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Forums Index -> The Shiver Shack -> Faces of Horror - Classic Horror Biographies / Filmographies
Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 5:58 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


The Svengoolie family legacy began in 1970 on WFLD T.V. in Chicago IL., when a fellow by the name of Jerry G. Bishop did voice-overs for the Friday night horror films being shown on Screaming Yellow Theater. Bishop was doing voice work for the show, and was heard but not seen. Soon the station added slides of Bishop as Svengoolie, and eventually evolved into video taped segments.

Every show would open with a guest celebrity coffin opener, who would sign his guest book and then pry his coffin open. Some of the more well known were Gabriel Kapplin (Welcome Back Kotter) and Jay North (Dennis the Menace). The show would close with Svengoolie reading some crazy poem, and then lying back into his coffin while being pelted by rubber chickens. Svens coffin evolved from a plain wooden coffin in the beginning, to a more elaborate psychedelic looking coffin that had his image ablazed upon it. The Screaming Yellow Theater theme song was the song Rumble by Link Wray, with a horrifying scream over-dub. Very creepy. This song was later used on early episodes of the Son of Svengoolie show.

Svengoolie could be seen doing parody bits such as Svengoolie Street, in which one episode he pointed out how a noose is shaped like the letter O, and then there was Mad Man Sven, a shady car salesman, The Galloping Ghoulmet, a cooking show with recipes only a true ghoul could enjoy, and of course the many products offered by his company S.T.D. ( Sham, Trickery and deceit). Sven would also break out in song, either playing his acoustic guitar, or playing his piano, and what hilarious songs they were.

Svengoolie also had some ghoulish friends! Mainly Zelda, who was a talking skull with a crazy wig and a rough screeching voice. Then there was Durwood the ventriloquist dummy "They like it, but they don't get it", who later became a part of the Son of Svengoolie cast. Zelda would sometimes do song duets with Sven ouuuuuuch!

If you are not familiar with the original Svengoolie, but are a fan of The Son of Svengoolie, then you would have loved the original too. A lot of the atmosphere, soundbites, props and song parodies seen on the "Son of" , such as BERWYN?! and the rubber chickens, originated on the original Svengoolies Screaming Yellow Theater show, whom Rich Koz ( Son of Svengoolie ) was a part of at one time.

Screaming Yellow Theater was cancelled in 1973. Kaiser Broadcasting brought in their horror host The Ghoul, but he only lasted six months. Bishop and Koz worked for WMAQ for a time, and then Bishop moved to L.A. and now owns restaurants and DJs a morning radio program. The cancelation of Screaming Yellow Theater was sad time for Chicagoland ghouls, but not for long ........ (See the Son of Svengoolie page for more on the Svengoolie legacy)

(from usersites.horrorfind.com/home/horror/svengoolie/bishop.html)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NnSN-yMNWc - Svengoolie hamming it up

and, as a bonus, here's Mr. Bishop sans Svengoolie gear:

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Sat Nov 15, 2008 6:31 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


According to Munro, her career took off in 1966 when her mother and photographer friend entered some headshots of her to Britain's The Evening News "Face of the Year" contest.

I wanted to do art. Art was my love. I went to Art School in Brighton but I was not very good at it. I just did not know what to do. I had a friend at the college who was studying photography and he needed somebody to photograph and he asked me. Unbeknownst to me, he sent the photographs to a big newspaper in London. The famous fashion photographer, David Bailey, was conducting a photo contest and my picture won.[1]

This led to modelling chores, her first job being for Vogue Magazine at the age of 17. She moved to London to pursue top modelling jobs and became a major cover girl for fashion and TV ads while there. Decorative bit parts came her way in such films as Casino Royale (1967) and Where's Jack? (1969). One of her many photo ads got her a screen test and a one-year contract at Paramount where she won the role of Richard Widmark's daughter in the comedy/western A Talent for Loving (1969).

1969 proved to be a good year for Munro, because it was then that she began a lucrative 10 year relationship with Lamb's Navy Rum. Her image was plastered all over the country, and this would eventually lead to her next big break.

1971 saw her appear alongside Vincent Price in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, playing the deceased Mrs. Victoria Regina Phibes:

The most challenging scenes involved lying in the coffin with Vincent," she reveals. "You see, I’m allergic to feathers and I was attired in this beautiful negligee — but it was covered with feathers! It took a great deal of willpower not to sneeze or sniffle. On occasion, I would simply have to sneeze and this would result in having to do another take.

She would reprise the role in the sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again in 1972. In the same year, she was referred to in Colin Blunstone's song "Caroline Goodbye", a song about the break-up of their relationship.

Hammer Films CEO Sir James Carreras spotted Munro on a Lamb’s Navy Rum poster/billboard. He asked his right hand man, James Liggett, to find and screen test her. She was immediately signed to a one-year contract. Her first film for Hammer proved to be something of a turning point in her career. It was during the making of Dracula AD 1972 that she decided from this film onward she was a full-fledged actress. Up until then, she was always considered a model who did some acting on the side.

Munro completed her contract for Hammer with Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter in 1974. Directed by Brian Clemens, she plays the barefoot gypsy girl Carla. In Paramount Pictures DVD commentary, Clemens explains that he envisioned the role as a fiery, Raquel Welch type, red-head. Hammer pushed for Munro, and the script was adapted accordingly.

Munro has the distinction of being the only actor ever signed to a long-term contract by Hammer Films. She would later turn down the lead female roles in Hammer's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and the unmade Vampirella because they required nudity.

Brian Clemens later helped her get a most memorable role, Margiana, the slave girl in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974).

I got the part — I had been signed by Hammer, for one year, for a contract, out of which I did two films, one being Dracula AD 1972, and the second one being Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter, which, kind of, would come full-circle, to Sinbad. It was written and directed by Brian Clemens, who wrote the screenplay for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, so, I was lucky enough to be chosen for Captain Kronos, and they were searching for somebody to do Sinbad, and they wanted a big name, somebody American, or well-known, but Brian said "No". He kept lobbying Charles Schneer [producer] and Ray Harryhausen — saying: 'I think you should come and look at the rushes, and see what you think, because I think she's right'. So, they said "No", but, eventually, Brian persuaded them to do that, and they saw the rushes, and that was how I got the part. So, it was lovely, like work-out-of-work. I was very lucky to have done that. [2]

Other appearances during this time included I Don't Want to Be Born (1975) with Joan Collins, and At the Earth's Core (1976) with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure.

In 1977, Munro turned down the opportunity to play villainess Ursa in Superman in favor of what would become her most celebrated film appearance, the ill-fated helicopter pilot Naomi in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me. In one of the franchise's most memorable car chase sequences, she seductively winks at Bond while trying to gun him down from her helicopter. In her role as Naomi, she holds the distinction of being the first woman ever undeniably killed by James Bond. Cubby Broccoli urged Caroline to make her way to America in search of more lucrative offers. She declined preferring to stay close to her family.

Munro continued to work in numerous British and European horror and science fiction films through the 1970s and 1980s, most notably Starcrash (1979) with David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer and Marjoe Gortner.

Munro's career continued to thrive well in the 1980s, appearing in many slasher and Eurotrash productions. Her first film shot on American soil was the William Lustig production Maniac (1980). This was soon followed by the low-budget shocker The Last Horror Film (1982), in which she was reunited with her Maniac co-star Joe Spinell. She had a cameo role in the cult classic slasher Don't Open 'Til Christmas as a singer (1984), Slaughter High (1986), Paul Naschy's Howl of the Devil (1987), and Jess Franco's Faceless (1988), followed in rapid succession. She reteamed with Starcrash director, Luigi Cozzi, for Il Gatto nero in 1989. This would be Caroline's last major film appearance.

(from wikipedia)


Having been fortunate enough to have been blessed with a father that actually spent Sunday afternoons taking me to the theatre to see some of the best Hammer Horror films as a child, I can say that some of that British studio’s work holds a very special place in my heart. And one of the Hammer heroines I especially noticed was Caroline Munro.

A few years ago while showing classic horror films in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area under the banner of SpookyFilms, I ran a double-bill of Dracula Has Risen From The Grave with Dracula AD 1972. I remembered sitting in the theatre being totally mesmerized by film star Caroline Munro when I first saw her and now, more than twenty years later, I still felt the same way watching her on the big screen again. She also was memorable in that great Arabian Nights film, The Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, with special effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen, and a Bond girl, too, in The Spy Who Loved Me.

It was with great pleasure that I finally got to meet Caroline at a Chiller Theatre convention this year. Caroline was more than friendly and our conversation eventually led not only to this interview but also the opportunity for Monster-Mania to produce some licensed collectibles for our customers and her fan club.

* * *

HORROR-WOOD: You've been a very versatile person, doing everything from being an internationally known model, a James Bond girl, the dead wife of Doctor Phibes, and a victim of Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula to working with the rock musician Gary Numan. What's currently on your agenda? Can we expect any new film roles or music from you?

CAROLINE MUNRO: Thank you. I like to try my hand at different things and yes, I did start out many years ago as a photographic model, which I enjoyed very much, and which eventually led to film roles. I did several small parts in films i.e. Hammer’s Dracula AD 19 72, and the bigger role of Carla in Captain Kronos, A Talent For Loving with the great Richard Widmark as my father, and At The Earth’s Core with Peter Cushing and Doug McClure, which led to my co-starring role with Roger Moore in 1977 in The Spy Who Loved Me. I was a very lucky girl! I then starred in several European films working with some very special directors such as Luigi Cozzi (The Black Cat, 1989), Paul Naschy (Howl of the Devil, 1987), and Jess Franco (Faceless, 1988). Working in Europe meant that I got to stay nearer to my family and home in London, which was very important to me.

My most recent film part was in an American film called Domestic Strangers with a young American director called Jeffrey Arsenault, an extremely talented and lovely young man. Watch out for his name. There are a couple of film projects that have come my way but as always, they are awaiting the financing to begin shooting. Both are English projects so I do wish them luck as it would be great to work with an English crew again.

The music still continues; maybe some more songs with Gary Wilson in the near future (Wilson Munro), which would be great, but no studio time scheduled with Gary yet. I also have some ideas myself that I’m working on which I hope come into play soon. I have an on and off affair with music but certainly love everything about it.

H-W: I know you took some time off to raise your children. Can you tell me what factored into that decision and how long you took off?

C.M.: I decided to take the time off to look after my children, Georgina (now 11) and Iona (now 7), because as a mother it is so important to be there for them. It’s also a very life changing experience having children, coupled with the all encompassing love you have for them, I just wanted to look after them myself and not have a nanny do it. I feel that it’s so important for the children in their formative years. Of course I always thought that one could still have a career after children, although the older you are the harder it is, especially for a woman. After taking so much time off it has been hard getting back to work, but it’s not a decision I would ever go back on. I absolutely did the right thing and that's all that matters.

H-W: You've actually appeared as yourself in a number of horror films. How did the part in Don't Open Till Christmas come about and what was that song that you were singing?

C.M.: My husband, George Dugdale, was working on some of the special effects for the film and they were looking for someone to fill in as an actress/singer in one of the scenes, so they asked me if I would do it, just as myself, and would I like to sing a song. I said, "Yes, please," and sang a song called "Warrior of Love," which I co-wrote.

H-W: How did you become part of the Hammer group of actors and actresses? I’ve read that Hammer contract was the result of James Carreras seeing a poster for Lamb's Navy Rum on his way into work every morning.

C.M.: I was lucky enough to be signed to a one-year contract with Hammer films after Sir James Carreras spotted me on a Lamb’s Navy Rum poster/billboard. He was on a train headed for the south coast of England and saw the Lamb’s poster and asked his right hand man, James Liggett, to find and screen test me, which they did, and that led to me working for Hammer in Dracula AD 1972 and Captain Kronos. It was truly a great experience and an honor to work for Hammer.

H-W: There’s a famous photograph of you in what appears to be a Vampirella-like costume with the thigh high black boots. I've read that you had been considered for a Hammer film called Vampirella but that you turned the part down because it required nudity. Can you shed any more light on the film and why it was never produced?

C.M.: During my time with Hammer there was talk of me starring as the lady herself, Vampirella, and there is a publicity shot I did for Hammer films with long black boots, large leather belt, and a small white, tight outfit – very vampy. They produced a script, which was all nudity and not much else, so I did decline the part. Shame about all the nudity because what a great character it would have been to play; kind of like our own Modesty Blasé.

H-W: I've also read that you turned down an offer to appear in Playboy magazine. When did this occur and can you tell me more about it?

C.M.: It is true that I turned down Playboy magazine and maybe I was a silly lady at the time--the money they offered was very good. Even my granny said, "Oh, why don’t you do it," but I chose not to for many personal reasons. I believe I made the right decision for myself.

H-W: How did your working with Gary Numan come about and what other music ventures have you engaged in?

C.M.: I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Gary "Cars" Numan. He had produced this single called "Pump Me Up" and needed a female vocalist, so he asked if I would do it. It was a very different sound ala Numan, and I believe the single did very well in Europe. I had recorded quite a bit before working with Gary, and have done quite a lot since then. When I was still at school I recorded my first single called "Tar and Cement." The backing musicians on that song included Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce of Cream as well as guitarist Steve Howe of Yes. I also had great fun appearing in two music videos: "Goody Two Shoes" with Adam Ant, and "If You Really Want To" with MeatLoaf. Both artists were wonderful to work with and I had a great time doing the videos. My most recent music projects have been with Gary Wilson and under the "Wilson Munro" name we have recorded several singles. Gary’s a very talented artist and I look forward to working with him again in the near future. I also have a few of my own music ideas that I’m currently working on but I’ll keep those hush, hush until they are actually in production.

H-W: I know that Rod Stewart and Faces were originally scheduled to appear in Dracula AD 1972 but they pulled out at the last minute. Can you tell me what happened there? Was there ever any audition film ever shot of them for the film?

C.M.: Yes, I had heard something about Rod Stewart and the Faces appearing in the film, but I really don’t know what happened. I think they did do some of the recording for the film.

H-W: I understand that Christopher Lee was more or less disenchanted with the Dracula series as it continued on. Was that evident at all to you during the filming of Dracula AD 1972?

C.M.: It was not evident at all that Christopher Lee was unhappy during the filming of Dracula AD 72, or Dracula Today as it was then called. Being the true professional that he is, he just got on with the job and, as usual, was fantastic in the part.

H-W: You've worked with a number of famous actors, including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Roger Moore, Vincent Price, etc. Have any of them left a particular impression upon you?

C.M.: They have certainly all left a lasting impression on me. As a young, upcoming actress I can’t even tell you what a thrill it was to work along side all of these greats. They were all so very different I don’t even know where to begin talking about them. But, if I had to sum them all up in a few words I would say that Peter was almost like a grandfather to me--a very honest, open and caring man, always concerned about everyone; Vincent was the master of his craft and a gentle, fascinating man to be around; Christopher Lee, another true master of the craft, was easy to work with, very open to the other actors, and what a thrill to watch him work; Roger was fun, upbeat, and very generous as an actor. What more can I say--they are every actor's dream co-stars.

H-W: Without a doubt my favorite film of yours is Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. It's sort of had a cult following and looking back, is now regarded as one of Hammer's best horror films, along with Brides Of Dracula and Vampire Circus. What are your thoughts on the film? Can you tell me anything about it that I may not have already heard?

C.M.: Yes, I would still say that Captain Kronos remains close to my heart and I do regard it as one of my favorite film roles. I truly loved playing the wild and willful, but caring gypsy girl, Carla. I also loved being directed by Brian Clemens and found him to be a very thoughtful director who should be working all the time – he is a very clever man. Also, my co-star Horst Janson made a dashing and handsome sword master. I think the casting was very well matched and, topped off by Brian’s superb directing; it really turned out to be a great film. I think the film works almost better today, as people now seem to understand its content. Inasmuch as telling you something you might not have heard, I honestly can’t think of anything that I have not already shared with everyone over the years. Sorry I don’t have any juicy bits of gossip to add in here.

H-W: With your aversion to doing nude scenes for films, how did you get around it in the love scene with Horst Jansen?

C.M.: The director did know of my aversion to nudity and it was suggested that my stand-in, the lovely Glenda Allen, do the scene for me. But, with the help of great lighting, some toupee tape to secure my long hair to my chest, and a pair of flesh colored knickers, I was able to do the scene myself. The illusion of nudity works very well in that scene don’t you think.

H-W: Yes, I’d certainly say so. I know that Captain Kronos was originally planned to be the first in a series of films featuring the Kronos vampire hunter. Can you tell me why none of the sequels came to fruition?

C.M.: There was a sequel planned if Kronos was successful, but unfortunately it got put on the back burner, as they say. At that time not many people seemed to get the film with all its subtleties, etc. It was a very new age film at a time when Hammer was in trouble and as it didn’t have the usual heaving bosoms and blood extremes, it didn’t do as well as we all thought and there was just no talk of a sequel, at that time. I feel it had a lot to offer and I’m so glad that the audiences finally did get it. I still love watching the film--to me it has a very European feel to it.

H-W: Tell me about your fan club. I see that it is run from both the US and UK. How did it get started and how has it grown? What future plans do you have for the fan club and how directly involved in it are you?

C.M.: A few years ago my good friends, Jayne and Roz, were visiting me at home and noticed a large sack of fan mail that had been forwarded to me by my then agent, Dennis Selinger. They told me that I needed to start dealing with it and that they would help me. So, slowly but surely we got through the mail and when my hands started to get numb from writing to each one individually, it became apparent that life would be easier if I just did up a newsletter of info answering all the general questions that everyone asked, and then mail a copy of that out to everyone. Of course you always feel guilty that you can’t answer each and every piece of mail by hand but it was more important to me to actually get every piece answered and the only way I could do that was a newsletter. The fan club has grown steadily over the years and we have so many loyal and wonderful members. I find it all very humbling and hard to understand. All the fans are so kind and giving--I just hope I have given something in return.

H-W: I really have to say that it has been a real pleasure working with you on the new lines of licensed collectibles that Monster-Mania is now offering. I was very impressed with your concern that the collectibles are not only good quality but offered at a reasonable price for your fans.

C.M.: Thank you Dave for all your hard work. I'm very impressed with the licensed collectibles and am so glad that I finally have some new and exciting merchandise to offer the fans. The mugs and clock look terrific, and I know the posters will be very well
received. So again, thank you for getting all this up and running. I must also mention how much I'm looking forward to working with Monster-Mania on the forthcoming statue that I understand will be ready for release at next June's Monster Bash show in
Pittsburgh. That's going to be a really fun project and I can't wait to see the finished product.

H-W: Thanks Caroline. I’m hoping that we will be able to have you join us at our tables at the Monster Bash for the unveiling of your statue. That would be a real treat for my son and I. I first had the pleasure of meeting you at this past April’s Chiller Horror Convention in NJ. Do you do many of those conventions? What are your thoughts on them? I know that you often set time aside to meet with your fan club members at the various appearances you make. It’s clearly evident that you enjoy care about and enjoy meeting your fans.

C.M.: I do quite a few conventions each year, mostly in England, but always love doing the Chiller show in New Jersey. The guests and audiences there are great and always very responsive. You get fantastic feed back from the American fans. Kevin Clement puts on a terrific show and I love to meet with so many familiar faces at Chiller, and lots of new ones too. As I don’t usually get a chance to meet all the members I do try to do a little fan club get together at one of the US shows I attend each year, and always have a wonderful time doing so.

H-W: I know you went out to the tent on that Saturday night to check out the bands that were playing. Did you have the urge to get up on stage and join in?

C.M.: The musical evenings are so much fun at Chiller. I love the atmosphere there, especially during the music show. All the bands are having a great time and having a little musical knowledge myself, I do love to see all the talent coming up. The fans are very encouraging to all the bands but, to be honest, I’m a little too shy to think of getting up there on stage. But, maybe one day, you never know.

H-W: With the recent announcement of the re-emergence of Hammer Studios, has anyone contacted you in regards to its future?

C.M.: I have heard on and off for years about Hammer returning, but have had no direct contact from anyone about it. It’s amazing how much Hammer really did and does affect people, even now. I recently attended a fashion show put on by a fabulous English designer called Neil Cunningham. His whole collection was inspired by Hammer--he called it "Glammer," and it was quite spectacular. I would of course dearly love to be involved in Hammer if it returns, but I can’t quite picture it. But, if it happens that would be great!

H-W: Well, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. It’s been a pleasure talking with you again. I hope we see you on our side of the water again this coming year.

C.M.: Thanks, Dave. I’ll definitely see you again in April 2002 at the Chiller convention and at the Monster Bash in June 2002.

(from www.horror-wood.com)

http://www.carolinemunro.org/ - official site
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCmRbLeILDU - a video tribute

1971 The Abominable Dr. Phibes
1972 Dr. Phibes Rises Again
1972 Dracula A.D. 1972
1974 The Golden Voyage of Sinbad
1974 Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter
1975 I Don’t Want to Be Born
1976 At the Earth’s Core
1979 Starcrash
1980 Maniac
1982 The Last Horror Film
1986 Slaughter High
1987 El Aullido del Diablo
1988 Faceless
1989 Il Gatto Nero
2003 Flesh for the Beast

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:53 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Tod Browning (born Charles Browning, Jr. on July 12, 1880, in Louisville, Kentucky) began developing his skills of showmanship at an early age. At five and blessed with a beautiful singing voice, he sang solos in the church choir, on Sundays, to the pleasure of the congregation. On Saturday he performed in his own backyard neighborhood show charging a penny for admission and taking most of the business from the other kid's backyard penny shows.

