Monday, November 30, 2015

RIP Carolyne Barry aka Carole Shelyne (1943 - 2015)

It was a great gimmick.

It had certainly worked for Harold Lloyd, and indeed for Clark Kent - just a pair of round horn-rimmed glasses.

In the early 1960s, a 21 year-old Brooklyn-born dancer named Carole Stuppler was hired to become one of the dancers on ABC-TV's SHINDIG. She put on a pair of round horn-rimmed glasses, changed her name to Carole Shelyne (pronounced "she-lin"), and danced her little heart out. I suppose the glasses (which were lens-less, like the ones Phil Silvers wore - so they wouldn't reflect studio lights) could have been a further change of identity to protect her privacy, like her name change, but they also helped her to stand out. The Shindig dancers - which included Teri Garr, Anita Mann, Pam Freeman, Brenda Benet and the curiously named Maria Ghava - were all accomplished go-go spirits, but regardless of the choreography, the eye was somehow always drawn to those glasses. At least mine was. I was eight when SHINDIG premiered in 1964, and suddenly going on 12, thanks to this vision of perky kookiness calling herself Carole Shelyne.

She was an early crush of mine, and I just learned the other day that she died last June, at the age of 71. 

The IMDb credits Carolyne Barry - the name she eventually settled on - with appearing on 45 episodes of SHINDIG between 1964 and 1965. On one of those episodes, she stepped into the spotlight to perform a song from a novelty single she had just recorded for Liberty Records, "The Girl With the Horn-Rimmed Glasses." It had even better B-side called "Boys Do Make Passes At Girls Who Wear Glasses," written by the songwriting team of Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, whose astonishing list of credits include numerous songs for AIP movies, including all the BEACH PARTY pictures, both DR GOLDFOOT pictures, WILD IN THE STREETS and GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER ("Save The Earth")!

Hemric-Styner also wrote a song called "These Are the Good Times," which Frankie Avalon performed on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW - where Carole followed a MR NOVAK dramatic debut ("Beat the Ploughshare, Edge the Sword") with a special guest performance in an episode called "Patty's Private Pygmalion." Here, sporting the familiar round specs, she played a high school wallflower named Marcia, whom the outgoing Patty Lane grooms to become so popular that she ends up losing her own date to her. The performance that Carole gave here was surprisingly vulnerable and poignant, while also showing unsuspected range in the opposite direction, and the script by Arnold Horwitt (whom I'm surprised to see also wrote one of my favorite GREEN ACRES episodes, "The Case of the Hooterville Refund Fraud") ventured some surprisingly candid comments about teenage jealousy. When people look back on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW, this is one of the episodes they typically remember.

But it was Carole's performance as Marvin (yes, Marvin) in the 1966 spy-beach spoof OUT OF SIGHT that really got to me. If the BEACH PARTY movies were like MAD magazine, OUT OF SIGHT is like those oddball DC Comics comedy titles like ANGEL AND THE APE or THE INFERIOR FIVE, and it has a consistently great score produced by Nick Venet and anonymously played by the famous Wrecking Crew, with guest musical appearances by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Turtles, The Astronauts, Dobie Gray and The Knickerbockers. The songs are fantastic. Directed by Lennie Weinrib (one of the constables who investigate Peter Lorre's cellar in TALES OF TERROR, and later the voice of H.R. Pufnstuf himself) and scripted by future LAUGH-IN cast member Larry Hovis, it's a vehicle for a young comic actor named Jonathan Daly, a charming composite of Robert Vaughn, Jerry Lewis and Nancy Kulp. Daly plays Homer, the hapless, envious butler of top secret agent John Stamp, who poses as his absent boss to disrupt the plan of Russian spy Big D (John Lawrence) to destroy all teenagers - because all their "yeah yeah yeah" nonsense annoys him. Marvin is a bespectacled wallflower of a girl who gloms onto Homer as her date for the festival Big D is sponsoring to lure the biggest of all British long-haired bands to their destruction. "He's just my type - a BOY!" she gushes. As the movie continues, we realize that it doesn't really have the Beatles in store; the biggest British long-haired band is Freddie and the Dreamers! (Unless you're watching the band in performance from behind them - then they become stock footage of the Beatles!) Anyway, I loved it when I first saw it in December 1966 and I still do.

