It's here! It's new! It's beautiful! The Jack Davis B Monster
poster! It ain't six feet tall (weren't THOSE the days?),
but at 23" x 35" you get more than your money's worth of
Davis' macabre magic. Printed on high-quality, heavyweight
7 mil semi-gloss paper using superior dye inks, the Davis
B Monster may one day be the sought after classic his black-and-white
six-foot Frankenstein is today. Why wait for nostalgia mercenaries
to corner the market? Here's a terrific bit of retro you
can own today. Gruesomely gussy up your den, parlor or dungeon
with this stunning portrait from the cartoon dean of the
monster scene. (And bear in mind that a portion of the B
Monster's proceeds benefits Childhelp USA). Buy one ...
Actress Janet Leigh, best known to fans of horror and cult
movies for her shocking shower murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock's
classic "Psycho," died at her Beverly Hills home. She was
77. The cause of death was not reported, but she had been
afflicted with vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood
vessels, for nearly a year. According to a spokesperson,
Leigh's husband, Robert Brandt, and her daughters, actresses
Kelly Curtis and Jamie Lee Curtis, were at her side when
she passed away.
Leigh was discovered in classic Hollywood fashion by film
star Norma Shearer, who spotted a photograph of Leigh at
a ski resort when the soon-to-be actress was still a student
at the University of the Pacific. Shearer contacted legendary
agent Lew Wasserman, who secured a contract for Leigh at
MGM. She earned $50 a week. This was raised to $150 following
the 19-year-old's screen debut opposite Van Johnson in "The
Romance of Rosy Ridge." She was soon one of Hollywood's
most sought-after actresses, appearing in such films as
"The Naked Spur" with James Stewart, "Houdini" opposite
then-husband Tony Curtis, "Jet Pilot" with John Wayne, the
Orson Welles classic "Touch of Evil," which co-starred Charlton
Heston, "The Vikings" with Curtis and Kirk Douglas, "The
Manchurian Candidate" opposite Frank Sinatra, and the musical
"Bye Bye Birdie."
Leigh achieved screen immortality in Hitchcock's groundbreaking
1960 horror classic "Psycho." The scene in which Leigh is
stabbed to death while showering is one of the most analyzed
in film history. It is composed of more than 70 shots, each
lasting just two or three seconds. Reportedly, Leigh spent
a week in the shower wearing a flesh-colored body suit.
Following the release of the film, Leigh received crank
letters and death threats. Some were turned over to the
FBI for investigation. The actress maintained that she was
never able to shower again. "I'm a scairdy-cat," she told
interviewer Tom Weaver. "I won't even take a bath in a hotel
unless I can face out, even if I have to have my back to
the faucets. It just scares me -- I never thought about
it before 'Psycho,' but you are absolutely defenseless in
that situation." When asked about Hitchcock, the actress
recalled, "I loved him -- just adored him. He was obviously
the most prepared director."
Later in her career, Leigh acted in several television
productions, as well as the notorious schlock classic, "Night
of the Lepus." She also appeared with daughter Jamie Lee
Curtis in director John Carpenter's 1980 thriller "The Fog,"
and 1998's "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later," which featured
Curtis reprising the role she'd originated in Carpenter's
original 1978 shocker "Halloween."
NEILL REMEMBERS REEVE
Noel Neill, the actress best known as Lois Lane on the classic
1950s television series "The Adventures of Superman," spoke
to film historian Tom Weaver about the passing of Christopher
Reeve, who portrayed the Man of Steel in 1978's "Superman:
"I couldn't believe it, because supposedly things were
progressing for him. His training was coming along fine.
The news that he had died of a heart attack was sort of
strange. Then it came out that [the cause of death] was
a bedsore that got infected or whatever, and he went into
a coma and died. That ALSO is strange, because with all
of the help he was receiving, from all the money that people
had collected and sent in, he [should have had] better help
than THAT. You'd think they'd be constantly checking on
somebody that ... important, shall we say. [According to the Associated Press, Reeve had developed a systemic infection from a pressure wound, a complication not uncommon to those living with paralysis. This was followed by cardiac arrest. ed.]
first met him in England, not long after I had finished
work on MY little scene in 'Superman: The Movie' in Canada.
