Got your official Jack Davis-illustrated B Monster merchandise,
yet? Halloween will soon be upon us, and the holiday just
won't seem complete unless you're sporting a B Monster T
or sweatshirt! Why not toast All Hollow's Eve sipping a
pungent brew from a B Monster mug? Or, adorn the vestibule
with a ghoulish Jack Davis print? Get a jump on Holiday
gift shopping! Nothing says love like this classic B Monster
memorabilia! And don't forget, a portion of the B Monster's
proceeds goes to Childhelp USA: http://www.childhelpusa.org
Buy something. NOW! What are you waiting for? Don't just
sit there. CLICK! http://www.cafeshops.com/bmonster
Producer-director Russ Meyer, among the most influential
exploitation filmmakers ever, died from complications of
pneumonia. He was 82. Meyer also suffered from dementia.
He was best known for violent films starring large-breasted
women, and his name was closely associated with "nudies"
and "skin flicks," yet his movies featured surprisingly
little graphic sex. Meyer served as producer, director,
screenwriter, editor and cinematographer on more than two
dozen films. Their titillating titles are a remarkable epitaph:
"Wild Gals of the Naked West," "Europe in the Raw," "Heavenly
Bodies!," "Mudhoney," "Motor Psycho," "Mondo Topless," "Common
Law Cabin," "Vixen!," and perhaps his most highly regarded
film, "Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the violent story
of three murderous go-go dancers. Meyer ventured briefly
into mainstream filmmaking with 1970's "Beyond the Valley
of the Dolls," co-scripted by movie critic Roger Ebert.
But it was films such as "Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens"
that made him internationally famous and he was invited
to festivals around the world. Meyer once addressed criticism
directed at "Faster, Pussycat" saying, "This film is not
derogatory to women. There were three tough cookies to deal
with. Besides, they get what's coming."
Actress Suzanne Blackmer, who, as Suzanne Kaaren, is perhaps
best known to cult-film fans as the ingénue opposite
Bela Lugosi in the 1940 shocker "The Devil Bat," died following
a bout with pneumonia. She was 92. Kaaren also appeared
in a number of Three Stooges shorts including "Disorder
in the Court," "Yes, We Have No Bonanza" and "What's the
Matador?" She had small roles and uncredited parts in many
low-budget features throughout the 1930s and '40s. In 1943,
she married actor Sidney Blackmer and retired from films.
She made a cameo appearance in the 1984 feature "The Cotton
Blackmer gained notoriety for a legal battle fought with
Donald Trump in the 1980s. She resided in a rent-controlled
apartment at 100 Central Park South, paying just $203.59
per month. Trump purchased the building and sought to convert
the apartments into condos that would fetch up to $5,000
per month, as did many nearby apartments. Trump went to
court in an effort to prove that Blackmer's primary residence
was a mansion in Salisbury, N.C., but that home had been
gutted in a 1984 fire. Blackmer prevailed over Trump. The
court ruled that Trump could convert the apartments into
condos, but tenants who wished to stay -- with rent control
-- could do so.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
BY THE SON OF THE "SON OF FRANKENSTEIN"
Cult-film fans remember child actor Donnie Dunagan as Peter
von Frankenstein, the moppet who befriended the Karloff
Monster in "Son of Frankenstein." He next appeared with
"Son" stars Karloff and Basil Rathbone in "Tower of London"
and also provided the voice of young "Bambi" in the Disney
classic. Dunagan later became a career Marine, serving in
Vietnam and working in counter-intelligence. Tom Weaver
interviews the actor, now 70, in the new issue of Video
Watchdog, and it's a terrific read. What's more, the actor
will be signing autographs for the first time in 60 years.
A special Signature Edition of the issue, signed by Dunagan
and featuring an exclusive four-sided cover, is available
for $22.00. To find out more, check out:
And be sure to let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
WHEN DOES WEAVER SLEEP?
Part one of Tom Weaver's interview with cult-movie favorite
Arch Hall appears in the current issue of Fangoria magazine.
Hall is funny, nostalgic and spares few details in recounting
the making of "Eegah!" and other cult classics. Later this
month, Weaver's interview with Peter Graves appears in Starlog
magazine. Graves offers some wonderfully candid anecdotes
regarding "Red Planet Mars" ("Boy, it sure was talky, wasn't
it?") "Killers From Space" ("I thought, 'Boy, this is really
some awful corny stuff! But I'm gonna give it my 100 percent'")
and the fact that such films attract one generation of fans
after another ("It makes you worry about the future of our
country, doesn't it?")
