The B Monster sniffs spring in the air. The trees are
bedecked with magnificent flora, and pollen run amok disrupts
the lives of one-half of the world's population. This is,
after all, the month that comes in like a lion, and goes
out like a light. Or does it lie down with the lamb and
go out with a bang? Maybe it creeps in like a wolf and flaps
frantically away like a bat (or am I thinking of March and
bewaring its ides and all that Shakespearean stuff?) In
any case, enjoy the ensuing, all-encompassing and unimpeachable
opining reflecting every facet of fright-film fact and ephemera.
Actor Anthony Dexter, who achieved overnight fame following
his star turn as Rudolph Valentino in a 1951 biopic, died
at his home in Greeley, Colo. He was 88. Dexter's fame was
fleeting, however, and the majority of the films in which
he starred were low-budget affairs. Cult-film fans will
recognize Dexter from his roles in B-level sci-fi films
such as "Fire Maidens of Outer Space," "Twelve to the Moon"
and "The Phantom Planet."
Born Walter Craig in Talmadge, Neb., he studied drama
at the University of Iowa. Following a hitch in the Army
Special Services during World War II, he began acting on
Broadway in shows such as "The Three Sisters" and "Ah, Wilderness!"
Producer Edward Small made much of his search for the ideal
actor to impersonate Valentino, claiming it took 11 years
and required 400 screen tests. Dexter was chosen from 75,000
applicants. Dexter appeared in several period dramas following
"Valentino," including "Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl,"
"The Black Pirates," and "Captain John Smith and Pocahontas."
He made guest appearances on television programs, including
"Rawhide," "Bat Masterson" and "The High Chaparral."
Ed "Big Daddy" Roth
"Kustom Kar" counter-culture icon Ed "Big Daddy" Roth died
in his Manti, Utah, studio of an apparent heart attack.
He was 69. Roth created his cartoon character "Rat Fink,"
and a host of other similarly styled lovable grotesques
(Drag Nut, Mother's Worry, Mr. Gasser) in the late 1950s.
They appealed to a generation of teenage rebels, and their
commercial success in the form of model kits, T-shirts and
plastic figures helped finance his custom hot-rod design
The West Coast "Kustom Kar Kulture" thrived throughout
the 1950 and 60s with Roth as its leading influence. Author
Tom Wolfe described Roth as the "most colorful, the most
intellectual and the most capricious" of the car customizers,
adding, "He's the Salvador Dali of the movement." The craze
spawned myriad Roth model kits, and the "Rat Fink" figure
was a ubiquitous cultural fixture for nearly a decade. Many
credit Roth with helping to inspire the underground comics
movement of the 1960s. Roth once told the Associated Press,
"My fanaticism with cars has just destroyed my personal
life. ... It's an obsession, an addiction. Every day I pray
to God, 'Release me from my calling!'"
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
First, let's get a gargantuan thank you out of the way.
Much appreciation to all of the B Monster's rapacious readers
for making last month our most popular to date. Amid news
of a nose-diving NASDAQ and dying dot coms, the B Monster
thrives -- with a little help, of course, from his friends
-- Jim Arness, Bob Burns and David Hedison to mention but
a few. Big Jim in particular extends his thanks for the
torrent of e-mail he received by way of the B Monster.
ARNESS HEADED FOR HALL OF FAME
Following the B Monster's ice-breaking interview with James
Arness, it seems that the big man is going public in a big
way. Not only is his autobiography soon to be published,
but keep your eyes peeled for a segment on "A&E's Biography,"
the long-running cable program co-hosted by Jim's younger
brother, Peter Graves. "People" magazine may soon have a
profile, as will "Autograph Times." Even syndicated columnist
Larry King is onboard, touting Jim's forthcoming book in
his daily column.
