Actress Anne Gwynne, one of the last surviving stars of
Universal's golden age of horror, has passed away. She was
84. Among the films for which she'll be remembered best
by cult-movie fans are "House of Frankenstein," with Boris
Karloff, Lon Chaney and John Carradine, "Weird Woman," with
Lon Chaney and Evelyn Ankers, "The Strange Case of Doctor
Rx," "Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome" (as Tracy's paramour, Tess
Trueheart), the 1941 "The Black Cat," "Black Friday" with
Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and the classic serial, "Flash
Gordon Conquers the Universe," starring Buster Crabbe.
Gwynne was born Marguerite Gwynne Trice in Waco, Texas.
After attending college in Missouri, she embarked on a career
as a model. She began acting in local theater groups soon
after. According to one account, she landed a contract with
Universal following a 47-second interview and without benefit
of a screen test. The publicity department was quick to
dub her the TNT girl -- she was Trim, Neat and Terrific.
Gwynne was a favorite pin-up during WWII and was named "Gal
We¹d Most Like to Corral" by one Cavalry regiment. Gwynne
appeared in films spanning many genres, including "Frontier
Badmen," "Murder in the Blue Room," "Babes on Swing Street,"
"Arson, Inc.," "The Enchanted Valley" and "Ride 'em Cowboy"
opposite Abbott and Costello. "To fans of the Universal
horror films of the 1940s, Anne was one of THE best and
most popular leading ladies," said genre-film historian,
Tom Weaver. "Unlike the exotic 1930s horror heroines who
generally WERE, or at least ACTED, English or European or
"mid-Atlantic" at best, Anne was the spunky, bubbly, VERY
American "girl-next-door" type -- the stuff of "instant
crushes" for these movies¹ mostly male audiences (originally
and even TODAY)."
Though they had played enemies onscreen, in real life Anne
was a close friend of Universal's Queen of Horror, Evelyn
Ankers. Ankers served as matron of honor at Gwynne's wedding,
and Gwynne vouched for Evelyn's character when Ankers applied
for American citizenship. Gwynne left Universal in 1944,
on the advice of some agents who convinced her to obtain
a release from her contract. "They said they would see that
I went places," she told Michael Fitzgerald for Fangoria
magazine. "Well, I went places all right -- out the door
to Poverty Row!" Her acting career was at its nadir in 1957
when she appeared with dubious distinction in "Teenage Monster,"
a low budget, horror-sci-fi-western. But she'll be remembered
most fondly for her films opposite such classic horror stars
as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and John Carradine.
She had semi-retired following her marriage to Max Gilford
who died in the mid-1970s. She is survived by two children,
one of whom, Gwynne Gilford, is also an actress. Though
in failing health in recent years, Anne still attended the
occasional film memorabilia show, happily signing autographs
for her many fans.
Veteran character actor Anthony Caruso died in his Brentwood,
Calif., home following a long illness. He was 86. A swarthy,
ruggedly handsome actor with a husky voice, Caruso specialized
in playing ethnic henchmen and heavies of all backgrounds.
Hoping to live up to his famous last name, Caruso originally
wanted to be a singer, but found it more lucrative to act
at the Pasadena Playhouse. There, he became a good friend
of Alan Ladd's. Over the years, Caruso appeared in 11 of
Ladd's pictures, including "The Glass Key," "Lucky Jordan,"
and "Hell on Frisco Bay." Genre-film fans may remember him
best from appearances in "Phantom of the Rue Morgue," "The
Catman of Paris," "Tarzan and the Leopard Woman" and "The
Most Dangerous Man Alive." Following his film debut in 1940's
"Johnny Apollo" starring Tyrone Power, Caruso acted in some
120 films over the next five decades, appearing as soldiers,
cowboys, Indian chiefs, Arab warriors and Italian mobsters.
