The ruggedly handsome star of the sci-fi cult film "The
Phantom Planet," Dean Fredericks, has died of bone cancer.
He was 75. Prior to the film, Fredericks had been ideally
cast as Milton Caniff's two-fisted pilot "Steve Canyon"
in the 1958 television series inspired by the classic comic
strip. Earlier in his career, using the name Norman Frederics,
he often appeared in non-caucasian roles -- particularly
as Native Americans -- in films such as "Disembodied," "Savage
Sam," "The Light in the Forest" and the "Jungle Jim" TV
Actress Ruth Roman has died at her home in Laguna Beach,
Calif. She was 75. Roman rose slowly through the B-movie
ranks in the course of a career that lasted five decades.
Genre-film buffs may remember her best for her role as the
"Jungle Queen" in the 1945 Universal serial of the same
name. From there, Roman moved on to roles in films opposite
Errol Flynn ("Mara Maru"), Gary Cooper ("Dallas"), James
Stewart ("The Far Country") and others. Later in her career,
Roman starred in director Ted Post's uncategorizable 1973
film, "The Baby," wherein she portrayed the crazed mother
of an infantalized adult man. She may have accrued her greatest
fame, however, as a passenger on the ill-fated ocean liner
Andrea Doria, as she and her son narrowly survived the shipwreck.
Actress Marguerite Chapman has died at 81. The cause of
death was not reported. Chapman rose to prominence in WWII
suspense films such as "Appointment in Berlin" with George
Sanders and "Destroyer" opposite Edward G. Robinson, but
a career as a major film star never materialized. Cult-film
fans will remember Chapman from early-40s B movies such
as "Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum" and the classic "Spy
Smasher" serial. Following appearances in low-budget, post-war
programmers such as "Mr. District Attorney" and "Kansas
Raiders," Chapman co-starred with Arthur Franz and Cameron
Mitchell in "Flight to Mars," a 1951 color space opera.
She may be best known to fans of sci-fi fans, however, for
her role in director Edgar Ulmer's dismal "Amazing Transparent
Man" (1960), her final theatrical film.
THE B-MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
HONEY WEST ON THE WEB
The official Web site of B Monster fave Anne Francis is
up and running at last. The design is lean and clean while
retaining a personal touch. An online photo album packed
with pinups is a highlight and there's tons of background
about Anne's interests and career. A forthcoming multimedia
section sounds promising, as well. There's also a listing
of collectibles for sale. In her newsletter, Anne states,
"I will tithe any income generated from the sale of my memorabilia
on this site to causes that especially move me." Check it
http://www.annefrancis.net ! Tell Altaira the B Monster
Alfred Hitchcock's daughter, Pat, who's currently making
the talk show rounds in recognition of the centennial of
her father's birth, reports that her old man's favorite
flick was "Smoky and the Bandit." This proves that the master
of menace is still able to horrify his fans nearly 25 years
after his death.
In addition to the blockbuster action pics and raunchy comedies
that filled theaters this summer, there was also one dumbfounding
mystery: Why did Warner Bros. pull the plug on its most
enjoyable animated venture in years, "The Iron Giant"? It's
family-friendly, well-plotted, and some scenes are stunningly
animated. Yet only six weeks into release, the film has
all but disappeared. The promotional campaign was almost
non-existent. (We can can't recall seeing a single television
ad for the film.) It's truly a mystery as to why the studio
doomed this obviously heartfelt project right out of the
JEDI'D HAD ENOUGH
According to Mitchell Fink's column in the New York Daily
News, Alec (Obi-Wan Kenobi) Guinness hated appearing in
the "Star Wars" series, wishes he HADN'T done 'em, and doesn't
understand why anybody likes them. The actor also expresses
a "distaste" for George Lucas and throws away all the "Star
Wars" photos he receives for autographing. Guinness states
that his "Star Wars" experiences were SO bad, he plotted
the death of his character by convincing Lucas that Obi-Wan
would be more poignant as a ghost. "And he agreed with me.