I had gone on a trip and was staying in London a few days,
and [the moviemakers making 'Superman,' which was still
shooting] said, 'Come over to the studio, have lunch and
meet Christopher and Margot.' Which I did, and we had a
nice lunch together. He was very polite and very nice. I
also went on the soundstage and saw them shooting a scene
where Christopher and Margot were flying with wires. Trying
to get Superman to fly on wires was something that our series
had abandoned very quickly [laughs], so it was kind of funny
to see a big show like this one using wires -- I couldn't
believe it! They were flying off her balcony, Margot and
Christopher, and either he would be ahead of her or she
would be ahead of him -- they couldn't get it coordinated.
This one scene was taking all afternoon, and I finally said
to myself, 'I'm going back to the hotel, this is AWFUL!'
[Laughs] I felt so sorry for them, but that's the way they
Then in 1994, I was making a personal appearance in Atlanta,
Ga., and the promoter or somebody there found out that Christopher
was doing a movie close by, and had used his own plane to
fly there. So, they thought, maybe he could fly over to
Atlanta and do a quick thing with me in one show. They did
contact him and, bless his heart, he came on over, and so
I met him again, and introduced him and brought him up on
the stage, and he talked a little bit to the people. That
was the last time I saw him -- that was not too long before
the accident with the horse. That accident he had -- I think
THAT was even more of a shock than THIS [his death]. One
person I was sort of surprised to see on TV was his coach,
and she said, 'Well ... he should not have done that [showjumping],
because he hadn't gotten to that point of training.' Gosh
... the male ego ... they always think they can DO things
Such a nice person. It's just a shame. They keep running
the news on TV ... everybody's so shocked about it. Of course,
thanks to him, they've raised a lot of money for that type
of spinal cord research. Thank him for THAT, bless his heart."
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
RAISING MONEY -- AND AWARENESS
Manhattanites, douse those torches, ditch that wolf bane
and make welcome the classic monsters that will soon invade
NYC to benefit some very worthy causes. "Monsters For Charity"
will storm the Grand Ballroom of the Southgate Tower Hotel,
located near the Big Apple's core at 371 7th Avenue (between
30th and 31st Street) Saturday, November 13, beginning at
5:30 pm. The monstrous memorabilia auction and nostalgia
show is being staged to benefit the Jackie Sayegh Duggan
Charitable Foundation and Our Lady of the Wayside (money
will also be raised for The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Research
Fund and The Peter Cushing Memorial Window Fund). Among
the items up for auction:
-- White pearl cufflinks and a small gold and sterling
tie bar owned and worn by Vincent Price
-- Gold-finished monogrammed cuff links owned and worn by
-- Genuine artifacts from the original "Stegosaurus" and
"Brontosaurus" stop-motion models, built by Marcel Delgado
and animated by Willis O'Brien for the 1933 classic, "King
Kong," along with a photo autographed by Fay Wray
-- An original, French poster for "Creature from the Black
Lagoon," autographed by stars Julie Adams, Ricou Browning,
Ben Chapman and Dee Ankers Denning (daughter of "Creature"
co-star Richard Denning)
-- Original scripts from Hammer's "Dracula" series starring
-- A sterling silver tie tack with an onyx center stone,
owned and worn by Alfred Hitchcock
-- An original, linen-backed 1925 studio portrait of Lon
Chaney Sr. as "The Phantom of the Opera" autographed by
the actor's great-grandson, Ron Chaney -- And 50 years of
classic horror and sci-fi posters and lobby cards from a
private collection that will be available individually for
sale as priced.
Special guests include Marie Reynolds, daughter of famed
poster artist Reynold Brown, who rendered posters heralding
the "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "I Was a Teenage Werewolf,"
"The Incredible Shrinking Man," "This Island Earth" and
many others. There will also be live productions of Washington
Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and Edgar Allan Poe's
"The Tell-Tale Heart!" Tickets are just $20. Contact Zach
Zito at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call (718) 858-3644.
