Let's reflect on the soggy summer of 2001. Record temperatures
baked The States, and newscasters thumbed their thesaurus'
ragged looking for heat adjectives ("sweltohumoriffic" is
our favorite). Perhaps you spent it in a theater. Maybe
you blew 10 hard-earned bucks on that plotless monkey movie,
or that phoned-in dino flick? (Admittedly, it is a kick
to see those plastic Happy Meal figurines come to life on
the big screen.) The B Monster offers his hydrated hopes
that you managed to wring a bit of fun from the simmering
season. In any case, as the last summer sounds of sweaty
flesh peeling from Naugahyde fade into memory, enjoy the
ensuing encomiums and pontific opining.
Actor Walter Reed, who starred in a pair of memorable movie
serials and appeared in dozens of B movies and television
programs, is dead at 84. The cause of death was not immediately
known. The son of an Army officer, Reed was born in Washington
and grew up in Honolulu and Los Angeles, where he attended
school with the children of movie stars. At 17, he decided
to pursue an acting career. He hitched his way to New York
and found work in stock and on Broadway. With an assist
from actor Joel McCrea, he broke into films in the early
Reed played small roles in such films as "Mexican Spitfire's
Elephant," "Seven Days' Leave," "Army Surgeon" and "Bombardier."
In 1951, he appeared opposite his friend George Reeves in
"Superman and the Mole Men," the feature film that helped
launch "The Adventures of Superman" teleseries. Reed may
be best known to cult-film fans for the action-packed Republic
serials "Flying Disc Man From Mars" and "Government Agents
vs Phantom Legion." Throughout the 1950s, Reed appeared
in numerous "B" pictures encompassing nearly every genre.
His television work included episodes of "The Lone Ranger,"
"Gunsmoke," "Dragnet," "77 Sunset Strip" and many others.
In 1960, he appeared in the voodoo cheapie, "Macumba Love,"
opposite Ziva Rodann and sexpot June Wilkinson. The low-budget
oddity, directed by actor Douglas Fowley, was a surprise
success at the box office. Reed retired from screen acting
in 1969. July 14, 2001, was declared "Walter Reed Day" by
the mayor of Santa Monica, Calif. Reed put his handprints,
footprints and signature in cement and received the key
to the city.
Science fiction author Poul Anderson died of cancer at his
home in Orinda, Calif. He was 74. Anderson was a past president
of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who
named him a grandmaster in 1997. Over the course of his
career, he won three Nebula and seven Hugo awards and was
inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
His first story was published in 1947 while he was attending
the University of Minnesota. He moved to California's Bay
area in 1953. In remembering her husband, Karen Anderson
said the author's stories "showed the importance of honor
and courage, the wonder of the universe and knowing about
it through science." Among Anderson's best-known works were
epic novels such as "The Boat of a Million Years" and "Three
Hearts and Three Lions."
Character actor and director Alex Nicol is dead at 85. The
cause of death was not immediately known. Nicol appeared
in dozens of B movies, spaghetti westerns and television
programs. Cult-film enthusiasts will remember Nicol as the
director of the 1958 exploitation shocker "The Screaming
Skull," in which he also appeared as a leering groundskeeper.
The film co-starred John Hudson and Peggy Webber. Nicol
also appeared in such "A" productions as "Tomahawk," "Red
Ball Express," and "Strategic Air Command" with James Stewart.
His television work included episodes of "The Twilight Zone"
and "The Outer Limits." He later directed episodes of "The
Wild, Wild West" and "Daniel Boone," as well as a handful
of low-budget features including two Tarzan adventures starring
Ron Ely as the ape man.
THE B MOVIE MONTH IN REVIEW
THE CELEBRATED MR. BURNS
As we announced last time, the Bob Burns-Tom Weaver profile
of makeup legend Charles Gemora will be included in the
upcoming volume of "The Best American Movie Writing." According
to director John Landis, the book's debut will be heralded
by ceremonies at the brand new Los Angeles Public Library.
