It's The B Monster's time of year! Fright films on the
tube, a chill in the air, frost on the pumpkin, and the
living room floor littered with candy wrappers. Enhance
your Halloween with the following compendium of must-have
horror news and indispensible esoterica.
Robert Wright Campbell
Author, screenwriter Robert Wright Campbell is dead at 73.
The cause of death was not reported. Campbell wrote the
screenplays for a handful of cult-film classics directed
by Roger Corman, including Corman's first, "Five Guns West."
Campbell also collaborated with Corman on "Machine Gun Kelly"
and "Teenage Caveman." His script for the big-budget Lon
Chaney biopic, "Man of a Thousand Faces," starring James
Cagney as the silent-screen legend, was nominated for an
Campbell also wrote for numerous television programs including
"Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Maverick." His Novel, "The Spy
Who Sat and Waited" was nominated for the 1976 National
Book Award and his mystery, "Junkyard Dog," won the Edgar
Allen Poe Award given by the Mystery Writers of America.
His novel, "In La La Land We Trust," is largely credited
with popularizing the expression used by many to describe
Hollywood. Campbell's brother, William, is a prolific actor
whose credits include "Dementia 13," "Hush... Hush, Sweet
Charlotte" and "Blood Bath."
Joseph H. Lewis
Prolific B-movie director Joseph H. Lewis is dead at 93.
The cause of death was not reported. Lewis, who in 1997
was the recipient of a Los Angeles Film Critics Association
lifetime achievement award, began his film career as an
editor, working on some of the classic action serials of
the 1930s including "The Undersea Kingdom" and "The Adventures
of Rex and Rinty." He began directing B westerns in the
late 1930s, working with such cowboy heroes as Charles Starrett
and William "Wild Bill" Elliott. During this phase of his
career, he acquired the nickname "Wagon Wheel Joe" -- whenever
possible Lewis would add an artistic flourish to an average
western by shooting scenes through the spokes of a wagon
Beyond the western genre, Lewis directed potboilers such
as "Spy Ring" and "Criminals Within," the Lionel Atwill
thriller "The Mad Doctor of Market Street" and several pictures
featuring "The Dead End Kids." In 1941, Lewis directed what
many consider the best of Bela Lugosi's Monogram horror-cheapies,
"The Invisible Ghost," enhancing the decidedly thin premise
with his atmospheric touches. Lewis was also one of the
chief architects of film noir, directing two of the bona
fide classics in the influential genre. Both "Gun Crazy"
and "The Big Combo" were stylish, bold advances for crime
cinema, coupling gritty realism with innovative camera work.
By the late 1950s, Lewis had transitioned to television,
directing episodes of "The Rifleman," "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke"
Author, screenwriter and director Curt Siodmak died at his
home in Three Rivers, Calif., following a heart attack.
He was 98. Born in Dresden, Germany, in 1902, Siodmak worked
as an engineer and a newspaper reporter before entering
the literary and movie fields. It was as a reporter that
he got his first break (of sorts) in films: In 1926, he
and his reporter-wife hired on as extras in Fritz Lang's
"Metropolis" in order to get a story on the director and
his film. One of Siodmak's first film-writing assignments
was the screenplay for the German science fiction picture
"F. P. 1 Antwortet Nicht" ("Floating Platform 1 Does Not
Answer"), based on his own novel. Compelled to leave Germany
after Hitler took power, Siodmak went to work as a screenwriter
in England and then moved to Hollywood in 1937. He got a
job at Universal through his director-friend Joe May, helping
write the script for May's "The Invisible Man Returns."
Because the film went over well, Siodmak says, he fell into
the horror/science-fiction "groove."