On the night I learned of Carole's passing, I pulled out my trusty DVD-R copy of OUT OF SIGHT - recorded from AMC during that wonderful period when they were gearing up for that too-good-to-be-true "American Pop" spin-off channel that never happened - and watched it as my candlelight vigil. She's in the film somewhat less than I remembered, but in the course of its madcap 87 minutes, she has two lines that I imagine imprinted themselves on me deeply. At the end of the film, Marvin reveals that she has seen through Homer's disguise from the very beginning, and when he asks how she possibly did this, she deadpans, "I read a lot." Well. Four words straight to my heart. Secondly, as she explains her liking for Homer twice in the movie, "I go for the weird ones." And ever since seeing OUT OF SIGHT, I did, do, and probably always will.

After OUT OF SIGHT, which lived up to its name at the box office, being one of those summer pictures that end up playing at drive-ins during "free in-car heater" season, Carole seems to have retired her horn-rimmed glasses image but continued to act on series like STAR TREK ("Arena") and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. ("The Cap and Gown Affair"), and there was also a recurring role as Franny on the ABC series HERE COME THE BRIDES, starring her SHINDIG co-worker Bobby Sherman. In 1976, she actually scripted a low-budget horror movie, DARK AUGUST, starring herself, Kim Hunter, and the top-lined J.J. Barry - a veteran of LAUGH-IN's second season. I assume that she married her star around this time, as her subsequent credits - including a part on the 1988 STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode "Home Soil" - settle on the name Carolyne Barry.

In the early 1980s, Carolyne parlayed her experience (which included appearances in some 400 television commercials) into the founding of the Professional Artist Group, the Carolyne Barry Workshops, and finally Carolyne Barry Creative - all acting workshops in which she trained students not only how to act, but how to successfully audition and land roles. On YouTube there are a number of videos that eavesdrop on her seminars, and they show her to be an effective and personable instructor. In this role, she reminds me a great deal of my late friend Mary Dawne Arden, a former actress and model who went on to found Arden Associates, who had a similar gift for public speaking and directing people to their secret potential.

In my early years on Facebook, I found a page for Carolyne and took the opportunity - as I've often done there with people I admire - to send her a note of appreciation. I expressed my particular liking for OUT OF SIGHT (which may have led her to think I was some kind of crank) and shared that her "horn-rimmed glasses girl" character had been responsible for a character trait in myself that had always served me in good stead - to judge women not by their looks, but by their personal character. Indeed, I had married a blonde who wore glasses, and she was one of "the weird ones." Unfortunately, the reply I received seemed confused and wary; it gave me the feeling that she didn't often receive fan letters and perhaps didn't quite know how to deal with that kind of well-meaning intrusion. Before I could reply, a postscript followed from her, apologizing and explaining that she had a sister who was dying of cancer, which was very much on her mind - and, as quickly as that confession came out, thanking me for writing. I wrote back, to thank her for following up, to send my regrets and my wishes for only the very best for her and her sister.

So we didn't become friends, but we didn't have to. Her life had touched mine, so I wanted to touch hers back. I know now, from reading numerous online testimonials from her colleagues and students, what a positive force she was in so many lives, in both her incarnations. Godspeed to her horn-rimmed spirit.        


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Some Holiday Gift Book Suggestions

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I thought it might be a good time to recommend some of the best film-related books to have surfaced in the past year, because - never mind the propaganda we hear about the death of bookstores and the imminent demise of printed matter - no gift so eloquently embodies the holidays as a beautiful book. And this year there have been quite a few that you might consider giving... or receiving.