HARRYHAUSEN STILL AMONG THE ANIMATED
A September 17 Washington Post review of "Sky Captain and
the World of Tomorrow" pronounced Ray Harryhausen dead.
"And when fanciful beasties appear," said the review, "as
they inevitably must in a film that takes as much of its
inspiration from comics as from cinema, you might almost
convince yourself that special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen
were still alive." The next day, The Post ran a correction
stating that the review had "incorrectly implied that film
producer and visual effects specialist Ray Harryhausen is
dead." Harryhausen has a new book out and only recently
completed a tour of personal appearances.
STATE OF TERROR
Once more, it descends upon the Sheraton Meadowlands Hotel
in otherwise peaceful, bucolic E. Rutherford, N.J. The "Chiller
Theatre Toy, Model and Film Expo" gets under way October
29. The massive dealer's room (or rooms), will be packed
with entrepreneurs offering everything from "I Was a Teenage
Werewolf" lobby cards to replicas of 6th-century Pictish
dirks. In fact, demand for dealer space has reached the
point where the Chiller conventioneers will be erecting
an additional "Ringling Brothers"-size tent on the hotel
grounds to accommodate the additional sellers. There's the
usual frantic schedule of costume, model and art contests,
and the Chiller guest list grows unabated. Kevin Clement
and his Chiller co-conspirators have once more assembled
an impressive and diverse line-up of genre-film and TV personalities.
Highlighting the guest roster are:
Elvira, "Mistress of the Dark"
Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach
Julie Benz of "Angel" and "Buffy" fame
Linda Blair, Satan's favorite possession
Ricou Browning, the original underwater Gill Man
David "Kung Fu," Kill Bill" Carradine
Joseph D'Angeli, live bat exhibitioner (no kiddin'!)
Brad "Chucky" Dourif
Mark "Lost in Space" Goddard
Ernie "Ghost Busters" Hudson
Sam J. "Flash Gordon" Jones
Sara "Daughter of Boris" Karloff
"Star Trek's" Chekov, Walter Koenig
Lorenzo "Renegade" Lamas
Billy "Will Robinson" Mumy
Michael Kaluta, illustrator extraordinaire
John Kassir, TV's Crypt Keeper
The "Lost in Space" robot himself, Bob May
Dean "Quantum Leap," "Blue Velvet," "Boy With Green Hair"
Tiffany (You remember '80s teen diva Tiffany, don't you?)
And, of course, late-night legend and Chiller Mascot, Zacherley
For more info check out:
You know the drill: Tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
The 2004 Eerie Horror Film Festival takes place October
8-9 at The Roadhouse Theatre in the heart of downtown Erie,
Pa. The festival presents what promoters describe as "two
days of wall to wall terror and fantasy featuring some of
the best independent horror and science fiction movies from
around the world!" The Eriefest conventioneers announced
their call for entries at the 2004 Great Lakes Independent
Film Festival. "Unlike many other film festivals, we felt
that we were overlooking a very popular and important genre.
For many filmmakers, sci-fi and horror films are among the
first projects that they produce." Convention guests this
year include Ed Wood-"Plan 9" alum, Conrad Brooks and horror-mystery
writer Jamian Snow. For more info, visit:
By all means, mention that the B Monster sent you!
FRIGHT IN PHOENIX
The Desert Ridge Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona, is
the site of "Horrorfind Weekend Halloween," ballyhooed as
"the spookiest show on earth!" The show boasts celebrity
Q&As, a costume ball, speakers, seminars, autograph
signings, a vast dealers room and a guest list that includes:
Ardienne "Swamp Thing" Barbeau
Jeffrey "Re-Animator" Combs
Dee Wallace "The Howling" Stone
Reggie "Bubba-Ho-Tep" Bannister
Doug "Pinhead" Bradley
"Night," "Dawn" and "Day of the Dead" cast reunions
And an assortment of sci-fi and horror authors.
It all happens October 29-31. Single day admission is
$20. A weekend pass is $40. For details, visit:
Why not let 'em know the B Monster sent you?