He also appeared in roughly 110 television shows including
episodes of "Gunsmoke," "The Lone Ranger," "Laramie," "Wagon
Train," "Bonanza," "Maverick," "The Untouchables," "Hawaiian
Eye" and others. He is survived by his wife of 63 years,
actress Tonia Valente, and son, Tonio.
Actress Andrea King, who was often cast in roles as the
devious "other woman" and who appeared in several well-regarded
"A" features as well as genre-films, died of natural causes
in Woodland Hills, Calif. She was 84. King was born Georgette
Andre Barry in Paris. She made her stage debut on Broadway
at age 14 in "Growing Pains." She went on to appear in "Fly
Away Home" opposite Thomas Mitchell and "Life With Father"
starring Lillian Gish. After appearing in a "March of Time"
documentary short, she won a Warner Brothers contract (the
studio still photographers voted her "the most photogenic
actress on the lot") and made her Warner's debut in "The
Very Thought of You," which starred Dennis Morgan and Eleanor
Parker. Throughout the 1940s and Œ50s she appeared as ingénues
and "other women" in such dramas "God Is My Co-Pilot," "Hotel
Berlin," "The Man I Love," "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid,"
"Buccaneer's Girl" and the Bob Hope vehicle "The Lemon Drop
Her first genre-film credit was director Robert Florey's
1946 minor classic "The Beast With Five Fingers" with Peter
Lorre and Robert Alda. Cult-movie buffs will recognize her
from roles in "Red Planet Mars," opposite Peter Graves and
the 1965 Jerry Warren schlock-horror film "House of the
Black Death" with John Carradine and Lon Chaney. Her film
career wound down inauspiciously with an appearance in the
1973 blaxploitation horror "Blackenstein." King also worked
prolifically in television appearing on such programs as
"Cheyenne," "Maverick," "Perry Mason," "Bourbon Street Beat,"
"77 Sunset Strip," "Hawaiian Eye," "Medical Center," and
"Murder, She Wrote." A live, 1953 production of Agatha Christie's
"Witness for the Prosecution" opposite Edward G. Robinson
earned King her a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
NEW BURNS BOOK DEBUTS AT "BASH"
Rarely is the B monster at a loss for adjectives, but "terrific,"
"amazing" and "invaluable" are inadequate when describing
"Monster Kid Memories." This wonderful tome by Bob Burns
as related to Tom Weaver (arguably the two greatest chroniclers
of genre-film history) will prove indispensable to sci-fi
and horror film fans. With glowing intros by Leonard Maltin
and Joe Dante, it's packed with hundreds of never-before-seen
photos and designed by the B Monster himself, Marty Baumann
(who is humbled by his inclusion with this august company).
What sets this book apart? Unlike the authors of varied
retrospectives, anthologies and myriad "think pieces," Bob
was there, in the trenches, when movie history was being
made. As a lad, Bob set foot on the Moon -- George Pal's
"Destination Moon" set, specifically -- and a lifetime love
affair with fantastic films began. Bob spares few details
in recounting his close friendships with Pal, three-time
Frankenstein Monster Glenn Strange, serial makers Dave Sharpe,
Roy Barcroft and the Lydecker brothers, "ape man" Charlie
Gemora, makeup legend Jack Pierce, gimmick king William
Castle, Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Lon Chaney. A mind-blowing
catalog of youthful encounters providing genuine insight
into the personalities of the men who created the monsters
we love. This fabulous trade paperback is available only
from Dinoship, Inc. For more info, check out:
For more about Monster Bash, check out:
Bob, Tom and the B Monster will ALL be at Monster Bash,
introducing the book to diehard fans prior to its wide release.
So get in line and get your copy signed. Marty and Dinoship
will also be unveiling "The Crater Kid Collection," which
collects every daily adventure of his much-praised, retro
space hero. New material is also included along with a one-of-a-kind
illustrated introduction by legendary Mad and EC comics
artist, Jack Davis.
