Did someone say turkey? We'll discuss a couple of king-size
theatrical birds farther along in this missive. Otherwise,
we hope you''ll join us in appreciating our proud B-movie
heritage. What better time to reflect and say thank you,
Sam Katzman for "The Giant Claw?" Thank you, Richard Cunha
for "She Demons." Thank you, Alex Gordon for "Voodoo Woman."
Thank you, Sam Sherman for "Dracula vs. Frankenstein." You
get the idea. What B-movies are you thankful for? While
you're thinking it over ...
Character actress Ann Doran is dead at 89. According to
one count, she appeared in roughly 500 motion pictures and
1,000 television programs. Though she is widely recognized
for her role as James Dean's high-strung mother in "Rebel
Without A Cause," cult-movie fans will remember her roles
in "Them!" and "It! The Terror From Beyond Space."
A veteran of countless B movies, she appeared in low-budget
titles featuring characters such as Ellery Queen, Dr. Kildare,
Henry Aldrich, The Great Gildersleeve and Blondie. In smaller
roles, she appeared in many classic "A" pictures, including
"Yankee Doodle Dandy," "The More the Merrier," "The High
and the Mighty" and Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes To Town,"
"Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" and "Meet John Doe." Her
television credits include appearances in "Rawhide," "Colt
.45," "Perry Mason," "The Adventures of Superman," "Leave
it to Beaver" (as Eddie Haskell's mother) "Emergency!,"
"Cannon," "M*A*S*H," "Little House On The Prairie" and many
Stuntman-turned-actor Richard Farnsworth is dead at 80 from
a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had been battling cancer
for many months and was in great pain much of the time.
Just last year, Farnsworth was nominated for an Academy
Award for his performance as Alvin Straight in
"The Straight Story," based on the true account of a man
who drove his lawn mower cross-country to visit his ailing,
estranged brother. Farnsworth had previously been nominated
for his role in the 1978 film "Comes A Horseman."
Farnsworth was a stuntman for 40 years before trying his
hand at acting. He performed stunts in films such as the
Marx Brothers' "A Day at the Races," "Red River," starring
John Wayne, and Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus," starring
Kirk Douglas. He co-founded the Stuntmen's Association in
1961. He had bit parts in major westerns, such as "The Cowboys,"
"The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean" and "The Outlaw Josey
Wales," before landing the role in "Comes A Horseman," which
earned him his first Oscar nomination. He also garnered
enthusiastic reviews for his performance in the 1982 feature
"The Grey Fox," as well as for supporting roles in "The
Natural" and "Misery."
Rick Jason, best known for his portrayal of Lieutenant Gil
Hanley in the television series "Combat!" has died. The
actor took his own life October 15. He left no note.
Following World War II service in the Army Air Corp, Jason
enrolled in The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, studying
on the G.I. Bill. After years in summer stock making occasional
TV appearances, Jason caught the eye of Hume Cronyn, who
cast him in the stage production "Now I Lay me Down to Sleep."
A movie contract with Columbia Pictures followed soon after.
Jason's film work included prominent roles in "The Saracen
Blade," "This is My Love," "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts,"
"The Wayward Bus" and others. In 1962, Jason was cast as
Lieutenant Hanley in the "Combat!" television series opposite
co-star Vic Morrow. The show debuted in September of that
year, attracting top-flight directors and guest stars, lasting
five seasons for a total of 152 episodes.
Once the series left the air, Jason returned to the stage
and always enjoyed steady work in television, appearing
on series such as "Police Woman," "Fantasy Island," "Matt
Houston," "Murder She Wrote," "Wonder Woman," and "Dallas."
Jason had just completed his autobiography in July. "It's
positively astounding how a television show has taken on
a life of its own," Jason once said, "and carried those
of us who were in it along on its journey." The popularity
of the "Combat!" series never seemed to wane, and, only a week before his death, Jason had attended a "Combat!"convention.
Actress-singer Julie London is dead at 74 following complications
from a stroke she suffered five years ago. She may be best
remembered for the smash hit record, "Cry Me A River." Released
in 1956, it was London's first recording. Until that time,
she had appeared in a string unmemorable B films.
Born Julie Peck, she was discovered at age 18 by Alan
Ladd's wife and agent, Sue Carol, while working as an elevator
operator. Cult-movie buffs may recall London's screen debut,
"Nabonga," a 1944 poverty-row jungle epic co-starring Buster
Crabbe and Barton MacLane. In 1953, the aspiring singer-actress
married future actor-director-producer Jack Webb. They divorced
in 1953. In 1956, London married composer Bobby Troupe,
best known for popular tunes such as "Route 66."