Landis, who'll headline a panel comprised of fellow directors,
has asked Burns to share the dais. In addition, the recent
DVD release of Landis' fright-film parody, "Schlock," features
an audio commentary by the director and makeup maven Rick
Baker, who makes prominent mention of Bob. Considering his
contributions to horror-movie history, Burns has earned
these public "thank yous," and then some.
THIS MAN HAS ISSUES
Depending on your point of view, David Sechrest is either
tirelessly devoted or totally insane. If you've an abiding
affection for the monster mags of the 1950s and 60s, you've
gotta admire this collector's dedication. If you're a hardcore
fright-film fanatic with a mania for nailing down dates
and places, you should thank your lucky stars for his compulsion.
Sechrest has compiled the exhaustive "Index To Imagi-Movie
Magazines, Volume I: The Warren Years." The title may mislead:
It isn't just one index. He's cataloged EVERY issue of "Famous
Monsters," "Monster World," "Spacemen," The FM Yearbooks
and Warren paperbacks. That means you can search EVERY issue
by film title, subject -- even most of the letters to the
editor! (And before you even ask, yes, scads of the original
Captain Company ads are part of the package.) For instance,
are you looking for info on "The Amazing Colossal Man?"
Here's what you'll find:
Amazing Colossal Man, The (1957) - FM1, p.42. FM18, pgs.28-33.
FM107, pgs. 30, 32, 35. FM182, p. 24. 1964 YRBK, p. 46 (reprint
from FM1). 1969 YRBK, pgs. 58-65 (reprint from FM18). The
Best From Famous Monsters Of Filmland, pgs. 138, 140 (reprint
from FM1). Famous Monsters Of Filmland Strike Back, pgs.
44-57 (reprint from FM18)
This zealous chronicler set about his work with the collector
in mind, and every title and subject to appear in the pages
of the aforementioned 'zines gets the same treatment as
the "Colossal" listing above. "The index was a major undertaking,"
says Sechrest. "The concept behind the index is to enable
the collector, or researcher to locate specific information
quickly, as well as protecting those highly collectible
issues. Want to read an article in FM5, but worry about
handling it? Simply look up the article here, see if it
was reprinted in a later issue, and grab that one, leaving
your original bagged. Not sure what the title of the article
was? Do a "Find" or "Find again" with your Acrobat reader
and locate it that way." The information is available on
disk, in PDF format, compiled using Windows 98. Sechrest
points out that, "If you are using a MAC, I believe these
files will open, since they are written in PDF format."
The price is $14.95, and you can find out more by visiting:
http://www.angelfire.com/zine2/monsterindex/ Tell 'em the
B Monster sent you!
THE "TIME" TEAM
"Time Machine" director Simon Wells (descended from H.G.
himself), says he surrendered the director's chair to Gore
Verbinski just weeks before principal photography concluded.
Wells, who cited "massive exhaustion" as the reason for
stepping aside, says he's grateful to Verbinski for his
contributions to the final film. Verbinski for his part
says that Wells had already done all the heavy lifting and
that he was happy to help pull the pieces together. Fans
of the classic George Pal version might be interested to
know that, according to effects ace Stan Winston, the evil,
subterranean Moorlocks will be realized, not just through
computer animation, but a combination of CGI and actors
in good, old-fashioned rubber suits.
IS WAL-MART MIFFED?
Here's a real shocker: They're already planning "Jurassic
Park IV"! According to Unreel Magazine, "Amblin [Entertainment]
has confirmed that a fourth installment of the dinosaur
series is already in development." Producer Kathleen Kennedy
told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, "Steven has something
really amazing in mind for JP IV." If star Sam Neill has
his way, it WILL be amazing. According to the actor, who
appeared in JP's 1 and 3, "my thoughts for 'Jurassic Park
IV' is that we eliminate one certain aspect of American
culture that bothers me. Let the T-rex stomp on all Wal-Marts!
No one would mind the dinosaurs attacking stores that brought
the downfall of downtown America." (Sidebar: My local Wal-Mart
sells the original "Jurassic Park" for just $14.95! You
can't beat these dino-sized savings!)