Siodmak provided stories and screenplays for classic cult-horror
films such as "The Wolf Man," "Son of Dracula" (directed
by his brother, Robert), "The Ape," "Frankenstein Meets
the Wolf Man," "House of Frankenstein," "The Beast With
Five Fingers," "I Walked With A Zombie" and others. As a
film director, his credits include "Bride of the Gorilla"
and "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon." Siodmak will perhaps
be best remembered for his classic science fiction novel
"Donovan's Brain." Never out of print since it's initial
release, it was made into a feature film starring Lew Ayers
and Gene Evans, a classic radio broadcast starring Orson
Welles, and has spawned countless imitations in both film
Actress Gloria Talbott is dead at 69. Ms. Talbott is probably
best known to film fans for her role as the baffled bride
in the sci-fi cult classic "I Married A Monster From Outer
Space." Her other fright-film credits include "Daughter
of Dr. Jekyll," opposite John Agar, and "The Leech Woman,"
featuring Coleen Gray in the title role.
Talbott was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale,
a city co-founded by her great-great-grandfather. Growing
up in the shadows of the Hollywood studios, her interests
inevitably turned to acting. She participated in school
plays and landed small parts in films such as "Maytime"
(1937), "Sweet and Lowdown" (1943) and "A Tree Grows in
Brooklyn" (1945). After leaving school, she started her
own dramatic group and played "arena"-style shows at various
clubs. After a three-year hiatus (marriage, motherhood and
divorce), Talbott resumed her career, working extensively
in both TV and films. Among her television credits are appearances
in "Gunsmoke," "Rawhide," "Zorro," Perry Mason" and many
others. Her sister, Lori Talbott, was also an actress.
Talbott's husband, Dr. Patrick Mullally, expressed his
gratitude to her fans and explained the circumstances surrounding
her death. Gloria and Patrick were involved in a motorcycle
accident in 1993. Gloria seriously injured her right elbow.
Nerve damage resulted, which also affected her back and
legs. For years afterwards, she received photos in the mail
for autographing but couldn't sign them due to her injury.
However, she kept them all in hopes that she would be able
to sign and return them someday.
In recent years, she began to have more and more difficulty
walking, and was bedridden in the months prior to her death.
She developed pneumonia and was admitted to a hospital where
she responded so well to antibiotics she was told she could
go home after a few days. She then took a turn for the worse:
She was put on a ventilator and heavily sedated. The infection
in her lungs had spread throughout her body. Finally, there
was kidney failure, and she died very peacefully. According
to her husband, having two grandchildren kept her going
the last couple years, but she was always in pain. After
seeing her suffer so long, her passing was merciful. Patrick
wants Gloria's fans to know that all the un-autographed
photos will be returned to their senders along with a cover
letter about her passing.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
THE "CULT MOVIES" CON IS UPON US
The "Cult Movies Magazine Convention 2000" boasts an impressive
lineup of celebs of all sorts. Topping the bill will be
Yvette "Attack of the Giant Leeches" Vickers, Ann "War of
the Worlds" Robinson, Robert "Count Yorga" Quarry, Jack
"Spider Baby" Hill, Dolores "Glen or Glenda" Fuller, Turhan
Bey, Jon Provost, Harry Novak, Fred Olen Ray, Bob Burns
and "Blade Runner" castmates Joanna Cassidy, William Sanderson
and Joe Turkel.
The comics and illustration fields are well-represented
by Bill Stout, Dave Stevens and Gilbert & Jaime Hernandez.
Top-flight writers such as David Schow, Brad Linaweaver,
Laurie Jacobson and Frank Dello Stritto will also be in
attendance. And, of course, over 50 memorabilia dealers.
A three-day pass is $25. Single-day admission is $10. It
gets under way October 20 in the beautiful Hollywood Roosevelt
Hotel in Hollywood, Calif. Order your tickets from: Cameo
Distributors, LLC, PO Box 685, Torrance, CA, 90508. For
more info: Call: 213-612-5156 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit http://www.cult-movies.com And tell 'em The B Monster
I don't know why this even surprises us: They're remaking
"The Magnificent Ambersons"! The remake of the Orson Welles
classic will be directed by Alfonso Arau ("Like Water for
Chocolate") and based on Welles' original shooting script.
