Turkey is on the table this month.Sure, we could evoke
some cheap giggles at the expense of such unqualified gobblers
as "Robot Monster" or "Cat Women of the Moon," but haven't
they endured more than their share of critical buckshot?
Surely it's nobler to assail contemporary turkeys (see reviews
below) for their dearth of originality and shameless attempts
to camouflage incompetence with CGI trickery and pounds
of make-up. In the old days, fantasy filmmakers had nifty
ideas but nary a nickel to their names. Today, with unlimited
funds, cineastes seem unable to concoct an original notion.
In other words, it used to be about the bird, now it's all
about the dressing.
Pioneering television producer Frederick Ziv, known throughout
the industry as "the father of syndication," died at his
Cincinnati home. He was 96. With a University of Michigan
law degree, Ziv landed a $10-a-week job with an advertising
agency in 1929. The following year, he opened his own agency.
He had a knack for concocting successful advertising slogans
and campaigns and was soon applying his talents to the burgeoning
radio market. Ziv traveled the country selling programs
such as "Boston Blackie" and "Bold Venture" into radio syndication.
When the television era dawned, radio and movie producers
thought TV was a fad with a short lifespan. Ziv thought
otherwise. He staked his primetime claim before the major
networks realized TV was here to stay. Among the now-classic
programs Ziv brought to the small screen were "The Cisco
Kid," "Sea Hunt," "Bat Masterson," "Whirlybirds" and "Highway
Patrol." All were phenomenally popular and profitable. Ziv
believed that a good script was the hallmark of any successful
program, and on many occasions he personally hammered out
first drafts. Seeing the sure-fire audience appeal of Ziv's
action-adventure series, the networks soon followed suit.
Many series, including the final two seasons of "The Adventures
of Superman," were filmed at the Ziv facilities.
Ziv forever endeared himself to sci-fi fans with the seminal
series "Science Fiction Theater." Hosted by radio vet Truman
Bradley, the programs were earnest and intelligently scripted
attempts to convey the wonders of science in a modestly
budgeted, half-hour format. It featured top-flight actors
and seasoned directors such as Jack Arnold and Herbert L.
Strock. Strock, who recalls "directing two shows a week
for five years" while working with Ziv, remembers Ziv as
"charming, a very intelligent guy who knew his business.
At the beginning, none of [the executives at ZIV] really
knew much about TV; John Sinn, who was Ziv's son-in-law,
ran the ZIV film production unit, he was the president of
the company. Besides me, there WERE a couple of other directors
there who had SOME TV experience, but I had a LOT of it.
So they gave me 'Highway Patrol,' the pilot, to do, and
things like that. And 'Highway Patrol' 'sold' 10 minutes
into the screening! Ziv had a great sales organization --
they could sell anything to anybody [laughs]! They were
wonderful!" Ziv sold his company to Universal Artists in
1960 and turned to teaching at the University of Cincinnati-College
Conservatory of Music, which presents an annual broadcasting
award in his honor.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
BRAVE SPIRITS AT CHILLER
The Chiller Theatre con's Q&A session with late-night
horror icon John Zacherle was not untouched by the emotional
turmoil brought on by recent events. Zach was engaged in
a story about how the New York City Fire Department saved
the life of his friend, actor Earl Rowe ("The Blob") some
years ago when he mentioned he'd recently passed by the
very fire station involved. He next mentioned the firefighters
who lost their lives September 11. He fell silent, his eyes
filling with tears. He tried to continue but, openly weeping,
said only, "I - I ... can't. . ." The room was silent for
some time when a fan called out from the back of the room,
"That's why we need YOU, Zach!" His spirits buoyed, "The
Cool Ghoul" was able to go on.
Another notable trooper was Yvonne "Brides of Dracula"
Monlaur. She suffered a possible slight heart attack on
the flight from France to the U.S. Hospitalized overnight,
she headed straight to the Chiller con upon being discharged
and was busy signing autographs for the duration of the
show. For the record, the show was reportedly Chiller's
biggest ever, terrorists be damned!
Madame Tussaud's, the legendary, centuries-old waxworks,
has unveiled wax portraits of Dracula, the Frankenstein
monster and the Mummy as a tribute to horror icons Boris
Karloff and Bela Lugosi. It's all part of a 70th anniversary
celebration commemorating the debut of Universal's "big
three" classic monsters. The event marks the first time
in Madame Tussaud's 210-year history that wax figures of
celebrities in costume and character make-up were created.