Meanwhile, the James Arness Hall of Fame Committee is
inviting fans and admirers of "Gunsmoke's" Matt Dillon and
"The Thing From Another World," to join them in an effort
to have him inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Arness
portrayed Marshal Matt Dillon for a record-breaking 20 years
on "Gunsmoke," making it the longest running show with continuing
characters in television history. If you would like to help
in this endeavor, send your cards and letters on his behalf
to: Hall of Fame Selection Committee c/o ATAS 5220 Lankershim
Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Hopefully, with a little prompting from Jim's fans and
friends, the ATAS Selection Committee will be moved by the
outpouring of support to endorse the induction of Arness
into the Hall of Fame, formally acknowledging his considerable
contributions to the television industry and American culture.
You can contact the James Arness Hall of Fame Committee
at: email@example.com. For the latest on Jim's
activities, including news of his upcoming autobiography,
check out: http://www.jamesarness.com
BESTOWING THE SATURNS
Nominees for the 27th annual Saturn Awards bestowed by The
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films have
been announced, and we couldn't be prouder of our pal Bob
Burns, who will be receiving the Service Award for his efforts
to house and restore props from classic genre films. The
presentation will be June 12th in Los Angeles. While the
nomination criteria befuddles the B Monster (Why, for instance,
has The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films
nominated "Traffic" for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film?),
and at least two nominees, "The Cell" and "Hollow Man,"
are malignant and undeserving, it's great to see that the
Academy acknowledges Bob's devotion to the genre, and we
salute them for saluting him.
MARLON BACKS OUT OF "SCARY MOVIE"
Marlon Brando was supposed to earn a tidy $2 million for
four days' work in this summer's "Scary Movie 2," a sequel
to last year's comedy blockbuster that lampooned all of
the latest horror movie conventions. According to CNN, the
reclusive actor jumped at the chance to perform a cameo
as a priest performing an exorcism, inviting director Keenan
Ivory Wayans to his home to discuss the role. The Weinstein
brothers of Dimension Films wanted a startling stunt to
kick off the film, and were happy to pony up the dough.
(Charlton Heston was originally approached but declined
the offer). A case of pneumonia has since forced Brando
to withdraw from the film, which stars Shawn and Marlon
Wayans, Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Tori Spelling, Kathleen
Robertson, Andy Richter, Christopher Masterson, Chris Elliott,
Tim Curry, David Cross, Natasha Lyonne and Richard Moll.
WHERE WERE YOU IN '51?
Plans are being finalized for a weeklong, sci-fi film festival
to be staged in Kansas City this June 16-24. The event will
celebrate the 50th anniversary of two of science fiction's
unmitigated classics -- "The Thing From Another World" and
"The Day The Earth Stood Still." Scheduled guests include
Patricia Neal and Billy Gray from the latter film, composer
Bernard Herrmann's widow, Lucy Anderson, and "The Thing's"
Professor Carrington, Robert Cornthwaite. (That's as much
info as we have at present. Details are forthcoming.) While
we're sure many of you pre-date the mid-century mark, we're
guessing most readers weren't even born when these classic
films premiered. In either case, if things go as planned,
you can revel in retro for a solid week.
HOW TO REMAKE A MONSTER HBO
recently announced that Steven "Thirteen Days" Culp, Clea
"Girl Interrupted" DuVall, Tyler "X-Men" Mane, and Jason
"White Squall" Marsden have been cast in the cable network's
remake of director Herb Strock's AIP shocker "How To Make
A Monster." The original film was all about an alienated
makeup man who took revenge on the studio that employed
him by creating genuine monsters to snuff out the suits
responsible for his imminent firing. The update involves
ex-con computer programmers conscripted to create a computer-game
monster. Who knows? It could be good? No, really. It could.
PRIME TIME LUPINE
According to Zentertainment, CBS is producing a pilot for
a potential series about a werewolf. (Didn't Fox try this
10 years ago?) Categorized as a drama, "Wolf Lake" will
star Tim "West Wing" Matheson, Lou "La Bamba" Diamond Phillips
and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
We received a very nice note from Sumishta Brahm, daughter
of director John Brahm, whose work includes classic thrillers
such as "Hangover Square," "The Lodger" and "The Undying
Monster." Turns out she produces the official John Brahm
Website, dedicated to chronicling her Dad's life and work.
You'll find some terrific backstage shots of the director
clowning with Vincent Price on the set of "The Mad Magician,"
and chatting with celebs such as Ava Gardner and Fred MacMurray.