The original was taken out of Welles' hands and refashioned
by studio heads into something they thought more commercial.
Even if the remake is a misguided attempt to right that
wrong, for corn's sake, you just don't try to top Orson
Welles. To make matters worse, it's being stretched into
a four-hour miniseries for A&E! The cast will include
James Cromwell, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Bruce Greenwood, Madeline
Stowe, Jennifer Tilly, Dina Merrill-Hartley and Gretchen
Producer Joel Silver ("The Matrix," "Lethal Weapon 1, 2,
3, 4" etc.) plans to remake Michael Crichton's 1973 film
"Westworld." Not that the original, which starred Yul Brynner,
James Brolin and Richard Benjamin, couldn't be outdone,
but why "Westworld?" You may recall that it featured gunslinging
robots running amok in a futuristic western theme park.
No doubt the update will feature state-of-the-art CGI and
that all-important "edginess" that Hollywood seems to think
we're in such dire need of.
SUPERMAN STASH PROMPTS CALL FOR A VOTE
A former MCI sales exec in Corpus Christi, Texas, owns what
is quite possibly the world's largest collection of Superman
memorabilia. According to the Corpus Christi Caller Times,
Tim Gardner left his job three years ago, determined to
make "Superman into a business almost as big, powerful and
benevolent as the comic book hero he worships." Gardner
is the go-to guy when it comes to Super-stuff with a collection
that includes 120 watches, two of the capes used by Christopher
Reeve, a scrap of fabric from the 1950s television show,
which starred George Reeves, a rare 1978 Superman tricycle
and a complete set of Superman golf clubs. To add interest
to the article, the Caller Times has included a link where
fans can vote for their favorite Superman. Last time we
checked, George Reeves hand a commanding lead, but Christopher
Reeve and Kirk Alyn were still in the running. You can also
include some personal comments with your vote. Go to: http://www.caller.com/2000/september/07/today/local_ne/3702.html
SF WRITERS RALLY FOR "WRITE AID"
An aggregation of noted science fiction writers known as
"Write Aid" are contributing their talents to "The Deprivers
Project." According to author and project organizer Steven-Elliot
Altman, "I sent out some guidelines in the form of a medical
brochure to some authors and friends, and said, 'Hey, let's
write for these two charities.' (HEAL: Health Education
AIDS Liaison and F.A.C.T: Foundation for Advancement in
Cancer Therapy)." The resulting stories will be collected
into an anthology and all proceeds from sales of the book
will benefit the two causes.
The common thread winding through each of the collected
stories is the onset of a fictitious epidemic created by
Altman. The writing guidelines, distributed to the various
authors, were in the form of a faux government Public Safety
Notice with panic-potential reminiscent of Wells+ "War of
the Worlds." The stories involve individuals who face isolation
when they become infected with this new virus and are restricted
by law from making skin-on-skin contact with non-infected
individuals. The touch of a "Depriver" causes a "normal"
to lose one of their senses. Writers have so far focused
on blindness, deafness, loss of balance -- even loss of
time-awareness. Contributors include Janet Asimov, William
F. Nolan, Harry Turtledove, Sean Stewart, Tananarive Due,
Kit Reed, Maggie Estep, Katherine Dunn and Edward Gorey.
The project is due for an October 1 premier from ibooks,
distributed by Simon & Schuster. For more information,
"I'M KING OF THE WEIRD!"
An upcoming screen biopic of Johnny Eck, the sideshow "half-boy"
featured in Tod Browning's controversial 1932 classic "Freaks,"
will feature "Titanic" stud Leonardo DiCaprio in the dual
role of Johnny and his fully-developed twin sibling, Robert.
The film, which chronicles the brother's struggles to lead
normal, fulfilling lives, is being developed by veteran
producer Mark Gordon. The role will no doubt be physically
demanding as the real Johnny had no lower torso or legs.