INVADE MUSIC CITY
It's billed as "three big shows in one!" "Nashville's Comic,
Anime & Horror Fest" showcases horror, comics and anime
this October 9-10 at the Exhibitor's Hall on the Tennessee
State Fairgrounds in Nashville, Tennessee. "The second year
of the October Horror Fest promises to be bigger and better
than ever," say promoters. "We had over 1,200 people attend
last year, and look forward to an even bigger crowd this
year, along with bigger name guests and events such as panels,
free prizes, and a movie room." This year's guest list includes:
Troma mogul Lloyd Kauffman
Director, producer, graphic novel author Robert Tinnell
TV Captain Marvel Jackson Bestwick
"Stephen King's The Stand," and "Langoliers" producer Mitchell
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3" director Jeff Burr
Tennessee's homegrown horror host Dr. Gangrene
And a selection of artists representing the comics and anime
There will be panels on "How to be a Filmmaker" and "Breaking
into Comics," and a live performance by "special musical
guests, The Exotic Ones."
All this for five bucks? For more info, check out:
As always, tell 'em the B Monster sent you!
Todd Livingston, co-creator with Bob Tinnell and Neil Vokes
of Image Comics' monster rally graphic novel "The Black
Forest," recently screened his horror-comedy "So, You've
Downloaded a Demon," for a rapt audience at Atlanta's Dragon*Con.
While the film actually premiered at the Cannes Film Festival
in May, Dragon*Con, one of the USA's largest science fiction,
fantasy and gaming conventions, marked its American debut.
Livingston's film is the maiden feature for Accidental Films,
an L.A. production company owned and operated by Livingston
and writer/producer Nicholas Capetanakis. They describe
the film as the story of "four college students who hack
into an occult Website and accidentally release a demon
that is imprisoned there. Once free, it possesses the dumb
one." The supernatural comedy, co-produced with Ireland's
Compass Films and Germany's Zygomat Kino, stars Casidee
Riley, Sommer Fain, Zak Kreiter, Daniel Paul Schafer and
Xenia Seeberg. For more info, check out:
And let 'em know it was no accident -- the B Monster sent
I'M NOT TOO KEENAN THE IDEA
Those ubiquitous Wayans brothers -- Keenan Ivory, Marlon,
Damon, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner
and Ziggy -- have sealed a deal with Universal to remake
"The Munsters." According to Variety, their "modern-day
take on the classic TV series" will be produced by Wayans
Brothers Productions, but will not feature members of the
show biz family. They no doubt have little spare time as
they busily crank out "Scary Movie" sequels and pitch all
manner of products for Madison Avenue. Keenan Ivory has
considered directing the project, but has not signed a contract.
GIG FOR EDDIE?
Many moons ago, we told you about ex-Eddie Munster Butch
Patrick's local, Southern California TV program "Macabre
Theater." Patrick, who has been on the stump promoting the
release of "The Munsters: The Complete First Season" DVD,
recently revealed to TV Guide that the series will be syndicated
starting in late September. Usually seen on KHIZ Channel
64 Adelphia cable, the show features the voluptuous Ivonna
Cadaver hosting classic horror films in campy fashion. Patrick
contributes a "Haunted Hollyweird" segment, visiting allegedly
spook-invested Hollywood locations and sharing stories about
spirits and movie stars. The pair has appeared at several
horror and comic conventions. For more on "Macabre Theater,"
check out: http://www.macabretheatre.com Kindly pass along
the B Monster's regards.
PHONES IT IN
As part of the ballyhoo surrounding the DVD release of "Van
Helsing," publicists inaugurated "The Van Helsing John L.
Balderston Writing Contest." (Screenwriter Balderston collaborated
on such classic Universal horrors as "Frankenstein," "Dracula"
and "The Mummy." He died in 1954.) Potential entrants were
invited to submit a story involving the Frankenstein Monster,
Dracula and the Wolf Man, consisting of 2,500 words or less.
The contest was judged by "three literary specialists."
Ten winners will receive the "Van Helsing Collector's DVD
Set." The Grand Prize winner receives the DVDs, "plus a
special phone liaison and story submission with screenwriter
and director Stephen Sommers." The Grand Prize winning story
will be posted at http://www.vanhelsing.net
some time this month. Odds are it will be better than the
script for "Van Helsing." (Special phone liaison?)