FRANKENHEIMER'S 'EXORCIST FOUR-RAY'
And speaking of "sequelitis," The Hollywood Reporter says
that John "Manchurian Candidate" Frankenheimer will direct
a fourth "Exorcist" flick forthcoming from Morgan Creek
Productions. The story functions as a prequel to the previous
films, chronicling Father Merrin's initial encounter with
Lucifer in the 1940s. Shooting begins this spring. Why is
Satan still such boffo box-office? Speaking from his villa
on the French Riviera, Lucifer offered no explanation, but
said he was "truly touched" by the public's ongoing interest
in his career. The reclusive star, who's been romantically
linked with Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts and Bea Arthur,
has turned down his salary for the upcoming film in lieu
of a percentage of the gross and the producer's souls.
A forthcoming remake of "Dawn of the Dead," the sequel to
George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," is the latest
evidence of Hollywood's stubborn commitment to unoriginality.
According to Variety, screenwriter James Gunn is already
working on a screenplay overhauling the Romero-produced,
Tom Savini-directed sequel to Romero's original shocker,
which has itself already been remade. (Confused?) Are the
imaginations of filmmakers really so parched that they've
resorted to remaking sequels? Let us suggest a few. Why
not remake "Lethal Weapon 3"? They could call it "Lethal
Weapon 3, 2." How about "Die Hard 2, 2"? Come to think of
it, when does "Air Force One 2" come out?
MGM SENDS IN THE KLOWNS
Filmmaker Stephen Chiodo says that MGM's forthcoming DVD
release of his offbeat sci-fi homage, "Killer Klowns from
Outer Space," is "the best print ever" of the cult-favorite
that seems to enjoy perpetual life via the grainier prints
that run on cable stations so often. The letterbox release
features loads of never-before-seen, behind-the-scenes clips
and samples of pre-production art. As Chiodo points out,
"Despite its title, "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" is
a loving and serious homage to all the great 50's &
60's monster movies I enjoyed when I was a kid."
KASEY CARVING OUT A NICHE
Who would know more about Halloween decor than a witch's
neighbor? Kasey Rogers, known to fans the world over as
Louise Tate of "Bewitched" fame, and co-author Mark Wood
have recently completed "Halloween Crafts: Eerily Elegant
Decor." The actress (formerly known as Laura Elliott) who
appeared with Jim Arness in the Boris Petroff dinosaur flick,
"Two Lost Worlds," not to mention George Pal's "When Worlds
Collide," provides the last word on how to make your home
drop-dead gorgeous during this holiday season so close to
the B Monster's heart. (Kasey's previous tome, "The Bewitched
Cookbook: Magic in the Kitchen," likewise co-written with
Wood, is out of print, though you might try back-ordering
a copy). Look 'em up on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com
And check out Tom Weaver's extensive profile of Kasey
while you're at it: http://www.bmonster.com/extra35.html
Sobini Films has conscripted Mark Amin to write a screenplay
for their upcoming film, "Johnny Frankenstein." The contemporary
take on the "Frankenstein" tale involves a suicidal loser
obsessed with making his body perfect. Is Johnny any relation
to Fred Olen Ray's "Billy Frankenstein?"
"SPACE STATION" STARS THE REEL DEAL
Post-production work is nearly complete on "Space Station,"
the first IMAX 3-D space film. The movie, chronicling the
construction of the international space station, was shot
by REAL astronauts and cosmonauts trained as filmmakers
... lights, cameras, sound, the works! It should be interesting
to see how the real deal stacks up against the recent crop
of plodding space operas ("Red Planet," "Mission to Mars,"
"Supernova") larded, as they are, with handsome special
effects. The film is scheduled for a spring 2002 release.
SILVER TO FILMMAKERS: UP YOUR ACTION
Producer Joel Silver, best known for "The Matrix" and having
complete contempt for the public's intelligence, recently
told USA Today that filmmakers today must inject more action
into their films. "Wait till you see what we're doing,"
Silver said. "Think of a car chase inside the Matrix. It's
beyond anything you could ever imagine." No kiddin,' he
really said that.