FAB Press vault to the top of my list with the year's most notable coffee table book and impressive objet d'art: Nicolas Winding Refn's THE ACT OF SEEING, with text by Alan Jones. Lurking behind an outward presentation that doesn't quite tell you what's inside, this is actually a book that has been sorely needed: a retrospective of the art of exploitation poster design, focusing primarily on rarely seen sexploitation titles of the 1960s. Admittedly there have been other books that collected such posters, but there has never been another quite like this one, and not simply due to the extent of its rich indulgence. If you have ever, like me, responded to that mercurial, unnameable quality found in the posters for films like THE ORGY AT LIL'S PLACE, THE DEFILERS and THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS - a quality that somehow encompasses unrepentant sleaze and a haunting quality otherwise found only in the highest forms of art - this is the book for you, because Refn recognizes it too and that is what this book is about, organizing these materials with a genuine curator's eye and aesthetic. Packaged inside a handsome slipcase and printed on heavy glossy stock that makes every color pop, this is a book that offers as much substance as surface, and its surface is considerable. THE ACT OF SEEING is a veritable aphrodisiac of sordid salesmanship, and Jones' witty and knowledgeable annotations put the exciting parade of images into meaningful context.

Over the last ten years, British journalist Paul Sutton has devoted much of his time to interviewing the surviving cast and crew members associated with the late, great British film director Ken Russell. Published as both a large softcover and limited hardcover edition with bonus color pages, TALKING ABOUT KEN RUSSELL (Buffalo Books) is the end result of that dedicated effort - more than 100 original interviews, including Russell himself on most titles, with additional comments drawn from other sources. What makes this book so special, almost unique of its kind, is that it presents generally without editorial adornment the history of a filmmaker's career from the points of view offered up by his crew, the people overlooked by most historians, which presents us with new and unusual perspectives of how films like WOMEN IN LOVE, THE MUSIC LOVERS and THE DEVILS were made. Sutton, who worked with Russell on his last video efforts, shows an inexhaustible passion for the subject while making no attempt to white-wash his findings. This balanced frankness enables the book to present Russell in a more human dimension, through the eyes of the co-workers who more than once followed him into battle through fires at heart's center; so we come away with a more three-dimensional view of this man whose temper, tendency to provocation, abuses of power, and professional recklessness are more easily aligned with what we know of his intelligence and creative authority. By the end of this book, we better understand what attracted Russell to certain subjects and certain actors, why his best work ended with VALENTINO and why the overall body of his work can be divided into specific periods, and how the most successful British film director of his generation became "unbankable." You might think this sounds like a "rise and fall" story, but if anything, this is a testament to one of the 20th century's great visionary artists and his indomitable spirit. Available from Amazon or directly from the author.

The winner of last year's Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Monster Kid of the Year was Frank J. Dello Stritto, who won the award primarily for writing I SAW WHAT I SAW WHEN I SAW IT - which Cult Movies Press has published as a handsome signed and numbered hardcover limited to only 1,000 copies. This book (which takes its title from a line in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN) is a kind of autobiography told primarily through the author's initial and recurrent encounters with horror and other popular entertainment via neighborhood theater matinees, drive-ins and television. As such, it is particularly recommended to readers who share with Dello Stritto the uncanny experience of having grown up in the 1950s and 1960s and will glean a special pleasure from having their feelings about childhood companions like Abbott & Costello, the Frankenstein Monster, Rod Serling, Bela Lugosi, and Steve Reeves revived in eloquent, loving language. This may well be the definitive account of the "Monster Kid" experience published to date, and it follows its own central Monster Kid into adulthood and the way these characters abide through life with us. One reads this book with the uncanny impression that Dello Stritto has been taking careful notes toward this ultimate expression his entire life, and I'm sure he has.

The first volume of Stephen Thrower's MURDEROUS PASSIONS: THE DELIRIOUS CINEMA OF JESUS FRANCO is one of the most absorbing and detailed film books of this past year, not to mention a beautiful artifact in both its standard and deluxe editions from Strange Attractor Press. Co-written with Julian Grainger, who contributes sidebar chapters elucidating the business side of Franco's collaborations with Orson Welles, Marius and Daniel Lesoeur of Eurociné, and Harry Alan Towers, this volume follows a lengthy introductory overview with individual chapters addressed to (one might say "appropriately") 69 feature films made between 1959 and 1974. While I must admit to having some problems with the book - it was written out of sequence, resulting in repetitions of some remarks, and feels impatient toward much of the work, as if the author was inspired by only a handful of the films and had to plough through the majority under duress - it is well-written and infectious about what it likes. Most importantly, it organizes Franco's sprawling and unwieldy oeuvre into a convincing chronological sequence that sometimes finds him filming as many as five pictures simultaneously; this is no small feat. I have a more detailed review forthcoming in VIDEO WATCHDOG 180, but if you are any stripe of a Franco fan, you must have it. Very much looking forward to the second volume, which will cover a wealth of films in greater detail than most have ever before received in English.