The Jackie Sayegh Duggan Charitable Foundation was established
in December 2001, in memory of Jackie Sayegh Duggan, who
perished in the attack on the World Trade Center. This Foundation
was established to carry on what the Foundation describes
as "Jackie's dream, taking care of children. It is the goal
of the Foundation to help children develop their potential,
achieve their goals and become successful adults and proud
Americans." The Foundation raises money for many children's
charities. You can learn more at:
Our Lady of the Wayside, incorporated in 1967, is dedicated
to serving people affected by mental retardation and developmental
disabilities. For more information, visit:
Tell one and all the B Monster sent you!
STATE OF FEAR
Plantation, Fla., hosts "Screamfest 2004" this November
6-7. Promoted as "Bigger, better, scarier," the focus is
on contemporary horror, with veterans of various "Halloween"
films, and myriad movies with the word "Dead' in the title.
But there are enough vintage filmmakers to make it worthwhile
for us old cranks. The guest roster includes:
-- "Pinhead" Doug Bradley
-- Submerged Gill Man Ricou Browning
-- "Return of the Living Dead's" Don Calfa and Linnea Quigley
-- Artist, screenwriter Frank Dietz
-- "Dawn of the Dead's" Ken Foree and Clayton Hill
-- "Famous Monsters" cover king Basil Gogos
-- Florida horror mogul William Grefe
-- "Spider Baby's" Sid Haig
-- "Night of the Living Dead's" William Hinzman
-- Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman
-- "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis
-- "American Werewolf" David Naughton
Plus various victims, killers and makeup artisans. There
will be the usual seminars and panel discussions, an "Independent
Films Movie Room" and a "Rock 'n' Roll Movie Room."
It all happens at the Holiday Inn on University Drive
in fabulous Plantation, Fla. For more info, check out:
By all means, let 'em know, the B Monster sent you!
NEEDS MONSTER TRUCKS?
The recent DVD release of the complete first season of "The
Munsters" should boost traffic to "Munsterkoach.com," a
site devoted to showcasing the famous George Barris-customized
hot rods The Munster Koach and The Drag-ula (Grandpa's coffin-shaped,
chrome pipe-laden dragster). There are tons of pictures
including cheesecake shots of Pat "Marilyn Munster" Priest
reclining on bumpers and displaying mag wheels. There's
info on toys and related memorabilia and technical specs
that will dizzy the brain of the most hardened Kustom Kar
nut. For instance, did you know that "the 289 Cobra was
bored to 425 cid, built with Jahns high compression pistons,
10 chrome plated Stromberg carburetors, an Isky cam, and
had a set of Bobby Barr racing headers?" Burn rubber to:
And tell old Ernie the B Monster sent you!
TWO "FRANKENSTEINS," NO WAITING
Last month, television presented us with not one, but TWO
new versions of "Frankenstein." The B Monster feels obligated
to signify these attempts, as they do concern Hollywood's
ceaseless determination to further commercialize and corrupt
the property. It's a commercial name in the public domain,
and they seem to think that our appetite for all things
"Frankenstein" is insatiable.
version that aired on the Hallmark Channel was long, dull
and singularly unimpressive. It starred Luke Goss ("Blade
II") as a rather androgynous, unintimidating monster, and
Alec Newman as the doc, in what at first appears to be a
remake of Kenneth Branagh's embarrassing attempt to film
the story a few years ago. Director Kevin Connor (whose
credits date to the early 1970s features "From Beyond the
Grave" and "The Land That Time Forgot") conjures no atmosphere
or suspense. Donald Sutherland and William Hurt contribute
what amount to glorified cameos. Hurt plays Frankenstein's
ostensible mentor, Dr. Waldman, and seems to be the only
resident of Inglestadt with a German accent. At least, it's
an attempt at a German accent. His effort is half-hearted,
as is the film's execution by-and-large.
version airing on the USA Network might as well have been
called "CSI: Frankenstein," as it attempts to marry the
current prurient fascination with forensic investigation
shows to the timeless theme of treading on God's toes. Parker
Posey and Adam Goldberg play detectives investigating a
series of horrific murders. Various vital organs have been
snatched from the victim's bodies. They discover that Dr.
Helios (Thomas Kretschmann), a research scientist, has somehow
managed to remain alive for 200 years. His 200-year-old
creation is alive, as well, and aids the police in tracking
the killer. As directed by Marcus Nispel (a music video
maker and director of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake),
the film is unpleasant, slick, soulless and probably exactly
what contemporary audiences want.