London sang her signature song, "Cry Me A River," in the
1956 film "The Girl Can't Help It," which starred Jayne
Mansfield. Better acting assignments followed in features,
such as "Voice in the Mirror," for which London also composed
the title song, "Saddle the Wind" and "Night of the Quarter
Moon." In 1972, former husband Webb cast London and Troupe
in his hit TV series "Emergency!" which starred Robert Fuller.
The series ran from 1972-77. London played nurse Dixie McCall
in the popular series, which still has a large fan following.
Director Sidney Salkow is dead at 89. A native New Yorker,
Salkow began his career on Broadway. In the early 1930s,
he signed a contract with Paramount Pictures. Salkow directed
dozens of B-movies, including many in the "Lone Wolf" and
"Bulldog Drummond" detective series in the 1940s. Among
Salkow's other credits from this period are "Time Out for
Rhythm," "Millie's Daughter," "Flight Lieutenant" and "Sword
of the Avenger."
Salkow is familiar to horror-film fans as the director
of "The Last Man On Earth." Based on Richard Matheson's
"I Am Legend," the Italian-U.S. co-production starred Vincent
Price as the only survivor of a deadly plague that has turned
the earth's populace into vampires. The story was later
remade as "The Omega Man," starring Charleton Heston. Salkow
also directed "Twice-Told Tales," a film comprised of eerie
stories based on the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, which
starred Price, Richard Denning, Sebastian Cabot and Beverly
Garland. Salkow also worked in television, directing episodes
of "Maverick," "Overland Trail" and "The Addams Family."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
Author John Michlig and monster-movie historian Bob Burns
are soon to unleash what promises to be an indispensible
tome. "It Came From Bob's Basement" is described by Michig
as "a colorful journey through the vivid and campy world
of fantastic cinema, and a true tribute to a man who has
dedicated his life to the preservation of incredible movie
artifacts -- from the original King Kong's metallic skeleton
to the life-size "Alien" Queen. Including insider stories
from the sets of such favorites as 'The She Creature,' 'It
Conquered the World,' and 'Plan Nine from Outer Space,'
Bob Burns brings fellow fantasy buffs up close with props
and artwork from the greatest (and most outrageous) sci-fi
films of all time. A story told with genuinely irresistible
enthusiasm, Bob's Basement honors the beloved cult classics
that have shaped movie history."
Burns, as die-hard cult-film buffs know, was a friend
and confidant of 1950s monster-maker Paul Blaisdell, who
supplied so many of the menaces baby-boomers learned to
love through the films of Roger Corman and Alex Gordon.
Burns is a generous, garrulous man and a peerless raconteur,
and we're sure this will be reflected in the book. For more
info, visit http://www.fullyarticulated.com/BobsBasement.html
You can also order through Amazon.com
DUNCAN GOES APE
According to "Coming Attractions," Academy Award-nominee
Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Green Mile") will play a giant
silverback gorilla in Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes"
remake. The new version will reportedly feature a broader
variety of more realistic primates than the original film.
THE DEVIL AND ALEC BALDWIN
Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins will star in a new film
version of Stephen Vincent Benet's story, "The Devil and
Daniel Webster." Baldwin also makes his film-directing debut
with this feature. The 1941 filming of the story (alternately
known as "All That Money Can Buy"), starring Edward Arnold,
Simone Simon and Walter Huston, was directed by William
Dieterle, and is regarded by many as a classic. Huston played
the role of grizzled, greedy "Mr. Scratch" to perfection.
This time around, according to "The Hollywood Reporter,"
cuddly Jennifer Love Hewitt will embody Satan.
CASHING IN ON CASTLE
Tony Shalhoub, F. Murray Abraham, "American Pie" star Shannon
Elizabeth and rapper Rah Digga are slated to star in Joel
Silver and Robert Zemeckis' remake of William Castle's 1960
shocker "13 Ghosts." Silver and Zemeckis' previous Dark
Castle Entertainment release was a remake of Castle's "House
on Haunted Hill." The new "13 Ghosts" will be directed by
newcomer Steve Beck.
PANNING THE "FLASH" IDEA
Among the projects director Ridley Scott is reportedly considering
is a remake of "Flash Gordon." Please don't remake "Flash
Gordon." They got it right the first time, guys. Come on,
now. You're smart people. We know you can come up with something
original. Something that won't embarrass you and alienate
us. Can't you? Please?