THIS REMAKE "THING" HAS GOT TO STOP
The Sci Fi Channel recently announced plans to remake "The
Thing" as a four-hour miniseries, which will air sometime
next year. No word as yet on stars or director, but it's
scripted by Gary L. Goldman ("Minority Report," "Total Recall").
John W. Campbell's short story, "Who Goes There?" was, of
course, the inspiration for the 1951 "The Thing From Another
World," which was produced by Howard Hawks and is largely
hailed as one of the great science-fiction films of all
time. Producer/director John Carpenter lensed a gory version
of the Campbell story in 1982. More recently, actor George
Clooney had planned a live television play based, according
to some reports, on the Hawks film. What form will the miniseries
version of Campbell's shape-shifting alien tale assume?
According to Sci Fi Channel hype, the teleplay "re-envisions
John Carpenter's 1982 feature film and its predecessor."
As of this writing, details were few. (The cable channel
also has a four-hour miniseries based on "Battlestar Galactica,"
in the works, similarly promoted as "a re-imagining.") Forget,
for a moment, what the demographics say, what the moneymen
bank on, what the trend pundits predict. What do you, the
REAL fans of the genre say? Inspiring or infuriating? Sacrilege
of homage? Read on ...
REACHING A KONG-CENSUS
Okay, we all know that Peter Jackson, currently basking
in critical acclaim for his Tolkien "Lord of the Rings"
trilogy, has been planning to remake "King Kong." It's going
to be made for Universal, and Jackson will write the screenplay
with Fran Walsh and "Lord of the Rings" co-writer Philippa
Boyens. Jackson and Walsh will produce the film. Universal
plans on releasing it sometime in 2005. None of this is
news. Why, you might ask, should this indisputable classic
be filmed again? The big ape's legacy was already sullied
notoriously by Dino DeLaurentis in the 1970s. Will Jackson,
a talented, imaginative filmmaker, do right by Kong? "No
film has captivated my imagination more than King Kong,"
says Jackson. "I'm making movies today because I saw this
film when I was nine years old. It has been my sustained
dream to reinterpret this classic story for a new age."
(Editor's note: Beware words like "reinterpret," "reimagine"
and "remake.") According to Universal publicity, "the screenplay
by Jackson, Walsh and Boyens is based on the original story
by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, which became the
classic 1933 RKO [film]." This is heartening, but begs a
question: What, exactly, needs reinterpreting? The point
of this diatribe is not to prejudge the film (who knows,
it might be terrific). The point is we want YOU to prejudge
it. You are the TRUE fans of classic horror and science
fiction, and we think they should get your permission before
they undertake any more of their "reinterpretations." (i.e.,
the overhauled classic monsters in "Van Helsing.") So, let
us know: "King Kong" remake: Good idea or bad idea? "Thing"
miniseries: Affirmation or affront?
EDISON "FRANKENSTEIN" RE-PREMIERS
The B Monster only recently attended the "re-premier" showing
of the long lost, 1910 Thomas Edison "Frankenstein," part
of "The Many Faces of Frankenstein" program screened at
the palatial Loew's Jersey theater, a breathtaking movie
palace-era auditorium currently being restored to its former
glory. This first filmed "Frankenstein" had been on the
American Film Institute's list of the top 10 most "culturally
and historically significant lost films." Lost, that is,
until it was discovered in the possession of one Alois Dettlaff
of Wisconsin. Following the reading of a proclamation from
the Jersey City mayor, Dettlaff addressed the crowd, dressed,
for reasons that are not altogether clear to me, as Father
Time. The film was in strikingly good condition, a bit scratchy
in the early going, but clearing up nicely by the highlight,
a "creation" sequence that was quite imaginative for 1910
-- a full-size model of the monster (played by Charles Ogle)
was constructed, set afire and filmed. Then, the film was
simply run backward. The movie is all of 14 minutes long
and evoked a few snickers from the uninformed, amused by
the silent histrionics. Personally, if I'd seen this monster
in 1910, I think I would have been scared. The historic
showing was followed by the 1931 Karloff version, which,
on the big screen, made plain all over again what a commanding
and talented actor he was. He IS the Monster, then and forever.