FLAIR FOR GASLIT HORROR
Mark Redfield is nothing if not laudably ambitious. The
Fort Meade, Maryland, native, whose Redfield Arts studio
is based in Baltimore, premiered his production of "Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" at the Walters Art Gallery in 2002.
Redfield co-produced and co-wrote the film with Stuart Voytilla,
he designed the sets, directed it and stars in the dual
role assayed before him by the likes of John Barrymore,
Frederic March and Spencer Tracy. It was shot entirely at
his Baltimore facility. Redfield, founder of two theater
companies, has directed over 70 plays. He's worked in movies,
TV and radio. He's done Shakespeare, sci-fi, Scrooge. From
whence comes his penchant for Gothic horror? Redfield cites
the Hammer films of the '50s and '60s. "I grew up loving
them," he says, "and no one else seems to be doing 'period
horror.'" Redfield's production of the Stevenson classic
won the Best Independent Film award at the Festival of Fantastic
Film in Manchester, England, and has only recently debuted
on DVD. "We are continuing with the production of some other
period films in the Hammeresque vein," Redfield says. To
stay abreast of the production schedule or for more information,
Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
NEW ON DVD
MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE
This odd and atmospheric film enjoys a reputation as one
of the best and most innovative B's of the '50s, and deservedly
so. I'm sure the title was perceived by many as light-hearted
ballyhoo when the film first appeared, but one of its chief
virtues is its rather serious tenor. Star Gloria Talbott
does a terrific job of conveying, by turns, effervescence,
disillusionment, suspicion and ultimately, abhorrence. And
the script is credible, literate, leavened with just a bit
of humor, and cleverly manages to cultivate the topic of
sex with an alien-possessed spouse without openly addressing
the subject. Director Gene Fowler Jr. ("I Was a Teenage
Werewolf") ably conveys the feel of small-town America gradually
corrupted by outside forces. (I'll leave the theorizing
about parallels to the Communist threat of the 1950s to
other scholars. It's been argued to death!) Screenwriter
Louis Vittes might have been more at home with TV and Western
fare, as his credits include episodes of "Gunsmoke" and
"Rawhide" and the features "Showdown at Boot Hill" and "The
Oregon Trail" (we won't mention the egregiously schlocky
"Monster from Green Hell"!) but he displays a knack for
making the horrific credible through minimal dialogue.
As already mentioned, Talbott turns in her best performance
as the befuddled bride. The rest of the cast is likewise
sturdy, with handsome, all-American boy-turned brooding
extra-terrestrial Tom Tryon particularly effective. And
one of the B Monster's favorite character players, Ken Lynch,
portrays Dr. Wayne, the only male in town that Talbott can
trust. Lynch was the reedy-voiced veteran of many features
and countless television episodes. He's possessed of a face
and a voice that are instantly recognizable, even though
his name may not be. (You've seen him, trust me.) The same
goes for John Eldredge, who portrays Captain H.B. Collins.
Eldredge appeared in hundreds of feature films and television
shows. Supporting players such as these lend realism and
humanity to genre movies. Their performances in this film
are understated and believable. Without these qualities,
an enterprise called "I Married a Monster from Outer Space"
would likely fall apart.
ED WOOD JR. COLLECTION
Listen up, all you self-appointed "bad film experts," it's
time once again to dust off your clubs and posthumously
whack poor old Ed Wood over the noggin. For the record,
Wood's movies are laughably bad, but, off the top of my
head, I can think of two or three dozen non-Wood movies
that are worse than anything Ed concocted. I'm telling you
for the last time (okay, that's a lie), Wood did NOT make
the worst films of all time. Those who think he did are
in for one hell of a shock when they finally scratch through
the Wood layer of the barrel and behold the cinematic travesties
and obscurities that lie beneath. If you are as yet unfamiliar
with Ed Wood and his films (and I don't see how that's possible
if you can see or hear), then this set will serve as a fine
introduction. Six disks! 467 minutes of Ed Wood! Only in
You get Ed's transvestism expose, "Glen or Glenda?" a
plea for tolerance and understanding interrupted by shots
of Bela Lugosi as God (I think), reciting poems about green
dragons and snails, inciting stock footage buffalo to stampede
and imploring us to "pull the string!"
