Watch the credits. Takes notes. Get to know them. Many
have faces you're already familiar with. Supporting
players and figures behind the camera, these are just
a few of the folks who brought life to the genre films
you know and love.
1. Morris Ankrum
Oh, you've seen Morris Ankrum. He brought his stately
presence to a fistful of the most fondly recalled sci-fi
classics of the 1950s. In a host of roles as the unflappable
authority figure (general, colonel, major, mayor) leading
his people in staunching an alien assault, Ankrum brought
a flinty reliability to the B-movie landscape.
Giant From the Unknown, Beginning of the End, The Giant
Claw, Kronos, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Invaders
From Mars, Red Planet Mars, Flight to Mars, Rocketship
2. Les Baxter
He was the musical maven that brought a genuine spark
of culture to many of the classic AIP thrillers -- most
eloquently in the Roger Corman-Edgar Allan Poe productions.
Admirable for peppering his scores with unmistakable
jazz inflections, he also ignited the 1950's "tiki"
craze by composing the freak hit Quiet Village
for Martin Denny.
Black Sabbath, X-The Man With the X-Ray Eyes, Master
of the World, The Pit and the Pendulum, Panic in Year
Zero, The Raven, House of Usher, The Black Sleep, Macabre
3. Russ Bender
Another familiar authoritarian, Bender ran the gamut
of exploitation cinema. His wry delivery and deprecating
demeanor lent real humanity to roles as diverse as the
reporter, the professor, the general, the cop, or just
the guy next door. Bender was also responsible for the
screenplay of producer Alex Gordon's Voodoo Woman.
Panic in Year Zero, Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow, Hot Rod
Gang, I Bury the Living, War of the Colossal Beast,
The Amazing Colossal Man, Dragstrip Girl, Invasion of
the Saucer Men, It Conquered the World, War of the Worlds
4. Paul Birch
Poised and portly Paul Birch had more screen presence
than any 10 modern-day character actors. It was his
sonorous voice, a musical baritone by turns menacing
and reassuring, that set him apart. Had he appeared
in only Not of This Earth, we'd remember him.
The story goes that he actually took a punch at Roger
Queen of Outer Space, The 27th Day, Not of This Earth,
Day the World Ended, Beast With a Million Eyes, War
of the Worlds
5. Larry Blake
Talk about all over the map -- genre films were barely
the tip of this acting iceberg. Blake was easily one
of the hardest-working character actors in Hollywood
-- and one of the most versatile, popping up in everything
from High Noon to That Darn Cat! Familiar
to keen-eyed character watchers as a cop, reporter or
soldier, his career spanned more than four decades.
Beginning of the End, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,
The Werewolf, Creature With the Atom Brain, Teenage
Crime Wave, Rumble on the Docks
6. Marla English
We've written about Marla on many occasions, so the
B-Monster faithful are certainly familiar with
her. Most don't realize that she appeared in barely
a dozen films -- including bit parts -- and didn't want
an acting career at all. Though AIP honchos Arkoff and
Nicholson were hot to sign her to a multi-picture deal,
she desired only obscurity -- and unfortunately got
The She Creature, Voodoo Woman, Flesh and the Spur,
Runaway Daughters, A Strange Adventure, Shield For Murder
7. Sally Fraser
Equally obscure to moviegoers at large -- but no less
charming -- is Sally Fraser. Typically cast as the hero's
girlfriend, wife or sister, her sweet demeanor was seen
to good advantage in a handful of the drive-in era's
more memorable shockers.
The Spider aka
Earth vs. the Spider, Giant From the Unknown, War of
the Colossal Beast, It Conquered the World, Outlaw's
8. Richard Gordon
Brother to seminal B-movie figure Alex Gordon, Richard
is responsible for the production of more than his share
of genre-film classics. He was the driving force behind
a batch of British-based horrors -- each possessed of
an unsettling ambience -- that hold up admirably four
Island of Terror, Devil Doll, The Haunted Strangler,
First Man Into Space, Fiend Without a Face
9. Don Megowan
He might well be called the "forgotten Creature,"
having portrayed the Gill Man in the series' often castigated
entry The Creature Walks Among Us. But there
was more to Megowan's career; a mainstay of TV westerns
(Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Wagon Train), he's also
recognized as Col. Travis in Disney's Davy Crockett
series as well as the burly sheriff in The Werewolf.
Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, Creation of the Humanoids,
A Lust to Kill, The Creature Walks Among Us, The Werewolf
10. Sam Sherman
Producer Sam Sherman, at the helm of his Independent
International pictures, helped to keep exploitation
cinema alive for horror-hungry fans throughout the 1970s.
The titles of his films alone earn him an august station
in the cult-film pantheon. Dracula vs. Frankenstein
had at least seven alternate monikers (My personal favorite
is Satan's Bloody Freaks).
Blood of Ghastly Horror, Brain of Blood, Dracula vs.
Frankenstein, Five Bloody Graves, Hell's Bloody Devils,