For more about the fabulous Loew's Jersey (their "Sci Fi
Film Festival runs May 30 and 31), check out:
Better tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
CARRADINE MAKES THE COWBOY CUT
Cult-movie icon John Carradine has been inducted into The
Hall of Great Western Performers. A veteran of hundreds
of films, Carradine appeared in such classic Westerns as
"Western Union," "Frontier Marshal," "Jesse James," "The
Return of Frank James," "Johnny Guitar," and "Showdown at
Boot Hill." A favorite of director John Ford, he appeared
in Ford's "Stagecoach," "Drums Along the Mohawk," "The Man
Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "Cheyenne Autumn," among others.
The actor's sons, David, Keith and Robert Carradine, played
guitars and serenaded the celebrity-filled audience with
"Amazing Grace." The induction was a highlight of the 42nd
annual Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and
Western Heritage Museum. "We all wish he was here to see
this, because it would bring tears to his eyes," said David
Carradine. For info on The Western Heritage Museum, visit:
MOGUL PLANS NERD MECCA
Paul G. Allen, the Godzillionaire businessman and co-founder
of Microsoft, plans to build a science fiction-themed "cultural
project" in Seattle that he hopes will attract science fiction
fans (and normal people) from around the world. The New
York Times reported that, according to preliminary reports,
the sci-fi shrine "would be part museum, part amusement
park and part little boy's fantasy." Allen's "SFX - The
Science Fiction Experience," will cover 13,000 square feet
adjacent to the multimedia "Experience Music Project," a
pop-music museum, focusing on roll 'n' roll, that Allen
co-founded with his sister. Scheduled to open in summer
2004, the SFX "will explore our culture through the broad,
historic and compelling lens of science fiction." While
public and corporate funding for many arts projects has
been dramatically slashed owing to the sluggish economy,
Allen isn't worried. He's footing the bill for the museum
himself, shelling out $10 million to $20 million for the
enterprise, which is probably chump change to a guy who
helped boot up Microsoft and owns both the Seattle Seahawks
AND the Portland Trailblazers. Allen said in an interview
that the SFX would initially be incorporated as a nonprofit
but could eventually become a business. The media magnate
says that he became a lifelong sci-fi fan upon reading "Spaceship
Galileo" as a child. His SFX advisory board includes Ray
Bradbury, Greg Bear, Octavia Butler and Arthur C. Clarke.
CAMERON'S MARS MISSION
Who says we never have anything good to say about contemporary
films? Director James Cameron plans a realistic, non-fantasy
film chronicling a manned flight to Mars. Cameron recently
placed the project on the back burner out of respect for
the astronauts who perished in the Space Shuttle Columbia
accident. The Oscar-winning director maintains his Mars
voyage film will not be about "light sabers and flying faster
than the speed of light and meeting cool, three-eyed aliens."
It will instead focus on what space explorers can realistically
accomplish in the coming years. "It's not a wild flight-of-fantasy
type science-fiction film," the director told the Sci Fi
Channel's Sci Fi Wire. "It's more like a directly iterative
science fiction film that says, 'This is how we are going
to really go and really do the most adventuresome thing
the human race can conceive of doing.' " The B Monster applauds
Cameron's desire to celebrate these human aspirations.
JOE BOB AMONG THE ELITE
Elite Entertainment has announced an exclusive deal with
drive-in schlock-movie pundit Joe Bob Briggs to host and
provide commentary for several upcoming DVD releases. "In
the cult film world, no critic or fan is more popular than
Joe Bob Briggs," Elite honcho Vini Bancalari said recently.