You get the seedy underworld drama "Jail Bait," which
features the same maddening flamenco guitar score used in
"Mesa of Lost Women," and a burly, young, pre-Hercules Steve
You of course get Wood's best-known film, the often-pilloried
"Plan 9 from Outer Space," a dizzying mélange of
scenes seemingly from three or four different movies, forced
into an oh-so-tenuously coherent plot about aliens resurrecting
human corpses. (And, NO, it is NOT the worst movie ever
You get the untenably protracted, endlessly talky, intolerably
austere "Night of the Ghouls," (which is more cheaply made
even than "Plan 9"), featuring ex-wrassler Tor Johnson reprising
his Lobo role from Wood's previous "Bride of the Monster."
You get "The Haunted World of Ed Wood," a documentary
chronicling the director's life and career, written and
directed by Brett Thompson.
Extras include the feature-length doc, "Flying Saucers
Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion," "Crossroads of Laredo,"
a 23-minute Western short directed by Wood, audio commentary
by Thompson and Bela Lugosi, Jr., and footage from the Ed
Wood Reunion at the Palm Springs Film Festival. All this
PLUS a stills gallery, production documents and theatrical
So, you're just 467 minutes away from being a "bad movie
expert" yourself. You'll be able to discuss "Plan 9" with
confidence at cocktail parties. When you find yourself bandying
such names as Mona McKinnon and Duke Moore, you'll be ready
to move on to the "hard stuff," to plunge deeper into the
B-movie mire, to scrape through to the level beneath Ed
Wood, there to discover "Curse of the Stone Hand," "The
Monster and the Stripper," "Carnival of Blood" and just
about anything directed by Michael Bay! The horror!
GALLERY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
The open-minded critic must ask himself if he would appreciate
"Night Gallery" more had there been no "Twilight Zone."
The highest praise one can pay "Twilight Zone" is to recognize
the lofty expectations it raised of "Night Gallery." It
is impossible to address the latter without comparing it
to creator Rod Serling's prior, seminal anthology series.
"Night Gallery" has its devoted adherents and it did present
some genuinely affecting episodes. Most could be described
as "psychological horror," that post-Lewton, post-Hitchcock
euphemism employed to describe horror without monsters or
blood. But the best of the episodes aspire to be "Twilight
Zone"-ish thought-provokers, character studies, examinations
of flawed and often doomed personalities. Serling himself
admitted little affection for "Night Gallery," citing his
participation as a mistake. Even so, he wrote or adapted
a handful of memorable teleplays for this first season,
one of which, "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar," was
Emmy nominated as Outstanding Single Program, Drama or Comedy,
of the 1970-71 season. The episode stars William Windom
as a washed up salesman confronting ghost-like figures from
the "good old days." Serling indulged his oft-cited nostalgic
side and delivered a first-rate script.
Many of the "Gallery" episodes, like "Thriller" before
it, were adaptations of magazine stories by such authors
as Davis Grubb, Algernon Blackwood, A.E. van Vogt, August
Derleth and H.P. Lovecraft. Some were exercises in neo-Gothic
horror. For instance, the pilot episode includes "The Cemetery,"
featuring Roddy McDowall as the greedy, scheming nephew
of George Macready. Following Macready's death, McDowall
finds himself at odds with the deceased's longtime butler,
played by Ossie Davis. McDowall is driven to his wit's end
by a painting of the family burial plot that seems to change
as Macready's vengeful spirit approaches the mansion now
occupied by McDowall. And -- beware: spoiler of sorts --
there are TWO twist endings. The segment, though well-executed,
is about 10 minutes too long. But duration isn't its most
obvious fault -- COLOR is. The story would have so much
more effective had it been filmed is glorious, shadowy,
atmospheric black and white. The same can be said of most
of the "Gallery" episodes. The black-and-white era was past,
and advertisers and public alike demanded color programming,
but color nonetheless does the stories a disservice.
Also memorable, for different reasons is "Eyes," starring
Joan Crawford as a wealthy, blind dowager who blackmails
a pioneering surgeon (Barry Sullivan) into performing an
experimental eye transplant, even though it will allow her
to see only for a few moments. Tom Bosley plays a nebbish
with a gambling debt who sells his eyes to Crawford. Serling's
script is eloquent, as might be expected, but Joan Crawford
is, well, Joan Crawford near the end of her career, thundering
every line, relishing every insinuation. The episode also
marks one of the first efforts of Steven Spielberg, and
he directs as though it was to be his last! Every gimmick,
every "New Wave" film school trick is crammed into the episode
-- POV shots, slo-mo, and the jarring jump-cuts that he
managed to tame and employ to better effect in later films.