At sixteen, the allure of the traveling sideshow beckoned and he ran away from home to answer the call. It also helped that he fell in love with an exotic dancer, The Queen of the Manhattan Fair and Carnival Company. After joining the show he took on the name of Tod (perhaps after R.F. "Toddy" Hamilton, press agent for the Barnum and Bailey Circus who was famous for his use of bombastic euphemisms) and started as a barker for the Wild Man of Borneo (actually a black man from Mississippi in outlandish make-up), before becoming an escape artist. He eventually worked his way up to the major crowd-drawer, "The Hypnotic Living Corpse." One night, he would be presented to crowds as a recently deceased corpse and then buried. He would then wait in the well-venilated coffin eating malted milkballs for 24 hours, until he was dug up and shown to be alive to the amazed audience. For two years he performed the macabre stunt until authorities in Madison, Indiana shut the show down for violating the Sabbath and perpetrating fraud.

Still, Tod Browning was a man of many talents. Undaunted by one setback, he took his fine singing voice and went into Vaudeville, adding a few dance steps and a bit of slapstick to his act. Browning met with famed film director D.W. Griffith in 1913. Griffith opened opportunities for Browning to perform in two reel comedies at his Biograph Studio in New York City. When Griffith became Production Chief for the Reliance and Majestic Company, he took Tod Browning with him to Hollywood. In 1915, Tod began directing one-reel comedies that were produced on a weekly basis.

Though Browning’s new career held much promise, a self-destructive streak threatened his success. The director enjoyed life in the fast lane. Flashy cars and booze were his weakness. Almost a month before his thirty-fifth birthday, he and some friends were involved in an automobile accident. Returning from a night of reverie from the Vernon Country Club Road House, Browning failed to heed the warning signal from a train conductor at a railroad crossing. Their car collided with a flat bed loaded with iron rails. Browning received numerous injuries, a shattered right leg lacerations on his face and arms and internal injuries. Passengers with him included George A. Seigmannn, who sustained four broken ribs, and up-and-coming comic actor Elmer Booth, who was killed. A reporter for the Los Angeles Times wrote "The impressions on his [Booth's] skull as even and regular as a waffle iron." There were also rumors that there were two women in the car. Browning himself was not expected to live. But as in 1900, the Living Corpse would rise again for another show.

Browning directed his first feature length film Jim Bludso, a riverboat action-drama, in 1917. Around this time, he married Alice Wilson, an actress he had known and performed with in vaudeville and two reel comedies. Browning’s first major commercial hit as a director came in 1920 with The Virgin of Stamboul, a desert drama that began a film industry trend of exotic-set films like The Sheik (1921) with Rudolph Valentino. The Virgin of Stamboul starred the popular ingenue Priscilla Dean who played in other movies for Browning such as Outside the Law (1920), which also starred Lon Chaney.

Old personal demons and alcoholism put Browning’s marriage and career in jeopardy. In 1923-24 he was on the studios' blacklist because of his drinking habits. During his recovery period, he and Alice reconciled and she was instrumental in his comeback. Irving Thalberg of MGM assigned Browning to direct The Unholy Three, a crime-thriller of a group of circus performers who perpetuate a crime spree. It starred Lon Chaney as a ventriloquist who disguised himself in drag, Victor McLaglen as the strong man, and Harry Earles (later to star in Browning’s Freaks) as a midget masquerading as a baby.

After The Unholy Three, Browning frequently used his past work in carnivals and sideshows to inform the settings of a number of films, often starring Chaney, Lionel Barrymore, or both. In The Unknown (1927), a crook (Chaney) pretends to be an armless knife-thrower at a circus, but later becomes the victim of his own charade. The Show (1927) stars John Gilbert as a sideshow impresario who is framed for murder by Barrymore. 1928’s West of Zanzibar featured Chaney as Phroso, a stage magician who uses the tricks of his trade to control an African tribe and gain revenge on Crane (Barrymore), the man who stole his wife.

In 1927, Browning teamed with Chaney to explore a different type of the fantastic -- the vampire – in London After Midnight. Chaney starred as a detective who disguises himself as a vampire to catch a real murderer. This film is sadly lost, available today only as a recreation put together from archival stills and photographs.

When Browning signed on to direct a film adaptation of Dracula for Universal, his obvious first choice for the title role was Lon Chaney. Unfortunately, cancer cut his frequent star’s life short. After an extensive search, Browning cast Bela Lugosi (who had played the part on stage) in the role. Universal Studios, in financial trouble, trifled over budget demands with Browning. However, the movie was a surprise hit and not only made money but rescued Universal from near bankruptcy. Dracula was also a trendsetter and opened the door for Universal and other studios to explore the lucrative field of horror movies.

Perhaps Browning’s true masterpiece was the macabre chiller Freaks, released in 1932. It is a bizarre story with an equally strange cast of genuine sideshow freaks -- midgets including Harry and Daisy Earles, Johnny Eke the half-boy, Martha the Armless Wonder, Cuu-Coo the birdwoman, Prince Randian the armless and legless “Living Torso”, and five pinhead women. The plot follows a vain aerialist who marries a midget (Harry Earles) to steal his money and plot to murder him. Under the suspicions of the other freaks, her plot is foiled and in an act of solidarity the freaks band together on an eerie stormy night and come after her (one of the scariest scenes in horror history), making her truly one of them. MGM, the producing studio, was reluctant to make a horror film with real sideshow performers. However, Irving Thalberg fought in Browning's corner to get the movie made. On its initial release the movie was effectively scary enough to send some audience members running screaming from the theater. MGM quickly pulled it from theaters and re-released it in an edited version, but the film was never a financial success. Fortunately, audiences of the sixties rediscovered Freaks and Browning’s magnum opus gained a well-deserved reputation as a classic masterpiece.

After Freaks the studios would never allow Browning the liberty of autonomy with his films. He did make other contributions to the genre. In 1935, he did Mark of the Vampire, a remake of his own London After Midnight, with Chaney’s role split between Bela Lugosi, Lionel Barrymore, and Lionel Atwill. He followed this a year later with The Devil Doll, starring Lionel Barrymore as an escaped criminal who shrinks people to doll size to seek revenge on those who framed him.

Browning’s last film behind the camera was Miracles for Sale, a mystery set in the world of magic and illusion. After this, he chose to retire in 1939, living his remaining years in seclusion. He died in 1962 at the age of eighty-two, leaving a great legacy of films, both within the horror genre and without. Not only were his movies classics, many were milestones. Tod Browning’s contributions to horror, specifically, allowed many more great directors to explore the thrills and chills of the macabre. In many ways, he began the Golden Age of Horror Films.

(from www.classic-horror.com)

http://www.monstershow.net/dark_carnival__the_secret_world_of_tod_browning__hollywood_s_master_of_the_macab_34968.htm - Dark Carnival book link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Upe7JKhY2DU - a short video on Browning

1927 The Unknown
1927 London After Midnight
1931 Dracula
1932 Freaks
1935 Mark of the Vampire
1936 The Devil-Doll

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:54 pm  Reply with quote

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His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, making important contributions to the further development of modern horror.

Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including Steel, mentioned above and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", plus "Little Girl Lost", a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. He wrote the Star Trek episode The Enemy Within, considered one of the best[citation needed]. In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, (filmed as The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man and I Am Legend). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror, including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.

In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. It was filmed in 1967 as The Young Warriors though most of Matheson's plot was jettisoned. During the 1950s he published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun); and during the 1990s he published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun Years, The Gunfight, The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok and Shadow on the Sun. He has also written a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It..., aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels 7 Steps to Midnight and Hunted Past Reason.

Matheson cites specific inspirations for many of his works. Duel derived from an incident in which he and a friend, Jerry Sohl, were dangerously tailgated by a large truck on the same day as the Kennedy assassination. A scene from the 1953 movie Let's Do It Again in which Aldo Ray and Ray Milland put on each other's hats, one of which is far too big for the other, sparked the thought "what if someone put on his own hat and that happened," which became The Shrinking Man. Somewhere in Time began when Matheson saw a movie poster featuring a beautiful picture of Maude Adams and wondered what would happen if someone fell in love with such an old picture. In the introduction to Noir: 3 Novels of Suspense (1997), which collects three of his early books, Matheson has said that the first chapter of his suspense novel Someone is Bleeding (1953) describes exactly his meeting with his wife Ruth, and that in the case of What Dreams May Come, "the whole novel is filled with scenes from our past"

According to film critic Roger Ebert, Matheson's scientific approach to the supernatural in I Am Legend and other novels from the 1950s and early 1960s "anticipated pseudorealistic fantasy novels like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist."

(from wikipedia)


Looking up at the clock, I see that it is just five minutes away from the time that I am scheduled to have a phone interview with one of the legendary writers of film, television, and novels, Richard Matheson.

Now, if this were one of his many famous teleplays for the original The Twilight Zone, I would be expecting something a bit out of the ordinary to happen. As I look around my office, I see just how much of an influence Mr. Matheson has been on me since childhood.

A red plastic winking devil head grins at me from atop a Swami Fortune Telling Napkin Holder, similar to the one that was used as the prop for the "Nick Of Time," the Twilight Zone episode where a young William Shatner and his wife become mesmerized by the uncanny ability of a diner’s fortune telling machine to accurately predict the future.

My video shelves are filled with both videotape and now DVDs of many of Matheson’s films and teleplays. The bookshelf to my right is crammed with many of Matheson’s novels, many of which have been recently reprinted by both Gauntlet Press and Tor books. As a writer, three men have influenced me more than anyone and Richard Matheson is at the top of that list, along with Robert Bloch and Charles Beaumont. For me, this isn’t just another interview; this is an opportunity to speak with someone that I have admired for quite some time.

Finally, the clock ticks by without any unusual occurrences. When I dial the phone, I’m half expecting that the voice on the other line will be someone or something other than Richard Matheson. The Twilight Zone episode "Night Call" immediately comes to mind (the story of a woman who receives calls that are traced to a downed phone line at her husband’s gravesite). I breathe a sigh of relief when the pleasant voice of Mr. Matheson greets me.

I introduce myself to him and explain that I will be recording the conversation with him over my speakerphone. That, of course, is when the trouble sets in. For whatever reason, he cannot hear me clearly over the speakerphone, the same speakerphone that I have used for numerous other interviews. I listen intently for The Twilight Zone theme to start sounding in the background and I check the corners of the room, waiting for Rod Serling to step out and explain to the audience how I am about to enter another dimension.

Fortunately, that does not happen (at least, I don’t think that it did). Now we are on to Plan B. Problem is, I don’t have a Plan B. My dictation skills rank right up there with my ability to take shorthand or to spin plain thread into gold.

Still, I cannot let this opportunity slip away so I manage to conduct the interview by trying to speak with Mr. Matheson while I share the earpiece of my phone with the built-in microphone of the tape recorder. If you’ve ever shared a phone with someone while still trying to hold a conversation with the person on the other end, you can certainly understand these less than perfect conditions.

I begin the interview by congratulating him on the recent release of a book that he had written more than forty years before its publication. Abu And The Seven Marvels is a wonderful children’s book, illustrated by William Stout. This book was published by Gauntlet Press and has been placed on the Fall Children’s Book Sense 76 list, which is quite an honor in the field of children’s books. I then proceeded with the interview.

HORROR-WOOD: With the recent publication of several of your Twilight Zone scripts by Gauntlet Press will there be any publication of your other famous screenplays or teleplays.

RICHARD MATHESON: There were plans to eventually release The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, which was the second one I wrote, and a third one that Bill Nolan and I wrote that was never made called The Night Killers but no one can locate a copy of The Night Strangler. I don’t have a copy and Dan Curtis’ office can’t find it and The Writer’s Guild doesn’t have a copy of it either. It’s like it vanished into thin air. If we can find it, and Barry Hopkins insists that he will not give up until he does, we will publish all three scripts.

There are also three other scripts that I wrote that were never filmed that can be combined into one book that I am suggesting he call Unrealized Dreams. The first one would be the sequel to The Incredible Shrinking Man.

H-W: Having adapted a number of famous stories and novels by other authors into screenplays such as the Edgar Allan Poe Roger Corman films (The Raven, Pit And The Pendulum, The Fall Of The House Of Usher) as well as the Dan Curtis production of Dracula starring Jack Palance and also the original TV film of The Night Stalker, how does adapting someone else’s work differ from working with your own material? How important is it for you to stick strictly to the original version or do you prefer to take liberties with the screenplay that you are adapting?

RM: Well, if I like the book and I think it’s good, I stick to it religiously. Very often, however, that isn’t what they want. I just feel that if everything fits within the story, there is no reason to change it. One instance where one of my novels was adapted was Stir Of Echoes. David Koepp did the screenplay for that film based upon my novel. He updated it and changed the location but he followed my story so closely that I was delighted with the film. There are some things that are inevitable that you have to change when adapting someone’s work to a screenplay but hopefully not too many, especially in a novel.

Sometimes if a novel is particularly long, it is best to do it as a mini-series. One novel that would have done better as a miniseries is Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. They took just one small part of the entire novel and made that into a film. The entire novel should have been done and it should have been done as a mini-series, perhaps six or eight hours on network television or cable and really done well.

H-W: There has been talk for a number of years that Hollywood was going to do yet another version of your classic novel I Am Legend. Most recently I’ve heard Will Smith’s name attached to the project. What was your opinion of the first two versions with Vincent Price and Charleton Heston (The Last Man On Earth, The Omega Man)? What happened to the proposed Hammer (The Devil Rides Out, Die! Die! My Darling) version of the film that was supposed to use your screenplay?

RM: Well, there is a script; they have sent me a script. It’s not bad. They are talking about making into a comedy. I don’t think they’ll ever do my book as it is written. Dan Curtis wanted to do it, Michael Carerras wanted to do it but they just never get the chance. They are planning to remake The Incredible Shrinking Man now as a comedy (Keenan Ivory Wayans is currently listed as director). I don’t care if they make it into a comedy as long as it is a good comedy.

The Last Man On Earth was a little closer to the book than The Omega Man but I thought Vincent Price was miscast in the lead role. I thought Vincent Price was wonderful in the films that I wrote for him but I just felt that he was miscast as Robert Morgan.

H-W: Gauntlet Press will also be publishing a very unique book later this year called Pride, which you have written with your son Richard Christian Matheson. Tell us what makes this book so unique.

RM: Gauntlet Press is publishing the book in a very unique format. Both my son and I came up with an idea and we each agreed to go to work on our own short story. For this publication, Gauntlet is publishing the rough drafts that each of us has done. I, of course, still do mine in longhand while my son prefers the computer. The entire handwritten story appears in the book. Gauntlet publisher Barry Hoffman then suggested we combine each of our stories into a teleplay, which we have done.

H-W: I read that your teleplay for the TV movie Duel was based on something that actually happened to you. Is that true?

RM: Well, I had been playing golf with Jerry Sohl and we learned that JFK had been assassinated. We quite playing and decided to go home. As we were going through a mountain pass, a truck started tailgating us. This continued through the entire canyon. I used that experience and turned it into first a novelette and then a television movie screenplay.

H-W: I see that this September there will be a third edition of The Twilight Zone on TV, this time hosted by Forrest Whitaker. What are your thoughts about a new Twilight Zone television series? If approached, would you consider doing a story for this series?

RM: No, not at all. The original series worked well for so many reasons but also because Rod Serling was involved in the program. The second edition of the series that was on television a few years ago had some good shows but they weren’t really Twilight Zone type shows. The original Twilight Zone is still on television daily.

H-W: One of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes was "Nick Of Time" with William Shatner. I recently purchased one of the Swami Fortune Telling machines that they used for the prop in the show. They’re quite collectible now specifically because of that episode.

RM: Yes, I was given one of them by Charles Beaumont’s son. I have it in my office. I don’t have the devil’s head though.

H-W: Actually I found someone who sells them. They were originally on the end of clear plastic tubes of candy corn that they sold around Halloween back in the sixties. I have an extra one; I’ll mail it out to you. They come on a spring attached to a suction cup so you can put it on top of the fortune-telling machine, just like in the episode. I found your novel Hell House (filmed as The Legend Of Hell House) to be very frightening. Was that based on a true story of any kind?

RM: I used the Hearst Castle as the setting for the film. I researched books on what the mansion looked like and put that in the novel. I had admired Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting Of Hill House (filmed as The Haunting) and I wanted to write a good haunted house novel so I came up with that."

H-W: What does the immediate future hold for you?

RM: Next year I am planning on going to London for the theatrical debut of Now You See It. It is scheduled to debut next year in London. We’ve approached Richard Chamberlain among some others to perform in it. The play took so long to come about that I decided to turn it into the novel that was released in 1993 but it was always meant to have been a play. I’m hoping to be involved in the theatre for the next decade or so. I’ve also written a musical stage version of Bid Time Return.

After the interview, Mr. Matheson was kind enough to agree to sign my copy of Hell House for myself, I Am Legend for my oldest son who obviously knows a great book when he reads it, and also Abu And The Seven Marvels for my infant grandson. I looked around the room and could not find hide or hair of Rod Serling or any other unusual occurrence.

Now if I could only get that Zuni Fetish Doll out from under the bed . . .

(from www.horror-wood.com)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twv0UCvZkJY - first part of a super long interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZsdZ0v5AfI - Sci Fi Department "Matheson 101"

1957 The Incredible Shrinking Man
1960 House of Usher
1961 Pit and the Pendulum
1962 Burn, Witch, Burn
1962 Tales of Terror
1963 The Raven
1964 The Comedy of Terrors
1964 The Last Man on Earth
1965 Die! Die! My Darling!
1968 The Devil Rides Out
1971 Duel
1972 The Night Stalker
1973 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
1973 The Night Strangler
1973 The Legend of Hell House
1974 Scream of the Wolf
1975 Trilogy of Terror
1977 The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie (segment 4)
1983 Jaws 3-D

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:18 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Tod Slaughter (19 March 1885 - 19 February 1956) was an English actor, best known for playing over-the-top maniacs in macabre film adaptations of Victorian melodramas.

Born as Norman Carter Slaughter in Newcastle, the eldest surviving son of twelve children, he made his way onto the stage in 1905 at West Hartlepool. In 1913, he became a lessee of the Hippodrome theatres at Richmond and Croydon. After a brief interruption to serve during World War I in the Royal Flying Corps, Slaughter resumed his career and returned to the stage.

During this period, his stage name was Carter Slaughter and he primarily played the conventional leading man or character roles - seldom the villain. After the war, he ran the Theatre Royal, Chatham before taking over the Elephant and Castle theatre in South London for a memorable few years from 1924 onwards that have since passed into British theatrical legend. Slaughter's company revived Victorian "blood-and-thunder" melodramas such as Maria Marten, Sweeney Todd, Jack Shepherd and The Silver King to enthusiastic audiences — not just locals but also sophisticated theatre-goers from the West End who might have initially come for a cheap laugh but ended up enthralled by the power of the fare on offer. Slaughter also staged other types of production such as the annual Christmas pantomime where he would cast prominent local personalities in bit-parts for audience recognition. Despite a local protest, the Elephant and Castle theatre was closed down in 1927 and Slaughter's company vacated it several months before the end. It was in 1925 that he adopted the stage name "Tod Slaughter", but his primary roles were still character and heroic leads - not the evildoers. He played the young hero in Face at the Window and the village idiot Tim Winterbottom in Maria Marten. He also played Sherlock Holmes and D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. At the start of the 1930's, it is said he briefly retired from acting to become a chicken farmer but it proved a short-lived venture and he was soon back managing his company touring the provinces and outlying London theatres with a repertoire of Victorian melodramas.

He finally found his true calling when, in 1931 at the New Theatre, London he played "Long John Silver" in Treasure Island during the day and the body snatcher "William Hare" in The Crimes Of Burke And Hare at night. Publicised as "Mr Murder", he lapped up his new-found notoriety by boasting he committed 15 murders each day for the duration of the run. Shortly afterwards, he played Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street for the first of 2,000 times on stage. Actor and role had found each other much in the same way as Bela Lugosi and Dracula and the seal was set on Slaughter's subsequent career.

In 1934 at age 49, he debuted into motion pictures. Usually cast as a villain, his first film was Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn (1935) a Victorian melodrama filmed cheaply with Slaughter as the obvious bad-guy. Slaughter’s next film role was as Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936 film) directed and produced by George King, whose partnership with Slaughter was continued in the subsequent shockers: The Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936); The Ticket of Leave Man (1938); The Face at the Window (1939) and Crimes at the Dark House (1940).

There were, however, some non-melodramatic roles in his career. He was a supporting player in 1937's The Song of the Road and Darby and Joan. In 1938's Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror he played the head of an international gang of super-villains.