WOOD FEST OUT WEST
Left Coast horror host Mr. Lobo found a novel notion to
commemorate the Halloween season: "Ed Woodstock!" That's
right, Lobo collaborated with cult-movie missionary Reverend
Steve (from "The Church of Ed Wood") to stage the event
at Sacramento's Crest Theater. Three bands, "The Helper
Monkeys," "Flip The Switch," and "Sacramento (the Band)"
performed as video images culled from "Plan 9 From Outer
Space" were projected behind them. A 16mm print of "Plan
9" was screened in the Crest Lounge and the night's feature
attraction, "Bride of the Monster," was supplemented by
a documentary about legendary prognosticator and Wood crony,
Criswell. Proceeds from the show will be used to stage "Ed
Woodstock II," already scheduled for October 2005. For more
info, check out one or all of the following:
Let it be known, the B Monster sent you!
GRIFFIN'S TEXAS SUCCESSES
Those of you who don't hail from the Lone Star State were
recently introduced by the B Monster to "Prof. Griffin's
Midnight Shadow Show," a televised horror filmfest in the
finest tradition of Zacherley and Sir Graves Ghastly, hosted
by -- who else? -- Prof. Griffin! Well, the Prof recently
approached us brimming with good news, which we're happy
to pass along. Griffin's first book, "The Midnight Shadow
Show: Prof. Griffin Journals," is soon to be published by
PublishAmerica. "It's a collection of my essays and letters,"
crows the Prof, "inspired by fan questions and online group
discussions covering all things horror!" The book features
a foreword by one-time Famous Monsters answer man, Eric
Hoffman. What's more, the 24-hour Horror Channel, a cable
enterprise planning to launch this month, may include Griffin
among its luminaries. "We are VERY close now to reaching
an agreement to sign with and produce goose bumps for the
fledgling all-horror channel," says Griffin. "Keep your
claws crossed that we can bring good, old-fashioned Horror
Hosting back to homes everywhere!" The B Monster has crossed
both klaws and all three eyes. For more information, visit
the Prof at:
Tell 'em, of course, the B Monster sent you!
MAN WHO WOULD BE "B" KING
Who is C.S. Lamb, and why is he so devoted to celebrating
Monogram Pictures and the history of low-budget cinema in
general? "I am a film producer, and a lover of old B-movies,"
says Lamb, "especially horror and monster movies. Fact is,
I love B-movies so much that I have dedicated my life, to
their preservation, and to the revival of the studios that
made them." To further that mission, he's established the
Monogram Studios Website. "The site is still under construction,
but I believe it is entertaining, nonetheless." A page chronicling
Monogram's history makes for a tidy primer on Poverty Row
cinema. And, according to Lamb, the history is still being
written: "Over the last 15 years, I have been fortunate
enough to acquire the rights to most all of Hollywood's
great B-movie and Poverty Row" studio banners." These include
Monogram, PRC, AIP, Mascot, Eagle-Lion, Astor, Screen Guild
and others. "I take great pride and pleasure," says Lamb,
"in reviving this lost part of cinema history, and I have
the greatest respect and admiration for all the fans and
historians, who are helping to preserve the legacy, and
the art of B-cinema." Lamb hopes to begin distributing new
B-movies through his PRC wing, to re-release "official"
versions of Monogram and other Poverty Row classics, and
to "protect the rights of fans, historians, producers, and
artists by assembling a great store house of cinematic intellectual
properties." He's also established "The Monogram Pictures
Hall Of Fame." The first inductee is Mantan Moreland, and
the site welcomes nominations for future induction. You
can find out more at:
Let 'em know for sure, the B Monster sent you!
PARTY IN PORTLAND
The Star Party Portland convention, billed as "a celebration
of sci-fi/fantasy television, film, books and anime," is
to be applauded for its unselfish agenda; this "Star Trek"-centric
festival donates a portion of its proceeds to the OHSU Parkinson
Center of Oregon. The show takes place at the beautiful
Hollywood Theatre, located at 4122 NE Sandy Boulevard in
Portland. The majority of the guests are not B-movie figures
or persons one would associate with horror, but are nonetheless
an interesting mix:
-- Writer Susan Sackett, former executive assistant to
Gene Roddenberry. (Does anyone ever ask about the "Have
Gun-Will Travel" episodes Roddenberry wrote?)