THE FIGHTING IS SO VICIOUS BECAUSE THE STAKES ARE SO LOW
First, director Kevin "Dogma" Smith accused director Tim
Burton of stealing the ending for his "Planet of the Apes"
remake from one of Smith's "Jay and Silent Bob" comic books.
For the tragically unhip among you, Smith appears as the
Silent Bob character in some of own films. (The Gen-X equivalent
of the Hitchcock cameo?). In response, Burton told the New
York Post that he had "not seen the image." The director
of "Batman" AND "Batman Returns" added, "anybody that knows
me knows I do not read comic books, and I especially wouldn't
read anything that was created by Kevin Smith." Ouch! This
drove Smith into full retreat, and he soon posted a qualified
retraction on his Website. "I do not think the 'Planet of
the Apes' ending was stolen from the 'Jay and Silent Bob'
miniseries ... nor am I thinking about taking anyone to
court." Smith maintains that his accusation was a "jokey"
reference he made to a friend at The Post, adding that it
seemed "to have been taken seriously by a slew of other
news outlets." Smith's contrite tone then rapidly evaporated.
"Doesn't anybody pick up a phone to confirm sh-t anymore,
rather than just poaching a piece out of another paper?
Yes, I worked on a 'Superman Lives' script that [Burton]
sh-t-canned when he got the gig helming it. Yes, I've told
a very long-winded story about the saga of Superman at college
gigs, comic book conventions, the [Howard] Stern show and
on Conan O'Brien (only when asked about it, though). Yes,
I've signed many a bootleg copy of my 'Superman Lives' script
'F-ck Tim Burton' (with tongue firmly planted in cheek)."
The B Monster is not taking sides. We're fans of both these
great talents, and we expect big things from them once they've
finished Junior High School.
AIN'T IT DULL?
Harry Knowles of "The Ain't It Cool News" Website has condemned
cyber-columnist Matt Drudge for giving away the ending of
Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes" remake. Knowles referred
to Drudge as a "royal ass" and offered to "bitch slap" him.
You fools! Don't you see? That's exactly what the apes want
-- dissension among Earth's power elite! They'll foment
hostility and sweep into power. Do you want to live in an
ape-dominated society ruled by simians who don't sanction
your negative rantings with overnight celebrity
NEW ON DVD
MONSTERS CRASH THE PAJAMA PARTY: SPOOK SHOW SPECTACULAR:
SPECIAL EDITION (2001)
Whew! How's THAT for a title? (We'll refer to it hereafter
as MCTPPSSSSE2K1.) David L. Hewitt producer, director, writer,
actor, special effects maven, gorilla suit model (and probably
butcher, baker and candlestick maker in his spare time)
has to be one of the most resilient, courageous if not outright
crazy filmmakers in history. With nary a dime to his name,
he nonetheless managed to churn out "Wizard of Mars," "Journey
to the Center of Time," "The Mighty Gorga" and lots more.
None of them were very good, but my money says history will
be kinder to Hewitt than, say, Joel Schumacher. Early in
his career, Hewitt and a gang of friends slapped together
"Pajama Party," a mercifully short, affectionate nod to
the waning live theater spook shows of the 1940s and 50s.
(Ex-stage show illusionist Hewitt originally planned the
film as a feature, but when edited, it ran just 33 minutes.)
The paper-thin premise (teens spending the night in a spooky
house inhabited by a mad scientist) is just an excuse for
Hewitt and his pals to halt the film at its climax, douse
the lights, don scary masks and run screaming into the live
audience. All in good fun with Hewitt and company doing
double duty in front of and behind the camera. The MCTPPSSSSE2K1
DVD bonuses include several short subjects, including the
3D "Asylum of the Insane" (3-D glasses included), Spook
Show previews and lessons in "How to Put on Your Own Spook
And for some reason, Bert I. Gordon's "messterpiece,"
"Tormented" is tacked onto the playbill. Richard Carlson
stars as the pianist in titular torment, his ex having been
tossed from the top of a subsequently haunted lighthouse.