Macabre films were banned from production in Britain during World War II — although rumours suggest Slaughter appeared in a "lost" film entitled Soldiers Without Uniforms — perhaps a compendium of stage scenes to entertain the troops? Slaughter was otherwise busy on the stage performing Jack the Ripper, Landru and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There were also one-act sketches such as The Touch of a Child.

After the war Slaughter resumed melodramatic roles and starred in The Curse of the Wraydons (1946), in which he played the legendary Victorian bogeyman Spring-Heeled Jack, and The Greed of William Hart (1948) based on the murderous career of Burke and Hare. These were produced by Ambassador films at Bushey studios who had made a healthy profit rereleasing Tod's 30's films during the war years. The publics appetite for melodrama seemed to have abated somewhat by the 50's and he went bankrupt in 1953 owing to a downturn in his touring income. He continued to act in stage productions however, such as Moliere's "The Gay Invalid" opposite future horror star Peter Cushing, and acting as the Master of Ceremonies at an evening of old-fashioned music hall.

His last two films were each three episodes of the television series Inspector Morley cobbled together for theatrical release. A version of "Spring-heeled Jack" starring Tod was one of the first live TV plays mounted by the BBC after the war.

Still performing on the stage almost to the very end, Slaughter died of coronary thrombosis. After his death following a performance of Maria Marten in Derby, his work slipped almost completely into obscurity. He was survived by his actress wife Jenny Lynn.

(from wikipedia)

http://www.horror-wood.com/slaughter.htm - more from horror-wood
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUuCGQbUORY - pathe news clip, real ridiculous

1935 Murder in the Red Barn
1936 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
1936 The Crimes of Stephen Hawke
1937 The Ticket of Leave Man
1938 Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror
1939 The Face at the Window
1940 Crimes at the Dark House
1946 The Curse of the Wraydons
1948 The Greed of Wiliam Hart
1950 Spring-Heeled Jack
1952 A Ghost for Sale

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 5:43 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Barbara Steele was born on December 19, 1938 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England. Barbara Steele is loved by her fans for her talent, intelligence, erotic sexuality, and a mysterious beauty that is unique; her face epitomizes either sweet innocence, or malign evil (she is wonderful to watch either way). At first, Barbara Steele studied to become a painter. In 1957, she joined an acting repertory company. Barbara Steele's feature acting debut was in the British comedy "Bachelor of Hearts" (1958). At age 21, this strikingly lovely lady, with the hauntingly beautiful face, large eyes, sensuous lips and long, dark hair got her breakout role by starring in "Black Sunday," the quintessential Italian film about witchcraft (it was the directorial debut for cinematographer Mario Bava; with his background it was exquisitely photographed and atmospheric). We got to see Barbara Steele but did not hear her; her voice was dubbed by another actress for international audiences. After its American success, AIP brought Barbara Steele to America, to star in Roger Corman's "The Pit and the Pendulum" (1961); (though the film was shot entirely in English, again Barbara Steele's own voice was not used). By now, Barbara Steele was typecast by American audiences as a horror star. In 1962, Barbara Steele answered an open-casting call and won a role in Federico Fellini's "8 1/2"; Barbara Steele only had a small but memorable role. Reportedly Fellini wanted to use Barbara Steele more in the film, but she was contracted to leave Rome to start work on her next horror movie, "The Horrible Dr. Hichcock" (1962). Being a slow and meticulous director, Fellini's "8 1/2" was not released until 1963. (Later, when Barbara Steele was cast in lesser roles in lesser movies, she would tell the directors: "I've worked with some of the best directors in the world. I've worked with Fellini!") More horror movies followed, such as "The Spectre" (1963), "Castle of Blood" (1964), "The Long Hair of Death (1964), and others; this success led to her being typecast in the horror genre, where Barbara Steele more often than not appeared in Italian movies with a dubbed voice. The nadir was appearing in "The Crimson Cult" (1968), which was mainly eye candy, with scantily-clad women in a cult. Unfortunately, Barbara Steele got sick of being typecast in horror movies. One of the screen's greatest horror stars, Barbara Steele said in an interview: "I never want to climb out of another freakin' coffin again!" This was sad news for her legion of horror fans; it was also a false-step for Barbara Steele as far as a career move. Back in America, Barbara Steele met screenwriter James Poe; they got married, and remained together for many years. James Poe wrote an excellent role for Barbara Steele in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" (1969). The role ended up going to Susannah York, and Barbara Steele wouldn't act in movies again for 5 years. Barbara Steele returned to movies in "Caged Heat" (1974); she was miscast: a few years before, Barbara Steele would have been one of the beautiful inmates, not the wheelchair-bound warden. In 1977, Barbara Steele appeared in a film by Roger Corman, based on the true story of a mentally ill woman, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." Unfortunately, Barbara Steele's scenes wound up on the cutting room floor. Again, trying anything but horror, Barbara Steele appeared in "Pretty Baby" (1978), but she was in the background the whole time, and her talents wasted. Barbara Steele would appear in 2 more unmemorable movies. Barbara Steele and James Poe got divorced, (he died a few years later). Barbara Steele did "Silent Scream" (1980). Maybe because her ex-husband was now dead, or because her acting career was going nowhere, Barbara Steele retired from acting for a decade. However, she had a lot of success as a producer. Barbara Steele was an associate producer for the TV mini-series "The Winds of War" (1983), and produced "War and Remembrance" (1989), for which she got an Emmy award. Barbara Steele's horror fans were delighted when Barbara Steele showed up again, this time on TV in "Dark Shadows" (1991), a revival of the beloved 1960s supernatural soap. The still-lovely Barbara Steele acts occasionally, her latest film was "The Capitol Conspiracy" (1999). Even past 60, Barbara Steele is still beautiful and her fans love her.

http://www.barbarasteele.com/ - official site
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vryyDAj2EbA - television segment on Steele

1960 Black Sunday
1961 Pit and the Pendulum
1962 The Horrible Dr. Hickcock
1962 Rampage of Evil
1963 The Ghost
1964 The Long Hair of Death
1964 Castle of Blood
1965 Cemetary of the Living Dead
1965 Nightmare Castle
1966 The She-Beast
1975 Shivers
1990 Dark Shadows

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 7:12 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
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Location: Chicago, Illinois


Wood's father, Edward Sr, worked for the Postal Service and his family was relocated numerous times around the United States. Eventually, they settled in Poughkeepsie, New York where Ed Wood, Jr. was born.

During his childhood, Wood was interested in the performing arts and pulp fiction. He collected comics and pulp magazines, and adored movies, most notably Westerns and anything involving the occult. He would often skip school in favor of watching pictures at the local movie theater, where stills from the day's movie would often be thrown in the trash by theater staff, allowing Wood to salvage them to add to his extensive collection.

It is believed that Wood's mother, Lillian, always wanted a girl and would sometimes, until he was about 12 years old, dress her son in skirts and dresses. For the rest of his life, Wood was a heterosexual transvestite.

One of his first paid jobs was as a cinema usher, although he also sang and played drums in a band. He later fronted a singing quartet called Eddie Wood's Little Splinters, having learned to play a variety of string instruments. Wood was given his first movie camera on his 12th birthday: a Kodak "Cine Special." One of his first pieces of footage was the Hindenburg dirigible passing over the Hudson River at Poughkeepsie, just minutes before its famous fiery demise at Lakehurst, New Jersey, which imbued him with pride.

Wood enlisted in the Marines at age 17, just months after the Attack on Pearl Harbor. He served from 1942-1946 and claimed that he had participated in the Battle of Tarawa while secretly wearing a brassiere and panties beneath his uniform.

Fascinated by the exotic and bizarre, Wood joined a carnival after a discharge from the Marines. His several missing teeth and disfigured leg (wounds while in combat) combined with personal fetishes and acting skills made him a perfect candidate for the freak show. Wood played, among others, the geek and the bearded lady. As the bearded lady, he donned women's clothing and created his own prosthetic breasts. Carnivals would be frequently depicted in Wood's works, most notably (and semi-autobiographically) in the novel Killer in Drag.

Wood's other vices included soft drugs, alcohol, and sex. He was a notorious womanizer in his younger days, but in later life he respected women and was completely faithful to his girlfriends (most notably Dolores Fuller) and wife (Kathy O'Hara).Edward D. Wood Jr. had 1 Child, a Daughter named Kathleen Emily Wood, who lives in Modesto now under the name Kathleen Patterson.

“ If you want to know me, see 'Glen or Glenda'. That's me, that's my story, no question. But 'Plan 9' is my pride and joy. We used Cadillac hubcaps for flying saucers in that.”
—Ed Wood

Wood's film career began after moving to Hollywood in 1947. He wrote scripts and directed television pilots, commercials, and several forgotten micro-budget westerns. Wood wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a play called Casual Company from his unpublished novel based on his service in the United States Marines that opened at the Village Playhouse in Hollywood to disastrous reviews on October 25, 1948.

His big break came in 1953 when hired to make an exploitation film, I Changed My Sex, based on the life of transsexual Christine Jorgensen. After Jorgensen refused to collaborate on the film, Wood wrote a new autobiographical screenplay titled Glen or Glenda, a sincere and sympathetic study of transvestism. Wood directed and, using an alias, played the titular character who has a fetish for cross-dressing and angora sweaters.

Angora was regularly featured in his films. His wife Kathy O'Hara and others recall that Wood's transvestitism was not a sexual inclination but rather a neomaternal comfort derived mainly from angora fabric ("Ann Gora" also happened to be one of Wood's pen names). The medical "experts" in the film go to great lengths to stress that the transvestite is a perfectly normal heterosexual man who simply feels more comfortable and "more himself" when wearing women's apparel. There is even a fantasy vignette showing Glenda rebuffing the advances of a homosexual man. Even in his later years, Wood was not shy about going out in public dressed in drag as "Shirley"; his alter ego—female characters named Shirley also appear in many of his screenplays and stories.

Most of Wood's films have a rushed quality due to the tight shooting schedule and limited budgets. While most directors film only one scene per day (or just a fraction of one in more contemporary pictures), Wood might complete up to 30 scenes. He seldom ordered a retake, even if the original was obviously flawed. Glen or Glenda, shot in just four days for $26,000, was done in a semi-documentary style. Narration and voice-over dialog was added to generous amounts of film-library stock footage (a cost-saving trick he used in his later films). The love-interest role of "Barbara" was played by Wood's real-life girlfriend, Dolores Fuller. She went on to appear in his next two films. Béla Lugosi, who was not told the film was about a transvestite, was paid $1,000 in cash for one day of filming. In a dark haunted-house set, speaking in vague, baffling metaphors and nursery rhymes, he played a portentous, omnipotent narrator.

The centerpiece of the film is an extraordinary 15-minute fantasy sequence that illustrates Glen's tormented state of mind. Wood pulls out all the stops in a barrage of surreal, dream-like vignettes using highly personalized symbolism that defies explanation. Producer George Weiss added to the confusion by inserting footage of flagellation and bondage—reminiscent of the fetish films of Irving Klaw—from another production. In this sequence Barbara is pinned beneath a large tree (in her living room), and Glen rescues her; they are married with the Devil acting as best man; a shirtless man vigorously flogs a woman reclining on a couch; lewd burlesque dancers gyrate to blaring jazz music and tear at their clothes; a woman gagged and bound to a yoke-like pole is untied by another gagged woman; a lust-crazed man roughly assaults a seductress in a flimsy negligee; an enraged Glenda rips Barbara's blouse to shreds after she laughs at his appearance. Lugosi appears in several scenes also rejecting Glenda and droning on repeatedly about "snips and snails and puppy-dog tails." The film was released under several regional titles such as Transvestite, I Led Two Lives, and He or She?

Wood produced and directed the low-budget Jail Bait in 1954, a '30s-style gangster film with a twist ending a la The Twilight Zone. Originally titled The Hidden Face, the title was inexplicably changed to Jail Bait, from an offhand reference in the script to an illegal hand gun. Wood also co-wrote the screenplay with writer-producer friend Alex Gordon. It was Gordon who introduced Wood to Béla Lugosi in 1952. Gordon soon went on to help create American International Pictures. Lugosi was cast as the father of the lead character, but dropped out due to illness. Around this time, Wood became friends with a group of B-movie actors who became part of his entourage and stock company, appearing in most of his later films. These include Kenne Duncan, Lyle Talbot, Conrad Brooks, Duke Moore, Timothy Farrell, Swedish professional wrestler Tor Johnson, TV horror host Vampira, the eccentric gay socialite Bunny Breckinridge, and the psychic Criswell.

In 1955 he produced and directed his first horror film, Bride of the Monster (originally titled Bride of the Atom). Although Wood took most of the writing credit, the original story, The Atomic Monster, was written by Alex Gordon. Wood contributed about half the dialog, according to Gordon (in Starlog, November 1994). Béla Lugosi, in his last speaking role, stars as a mad scientist bent on creating an army of atomic supermen. The immense, 400-pound Tor Johnson plays "Lobo", his lumbering henchman. Billy Benedict of The Bowery Boys has a walk-on role as a newspaper seller. The female lead, Loretta King, wears the same type of angora hat worn by Wood in Glen or Glenda. The style and content of the film are highly reminiscent of the string of low-budget horror movies Lugosi made for Monogram Pictures in the 1940s. Wood's script even copies a laboratory scene with Lugosi from The Corpse Vanishes. Cost-saving stock footage of lightning, explosions, a nuclear blast, and a giant "atomic" octopus was also inserted. In one scene the hero, trapped in quicksand, is menaced by a stock footage aligator. In the finale, the frail, elderly Lugosi was reduced to thrashing about in the mud with a large rubber octopus when the motor needed to turn it into a flailing beast could not be located.

Wood planned to follow this in 1956 with The Ghoul Goes West (aka The Phantom Ghoul), a combination of his two favorite genres: Horror and Westerns. The story was largely a reworking of Bride of the Monster; a synopsis of the screenplay was published in Filmfax no. 18, Dec./Jan. 1989-90. Lugosi, recently out of rehab for morphine addiction, was to star as the undertaker/mad scientist. Gene Autry and Lon Chaney, Jr. were also attached to the project for a time. Wood could only raise enough money to shoot one day's worth of silent test footage. A few random scenes were filmed of Lugosi at a funeral, in front of Tor Johnson's house, and stalking about in his Dracula costume (possibly intended for The Vampire's Tomb, another unrealized story concept). The scenes were filmed to show to prospective financial backers. Lugosi died soon afterwards and the footage became the seed for Wood's next project.

Plan 9 from Outer Space incorporated the final Lugosi scenes into a new story that combined horror and science fiction. Wood's chiropractor, his face hidden behind a cape, doubled for Lugosi in several scenes. Tor Johnson and wasp-waisted Vampira (Maila Nurmi) are memorable, even iconic, as zombies risen from the grave by alien invaders. The film was shot in five days on a budget of around $20,000. All of Nurmi's scenes were filmed in just two hours, for which she was paid $200. Resorting again to the "docu-fantasy" approach, Criswell, the flamboyantly inaccurate TV psychic, acts as host. He cryptically introduces the story as "something more than a fact." Cost-saving stock footage of airliners, explosions, and fighter jets were edited in. The flying saucers (made from plastic toy store models) are fired upon by an artillery barrage from World War II newsreels. Although completed in 1956, it was not released until 1959, due to the inability of the producer to secure distribution.

Most notably, for Plan 9, he convinced members of the Southern Baptist church (through his landlord at the time) to invest the initial capital, allegedly convincing them that a successful science fiction picture would make enough money to fund their own pet project of 12 movies about the 12 Apostles. They reportedly changed the name of the movie from Grave Robbers from Outer Space and removed lines from the script which they considered profane; one source alleges they required the actors to accept their Church's baptism as part of the deal. The grave-diggers in the picture are the two primary backers. Wood's frequently being overruled by producers and financiers was one factor contributing to his depression and was something he personally blamed for his lack of commercial success.[2]

Also in 1956, Wood wrote the screenplay for The Violent Years, an exploitation film about a gang of juvenile delinquent high school girls. It starred first-time actress Jean Moorhead, who was Miss October 1955 in Playboy. The film is notable for its unusual girls-gone-bad premise and risqué abduction scene where a girl is bound and gagged with strips of her shredded dress while her boyfriend is sexually assaulted (off camera) by the lusty girl gang. This foreshadows Wood's fearless, anything-goes attitude seen in his later, more racy novels and films.

He went on to write the script for The Bride and the Beast (1958), a story about a gorilla reincarnated in the body of a beautiful woman. That same year Wood wrote, produced, and directed Night of the Ghouls (original title: Revenge of the Dead), an "old dark house" tale about a fake medium and evil spirits. The setting is the rebuilt house on Willows Lake that burned down in Bride of the Monster. There are frequent references to the mad scientist (Lugosi) and monster from the previous film, and Tor Johnson reprises his "Lobo" role—his face now half-destroyed from the fire. Paul Marco makes his third appearance as "Kelton", the cowardly, inept policeman. Criswell, billed as himself, returns as host and narrator, rising from his coffin to introduce this tale of "Monsters to be pitied. Monsters to be despised!" (Tim Burton's Ed Wood bio-pic opens with a faithful recreation of this scene). Criswell also plays a character role as one of the vengeful ghosts seen at the climax of the film.

In one of the early scenes, a girl (wearing an angora sweater) and her boyfriend are attacked by the "Black Ghost". Wood, his face hidden by a dark veil, doubles for the female ghoul in several shots. A fight scene from the unfinished Hellborn was edited in (more scenes from that project appeared in The Sinister Urge). Most of Lieutenant Bradford's exploration of Dr. Acula's house was lifted from Wood's short film Final Curtain and given a voice-over by Criswell to integrate it into the current story. A publicity photo of Wood is seen on a wanted poster on the wall of the police station. The finale, with the ghouls reduced to skeletons and Criswell's epilogue, were used again in 1965 for Orgy of the Dead. For decades this remained a "lost" film that was never released to theaters. Wood lacked the funds to pay the film processing fees, so it languished in limbo until it was finally released on video in 1983.

In 1961, Wood worked on the script for another potboiler, Married Too Young, and wrote and directed The Sinister Urge. This lurid exposé on the "smut racket" purports to warn against the dangers of pornography. This is the last mainstream film that Wood directed. Ironically, his career would soon spiral downward into a blur of nudie flicks, softcore pornography, and end with X-rated novels and films.

His transitional film, once again combining two genres, horror and grindhouse skin-flick was Orgy of the Dead (1965). Wood wrote the screenplay and handled various production details while Stephen C. Apostolof directed under the pseudonym A.C. Stephen. The film begins with a recreation of the opening scene from the unreleased Night of the Ghouls. Criswell, wearing one of Lugosi's old capes, rises from his coffin to deliver an introduction taken almost word-for-word from the previous film. Set in a misty graveyard, the Lord of the Dead (Criswell) and his sexy consort, The Black Ghoul (a Vampira lookalike) preside over a series of macabre performances by topless dancers from beyond the grave (recruited by Wood from local strip clubs). Together, Wood and Apostolof went on to make a string of sexploitation flicks up to 1977. Wood co-wrote the screenplays and occasionally acted.

His remaining output until his death in 1978 was confined to lurid crime and sex novels, often featuring girl gangs and transvestites, and a dozen obscure adult films, some with a horror theme. Titles include: The Photographer (1969), Take it Out in Trade (1970), The Only House in Town (1970), with Uschi Digard, Necromania (1971), and The Undergraduate (1972).

One of Wood's heroes was Orson Welles for his cinematic ambition and passion. Wood also prided himself on the fact that he was the only filmmaker other than Welles to be writer, director, and actor in his own films, although it is likely that Wood took on all of these functions to save time and money. Unlike his counterpart in Tim Burton's Ed Wood, however, Wood never actually met his hero. A bit of trivia is that Wood was born on the same date (October 10) that Welles died.

Béla Lugosi, Jr. has been among those who felt Wood exploited Lugosi's stardom, taking advantage of the fading actor when he could not refuse any work. Most documents and interviews with other Wood associates in Nightmare of Ecstasy suggest that Wood and Lugosi were genuine friends and that Wood helped Lugosi through the worst days of his depression and addiction.

Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The Plan 9 Companion, was released in 1992. This exhaustive two-hour documentary by Mark Carducci chronicles the making of Plan 9 from Outer Space and features interviews with Maila Nurmi (Vampira), Paul Marco, Conrad Brooks, et al. In 2000, Image Entertainment included the documentary on the DVD reissue of Plan 9 from Outer Space (in a two-disc set with Robot Monster).

Ed Wood: Look Back In Angora, released in 1994 by Rhino Home Video, is a one-hour documentary on Wood's life and films. This includes rare outtakes and interviews with Dolores Fuller, Kathy Wood, Stephen Apostolof, and Conrad Brooks.

The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr., written and directed by Brett Thompson, came out in 1995. This documentary about the life and films of Ed Wood features interviews with Wood's friends and co-workers.

(from wikipedia, and there is a lot more on him there)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7fwh-pwI5c - Ed Wood movie trailers
http://www.edwood.org - the Church of Ed Wood... no, really

1955 Bride of the Monster
1957 The Night of the Banshee
1959 Plan 9 from Outer Space
1959 Night of the Ghouls
1971 Necromania

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:29 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois



Donald Pleasence was born to Thomas Stanley and Alice (Armitage) Pleasence on October 5, 1919 in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England. The younger of two sons of a railway stationmaster, Pleasence quit school a year before graduation to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an actor. He soon found himself accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but was unable to attend, because he failed to win a scholarship that would cover both tuition and living expenses. After spending a year and a half as a railway station manager at Swinton in Yorkshire, Pleasence was able to worm his way into the position of assistant stage manager at the Playhouse on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands.