-- "Speed Racer," "Ultraman" voice actress Corinne Orr
-- The "Star Trek Voyager" "Borg Twins," Kurt and Cody Wetherill
-- And, most interestingly, Cal Bolder, whom B-movie buffs
will recall from "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter."
(He also appeared in a "Star Trek" episode.)
It happens Sunday, November 14 beginning at 11:00 am.
For more info, check out:
And, by all means, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON DVD THE LEGACY COLLECTIONS: PART TWO
Let's address the obvious first: These are essentially the
individual DVDs you likely already own, repackaged to cash
in on the smashing success of the Frankenstein, Dracula
and Wolf Man Legacy sets. They're done up in a variation
on the same, gloomy, grey-green box art, but, alas, no collectible
busts were created to complement this trio of monsters.
There is some new, supplemental material, however, the most
remarkable being the enlightening new audio commentary that
enhances the Creature disks. So, completists, you make the
call: Live with the individual disks and (gasp) VHS tapes
you have, or invest in relatively inexpensive sets that
collect all of the films in tidy, two-disk volumes.
Nearly all fans of classic horror would agree that, with
the exception of "Bride of Frankenstein" (and the flashes
of inspiration that enhance "Dracula's Daughter" and "Frankenstein
Meets the Wolf Man") all of the Universal franchise monsters
deteriorated with each subsequent film in the series. You
could argue that "Dracula's Daughter" is marginally more
entertaining -- for different reasons -- than the lifeless
and stage-bound Tod Browning production of the original
"Dracula." But the original is more visually arresting,
and gets the nod for being the first to etch the cobwebbed
horror clichés of the sound era into stone. While
"The Wolf Man" had no truly worthy follow-up, I am fond
of the atmospheric "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," the
strained premise and hammy acting notwithstanding. And many
concur that the aforementioned "Bride of Frankenstein" is
more stylish and exciting than the original (which established
as many horror hallmarks as did "Dracula"). In fact, there
exists a large cadre of fans who believe "Bride" to be superior
to just about ANY Universal film.
INVISIBLE MAN LEGACY COLLECTION
We make these points to affect a contrast with "The Invisible
Man" franchise. No horror film series deteriorated as plainly
or as rapidly. The original "Invisible Man" may just be
director James Whale's best film. It is compact and compelling,
more refined than "Frankenstein," more rewarding than "The
Old Dark House," and not as self-consciously overwrought
as "Bride of Frankenstein." Most of Whale's films are leavened
with broad humor, and this attribute is well matched to
the predicament of "The Invisible Man." The scene wherein
Griffin disrobes and unwinds his bandages to reveal NOTHING
to a gaggle of gawking cockneys is priceless. ("'E's all
eaten away!") The film benefits immeasurably from the presence
of Claude Rains as Griffin. I can imagine other actors with
sonorous, sinister voices who would have done fine in the
role, but none that I prefer to Rains. Unseen until the
closing frames, his dulcet, cultured delivery is the film's
cold heart. It's one of the best performances in a horror
The popularity of horror ebbed and Universal waited seven
years to follow the original with "The Invisible Man Returns"
in 1940. It isn't a particularly bad film, and star Vincent
Price is one of those very actors I might imagine replacing
Rains in the Whale classic (others being Basil Rathbone,
George Zucco and Lionel Atwill), but it is dull compared
to its predecessor. The film boasts an able supporting cast
-- Cedric Hardwicke, Nan Grey, Cecil Kellaway -- and a mildly
intriguing spin on the original's dilemma, but director
Joe May is not the stylist James Whale was. The movie is
adequate when compared to other fright films of its vintage,
woefully inadequate when viewed as a sequel to the exciting
The same year, Universal produced the "The Invisible Woman,"
a frivolous trifle from a story by Curt Siodmak. Virginia
Bruce stars as a model subjected to nutty Professor John
Barrymore's invisibility experiment in what is essentially
a half-hearted screwball comedy with a sci-fi twist. One
glance at the supporting cast reveals more about the tenor
of the film than my description -- Charles Ruggles, Oskar
Homolka, Edward Brophy, Donald MacBride, Margaret Hamilton
and Shemp Howard. Hilarity does not ensue.