It's pretty silly, slow-going stuff featuring some of Bert
and Flora Gordon's least ambitious effects, including the
crude floating head that continually interrupts Carlson's
BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA
Let's be clear on this, we LOVE producer Herman Cohen. The
man behind "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," "I Was a Teenage
Frankenstein," "Target Earth" and so many others is one
of the most unsung of some very singable movie heroes. That
having been said, I'll make it equally clear that Cohen's
"Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla" is torturous viewing.
(It did come forgivably early in the young producer's career.)
It's fascinating in that automobile-accident kinda way.
Poor Bela should have known better and probably did but,
alas, needed the money. The much-maligned director William
Beaudine is saddled with Martin and Lewis impersonators
Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo. Petrillo (an interview
with whom is part of this DVD package) is shrill, offensive
and annoying throughout -- and he's STILL funnier than Jerry
Lewis. And Duke Mitchell is -- well, let's just say he's
not Dean Martin and let it go at that.
STRANGE ILLUSION: EDGAR G. ULMER COLLECTION #5
The packaging refers to this 1945 pot-boiler as "A Poverty
Row suspense classic as only Ulmer made 'em." Whether or
not the label "classic" is too liberally applied is an issue
we'll leave to others to argue. The important thing is that
fans of Ulmer can at last SEE the movie. The average film
buff knows Ulmer primarily for three films: "The Black Cat,"
"Detour" and "Man From Planet X," each a "classic" of sorts
in its own right. But he was an incredibly prolific filmmaker.
Sadly, much of his work is lost to obscurity, and tracking
down his forgotten titles has proved an arduous task even
for "well-connected" film archivists. Judge for yourself
whether "Strange Illusion" is a classic or not, but appreciate
the fact that you can see it. (And let me know if you run
across a copy of "Yankl der Shmid.")
CORPSE GRINDERS: SPECIAL EDITION
Just how special can something called "Corpse Grinders"
be? Ted V. Mikels, the auteur behind the grinding has his
adherents, and even his detractors must appreciate his talent
for fashioning exploitable, eye-catching titles: "The Doll
Squad," "Blood Orgy of the She Devils," "10 Violent Women"
-- pretty much what you'd expect from a guy who lives in
a castle with a harem of babes. (Yes, he really does.) The
title says it all. The eponymous cadavers end up as cat
food, and felines everywhere take a fancy to human flesh.
The "Special Edition" features a theatrical trailer, production
stills and a music video tribute by something called "Bentmen."
(You crazy kids with the loud music and the sideburns ...)
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
One technologically-advanced day in the future, we'll all
have the ability to edit feature films on our home computers.
You'll be able to take a film like "Armageddon," remove
the flatulent dialogue, corny telegraphed plot points, annoying
actors and skull-crushing ZZ Top music. What you'll end
up with will be something very much like "When Worlds Collide."
Producer George Pal's Oscar-winning effects are surely dated,
but there's a heart to the film that is not to be found
in sci-fi movies of more recent vintage. You all know the
plot -- Earth is on a collision course with a runaway heavenly
body, and scientists prepare to begin society anew on a
passing planet that just missed Earth by a whisker. There's
an underlying optimism well-realized by Pal, director Rudolph
Mate and stars Richard Derr, Barbara Rush and John Hoyt.
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON: SPECIAL EDITION
Compared with the unlucky lycanthrope in this feature, Larry
Talbot's transition from man to wolf was a breeze. Director
John Landis and makeup ace Rick Baker spare no details in
depicting just what a painful puberty werewolfism can be.
The bone-crunching, flesh-snapping, hair-sprouting metamorphosis
is sheer agony for our star, and the transition sequences
are the highlight of Landis' quasi-homage to the Universal
horrors he was reared on. Baker won a well-earned Oscar
and a Saturn Award from The Academy of Science Fiction,
Fantasy & Horror Films. The Special Edition showcases
commentary tracks by actors David Naughton and Griffin Dunne,
the theatrical trailer, cast and crew biographies and interviews
with Baker and John Landis.
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.amazon.com
Bryan Senn, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
Tom Weaver, whose books are available at http://www.mcfarlandpub.com
and at http://www.midmar.com/books.html
"See screaming young girls sucked into a labyrinth of horror
by a blood-starved ghoul from hell!" -- Beast From Haunted