The "Chiller Theatre" guest list continues to grow at an
alarming rate. In addition to headliners Billy Dee Williams,
James "Scotty" Doohan, Andrew Robinson, Robert Vaughn and
Patricia Neal, the East Coast's premier horror, sci fi and
all-around sensory-overload-fest will present Ben "Creature"
Chapman, Tura Satana, Mark "Lost in Space" Goddard, 70s
adult star Linda Lovelace, practically the entire cast of
"Land of the Giants" and too many more to mention. For the
complete lowdown, check out http://www.chillertheatre.com
As always, tell 'em The B Monster sent you!
A GLASS ACT
Composer Phillip Glass, accompanied by the Kronos String
Quartet, performed his atmospheric new "Dracula" score live
at Wolf Trap Farm Park, the national park for the performing
arts in Vienna, Va. Glass, who was commissioned by Universal
Studios to compose the new score, played in front of a giant
screen showing the Bela Lugosi classic. Glass's music seems
to make the creaky thriller more accessible to a contemporary
crowd (even though the melodramatic acting at times evoked
titters from the less-tolerant members of the audience).
For the record, local papers gave the inventive blend of
stodgy old film and stylish new music rave reviews.
PARKWAY RESURRECTS B-MOVIE PAST
The "horror host" element of the following item may only
be of relevance if you grew up on the WestCcoast, but it's
still a kick to write about. "Creature Features" returns
to Oakland live on the Parkway Theater stage every Thursday
in October. Vintage drive-in horror/sci-fi trailers provided
by "Uncle Bill, the Trailer King" will be featured before
the creatures. Special guests for every show include August
Ragone from "Kimono My House" and theremin master Robert
Silverman. The first three programs will be hosted by John
Stanley. The final program on Oct 26 at 7:30 will feature
the return of Oakland horror host Bob Wilkins.
10/5: Atomic mutations on the loose: Toho's "H Man" (1959)
and AIP's "War of the Colossal Beast." Program begins at
7:30 p.m., $8. Guests include August Ragone and Japanese
fantasy cinema expert, Bob Johnson.
10/12: Allison "50 Foot Woman" Hayes in "Zombies of Mora
Tau" and "It Came From Beneath the Sea" featuring Ray Harryhausen's
"sextopus!" Program begins at 7:30PM. Premier theremist
Robert Silverman will be on hand to play his thrilling therapeutic
10/19: Peter Cushing in Hammer's "Revenge of Frankenstein"
(1958) Bela Lugosi in "Return of the Vampire." Program begins
at 7:30PM, $8. Other special guests to be announced.
10/26: The return of Bob Wilkins hosting William Castle's
"The Tingler" and the original "Night of the Living Dead."
Program begins at 7:30PM; advance $10 tickets go on sale
at the Parkway box office ONLY beginning Thursday, Oct.
5. Bob Wilkins will be joined on stage by KTVU's entertainment
reporter Bob Shaw, who worked with Wilkins on "Creature
Features," as well as John Stanley.
For more info, check out http://www.picturepubpizza.com
KING'S FIRST BRUSH WITH VIDEO HORROR
From "On Writing," by horror literature's leading light,
Stephen King: "I was born in 1947 and we didn't get our
first television until 1958. The first thing I remember
watching on it was 'Robot Monster,' a film in which a guy
dressed in an ape-suit with a goldfish bowl on his head
-- Ro-Man, he was called -- ran around trying to kill the
last survivors of a nuclear war. I felt this was art of
quite a high nature."
GO FOR THE GHOULISH
A Nike commercial depicting a scantily clad female athlete
fleeing from a chainsaw-wielding maniac generated so many
viewer complaints that NBC was forced to yank it from their
Olympics coverage. The ad depicts an Olympic runner undressing
to shower in her remote cabin. The maniac bursts in, she
screams and flees through the woods setting a new slasher-film
speed record. Presumably, if you wear Nike shoes, you'll
be able to outrun chainsaw-wielding maniacs, just like our
Olympic athletes do. A Washington Post editorial called
the ad "about as tasteless, exploitative and inappropriate
as an ad can be." Nike says they were trying to be "edgy."