On to 1942's "Invisible Agent," a wartime, sci-fi, propaganda
comedy-thriller (whew!), wherein the grandson of the Invisible
Man (Jon Hall) employs the family's secret formula in an
effort to foil the Nazis. Once more, the story is by Siodmak
with Edwin L. Marin directing and, once more, the supporting
cast is the best reason to watch; Peter Lorre, Cedric Hardwicke,
Albert Bassermann, John Litel, Holmes Herbert and Keye Luke.
For 1944's "The Invisible Man's Revenge," Jon Hall appeared
(or not) once again in the title role. This time, he's Robert
Griffin, an embittered escaped convict turned invisible
by John Carradine. Again, the supporting cast is the most
agreeable aspect -- Carradine, Evelyn Ankers and Gale Sondergaard
give it their all, but these shenanigans are just plain
stale. The studio clearly had no idea what to do with the
character other than have him meet Abbott & Costello
a few years later.
The original "Invisible Man" is accompanied by film historian
Rudy Behlmer's informative audio commentary. The set also
contains the featurette, "Now You See Him: The Invisible
Man Revealed," plus rare production photographs.
MUMMY LEGACY COLLECTION
"The Mummy" -- the Karloff "Mummy," the 1932 "Mummy," the
GOOD "Mummy" directed by the brilliant cinematographer Karl
Freund -- is not for everyone. It's cool and subdued and
rather cerebral, drawing much of its horror from Karloff's
towering presence, steely gaze and ominous delivery. His
every line of dialogue sounds like a threat. He endured
the arduous application of one of the most effective makeups
in movie history, which is seen minimally to maximum advantage.
But this isn't a film about monsters. It's a film about
horror, to be sure, but its horror derives from shadows
and atmosphere and the otherworldly timbre of Karloff's
voice. It is one of his very best performances, and he gave
The movie's most striking images are lingering, extreme
close-ups of Karloff's dark, soulless eyes. No blood or
car chases. It's probably too careful and deliberate a film
for contemporary tastes. It ain't no thrill ride ... thank
As previously stated, the popularity of horror fluctuated,
and it was several years before Universal produced a "Mummy"
follow-up, "The Mummy's Hand." And -- surprise -- I have
great affection for this movie. But it is a sequel in name
only; it couldn't be more different from the original. Mood-setting
shadows and calculated pacing are abandoned in favor of
broad comic relief (in the form of Wallace Ford) and action.
Significantly, the film introduces the shuffling, vengeance-seeking,
zombie-like mummy that most film buffs are familiar with.
Tom Tyler, a veteran cowboy-actor-stuntman with a lean,
mean face was ideally cast as the mummy, now called Kharis.
Dick Foran makes for a likeable hero, and the supporting
cast includes Eduardo Ciannelli, George Zucco and Cecil
Kellaway. But it is lovably perky Peggy Moran who nearly
steals the show from Kharis. She's bright and beaming and
brings life to every scene she's in.
In 1942, Lon Chaney became Kharis for "The Mummy's Tomb,"
a lackluster addendum to "The Mummy's Hand" with Foran,
Ford and Zucco returning, sadly without Peggy Moran. "The
Mummy's Tomb," and its successors "The Mummy's Ghost" and
"The Mummy's Curse," all featuring Chaney, are virtually
interchangeable. They all feature fine supporting players
-- Zucco, John Carradine, Ramsay Ames, Barton MacLane, Virginia
Christine, Peter Coe, Martin Kosleck, Turhan Bey, Elyse
Knox -- they're all set in the U.S., they all feature the
mummy stalking the reincarnation of his beloved Princess
Ananka or whacking infidels for some power-mad high priest,
and they're all mercifully short, in the 70-minute range.
They all just kind of blur together, crafted with little
care, nothing to distinguish them. Another franchise that
outstayed its welcome.