The three likenesses were created in England and approved
by Bela Lugosi Jr. and Sara Karloff at each step of their
creation. The figures were displayed at Universal Studios
Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando before being permanently
installed at Madame Tussaud's in New York City on October
SPOOK SHOW SURPRISE
The legendary Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif., was also
caught up in the 70th anniversary hoopla. Prior to a screening
of the Universal/Karloff "Frankenstein," make-up ace Kevin
Haney ("Dick Tracy," "The Addams Family") and costumer Jennifer
McManus created a monster of their own using actor Matt
Thompson as their guinea pig. The finished product was presented
in a pre-show celebration. The historic Alex was built in
1926 and has hosted many monster movie-related and Halloween
TO HELL IT CAN GO
So, there are these guys, the Hughes brothers. They've made
violent films, such as "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents,"
and in the November issue of Premier Magazine, flakking
their latest film, "From Hell," based on a comic book about
Jack the Ripper, they're moaning about the usual studio
meddling and discrimination.
They make several salient points in their argument to
be taken more seriously as filmmakers. When asked by the
magazine if they'd inserted a subliminal shot of a prostitute's
crotch, Albert Hughes replied, "It's in there. And the only
person who picked up on it was Marilyn Manson [who's supplying
the closing-title track]. He saw it right away." When the
executive producer, a woman, thought it was degrading to
women, Hughes skillfully rationalized his decision: "It's
two frames ... it's unsettling, they see it and go, 'Is
that what I think it was?' and then start to create the
picture themselves. Most people don't know [Jack the Ripper]
was down there doing damage to the vagina, to the stomach,
to the entrails ..." When asked about star Johnny Depp,
Albert said, "We wanted to work with a Hollywood star so
we could break our cherries and learn how to deal with the
egos." As it turned out, Depp was supportive and cooperative.
Regarding the studio's questioning of a graphic throat-slashing
scene, Hughes said, "We're still going back and forth with
them about this damned cut throat. Every film we do, we
go up against this shit, and it's disgusting, because in
a movie like 'Saving Private Ryan,' there's plenty more
How could anyone think these fellows aren't responsible?
After all, is there any real difference between Jack the
Ripper and thousands of brave men dying in the defense of
freedom? And demeaning to women? Hughes claims that ONE
woman told him she thought Jack the Ripper was "sexy." With
an overwhelming mandate like that, we say hang in there
guys. It was years before John Ford could insert his first
subliminal crotch shot.
And in the same doggone issue of Premier, their DVD reviews
make mention of the classic Universal horror double bills.
We take umbrage at the fact that the snooty mag labels "Son
of Frankenstein" a "Guilty Pleasure." Writer Christopher
Kelly's review is respectful enough, but if this classic
film is Premier's idea of cinematic "slumming," may we suggest
"Man Beast" or "The Mighty Gorga?" You don't know guilt!
A HELPING OF HERMANN
The dedicated preservationists at Marco Polo never seem
to sleep. Nearly every month sees the release of another
terrific reconstruction of a classic film score. Their latest
disc focuses on the work of composer Bernard Hermann. Hermann's
list of credits is distinguished to say the least -- from
"Citizen Kane" to "Taxi Driver." John Morgan oversees the
restoration of two of Hermann's lesser-known scores: The
Gregory Peck-Ava Gardner melodrama "Snows of Kilimanjaro"
and the James Mason spy classic "5 Fingers." William Stromberg
and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra serve up 37 cues in all.
For more info visit: http://www.naxos.com
T.V. MIKELS ROLLS ON
Shooting of Ted V. Mikels' "Mark of the Astro Zombies" began
August 22, 2001, in Las Vegas, and concluded by the end
of September. Mikels makes it clear that this is not a remake
of his 1967 cult favorite, "Astro Zombies," but rather a
"re-imagining of a similar concept. Good and evil aliens
from asteroids travel intergalactic space to invade and
repopulate the earth." The original film, starring John
Carradine, Wendell Corey and Tura Satana, has recently been
released on DVD. Satana returns to headline the new film,
which also includes appearances by Liz Renay, Brinke Stevens
and Shanti. According to publicity, the movie is expected
to be available in a limited pre-release director's cut,
autographed boxed video by January 2002.