Family photos of a young John Brahm are also included. There's
a complete filmography and a list of the prolific director's
television credits, which include classic episodes of "The
Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Man From
U.N.C.L.E.," "The Outer Limits" and many others. Sumishta
is an artist in her own right, and you'll find links to
examples of her work as well. Check it out at: http://www.thirfg.demon.co.uk/homepage/pages/johnbrahm.html
CRUISIN' WITH THE CREATURE
Billed as a "unique vacation experience," Ben Chapman, "The
Reel Gillman," will host a seven-day cruise affording fans
the opportunity to hit the high seas with the original Creature
From The Black Lagoon. Departing Los Angeles on May 6, you
can cruise to the Mexican Riviera, indulging in delicious
meals, duty-free shopping and, of course, unlimited access
to one of the big screen's legendary monsters. Rates begin
at $905 per person (based on double occupancy, port charges
included). Time is tight, so check out http://www.adventurecruises.net
for details, or call 1-877-685-4450.
Leonard Nimoy has donated $1,050,000 toward sprucing up
the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. As "Star Trek's"
Mr. Spock told the World Entertainment News Network, "By
observing the sky and pondering our place in the universe,
people gain a new perspective on their daily lives. The
observatory gives visitors that opportunity." The 66-year-old
observatory has served as a location backdrop in films as
diverse as "Phantom From Space," "Curse of the Faceless
Man" and "Rebel Without A Cause." (There's a bust of James
Dean in the observatory forecourt.) As a director, Nimoy
shot scenes for "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" in Griffith
THE SUITE SCORES OF GEORGES AURIC
Another fine CD from the folks at Marco Polo showcases the
beautiful film scores of French composer Georges Auric as
played by The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted
by Swiss-born maestro, Adriano. Auric is renowned for his
collaborations with filmmaker Jean Cocteau, including "Beauty
and the Beast" and "Orpheus." He also scored "Moulin Rouge,"
"Roman Holiday" and the classic thriller "The Innocents."
The suites and cues contained on this nifty restoration
are culled from "La Syphonie Pastorale," "Macao, l'enfer
du jeu," director Jules Dassin's caper classic, "Riffifi,"
and Henri-Georges Clouzot's nail-biter "Wages of Fear."
It may be esoteric stuff as far as you hard-core, b-movie
junkies are concerned, but why not treat yourself to a "suite"
taste of the lush life. For more info, check out http://www.naxos.com
THOMAS TRIBUTE UPDATE
The Harry Thomas tribute Web page has moved to a new address:
http://www.geocities.com/harrythomaswebpage/ The site is
dedicated to the late, great monster makeup man who brought
life to "Frankenstein's Daughter," the "Killers From Space"
the "Unearthly" and countless others. You'll find a complete
filmography, loads of stills, a listing of Thomas' television
credits, and a collection of Harry's convention sketches
and concept drawings. Tell 'em the B Monster sent you.
NEW ON VIDEO
SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE
Despite all the hoopla, this comes off as one of those "wouldn't
it be cool if we made a movie about" ideas that someone
forwarded at a cocktail party full of cineastes. Even if
you're comfortable with the liberties taken with reality,
it's hard to find much of a point to this indulgent film.
John Malkovich, who's usually pretty good, is not very good.
He portrays legendary silent film director F.W. Murnau,
who cast a largely forgotten actor named Max Schreck (who
went on to act in 20 more films) as a vampire in his horror
film classic "Nosferatu." As "Shadow" would have it, Schreck
was a REAL vampire who was allowed to kill crew members
as part of his payment. (This was long before the Sreen
Actors Guild allowed key grips to be eaten by film stars).
As Schreck, Oscar-nominee Willem Defoe renders the term
"over-the-top" inadequate. He's not funny, he's not scary
-- he just talks funny and gives the impression that he
must have the world's worst case of "old person smell."