What I didn't tell him was that I just couldn't go on speaking
those bloody awful, banal lines. I'd had enough of the mumbo
jumbo." Look for Guinness' new book, the autobiography "A
Positively Final Appearance."
According to the London Sunday Times, Steven Spielberg intends
to complete the late Stanley Kubrick's film-in-the-works,
"A.I." (Artificial Intelligence), a project the two had
originally intended to collaborate on. Based on Brian Aldiss'
short story "Super Toys Last All Summer Long," the film
had already moved into the conceptual stage at the time
of Kubrick's death, with artist Chris Hall ("Judge Dredd")
doing the conceptualizing. Some storyboarding had been done
and test footage has reportedly been shot. Spielberg's next
project will be "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise. No production
date for "A.I." has been mentioned.
BIG WIGS BACK Bs
Hollywood big shots Robert ("Back To The Future," "Forrest
Gump") Zemeckis and producer Joel ("Lethal Weapon," "Die
Hard") Silver joined forces awhile back to form Dark Castle
Entertainment, a company created expressly to produce lower-budgeted
horror films, the first of which will be "House on Haunted
Hill." William ("Tales From The Crypt") Malone will direct
the remake of the Vincent Price classic, which stars Oscar-winner
Geoffrey Rush, Elizabeth Hurley and Famke Janssen. It sounds
like sacrilege to us, but the daughter of original director
William Castle is reportedly on board as a co-producer.
The film opens October 29.
And speaking of "House on Haunted Hill" (not to be confused
with the recent rotten remake of "The Haunting"), star Geoffrey
Rush says he didn't watch the original film so as not to
be influenced by Vincent Price's interpretation of the role
he is assuming. If Hollywood is so starved for fresh ideas
that they MUST remake this cult gem, then they should cling
to its chief asset, Price's sophistication and sinister
charm. Please, watch the original, Geoffrey.
NEW DRACULA SCORES
Though memorable for Bela Lugosi's unforgettable presence
and Karl Freund's artful photography, the original 1931
film version of "Dracula" was stodgy and stagebound. The
glaring lack of a musical score was never felt more keenly.
Seventy years later, Universal is set to release a new video
version, boasting an atmospheric score by renowned composer
Phillip Glass. "I felt the score needed to evoke the feeling
of the world of the 19th century," says Glass. "For that
reason I decided a string quartet would be the most evocative
THE MUMMY, TAKE TOMB
Universal's so-so "Mummy" remake surprised darned-near everybody
by raking in $300 million at the box office this summer.
That spells sequel, and Universal has conscripted Stephen
Sommers to write and direct the next installment due out
some time in 2001. "I'm dying to do it again -- only better,"
said Sommers. No plot details were immediately available
but, according to Universal, Brendan Fraser will reprise
his role as soldier of fortune Rick O'Connell.
Tom Weaver's new tome on the films of John Carradine is
available at last. It's exhaustive, informative, funny --
all the things you've come to expect of Weaver's work. In
addition, there are intros by directors Joe Dante and Fred
Olen Ray, as well as a brief Carradine bio from Greg Mank.
In short, a darned-good read that belongs on the shelf of
every B-movie fan. You can find it at the McFarland &
Co. Web site -- http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
A third installment of the CGI dino-franchise, "Jurassic
Park," is in the works. Director Joe Johnston ("The Rocketeer,"
"Honey, I Shrunk the Kids") is set to direct "Jurassic Park
3." Steven Spielberg hopes to begin production late in 2000.
