Cult-film director Richard Cunha, who helmed such genre
classics as "Giant From the Unknown," "Frankenstein's Daughter"
and "She Demons," died following a heart ailment. He was
84. The Hawaiian-born Cunha received his film training in
the newsreel and motion picture units of the United States
Air Corps during World War II. He made his first step into
the civilian film business by making industrial films and
commercials, and then moved on to write, shoot and direct
such early TV shows as "The Adventures of Marshal O'Dell"
and "Captain Bob Steele and the Border Patrol" for Toby
Anguish Productions. Cunha and his friend Arthur A. Jacobs
then plunged into the adventurous arena of shoestring '50s
exploitation by forming Screencraft Enterprises and cranking
out the horror/sci-fi films "Giant from the Unknown" and
"She Demons." Cunha later added to his legend by directing
two more classic drive-in schlock titles, "Frankenstein's
Daughter" and "Missile to the Moon."
Within a mere three-year span, Cunha directed "Frankenstein's
Daughter" "Giant from the Unknown," "Missile to the Moon,"
"She Demons" and "The Girl in Room 13." Cunha was later
to serve as principle photographer on another workmanlike
yet enjoyable cult film outing, "Blood Lust" (1961), a low-budget,
energetic retelling of the classic "Most Dangerous Game, "
featuring Robert ("Brady Bunch") Reed and Wilton Graf as
the deranged manhunter. Following his late-'50s spurt of
creativity, Cunha moved into television commercial production
even as his feature films were beginning to haunt the late
show in syndication. He was never to direct another feature.
The mention of one of his best-known titles, "Frankenstein's
Daughter," once prompted Cunha to recall its origin for
the B Monster: "Producer Marc Frederic and I were given
the title 'Frankensteinıs Daughter' by the distributors
and told to develop a story to fit that title. We were lucky,
I guess, that they didnıt say 'Frankensteinıs Mother-in-Law.'"
Cunha also confided that he wasn't particularly a fan of
horror films when he directed his genre quickies. "I had
made some 200 half-hour films for television featuring a
cowboy singer," Cunha recalled, "and another series with
Bob Steele, the legendary Western movie hero. I spent a
season in Africa filming an adventure travel program."
Cunha pointed out that, after he began directing TV commercials,
he realized "one minute of commercial time costs more than
the cost of our feature films." Though the movies he directed
were decidedly cheap and targeted a specific exploitation
audience, in their defense, Cunha once related to the B
Monster that "no one was ever 'stuck' in our films. We were
very careful to lay out the ground rules before filming
started for both cast and crew. The crew was handpicked
and we had all worked together before and knew what to expect.
The cast pitched in and moved furniture, cleared props and
helped in every way they could to keep the company on schedule.
We made these films in six 10-hour days and had lots of
fun doing it."
Director Robert Wise, a giant in the film industry who directed
some of the most successful movies in Hollywood history,
died of heart failure at the University of California, Los
Angeles, Medical Center. He was 91. According to the Associated
Press, Wise was in good health as he celebrated his 91st
birthday just days before his death. At the time of his
passing, Wise's wife, Millicent, was attending the San Sebastian
Film Festival, which showcased a retrospective of his work.
After dropping out of college, Wise's film career got
off to an auspicious start. His brother, an accountant at
RKO Pictures, helped him land a job at the studio where
he worked as a co-editor on such classic films as "The Hunchback
of Notre Dame" and "All That Money Can Buy" aka "The Devil
and Daniel Webster." In 1941, he worked with director Orson
Welles as editor of the landmark film "Citizen Kane" and
was nominated for an Academy Award. He also edited Welles'
"The Magnificent Ambersons." Wise got his first chance at
directing when Gunther von Fritsch, who was helming "Curse
of the Cat People" for producer Val Lewton, was drafted.
Wise stepped in and completed the film. Also for Lewton,
Wise directed "The Body Snatcher," a moody and eloquent
shocker starring Boris Karloff, Henry Daniell and Bela Lugosi.
The film is widely hailed as a genre classic. Wise went
on to direct a handful of modestly budgeted, atmospheric
movies including the films noir "Born to Kill," "Mystery
in Mexico," and "Blood on the Moon," which is often described
as a film noir Western, and the gritty and unsparing boxing
drama "The Set Up."
Bigger budgets soon became available to Wise, who began
the 1950s directing such dramas as "Three Secrets" and "The
House on Telegraph Hill." In 1951, Wise chose to direct
a science fiction film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still,"
a penetrating social commentary that has since accrued classic
status. It was one of a triad of alien invasion films made
that year (the others being "The Thing From Another World"
and "The Man From Planet X") that brought distinction and
a measure of legitimacy to the genre. Wise turned out highly
regarded, profitable films throughout the 1950s, among them
"The Desert Rats," "Tribute to a Bad Man," "Somebody Up
There likes Me," "Run Silent, Run Deep" and "I Want to Live,"
all of them distinguished by crisp storytelling and unflinching
In 1961, Wise and Jerome Robbins co-directed the film
version of the Broadway smash "West Side Story," which featured
groundbreaking music by Leonard Bernstein. The film won
10 Academy Awards. Wise returned to the horror genre in
1963, directing "The Haunting," considered by many to be
among the most frightening ghost stories ever filmed. His
next film, "The Sound of Music," the movie version of the
Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, garnered five Oscars and
remained on the list of the highest grossing films in history
for many years. Wise followed this with another high-profile,
hard-hitting drama, "The Sand Pebbles." He turned again
to science fiction with the 1971 thriller "The Andromeda
Strain." Wise also directed the first of the big screen
features based on the "Star Trek" television series, "Star
Trek: The Motion Picture," in 1979.
Wise won a total of four Academy Awards, and in 1966 he
was awarded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences'
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for sustained achievement.