The set also features the documentary "Mummy Dearest:
A Horror Tradition Unearthed," and film historian Paul M.
Jensen provides commentary to accompany the original 1932
CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON LEGACY COLLECTION
Sci-fi cinema is littered with the carcasses of aquatic
monsters hailing from Piedras Blancas, the Haunted Sea,
the Ocean Floor and elsewhere. Defeating all challengers,
the original Gill Man as portrayed by Ben Chapman and Ricou
Browning stands fin and shoulders above the competition.
Producer William Alland and company fashioned not only one
of the 1950's most identifiable film icons, but one of the
most vividly realized characters in all horror. And the
"Creature's" human costars -- Richard Carlson, Julie Adams,
Richard Denning, Whit Bissell and Nestor Paiva ("Even I,
Lucas ...") -- turn in first-rate performances.
The Creature collection makes strikingly clear the importance
of producer William Alland to the science fiction genre.
Beginning as one of Orson Welles' Mercury Players, Alland
was the unseen reporter who sought out Rosebud in "Citizen
Kane." Turning to production in the 1950s, Alland turned
out many of the most influential genre films in history
("It Came from Outer Space," "Tarantula," "This Island Earth").
He nurtured "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" concept
to fruition, and Tom Weaver's illuminating audio commentary,
recounting the idea's genesis in fascinating detail, is
one of this disk's chief assets.
Many view "Revenge of the Creature" as a disappointment.
Intrinsically, it is not as good as the 1954 original, but
I quite enjoy it. Another able cast is one reason -- John
Agar, Lori Nelson, John Bromfield and, of course, Nestor
Paiva ("Even I, Lucas ..."). In this entry, the Gill Man
is captured and confined to an aquatic exhibit. The scene
wherein the Creature breaks free, scaring the devil out
of visitors to the Florida tourist trap, is inspired. He
later snatches Nelson from a riverside nightclub in another
of the film's highlights. The filmmakers spun the time-tested
"Kong" formula just enough to please me.
Weaver has Lori Nelson to accompany him on the audio track
of "Revenge," and we're especially fortunate to have film
historian, prop curator and makeup veteran Bob Burns on
board to provide insights into the Creature's creation.
While Hollywood's first family of film makeup, the Westmores
(Perc, Wally, Bud, et al.), received the accolades, Universal
Studios artists like Jack Kevan, Milicent Patrick and Chris
Mueller, who worked beneath them, were rarely if ever credited.
This team of artisans, working from Alland's original notion,
created the most distinctive and frightening monster of
Fans who thought little of "Revenge" are especially hard
on "The Creature Walks Among Us." It isn't a remarkable
film, but this flat rejection is unfair. The crux of the
story is intriguing: Scientists discover that the Gill Man
is possessed of human-like organs that, with a bit of surgery,
will allow him to breath air. An operation is performed
and, well ... "The Creature Walks Among Us." Unfortunately,
the good story idea is not cultivated into a good movie.
It's an agreeable film with a sturdy enough cast -- Jeff
Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowden, Don Megowan as the land-bound
Gill Man (sorry, no Nestor Paiva), but not a particularly
All told, "Creature," with its supplemental "Back to the
Black Lagoon" featurette, is the best package of the three
by virtue of the insights offered by Nelson, and the mind-boggling facility of those twin,
walking sci-fi encyclopedias, Messrs. Burns and Weaver.
GHOSTS OF EDENDALE
With a premise not unlike "The Shining" (or any number of
Stephen King stories about blocked writers and their demons),
this low-budget indy begins with great promise. A struggling
writer and his ex-model girlfriend move into a cloistered
neighborhood in the Hollywood Hills. Their bungalow is decrepit
but salvageable. We learn that the ex-model is recovering
from a nervous breakdown. She begins seeing gruesome visions
-- a zombie-like child hiding in a closet, a ghastly face
emerging from a wooden fence. Are they real? Is the bungalow
haunted or are these imaginary manifestations of her condition?
The neighbors are a sedate and strange brood of young
men. Suspicions are raised when one slow-witted local, who
just can't seem to fit in with this snobby show-biz clique,
vanishes without a trace. After they're more or less settled,
the newcomers are invited to a party down the block, hosted
by the brooding coterie. It is explained that the very hillside
they live on was once home to one of Hollywood's first film
studios. In fact, it is where legendary cowboy star Tom
Mix lived and worked. As the neighborhood history is divulged,
the writer starts behaving as though he were possessed.