The first two reptilian tales earned bronto-sized bucks,
grossing more than $1.5 billion in combined worldwide box
SCREAM TEAM REMAKE
Universal reportedly has a "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf
Man" remake in the pipeline. Whereas Lugosi and Chaney played
the Monster and lycanthrope, respectively, in the original,
this time around, the creatures are entirely CGI (For the
uninformed, that's computer animation in lieu of real live
actors. We suppose that Bill Pullman and Skeet Ulrich were
otherwise obligated). No release date has been announced
MEMO TO MOGULS
Small fries Artisan Entertainment paid $1.1 million for
worldwide rights to the Sundance Festival shocker "The Blair
Witch Project." While the majors think of the Web as a place
to sell logo-emblazoned caps and theme park tickets, Artisan
shrewdly employed the Internet to generate unprecedented
"Blair Witch" word of mouth. The film, which was made for
$150,000, has so far earned about $140 million.
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: "Settle a bet. My wife says that Rex Reason ("This
Island Earth") and Rhodes Reason ("King Kong Escapes") are
the same person. She says Rex changed his name. I say they're
brothers. What's the deal?"
A: You're one up on your wife. Brothers Rex ("The Creature
Walks Among Us") and Rhodes ("Voodoo Island") are, in fact,
two different people. Both are in robust health at roughly
70 years of age.
Q: "My friend says that Nathan Juran, director of one
of my all-time faves, "20 Million Miles to Earth," is also
Nathan Hertz, who directed the somewhat less-than-auspicious
"Attack of the 50 Foot Woman." I bet him a beer he's wrong."
A: The brew is on you. Director Juran ("Brain From Planet
Arous") did indeed resort to the Hertz alias when directing
the camp classic "50 Foot Woman."
Q: "There's a steak dinner riding on this. I say that
former child star Frankie Darro was the actor inside "Forbidden
Planet's" Robbie the Robot. My buddy claims it was Bob May,
who later played the "Lost in Space" robot. What's the inside
A: Enjoy the steak. Darro inhabited Robby's shell until,
according to star Anne Francis, he had to be replaced due
to drinking on the job. "Drunken robots are not to be countenanced,"
NEW ON VIDEO
Stop me if you've heard this one ... the future is going
to be really lousy and everyone will wear leather and dark
glasses -- that's according to "The Matrix," a sleek, eerily
staged, but hopelessly muddled, sci-fi thriller that's derivative
of "Blade," "Blade Runner" and "Terminator" in all the aforementioned
ways. Keanu Reeves stars as the potential savior of mankind
(well, he WAS "Little Buddha"), and the great Laurence Fishburne
wastes his time spouting portentous lines like, "Soon, all
will be revealed," "No one can be told what The Matrix is,"
and "Can I tempt you with something from our dessert cart?"
(Okay, I made that last one up -- but it's no more abstract
than the others.) Perhaps The Daily Show's Jon Stewart described
it best as "the coolest movie I didn't understand."
BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE
A crystal-clear print of the Corman-produced, Monte Hellman-directed
"Beast From Haunted Cave" is now available. Englewood Entertainment
offers a video print that's a far cry from the smudgy stock
that champions of this genre chestnut are used to seeing.
It's basically an overhaul of a plot Corman had filmed once
or twice before, but it does feature some scenes that are
strikingly eerie, despite the goofy monster. This low-budget
shocker is underrated, and devotees still wonder why Hellman's
career never really took off.
Hard on the cosmic heels of the "Giants of Pluto #3" trilogy
comes another set of three vintage "Space Patrol" episodes.
The forthcoming video release, dubbed from astonishingly
clear kinescopes, finds Buzz Corry (the unflappable Ed Kemmer)
and company at odds with the "Amazons of Cydonia!" Viewers
will note that actor Ben Weldon, though portraying a scientist's
assistant in the far-flung future, still speaks like the
Brooklyn mug he was born to play. It's all innocent fun,
reminding us that there actually was a time when people
believed in a brighter future -- unlike the dystopic misery
predicted by modern sci-fi films (see "Matrix" review).
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 through Midnight
Marquee Press or 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
"The nightmare terror of the slithering eye that unleashed
agonizing horror on a screaming world!" -- The Crawling