In 1988, he received the Directors Guild of America's highest
honor, the D.W. Griffith Award. Wise served as president
of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and
the Directors Guild of America. Addressing his versatility,
Wise once said in an interview, "I don't have a favorite
kind of film to make. I just look for the best material
I can find... I'd rather do my own thing, which has been
to choose projects that take me into all different kinds
Actor John Bromfield, who portrayed Frank Morgan in the
Western TV series "The Sheriff of Cochise" from 1956 to
1960, died of kidney failure in Palm Desert, Calif. He was
83. Bromfield may be best known to cult-movie fans for his
roles in "Revenge of the Creature" and "Curucu, Beast of
the Amazon." Born in South Bend, Ind., Bromfield was a star
athlete in college, excelling at boxing and football. Following
a hitch in the U.S. Navy, he became a commercial fisherman
in Santa Monica, Calif., before taking up acting at the
La Jolla Playhouse. His good looks and athletic build caught
Hollywood's eye and he made his screen debut in the 1948
documentary "Harpoon." The same year, he appeared as a detective
in the thriller "Sorry, Wrong Number," with Burt Lancaster
and Barbara Stanwyck. While filming "Rope of Sand" in 1948,
Bromfield married actress Corrine Calvet. The marriage lasted
five years. Parts in such films as "The Cimarron Kid," "Ring
of Fear" and "The Black Dakotas" followed. In 1955, he costarred
with John Agar and Lori Nelson in "Revenge of the Creature"
(wherein he met a grisly end at the hands of the Gill Man),
sequel to "Creature From the Black Lagoon." In 1956, he
landed the starring role in "The Sheriff of Cochise." The
series name was later changed to "U.S. Marshal," as the
format changed to allow Bromfield's character to tackle
bigger cases. Also in 1956, Bromfield costarred in the low-budget
actioner "Hot Cars," as well as director Curt Siodmak's
"Curucu, Beast of the Amazon," with Beverly Garland. Bromfield
retired from acting when "The Sheriff of Cochise" ended
its run in 1960.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
ARCHERS ROCK AGAIN!
Arch Hall Jr. and the original Archers may soon be producing
new music, the "Eegah" star and Wild Guitarist tells the
B Monster. "There is an upcoming project planned for the
former members of the original Archers in the near future,"
said Hall, "but I am not at liberty to provide any details
at this time." In April, Arch & Co. appeared at a roots
music festival held in New Orleans. "We got together at
the request of [organizer] Dr. Ike for the Ponderosa Stomp,
which was a hoot!" While details concerning the pending
Archers project are a secret, Arch did reveal that "the
name The Archers will probably be scrapped in favor of a
newer more 'edgy' name. The project will be under the direction
of former Motown producer/writer/performer Deke Richards,
my oldest friend on earth. Also contributing will likely
be the incredibly talented, Alan O'Day and the awesome Joel
Christie. However, no plans for touring are in the works
at this time. Alan is still very active in the biz and lives
in L.A. Joel still performs nightly, but is temporarily
recovering from recent back surgery. Joel lives in Pagosa
Springs, Colo. I'm in Florida dodging hurricanes flying
a corporate jet. You can see we are geographically challenged,
somewhat, but we will be getting together for the second
time in 2006."
BUZZING ABOUT "FLY II"
Film historian and prop preservationist Bob Burns will be
making an appearance at the Dark Delicacies store in Burbank
on October 4 to sign copies of the new DVD "The Fly II."
Burns provides the audio commentary for the disk, along
with effects master/director Chris Walas. Walas and composer
Chris Young will be appearing, as well. "This is the time
to have these great talents sign the DVDs that are purchased
at the store," said Burns, "plus, fans might have some of
Chris Young's fantastic music scores in their collections
that they would like to have signed. I know I sure do. Both
of the guys rarely make public appearances, so I'm really
excited that they agreed to it." According to Bob, "The
Fly II" DVD features "some really neat behind-the-scenes
footage of creating the Fly creature and effects. I'm also
going to bring some of the props and items from the film
to have on display." For more info, check out:
As always, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
Halloween '05 is practically upon us, and the season just
wouldn't be as festive without the Chiller Theatre con,
staged once more in happily haunted East Rutherford, N.J.
Kevin Clement & Co. will again roll out the blood red
carpet to the crowd of convention carousers that seems to
grow exponentially with each show. The convention, which
is part celeb meet-and-greet, part rock concert, part Egyptian
bazaar, part flat-out freak show (and we mean that in the
most affectionate sense) will include the usual costume
contests, autographing opportunities, rock bands and dealers'
rooms that seem to stretch across two counties. The guest
list is, as always, an eclectic mix of vintage film veterans
and actors who have appeared in more recent shockers. This
year's celeb attendees include:
-- An "I Dream of Jeannie" cast reunion, featuring Barbara
Eden, Larry Hagman and Bill Daily
-- A "Dark Shadows" cast reunion, featuring Nancy Barrett,
Diana Millay, Denise Nickerson, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh
Scott, David Selby and Marie Wallace
-- TV Batman Adam West
-- One-time Beatle Pete Best
-- 1953 "War of the Worlds" star Ann Robinson
-- William Schallert, TV's favorite Dad
-- Noel Neill, beloved as Lois Lane of the classic "Adventures
of Superman" series
-- "A-Team"ster Dirk Benedict
-- William Katt, aka "The Greatest American Hero," "believe
it or not ..."
-- Fred "The Hammer" Williamson
-- "Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis
-- Linda Blair, Satan's prized possession
-- Pro wrestling legends Chief Jay Strongbow, Nikolai Volkoff,
the Iron Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher
-- Noah Hathaway, featured in the original "Battlestar Galactica"
and the notorious "Troll"
-- "Lost In Space" star Mark Goddard, who deserves special
kudos for his work with children through the Head Start
program and the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
-- Claudia Wells, who played Jennifer Parker in the first
"Back to the Future" film
-- Kim Richards, perhaps best known for starring in "Escape
To Witch Mountain" and its sequel
-- Steve Dash, who, among other film credits, was stunt
double for Jason in "Friday the 13th Part 2"
-- Lydia Cornell, veteran of TV's "Too Close for Comfort"
and "Quantum Leap"
-- Tawny Moyer, who appeared in "Halloween II" and "The
Sorority House Murders," among others
-- Nikita Brenikov, manager of professional wrestlers, including
the legendary Iron Sheik
And what kind of show would it be without late-night horror
hosting legend and Chiller Theatre mascot Zacherley?
It happens October 28-30 at the Sheraton Meadowlands in
East Rutherford, N.J. For more info, check out:
Without hesitation, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
"New Orleans getting drowned is on historical par with the
sinking of Atlantis," says B Monster pal and big-hearted
spook show host Will "The Thrill" Viharo, who has helped
organize a San Francisco Bay Area benefit to aid those affected
by Hurricane Katrina. Co-hosted by a local fitness center
called Curves, the festivities will feature a Mardi Gras
theme and include live music, dancing, a silent auction,
Cajun cooking and a screening of "The Big Easy." "Admission
price will be $20," says Will, "with all door proceeds going
to AmeriCares for rescue and renewal efforts. Curves will
have a table set up for more donations." The event takes
place Thursday, Oct. 6 beginning at 6:00 pm at "The Thrill's"
usual haunt, The Parkway Theater. Details are still being
hammered out as of this writing. For more info, check out:
Leave no doubt the B Monster sent you!
