film with a semi-sci-fi theme starring
one our most intriguing actors, Kevin Spacey, as a mental
patient who maintains he is from the distant planet K-Pax.
Jeff Bridges is a rumpled, frustrated shrink who is drawn
into Spacey's conviction that he truly is an alien inhabiting
a human body. There's lots of cat and mouse with the audience
as to Spacey's genuineness as his cover story is peeled
away and the details of his "human" past are exposed. It
isn't an entirely satisfying film, but the ambiguous, hopeful
ending leaves one thinking about its strengths, rather than
its weaknesses, long after it's over. If you're not expecting
jaw-dropping profundity, it's well worth your time.
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU
This needless, humdrum overhaul of H.G. Wells' classic story
is memorable for all the wrong reasons. Despite top-flight
makeup and special effects, a director (John Frankenheimer)
who was once tops in his craft and a story you'd think would
be Hollywood-proof by now, what emerges is just plain farcical.
Even the most charitable critic will have to admit that
there's just no getting around Marlon Brando's presence
in the title role -- figuratively and literally. Weighing
at least 300 pounds, swathed in an immense sarong, his face
plastered with white makeup, Marlon mumbles and chortles
his way through a gimmicky performance. No one ever got
more mileage out of being loutish and eccentric. He'll probably
make more movies, but will he ever act again? What a waste
of time and talent.
THE GHOST BREAKERS
Hey, kids! Did you know that before Bill Murray was born,
there was this guy, Bob Hope, who made this terrific movie
about a skittish wisecracker who is drawn into an investigation
of the supernatural? It's true! And it's one heck of a lot
of fun. This 1940 entry, deftly directed by George Marshall,
finds Hope at the top of his lovable schtick. And the supporting
cast is pure gold. Paulette Goddard, Richard Carlson and
Paul Lukas are all top-notch. Willie Best's turn as a pop-eyed
coward is sure to press some political hot-buttons, but
there's no denying that this African-American artist was
a rock-solid comedic performer, vital to the film. "Ghost
Breakers" is funny, scary, then funny again, then scary
again -- the ingredients are mixed to near-perfection. Watch
PLANET OF THE APES
We refer to the original "take your stinking paws of me,
damn you all to Hell, Planet Of The Apes." This 1968 sci-fi
neo-classic made director Franklin Schaffner's career and
gave Charlton Heston one of his meatiest roles -- and that
takes into account a heck of a lot of meat. This adaptation
of Pierre Boulle's novel broke a lot of new ground, the
stunning makeup effects, for starters. And the presence
of so many respected performers reflected most positively
on the genre. The masses accepted it and made it a hit.
It spawned several sequels, a TV series, comics, toys, etc.
The solid supporting cast includes Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter,
Maurice Evans, and of course, comely Linda Harrison as Nova.
It holds up quite well after 34 years and easily shames
the recent remake. (And it's an hour shorter than "The Abyss.")
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
This is nearly always the first film mentioned when the
topic turns to "respectable" 1950s sci fi. (Non-genre types
likewise apply the label to "Forbidden Planet," Pal's "War
of the Worlds" and "The Thing From Another World.") I respect
darned-near EVERY 1950s renegade filmmaker who was able
to bring his ideas to the screen, but very few of the resulting
movies measure up to this standard. Critics have invested
so much subtext in the film over the years (The Red Scare,
The Bomb, McCarthyism), it's hard for us to watch it objectively.
Read into it what you will, but what I know for sure is
that it's a snappy, scary film, handily directed by Don
Siegel, with great performances from Dana Wynter, Carolyn
Jones and Kevin McCarthy at his hysterical, sweaty best.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Scott Essman, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
"You'll scream yourself into a state of shock!" -- Horror
of the Blood Monsters