Lon Chaney's busting out all over this Halloween season.
New York-area residents can check out the ongoing tribute
to the silver screen's Man of a Thousand Faces at the American
Museum of the Moving Image (35 Avenue at 36 Street, Astoria,
Queens), whose weekend Chaney series continues untilOctober
29. Peruse the entire schedule by visiting the Museum's
Got a crumb-cruncher around the house who might be interested
in the Lonster? Pick up the new children's book "The Boy
of a Thousand Faces" (HarperCollins) by Brian Selznick.
In Selznick's story, Alonzo King -- a 10-year-old happily
obsessed with black-and-white horror movies, his local horror
host "Mr. Shadows" and Chaney's "The Phantom of the Opera"
-- becomes a local celeb when his community is haunted by
a mysterious werewolf-like creature dubbed The Beast.
One character in the story is named Mr. Blake as a tribute
to Chaney biographer extraordinaire Michael Blake, who co-stars
in Turner Classic Movies' "Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces,"
directed by Kevin Brownlow. This revealing documentary features
rare footage (including Chaney home movies) and interviews
with those who knew and worked with Chaney, including Loretta
Young (voice only), recorded very shortly before her recent
passing. The 86-minute documentary is the centerpiece of
a Turner Classic Movies Chaney tribute series, which includes
the TCM premiere of Lon's legendary "Tell It to the Marines"
(1927), featuring Chaney as a tough sergeant.
"Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces" airs Oct. 24 and 31; visit
the Turner website -- http://tcm.turner.com -- for showtimes.
RIGHT UP MADISON'S AVENUE
Catch B Monster-buddy and Dracula expert non-pareil, Bob
Madison, discussing the Transylvanian bloodsucker tonight
(Sunday, Oct. 15) on AMC's "Behind the Screen" at 7:30 and
midnight ET. Bob is the author of "Dracula: The First Hundred
Years," available at Amazon.com or through Midnight Marquee
Press -- http://www.midmar.com
DEAR B MONSTER
Q: Whatever became of one of Roger Corman's favorite stock
players, Barboura Morris?
A: Sad to say Ms. Morris passed away quite a few years
ago. She was married at one time to director Monte Hellman
and also acted under the name Barbara Crane. In addition,
she co-wrote at least one movie.
Q: Okay. My wife and I have gone round and round on this.
Once and for all, who played the "Lost In Space" robot?
A: Actor Bob May was the man inside the steel suit, while
Dick Tuefeld provided the robot's voice. Interestingly,
both actors will be appearing at the "Chiller Theatre" convention
starting this October 27 in East Rutherford, NJ. (See above)
NEW ON VIDEO
Are you sure you want to bother with this? Okay, here's
the "official" plot synopsis from the companion Web site:
"Sometimes, what you can't see can kill you. Prepare yourself
for the new space thriller 'Pitch Black.' Learn more about
the survivors of the crashed deep space transport Hunter-Gratzner,
including psychopathic, escaped convict Riddick, and the
desolate and deadly planet where they all crash landed."
Sound familiar? It is. It's "It! The Terror From Beyond
Space," "Alien," "Predator," "Terminator" -- even "Flight
of the Phoenix" -- well, at least they stole from the best.
Vin Diesel plays the aforementioned whacko, tough-guy convict.