MIDMAR DOES THEIR BIT
The folks at Midnight Marquee Press will host a charity
raffle, the proceeds of which will go toward aiding those
in the horror fan community affected by Hurricane Katrina.
"We know of two right now," say the Midmar folks, "Lynn
Naron and Gary Dorst's brother. So we thought first we'd
ask everyone to send us something for the raffle prizes.
Anything would help: a book (signed if you're a writer),
or a poster, or comic or mag, anything collectible. Then
we'll start selling raffle tickets on our website." Tickets
are expected to go for $5.00 with a special PayPal account
set up to host the transaction. "And then if any horror
film fan or relative of yours has been badly hit by the
storm," adds Midmar, "let us know and we'll add their name
to the recipients." In the past, Midnight Marquee has hosted
auctions benefiting The Salvation Army, Hero, The Arthritis
Foundation and the Cancer Research Center. Donations can
be sent to Midnight Marquee Press, 9721 Britinay Lane, Baltimore,
MD 21234. For more info, visit:
Let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
The folks promoting the New Jersey Halloween Expo don't
mince words. "It will scare the hell out of you." It says
so on their Web site, right under the sign that says, "Welcome
to New Jersey." 18 bucks buys you a weekend pass to all
events taking place at two separate locations, the Sussex
County Fairgrounds and West Patterson Park ("Two blood,
guts and gore events"). The Web site promises "over 50 costumed
actors just waiting for you. Bloodthirsty Vampires exhibits,
out of this world space alien exhibits, frightening Frankenstein
exhibits and over 100 variety of lifestyle monster movie
props" (whatever that means). There are also food and merchandise
vendors and a haunted hayride. This immersive Halloween
horror experience happens over two weekends at two different
New Jersey locations: October 20-23 and 27-31 at West Paterson;
October 20-22 and 27-29 at the County Fairgrounds. The West
Paterson locale also offers a "Children's Halloween Show"
featuring "friendly ghouls." (All the same, the Expo posts
the following disclaimer: "Parental guidance suggested.
Not for pregnant women or those with heart conditions."
For more info, visit:
By all means, let 'em know the B Monster sent you!
CONVERTS FOR FRIGHT BASH
San Francisco's historic and palatial Castro Theater will
be the scene of "Shock it To Me! Revenge of Creature Features,
a three-day filmfest hosted by TV ghouls Mr. Lobo, Doktor
Goulfinger and Ms. Monster. " 'Shock it To Me' is more than
just a film show," say promoters. The fest features "monsters
running loose in the audience, grotesque burlesque dancers,
eerie experiments, mass hypnosis, zombies, electrified seats,
rubber bats, price fixing, tire rotation and fabulous prize
giveaways! Who knows what strange and weird things will
happen?" The film lineup includes:
-- "The Creeping Unknown"
-- "The Revenge Of Frankenstein"
-- "The Vampire Lovers"
-- "Night Of The Living Dead"
-- "The Horror Of Party Beach"
-- "Nightmare In Blood"
-- "The Fearless Vampire Killers"
-- "The House Of Usher"
-- "The Comedy Of Terrors"
-- "The Abominable Dr. Phibes"
-- "Curse Of The Demon"
Plus a screening of "The Haunting" with star Russ Tamblyn
appearing in person. Also appearing will be West Coast horror
hosting legends Bob Wilkins and John Stanley. It happens
Oct. 28-30. For more info, check out any or all of the following.
And make it clear the B Monster sent you!
CONVERGE ON CORAL SPRINGS
The Third Annual Screamfest Horror Festival is billed as
"the largest horror event in Florida," and they back up
the claim with a guest list exceeding 40 celebs. Staged
Oct. 14-16 at the Marriott Coral Springs Hotel & Convention
Center, the show, produced by the Spooky Empire organization,
promises "three days of monsters, music and Mayhem!" Special
attractions include live bands, independent film screenings,
makeup workshops and The Great Orbux Circus Stunt Show,
an old-fashioned sideshow starring -- who else -- The Great
Orbux! Prominent among the celebrity attendees are:
-- Linda Blair, who apparently is yet to be completely
-- Corey Feldman of "Lost Boys" fame
-- Betsy Palmer of "Friday the 13th" and "I've Got a Secret"
-- Lisa Loring, Wednesday of TV's original "Addams Family"
-- Makeup maven Tom Savini
-- Ricou Browning, who did all of the swimming for the original
"Creature From the Black Lagoon"
-- The "Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis
-- "Famous Monsters" cover artist Basil Gogos
-- Florida's own cult-filmmaker William Grefe
Plus various and sundry veterans of "Night of the Living
Dead," "Dawn of the Dead, "Nightmare on Elm Street" and
other slash and gore films of more recent vintage.
To find out more, drop by:
Why not let 'em know the B Monster sent you?
And speaking of William Grefe (and in case you're skimming,
we were), the maverick producer/director has a classy new
Web site that merits the perusal of any died-in-the-wool
B-movie buff. Grefe is best known to cult-film fans for
such budget-strapped 1960s shockers as "Death Curse of Tartu,"
and "Sting of Death," not to mention the "troubled youth"
classics "The Wild Rebels" and "The Hooked Generation."
In the 1970s, Grefe turned out "Alligator Alley," "Impulse"
and "Jaws of Death." In the 1980s, he produced "Cease Fire"
(starring Don Johnson) and "Master Blaster." He continued
to work in films through the 1990s. The official William
Grefe site features a filmography, a brief but informative
bio, a selection of press accolades (Entertainment Revue
once called Grefe "the man who IS Florida film") and a listing
of awards accrued over the years. And you can e-mail the
man himself. Check out:
And be sure to tell Bill the B Monster sent you!
TV CON A CHANNEL FOR CHARITY
The 12th annual Cult TV Festival is also happening in the
UK. The Renaissance Solihull Hotel, Birmingham, to be precise.
"Take Control Of Your Telly!" is the catchphrase of this
esoteric confab, which offers a 73-hour celebration of beloved
and obscure television programs and personalities. "Celebrating
cult fictional television, old and new, from a multitude
of genres," say promoters, "the Cult TV Festival may on
the surface look similar to numerous media conventions staged
around the country, but we are about far more than just
autographs and merchandise dealers. The experience is all
about finding out more about the various TV series that
endure, the shows that people love to see again, and discovering
new television treats that to some are previously unheard
of." The B Monster applauds this organization for their
charitable intentions. Organized and staffed entirely by
volunteers, over the past 11 years this show has raised
money for various causes. This year's program, benefiting
UNICEF, will again present a diverse mix of celebrity guests
-- Prentis Hancock of "Space:1999," "Doctor Who" and "The
-- Jean-Pierre Dorléac, costume designer for "Quantum
Leap," "Buck Rogers," "Battlestar Galactica"
-- Peter Tork, one-fourth of The Monkees!