I've not yet seen it, but another imposing Franco book was just published - in France, in French. That book is JESS FRANCO OU LES PROSPERITÉS DU BIS by Alain Petit. Petit was the first journalist to cover Franco's work in depth, for both the French fan press and in professional magazines like VAMPIRELLA (the French edition, which unlike the US magazine had a film section), and he later appeared in some of his films, under his own name (TENDER FLESH) and as "Charlie Christian" (THE MIDNIGHT PARTY, JULIETTE). In the 1990s, he published a limited run fanzine devoted to chronicling Franco's entire career entitled THE MANACOA FILES - and this immense book updates and adds to their complete contents, which encompass complete credits and discussion of each film, interviews with Franco and a large number of his collaborators and more. Though the book is in French, it is illustrated with numerous never-before-seen photos and is accompanied with a special code that will allow the reader access to a complete English translation of the text. Published by Artus Films, the book includes a DVD of an otherwise unavailable Franco film - Operation Levres Rouges (1960), the rare French version of his second feature, Labios rojos, the first of several Franco films about the two female private detectives who run the agency known as Red Lips. 

If you're looking for something a little more mainstream, a little more affordable, and no less an important achievement, go directly to the newly updated edition of Jonathan Rigby's ENGLISH GOTHIC, now subtitled CLASSIC HORROR CINEMA 1897-2015. When Rigby published the first edition of this now-classic text (then subtitled A CENTURY OF HORROR CINEMA) in the year 2000, his book had the elegiac air of a monument to a bygone age of industry - but happily, almost as if the appearance of the book had catalyzed a long-hoped-for response, the British horror cinema was subsequently resurrected. Consequently, this new edition not only extends the earlier text by some 50 pages but adds on another 75+ pages covering the period of 2000-2015 with discussion of such films as THE DESCENT, THE CHILDREN and THE WOMAN IN BLACK, as well as an added chapter surveying the immensely rich history of English gothic television. Published by Signum Books and sporting a somewhat revised layout that remains nevertheless true to the beautiful, imaginative design of the original edition, the revised ENGLISH GOTHIC is not yet available in America so cast your nets abroad.

An absolutely revelatory art book with strong but unusual ties to the horror genre is Ulrich Merkl's DINOMANIA: THE LOST ART OF WINSOR McCAY, THE SECRET ORIGINS OF KING KONG, AND THE URGE TO DESTROY NEW YORK from Fantagraphics. In the last years of his life, which ended in 1934, cartoonist Winsor McCay - the inventor of the animated cartoon - was planning a new comic strip that would follow in the surreal footsteps of his classics DREAMS OF THE RAREBIT FIEND and LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND. The strip was to be called DINO and would document the troubles that a Gertie-like dinosaur would get into if freed from its resting place into the modern day. Only six pages of such art exists, a combination of McCay's own finished art, as well as some strips scripted by him that had to be completed here in his style by other hands, but it is terribly impressive; however, what is even more impressive is that these strips are just the stepping-off point for the book's primary task of underscoring McCay's paternity of nearly all the popular iconography that is associated with the invasions of great cities by giant monsters, and particularly the way dinosaurs have been depicted over the last century in modern fantasy and storytelling. (As Merkl helpfully points out, dinosaurs only became known to modern man within the last 170 years!) The book not only covers such creatures in the arts, but in general iconography, most impressively reproducing a two-page April Fool's Day spread from a 1906 CHICAGO TRIBUNE documenting a supposed assault on the city by battling dinosaurs - whose fabric is directly traceable to McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur" and "The Pet." Subsequent chapters draw distinct parallels between McCay's body of work, THE LOST WORLD and KING KONG by demonstrating their shared iconography, particularly in terms of McCay's fascination with giant monsters, giantism in general, and the destruction of cities like New York. Merkl also explores earlier iconography of apes climbing buildings and abducting fair-haired women with results that are sometimes jaw-dropping. A masterpiece of book design, and a history of dots that very much needed to be connected, DINOMANIA will greatly extend your knowledge and enrich your appreciation of subjects dear to your heart.      