He made his stage debut as Hareton Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights at the Playhouse in May of 1939. Pleasence found success almost immediately and worked steadily throughout the next few years -- a period which saw his first London stage appearance, Curio in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at the Arts Theatre Club in June 1942. When it seemed that his career was really beginning to take off, World War II hit and acting had to be set aside for the moment.

Pleasence, a pacifist, spent six months as a conscientious objector in the Lake District working in lumbering for the war effort; he later, however, changed his mind and decided to enlist in the British Royal Air Force. Tragedy struck when Pleasence's plane was shot down over France, and he was thrown into a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp. During the last year of the war, he spent his time being beaten and mentally tortured by sadistic Nazi guards, while dreaming of the day that would bring him freedom. This day came in 1946, when he was recovered from the P.O.W. camp and discharged with the rank of flight lieutenant. While others were licking their wounds at home, Pleasence knew that the only way he would fully recover from his World War II horrors was to get back to work.

Returning to the stage almost immediately after the war, Pleasence seemed to have no difficulty in securing parts. After spending time with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, he joined the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Company and found himself journying to New York to star alongside Laurence Olivier (his acting idol) and Vivian Leigh in both Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra at the Ziegfield Theatre in December 1951. With these successes under his belt, Pleasence returned to London and won acclaim from critics in Hobson's Choice. After being fascinated with the character Huish from the Robert Louis Stevenson short story Ebb Tide, Pleasence adapted the story himself for the stage and produced it in 1952 at both the Edinburgh Festival and Royal Court Theatre in London. He followed this with such productions as The Rules of the Game, The Lark (one of his all time favorites), and Misalliance, but by the mid-1950s, Pleasence decided to pursue other acting avenues, because of the lack of good parts being offered to him on the stage. Moviegoers and television viewers soon began to take notice of the man who critics began to refer to as the "Man with the Hypnotic Eye."

Pleasence made his screen debut in 1955 as Tromp in The Beachcomber, but he did not receive much attention because it was only a small supporting role. He continued to work steadily in films throughout the rest of the decade and even turned up alongside Richard Burton in the classic rebellion drama Look Back in Anger (1959). Pleasence gained even more attention on television and found himself becoming one of the most popular actors on British programming. After appearing as Prince John in the popular series The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956), he received a great deal of praise with Armchair Mystery Theatre, a series he produced in 1960, but it was not until he returned to the stage that he ultimately achieved wide recognition on both sides of the Atlantic.

On April 27, 1960, Pleasence opened in Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Arts Theatre Club in London, and the play was nothing less than an overnight success. Pleasence played Davies, a verminous tramp taken in by two brothers (Alan Bates and Robert Shaw), who give him the position of "caretaker" of their residence. Shortly after he arrives, however, he starts to come in-between the brothers and turmoil results. The Caretaker ran for fourteen weeks in London, before it closed and opened again on Broadway and had a successful 165 performance run. Pleasence received enormous praise from critics in both England and the United States; he was given the British Critics Award for the "Best Performance of the Year" (1960) and was nominated for a Tony Award (the first of four Tony nominations -- he never won). Pinter's play was filmed by Clive Donner in 1964 (released as The Guest in the United States) with Pleasence, Bates, and Shaw. The success of the motion picture was not nearly as enormous as either of the stage productions, but he had another picture released the same year that eventually became a classic. The film was The Great Escape.

This P.O.W. actioner, which co-starred Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, was Pleasence's first big Hollywood film, and it suddenly brought him to the attention of mainstream American moviegoers. His sympathetic portrayal of Colin Blythe, a nearly blind document forger, was all the more realistic, since he had actually spent time in a P.O.W. camp in real life. The role was successful enough to land him in a string of big budget Hollywood productions throughout the rest of the decade, including The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Hallelujah Trail (both 1965), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Night of the Generals, You Only Live Twice (both 1967--the latter as the villainous James Bond nemesis Blofeld), and Will Penny (1968). During this period, his most important film characterization was the neurotic George in Roman Polanski's bizarre black comedy Cul-de-Sac (1966), but it was made in Europe on a miniscule budget. Each of these films gave him a juicy part to showcase his superb skills, but a much bigger success was awaiting him on the stage.

Pleasence had received a great deal of praise for his 1964 dual stage role in Poor Bitos, but Robert Shaw's The Man in the Glass Booth (1967--directed by Harold Pinter) brought him even more accolades. The play, which was about a crazed Jewish millionaire who impersonates a Nazi war criminal, was made successful with both audiences and critics by his magnificent performance, which Time Magazine called "...a performance of atomic power and blinding virtuosity." The role earned Pleasence his third Tony nomination and the 1967 Variety Club Award for the "Best Actor of the Year." While he was again nominated for a Tony with the 1972 production of Wise Child, The Man in the Glass Booth marked Pleasence's last big time success on the stage. For the remainder of his career, Donald Pleasence spent the majority of his career in motion pictures and on television.

While continuing to star in such Hollywood A-budget pictures as The Black Windmill (1974), Hearts of the West (1975), and The Last Tycoon (1976), the seventies marked the period in which the name Donald Pleasence would be greatly associated with the realm of horror. Throughout the decade, Pleasence starred in several low-budget terror and occult pictures, which included Death Line (1972), From Beyond the Grave, Tales That Witness Madness (both 1973), The Mutations (1974), I Don't Want To Be Born! (1975), and The Uncanny (1977). Many of these films were just paychecks for the distinguished performer, who was never known to turn down many roles. One horror film he almost turned down, however, ultimately gave him his biggest personal success since The Man in the Glass Booth. The film was Halloween.

In 1978, a young director named John Carpenter asked Pleasence to star in his $300,000 horror film Halloween. The first reluctant Pleasence finally agreed to star in the film, when one of his daughters told him how much she enjoyed Carpenter's previous film, the urban gang shocker Assault on Precinct 13 (1976). Pleasence starred as a tormented psychiatrist, Dr. Sam Loomis, who pursues a murderous patient, Michael Myers, on Halloween night and is determined to stop him...before he kills again. Halloween was a surprise smash with both audiences and critics; it became the most successful independent motion picture of its time and grossed over $60 million. Halloween has also spawned five sequels to date -- four of which starred Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. The film made Pleasence nothing short of a cult horror icon, which was an image he was never able to shake.

Surprisingly, after the success of Halloween and the next Carpenter/Pleasence teaming, Escape From New York (1981--as a kidnapped President of the United States), Pleasence was unable to secure parts in any prestigious Hollywood pictures. Throughout the 1980s, he starred in a variety of low-budget pictures, which ranged from the excellent (Phenomena and Ground Zero) to the easily forgettable (A Breed Apart and The Devonsville Terror) to downright utter trash (Frankenstein's Great-Aunt Tillie and Warrior Queen). When questioned about some of his below par films, Pleasence would shrug it off and say that he took the roles to support his lavish lifestyle, but his good friend John Carpenter admitted that Pleasence, toward the end of his life, "...was feeling bad about having done so many lousy films. It really bothered him." Pleasence closed out the decade in the stylish Prince of Darkness (1987--directed by Carpenter), two Poe pictures by Harry Allan Towers (1988's The House of Usher and 1990's Buried Alive), and multiple shlocky Italian slasher films. He also reprised Dr. Loomis in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989). These films, which marked Pleasence's return to the series (his last Halloween film was 1981's Halloween II), were quite successful, but neither matched the intensity of the original or the first sequel.

By the 1990s, age had caught up with Pleasence, and consequently, his output began to slow up. He starred in the suspense actioner American Rickshaw (1990) with Mitch Gaylord and in the Woody Allen satire Shadows and Fog (1992). He did score a success with the 1994 medieval courtroom drama Hour of the Pig (aka: The Advocate), but his decade highlight was reprising the role of Davies in the 1991 London revival of The Caretaker with Colin Firth. It would seem only fitting that his last performance would be as the crazed Loomis in the dismal Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) (a previous acting job, Fatal Frames, was released to theatres in 1996). Pleasence, who was delighted with the original Daniel Farrands script, hailed it as the best written script of the sequels, but he did not live to see the shlocky end result. The great British thespian, who was recovering from heart valve surgery, died on Feburary 2, 1995 at his home in St. Paul de Vence, France; he was survived by his fourth wife, Linda, and five daughters. Pleasence left that day having given his fans an array of memorable performances, which will undoubtedly live forever in the hearts of his fans everywhere.

Thanks Donald for 75 wonderful years!

(from http://www.geocities.com/hollywood/set/1817/)


Donald Pleasence is a pretty decisive man, except when it comes to the particulars of his massive body of horror film work.

"Oh, what the hell was that film called?" he grumbles. "It may have gone under a different title in Italy, I'm not sure; a lot of horror films are that way. But then, I've made so many of them that I really can't be expected to remember them all."

Pleasence, rapidly closing in on his 70th birthday, experiences this memory lapse in a trailer on the Salt Lake City set of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. The veteran actor, once again portraying the driven Dr. Loomis, has had a good day at the card table during a day-long jaunt to Las Vegas, which keeps him in good spirits as he waits for the makeup artist to transform him into Loomis for another night in pursuit of Michael. Pleasence in a good mood is not that much different from the image he projects on screen---a gentle but furtive manner that hints at menace, and beady eyes that form a hard stare even when cracking a low-key joke. And under it all lies a traditional, very English resolve to do things his way.

This resolve surfaces often during the course of conversation. Pushing for distinctive memories of particular films often results in "I don't remember"; probing for something a touch sensitive leads him to shut down the line of questioning. Still, the veteran of more than 100 films is not above being candid about the genre he's most associated with.

"I don't like horror films," confesses Pleasence. "I'm interested in them, but if there were three kinds of film playing across the road at my local cinema, the horror film would not be the one I would go to see. I do a lot of horror films because I'm asked to do them, and I need to make money all the time, so..."

Pleasence's need for the green and his ability to add chills to chillers have resulted in his lending support to a ton of horror and fantasy-tinged titles. Tales That Witness Madness, Death Line, From Beyond the Grave, The Devil Within Her and The Monster Club spring to mind. So do Dracula ('79), The Uncanny, Alone in the Dark, Specters and Circus of Horrors. He's worked with such acclaimed directors as Roman Polanski (Cul-De-Sac), George Lucas (THX-1138), Don Siegel (Telefon) and Elia Kazan (The Last Tycoon). When Dario Argento needed what he described as a "great character actor" for the 1985 film Creepers (a.k.a. Phenomena), he rang up Pleasence. Ditto John Carpenter, who has made Pleasence the closest thing to private property in Escape From New York, the first two Halloween films and, most recently, Prince of Darkness.

"Donald is an excellent actor," praised Carpenter during the filming of Prince of Darkness last year. "I always enjoy casting him against type, as the psychiatrist in Halloween and as the U.S. President in Escape From New York, rather than as a villain."

Pleasence has been grateful for Carpenter's faith in him and sees red when your reporter hints that his career has been tied to "crazy person" roles. "Being typed as the one who constantly plays the crazy, mixed-up character is something I vehemently deny," he defends. "I love playing the heavies, like Blofeld in You Only Live Twice; they're usually larger than life and are the characters that most people remember. But as my career has progressed, more and more I'm the good guy chasing after the crazy, mixed-up people. I'm rarely the crazed monster anymore. If the truth be known, I prefer being the pursuer. If the crazed killer was the only role I was being offered, I don't know what I might do to myself."

The actor feels no danger of doing himself damage as long as the diversity of recent roles, largely due to his association with Carpenter, continues to come his way. "John Carpenter is the best director I've ever worked with," declares Pleasence. "One of the main reasons is his bravery in the way he's cast me in his films. By casting me as the president in Escape From New York and as the essentially good Dr. Loomis in the original Halloween, he gave me the opportunities that might have been missed had I stayed a stereotypical madman.

"That casting against type is what made Prince of Darkness such a lovely bit of business for me," he goes on. "People were walking into the theaters expecting me to be bad, and I ended up representing all the good in the universe."

Pleasence is far from "all the good" in his third turn as Dr. Loomis in Halloween 4. "The part of Loomis has remained rather consistent," he assesses. "He's 10 years older and 10 years madder, that's all. The script is good, and it puts Loomis in a bit more of a sympathetic light, which I enjoy."

With hindsight, Pleasence is not surprised that he was called back for Halloween 4. "I know it sounds egotistical and arrogant of me, but I truly believe at this point they could not do a Michael Myers Halloween film without me," he shrugs.

In a story related in Fango #79, Pleasence recounted how he found out there would be a Halloween II. But he recalls being the most shocked of all when, through the magic of moneymaking sequels, he found his character alive and kicking for the current project.

"After Halloween II, I did not see another Halloween in my future," he explains. "I felt they might do another one but that it could not possibly involve me because my death was so definite---I had basically been blown up. But when the producers told me I had only been partially burned, I was happy to play Loomis again."

As the only continual thread in the Shape saga, Pleasence is quick to point out the yin and yang of the trio. "The original Halloween was the best horror film I've been involved in," he states flatly. "The horror and the suspense were very real. I found Halloween II a little too violent for my taste. The current one has a lot of the first film's suspense and there's a surprise ending [which by now we all know about] that will certainly shatter people. If you discount Halloween III, which to my way of thinking was an exploitive and greed-inspired mistake, the series is still of a high enough quality that I would do another, if asked."

Your reporter takes a second shot at getting some historical perspective on Pleasence's genre career. The actor cites dim memories and numerous title changes as an excuse for not being able to fill in the holes on such epics as Great Britain's Circus of Horrors and the Peter Cushing vehicle Land of the Minotaur. He makes a funny face at the mention of The Monster Club, a humorous anthology which co-starred Vincent Price and John Carradine. "There are many films that, after the fact, I wished I had not done," sighs Pleasence, "but I won't tell you which ones."

One that does strike the veteran thespian's fancy is the mismarketed and grossly underappreciated period film The Flesh and the Fiends (a.k.a. Mania), released in 1960. "George Rose and myself were perfectly horrible grave robbers," grins Pleasence. "As I recall, that film had some rather bloody scenes in it which, in 1960, was a rare occurrence in horror films. That was a really atmospheric film, and it portrayed the poverty of 19th-century Europe realistically. "Let me see now," he continues. "I rather liked Death Line (a.k.a. Raw Meat). The idea of my playing an eccentric detective who can't solve the mystery of all these bodies in the English subway was a different turn for me, as was a film I made in Italy called Nothing Underneath. I played another detective chasing down a killer who was murdering models. I don't know if it ever reached the U.S. but it's a bit of a cult film in Italy."

Fantastic Voyage, in which Pleasence plays a Russian agent planted in a team of miniaturized scientists injected into a human body, was not so much a horror film as a fantasy film, but it still impressed the actor. "I remember being amazed the first day I walked onto the shoot and saw these outsize sets that simulated the human body," he muses. "I enjoyed that film because, even though my character was the villain, I got to play him as a much gentler person. Of course, he richly deserved to be swallowed by the antibodies at the end."

Donald Pleasence was born in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England, in 1919. After a misspent youth shuffling in and out of schools and living by his wits, he left the halls of moderately higher learning as a teenager and joined what passed for a war movement at the time by enlisting in the Royal Air Force during World War II. "As an aviator, I was rather successful, right up to the point I was shot down," snickers Pleasence, whose cinematic war sagas include The Great Escape, Hanna's War and All Quiet on the Western Front.

Pleasence spent a year in a German POW camp before returning to civilian life in 1944, his mind set on an acting career and his noggin, at age 25, already bald as an egg. "For a while, I wore a toupee because I thought it would help me get work," says the actor of his struggling, scant work days on British television. "But it didn't, so eventually I threw it away and said, 'They'll have to take me the way I am.'"

They did. In short order, the suddenly more sinister thespian [it's funny what tossing a rug can do for a career] found himself on the receiving end of rave notices for his performances in the London theater production of The Caretaker. Film work followed and, over the years, Pleasence has found himself in a widely contrasting array of major and minor efforts---all of which, he asserts, received his undivided attention.

"I treat all film roles one way: very seriously," exclaims Pleasence. "I never play anything tongue-in-cheek, though at times it might appear that way. I'm a professional actor who has no particular approach to acting. I get the part, I read the script. If I decide to do it, I learn the lines. People expecting a longwinded explanation on my approach will be disappointed. I have no theory about acting. There is no method, there is no way. I just do it."

And much of what Pleasence has done in the horror arena has found favor with audiences fully 50 years his junior. It is a fact not lost on the actor. "All kids love horror films," he reasons. "Films of that nature are especially attractive to teenagers for the simple reason that they don't want to sit home with Mom and Dad and watch game shows. Give them a film that's scary, violent and a little bit funny and they'll be out of the house and into the theaters like a shot."

And the chances are good that Pleasence, in one menacing form or another, will be staring down from the screen at them. At a time in life when most actors might consider cutting back on their output, Pleasence's workload has seemingly doubled. Just about every Italian exploitation movie today features his presence. Halloween 4 is the actor's fourth film appearance of 1988, and he says he might easily double that number by year's end.

"I don't know if I'm the first actor people think of when it comes to horror films," he offers, "but I do seem to get those calls pretty regularly. I work all the time, and it's by choice. I've got homes in Spain and France, and I do tend to have, shall we say, extravagant ways. It's nice to know that, at some point, I'll have a month off to work in my garden or to be with my grandchildren. But it's equally good to know that a call might come that would take me halfway around the world to make a film."

Pleasence, despite a stunt double to do the more dangerous falls and tumbles, concedes that Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers has been "an exhausting film for me." And the prospect of yet another long night of shooting renders him a tad impatient with yet another journalist's probing of his psyche. His razor-sharp mind spots a repeated query asked 30 minutes previously and he snaps, "I've already answered that question." His eyes begin to wander around the trailer's cramped confines, looking, perhaps, for an escape hatch to crawl through. Finally, when all else seems to fail, Pleasence turns from the half-profile he has shown this reporter throughout the interview, looks me straight in the eye and says: "OK?"

His intention does not come completely across, and your correspondent is about to ask another question until I do another take on the actor's face. It's suddenly the face from The Flesh and the Fiends, a visage straight out of The Devonsville Terror, a steely stare like something in The Mutations. Donald Pleasence is telling FANGORIA, "Your time is up."

OK, we can take a hint.

http://www.geocities.com/hollywood/set/1817/ - really nice fansite, from which all of the above was taken.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U1Ia9mjWPg - a "best of" comp of Pleasence in his most famous horror role, Dr. Loomis

1960 The Flesh and the Fiends
1960 Circus of Horrors
1960 The Hands of Orlac
1961 What a Carve Up!
1966 Eye of the Devil
1971 THX 1138
1971 Wake in Fright
1972 Death Line
1973 The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (voice)
1973 From Beyond the Grave
1973 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
1973 Tales That Witness Madness
1974 House of the Damned
1974 The Freakmaker
1975 I Don’t Want to Be Born
1975 Journey Into Fear
1976 Land of the Minotaur
1977 The Uncanny
1978 The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
1978 Night Creature
1978 Halloween
1980 The Monster Club
1980 The Puma Man
1981 Escape from New York
1981 Halloween II
1982 Alone in the Dark
1983 The Devonsville Terror
1984 Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie
1985 Phenomena
1987 Prince of Darkness
1988 The House of Usher
1988 Vampire in Venice
1988 Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
1989 Halloween 5
1990 Buried Alive
1995 Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 3:00 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Best known as the man who brought the horror genre into the homes of millions, Dan Curtis has managed to leave a mark on television and popular culture that is impossible to ignore.

After starting as a salesman for NBC in the early '60s, Curtis formed his own production company to produce such fare as the CBS Golf Classic but it was his venture into daytime television that earned him a place in television history.

Created after a vivid nightmare of a girl and a huge, old house, Dan Curtis pitched the idea to ABC, who bought the series as a daily soap. Elements from Curtis' dream / nightmare appeared in the series' first episode, now titled Dark Shadows, which aired in June, 1966 to lukewarm reviews. Variety called the series "one big contemporary yawn" and the early ratings were abysmal. Still, the series soldiered on, steadily gaining an audience drawn to the eerie, gothic world.

The series gained a huge boost with the introduction of the first vampire as a regular character in a series, Barnabas Collins, played by veteran actor Jonathan Frid. Originally intended as a gimmick to help boost ratings, Frid's portrayal of Barnabas literally stole the show. Never comfortable in front of the camera, Frid's fear carried through to the audience, making his one of the first sympathetic vampire portrayals in history. Curtis would later use the idea of the sympathetic vampire in his adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula in 1973.

As Barnabas' popularity grew, so did Frid's screen time. Already uncomfortable in front of the camera, Curtis was faced with the problem of a leading man who really didn't want to spend the extra time in front of the camera. To try and take a little of the load off Barnabas, a number of other characters with creature connections were brought in, most notably David Selby and the werewolf-cursed Quentin Collins.