-- Michael Keating of "Blake's 7"
-- John Saxon, cult-film and TV mainstay and star of "Queen
of Blood" "Enter The Dragon" and much more
-- Kim Darby, costar of "True Grit: and veteran of "Star
Trek" and "The X Files"
-- Pamela Sue Martin, Nancy Drew herself!
-- Philip Madoc of "UFO" and "Doctor Who"
-- Tanya Roberts, one time "Sheena" and "Angel"
And many more.
It all happens Oct. 28-31. For more information, visit:
Why not make it clear the B Monster sent you?
CONCEPT FROM TINNEL AND SALMON
It's a terrific idea for a comic: a horror movie director
working in 1960s Britain who spends his off hours battling
"real life" occult forces. Terry Sharp is the two-fisted
filmmaker at the center of "The Faceless: A Terry Sharp
Story," published by Image Comics. Terry is the creation
of writer/director Robert Tinnell, whose "Frankenstein and
Me" is a cult favorite, and British illustrator Adrian Salmon.
Tinnell once described his concept to the B Monster as "The
Saint meets 'Curse of the Demon,'" and that description
is spot on. Set in 1962, Terry is busy directing "The Return
of Frankenstein" at Midwich Studios. When he isn't at odds
with a quarrelsome, meddling producer, or sorting out woman
trouble, he's stalked by a sinister cult employing the supernatural
to accomplish their sub rosa agenda. Terry is abetted by
a well-realized coterie of characters, the most likable
of which are the stalwart Major Harvey Clarke (movie fans,
think Finlay Currie or a pumped up C. Aubrey Smith) and
the medium Sybil. Tinnell's dialogue is crisp and colorful,
and B-movie buffs will relish the details, asides and homages
that are tossed into the mix of names and places. (Francis
Frederick, a nod to Brit director Freddie Francis and Midwich
as in "Midwich Cuckoos," source novel for the film "Village
of the Damned," etc.) Illustrator Salmon draws in a hyper-stylized
fashion, a minimalist who employs bulky black shadows to
maximum effect. He utilizes a vivid but wisely limited color
palette to compartmentalize sequences; lurid greens and
yellows, cool blues and violets against glowing red backgrounds
and intense, red figures contrasted with subdued cyan backdrops.
Some nifty extras will further endear the book to B movie
fans; there's an entry from the "upcoming book," "Sixties
Shockers: Horrors Films of the 1960s," in which real-life
film historians Mark Clark and Bryan Senn catalog "The Return
of Frankenstein," the film Terry is directing in the story.
Next up is an excerpt from an interview with "Return of
Frankenstein," costar Suzanne Morell, conducted by author
Tom Weaver at a London Pub in 1998 for "Fangoriatastique"
magazine. Finally, we get to see a sequence from "The Return
of Frankenstein," as it is being presented in a film class
by a professor who points out that Terry Sharp's films influenced
the likes of Roman Polanski and Michael Reeves -- even Woody
Allen! In summation, "The Faceless" is a treasure chest
of trivia that B-movie geeks will no doubt savor. You can
find out more by visiting:
And let 'em know without hesitation, the B Monster sent
PASSING: RANTIN' AND RAVEN
Mark Redfield, who produced, directed and starred in a well-received
2002 video adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," recently
announced that Redfield Arts' latest project, "The Death
of Poe," is in post-production. Shot on location in Baltimore,
Md., and Virginia, the film speculates upon the final days
of the famed writer who, in 1849, died in Baltimore under
somewhat mysterious circumstances as he was traveling to
New York City. Says the Redfield Arts promo, "he was discovered
... raving and incoherent, in a Baltimore gutter. For three
days he lay delirious in a hospital (renowned for bodysnatching)
and there he died. To this day, the cause of his death remains
a mystery. Mixing authentic recreations of Poe's life and
last days with terrifying imagery from his stories, 'The
Death of Poe' is a cinematic chronicle of the great writer's
final journey into madness and fear." Redfield, who stars
as Poe, directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with
Stuart Voytilla. The film is scheduled for a January 2006
premiere, with a DVD release to follow. For more info, visit:
Let 'em know up front, the B Monster sent you!
DOMAINIA 2: 50 HORROR CLASSICS!"
As pointed out last month, myriad genre films have fallen
into the public domain and any number of video companies
have repackaged and re-released them in various configurations.
In our last newsletter, we ran down the entries contained
in the "50 Sci Fi Classics" collection. We again feel bound
to provide thumbnail overviews of the films contained in
the "50 Horror Classics" package. Some are, without a doubt,
"classic," in some cases it's a judgment call, in others,
categorizing them as "classic" is a very broad and charitable
DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE
This is the archaic silent version starring John Barrymore.
It is positively antiquated and genuinely creepy.
Despite some protracted talky patches and puppet shows,
director Edgar G. Ulmer's no-budget knack for invention
is winning, as is John Carradine in the title role.
THE CORPSE VANISHES
There were umpteen films about mad doctors killing young
women in misguided efforts to restore life and beauty to
their beloved spouses. Half of them starred Bela Lugosi.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
George Romero's trendsetting cheapie about gut-guzzling
zombies. I don't think there's a video company that HASN'T
released this one.
DOOMED TO DIE
Not horror. Not "classic." It's Boris Karloff as the inscrutable
Asian sleuth, Mr. Wong.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
"Classic" without question. Lon Chaney Sr. delivers a benchmark
performance in a film filled with startling scenes and set
THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN
Hardly a classic but still great fun with Chaney Jr. as
an executed con, resurrected and bent on revenge.
THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
Another amazing and indelible performance by Chaney Sr.
in an ambitious, opulent silent classic.
It's been more than 80 years since its release, and F.W.
Murnau's Gothic silent starring Max Schreck is STILL the
best vampire movie ever made.
What the heck is this film doing here? No supernatural elements
whatsoever in Roger Corman's "female-cons-on-the-run" caper
starring Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland and "Touch" Connors.
THE WORLD GONE MAD
Again I ask: What the heck is this film doing here? A 1933
crime-drama starring Pat O'Brien.
THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Considered by many to be quintessential Corman, this story
of a talking carnivorous plant was filmed in two days (and
nights!) with no budget to speak of ... and it shows!