YADDA CHECK THIS OUT
Fans of cult-film ephemera should
tune in to the webcasts of eyadda.com. Hosted by Tim "The
Movie Guy" Reid and shock-film starlet Debbie Rochon (Troma's
answer to Evelyn Ankers -- and yes, that IS a compliment),
all manner of genre-film is fodder for discussion. For instance,
The B Monster recently shared the bill with director Richard
Lester ("A Hard Day's Night," "Help!"). Past broadcasts
are archived, so catching up is relatively easy once the
proper plug-ins are secured. Visit http://www.eyadda.com
BAY AREA BUZZING WTH B's
Self-styled lounge-lizard Will "The Thrill" Viharo hosts
a "Swingin' Chicks of the 60s" retrospective at Oakland's
Parkway Theater on November 11. Appearing in person to accompany
screenings of their films will be Deborah "Gidget" Walley,
Joan "Blue Hawaii" Blackman and Anne "Follow That Dream,"
The Magic Sword" Helm. (Ms. Helm just happens to be "The
Thrill's" proud stepmother). If you find yourself in the
vicinity, don't miss it.
Check out http://www.picturepubpizza.com for more.
SOMETHING ABOUT A HORROR-SPUN GIRL
If you've a passion for old-fashioned horror femininity,
you may find something of interest at the "Leading Ladies
of the Golden Age of Horror," website. There, you'll find
profiles of horror and serial sirens, such as Evelyn Ankers,
Jane Adams, Anne Gwynne and Nell O'Day, and an interview
with 1950s scream queen Beverly Garland. There's also a
nifty chronicle of Universal's Mummy series, from Karloff
to Kharis, lavishly illustrated with some hard-to-find stills
and lobby cards. In the "Coming Attractions" department,
you'll find the promise of pending profiles of Elena Verdugo,
Peggy Moran and Catherine Hughes. Bear in mind, the site
is in its formative stages (the "Serial Heroines" section
is a work-in-progress), but worth a peek, nonetheless. Check
And while we're recommending sites,
prolific author-screenwriter Jan Strnad has a nifty page
that all genre-buffs owe it to themselves to visit. The
self-proclaimed "Man With The Atom Brain," (how can you
not like a guy with a handle like that?) shows impeccable
taste by proudly displaying the B Monster banner for the
world to see. He's scripted comics such as "Batman" and
adaptations of "Star Wars" and "Starship Troopers," as well
as animated series including "Fantastic Four," "Aladdin,"
and "Buzz Lightyear." His supernatural novel, "Risen," is
garnering rave reviews. According to George Beahm, author
of "The Stephen King Companion," "From the first paragraph
to the last, 'Risen' will hold you by the collar and won't
let go ... Strnad is a born storyteller with an original
voice." To order your copy, visit -- http://www.mindspring.com/~atombrain/strnadbooks.html
THE LAST WORD ON "LOST CONTINENT"
It was great to see Tom Weaver's homage to one of our favorite
sci-fi cheapies, "The Lost Continent," in the latest edition
of "The Phantom of the Movies' Videoscope." Producer Robert
L. Lippert's canon, including "The Lost Continent," "Rocketship
X-M" and "King Dinosaur," has always held a special place
in the B Monster's heart, and Weaver's writeup is loaded
with insider stuff you're likely to find nowhere else. For
instance, Tom rang up actor Sid Melton who points out that
everyone who asks him about his career -- including comic
Billy Crystal -- brings up his appearance in the film. Also
in the cast: Cesar Romero, Hugh Beaumont, John Hoyt, Hillary
Brooke, Acquanetta, Whit Bissell -- it's a B-movie "who's
who"! Weaver's comments accompany the DVD release from Image
Entertainment. Don't miss this one.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: Cult-movie maestro Edgar G. Ulmer was an incredibly
prolific director. So why aren't more of his films available
A: Your question is a timely and valid one. The folks
at All Day Entertainment have announced the imminent release
of Volume 4 in their "Edgar G. Ulmer Collection," "The Pirates
of Capri." This costumer was lavish by Ulmer's standards.
Louis Hayward plays Count Amalfi, debonair playboy and confidant
to the Queen. By night, he's the mysterious Captain Sirocco,
dashing leader of a rebel band who seek to overthrow the
monarchy's tyrannical rule. A musical score by Nino Rota
enhances the action. Extras include a never-before-seen,
color TV pilot for a "Swiss Family Robinson" series directed
by Ulmer in1958, production stills and behind-the-scenes
interviews. Here's hoping more of Ulmer's obscurities are
similarly resurrected. For more info, check out http://www.alldayentertainment
-- and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON VIDEO
A studio source tells us that the men with the money pulled
the plug on this animated feature, failing to promote it
adequately and thereby ensuring it's financial doom. The
scenario is similar to the treatment "The Iron Giant" received
last summer from the overlords at Time/Warner, but there,
the similarity ends. While the claim that "Iron Giant" was
insufficiently promoted is substantial, there seemed to
be no shortage of "Titan A.E." trailers. They seemed to
be attached to darned-near every movie we took in a few
months back. We saw loads of TV advertising, to boot. Maybe
it failed because it's a rehash of a redo of a remake of
a refurbished, re, re, re ...