Frid and Selby became synonymous with the series, their faces adorning most of the merchandising. Dark Shadows was becoming a pop phenomenon with critics like Rolling Stone's John Carroll calling the series "...incredibly bad. That's why it's so good. It has no redeeming social value." The stars were appearing in magazines like Sixteen and various other teen-oriented publications. Sensing that the proverbial iron was red hot, Curtis decided to take a turn at the big screen with the denizens of Collinwood.

MGM was quickly sold on the idea of a Dark Shadows movie that would serve mostly as a re-telling of the original Barnabas storyline from the daily series. Filming on House of Dark Shadows began on March 23rd, 1970 and ran to May 1st. Thanks to a storyline that was focusing on other members of the Collins clan, Jonathan Frid and most of the cast involved in the original storyline were freed up to re-tell the story on film. Other changes were made to the plot, most notably the change of Barnabas Collins from sympathetic vampire to ruthless bloodsucker.

Fans eagerly rushed to the theaters to see the film upon its release in 1971. The film, which cost an estimated $750,000 to produce, might have been fun for the fans of the series but the press gave the movie a cold shoulder. The New York Post commented that "the transfer to the large screen has magnified all the faults and foolishness." Most of the other reviews were just as kind. Still, the film did good business which prompted Curtis to start work on a sequel, Night of Dark Shadows. There was only one minor problem – his star wasn't interested.

Jonathan Frid, never comfortable in the part of Barnabas and afraid of being typecast, turned down Curtis' offer to start in a second film. Figuring that the Dark Shadows name would be enough to open the film, Curtis set to work putting together a ghost story.

Meanwhile, back on the set of the television series, the end was coming. Curtis was eager to move on after five years of producing a continuing drama and the stories were showing a lack of direction. To compound matters, Jonathan Frid wanted to play a part other than Barnabas, resulting in a further dip in the ratings. Finally, the word came down that Dark Shadows had creaked its last door and sucked its last drop of blood. The final episode aired on April 2nd, 1971. The time slot would be taken over by the new Allan Ludden-hosted Password, a game show that would go on to run for several years and be the subject of a classic episode of The Odd Couple. After a short delay, work began on Night of Dark Shadows.

Night of Dark Shadows, like the previous film, existed outside of the regular continuity of the television series but retained the series' actors, mostly playing different parts from those the audience was familiar with. Most notable as the first big screen appearance of future Charlie's Angels star Kate Jackson, this film failed to click with fans at the box office or critics.

Like its central character, Dark Shadows refused to die. Five years after going off the air, the series was sold in a syndication package along with the syndicated soap spoof, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The series was syndicated again in the late '70s / early '80s with great success.

Curtis had a number of projects he wanted to work on but one stood out, a telefilm based on a then-unpublished story by author Jeff Rice about a newspaper reporter tracking a vampire in Las Vegas. ABC, having made money off of Curtis and vampires, were happy to add the film to the network's late night offerings. The result was the highest rated telefilm in history to that point, The Night Stalker. On January 11th, 1972, Curtis would be instrumental in bringing a character with just as much offbeat cult appeal as Barnabas Collins to the small screen, Darren McGavin as the seedy reporter, Carl Kolchak.

Kolchak was an unlikely kind of hero. He wasn't a standard action hero and would be much more likely to scream and run from an evil monster than try and confront it head on. Still, he would dig until he found the truth, no matter how bizarre. Acting upon that information usually wound up being more trouble that it was worth, resulting in Kolchak being run out of Vegas with nothing more than his own dictated tapes of the events.

After achieving an unprecedented 33.2 rating and a 54 share, the network was ready for a sequel. On January 16th, 1973, Kolchak returned to the small screen in The Night Strangler. Having landed a job with a paper in Seattle, Kolcak once again discovers killings rooted in the supernatural and gets the boot for his trouble. The audience loved it and ABC was ready for a series based on the adventures of the skeptical reporter who couldn't help but find the supernatural everywhere he turned. Development began on the weekly version of Kolchak but it would be without Curtis. "Sure, they approached me about it," Curtis said later in the book The Night Stalker Companion. "I thought it was a bad idea. I didn't see how it could be done." Curtis' opinion was shared by his screenwriter / collaborator on the television movies, Richard Matheson.

"If Dan had done the series, I would have done the series," Matheson told The Night Stalker Companion. "When I learned that he didn't have involvement with it, I decided not to have involvement in it. Frankly, I was sort of relieved. We'd had so much trouble coming up with a story for The Night Strangler. But that was so tough that I couldn't imagine how they could come up with a new monster every week."

Curtis moved on to another classic, Frankenstein, in 1973. In a style that had become his trademark, decided to make a version of the classic tale that was sympathetic to the creature. Instead of being a mindless brute, Curtis' monster was intelligent and misunderstood.

Curtis went on to make the television horror genre his own. With The Norliss Tapes (1973), Curtis seemed to create a knock-off of Night Stalker, this time using former Invaders star Roy Thinnes as the crusading reporter. Curtis even used Claude Akins as the sheriff, the same role he'd played in the first Kolchak film. It wasn't as good as the original but the audience didn't seem to care – Curtis seemed to have the touch with this kind of material.

The 1970s continued to be kind to Curtis and his horror offerings. A version of Dracula starring Jack Palance once again brought a tragic portrayal of vampires to the screen while Trilogy of Terror (1975) brought the producer the chance to work again with veteran horror author Richard Matheson (who had written the teleplay for the first Kolchak film) and writer William F. Nolan, best known as the author of Logan's Run who had worked with Curtis on Norliss Tapes and numerous other telefilms.

The 1980s brought new challenges and a new format for Curtis. The success of the mini-series format brought on by projects like Shogun in 1980 gave Curtis the opportunity to finally work on his dream project, an adaptation of Herman Wouk's World War II epic novel, The Winds of War, in 1983. The nearly $40 million mini-series was a hit with viewers and Curtis went to work adapting Wouk's sequel, War and Remembrance, which aired in 1988. This time, the budget topped $100 million as the producer had to re-create the Second World War for television. By then, the mini-series format was waning and the ratings were a disappointment but Curtis still earned a well deserved Emmy for his efforts.

Most recently, Curtis produced the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation The Love Letter. While not in the gothic style of much of his earlier work, the story still featured the supernatural premise of a modern day man exchanging letters with a Civil War-era woman. Dark Shadows also went through a revival thanks to a Writer's Guild strike that saw a number of the series' old scripts re-done with a new cast, including Ben Cross as Barnabas. Late 2003 will also see the release of a book of Richard Matheson's original Kolchak teleplays, including an unproduced third teleplay.

- www.darrenmcgavin.com

"Look out baby, Kolchak's coming back in style!"The Night Stalker (1972). It just doesn't get any better than this. Darren McGavin as the rumpled, disheveled and altogether unseemly anti-hero, Carl Kolchak and Simon Oakland as his long-suffering editor, Tony Vincenzo are so much fun to watch, you almost forget this film was made for television. The teleplay by Richard Matheson, which won an Edgar award, moves along at a great clip. There is little contrivance in Matheson's writing of the characters; almost everyone behaves more like a normal person that a character in a horror film, which accounts for most of this film's charm. McGavin's voice-dictated voiceovers into his tape recorder add an almost Dragnet feel to the proceedings, making the fantastic events taking place on the screen seem more like a documentary than a story. All of the hooks that would go on to become the linchpins of mega hit television series such as The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are here. If Star Trek was the father of all SF action / adventure dramas on television, then The Night Stalker is certainly the father of the television horror genre.

(from www.ign.com)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3et00pSrBA - tribute from his peers
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3et00pSrBA - zuni fetish doll

1970 House of Dark Shadows
1971 Night of Dark Shadows
1972 The Night Stalker (producer only)
1973 Shadow of Fear (producer only)
1973 The Invasion of Carol Enders
1973 Bram Stoker’s Dracula
1973 The Night Strangler
1973 The Norliss Tapes
1973 The Picture of Dorian Gray (producer only)
1974 Scream of the Wolf
1974 The Turn of the Screw
1975 Trilogy of Terror
1976 Burnt Offerings
1977 Dead of Night
1977 Curse of the Black Widow
1990 Dark Shadows
1992 Intruders
1996 Trilogy of Terror II

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:23 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Rod Serling (December 25, 1924-June 28, 1975), one of television's most prolific writers, is best known for his science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone. He believed that the role of the writer was to "menace the public conscience." Throughout his life Serling used radio, television, and film as "vehicles of social criticism."
Rodman Edward Serling was born in Syracuse, New York to Samuel and Esther Serling. The Serlings, a Reform Jewish family, moved in 1926 to Binghamton, New York where Rod would spend the remainder of his childhood. The Serling family was involved in the Binghamton Jewish community; a community held together by ethnic underpinnings more than religious ties. Like many members of the local Jewish community, Serling's family infrequently attended synagogue except during High Holy days. Sam Serling, vice-president of the Reform temple, told Rod and his older brother Robert, "I'm not a good Jew, but I think I'm a good person. If you want to be very religious, that's up to you. My own philosophy is, I take people for what they are, not where they go to pray." Sam enrolled his sons in Sunday School at the local Jewish community center where director Isadore Friedlander and his wife, philosophical humanists, were spiritual mentors to many of Binghamton's Jewish youth. At high school, where he edited the newspaper, Serling experienced anti-Jewish discrimination when he was blackballed from the Theta Sigma fraternity. In an interview in 1972 he said of this incident, "it was the first time in my life that I became aware of religious difference."

After graduation Serling enlisted in the United States Army. Beginning in May 1944 he served with the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division in New Guinea and during the invasion of the Philippines. He was awarded the Purple Heart for a severe shrapnel wound to his knee. The war also took a permanent mental toll; he would suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia for the rest of his life. When discharged from the army in 1946 he was "bitter about everything and at loose ends."

Serling enrolled under the G.I. Bill of Rights at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. In the late 1940s Antioch was famous for loose social rules and a unique work-study curriculum. Serling was stimulated by the liberal intellectual environment and began to feel "the need to write, a kind of compulsion to get some of my thoughts down." He was also inspired by the words of Unitarian educator Horace Mann, first president of Antioch College, "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." Serling would later feature these words and a rendition of Antioch's Horace Mann statue in the 1962 Twilight Zone episode, "Changing of the Guard." His first writings were short stories, mostly about the war. In "Transcript of the Legal Proceedings in the Case of the Universe Versus War" a heavenly trial was conducted with Euripedes as prosecutor, Julius Caesar as lawyer for the defense, God as judge, and a jury of twelve angels.

During his first year at Antioch, Serling met his future wife Carol Kramer, a Protestant. Both families had a difficult time accepting the proposed union. Serling's mother had always hoped her sons would marry Jewish women. Carol's father told her, "I absolutely forbid you to marry that black-haired little Jew." Shortly before their marriage Carol convinced Rod to convert to Unitarianism. She was not practicing her parents' faith and he had never shown interest in Judaism, though he always identified as being ethnically Jewish. The liberal environment at Antioch, which had Unitarian connections going back nearly a century, helped Rod and Carol to shed their family religious traditions and to accept Unitarianism as a convenient compromise. They were married in an ecumenical service at the Antioch chapel in the summer of 1948. They had two daughters, Jody and Ann.
In 1950 Serling graduated from Antioch with a degree in literature and took a job as a staff writer with radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. Passionately motivated to become a freelance writer, he worked days for the station and spent nights writing scripts at his kitchen table. By 1952 Serling's income from moonlight writing enabled him to quit WLW, focus on writing full-time, and move to the New York area. There Serling won Emmys for three early teleplays: Patterns, 1955; Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1956; and The Comedian, 1957. His message in Patterns was that "every human being has a minimum set of ethics from which he operates. When he refuses to compromise these ethics, his career must suffer, when he does compromise them, his conscience does the suffering."

By the late 1950s the days of the live New York teleplay were over and the television industry had begun to move to Hollywood, where there was more money, equipment and talent. In 1957 the Serlings moved to Pacific Palisades, California. Serling believed "that of all the media, TV lends itself most beautifully to presenting a controversy." He found that with television he could "take a part of the problem, and using a small number of people, get my point across."

However, Serling quickly realized that to get a point across often meant creating scripts that contained controversial messages and dialogues. Corporate sponsors, on the other hand, had no desire to have their products matched with messages that might be deemed offensive. In 1959 Serling expressed his frustration: "I think it is criminal that we are not permitted to make dramatic note of social evils that exist, of controversial themes as they are inherent in our society." Because of the hostile creative environment Serling began to see the advantages of writing science fiction and fantasy. He learned that advertisers would routinely approve stories including controversial situations if they took place on fictional worlds. Out of this realization came the television series The Twilight Zone, 1959-64, on which Serling and other writers would enjoy unprecedented artistic freedom.

Serling wrote or adapted 99 of the 156 Twilight Zone episodes. The first season of The Twilight Zone opened with the episode, "Where is Everybody?" on October 10, 1959. This pilot had been originally pitched to CBS with the idea of Orson Welles as narrator. Welles asked for too much money, however, and the producers decided that Serling would do the narration. The series, with Serling's trademark appearances, ran for five years and won him two Emmys. From within the surreal world of The Twilight Zone, Serling addressed dozens of social issues such as prejudice ("The Eye of the Beholder," 1960), loss of identity ("Mirror Image," 1960), capital punishment ("Execution," 1960), censorship ("The Obsolete Man," 1961), the Holocaust ("Deaths-Head Revisited," 1961), ageism ("The Trade-Ins," 1962) and social conformity ("Number Twelve Looks Just Like You," 1964). In the closing words to "The Shelter," 1961, Serling expressed what he understood to be humanity's greatest challenge, "No moral, no message, no prophetic tract, just a simple state of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized."
In 1962, Serling accepted a year long teaching position at Antioch college. He felt that he needed to "regain my perspective, to do a little work and spend the rest of my time getting acquainted with my wife and children." At Antioch he taught writing, drama, and a survey course about the "social and historical implications of the media."

After saying, "television has left me tired and frustrated" Serling began to write more movie scripts. Seven Days in May, 1964, showed Serling's passion for nuclear disarmament and peace. Serling said, "If you want to prove that God is not dead first prove that man is alive." He tackled racism and anthropocentrism in the movie adaptation of Pierre Boulle's The Planet of the Apes, 1968. At the same time Serling continued to write for television. The Loner, 1965-1966, and Night Gallery, 1970-1973, however, left Serling bitter. He had little creative control and said of Night Gallery, "It is not mine at all. It's another species of a formula series drama."

The Serlings were active members of the Unitarian Community Church of Santa Monica, California. The minister of the church was Ernest Pipes whose humanist preaching suited Serling's outlook and with whom he corresponded on politics and the state of humanity. Serling was an ardent supporter of the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Santa Monica church, and the American Civil Liberties Union. He supported these and other organizations by accepting speaking engagements and with monetary donations. He was politically active, and in 1966 campaigned for incumbent Pat Brown against Ronald Reagan in the California gubernatorial race.

Serling's social activism also took the form of writing letters to newspaper editors. In one poignant example Serling responded to Dr. Max Rafferty, a religious conservative educator, who had a weekly column in the Los Angeles Times. On October 10, 1966 Rafferty's column addressed social reform and claimed that humanity's problems were not the responsibility of society but of the individual. The article's theme is well expressed in Rafferty's statement, "I don't feel guilty about crime in our cities because I'm not committing any." Serling's incensed response was published five days later. In it he rebuked Dr. Rafferty with his words, "The good doctor had best take his Bible in hand and discover what is the compassion of faith, the selflessness of worship and the charity of Christ" and concluded by saying, "[Dr. Rafferty] take note of what the ghost of Jacob Marley said to Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. 'Mankind! Cries the ghost, was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.'"

In 1967 Serling said, "I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply. In almost everything I've written there is a thread of this: a man's seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself." Speaking about the Vietnam War at the 1968 Binghamton Community High School graduation, Serling said, "If survival calls for the bearing of arms, bear them you must. But the most important part of the challenge is for you to find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow man."

In his last interview, four months before his death, Serling was asked about reincarnation. He said, "I don't believe in reincarnation. That's a cop-out. . . . I anticipate death will be a totally unconscious void in which you float through eternity with no particular consciousness of anything."

Serling smoked cigarettes for most of his life, a habit that eventually took a toll on his heart. In May 1975 Serling had his first heart attack while mowing the lawn at the Interlaken lake house. Though the attack was mild, his health continued to decline and during bypass surgery Serling died. Two simultaneous memorial services were held, one at the Sage Chapel of Cornell University in New York and the other at the Unitarian Community Church of Santa Monica in California.

(from www25.uua.org)

Mike Wallace: This is Mike Wallace with another television interview in our gallery of colorful people. In television drama few names have the prestige of that of our guest. Rod Serling is the only writer to have won three Emmy awards, for Requiem for a Heavyweight, Patterns and The Comedian. We'll talk to him about censorship in television, his fight to say what he believes, and we'll learn what he means by the price tag that hangs on success. We'll learn all that in just one minute.

Mike Wallace: And now to our story with Rod Serling. Way back in 1951 when television was just a baby, a young man sat in a Cincinnati diner with his wife and came to a momentous decision. He decided to give up the security of his job and take a chance at becoming a free-lance television writer. Rod, first of all, let me ask you this. What was it that brought that decision about? Was it a burning desire to write because you felt that you had to say something or was it just a way to make more money?

Rod Serling: A combination of many things, Mike. The immediate motive at the time, the prodding thing that pushed me into it, was that I had been writing for a Cincinnati television station as a staff writer which is a particularly dreamless occupation composed of doing commercials, even making up...uh...letters of...what do they call it? To plug a product...somebody has used it...

Mike Wallace: Testimonial?

Rod Serling: Testimonial letters. As I recall, there was a drug, a liquid drug, on the market at the time that could cure everything from arthritis to a fractured pelvis, and I actually had to write testimonial letters. And on that particular day I had just had it, and though I had been free-lancing concurrent with the staff job—the best year I had ever had I think we netted about seven hundred dollars, which is hardly even grocery money. And that one night we just decided to sink or swim and go into it.

Mike Wallace: So you went, you came here to New York?

Rod Serling: Uh, not immediately. We stayed another six months, I guess, in Ohio then came to New York. Started principally in Lux Video Theatre, then live a half hour emanating from New York. I did eleven shows for them and I was sort of on my way from that point on.

Mike Wallace: And what kind of stuff did you write, because you said that it wasn't just the money. It was something that you wanted to say, that you weren't getting a chance to say in Cincinnati.

Rod Serling: Well, in those days, Lux Video, as one show, was doing reasonably adult stuff. These, of course, were not Playhouse 90s, nor were they award winning shows, but they were reasonably mature things that even today stand up pretty well. And I was doing Lux Video, Kraft Theatre, the early so-called pioneer days of television, which, of course, are hardly pioneer, but anything over eight years old is pioneer-style in television.

Mike Wallace: You worked a little for a television producer, David Suskind, at that time.

Rod Serling: I worked for David, yes.

Mike Wallace: You've come a long way since those early days, and perhaps more than any other writer, your name is figured in the classic battle, that is television writer, the battle of the writer to be his own man. What happens when a writer like yourself writes something that he really believes in, for television?

Rod Serling: I'm not sure I understand the question, Mike. What happens, you mean, in terms of...

Mike Wallace: Well, we hear a lot about censorship of the writer on TV, and a good deal about it in your own case especially.

Rod Serling: Well, depending, of course, on the dramatic treatment you're using, if you have the temerity to try to dramatize a theme that involves any particular social controversy currently extant, then you're in deep trouble.

Mike Wallace: For instance?

Rod Serling: Uh, a racial theme, for example. My case in point, I think, a show I did for the Steel Hour, some years ago—three years ago, called Noon on Doomsday, which was a story which purported to tell what was the aftermath, the alleged kidnapping in Mississippi of the Till boy, the young Chicago Negro. And I wrote the script using black and white, initially, then it was changed to suggest an unnamed foreigner. Then the locale was moved from the South to New England, and I'm convinced they'd have gone up to Alaska or the North Pole if, and using Eskimos as a possible minority, except I suppose the costume problem was a sufficient severity not to attempt it, but it became a lukewarm, eviscerated, emasculated kind of show.

Mike Wallace: You went along with it, though.

Rod Serling: All the way. I protested. I went down fighting, as most television writers do, thinking, in a strange, oblique, philosophical way that better say something than nothing. In this particular show, though, by the time they had finished taking Coca-Cola bottles off the set because the sponsor claimed that this had Southern connotations, suggesting to what depth they went to make this a clean, antiseptically, rigidly acceptable show. Why, it bore no relationship at all to what we had purported to say initially.

Mike Wallace: Paddy Chayefsky has talked about the insidious influence of what he called pre-censorship. How does that work?

Rod Serling: Pre-censorship is a practice, I think, of most television writers. I can't speak for all of them. This is the prior knowledge of the writer of those areas which are difficult to try to get through and so a writer will shy away from writing those things which he knows he's going to have trouble with on a sponsorial or an agency level. We practice it all the time. We just do not write those themes which we know are going to get into trouble.

Mike Wallace: Who's the culprit? Is it the network? The sponsor? It sure is not the FCC.