Director Bert I. Gordon's unconvincing stab at psychological
horror stars Richard Carlson as a pianist suffering the
THE MONSTER WALKS
Moldy "old dark house" shenanigans about a killer gorilla
stalking the dark hallways. Directed by Frank R. Strayer,
who later helmed "The Vampire Bat" and a fistful of "Blondie"
MONSTER FROM A PREHISTORIC PLANET
You may know him as "Gappa," the Japanese monster described
in advertising as "even mightier than King Kong!" My money's
Here we go again. Another murderous ape on the loose in
a spooky house. Featuring the comic stylings of The Ritz
Brothers, this one boasted a terrific tagline: "Thrills
+ laughs = entertainment!" (Wow, killer gorillas were HOT
in the '30 and '40s, weren't they?)
A SHRIEK IN THE NIGHT
Ginger Rogers and Lyle Talbot as bickering reporters out
to solve a murder. Horror? Nope. "Classic?" By no means.
I have great affection for this lurid, energetic, 1961 "Most
Dangerous Game" knock-off. Photographed by B Monster fave
THE AMAZING MR. X
More noir than horror, but an interesting cast, including
Turhan Bey, Lynn Bari and Richard Carlson, keep it lively.
LAST WOMAN ON EARTH
Betsy Jones-Moreland is the eponymous female survivor of
Roger Corman's low-budget holocaust, courted by Anthony
Carbone and Edward Wain (Robert Towne).
Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead slog through this untenably
dull 1959 filming of the Mary Roberts Rinehart chestnut.
THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
Now THIS is a "classic." Corny as all-get-out and spooky
fun from start to finish, this may just be the B Monster's
favorite William Castle film.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Vincent Price stars as the lone male to survive a plague
that's transformed the populace into zombies. A fitfully
atmospheric shocker based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend."
This low-rent 1963 psychodrama -- an early credit for Francis
Ford Coppola -- with elements presaging the rash of psycho-slasher
flicks that cropped up in the '70s and '80s.
PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES
This is one of those vintage Bs you find yourself rooting
for, what with its irresistible title and a cast that includes
Kent Taylor and Cathy Downs. Alas, the film never finds
CARNIVAL OF SOULS
Another cult favorite with many devoted advocates, and perhaps
an equal number of detractors who think it very overrated.
ATOM AGE VAMPIRE
Tacky horror Italiano about a disfigured stripper and the
quack scientist who restores her beauty by -- you guessed
it -- murdering other beautiful women and siphoning off
their essential fluids.
CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA
Roger Corman's no-budget send up of ... Roger Corman! The
stars of "Last Woman on Earth" -- Betsy Jones-Moreland,
Anthony Carbone and Edward Wain -- ham it up shamelessly.
I realize that, as a cult-movie critic, I'm supposed to
love everything Barbara Steele has ever done. Well, I don't.
I DID like "Black Sunday!"
A strange, interesting, cheap WW II propaganda horror film
featuring Lugosi (as Monsieur Colomb!) Clayton "Lone Ranger"
Moore and a nest of Japanese spies.
They actually write treatises and hold seminars in an effort
to discern which of Lugosi's Monogram cheapies is the best.
I like this one, an early effort from film noir-meister
Joseph H. Lewis.
ONE BODY TOO MANY
Cornball comedy/mystery starring Tin Man Jack Haley. Lugosi
appeared in numerous thankless roles as creepy butlers throughout
the 1940s. This is one of the least distinguished films
to feature him as a red herring.
"Classic" without question. Terminally stodgy when viewed
through a contemporary lens, but terrific entertainment
for those who view it in context. Lugosi is in top form
as zombie master Murder Legendre. Filled with ripe dialogue
and atmospheric trappings.
ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES
What do you know? Two "classics" in a row. Of course, this
is a "classic" of another stripe altogether. No one was
striving to be profound when they made this one. Still,
much of Leo Gordon's dialogue is decidedly soulful. Lusty
Yvette Vickers, sweaty Bruno Ve Sota and ... giant leeches!
What more do you want?
THE SCREAMING SKULL
Ah, it's the old "drive the newlywed bride of her mind"
routine. John Hudson and Peggy Webber are the young couple
who settle in a spooky house with a skull in every closet.
Slow and predictable.
BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS
There must be SOMETHING good I can say about this one. I'll
get back to you.
Corman had Karloff under contract, so he had Leo Gordon
and Jack Hill slap together a script. The resulting film,
featuring Jack Nicholson as an officer in the Napoleanic
era, is alternately stilted and spooky.
REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES
The Halperin brothers' 1936 follow-up to their exemplary
"White Zombie" is a just-plain-boring stinker starring a
very young Dean Jagger.
THE GIANT GILLA MONSTER
Well, it's a "classic" in MY book, featuring hot-rodding
teens, corny tunes crooned by Don Sullivan, a humongous
lizard and the drunken comic relief of Shug Fisher!
THE FATAL HOUR
Another turgid Mr. Wong mystery that doesn't belong in this
set, starring Karloff as the cagey Asian gumshoe.
DEAD MEN WALK
Unusual programmer with the great George Zucco in a dual
role as Dr. Lloyd Clayton and his twin brother, an evil
magician named Elwyn. Dwight Frye is the hunchbacked Zolarr.
THE MAD MONSTER
Zucco's back, and madder than ever, transforming his gardener,
played by Glenn Strange, into a murderous, werewolfish beast.
Director Dwain Esper's ugly, cheap, 1934 exploitation flick
about a deranged actor who murders a doctor. Esper manages
to wedge Poe's "The Black Cat" into this tedious mix.
Another indisputable "classic." Not much left to say at
this point about Fritz Lang's ambitious and influential
science fiction story. Futuristic skylines, seductive robots,
a mad doctor and legions of drones rebelling against the
THE VAMPIRE BAT
Shadowy cheapie with atmosphere to spare and a winning cast
that includes Melvyn Douglas, Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill and
This time, Karloff is the kindly, misguided doctor. He seeks
to cure polio by dressing as a gorilla and murdering people
for their spinal fluids. Why didn't Jonas Salk think of
THE MONSTER MAKER
A truly disturbing quickie starring J. Carrol Naish as a
mad medico who injects people he doesn't like with the disfiguring
THE KILLER SHREWS
James Best finds himself stranded on an island that's crawling
with wig-wearing dogs that are supposed to be giant shrews.
The drive-in companion to "Giant Gila Monster," both films
were co-produced by Ken "Festus" Curtis.
THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE
Another crazy doctor trying to restore life and beauty to
the love of his life. In this one, the doc keeps his fiancée's
severed head alive while he cruises strip joints in search
of the perfect body.
KING OF THE ZOMBIES
Dick Purcell, John Archer and Mantan Moreland crash-land
on an island where a Nazi madman is exploiting the powers
of voodoo on behalf of The Third Reich. This wasn't the
only time Mantan saved a film with his comedic talents.