Moreover, its clumsy combination of state-of-the-art computer
animation and the same old Saturday-morning line art just
doesn't jell. Directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman have
credentials to spare, but the awkward look and lack of fresh
ideas make for dull viewing. The plot? An evil alien race
blows up the earth and a bunch of teenagers are forced to
flee to a place where there's lots of really loud music
and shiny stuff. The droning voices of Matt Damon and Bill
Pullman don't help at all.
"It rocks!" raves Ernest Keck of The Suburban Cable Media
Networks. "Awesome!" declares Linus Spingle of the Metropolitan
Radio Movie Gazette. "Bitchin'!" says Violet Femple of the
Doorknob, West Virginia Kiwanis Ladies Auxiliary. That's
right, everybody liked it but us. Based on the Marvel Comics
series created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee before anybody
who plays an X-person in this film was even born, it's about
mutants who just don't fit into society (borderline offensive
parallels are amateurishly drawn between mutants and blacks,
mutants and gays, etc.) That's it. That's the premise. Bryan
Singer, who did a good job directing "The Usual Suspects,"
does a bad job here. I defy anyone to tell me what's going
on in that Statue of Liberty sequence. (Where are we in
relation to who? Why do we cut away to look at something
that seems unrelated to the action? Where are we in relation
to the crowd that's in danger? Why doesn't Jean Gray just
mentally bend those iron bands that ... Oh, forget it!)
Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and James Marsden as Cyclops
have a running "Worst Clint Eastwood Impression Contest"
that's very distracting, Ian McKellen as Magneto seems to
have found Bronco Nagurski's leather football helmet from
the 1930s, and Patrick Stewart is bald. Worst of all, the
movie asks us to take it seriously, even as it doesn't take
itself seriously. At one point, Jackman chides the others
for using their fanciful names, as if that makes the premise
more palatable for today's "hip" audience. If you're going
to make a superhero movie, for corn sake, embrace all of
the source material's conventions! If the audience will
believe that knives can shoot out of a guys knuckles or
the villain can wrassle you to the ground with his 50-foot
tongue, odds are they won't blink at a name like Cyclops.
NEW ON DVD
Disdain 'em or adore 'em, the following releases come
our way via the good folks at Image Entertainment:
THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER
It's cheesy, it's cheap, it's preposterous and portions
of it are untenably talky. Would you believe we're talking
about one of our all-time favorite films? It's true. Director
Ron Ashcroft's minor alien invasion opus is the very film
from which we derive our name. What's not to like about
this premise?: Gangsters kidnap a Beverly Hills socialite,
commandeering her Cadillac convertible and repairing to
a remote mountain cabin occupied by Robert Clarke. Enter
the eponymous "She Monster," decked out in a bursting-at-the-seams
spandex spacesuit. She's traveled the galaxy in her white
light spaceship to bring mankind a message, yet the touch
of this spangled starlet is radioactively deadly! According
to Clarke, Ashcroft edited the film on the fly in his living
room. Evil-eyed Shirley Kilpatrick, Ed Wood alum Kenne Duncan,
Marilyn Harvey, insightful liner notes from peerless genre-film
historian Tom Weaver -- an altogether unbeatable history
lesson in poverty-row filmmaking.
HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND
We could try to describe this shock-film oddity, but we'd
never be able to top the actual promotional hype: "Eight
beautiful women alone with the world's most hideous monster!
Eight sexy showgirls and their macho manager survive a plane
crash and take refuge on a remote, tropical island. As the
gals adjust to the heat and humidity by shedding most of
their clothes, they also meet one of their new neighbors:
a dead scientist found caught in a giant web. Ignoring the
obvious, testosterone-fueled Gary blithely takes a midnight
stroll until he's bitten by an overgrown, crab-like spider
and immediately transforms into a clawed, fanged, hairy-faced
bogeyman, who does exactly what monsters in horror films
are supposed to do: chase women!" All this plus three strange
short subjects: Joi Lansing in "Web of Love," Mary Blair
in "The Spider Girl" and the intriguingly-titled "The Stripper
and the Spider Web."
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
"You'll be shocked! You'll be stunned! You'll be thrilled!"
-- King Dinosaur