"His current commentary on the 'I Spit On Your Grave Millennium
Edition' DVD is testament to Joe's knowledge and appreciation
of these types of films." The first title in the collaborative
series will be the no-budget horror/western "Jesse James
Meets Frankenstein's Daughter." "Elite is acquiring the
rights to some of the most artistically ... uh ... interesting
films of the drive-in era," said Briggs. "I'm honored to
be the guy picked to slice-and-dice 'em ... uh ... I mean,
interpret them for the cinematic community." A longtime
TV personality, reporter, author and B-movie connoisseur,
Briggs' latest book is titled "Profoundly Disturbing: Shocking
Movies That Changed History."
YAHOO FOR HORROR
Call it a compliment to the AOL Classic Horror Board. The
"Creature Features" Yahoo news group that debuted early
last year continues to thrive, offering some new attractions
we thought we'd pass along. The small but dedicated enclave
"pays homage to all of the classic monsters and the old
1970's 'Creature Features' monster movie show on WGN in
Chicago." The group showcases ongoing discussions of vintage
horror films, and offers sound files of the show's opening
and closing segments, original TV Guide ads, a Real Media
version of the show's opening shots and occasional trivia
contests. According to spokesman Michael Newell, "We have
a contest approximately every two months, with actual prizes
given out -- books, magazines, videos, CDs, etc." You can
find out more at:
It goes without saying, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
The three-day Motor City Comic Con kicks off May 16 at the
Novi Expo Center in Novi, Mich. In addition to a roster
of dozens of comic book creators, old and young, the list
of guest personalities from the world of film and television
is a truly mind-bending blend:
R2D2 himself, Kenny Baker
Sala Baker of "Lord of the Rings" "
Star Wars"¹ Greedo, Paul Blake
The devil's prized possession, Linda Blair
LeVar Burton, Denise Crosby and John de Lancie, all of "The
Batgirl Yvonne Craig (Mars STILL needs women, by the way.)
Catwoman Julie Newmar
Keir Dullea AND Gary Lockwood of "2001: A Space Odyssey"
Jabba the Hutt in the flesh, Mike Edmunds
Greg Evigan of "BJ & The Bear" fame
Lou "Incredible Hulk" Ferrigno
Sidekick to "Trapper John, MD," Gregory Harrison
"Love Boat²'s Bernie Kopell
Jerry Seinfeld's TV parents, Barney Martin and Liz Sheridan
Soupy Sales (yes, Soupy Sales)
"ET's" earthly stepmom, Dee Wallace Stone
Various wrestling personalities and a host of assorted players
hailing from "The Evil Dead," "Battlestar Galactica," "Babylon
5," "Star Wars" and "Star Trek² representing its myriad
We've saved our favorites for last: Mary Wilson of Motown's
legendary Supremes, and TV's longtime Lois Lane to George
Reeves' Superman, Noel Neill.
An interesting side note about the official convention
flyer (slick orange paper, garish yellow type) picturing
selected convention guests: Right next to real-life astronaut
and Space Shuttle commander Rick Searfoss, is ex-porn queen
Traci Lords. (Did we mention that this was a COMIC BOOK
convention?) As my great uncle Nunzio would say, "America,
she's a great-a country!" For more info, check out:
RAZZ OF THE MACHINES
The notorious Razzie awards, citing Hollywood's most odious
offerings, have awarded two of its 2002 Razzies to "Star
Wars: Episode II‹Attack of the Clones." Personality-less
(if we may coin a phrase) Hayden Christensen was named worst
supporting actor for his robotic performance as a young
Darth Vader, while George Lucas and Jonathan Hales nabbed
worst screenplay. In non-genre Razzes of note, Madonna was
cited as worst supporting actress for her role in the 007
thriller "Die Another Day," while Roberto Benigni was named
worst actor for his take on "Pinocchio."
BATS, BLADES AND THURBER
Let's see if we can't get all of the remaining sequel and
remake drivel out of the way in one graf: Screenwriter David
Goyer is a busy guy with his hand in more than one franchise.