Rod Serling: No, it's certainly not the FCC, ideally speaking, of course. It's a combination of culprits in this case, Mike. It's partly network. It's principally agency and sponsor. In many ways I think it's the audience themselves.

Mike Wallace: How do you mean?

Rod Serling: Well, I'll give you an example. About a year ago, roughly eleven or twelve months ago, on the Lassie show—this is a story usually told by Sheldon Leonard who was then associated with the show—Lassie was having puppies. And I have two little girls, then aged five and three, who are greatly enamored with this beautiful Collie and they watched the show with great interest. And Lassie gave birth to puppies, and Mike, it was probably one of the most tasteful and delightful and warm things depicting what is this wondrous thing that is birth. And after this show, I think they were many congratulations all around because it was a lovely show, the sort of thing I'd love my kids to watch to show them what is the birth process and how marvelous it is. They got many, many cards and letters. Sample card, from the deep South this was: if I wanted my kids to watch sex shows, I wouldn't have them turn on that. I could take them to burlesque shows. And as a result of the influx of mail, many of the cards, incidentally as Sheldon tells it, were postmarked at identical moments all in the same handwriting, but each was counted as a singular piece of mail. And as a result, the directive went down that there would be no shows having anything to do with puppies, that is in the actual birth process. Well, obviously, it is this wild lunatic fringe of letter-writers that greatly affect what the sponsor has in mind.

Mike Wallace: You can understand the position of the sponsor, can't you?

Rod Serling: In many ways I suppose I can. He's there to push a product.

Mike Wallace: He has a considerable stake, thus, in what goes on the air.

Rod Serling: Most assuredly, and in those cases where there is a problem of public taste, in which there is a concern for eliciting negative response from a large mass of people, I can understand why the guys are frightened. I don't understand, Mike, for example, other evidences and instances of intrusion by sponsors. For example, on Playhouse 90, not a year ago, a lovely show called Judgment at Nuremberg, I think probably one of the most competently done and artistically done pieces that 90's done all year. In it, as you recall, mention was made of gas chambers and the line was deleted, cut off the soundtrack. And it mattered little to these guys that the gas involved in concentration camps was cyanide, which bore no resemblance, physical or otherwise, to the gas used in stoves. They cut the line.

Mike Wallace: Because the sponsor was...

Rod Serling: Did not want that awful association made between what was the horror and the misery of Nazi Germany with the nice chrome wonderfully antiseptically clean beautiful kitchen appliances that they were selling. Now this is an example of sponsor interference which is so beyond logic and which is so beyond taste—this I rebel against.

Mike Wallace: You've got a new series coming up called The Twilight Zone. You are writing, as well as acting executive producer on this one. Who controls the final product, you or the sponsor?

Rod Serling: We have what I think, at least theoretically, anyway, because it hasn't really been put into practice yet, a good working relationship, where in questions of taste and questions of the art form itself and questions of drama, I'm the judge, because this is my medium and I understand it. I'm a dramatist for television. This is the area I know. I've been trained for it. I've worked for it for twelve years, and the sponsor knows his product but he doesn't know mine. So when it comes to the commercials, I leave that up to him. When it comes to the story content, he leaves it up to me.

Mike Wallace: Has nothing been changed in the...

Rod Serling: We changed, in eighteen scripts, Mike, we have had one line changed, which, again, was a little ludicrous but of insufficient basic concern within the context of the story, not to put up a fight. On a bridge of a British ship, a sailor calls down to the galley and asks in my script for a pot of tea, because I believe that it's constitutionally acceptable in the British Navy to drink tea. One of my sponsors happens to sell instant coffee, and he took great umbrage, or at least minor umbrage anyway, with the idea of saying tea. Well, we had a couple of swings back and forth, nothing serious, and we decided we'd ask for a tray to be sent up to the bridge. But in eighteen scripts, that's the only conflict we've had.

Mike Wallace: Well...

Rod Serling: They passed...

Mike Wallace: They passed what?

Rod Serling: I mean, every script.

Mike Wallace: Is pre-censorship, though, involved? Are you simply writing easy?

Rod Serling: In this particular area, no, because we're dealing with a half hour show which cannot probe like a 90, which doesn't use scripts as vehicles of social criticism. These are strictly for entertainment.

Mike Wallace: These are potboilers.

Rod Serling: Oh, no. Un-uh. I wouldn't call them potboilers at all. No, these are very adult, I think, high-quality half hour, extremely polished films. But because they deal in the areas of fantasy and imagination and science-fiction and all of those things, there's no opportunity to cop a plea or chop an axe or anything.

Mike Wallace: Well, you're not gonna be able to cop a plea or chop an axe because you're going to be obviously working so hard on The Twilight Zone that in essence, for the time being and for the foreseeable future, you've given up on writing anything important for television, right?

Rod Serling: Yeah. Well, again, this is a semantic thing—important for television. I don't know. If by important you mean I'm not going to try to delve into current social problems dramatically, you're quite right. I'm not.

WEBMASTER'S ASIDE: In the 1997 PBS Special Submitted for Your Approval, Mike Wallace agreed with Rod: "At the time he did the interview, he'd just gotten through battling censorship and gotten through battling the system. So of course he was going to say, 'I'm not going to do anything controversial.'"

Mike Wallace: You told Kay Gardella of the New York Daily News this: you said "Professionally, I don't think Twilight Zone will hurt me, but I must admit I don't think it will help me either. I'm stepping out of the line of fire." You've had it as far as trying to beat your brains out.

Rod Serling: I have to lay claim to that being a misquote. I didn't state that, not verbatim. I didn't say that I was...would you just read me the first two lines, Mike?

Mike Wallace: "Professionally, I don't think Twilight Zone will hurt me, but I must admit I don't think it will help me either."

Rod Serling: I never said that. I'm convinced it'll help me. I have great pride in the show. In eleven or twelve years of writing, Mike, I can lay claim to at least this: I have never written beneath myself. I have never written anything that I didn't want my name attached to. I have probed deeper in some scripts and I've been more successful in some than others. But all of them that have been on, you know, I'll take my lick. They're mine and that's the way I wanted them.

Mike Wallace: But you're going to play fairly safe, let us say.

Rod Serling: No question about it.

Mike Wallace: Dave Suskind, on this program, had this to say. "Playing it safe," he said, "is a sure road to sterility and death." What about it?

Rod Serling: Well, of course, I've known David a long time. We've worked together. I think David sometimes has a kind of convenient lapse of memory in which he forgets the shows that he produced not too many years ago, which were safe shows in the extreme. Shows like Appointment With Adventure, that I wrote for. And these shows were, you know, cut off, sliced off the old ham. They were shows that, you know, characterized early television at the nadir of its mediocrity. I don't think playing it safe constitutes a retreat, necessarily. In other words, I don't think if, by playing safe he means we are not going to delve into controversy, then if that's what he means he's quite right. I'm not going to delve into controversy. Somebody asked me the other day if this means that I'm going to be a meek conformist, and my answer is no. I'm just acting the role of a tired non-conformist. And I don't wanna fight any more.

Mike Wallace: What do you mean you don't wanna fight any more?

Rod Serling: I don't wanna have to battle sponsors and agencies. I don't wanna have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don't wanna have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what the television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes.

Mike Wallace: Well then why do you stay in television?

Rod Serling: I stay in television because I think it's very possible to perform a function of providing adult, meaningful, exciting, challenging drama without dealing in controversy necessarily. This, of course, Mike, is not the best of all possible worlds. I am not suggesting that this is at the absolute millennium. I think it's criminal that we're not permitted to make dramatic note of social evils as they exist, of controversial themes as they are inherent in our society. I think it's ridiculous that drama, which by its very nature should make a comment on those things that affect our daily lives, is in the position, at least in terms of television drama, of not being able to take this stand. But these are the facts of life. This is the way it exists, and they can't look to me or Chayefsky or Rose or Gore Vidal or J.P. Miller or any of these guys as the precipitators of the big change. It's not for us to do it.

Mike Wallace: Of course, Chayefsky got out of television.

Rod Serling: Yeah, he did, and I can't knock that. I think this takes a relative degree of guts to leave a medium that's made you, that made you sociable as kind of a household name. Paddy was the first guy to kind of lend stature to the television writer. Prior to Paddy Chayefsky, most of us were considered to be two-headed hacks who worked around the clock and used boy/girl situations and any one of five thousand different routine manners. But Paddy gave us a stature, and I respect Paddy's decision to leave. He felt that he wasn't satisfied with doing things half-best.

Mike Wallace: Do you think you could make it outside of television?

Rod Serling: Me? I'm not sure I could. And I suppose this is an admission of a kind of weakness or at least a sense of insecurity on my part. I've never had a Broadway play produced. What few motion pictures I've written have been somewhat less than spectacular. And I suppose I stay in the medium partly as an admission of I wanna stay in the womb. This is the medium I understand. These are the tools and techniques that I've been versed in for many years. Maybe I don't wanna get stuck up on the board and get shot at with darts on a Broadway play when I'm not sure I'm prepared for it. But Paddy was willing to take the chance. Gore Vidal writes novels. Bob Bartee did Broadway.

Mike Wallace: What about you and novels?

Rod Serling: Ultimately, I'd love to write a novel, and I think next year I'll start my play. Requiem was under option. It was written as a play, and I gave them their money back and I wanna do it over again. But I stay in the medium, also because I happen to like the medium.

Mike Wallace: Herb Brodkin, who was a TV producer who was associated with some of your earlier plays, has said this about you: he said "Rod is either going to stay commercial or become a discerning artist, but not both." Now, in just a second, I'd like to come back and have you talk to that. Are you going to stay commercial or become a discerning artist, and do you agree that you can't do both? And we'll get Rod Serling's answer in just one minute.

Mike Wallace: And now back to our story with Rod Serling. Rod, let me repeat it. Herbert Brodkin, a TV producer, associated with some of your earlier plays, has said this about you. He said, "Rod is either going to stay commercial or become a discerning artist, but not both." Now, has it ever occurred to you that you're selling yourself short by taking on a series which, by your own admission, is going to be a series primarily designed to entertain.

Rod Serling: I remember the quote. He gave it to Gilbert Millstein when Millstein was doing a profile on me in the New York Times. I didn't understand it at the time. I fail to achieve any degree of understanding in the ensuing years which are three in number. I presume Herb means that inherently you cannot be commercial and artistic. You cannot be commercial and quality. You cannot be commercial concurrent with have a preoccupation with the level of storytelling that you want to achieve. And this I have to reject. I think you can be, I don't think calling something commercial tags it with a kind of an odious suggestion that it stinks, that it's something raunchy to be ashamed of. I don't think if you say commercial means to be publicly acceptable, what's wrong with that? The essence of my argument, Mike, is that as long as you are not ashamed of anything you write if you're a writer, as long as you're not ashamed of anything you perform if you're an actor, and I'm not ashamed of doing a television series. I could have done probably thirty or forty film series over the past five years. I presume at least I've turned down that many with great guarantees of cash, with great guarantees of financial security, but I've turned them down because I didn't like them. I did not think they were quality, and God knows they were commercial. But I think innate in what Herb says is the suggestion made by many people that you can't have public acceptance and still be artistic. And, as I said, I have to reject that.

Mike Wallace: One of your most recent plays was one called The Velvet Alley, right?

Rod Serling: Right.

Mike Wallace: It was about the corrupting influences of Hollywood and big money.

Rod Serling: Right.

Mike Wallace: Where'd that come from? Your own experiences?

Rod Serling: Many, part of it was very autobiographical, part of it was a composite of observation of other people involved.

Mike Wallace: Well, what do you mean by the corrupting influence of Hollywood and big money? What is that all saying?

Rod Serling: Well, I didn't mean to suggest that corruption had a geographical tag, that it was necessarily the corruption of Hollywood. What I tried to suggest dramatically was that when you get into the big money, particularly in the kind of detonating, exciting, explosive, overnight way that our industry permits, there are certain blandishments that a guy can succumb to and many do.

Mike Wallace: Such as?

Rod Serling: A preoccupation with status, with the symbols of status, with the heated swimming pool that's ten feet longer than the neighbors, with the big car, with the concern about billing, all these things. In a sense rather minute things, really, in context, but that become disproportionately large in a guy's mind.

Mike Wallace: And because those become so large, what becomes small?

Rod Serling: I think probably the really valuable things, and I know this sounds corny and sorta Buckwheat-ish to say things like having a family, being concerned with raising children, being concerned with where they go to school, being concerned with a good marital relationship. All these things I think are of the essence. Unfortunately, and the problem as I tried to dramatize in The Velvet Alley, was that the guy who makes the success is immediately assailed by everybody, and you suddenly find yourself having to compromise along the line, giving so many hours to work and a disproportionate number of fewer hours to family, and this in inherent in our business.

Mike Wallace: How many hours a day do you work right now as executive producer and/or writer on...

Rod Serling: Twelve to fourteen hours a day.

Mike Wallace: How many days a week?

Rod Serling: Seven.

Mike Wallace: I don't mean, now seriously, I'm not asking for figures here, but obviously The Twilight Zone is your own creation. You're doing it for money. I think that our audience would be fascinated to know, and again I don't want to get too specific, but how rich can a fellow get under these circumstances?

Rod Serling: Well, if the show is successful, he can get tremendously rich. He can make a half a million dollars, I suppose.

Mike Wallace: Half a million dollars a what? A year?

Rod Serling: Over a period of three or four years, I suppose. But, Mike, again this sounds defensive and it probably sounds phony, but I'm not nearly as concerned with the money to be made on this show as I am with the quality of it and I can prove that. I have a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer which guarantees me something in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars over a period of three years. This is a contract I'm trying to break and get out of, so I can devote time to a series which is very iffy, which is a very problematical thing. It's only guaranteed twenty-six weeks and if it only goes twenty-six weeks and stops, I'll have lost a great deal of money. But I would rather take the chance and do something I like, something I'm familiar with, something that has a built-in challenge to it.

Mike Wallace: But it's even possible, though, that if it is a success, you could make well over the two million dollars that you suggested—four years at half a million apiece.

Rod Serling: Quite right, but I happen to feel, after a year and a half of working twelve to fourteen hours a day, it's worth it. And I think I rate it. I think anybody does who works that hard and can create an idea and can make a show go.

Mike Wallace: Let's come back to something that David Suskind said, not about you this time. He said this about network programming. We have only about three minutes to do this. He said, "ABC is western, mystery quiz and Lawrence Welk from top to bottom and represents television at its worst. And NBC seems to be trying to catch them at their own game." He felt somewhat better about CBS. How do you rate the three networks?

Rod Serling: I have to have a kind of, almost a proprietary feeling towards CBS because they've been better to me and better to most writers than any network.

Mike Wallace: Why?

Rod Serling: CBS was the only network who hired writers under contract, who gave us this kind of free-wheeling, to write as we wanted to write. A chance to write, an avenue, a channel through which we could write. They put on a Playhouse 90, which lost them a great deal of money and kept it on three years and will continue to produce it. I've had not nearly the experience—I've have no experience with ABC except one minor hour show five, six years ago.

Mike Wallace: I know, but you see their shows from time to time, in spite of your twelve to fourteen hour daily schedule.

Rod Serling: I'm afraid I would probably have to go along with David on that. But of the three networks I think CBS has the edge. However, I think NBC runs awfully close. It's almost which paper do you read. They've got this NBC showcase coming on. Now, ABC I'm not quite as familiar with.

Mike Wallace: Is television good?

Rod Serling: Some television's wonderful. Some television is exciting and promising and has vast potential. Some television is mediocre and bad. But I think it has promise, Mike. I think this conceivably can be a real art form. And I stick with it for the reasons I said and because I think it can only improve and can improve tremendously and I think aims toward that.

Mike Wallace: One minute. Can pay television make any difference?

Rod Serling: I've never quite understood pay television. I rather think not. If it's there, substantially to fix the evils that presently exist, I think the same things will apply. They'll put on the stuff that they thing the greater number of people want. A totally quantitative view of things.

Mike Wallace: You don't think that perhaps be able to play to a more perceptive audience?

Rod Serling: I doubt it.

Mike Wallace: A smaller audience for special things?

Rod Serling: No, because it's still governed by the buck, and I think they'll play what they think will garner the most bucks.

Mike Wallace: There can't be small pay television producers who won't be governed, necessarily, by the buck?

Rod Serling: I'd like to see them come out. I'd welcome it.

Mike Wallace: Thirty seconds. What would you most like to write?

Rod Serling: A good, legitimate play, having to do with the McCarthy era in television.

Mike Wallace: I hope we'll see it. Rod Serling, thanks very much...

Rod Serling: Thank you, Mike.

Mike Wallace: ...for spending an engrossing half-hour. I'll be back in a second with a footnote to the Rod Serling story.

Mike Wallace: Rod Serling's story can be summed up in just a few words. From forty rejection slips to three Emmy awards. From a trailer home to a hacienda in Hollywood complete with swimming pool. It hasn't been a long road, but it's been a hard one, and the last couple of miles have been paved with gold. We thank Rod Serling for adding his portrait to our gallery. One of the people other people are interested in. Mike Wallace, that's it for now.

(from www.rodserling.com)

http://www.rodserling.com - Rod Serling memorial site
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ8dTT2BRp4 - above transcripted Mike Wallace interview
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTqPfp36Xwg - documentary

1959-1964 The Twilight Zone (148 episodes)
1968 Planet of the Apes
1969 Night Gallery
1970-1973 Night Gallery (35 episodes)

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:32 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Hazel Court didn't exclusively shot horror movies, but she's still remembered for her contribution to some genre classics. Often projecting smoldering sensuality in her roles, Mrs. Court remains a lasting memory for fans of fantasy cinema aged over thirty (of which the old fart writing these lines belongs to). We're far from the so-called modern queens of horror, thankfully, and other anorexic but still silicone-endowed femmes fatales. In short, I'm not feeling guilty in being nostalgic when talking about this Siren.

Born on February 10, 1926, in Handsworth, Birmingham, England, Hazel Court is a real redhead, by the way. Since data on her childhood is nowhere to be found, we can only note that she debuted in small repertory theater companies around her area. She knocked on the doors of the famous Ealing Studios, as a bomb raid was taking place, during WWII. Her first film was Champagne Charlie in 1944, as she was 18 years old and her only line of dialogue was "I never drank champagne before", in a tale paying homage to British music hall life of the 1860s.

Our actress would then shoot many light comedies and B police dramas. Her first fantasy film is Ghost Ship in 1952, where she shared the screen with her first husband, Dermot Walsh. In it, we can hear Hazel sing the Popeye cartoon theme song! On a very small budget, the script involves a couple and their newly-acquired haunted yacht.

In 1954, Devil Girl from Mars appeared on big screens, an indescribable sci-fi cult movie. A sexy female Martian invader, wearing tight dominatrix leather, arrives at a Scottish inn, alongside her faithful robot servant (the later looking quite ridiculous, like many of its '50s counterparts). She informs the patrons that planet Mars just went through a cultural revolution and females are now in power. Her objective on Earth is to capture vigorous men to bring back to her home world, in the goal of breeding them with her fellow sisters, thusly creating a new master race. Hazel plays a disillusioned model struggling with this unlikely story. As you can probably guess, it's a far cry from 2001: A Space Odyssey... but there are more laughs here than in Kubrick's head-scratcher.

1957 remains the year that we can assuredly denote that Hazel Court became a true Cult Siren, with the arrival of Curse of Frankenstein in theaters (she could also be named a finalist in the Breathtaking Cleavage Contest). As this was Hammer Studios' first horror hit, we could already find actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in lead roles, as they would become worldwide stars following the success of this production. Of course, the film was a turning point in the horror genre, as more graphical scenes of violence would become more and more popular in years to come (as would the sexual content... did I not mention cleavage?). Now 30, Hazel would begin another phase of her career. Her four year old young daughter, Sally Walsh, also has a role.

Soon after, Hazel joined the cast of the American TV series Dick and the Duchess on CBS, alongside Patrick O'Neal. This move opened the way for numerous television appearances, most memorable being those for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, four roles between 1958 and 1961. One of them showed us Hazel being transformed by her jealous husband (played by Laurence Harvey) into chicken feed. She also guest-starred in many more TV series, such as Thriller, Mannix, Bonanza, Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone and The Wild, Wild West.

Hazel's second horror role for Hammer would be The Man Who Could Cheat Death, once more alongside Christopher Lee and a specialist in cold and blaséd aristocratic roles, Anton Diffring. The later plays a sculptor who unusually finds a way to stop the aging process. Not the most memorable film at first, this warrants a second viewing to really delight in the most macabre plot point; sadly, this title is pretty hard to find. There's always been a rumor that a nude scene was shot for the foreign market, which was confirmed by Hazel herself in an interview with Bruce Hallenbeck in 1990, where she talked about showing her breasts when posing for the (lucky) sculptor. In 1961, Hazel could be seen in Dr. Blood's Coffin, relating the adventures of a doctor experimenting with giving life to the dead or such nonsense. Faithful to the genre products of the era, this can be appreciated by any fan of sixties horror.