Richard Kiley and Sam Jaffe also appear in the pilot,
and subsequent episodes featured such established players
as Burgess Meredith, Louis Hayward, Agnes Moorehead, Raymond
Massey, Ray Milland, Leslie Nielsen, Vincent Price, John
Carradine, Gale Sondergaard, Edward G. Robinson, Elsa Lanchester,
Cameron Mitchell, Kim Hunter and Julie Adams. This is, I
believe, why "Night Gallery," its sometimes shaky scripts
notwithstanding, should be celebrated. It was a prime-time
showcase for veteran actors, offering respectable employment
to many in the twilight of their careers.
ROLLS IN HIS GRAVE
What's this? A non-horror documentary is fodder for the
B Monster's punditry? Look, just because it can't be labeled
"horror" doesn't mean it isn't "horrifying." And it does
base its arguments on one of the famed prognostications
of science-fiction/futuristic literature. But before we
get into it. ... There is no way to address this film without
pushing someone's political panic buttons, so spare me the
partisan diatribe -- and I don't care if it comes from the
left OR the right. The film's greater message -- that a
few conglomerates have a virtual stranglehold on the media
-- should not be obscured by partisanism. I don't care if
you're the last of the Haight-Ashbury hippies or a button-down
banker. A soccer mom or a tree-hugger. Hawk, Dove, Republican,
Democrat, Communist or Whig. The fact that a handful of
very wealthy men dispense ALL of the news and entertainment
you see and hear should frighten you. Also frightening is
the fact that this probably doesn't come as a complete surprise
to you; that you've likely resigned yourself to the situation.
But, if I might paraphrase what the man once said, "the
devil is in the details."
The film is largely talking heads and ominous music, and
was obviously made on a shoestring by director Robert Kane
Pappas. But many of its arguments are compelling, and conveyed
with heartfelt conviction. And there is no single personality
narrating the movie, characterizing the events and contributing
intrusive, "stand-up"-style sarcasm a la Michael Moore.
Among those filmed discoursing on the subject of centralization
are the BBC's Greg Palast, New York University Professor
Mark Crispin Miller, author Danny Schechter and, of course,
Michael Moore (by the way, don't some of those huge conglomerates
the film assails publish the books that made Moore rich
and famous?). Many reviewers have pointed to the film as
a liberal polemic, but this does a disservice to the greater
theme: that the media is complicit in a quid pro quo that
accrues more power to itself and the federal government.
Ably demonstrating that the topic should be a nonpartisan
one is Bernie Sanders, an Independent congressman from Vermont,
who is probably the film's most insightful and passionate
"Orwell Rolls In His Grave" is most persuasive when it
shifts its focus from partisan politics, and turns the bright
light on the complicity of the media. The coercion, corruption
and spinelessness the film alleges is its most compelling
element. The film chronicles partisan politics, to be sure,
but it is more precisely about power and money. And the
media doesn't seem to care which sides prevails, they just
want to be on the side that does. (To make it even more
personal for you; who do you think controls the rights to
all of those classic and obscure films we've been waiting
so long to see on DVD?) Watch the film. Make up your own
mind ... before Big Brother robs you of the opportunity.
MUNSTERS: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
B Monster buddy David Colton, an editor at USA Today and
the organizer of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards
(now accepting nominations for 2004: http://www.rondoaward.com),
contributes the following:
Talk about a Munster Bash! There hasn't been this much
activity at 1313 Mockingbird Lane since pretty Marilyn brought
home her boyfriend to meet Uncle Herman.
First came "The Munsters'" high-rated revival on cable's
TV Land, turning on a new generation to suburbia's most
distinctive neighbors. (Would there have been the Coneheads,
or even a "Third Rock," without "The Munsters" of 1964?)
Then what looked to be a Munster Summer went bust: A smart
two-disc DVD documentary from Image, "The Munsters: America's
First Family of Fright," was to come out the very same day
as Universal's long-anticipated three-disc set, "The Munsters:
The Complete First Season."
But wait. Faster than Grandpa could whip up a Transylvanian
love potion, the Image documentary disappeared -- pulled
from release over what Universal acknowledges are "rights
issues concerning the property." Fans fumed.