Everything you need to know about the director of "Blood
Orgy of the She Devils," "10 Violent Women," "The Doll Squad"
and "Strike Me Deadly" awaits you at the official Ted V.
Mikels Website. Ted's digital kiosk of curios includes an
online photo album, filmography, complete contact info and
memorabilia for sale. (Sadly, he doesn't include lessons
on how to cook up memorable exploitation titles. No one
does it better!) Check out http://www.tedvmikels.com And
be sure and tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
BENT ON B MOVIES
So, now I know who Bentmen are. A previous item concerning
a recent Ted V. Mikels DVD release included a reference
to the rock band Bentmen, whose music is featured on the
disc. It seems that band member Frank Coleman comes by his
love of B-movies naturally. He attended school with the
daughter of film historian William K. Everson. He partook
of student screenings at the Everson home along with Everson
family friend Martin Scorsese. As a child of six he appeared
in a play with Christopher Walken. A year later, he was
befriended by Jim Warren. Following his gush of praise for
B Monster, Coleman explained the Mikels association to us.
"We struck a deal with Ted V. Mikels whereby we'd do the
soundtrack for his next film, 'Mark of the Astro-Zombies'
in exchange for putting one of our videos on the 'Corpse
Grinders' DVD. Accordingly, we decided to make a full-blown
musical tribute to 'Corpse Grinders' and sure enough, it's
included on the just-released disc from Image." For more
info, check out: http://www.bentmen.com/cg-album/ It goes
without saying -- tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
SUPER-AD ALL SET
According to the B Monster's pal, Jim Nolt, the man behind
the nifty "The Adventures Continue" newsletter, The Hollywood
Reporter will host the Superman tribute ad originally intended
for Variety. "Merry Elkin at The Hollywood Reporter has
been an absolute delight to work with," says Jim, "and she
went out of her way to be helpful. The ad will be published
in their 71st anniversary issue on November 27. I felt this
was an appropriate date since 'Superman and the Mole-Men'
was released to theaters on November 23, 1951." Variety
has hiked their ad rates since the idea was first hatched.
Now there's money left over from the many contributions
toward the print commemoration, all of it earmarked for
charity. For a preview, check out: http://jimnolt.com/HRad.htm
A GRUESOME LITTLE GUIDE
The folks at monsterclub.com have produced a pocket-sized
guide to the gore-riffic side of popular culture. According
to author Cheryl Duran, "The Monsterclub.com Guide to Horror"
is "written just for Monster Boomer fans who dig classic
horror movies and facts about favorite films, shows, stars
and more." Following a foreword by the "Reel" Gillman, Ben
Chapman, the book boasts chapters devoted to toys, comics
& magazines, posters, vintage radio &TV, movie hosts
and a whole lot more. For more info visit: http://www.themonsterclub.com
You guessed it -- tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
DIAL "M" FOR MORIBUND
Remake fever, the dreaded ailment that seizes the brains
of Hollywood hotshots bereft of original ideas, is again
sweeping filmland. According to The Hollywood Reporter,
director Andrzej "Exit Wounds" Bartkowiak will helm a remake
of Fritz Lang's German crime classic "M." This will be the
third time the story of police and criminal forces in pursuit
of a child killer has been filmed. This time around, the
gangland kingpin will be portrayed by DMX, who we suppose
is either a Rap Music star or a sport utility vehicle.
A NEW TAKE ON "TUNNEL"
Director Todd "Malcolm in the Middle" Holland is currently
teaming with screenwriter Rand "The Astronaut's Wife" Ravich
on an update of the sci-fi teleseries "The Time Tunnel."
The original program, about two pioneering young scientists
trapped in an experimental device that keeps them tumbling
from one historic epoch to another, debuted in 1966. According
to Variety, both ABC and FOX are interested.
TALK ABOUT "BEAT"
The Hollywood reporter says that screenwriter Jonathan "Lethal
Weapon 4" Lemkin will make his debut as a film director
with "Howl." No, it's not based on the Ginsberg Beat Generation
classic, it's yet another contemporary take on lycanthropy,
this one concerning a werewolf hunter who tracks his prey
for 500 years, finally to modern-day Texas. For some reason,
werewolves have a tough time finding their place in modern
pop culture. The TV series "Wolf Lake," about a community
of lupine shape shifters, was yanked after just two episodes.