NEW ON DVD
"Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Black Cat," "The Raven,"
"The Invisible Ray," "Black Friday"
The films showcased in this collection provide an interesting
horror film history lesson for the unenlightened. Lugosi
was often overshadowed by Karloff, and eventually eclipsed.
Lugosi's films, viewed chronologically, show him in gradual
decline as Karloff retained his respectability and star
power. Many theories have been advanced to the cause of
Lugosi's deterioration: The language barrier worked to Bela's
disadvantage; drug abuse took its toll; Lugosi was temperamental
and egotistic; all of the above. Whatever the reason, it's
sad to witness Lugosi's eventual relegation to thankless
roles as henchmen, butlers and mutes, a trend presaged by
the films in this set.
"Murders in the Rue Morgue," based loosely on Poe's signal
detective story, was to have been the "booster shot" film
that would sustain the career of the "Dracula" star who
had recently turned down "Frankenstein." Directed by Robert
Florey, with many fine, shadowy sequences lovingly photographed
by the great cinematographer, Karl Freund, the film is decidedly
lurid. Lugosi, as Dr. Mirakle, is in fine form. He's bent
on proving man's kinship to simians. How better to prove
this than by kidnapping prostitutes and injecting them with
ape blood? The film suffers irreparably from the clumsy
intercutting of a real-live simian's face with that of a
man in an ape suit. The effect is jarring and distracts
from the fine set design and carefully fomented atmospherics.
"The Black Cat" was the first film in which Lugosi was
paired with Universal's emerging horror superstar, Karloff.
It is a truly bizarre film. Its every aspect is calculated
to disarm the viewer. The sets can best be described as
"Deco-surreal," stylized in the extreme with twisting staircases,
streamlined bedchambers and sleek glass tubes for the preserving
of corpses. Classical themes play incessantly beneath the
dialogue like the Devil's own muzak. And both leads deliver
wonderful performances. Lugosi, as Dr. Vitus Werdegast,
one-time victim of Karloff's wartime treachery, is just
a breath away from hysteria. Karloff is commanding as Hjalmar
Poelzig, the wife-stealing Satanist who lives in an ultramodern
home built atop the ruins of a leveled fortress. Directed
with flair and economy by Edgar G. Ulmer, "The Black Cat"
is arguably the best film in this set, and easily the best
paring of the twin kings of horror.
Lugosi was again paired with Karloff in "The Raven," a
film even stranger and more hysterical than "The Black Cat."
Bela throws caution to the wind, chomping and chewing away
at the scenery as a demented neurosurgeon who is positively
obsessed with Poe, and relishes the notion of avenging the
troubled author by means of torture. The plot finds Lugosi
pressed by an influential judge into operating on the judge's
daughter, a celebrated dancer who's been brain-damaged in
a car accident. His genius restores her to health, and he
becomes convinced that she is his "Lenore," equivalent to
the "Lenore" for whom Poe poetically pined. And for anyone
who dares come between them, the penalty is ... torture!
Karloff plays an escaped con who comes to Lugosi for plastic
surgery. Lugosi promises a complete transformation, but
intentionally disfigures Karloff for purposes of blackmail.
Only Lugosi can restore his features to normalcy, and until
then, he'd better do Lugosi's bidding. It's a sick, twisted,
fun little film.
"The Invisible Ray" is prescient of the often formulaic
science fiction films of the 1950s, foretelling the dangers
of radiation and reckless experimentation by maverick scientists.
It's also notable in that it presents the first indications
of Lugosi's gradual demotion to subservience. Karloff stars
as a scientist leading an expedition to Africa in order
to study a fallen meteorite that may contain elements of
great healing power. What he discovers is Radium X. In fact,
it isn't long before Karloff is loaded with the stuff, nearly
dying from radioactive contamination. Lugosi's character,
Dr. Benet, saves Karloff's life by means of an antidote,
and is later able to restore eyesight to the blind with
controlled applications of Radium X. But Karloff discovers
that his very touch can kill. He's positively glowing with
deadly Radium X. What's more, the element has affected his
mind, turning him into a paranoid killer determined to destroy
those he sees as having robbed him of scientific glory.
Lugosi's role in "Black Friday" can best be described
as "thankless." In fact, most of Lugosi's film roles following
"Black Friday" can best be described as "thankless." He's
not only second fiddle to Karloff in this one, he's third
fiddle to Stanley Ridges in a dual role as kindly Professor
Kingsley and gangster Red Cannon. (Dual role? That makes
Bela FOURTH fiddle!) When Ridges is near death, Karloff
is able to save his life by transplanting a portion of mobster
Cannon's brain into Ridges body. In the finest B-movie tradition,
Ridges begins exhibiting the personality traits of the vengeful
gangster, sort of Jekyll and Hyde meets "Donovan's Brain"
("Donovans' Brain" author Curt Siodmak co-scripted "Black
Friday"). When Karloff learns of the money Red Cannon has
stashed away, he manipulates Ridges in an attempt to track
down the loot. Where is Lugosi as all of this is happening?
He's been sidelined in a somewhat abbreviated role as a
WAS A ZOMBIE FOR THE F.B.I.
This Midnite Movie perennial has been kicking around the
cult-film circuit for more than two decades and is only
now making its DVD debut. Director Marius Penczner's ode
to Republic serials, 1950s space creatures and "Red Scare"
docu-dramas is ambitious, to say the least. When it first
appeared in 1982, the send-up's deliberate, deadpan presentation
was undoubtedly effective. But there have been more than
20 years of 1950s film parodies and homages -- to say nothing
of the flat-out contempt for the more innocent era's naiveté
-- since its release, and this has likely inured contemporary
audiences to the film's understated humor. You might go
into the film expecting "Airplane"-style riffs on the genre's
clichés or Leslie Nielsen-esque pratfalls and puns.
What you'll find instead is an earnest attempt to replicate
the look and feel of the vintage films that inspired the
project. The actors play it straight, spouting ripe dialogue
and engaging in macho histrionics, which, 20 years ago,
were probably funny and disarming enough. It's a shame that
so many years of much broader parody intervened before a
new generation could experience this more subtle and heartfelt
The story, divided into chapters with serial-style title
graphics, is frantic stuff about a pair of space aliens
who conscript the notorious gangsters, the Brazzo brothers,
into helping them steal the secret formula for Uni-Cola,
the nation's favorite soft drink. A pair of stalwart, sardonic
G-Men (Ace Evans and Rex Armstrong) portrayed by brothers
Larry and James Raspberry, wind up in the midst of all manner
of mayhem, much of it concerning pretty Penny, the feisty
reporter who ends up a pawn in the evil scheme. Throughout,
we catch fleeting glimpses of the alien Zbeast. When he
is revealed in full, he's rendered in somewhat crude, but
nonetheless laudable, Harryhausen-like stop-motion animation.