This is probably the least accessible of director Irvin
S. Yeaworth's fright films. The director of "The Blob" and
"Dinosaurus" seems unable to overcome a dull script and
an ice-cold performance by leading man Robert Lansing, who
plays the brother of a scientist who has developed a way
to pass organic matter through solid material. Lansing designates
himself the human guinea pig, and before long, he's walking
through walls, aging a bit in the process each time. He's
also going quite insane in the finest "scientist treading
where man should not go" tradition. Lee Meriwether figures
in an awkward love triangle with the scientific siblings,
and gruff-but-lovable Robert Strauss is terribly miscast
as Lansing's nemesis. It would be wrong to compare the film
to "The Invisible Man," wherein Claude Rains, although unseen
and quite insane, was nonetheless riveting -- so we won't.
NEW ON DVD
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Not the bombastic musical version, but the Roger Corman
quickie that's twisted many an impressionable young mind
over the years. It's probably the director's best-known
movie, but according to one of the film's stars, Mel Welles,
one he never intended to make: "Roger didn't like comedy.
He didn't believe in it. He had tried with 'Bucket of Blood'
and it failed. So he didn't want to do 'Little Shop' at
all. We had to beg him and cajole him. Ironically, it's
his most famous picture. What sticks in his craw is that
he had very little to do with it. All the exteriors were
done by me and Chuck Griffith." Corman regular Jonathan
Haze is great fun as Seymour, and lovable Jackie Joseph
is, well, lovable Jackie Joseph.
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Some would argue that this is the most satisfying of the
Roger Corman-Poe adaptations. Maybe it is. Vincent Price
is fabulous, of course, but the film benefits as well from
Richard Matheson's script, Floyd Crosby's photography, Les
Baxter's terrific music and some very nifty production design
from future director Daniel Haller, incorporating pallid
colors and dry-ice fog to grand effect. There are slow patches,
to be sure, but lenient critics will be compensated by the
claustrophobic atmosphere that's so successfully conveyed.
NOT OF THIS EARTH
No, not the Corman classic that featured Beverly Garland,
Jonathan Haze, Dick Miller and the imposing Paul Birch as
the sullen space vampire Mr. Johnson, sent to earth to collect
blood for the inhabitants of his plasma-starved planet.
This is the 1995 version featuring Michael York in the Birch
role, employing myriad acting ticks and gimmicks to great
distraction. His fidgety performance should have carried
the film, but sinks it instead. Parker Stevenson, Elizabeth
Barondes and Richard Belzer round out the cast of this very
unnecessary and uninspired remake.
TEENAGE GANG DEBS/TEENAGE STRANGLER
A drive-in double bill that offers up two decidedly disparate
slices of 1960s teenage America, the most striking thing
about "Teenage Gang Debs" is the fact that it looks as though
in were made in 1956, not 1966. It's a roughhewn, gritty,
near-documentary depiction of the sleazy side of teen life
in the big city, containing surprisingly blatant displays
of violence. Great cinema it ain't. But it's a terrific
time capsule and an interesting example of maverick exploitation
"Teenage Strangler" is no less interesting in that it
is the only horror film we can think of filmed entirely
on location in Huntington, W.Va. Not much plot to speak
of -- supposedly, there's a teenager strangling people --
and Huntington's high school student body is terrified.
But even with a deranged killer on the loose, the town teens
are not so scared that they can't take time out to perform
a nifty musical number called "Yipes Stripes" at the local
The package includes trailers for "Teenage Gang Debs,"
"Teen-Age Strangler," "The Cats," "The Crawling Hand," "Damaged
Goods" and others, and a gallery of drive-In exploitation
This oddball Euro-horror used to play incessantly on the
late show a couple of decades ago. Now it's being hyped
by distributors as a "seldom-seen 1964 horror classic."
Well, not exactly. American actors Barry Sullivan and Martha
Hyer were imported to Spain to star in this negligible shocker
about a jealous woman who sets her lover's home ablaze,
killing his wife and child, and leaving her paramour hideously
disfigured. He then burns her cabana to the ground, snuffing
out her family in the bargain. "Pyro" is not likely to turn
up on AMC's "Romance Classics" anytime soon. Sometimes known
as "Pyro - The Thing Without a Face," it was directed by
Julio Coll and co-stars Fernando Hilbeck, Luis Prendes and
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