Character actor Ross Elliott, known to B-movie lovers through
his roles in genre classics such as "Tarantula" and "Indestructible
Man" has died of cancer. He was 82. Often portraying a garrulous
wiseguy, be it a reporter, cop or con man, Elliott had small
but significant roles in "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,"
"Monster on the Campus" and "The Crawling Hand." While many
remember Elliott for his recurring role as Ricky Ricardo's
Hollywood agent on the "I Love Lucy" series (named, coincidentally,
Ross Elliott), he may be best known for his role as Sheriff
Abbott on "The Virginian" television series of the late
Elliott's other TV credits include episodes of "Superman,"
"Science Fiction Theatre," "One Step Beyond," "Men into
Space," "Boris Karloff's Thriller," "Twilight Zone," "Voyage
to the Bottom of the Sea," "Time Tunnel," "The Invaders,"
"Wild Wild West," "The Bionic Woman," "The Six Million Dollar
Man" and "Wonder Woman."
Brion James, the hulking character actor best known to sci-fi
fans as Leon, the homicidal replicant in "Blade Runner,"
has died of a heart attack. He was 54. James made a specialty
of portraying bloodthirsty, remorseless villains in such
films as "KISS Meets the Phantom," "Enemy Mine," "The Annihilator,"
"Steel Dawn," "Dead Man Walking," "Cherry 2000," "Mutator,"
"Nemesis," "Time Runner," "Scanner Cop," "Knight Rider 2010,"
"Future Shock," "Steel Frontier," "Cyberjack" and "The Fifth
Element." His numerous television appearances include episodes
of "Galactica 1980," "Amazing Stories," "The Hitchhiker,"
"Tales from the Crypt" and "Highlander."
Known to genre-film buffs for his portrayal of Count Dracula
in the 1972 blaxploitation film "Blacula," actor Charles
Macaulay has died at 73. William Marshall portrayed the
titular African-American vampire in the film, which has
since become something of a cult classic. Macaulay also
appeared in "The Twilight People," "The House of Seven Corpses"
and the offbeat Monkees vehicle "Head." His TV appearances
include the Star Trek episodes "The Return of the Archons"
and "Wolf in the Fold," as well as episodes of "Wild Wild
West," "Night Gallery," "Wonder Woman" and "V."
SO LONG TO SUMMER
Record-breaking temperatures have prompted the following
B Monster back-to-school special -- a not-so-fond salute
to films about heat. Most often it's the horror film that
relies heavily on the power of suggestion, convincing its
viewers that the depicted dangers are real and perhaps lurking
in the seat beside them. But startling shifts in climate
are even easier to convey to a susceptible audience, and
producers have banked on that supposition for decades. I,
for one, have been known to loosen a collar button when
a hot and thirsty cowpoke nears the end of the trail. I've
shared the same parched sensation as Humphrey Bogart's dehydrated
"Sahara" brigade. After viewing "Lawrence of Arabia," I
fashioned a makeshift burnoose from my wife's sundress --
but that's another story.
White Cargo (1942) This steamy tropical saga provided
Hedy Lamarr with a role that was much parodied and publicized
at the time. As Polynesian temptress Tondelayo, she vamps
the white colonials, setting an already turgid plantation
populace on its ear. Amid the oppressive humidity, Walter
Pidgeon and Richard Carlson fight to become "acclimatized"
whilst vying for the sultry sarong girl's affections.
White Heat (1949) The great James Cagney is clearly having
a ball chewing the scenery to shreds as psychotic killer
Cody Jarrett. The film is loaded with dynamite dialogue
("I told you not to turn that radio on. If that battery
goes dead, it'll have company.") and over-the-top scenes,
none more memorable than the "Top of the world, Ma!" climax
that finds Cagney engulfed by flames. And who can forget
Cagney employing his pistol to ventilate a car trunk so
that a captive within might get a little air?
Sahara (1943) One of Bogie's very best wartime films features
an international battalion of desert troops valiantly fighting
to survive the barren sands. Bogart is the crusty tank commander
who leads this motley brigade through the blistering heat.
The film's true highlight is his hard bargaining with the
thirsty Nazi horde that wants his precious water.
Inferno (1953) Flame-haired vixen Rhonda Fleming lures
unsuspecting husband Robert Ryan to his potential desert
doom. Stranded 100 miles from the nearest liquid, he's forced
to crawl for his life. Vivid desert sequences stand out
in this time-worn caper, originally released in 3D.
Some Like It Hot (1959) Maybe the heat connection is a
metaphoric one, but this classic comedy's sexual tensions
are steamy enough: Marilyn Monroe never looked more fetching.
The plot involving Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in drag needs
no recounting at this point, as this much-examined film
is considered by many the jewel in Billy Wilder's comic
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) You want heat? No film ever
conveyed the raw beauties and savage dangers of the desert
better than this one. Omar Sharif's description of a barren
stretch known as The Devil's Anvil proves to be an understatement,
as Peter O'Toole and company barely survive the brutal solar
assault. Massive vistas of sand and sun overwhelm the viewer
in scene after scene.
Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962) Atomic detonations knock
the Earth from its axis, sending her slowly spiraling toward
the sun. This credibly acted sci-fi feature is far more
sober and engrossing than the title lets on. Tension mounts
most believably as temperatures rise. Civil disobedience
and natural disasters ensue. Edward Judd, Janet Munro and
acerbic Leo McKern stand out.
In The Heat of the Night (1967) This one scooped up a
mantel-full of Oscars, most deservedly Rod Steiger as the
hate-filled hayseed lawman. The Southern setting provides
the titular swelter as urban detective Sidney Poitier treads
none too softly on redneck Rod's turf.
Caged Heat (1974) Jonathan Demme's directorial debut could
have emerged as a run-of-the-mill women's prison flick,
but its tongue-in-cheek tone helped it accrue its cult following.
Lensed for producer Roger Corman, it features its fair share
of lingering and lascivious shots, as well as a bizarre
turn by Euro-horror queen Barbara Steele as the wheelchair-bound
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959) A sweat-soaked Bruno
Ve Sota stands out in this sultry sci-fi saga starring Yvette
Vickers at her most tauntingly torrid. The humidity is palpable
in the tension-fraught exchanges between the two stars.
Nighttime dashes through the mossy swamp were actually filmed
in the light provided by the cast members' car headlights.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Michael F. Blake, whose books are available through Vestal
Press or at http://www.amazon.com
Harris Lentz III, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
Bob Madison, whose books are available at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"So different a bell system has been installed for the squeamish