The battle between G-men and Zbeast is no doubt intended
to evoke the confrontations with Harryhausen's Ymir depicted
in "20 Million Miles to Earth."
You're likely not familiar with anyone in the cast, as
most have no other credits beyond this low-budget pet project.
Two nifty bits of trivia worth noting: Larry Raspberry was
lead singer for the rock and roll group the Gentrys, whose
"Keep on Dancin'" was a smash hit that made it to No. 4
on the charts in 1965, and director Penczner works mostly
as a political media consultant, and contributed his skills
to the Clinton and Gore campaigns, among others.
All things considered, Penczner's parody is a success
(despite a decidedly annoying and anachronistic electronic
music score), and vintage film buffs will recognize that
he's done his homework and has genuine affection for the
movies he's sending up. He keeps the plot moving along smartly,
and the actors seem to be approaching the material with
some humility. It's as though they realize they're satirizing
conventions that genre-film fans hold dear, and so never
stoop to outright ridicule. For this we salute them.
BLOOD THIRSTY COLLECTION
"Horror of the Blood Monsters," "The Blood Drinkers," "Doctor
"Horror of the Blood Monsters," (1971) is not very good,
but it makes for a fascinating B-movie history lesson. For
instance, many of you probably think that the drive-in movie
phenomenon died abruptly at the end of the 1950s. Wrong!
And a great debt of thanks is owed producer Sam Sherman
for his attempts to pump fresh blood (play on words intended)
into the waning institution. Throughout the 1970s, Sam's
Independent International productions lit up drive-in screens
with such lurid titles as 1971's "Horror of the Blood Monsters,"
a crazy pastiche of color-tinted B&W footage culled
from a Filipino caveman film, stock shots of lizards and
men in dinosaur suits we've seen a zillion times elsewhere,
and crudely staged new scenes concocted by Sherman's most
notorious partner in crime, director Al Adamson. (Adamson
was murdered in mysterious circumstances a few years back,
but that's grist for another treatise.)
Easily the best feature of the DVD release is Sam's audio
commentary. The uninitiated might expect the recollections
of an embittered B-movie "genius" whose work was misunderstood.
Wrong again! Sam is terrific! Affable, wry and self-effacing,
sarcastic but rarely at the expense of the people behind
the scenes, he recognizes the film for what it is, a "mish-mosh"
(to use his phrase) drawn from disparate sources that all
involved hoped would turn a profit. His insights make it
worth your while to endure the film. Case in point: When
it came time to concoct a title, he sat down with pen and
paper and made a list of all the words appropriate to the
genre, deciding that the three most marketable were "monsters,"
"horror" and "blood." He scrambled the order of the words
and, voila! At one juncture, Sam realized that red, blue
and green-tinted Filipino filler, padded with endless Adamson
scenes of people walking, stopping, talking and walking
some more, didn't make for a very coherent package. At Sam's
request, Adamson rounded up family and friends and took
to the streets of L.A., where they filmed themselves as
vampires putting the bite on innocent citizens. These new
scenes were tacked onto the existing film. Apparently, the
ludicrous narration overdubbed by cult-figure Brother Theodore
was supposed to explain how footage of cave-dwelling Filipino
vampires and David Hewitt's space effects from "Wizard of
Mars" ended up in the same film. The icing on this curious
cult-movie cake is the presence of John Carradine as a pontificating
scientist, gnawing the scenery to shreds, as usual.
"The Mad Doctor of Blood Island" himself, Ronald Remy,
portrays a vampire named Marco in the 1966 cheapie "The
Blood Drinkers." Marco is a vampire who sets up shop in
the hamlet that is home to the twin sister of his beloved.
The twin is near death, and Marco wants to snatch her still-beating
heart and install it in the dormant chassis of his girlfriend.
The ingredients are all here: the superstitious townsfolk,
torch-bearing mobs, the lusting, thirsty troupe of vamps,
funeral coaches and spooky mansions. In short, an enthusiastic
effort on the part of director Gerardo DeLeon and his Filipino
film team to recreate a Euro-Gothic milieu amid a jungle
backdrop with the most meager funds. We applaud them for
this. But jarring shifts between atmospheric, tinted, black
and white footage, and full-color stock that looks too much
like it came from a South Seas travelogue, tend to undermine
credibility. Even so, if you're a vampire/Goth-film completist,
you may find it good, gory fun.
Producer Sam Sherman and director Al Adamson were still
cranking out drive-in product such as "Doctor Dracula" as
the 1980s dawned, and it's interesting to note that, while
this film is more polished than, say, "Horror of the Blood
Monsters" (it would HAVE to be), it is also far less interesting.
Adamson had matured a bit as a director, blocking scenes
more effectively (though in one poorly cropped shot, a wayward
boom mike descends into frame and lingers for several seconds),
but the film has the drab look of a shoddy TV movie that
no one seemed particularly interested in making. While there's
no commentary track accompanying its DVD release, Sherman
could have employed the same term he used to characterize
Blood Monsters: "Mish-mosh." Muddled and confusing, it's
as though two films are running at once and the audience
has no choice but to wait until they converge.
The premise is mildly intriguing. It seems that Svengali
(treated here as a real person rather than a fictional figure)
has been reincarnated, and must rely upon John Carradine's
satanic cult to supply fresh souls to sustain his longevity.
Meanwhile, Dracula himself, disguised as Dr. Gregorio, has
hung out his shingle across town. For reasons not entirely
clear, he and Svengali dislike each other intensely, and
Drac seems determined to debunk Satanism and prove that
fresh blood is the only sure prescription for everlasting
In 1980, age and sickness were visibly taking their toll
on Carradine. He seems pained and distracted throughout
the film, and his hands have been turned to claws by crippling
arthritis. (Even so, he continued to appear in films for
seven more years.) An R-rated version of "Doctor Dracula"
containing some (ahem) more explicit footage was released
as "Lucifer's Women."
HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
I'm writing this review especially for all those B Monster
readers who complain that we trash every new genre-movie
that comes along. Admittedly, we do hate 90% of them. But
we choose to praise "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for
the singular virtue it wears on its sleeve: Humor. You remember
humor, an ingredient that once was vital to genre-films;
the ingredient that George Lucas forgot to include in the
last three oh-so-solemn "Star Wars" debacles. The original
"Star Wars" had it in abundance. Sadly, since then most
sci-fi fans have "matured." Well, not the makers of "Hitchhiker's
Guide." The late Douglas Adams, upon whose radio plays and
books the film is based, managed to complete a script before
his passing, and preserved the satire and self-deprecation
that makes this film a blessed breath of fresh air in this
post-"Matrix" era. The film certainly is not perfect. Its
plot requires the transversing of galaxies and the passage
of eons, so it is by its very nature, incredible and unwieldy
and just barely coherent. But this doesn't matter. It doesn't
matter, because the film is so ambitiously loony, because
it is cleverly scripted with bright, ear-catching dialogue,
because it is broadly acted by an animated cast. The players,
including shlubby everyman Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel,
Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy and John Malkovich, seem
to be having the time of their lives. And, if you can manage
to temporarily dismiss from your mind the gloomy prognostications
of other recent sci-fi adventures, you might have a good
MONSTER, DIE!/THE DUNWICH HORROR
There's something very weird in Boris Karloff's basement.
It's the talk of the town, the curse of the countryside
and it mutates everything within a hundred yards into something
unspeakable. In "Die Monster, Die!" (1965), Nick ("The Rebel")
Adams plays a young scientist engaged to Karloff's daughter.
When the couple pay a visit to the family manse, Nick stumbles
upon the secret of the glowing meteorite in his future father-in-law's
cellar. The gruesome ingredients are all present, but the
filmmakers neglected to include "events" in the script.
Daniel Haller directed this talky "shocker" which is based
loosely on an H.P. Lovecraft story.
Now, let's see a show of hands: How many of you remember
the H.P. Lovecraft fad that flashed across the pop-culture
landscape in the late-60s? It lasted about six weeks. But
it spawned a spate of films, comic book stories, short fiction
and novels (Lovecraft fashioned the blueprint for Clive
Barker and his myriad disciples), all aping the reclusive
author's mordant tone. There are still vestiges -- references
in movies and comics to Arkham, The Necronomicon, The Old
Ones and Cthulululu or whatever. Ex-Corman art director
Daniel Haller contributed "The Dunwich Horror" (1970), one
of the better attempts to bring Lovecraft to the big screen.
Haller is aided by an able cast, featuring creepy Dean Stockwell
-- who's REALLY good at "creepy" -- as Wilbur Whateley,
the wacko who needs the Necronomicon (and, for some reason,
Sandra Dee), to open up a portal for the Old Ones to enter
our dimension. Seasoned oldsters such as Ed Begley, Lloyd
Bochner and Sam Jaffe lend authenticity to a script by Curtis
("Wonder Boys") Hanson.
SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE/VOODOO ISLAND
"The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake" (1959) is one of the
B Monster's very favorite Bs. And, yes, I know exactly how
goofy it is. It has what is arguably the single most ludicrous
twist in B-horror history -- and I'm not about to give it
away. Whatever you might think of its production values,
plotting and direction, it is perhaps the horror movie that
most resembles the blatant and bloodthirsty EC horror comics
of the '50s, involving, as it does, voodoo, shrunken heads,
decapitations, spooky crypts, a zombie henchman, a centuries-old
family curse and that all-important twisteroo. Depicted
in very broad strokes by the venerable director Ed Cahn,
it isn't hard to reimagine the film's iconic horror imagery
as it might have flowed from the pens of EC greats Graham
Ingels or Jack Davis. (Interestingly, a 1970s horror comic
cover -- "House of Mystery" #214 -- depicted a voodoo ghoul,
his hand in the foreground, a tiny face etched into the
tip of each finger, much like the skulls on the fingers
of Paul Wexler's character in this film.) An able cast of
B-film stalwarts, including Henry Daniell, Grant Richards,
Valerie French, Eduard Franz, Lumsden Hare and Frank Gerstle,
sells the hell out of the outlandish premise. Credibility?
Out the window. Fun? 70 minutes worth.
"Voodoo Island" (1957) is passable, but it won't make
anyone's "Karloff Top-10" list. In this rather sluggish
jungle shocker, Boris plays Phillip Knight, a debunker of
the supernatural conscripted to investigate the presence
of voodoo on a tropical isle being considered for commercial
development. Written by Richard Landau, whose credits include
"The Quatermass Xperiment," "Pharoah's Curse" and "Frankenstein
1970," and directed by veteran Reginald LeBorg, who helmed
"Jungle Woman," "The Mummy's Ghost," "The Black Sleep" and
about a zillion other Bs, the film just doesn't happen.
The premise is slight and the atmospherics unconvincing.
An interesting cast, including Murvyn Vye, Rhodes Reason,
Beverly Tyler and Elisha Cook Jr., try vainly to pump life
into a dull premise. This certainly wasn't the worst of
the voodoo sub-genre. (That's a debate I don't want to instigate
at this time.) You could do a lot worse. But everyone involved
had done a lot better.
OF THE DEEP/AT THE EARTH'S CORE
"War-Gods of the Deep" (1965) a Jules Vernesque outing supposedly
inspired by a passage from a Poe poem, isn't exactly sci-fi,
it isn't exactly horror, and it isn't exactly good. That's
a painful realization, given the talent involved. The imaginative
story is by Louis "Deke" Heyward, it stars peerless Vincent
Price, comely Susan Hart and handsome teen heartthrob Tab
Hunter, and it was directed by Jacques "I Walked With A
Zombie," "Curse of the Demon" Tourneur. (As it turned out,
this was Tourneur's cinematic swan song.) The elements are
all there: The creepy Cornish coast, the submerged enclave
of cutthroat pirates, a civilization of gooey gill-men.
Sadly, tedium prevails. The climax, in which hero and heroine
make good their sub-aquatic escape, is so protracted you'll
know why God invented fast-forward.
Check credibility at the door if you plan on viewing "At
the Earth's Core" (1976) with any degree of objectivity.
If you don't come to it as a 12-year-old, well, then, don't
come. Based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs tale, it's fairly
silly stuff about a squirrelly scientist, played in shamelessly
flighty fashion by Peter Cushing, and a brawny American
adventurer, played by Doug McClure, burrowing to the planet's
center in Cushing's fantastic, auger-nosed, rock-busting
tank. Reaching the core, they discover a race of cowed humans
enslaved by lizard-like birds that are gifted with a facility
for telepathic communication. Of course, it falls to Cushing
and McClure to free the subterranneans. There are lots of
cheap fireworks, floppy rubber creatures and characters
with names like Ra, Ghak, Sagoth and Hoojah. And wolfish
male viewers who make this trip will likely enjoy the eyeful
provided by Caroline Munro as Princess Dia.
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, founder and CEO of Dinoship, Inc. http://www.dinoship.com
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.dinoship.com
"No girl was safe as long as this head-hunting thing roamed
the land!" -- Night of the Blood Beast