And last month, as summer waned and the Image documentary
faded into obscurity, the Wayans Brothers announced they
would revive the Munster franchise in a "Scary Movie"-era
revamp. Now fans shuddered. So where does this leave Munster
Kids? With plenty, truth be told, even if some Munsteribilia
remains on the castle shelf.
First off, the aborted Image discs. Only reviewers got
a chance to see the fan-friendly Image package, which included
three versions of the 15-minute "My Fair Munster" pilot
(color and black-and-white), a documentary featuring recollections
from everyone in the cast except the late Fred Gwynne, three
A&E biographies, ephemera such as "The Munsters at Sea
World," CBS promos with Buddy Ebsen and even a strange segment
Cover art was ready, press releases and demos sent out
and buzz was high before the two-disc set, lovingly compiled
by filmmaker Kevin Burns, was scrapped, two weeks before
the August 24 release date. Universal Home Video addressed
the matter just before the B Monster's press time, acknowledging
that the rights issues are complex, but that the future
of the Image documentary material remains in negotiations.
"Once Universal Home Video, Image and Foxstar can reasonably
determine that all rights holders' interests can be properly
observed, available content can be released," Universal
said in a statement to USA Today. A spokeswoman would not
comment on speculation in fan circles that some of the Burns
material could end up on a future Season Two DVD.
For now, though, Universal says the authorized "The Munsters:
The Complete First Season" set is "flying off the shelves,"
and well it should. Viewed in these crisp and pristine transfers,
the first season's 38 episodes are revelatory, proving to
even the crabbiest monster purist that no matter how zany
the series became, "The Munsters" was a worthy descendant
of the classic Universal canon. Whether Fred Gwynne's lovable
hulk of a monstrosity, Herman Munster, Yvonne DeCarlo's
white-faced homemaker, Lily, Al Lewis' too-mischievous-to-stay-dead
Grandpa or Butch Patrick as the Beav--, er, Wolf Boy, the
Munster clan would be as at home in Vasaria as in the Cleaver's
backlot, where indeed it was filmed.
Early episodes, particularly "A Walk on the Mild Side,"
when Herman sleepwalks through town, or "Pike's Pique,"
when Herman awakes from his laboratory table and looks into
the window of a neighbor's Thanksgiving dinner, "Ghost of
Frankenstein"-style, have actual chills, even if the laughs
Shadows are long in these pre-farce offerings. Faces are
creepy, the electrical machines in Grandpa's basement offer
the same crackles as any Frankenstein sequel, and B-movie
guest stars abound, John Carradine and John Fiedler among
them. In "Rock-a-Bye Munster," featuring Paul Lynde, the
writers mention in a throwaway line a whimsical "Batman
TV show,'" a joke that would come back to haunt, and help
doom the series. Indeed, ABC's "Batman" franchise in 1966
stole "The Munsters'" young audience, and Herman and kin
were cancelled after only two seasons.
Perhaps the show would have been doomed anyway. The sight-gags
wore thin and the writers put the Munsters into increasingly
far-fetched situations, especially in the second season
(not included here). It's eye-opening to realize there was
a new "Munsters" episode for 38 of the 52 weeks in 1964-65.
In comparison, "Friends'" last season offered only 14! The
Universal packaging is snug, the menu fun and each episode
has a plot summary and occasional cast notes. The 38 episodes
are presented on three double-sided discs. Beyond the brief
pilot, there are no extras.
The pilot episode, included here for the first time, offers
two cast oddities: Herman's wife is played by Joan Marshall
in a Morticia-style vampire manner, before being replaced
by a more fussbudget DeCarlo. And little Eddie is played
for this brief first episode by David "Happy" Derman, who
clearly would have been a far more feral Wolf Boy than the
benign Butch Patrick.
The Munster clan is usually dismissed by fans of the hipper
and more beatnik "Addams Family", which also debuted on
ABC in September 1964 in one of television's more bizarre
sitcom battles. But these "Munsters," viewed today, have
a sly wink as well, and play perfectly 40 years later. Children,
it appears certain, will always love the Harvard-educated,
6'5" Fred Gwynne, especially his wheezing laugh and innocent
smile. As Beverley Owen's Marilyn tells her boyfriend about
the family, in the very first scene, "Oh don't worry about
them. They're always up all night."
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 http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
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
"Creeping horror from the depths of time and space" --
Invasion of the Saucer-Men