Next, Hazel would solidify her status as a cult favorite in shooting three projects for prolific American director Roger Corman, all being part of his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. She would co-star with Ray Milland in The Premature Burial, the least known of the trio. A guy is so afraid of being buried alive (???), that... but I presume that you can fill in the blanks. Then came The Raven, an horror comedy starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson. For once, there's no forced humor and the actors have a field day. As a villainous character, Hazel seems to have the time of her life.

The Masque of the Red Death in 1964 is probably her most well-known role and surely her best performance. As Juliana, bride of Prince Prospero (Vincent Price), her sex-appeal is at its peak and her tragic death (a bit on the bloody side) is one of the film's highlight. The could be Corman's best film, as it was often compared to an Ingmar Bergman project! Extraordinary cinematography, unforgettable images, excellent actors... What can one ask for more considering that this project remains one of the most brilliant in the horror genre in the sixties?

Busy year was that 1964, as Hazel wed American director Don Taylor (responsible among many others for Escape from the Planet of the Apes, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Damien: Omen II, The Final Countdown and many TV series). They met while shooting an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. From this point forward, Hazel would concentrate on guest-starring on television shows, the last of these appearances being for MacMillan and Wife in 1972. She would devote herself to her family (having had a son with Taylor) and discovering new talents for painting and sculpting. There would be a small cameo for Omen III: The Final Conflict in 1981, where she would end her performing career by serving champagne to some fox hunters, an odd remembrance to her only line in her first movie, Champagne Charlie. To this day, she still lives in California. Hazel can also be seen in a 1997 documentary on Hammer Studios, Ted Newsom's Flesh and Blood.

Even with Don Taylor's death in 1998, Hazel was still recently active on the conventions circuit, charming fans with her great availability and class. I always have the impression that she's too often forgotten in listing the great horror actresses. Her inclusion here is then well deserved.

(from www.cultsirens.com)

Sad news reached us today, that Horror Queen Hazel Court, died on the 15th April 2008. Hazel who was 82, had been suffering from a yet undisclosed long term illness. Hazel was born in Birmingham in the UK on the 10th of February 1926. She entered Gainsborough Studios during WWII, & stayed there for several years, during which she became known as one of ‘The Gainsborough Girls’. Her first starring role being in the 1944 film Champagne Charlie in which she had a very small role, the role would lead to bigger parts for Court. After the War she married her first husband Dermot Walsh in 1949, to whom she would remain married to until their divorce in 1963.

During the early 1950s Hazel would appear in an assortment of movies for various film companies including The Rank Organisation. Amongst those films were The Ghost Ship (1952) & Devil Girl From Mars (1954), but her major starring role came when Hammer Films, who then specialised in low budget thrillers & science fiction adaptations from radio & TV gave Hazel the role of Elizabeth in The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, in which she teamed up with the then to become Horror film legends – Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee. The film went on to worldwide success, breaking box office records around the world, Hazel would soon find herself with offers for all manner of film & TV work.

Her next work for Hammer was the 1959 film The Man Who Could Cheat Death, in which she would again work with Christopher Lee & electrifying German actor Anton Diffring. In 1962 she would start work on what would be 3 very different films for director American director Roger Corman, the first being Premature Burial in which she co-starred with actor Ray Milland. Her next Corman film was The Raven with Boris Karloff, but undoubtedly her best film of that era was the superb Corman made The Masque of Red Death in 1964 with Vincent Price. Hazel re-married in 1964 to actor/director Don Taylor with whom she had 1 child. Hazel continued to work in film & television in the USA up until 1981. Hazel then settled for a life of painting, for which she had a real passion. She would also be a regular at some of the organised Horror conventions, including Hammer. Her autobiography Hazel Court – Horror Queen, An Autobiography was published by Tomahawk Press in 2007.

(from www.hammerandbeyond.blogspot.com)

by Robert Frohlich

One would never guess upon meeting Hazel Court that this lovely mountain woman used to spend her days covered in blood, consorting with hell-beings. In horror films from the 1950s and 1960s, Court starred with legends of the genre such as Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.

The daughter of a professional cricket player, Hazel Court made her film debut at age 18, featured in the early horror films produced by Hammer Studios in her native England. She got her big break in Hollywood at age 30, starring opposite Peter Cushing in “The Curse of Frankenstein,” and then followed that up with another blockbuster, “The Raven,” with Price, Karloff, and Peter Lorre.

After retiring from her 35-year career in film and stage, Court began a second career in painting and sculpting. Her works appear in a number of galleries – from Italy to San Francisco – and at public venues, such as the sculpture unveiled at Penn State University. Her latest sculpture can be viewed in Sierra Nevada College's Environmental Building.
Court turned her vacation home in Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe into her full-time residence in 1999, after the death of her husband, Don Taylor. Taylor was the director of such films as “Escape From The Planet of the Apes” and “Island of Dr. Moreau,” and also the actor who gave Liz Taylor her first on-screen kiss.

Hazel's autobiography “Hazel Court – Horror Queen” comes out in November. Published by England's Tomohawk Publishing, it will be available on Amazon.

“It's not just about horror and Hollywood, but my life. I talk about Churchill to Judy Garland,” says Hazel.
Hazel has adapted marvelously to mountain life. She is active in the Bear League, Sierra Nevada College, and other local charities. And although her neighborhood is snow-laden in winter she has refuses to build a garage because it would require cutting down trees.

“Which would you rather see,” she asks,” some building or a beautiful part of nature? If you appreciate nature, you appreciate the world. We shouldn’t be walling in the wildflowers.”

Question: Being a horror film actress must have had taxing moments. What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you on-screen?
Hazel: In the film “Premature Burial” (1962), Ray Milland buries me alive. I’m down in this tomb and, while filming, the crew is shoveling dirt on top of me. I have a straw in my mouth so I could breath, but then it was removed and I had to hold my breath for 90 seconds or so. That was tough! In the “Masque of The Red Death” (1964) I brand myself, then the hands of a giant possessed clock kill me. There was a lot of blood in that scene. A real mess.

Q: Your co-stars played such terrible men in the movies. What were they like in real life?
Hazel: Peter Cushing was one of the loveliest men you could ever meet. Peter Lorre was very funny, always playing practical jokes. And Vincent Price was such a good friend. Boris Karloff...they all were the dearest people and extremely cultured.

Q: You worked awhile with Alfred Hitchcock.
Hazel: He was a brilliant man, but I’m not sure he particularly liked actors. Once, while filming a television episode he says to me, “You must be bad-tempered in this scene, but if you’d rather not I’ll do it with the camera.” I was aghast. Here I was, trained in the famous Birmingham Repertoire Company, and Hitch didn’t think I could act. My costar, Lawrence Harvey, turned to me and winked. “He’s teasing you, don’t worry,” he said. My husband ended up working under Hitchcock, and we became good friends.”

Q: Who was the scariest villain you ever acted with?
Hazel: I’ve made films with Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Peter Lorre, and Vincent Price, but Anton Diffring could raise the dead. He was rather scary. I played opposite of him in “The Man Who Could Cheat Death” (1959). It was about a man who wanted eternal life.

Q: Who was the sexiest villain?
Hazel: Vincent Price and Christopher Lee were very handsome men, as was Roger Corman, who directed me in five films. I’d have to say Kirin Moore whom I starred with in “Dr. Blood’s Coffin” (1961). He was a very good-looking man.

Q: You were pretty sexy yourself, in fact downright ravishing.
Hazel: Thanks. I’ve always had a big bust, but it was never bigger when, newly pregnant with my son Jonathan, I filmed “The Raven.” One reviewer wrote that I was a, “sexy, lusty redhead in whose cleavage you could stash the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe along with a bottle of his favorite booze.” It’s my favorite review.

Q: What was your favorite role?
Hazel: In 1962 I starred with Edmund O’Brien in an episode of “Sam Benedict” on CBS. I played a beautiful pathological liar who fooled everyone. I really enjoyed working with Edmund. There was a court scene where he jumps up on a chair and recites Shakespeare. He had the whole cast in awe. He was truly wonderful.

Q: Would you ever like to return to film?
Hazel: I loved every day of my film career, every moment. But after I had my son Jonathan I decided to stay home. I wanted to be there when he came home from school each day. My sculpting career came along. Anyway, I believe there’s a time when an actor or actress should retire. Few can pass the test of time. Audiences get tired of looking at you.

Q: What do you think of the horror genre today?
Hazel: Not much. They rely too much on blood and gore. In general, Hollywood seems to have lost much of its glamour. I don’t get Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. They don’t seem to have any of the romantic qualities of say Gregory Peck who recently passed or Greer Garson. I played her part in the stage production of “Random Harvest,” the role in which she won the Academy Award.
I must admit I was impressed with Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.” He humbled himself in that role.

Q: Why did you decide to leave southern California and move to Tahoe?
Hazel: Don and I lived in Santa Monica in a beautiful home built by popular saxophonist Don Clarke. The music room was where Bing Crosby cut his first recordings. Don (Taylor) had directed Peter Graves in “Five Man Army” (1969), and we’d all become friends. Peter and wife Joan lived at Lake Tahoe, and we came to visit. Soon after we bought the cabin and it became our weekend retreat. After Don died, I didn’t want to be in the big house. I sold it to Andy Summers of the rock band The Police and moved to Tahoe.

I was very sad after my husband died. The trees and nature up here spoke to me and helped me overcome my sadness. The mountains are very inspirational. There’s a lot of strength and power you can find living in the mountains. I communicate with my trees. An incredible energy comes from trees, from nature.

The first week I moved into my home in Bear Creek a wolf came and sat on my deck. People tell me there are no wolves around here, yet that’s what he was. He was most beautiful. He’d lay on the deck and sunbathe as if saying ‘Sculpt me!’ – such beautiful lines. One day he finally left, walking away.
Then he stopped and looked over his shoulder directly at me as if saying goodbye. Much of my sorrow seemed to lift when he left. I’ve never seen him since.

Q: You’ve lived an incredible, exciting life.
Hazel: I like to say knowledge is eternal. I’ve learned so much being around my wonderful friends such as Vincent Price. Vincent bought my first painting. He wanted me to give up acting and become an artist. He really opened up a lot of doors, but more than anything, he made me believe in myself as an artist. He was such a wonderful dear man. I was at his side during his passing and he was wonderful to the end. His parting advice to me was “Always make sure it’s the real thing.”

(from www.moonshineink.com)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJUAhjRpFgY - montage of Court scenes
- a nice fan site

1952 Ghost Ship
1954 Devil Girl From Mars
1957 The Curse of Frankenstein
1959 The Man Who Could Cheat Death
1961 Doctor Blood’s Coffin
1962 Premature Burial
1963 The Raven
1964 The Masque of the Red Death
1981 The Final Conflict

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 9:58 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Lon Chaney had not wanted his son to follow him into the film business. When asked about it in 1928, when Creighton Chaney was twenty-two years old, he said, "He's six feet two inches tall. That's too tall. He would always have had to have parts built around him. He couldn't build himself for the part. Besides, he's happy in business and he's got a great wife." At the time of his father's death Lon Chaney Jr. was enjoying moderate success in the plumbing trade, but the Depression soon changed all that. He went against his better judgment and tried to get film work.

His first film was a 1932 comedy called Girl Crazy in which he played a chorus dancer. From 1932 to 1935 he appeared as an extra or a stuntman in scores of thrillers, Westerns and serials. "I worked under five names," said Chaney, "I did extras under one name, stunts under another name, bits under another and leads under my own name (Creighton Chaney). Chaney had had a stock-acting contract with RKO, but after it expired in 1935 he went through a difficult period when he found it almost impossible to get work.

Then his luck changed when he landed a role in the West Coast production of Of Mice and Men. He played the part of the shambling, moronic Lennie and was so impressive he was cast in the film version made the following year (directed by Lewis Milestone). RKO had planned to star him in a remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939 but that fell through (Charles Laughton got the part). His next film part after Of Mice and Men was Hal Roach's production One Million Years BC (1940) in which he played the disfigured and crippled tribal patriach. Then Universal--his father's old studio--offered him a long-term contract. They had decided that the time was right for a new cycle of horror films, and who better to star in them than the son of the great Lon Chaney. With that Chaney's fate was sealed.

He was originally promised Phantom of the Opera by Universal but Claude Rains got that role; Chaney had to settle for Man Made Monster (George Waggner, 1941) which was about a circus performer who is turned into an electrical freak. It wasn't a hit with audiences but another film he made soon afterwards was: The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941). Apart from Lennie this was to be the role that Chaney Jr. became most associated with, and one which suited him better than the other traditional horror characters he was later to portray. "Of course I believe that The Wolf Man is the best of my horror films--because he is mine!" said Chaney in 1971. (Henry Hull had played a wolf man in the 1935 film Werewolf of London, directed by Stuart Walker, but Chaney's was the definitive version). In fact, he would reprise the role for Universal four more times, in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Son of Dracula (Robert Siodmak) followed in 1942 with Dracula turning up in Louisiana be turn of the last century. The film wasn't as bad as some have made it out to be, and the film contained a number of fine atmospheric moments--one such being when Dracula's coffin, bearing the vampire, emerged from the middle of a mist-shrouded swamp and glided silently across it to the water's edge. In the same year he played the Frankenstein monster in Ghost Of Frankenstein (Erle C. Kenton). Not having Boris Karloff's lean, expressive face his monster was the inferior of the two, though Chaney obviously tried hard and managed to invest the role with a few of his "Lennie" characteristics. In The Mummy's Ghost (Reginald le Borg, 1944) Chaney again followed in Karloff's footsteps, but while Karloff, in The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932), only appeared in his bandages briefly, Chaney was obliged to shuffle fully wrapped through the whole film.

His relations with Universal rapidly soured. Despite his relative popularity in the horror roles the studio insisted that he should perform routine parts in their most dismal productions. His contract expired in 1946 and was not renewed. After that Chaney battled on with various stage and film parts with other studios. Good roles such as that in High Noon (Fred Zinneman, 1952) where he played the elderly ex-marshall who rejects Gary Cooper's plea for help were rare. More typical werefilms like Bride of the Gorilla (Curt Siodmak, 1951) in which he played a native policeman, and The Black Castle (Nathan Juran, 1952) which had him doing his Lennie role again. In the mid-1950s he appeared in a series of television films (some of which were theatrically released) based on the novel Last of the Mohicans in which he played the Indian with the jaw-breaking name of Chingachgook.

In 1955 Chaney sold his father's life story to none other than Universal Studios. It should not have surprised him that there were problems, but apparently it did. He claimed later, with bitterness, that the day after he sold the story the studio put five writers on to the job rewriting it. The result was Man of a Thousand Faces (Joseph Pevney, 1956) starring James Cagney. Chaney didn't consider the film to be an accurate account of his father's life and career but he was pleased with Cagney's portrayal of Chaney Sr. (handsome Roger Smith, who later starred in the 77 Sunset Strip TV series, played Chaney Jr. in an odd piece of miscasting).

Chaney worked more frequently in the second half of the decade when a new cycle of horror films began (a whole new generation had discovered Dracula, Frankenstein and friends when the old films were shown on late-night television). A number of producers quickly jumped on the bandwagon by turning out cheap new variations of the old themes. The first of these that Chaney appeared in was The Indestructible Man (Jack Pollexfen, 1956). He played an executed killer brought back to life by a mad scientist to commit more murders, a story similar to that of an old Boris Karloff film The Walking Dead (Michael Curtiz, 1936). One bright spot was his appearance in Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958) when he gave a fine performance as Old Sam, a former convict met by escapees Tony Curtis and Sydney Poitier during their run for freedom.

Television was Chaney's mainstay during the 1960s though he still made films. Most of them, apart from exceptions like Roger Corman's The Haunted Palace (1963), were rather terrible. A few of them, such as House of the Black Death (1965) and Night of the Beast (1966), never even got a theatrical screening. In 1969 made one of his last films A Time to Run (Al Adamson--released as The Female Bunch in 1971) in which he was cruelly billed as Lon Chaney Jr.--for the first time in twenty-five years.

It wouldn't be surprising to learn that Chaney, especially in his later years, held a great bitterness towards the acting profession and Hollywood in particular. But Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of a magazine devoted to horror films and their stars, who knew Chaney slightly, doesn't think he did. He was even planning to make a big come-back in a new horror film. "Ironically," said Ackerman, "just like his father, he died of cancer of the throat. He had absolutely clung to at least half a voice. He should have had all his vocal cords removed, but they just went halfway. I was told privately that the cobalt treatments were killing him faster than the cancer. He didn't know he had terminal cancer and he was preparing to go 3,000 miles back east to appear live on the stage in a revival of Arsenic and Old Lace. Two weeks later he was dead [13 July 1973]."

(from http://eric.b.olsen.tripod.com/chaneyjr.html)

http://www.lonchaney.com/ - official site
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MoxrjlmGG0 - classic clip from The Wolfman
http://www.horror-wood.com/ronchaney.htm - interview with Ron Chaney

1940 One Million B.C.
1941 Man Made Monster
1941 The Wolf Man
1942 The Mummy’s Tomb
1943 Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
1943 Son of Dracula
1943 Calling Dr. Death
1944 Weird Woman
1944 Ghost Catchers
1944 The Mummy’s Ghost
1944 Dead Man’s Eyes
1944 House of Frankenstein
1944 The Mummy’s Curse
1945 The Frozen Ghost
1945 Strange Confession
1945 House of Dracula
1948 Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
1951 Bride of the Gorilla
1952 The Black Castle
1956 Indestructible Man
1956 The Black Sleep
1957 The Cyclops
1959 The Alligator People
1960 House of Terror
1961 The Devil’s Messenger
1963 The Haunted Palace
1964 Face of the Screaming Werewolf
1964 Witchcraft
1965 Blood of the Man Beast
1967 Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors
1967 Hillbillys in a Haunted House
1968 Spider Baby or, The Maddest Story Ever Told
1971 Dracula vs. Frankenstein

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:49 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Character actor Michael Ripper, who died on 28 June 2000 aged 87, made a unique contribution to Hammer's films from the late 1940s to the early 1970s. While Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee came to represent the company by personifying its most prominent fictional characters, Michael Ripper achieved a more intriguing kind of fame. By appearing in more Hammer films than any other actor he became regarded as a personification of the company itself.

Michael Ripper served his film apprenticeship on a multitude of quota quickies, beginning in 1935 with Twice Branded. Ripper admitted that even he couldn't be sure how many films he subsequently appeared in. "I made films every six weeks and each one took 12 days," he said. "I don't know how many I made, probably hundreds."

His long association with Hammer began in 1947 when he was chosen by company director James Carreras to appear in The Dark Road. Between The Dark Road (released in 1948) and That's Your Funeral (1973) he notched up over 30 appearances. Ripper played the archetypal inn-keeper to the hilt in The Reptile (1966), Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) and Scars of Dracula (1970), but he was capable of much more. In Joseph Losey's A Man on the Beach (1956) Ripper was third-billed to Donald Wolfit and Michael Medwin as a hapless chauffeur who falls victim to a Machiavellian criminal. While shooting the film Ripper met Anthony Hinds, one of Carreras's fellow board-members. He introduced Hinds to sailing and the two began an enduring friendship.

Upon joining Hinds and co's informal repertory company, Ripper was put to frequent use. He exhibited his natural talent for comedy in Up the Creek, Further Up The Creek (both 1958) and The Ugly Duckling (1959), but he was at his most effective when lightening films such as The Mummy (1959) and The Phantom of the Opera (1962) with expertly judged cameos that proved the ghouls at Hammer House weren't entirely without a sense of humour.

Ripper's outstanding portrayal of the myopic Longbarrow in The Mummy's Shroud (1967) invests the role with considerable humanity, and we regret the character's brutal fate all the more for it. "That poor little fellow in The Mummy's Shroud... was a victim of the awful things done to gentle human beings by ruthless people," Ripper told Fantastic Worlds magazine in 1969. "When he died, the picture ended as far as I was concerned."

Such opportunities were rare, although Hammer kept Ripper steadily employed with more minor roles throughout the 1960s: characters such as the mutinous Mac in The Pirates of Blood River (1962), Mr Mipps the coffin-maker in Captain Clegg (1962), Sergeant Swift in The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and the Sea Lawyer in The Lost Continent (1968) are eagerly anticipated highlights of any repeat screening.

If there is one film that illustrates the breadth of Ripper's range, and the mercurial quality of his talent, then it is What A Crazy World, the pop musical directed by James Carreras's son Michael in summer 1963. In a nod to Michael's Hammer background, leading man Joe Brown proposes to his girlfriend during a performance of The Curse of Frankenstein. The presence of Michael Ripper, playing no less than nine different characters in his credited role as 'The Common Man', is similarly totemic.

As his memory began to fail him, Ripper reduced his workload and had effectively retired by the early 1990s. In 1997 Ripper made one of his final television appearances, in the Sci-Fi Channel documentary The A-Z of Hammer. Ripper and Hammer enthusiast Don Fearney play a pair of furtive bodysnatchers in a specially filmed introductory sequence. The scene recalled Ripper's grave-robbing double-act with Lionel Jeffries in the classic The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) and was a moving evocation of a long distant filmmaking tradition.

Michael Ripper was a character actor who gave our best-loved horror films much of their character. In doing so, he became a star.