He is antagonistic and increasingly cruel to his girlfriend,
but his writer's block has vanished, and he sells a screenplay
to a big-shot producer he met at the aforementioned soiree.
The ingredients for a decent thriller are here. Nothing
particularly innovative, but the raw materials from which
a good ghost story could be rendered. Unfortunately, the
promise is unrealized. An unnerving start bogs down in cliché.
Ultimately, too many unwieldy elements are forced into the
plot. Zombie kids, ghosts of galloping horses, phantoms
dashing from room-to-room, bodies floating in a Jacuzzi;
too many fragments that don't coalesce into a satisfying
whole. And what does it all have to do with Tom Mix? It's
as though there are four or five ghost stories unfolding
at once because the filmmakers couldn't decide which one
they liked best. Director Stefan Avalos stages several scenes
with great skill, and his previous films "The Last Broadcast"
and "The True Legend of the Jersey Devil," were laudable
indies that went the "Blair Witch" gang one better with
their docu-horror verite approach. "The Ghosts of Edendale"
could have been as spooky had it not attempted to be quite
so artsy and enigmatic.
DRINK YOUR BLOOD
This very unpleasant 1970 quickie is often upheld as the
very epitome of the cult-horror film. It opens with a group
of Manson family-like hippies sacrificing a goat to Satan.
Three minutes into the picture they catch a local girl spying
on them and assault her. They migrate to a nearby town,
which is nearly deserted owing to a large dam construction
project that has driven the locals away. The Devil devotees
take up residence in an abandoned hotel, where they practice
all manner of Sadism and debauchery. Doc Banner, the local
vet and grandfather of the assaulted girl, attempts to bust
up their party, but he's easily disarmed and roughed up.
His rascally grandson, Pete, vows revenge. Pete shoots a
rabid dog in the woods and, using Doc's medical paraphernalia,
collects the rabies-infected blood in syringes. Unbeknownst
to the proprietor of the local general store, he injects
the tainted blood into meat pies, which are, as the plot
contrives, the only food the store sells. The hippies scarf
down the pies, despite their odd taste and, well, you can
see where this is going.
Hydrophobia runs unchecked through the hippie camp. They
turn on each other, biting and clawing. The dam construction
crew rides into town to try and restore order, but as they
are bitten and clawed by the fearsome flower children, naturally
they succumb to the disease. It isn't long before darned
near every cast member and extra is running amok, frothing
at the mouth and salivating over flesh. Surely, these rabies-zombies
have an Achilles heel? The Doc explains that hydrophobia
derives its name from the parched victim's overwhelming
fear of water, so, you just turn the hose on them and they
back off in a craven tizzy.
If you're hoping for a tidy wrap-up to this synopsis,
forget it. Watch the film. I'm not about to diminish the
experience. You gotta admit, the enterprising youngster's
idea to spike meat pies with bad blood is a novel twist
in what might otherwise have been just another teens-terrorize-town
thriller. The "teens," by the way, are led by the then 40-year-old
Bhaskar who plays a heinous hippie named Horace Bones. Born
Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, Bhaskar was quite a big deal in his
native India, honored as an actor and interpretive modern
dancer. He came to the States in the 1950s and established
his own dance company. He took a nasty spill in 1977 that
left him confined to a wheelchair. He took up painting and
had a second career as an artist. He passed away in 2003
shortly after recording the audio track that accompanies
this edition of "I Drink Your Blood."
True cult-film buffs will recall that "I Drink Your Blood"
producer, Jerry Gross, needed a second feature to release
on the same bill. He acquired Del Tenney's 1964 "Voodoo
Blood Bath," renamed it "I Eat Your Skin," and promoted
the pair as "Two great blood-horrors to rip out your guts!"
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
David Colton, organizer of the Rondo Hatton Awards http://www.rondoaward.com
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at
Bob Madison, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc.
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.dinoship.com
"The most spine chilling cry that ever froze the blood!"
-- I Bury the Living