"Blade III" will begin shooting later this year and it's
still undecided as to whether or not Goyer will direct the
third installment himself. Meanwhile, Goyer is fleshing
out an idea of director Christopher Nolan's ("Insomnia")
for yet ANOTHER Batman movie. (By all means, let's keep
that proud lineage thriving. The character hasn't been completely
degraded, yet). Variety had reported that the new film would
resemble the "Batman vs. Superman and Batman: Year One"
stories (Whatever THOSE are -- I'm totally confused!). Not
so, says the latest report. Lastly, Paramount and DreamWorks
will be co-producing a remake of "The Secret Life of Walter
OKAY, LAST REMAKE ITEM, WE PROMISE
This is an idea so fundamentally absurd it has to be reported,
even though it has no cult-film connection: Ben Affleck
and Jennifer Lopez are discussing a remake of "Casablanca,"
according to a story in the London Express. Details are
pending as ... Sorry, but I'm laughing too hard to keep
BRIT MUSEUM HONORS MATHESON
Our British pals at the National Museum of Photography,
Film & Television have announced their second "Fantastic
Films Weekend." Promoters say this year's focus will be
on "American author and screenwriter Richard Matheson."
They'll also be screening 70mm versions of all four "Alien"
films. It's happening May 24-25 in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
But a cursory glance at the museum's calendar of events
reveals that several attractions of interest to B-Monster
fans and cult-film enthusiasts have been staged in recent
weeks. As part of their "TV Heaven" series, there was a
Gerry Anderson retrospective; "From Four Feather
Falls to Captain Scarlet," reads the program, "Gerry Anderson
was the undisputed king of television puppetry. We'll consider
his work, with examples from the TV Heaven collection."
(There's even a searchable "TV Heaven" database, which allows
one to, "browse through the best and worst of British television.")
They've also presented, "James Bond Will Return" as a part
of their "Insight Talks" series, wherein "Museum specialists
[discuss] the making of the most successful British-made
film series and the personalities behind the films." "Directing
Masterclass: Michael Radford," featured the director of
"1984," "White Mischief," and the multi-Oscar-nominated
"Il Postino." Radford's presentation was part of a series
showcasing such film talents as legendary lighting and cameramen
Jack Cardiff and Freddie Francis, editor Tom Priestley and
producer Steve Abbott. And, though some might find it a
bit esoteric, how about a celebration of J.B. Priestly,
whose books were the basis of many a classic film (including
"The Old Dark House"). Think that's too outré? How about
"The Invention of the Video Recorder: A discussion of how
the rising price of tobacco, the cost of gold and Adolf
Hitler brought about the invention of the video recorder."
Sorry to bring word of these events belatedly, but trans-Atlantic
news travels slowly, these days, what with the war and all
... but there's still time to hop a jet and make the Matheson
shindig! You can find out more at:
Tell 'em up front, the B Monster sent you!
SHADOWY SHORT SUBJECT
The effects are crude, the story is derivative ("The Heap"
and "Swamp Thing" comics, Theodore Strugeon's "It," a little
Lovecraft nomenclature thrown in), and the budget just doesn't
exist. Given all this, we're not about to give "Shadows
in the Garden" a flamingly bad review. These folks had some
ideas, they did their best, it isn't pernicious or overly
cynical -- and they kept it to 22 minutes! It's a family
affair all the way, spearheaded by writer-director Wayne
Spitzer (abetted by assorted Spitzers in the cast and crew).
We're tempted to fall back on that excuse of a phrase, "it's
good for what it is ..." And who knows, maybe next time,
with enough money and a concerted effort to rise above derivation
... The short film is part of a project called Monstersdotcom
and you can learn more at:
NEW ON DVD
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA
It's a Harryhausen "must-have," featuring the famous, budget-crimped,
six-legged octopus. Surely you've heard the story of how
production costs forced stop-motion animation ace Ray Harryhausen
to limit the number of his protagonist's appendages? But
when a giant octopus is ripping down the Golden Gate Bridge,
who really stops to count legs? Missing tentacles notwithstanding,
"It Came From Beneath The Sea," has much to recommend it.