He's got screen presence to spare and, as the voice of "The
Iron Giant," he qualifies as okay in our book. Otherwise,
take a nap, play with your dog, talk to your wife. Don't
get us wrong, if you're looking for a movie with some nifty
effects that'll make you feel smart because you can predict
everything that's going to happen, you just might love "Pitch
TALES OF TOMORROW
The good people at Englewood Entertainment present another
collection of pioneering TV broadcasts. "Tales of Tomorrow,"
one of television's earliest attempts at serious sci fi,
was nothing if not ambitious, sometimes slow-going, but
always interesting. This presentation will be especially
entertaining for genre-film fans as it includes the series'
overreaching but laudable half-hour adaptation of "Frankenstein,"
starring Lon Chaney Jr. as the monster. According to publicity,
Chaney "had tipped a few too many whiskies before showtime,"
and the script calls for him to do little more than shamble,
grunt and groan. John Newland of "One Step Beyond" fame
portrays the legendary doctor.
Also included is "The Miraculous Serum," starring Richard
Derr ("When Worlds Collide") and based on a story by Theodore
Sturgeon, about a scientist who concocts an elixer that
grants eternal life. Rounding out the package is "Read to
Me, Herr Doktor," a decidedly creepy story about a sentient
robot who falls in love with his creator's daughter. Everett
Sloane is the inventor this time around, and Academy Award-winner
Mercedes McCambridge portrays the object of the metal man's
FIRSTRITES FRIGHT FESTIVAL
The folks behind the Firstrites film series are releasing
a horde of horror titles for the Halloween season. FirstRites
is a subdivision of the distribution company, The Asylum,
producing independent films that showcase the talents of
emerging film makers. Highlighting this month's horrific
"Shades of Darkness" Bridget Avers wakes to find that
her former life is taking over her present one. Unless she
can resolve the terrors of the past, the malevolent Entity
that once threatened her will destroy her ... and all who
cross Its path.
"The Man Next Door" A young woman must fight her own mental
illness to escape the blade of a serial killer ... who lives
"Raven's Ridge" A team of thieves pull off a bank heist,
hiding the cash in the woods until the heat dies down. However,
after the man with the map is arrested, the rest of the
team must find the hidden money ... and fight off a vicious
killer who uses the woods as his hunting grounds.
"Equinox Knocks" On the night of the Autumn Equinox, teenager
Allie Black idly wishes she were a boy. In the morning,
she must face life as Caleb ... a female in a male body!
"Party Crasher" The story of a young man's return home
from a hellish stay in a mental institution ... and the
lethal havoc that ensues upon his homecoming.
For more info, visit http://www.hollywoodvideo.com/firstrites/first_rites.htm
As this is any monster fan's busiest time of year, we're
confident you'll welcome this mid-October update. We're
certain your in-baskets are clogged with superfluous mailings,
and we're reluctant to contribute to the log-jam. But we
feel the following items deserve your rapt attention, nonetheless.
NEW ON DVD
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Alfred Hitchcock's incomparable chase thriller premiers
on DVD with a stunning package of extras in tow. It features
an all-new digital transfer of the film (I'm still not exactly
sure what that means), the original theatrical trailer,
audio commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman, a gallery
of production stills, even TV spots that promoted the film
upon its initial release. This is the Hitchcock film for
people who hate Hitchcock films -- breathtakingly paced,
compactly written and edited, and featuring the kind of
movie stars they don't make any more -- Cary Grant, Eva
Marie Saint and James Mason.
One of The B Monster's favorite 50s shockers is soon to
see its DVD premier. If ever a B movie deserved the digital
preservation treatment, this is it. I mean, how many teenage/western/sci
fi/horror pictures are there? As a kid (1960s vintage),
you may have caught it on TV bearing the title "Meteor Monster,"
but make no mistake, this is the one with the shaggy, speech-slurring
teenage brute played by 50-year-old stunt man Gil Perkins.
Highlighting this package are Tom Weaver's insightful liner
notes, which include comments from Perkins (who recalls
legendary makeup man Jack Pierce as "a miserable old bastard"),
co-star Anne Gwynn and director Jacques Marquette.
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
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
"Too awesome to describe. Too terrifying to escape. Too
powerful to stop!" -- Monster From Green Hell