(from http://www.hammerfilms.com/features/tributes/michael_ripper.html)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qiiut4g8auU - image collage

1956 X: The Unknown
1957 Quatermass 2
1958 The Revenge of Frankenstein
1959 The Man Who Could Cheat Death
1959 The Mummy
1960 The Brides of Dracula
1961 The Curse of the Werewolf
1962 Night Creatures
1962 The Phantom of the Opera
1964 The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
1966 The Plague of the Zombies
1966 The Reptile
1966 Rasputin: The Mad Monk
1967 The Mummy’s Shroud
1967 The Deadly Bees
1967 Torture Garden
1968 The Lost Continent
1968 Dracula Has Risen from the Grave
1969 Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny and Girly
1970 Taste the Blood of Dracula
1970 Scars of Dracula
1973 The Creeping Flesh
1975 Legend of the Werewolf

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 6:20 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


Born in 1930 in Madrid, Jesus Franco Manera is often credited as the most prolific film director ever. Whether this is true or not, there is no denying that he has made a lot of films, so many that probably he doesn't know the exact number. His films – somewhere between 150 and 300 of them – cover all manner of genres, from musicals (Queen of the Tabarin) to spy adventures (Lucky the Inscrutable), from porn (Falo Crest) to peplum (Maciste's Sext Adventures on Atlantis) and – above all – horror/fantasy, disregarding every rule of film-making in the process.

In a career spanning over 40 years the director has worked all across Europe for a succession of producers and under a plethora of pseudonyms (Frank Hollmann, Franco Manera, Horst Frank, J P Johnson and dozens more), the workaholic director would often complete six or more films in a single year. Sometimes he would be working on two or even three different projects at the one time. And he didn't only write and direct. He ofted acted, operated the camera and even, on occasion, took a hand in the music.

Even the staunchest Franco fan would have to admit that many of his movies – probably even the majority of them – are simply bad. Yet even the worst Franco film somehow manages to include one or two moments that are simply sublime. And, good or bad, they are unmistakably the work of their auteur.

Like Ed Wood Jr, Jess Franco – to use his official directorial name – makes films like no one else.

It took Franco a few years to find his distinctive voice. His first directorial effort was a documentary about the Spanish olive produced for the Ministry of Industry. The born anarchist shooting a promotional piece for the government he despised. The mind boggles. After more, increasingly personal documentaries, he made his fiction debut with the bizarre, new wave style We are 18 (1959) following it up with a couple of musicals, Queen of the Tabarin (1960) and Vamps of 1930 (1960) and an abortive project, Red Lips.

While shooting Vamps of 1930 Franco took his producer Serge Newman to see Terence Fisher's Brides of Dracula and talked him into backing a Spanish horror project. The resulting film, The Awful Dr Orloff (1962), is the defining film of Franco's career; the one that set him on his way. Though inspired in the first instance by Hammer, the finished product bears little resemblance to the British studio's product, being made in expressionistic black and white and paying homage to half-remembered pulp horrors of the 1930s and Georges Franju's Eyes Without A Face (1959). The film also introduced Franco to his frequent leading man for the next quarter century, Howard Vernon and cinephiles to the Franco universe, with its recurrent characters – Orlof himself, his henchman Morpho – and motifs – the ineffectual authority figures, the nighclub scene.

A bona fide hit, in spite of censorship troubles that confirmed to Franco it was time to leave the Spanish industry behind, the film rapidly spawned two quasi-sequels – Dr Orloff's Monster (1964) and The Diabolical Doctor Z (1965) as well as a spy thriller reworking, Attack of the Robots (1966).

The next stage of Franco's career was inaugurated by his daring erotic fantasy Necronomicon (1967). A virtually plotless series of S&M tableaux straddling the boundary between art and pornography, the film attracted the attention of Fritz Lang and got Franco some of the best notices of his career.

Under the auspices of producer Harry Alan Towers, Franco next embarked on a series of relatively glossy and conventional productions including a couple of Fu Manchu adventures starring Christopher Lee and two De Sade adaptations, Marquis De Sade's Justine (1969) and Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey into Perversion (1969).

After parting ways with Towers, Franco then hooked up with German producer Artur Brauner for a number of low-budget, exploitationers, including another De Sade adaptation, Eugenie De Sade, a Diabolical Doctor Z reworking in She Killed in Ecstasy (1970) and the immortal Vampyros Lesbos (1970). Zoom-happy and filled with trash/camp elements, these films also showcased the beautiful and tragic Soledad Miranda who was to die following a car accident shortly after completing the Edgar Wallace adaptation The Devil Came from Akasava (1971).

Miranda's death affected Franco badly and it was to be a couple of years before he found his muse once more. In the meantime, he shot various ultra low budget entries for producer Robert De Nesle, including a Most Dangerous Game take-off, The Perverse Countess (1973) and 1972's whacked-out Dracula vs Frankenstein that, alas, are all but unavailable today. Then she reappeared, in the shape of Andalusian actress Lina Romay. First starring in the atmospheric Vampyros Lesbos reworking Female Vampire (1973) Romay later became Franco's life-partner and, in effect, co-author.

Next, Franco embarked on a series of productions for Swiss producer Erwin C Dietrich. Entries like Jack the Ripper (1976) and Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun (1977) may have lacked the weirdness of their immediate predecessors, but compensated with superior production values and greater accessibility, while the Romay-starring Doriana Grey (1976) showcases the director's ability to use the pornographic form in a distinct, idiosyncratic way.

With the ending of his relationship with Dietrich, Franco once more plunged headlong into the world of ultra-low budget, guerilla film-making. Any time and any where, he could make a film be it a cash-in on a popular trend like the slasher film (1981's Bloody Moon), cannibal movie (1980's Devil Hunter and 1981's White Cannibal Queen), zombie flick (1982's Oasis of the Zombies) or the ever-reliable porno.

Then in 1988 things came full circle with big-budget remake of The Awful Dr Orloff, Faceless, featuring Vernon, Romay and countless others from the mondo Franco.

While perhaps no longer making films that are as interesting as they once were, Franco continues to work away thanks to his relationship with Kevin Collins's One Shot Productions.

Douglas Waltz

It wasn't too long ago that my dream came true. I went to Chicago to meet the master of exploitation, Jess Franco and his lovely companion, Lina Romay. It was funny because I got off to a late start and thought that I would miss Franco's presentation completely. Then I discovered I had forgotten about the time change from Michigan to Illinois. I actually ended up being early. I was shocked to see so few people there so I got to ask lots of questions. Later at the autograph tables I stayed and chatted him up for a while and made arrangements with one of his producers for an interview. Unfortunately, Jess doesn't use the computer and his thick accent makes him impossible to understand on the telephone. (Although I truly believe that after listening to his commentary on the film EXORCISM, I could do a phone interview now. So we did it by correspondence. There were curiosity questions that I needed answered and questions that I felt had never been asked of the master. That is the heart of this interview and I hope it lends more insight to the man known as Jess Franco.

PCU - In A Virgin Among The Living Dead, your lead actress was Christina Von Blanc. Was she in any of your other films?

Jess Franco - Yes. She was in 3 or 4 films of the same period. She played small parts under the name of Christina Betner, which is her real name. After, ‘A Virgin’, she made a quite nice career in Germany.

PCU - During the funeral scene of the same film, Herminia wasn’t in a casket. Why?

JF - In some old Celtic countries they used to do that. It was an old tradition.

PCU - During that same film there is a song of some sort that the cast is chanting. Unfortunately, I only speak English so I don’t understand what they are saying and it is not subtitled in the copy of the film that I have. What are they singing?

JF - They sing a mixture of Latin and sacrilege chants.

PCU - This film is filled with numerous zoom shots. What are you trying to convey with this particular camera movement?

JF - In my films many zooms see a matter of feelings. Don’t forget I’m a jazz player. I felt so, that’s all.

PCU - Have you ever considered doing another black and white film?

JF - I love b&w! Producers, actors, writers and world rollers hate it. Anyway, as Hitchcock used to say, “Blood is red.”

PCU - In Sadist of Notre Dame, after almost every scene of sex or violence there is a shot of the city accompanied by light bouncy music. Is that to illustrate that one man has little if any effect in society?

JF - You are right. Our society goes ahead despite the monsters as Hitler or Stalin. Nothing can stop health and life.

PCU - Lately a lot of your films have been shot on video. Do you prefer video because of its more immediate results or do you prefer film?

JF - The videotape is just like a new kind of paper for a writer. What’s important is what you say.

PCU - There is word going around that you intend to remake Dr. Orloff. Who would you get to play Howard Vernon’s role and what improvements would you make on the original?

JF - It will be a very modern film but without losing a special gothic flavor. We are looking for the most perfect face to take the place of Howard. It’s rather difficult, but the producer and me, we’ll get it. Excuse me if I don’t give you names yet.

PCU - What would you like to be remembered as?

JF - I don’t care of being remembered.

PCU - Back to A Virgin Among The Living Dead. It was released here in the states. Badly dubbed, cut to pieces and shots were inserted that were done by Jean Rollin. Are you familiar with this butchered version of your work?

JF - I know this version and I get mad when I remember this insane work of stupid butchers.

PCU - Your version of this film has a nice lyrical quality to it. Christina manages to keep her virginity intact throughout the course of the film, regardless of temptation. Yet, she is still victim to what must be a family curse. The film is perfect the way it stands so, does it make you angry when your films are changed for various film markets?

JF - Unfortunately, directors are victims of all those bastards. From Von Sthroinhauer to John Ford.

PCU - In this film Christina's father at one point is hanging in the air with no visible means of support. How did you get this particular shot?

JF - Paul Muller was standing on the dolly chair.

PCU - Who are your favorite actors to work with and why?

JF - I never had the chance to work with my favorite actors such as Peter Lorre, Ralph Richardson and Jack Lemmon. From the actors I directed, my favorites are Howard Vernon, Klaus Kinski, Soledad Miranda, Lina Romay, and Mercedes McCambridge. Why? Because they were clever and sensitive.

PCU - If you could make a movie about any subject and money was no object, what would it be about?

JF - Medea, version of SENECA written at the beginning of our era, James Joyce’s Oliver, Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Garcia Merquez’ Hundred Years Of Solitude and PCU Sade’s Juliette.

PCU - Who is your favorite director?

JF - Orson Welles, John Ford and Robert Siodmak.

PCU - Which of your films is your favorite?

JF - I hate less, Necronomicon, Black Countess, Eugenie, Lorna, Helter Skelter and Vampire Junction.

PCU - Do you prefer to act or direct?

JF - I love acting, but I prefer to direct. It’s more complete.

PCU - Have you ever just acted in a film and if so which ones?

JF - In quite a lot. Always in supporting parts. The best for sure? The Strange Journey.

PCU - What is your opinion of Linnea Quigley?

JF - She has great possibilities now. She is more mature, more relaxed. Her skin and her eyes are beautiful

PCU - Do you feel that Orson Welles’ DON QUIXOTE could have been a better film if you had been given access to all of the raw footage available?

JF - Forget this stupid legend about this footage that Orson himself threw out in his definitive version. Don Quixote is a total masterpiece. I hope that one day you will understand. Orson created a new dimension in the film industry as he did in F for Fate.

PCU - What was it like working for Orson Welles?

JF - It was the most extraordinary experience of my life. He was the most creative and inspired talent I ever met. And I met a lot of genius in my life. I loved him.

PCU - The woman who portrayed “The Queen Of The Night” in A Virgin Among The Living Dead. Has she been in any of your other films?

JF - Of course. She made at least 10 films with me. She’s French and she made a lot of her films in French and Italian. Her name? Anne Libbert. She was gorgeous.

PCU - In the same film you play the part of Basilio. There is a scene when you are supposed to pick up Christina from the inn. Yet, when you are driving back to the family estate you’re in the back of the car with her! Who is driving the car?

JF - I don’t remember, but the car was moving so, someone had to drive it. (Why do you ask such irrelevant things?)

PCU - Finally, are there any other particular memories you have in making this film?

JF - We shot it in Portugal in a wonderful place called Sintra near Lisbon, where I’ve made some other films. Because I love nature and the very special and beautiful architecture of Manuelino Style (A mixture of European Gothic and Far East and old Portuguese colonies). We shot exteriors in the same place. At National Park created in the 17th century and then reinvented by the famous Captain Cook.

(Editor: I left Franco’s speech intact. I wanted you to have the chance to try and understand what he was saying. If there are any typographical errors, or misspellings, they are my fault, and not those of Jess Franco or Douglas Waltz. Thanks)

(from www.penguincomics.net)

http://robertmonell.blogspot.com/ - tribute/discussion site
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-IhH8-X6MI - promo for documentary on Franco

1962 The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus
1962 The Awful Dr. Orloff
1964 The Secret of Dr. Orloff
1966 Attack of the Robots
1966 The Diabolical Dr. Z
1968 Succubus
1968 The Blood of Fu Manchu
1969 The Girl From Rio
1969 99 Women
1969 Justine
1969 The Castle of Fu Manchu
1969 Kiss Me, Monster
1969 Venus in Furs
1970 Nightmares Come at Night
1970 The Bloody Judge
1970 Count Dracula
1970 Eugenie
1971 The Devil Came from Akasava
1971 Vampyros Lesbos
1971 She Killed in Ecstasy
1972 The Erotic Adventures of Frankenstein
1972 The Demons
1972 The Corpse Packs His Bags
1972 Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein
1972 Daughter of Dracula
1972 Doctor Mabuse
1973 Los Ojos Sinierstros del Doctor Orloff
1973 Female Vampire
1973 The Obscene Mirror
1973 A Virgin Among the Living Dead
1974 The Perverse Countess
1974 Lorna, the Exorcist
1975 Barbed Wire Dolls
1976 Satanic Sisters
1976 Doriana Grey
1976 Jack the Ripper
1976 Night of the Skull
1977 Wicked Women
1977 Ilsa, the Wicked Warden
1979 Demoniac
1979 Justine and the Whip
1980 White Cannibal Queen
1981 Oasis of the Zombies
1981 Bloody Moon
1982 Revenge in the House of Usher
1983 Blood on My Shoes
1983 Grave of the Living Dead
1984 The Sinister Dr. Orloff
1985 Mansion of the Living Dead
1986 Sola Ante el Terror
1988 Faceless
1996 Killer Barbys
1998 Mari-Cookie and the Killer Tarantula in 8 Legs to Love You
1998 Lust for Frankenstein
1998 Tender Flesh
1999 Vampire Blues
2001 Vampire Junction
2002 Incubus
2002 Killer Barbys vs. Dracula
2005 Snakewoman
2008 A Bad Day at the Cemetery

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Richard Bastard
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 6:42 pm  Reply with quote

Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 3690
Location: Chicago, Illinois


She was perhaps menaced by more monsters and madmen than any other woman in Universal Studio’s horror film history…perhaps in all of horror film history.

She was Evelyn Ankers, and she was to the 1940’s what Fay Wray had been to the 1930’s. The perennial lady in distress at the hands of a veritable who’s who of horror; in Evelyn’s case, the Wolf Man…Frankenstein’s Monster…the Mad Ghoul…Count Dracula…the Invisible Man…the Ape Woman…and the Creeper. At one time or another each had the opportunity to turn the auburn-haired beauty’s tresses white!

Born in Valparaiso, Chile on August 17, 1918 to British parents, Evelyn Ankers lived in South America until she was ten and didn’t speak much English until around that time. When her family returned to England, Evelyn mastered the language, studied dance and theater and landed small roles in such films as Rembrandt (1936) and Fire Over England (1937). A brief return to South America put her singing voice to use in The Evelyn Ankers Hour radio program in Argentina.

She made her way to the United States and her Broadway stage debut in the gothic thriller Ladies In Retirement. Among other things, her role required her to scream. That scream, along with her good looks and acting ability led to a contract with Universal Pictures.

The studio’s haunted house comedy Hold That Ghost (1941) starred box office favorites Abbott & Costello and featured Joan Davis as a professional radio screamer. As another of the supporting characters, Evelyn’s own scream proved effective enough to propel her through a stream of Universal chillers over the next three years.

As Gwen Conliffe in The Wolf Man (1941) Evelyn embodied the new breed of love interest, which the studio had introduced with such actresses as Peggy Moran (in The Mummy’s Hand) and Anne Nagel (in Man Made Monster). Whereas 1930’s leading ladies of horror were generally passive, weak and whining, the 1940’s gave us smarter, more responsible working class girls, yet thoughtful to the plight of men and monsters such as doomed lycanthrope Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.).

Chaney would menace Ankers again and again beginning with Ghost Of Frankenstein (1942), where as the daughter of Ludwig Frankenstein (Cedric Hardwicke) she displays a protective instinct toward little Cloestine Hussman (Janet Ann Gallow), the would-be brain donor to the determined Monster (Chaney).

In addition to looking properly terrified, Evelyn appears quite fetching in gowns by studio costumer Vera West, whose creations included an array of then-stylish hats that upon reflection could have played a part in driving men and monsters crazy. Sometime take a close look at some of the headwear Miss Ankers and others wore during that time.

She appeared in Sherlock Holes And The Voice Of Terror (1942), the first of Universal’s adventures of the renowned detective played by Basil Rathbone. As barmaid Kitty our heroine goes undercover as mistress to a Nazi spy chief (Thomas Gomez) and ultimately sacrifices her life for England.

Evelyn’s other encounter with Holmes, 1944’s Pearl Of Death, found her on the opposite side of the law. As Naomi Drake she wore a variety of disguises to assist master criminal Giles Conover (Miles Mander). Meanwhile she avoided her amorous admirer, Conover’s other main accomplice, the hulking, spine snapping, acromegalic Creeper (Rondo Hatton in the first of his three Creeper features).

In Captive Wild Woman (1943), Evelyn played Beth Colman, whose sister was instrumental in mad doctor Walters’ (John Carradine) efforts to create a superior race which resulted in one of Universal’s inferior monsters, the Ape Woman, played in two outings by the incomparable Acquanetta.

Beth, with her own life and her sister’s in peril, unlocked the cage unleashing the beast’s alter ego Cheela the ape upon the deadly doc. Ankers had much less to do in the flashback-laden sequel Jungle Woman even though that time she got top billing.

She also had less to do in Son Of Dracula as Claire Caldwell whose sister Katherine (Louise Allbritton) had designs on eternal life at the fangs of Count Alucard (Dracula spelled backwards and played by Lon Chaney, Jr.).

As Isobel Lewis, Ankers was the melodic and emotionally torn object of affection to Turhan Bey (as her pianist), George Zucco (as mad doctor Morris) and David Bruce (as the medical student-turned title creature) in The Mad Ghoul (1943).

As a potential victim of The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), Evelyn played daughter to Sir Jasper (sometimes horror hero Lester Matthews) and Lady Irene Herrick (sometimes villainess Gale Sondergaard). They were all targeted in one way or another by a deranged man (Jon Hall) turned transparent by a local scientist (always-dependable John Carradine).

After playing mostly good girls, Evelyn was uncomfortable portraying evil-minded Ilona in Universal’s Weird Woman (1944), one of the studio’s six "Inner Sanctum" mysteries and based on Fritz Leiber, Jr.’s novel Conjure Wife. Near the core of her character’s many machinations, Evelyn had to menace her good friend Anne Gwynne, who played the suspected witch-wife of a university professor (Lon Chaney, Jr.).

When it became apparent that Ilona (Ankers) was behind everyone’s manipulated misfortunes, Chaney and Company turned the tables on the woman whose guilt drove her mad and, in attempting to escape, to her death by hanging vine, punctuated by a final piercing scream.

Miss Ankers’ vocal chords were not quite as stressed in her other "Inner Sanctum" film The Frozen Ghost (1945) where she helped hypnotist Gregor the Great (Chaney again) unravel a sinister plot. This was Evelyn Ankers’ final film made under contract to Universal. In 1942 she had married actor Richard Denning, and during the filming of The Frozen Ghost was pregnant with her first and only child, a daughter, Dee.

Ankers appeared in a few more movies and some television through the 1950s before retiring. During the Fifties, her husband, Richard Denning’s familiar face and stalwart presence to monster movie fans for his largely heroic roles in such films as Unknown Island (1948), Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), Target Earth (1954), Creature With The Atom Brain (1955), The Day The World Ended (1956) and The Black Scorpion (1957).

Around 1968 the Dennings moved to Hawaii where Richard played the recurring role of the Governor on TV’s Hawaii Five-O.

A generally joyful, active life continued until Evelyn Ankers lost a battle with cancer on August 29, 1985 at age 67. Richard Denning passed away on October 11, 1998. He was 84.

Throughout her film career Evelyn Ankers appeared in musicals, westerns, comedies and more, but it is for her portrayals of brave, resourceful women in the Universal shockers that she is best remembered. On screen she was a beautiful screamer…a talented performer…and a glowing goodness in so many of our favorite films of fright. In these, Evelyn Ankers was often our anchor…to happy endings and hopeful realities.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW0zyZKEh3c - Ankers doing her thing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp5gUlu2ZwQ - more screaming

1941 Hold That Ghost
1941 The Wolf Man
1942 The Ghost of Frankenstein
1943 Captive Wild Woman
1943 Son of Dracula
1943 The Mad Ghoul
1944 Weird Woman
1944 Jungle Woman
1944 The Invisible Man’s Revenge
1945 The Frozen Ghost

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