It's tough to beat this B-movie cast: Kenneth Tobey as two-fisted
Navy man Pete Mathews, comely Faith Domergue as his ladylove
scientist, Donald Curtis and Harry Lauter. It's co-produced
by B king Sam Katzman and Harryhausen's longtime production
partner Charles H. Schneer, the team that was soon to produce
"Earth vs. the Flying Saucers." Director Robert Gordon does
a serviceable job. He had only a handful of films under
his belt when "It" was filmed, and went on to a prolific
TV career, helming episodes of "Bonanza," "Maverick," "My
Friend Flicka" and others. And the story springs from the
prolific pen of George Worthing Yates -- make that George
Worthing "Them!," "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers," "Amazing
Colossal Man," "Space Master X-7," "War of the Colossal
Beast," "Flame Barrier," "Earth vs. the Spider," "Attack
of the Puppet People," "Tormented" Yates. Whoa! What a resume.
But, it goes without saying, Harryhausen's outsized octopus
is the real attraction, in all its cruiser-capsizing, girder-snapping
glory. We suppose it's a matter of context -- when you were
born, how old you were when you first saw it, how spoiled
you are by today's seamless CGI -- as to how well the stop-motion
effects work holds up. Speaking as one who first caught
it on the late show as a lad way back when, it holds up
just dandy. Today's computer stuff is slick, all right,
but Harryhausen's genius wasn't lavished on slickness, but
channeled into the personality of his creations. From the
Ymir of "20 Million Miles to Earth" to the various denizens
that threatened Sinbad. The personal investment shows. Even
six, gnarled tentacles -- without benefit of a face to convey
menace -- are imbued with personality. Why people on dry
land would run screaming from a water-bound creature is
grist for another discussion.
THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN
Even though it's an intelligent, well-acted sci-fi thriller,
"The Andromeda Strain" is probably best known as the film
that got the Michael Crichton media snowball rolling. It's
the first book-to-screen credit for the Godzillionaire author
who gave the world "Coma," "The Terminal Man," "Twister,"
"Congo," "Sphere," and, of course, "Jurassic Park," among
others. He's MISTER summer mega-movie box-office blockbuster!
And some folks still think this 1971 sci-fi suspenser is
his best-adapted work. It's also worth pointing out that
director Robert Wise didn't consider it slumming to return
to the sci-fi genre after helming the likes of "West Side
Story" and "The Sound of Music." He helped define the soul
of silver screen science fiction with "Day the Earth Stood
Still," and made one of the most sobering and scary horrors
of all time, "The Haunting." Nelson Gidding, who scripted
"The Haunting," screenwrote "Andromeda," and once again
he does right by the genre-movie fan, fashioning, with Wise,
an astute, if occasionally plodding, cautionary tale.
The cast is led by Arthur Hill, quite good as Dr. Jeremy
Stone. (Where did his career go after an auspicious start?
He succumbed to TV stardom as "Owen Marshall, Counselor
at Law" the same year "Andromeda" was made, followed by
two decades of inconsequential parts in TV movies. He retired
in the early '90s.) Crusty David Wayne, James Olson and
Kate Reid are likewise credible. The premise involves an
exploratory probe, returned from space with the titular
virus on board. Hill and his team lead a full-court scientific
press to stop it from spreading. It's familiar stuff, exploited
by the cinema on many occasions. (Which do you prefer, Dustin
Hoffman in "Outbreak," or Bill Williams in "Space Master
X-7?" Can you guess where we come down on that question?)
Contemporary viewers may find the film slow -- not "Phantom
Menace"-slow, mind you, but literate enough that the eyes
of the "Matrix" generation might fog over.
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, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.com
David J. Schow http://charon.gothic.net/~chromo/
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 be shocked! You'll be stunned! You'll be thrilled!"
-- King Dinosaur