Will "Howl" fare better?
NEW ON VIDEO
LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER
People have said that you have to be 30 years old or younger
to enjoy this film. This is unfair and untrue. You have
to be 14 years old or younger. Yes, it really is a video
game come to life, that bit of hype is indisputable. By
the same token, it has the same warmth and humanity as a
video game. In other words, none. These folks are always
running and fighting and shooting and snarling, and who
cares what happens to them? Angelina Jolie is ideally cast
and would be quite lovely with just a bit less collagen
pumped into her lips. Jolie's real-life Pop, Jon Voight,
plays her deceased movie Dad, who it seems ran afoul of
a sinister cabal seeking a mystical key to world conquest.
Director Simon West had probably the easiest gig on Earth:
Dress Angelina Jolie in tight leather pants, put her on
a motorcycle and get out of the way. A few weeks later,
a big fat paycheck arrives. I suppose the acting was adequate
-- I really couldn't hear any of it over the gunfire and
head-banging metal music. Watch for "The Haunting's" Richard
Johnson as one of the head heavies.
PLANET OF THE APES
It's just what you'd expect from Tim Burton: A classic story,
eerily beautiful sets, moody photography, imaginative costuming
and absolutely ZERO suspense. Burton seems incapable of
conjuring tension in any of his films. His last, the lovely-to-look-at
"Sleepy Hollow," was likewise inert, but at least it had
a solid performance from Johnny Depp to anchor it. Burton's
version of "Apes" has pasty-faced Mark Wahlberg leading
the charge (Is there such a word as "charisma-less?), Helena
Bonham Carter is the sympathetic ape-ette who looks alarmingly
like a cross between Michael Jackson and "Three's Company's"
Joyce DeWitt. There are lots of strained and insulting attempts
to draw parallels with the civil rights movement and jokey
references to the original 1968 film. Why the filmmakers
feel the need to wink at the audience in this fashion, reminding
us that what we're watching is just a bit of pop-culture
candy, I don't claim to understand. Are they afraid that
what they've produced wouldn't stand on its own dramatic
merits otherwise? If so, they're correct, it wouldn't. For
the record, the film had one of the biggest opening weekends
in box-office history -- and business plummeted by 60 percent
within a week.
NEW ON DVD
THE ANGRY RED PLANET
Critics have never been kind to this space opera, but I'll
take it over "Planet of the Apes" any day. Admittedly, it
doesn't hold up under even the most cursory scrutiny. It
is nonetheless a B-movie lover's dream come true. First
of all, any film with oily-voiced Gerald Mohr delivering
the bulk of the dialogue has a leg up. Mohr had labored
in B's since 1939, playing everything from petty crooks
to the dapper "Lone Wolf." By the late 1950s, he was the
defacto gimmick-cinema king, appearing in "Terror in the
Haunted House" and "A Date With Death," both filmed in "Psycho-Rama,"
wherein subliminal images were inserted before key scenes,
and "Angry Red Planet," which boasted a revolutionary process
called "Cinemagic." In the "Cinemagic" process, every scene
of Mars takes on a scratchy, high-contrast, fuchsia glow.
Producer Sid Pink's partner, comic book artist (and Moe
Howard's son-in-law) Norman Maurer (there's no end to the
interesting trivia surrounding this movie) brought in comics
legend Alex Toth (who'd help bring both "Space Angel" and
"Clutch Cargo" to life) to storyboard and conceive ideas.
Carnivorous plants, a bubble-eyed sea creature, a gleaming
Martian city, a snarling native and the now famous "bat-rat-spider-crab"
-- what did they leave out?! The results may evoke some
giggles today, but the attempt is no less audacious and
applaudable. Cinematographer Stanley Cortez, whose credits
ranged from "The Magnificent Ambersons" to "Ghost in the
Invisible Bikini," manned the cameras. Accompanying Mohr
to Mars are lovely Naura Hayden, crusty Les Tremayne and
jovial Jack Kruschen. Goofy as it all sounds, director Ib
Melchior manages to evoke more tension than 10 Tim Burton
B Monster confidante Lawrence Woolsey offers the following
review of a long overdue documentary:
MARIO BAVA, MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE
What can you say about a DVD documentary about Mario Bava
that says, "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs further extended
his directorial range"? That's one specious statement in
this overdue and interesting but disappointing video assessment
of the career of the late Italian director who, while defining
what came to be derided as the "slasher movie," also contributed
one of the most indelible and pictorially/thematically brilliant
bodies of work in the genre.
This 60 minute Image DVD suffers from the exclusion of
material that Image doesn't have the rights to, such as
clips from "What!" and "Kill Baby Kill," while others like
"Caltiki" are actually photographed off a tv screen! Various
directors and talking heads extoll the subject's virtues,
but only Bavaphile Tim Lucas says much of interest (we're
still waiting anxiously, Tim!). To be fair, there are a
lot of interesting observations sprinkled throughout this
biodisc, but on too many occasions the copycat versions
of Bava's original concepts occupy more screen time than
the originals that inspired them. And while the whole project
is presented in widescreen ratio, some of the dupey clips,
especially from "Planet of the Vampires," simply consist
of grainy pan and scan versions with black bars over the
top and bottom! Still ... what Bava fan could resist this,
the first onscreen tribute to an artist who never realized
during his lifetime how much he meant to so many? Worth
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS
In one of his last horror hurrahs, Bert I. Gordon turned
once more to his obsession with gigantism. Yes, the director
who gave the world "The Beginning of the End" and "Earth
vs. the Spider," had giant bugs hopping over cardboard cutouts
as late as 1977. "Empire of the Ants" was Gordon's follow-up
to the previous year's profitable "Food of the Gods," both
of which are tenuously based on stories by H.G. Wells. The
too-familiar theme involves voracious ants gobbling up bio-hazardous
waste at an isolated resort. They get bigger and hungrier
and completely ruin summer vacation for Joan Collins and
Robert "4-D Man" Lansing.
I BURY THE LIVING
Richard Boone -- you like him or hate him. "Have Gun Will
Travel" fans adore him. Anyone who's seen "The Last Dinosaur"
will never forgive him. As a cemetery manager teetering
on the brink of sanity, he's spot on. In director Albert
Band and writer Louis Garfinkle's minor gem, "I Bury the
Living," Boone finds himself vested with the unwelcome power
over life and death. He need only stick a black pin into
a vacant graveyard plot and -- whammo! Plot filled! Atmospheric,
albeit budget-conscious sets, lighting and a bit of unsettling
camera trickery place this one a notch above similar fare.
Theodore Bikel, Peggy Maurer, Herbert Anderson and AIP stalwart,
Russ Bender make for a credible cast of familiar faces.
Stephen King has called this one of his favorite horror
films. That doesn't surprise us.
We know, it was made in 1983, but give this one a chance.
"American Graffiti's" Paul Le Mat is a likeable schmo, Nancy
Allen's not bad, and the rest of the cast is comprised of
seasoned pros -- Louise Fletcher, Wallace Shawn, Fiona Lewis
-- and lovable veterans, including Kenneth Tobey, June Lockhart
and Charles Lane, who we're delighted to see working in
the sunset of their careers. The story, about crashlanding
aliens who pass as human for 25 years, is in part a well-meaning
homage to timeworn sci-fi conventions.
WAR-GODS OF THE DEEP
This Jules Vernesque outing isn't exactly sci-fi, it isn't
exactly horror, and it isn't exactly good. That's a painful
realization given the talent involved. The imaginative story
is by Louis "Deke" Heyward, it stars peerless Vincent Price,
comely Susan Hart and handsome teen heartthrob Tab Hunter,
and it was directed by Jacques "I Walked With A Zombie,
" Curse of the Demon" Tourneur. (As it turned out, this
was Tourneur's cinematic swan song.) The elements are all
there: The creepy Cornish coast, the submerged enclave of
cutthroat pirates, a civilization of gooey gill-men. Sadly,
tedium prevails. The climax, in which hero and heroine make
good their sub-aquatic escape, is so protracted you'll know
why God invented fast-forward.
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
PARTING BLURB "Spectacular Adventure Beyond Time and Space!"
-- The Angry Red