For those of you who may be partial to the 1950s vintage of horror, may I reach back slightly farther than a year ago to recommend THE CREATURE CHRONICLES: EXPLORING THE BLACK LAGOON TRILOGY by Tom Weaver with David Schecter and Steve Kronenberg? (Not to mention the King of Creach Fetishists, David J. Schow, who kicks in a couple of bonus chapters of his own!) McFarland has indulged this project with production value that includes interior color and glossy paper - it literally doesn't feel like the typical McFarland release - and it's easy to see why they went the extra several miles. This is literally everything you wanted to know about Universal's CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON - its origin, its design, its production, its stars, its sequels, its homages, its mind-boggling merch, and its abiding hold on Monster Kid consciousness. This book won last year's Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Film Award for Best Book. With a detailed Introduction by Julie Adams, this book raises a serious appetite for similarly focused, deluxe books on Universal's other classic monsters series. How about a long overdue revised edition of Greg Mank's IT'S ALIVE?

And lastly - because we weren't sent every new film-related book that came out this past year - this year also saw the publication of  MIDI-MINUIT FANTASTIQUE VOLUME 2 by Michel Caen (who sadly passed away while the book was in production) and Nicolas Stanzick - continuing the ambitious, deluxe, hardcover repackaging of the greatest of all European magazines devoted to fantastic cinema. This new volume includes the complete French-language contents of  #7 through the double issue of 10-11, a spread that happily encompasses MMF's legendarily banned (and now difficult-to-find) 8th issue, devoted to eroticism in the fantastic cinema. One of the purposes of this series is to refurbish and preserve the contents of these precious magazines in state-of-the-art quality whenever possible, so one of the most impressive aspects of this particular volume is seeing the racy stills exclusively presented in that eighth issue - from the "continental" versions of films like THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS, JACK THE RIPPER and THE HELLFIRE CLUB - digitally scanned from original photos and presented herein with startling (and sometimes full-page!) clarity. To make an already incredible document still more impressive, extensive new text and photographic content pertaining to the period covered has been added, including Ornella Volta's ground-breaking 1970 interview with Mario Bava; a revealing color pictorial of actress Sylvie Bréal (Robbe-Grillet's THE MAN WHO LIES); an article by Stanzick documenting a Dracula graphic art project by Philippe Druillet and Jean Boullet; a recent essay by former MMF editor Jean-Claude Romer about lost films; and also Stanzick's introductory tribute to Michel Caen. I dearly wish these books were available in English, but it is still extremely easy for a monolinguist like me to get lost in them. I can't point to any other book or books that better capture, pictorially, what I love most about the horror genre. VOLUME 2 also contains a 150 minute DVD consisting of many choice rarities, including Patrice Molinard's 1963 short film Fantasmagorie (40m) starring the great Édith Scob (EYES WITHOUT A FACE, JUDEX)!


Saturday, November 21, 2015

RIP Germán Robles, the Genii of Darkness (1929-2015)

Germán Robles was the very figurehead of Silver Age Mexican horror - and the first actor to portray a vampire with fangs, at least in films widely seen in our part of the world. He made his screen debut as the bloodthirsty Count Lavud in Fernando Mendez' THE VAMPIRE (El Vampiro, 1957 - pictured), a film that remarkably predated Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA by the better part of an entire year, anticipating some of its moves while also retaining a balance of debt to Tod Browning's DRACULA (1931) with Bela Lugosi. Due in no small part to Robles' authority and stylish performance, the film proved very successful and resulted in a sequel, THE VAMPIRE'S COFFIN (El ataúd del vampiro, 1958). Robles subsequently reteamed with Mendez for a serial that cast him as the undead Nostradamus, which was exported as four individual films. He also appeared in THE BRAINIAC (as a reincarnated victim), CASTLE OF THE MONSTERS, THE LIVING HEAD, NEUTRON VS THE KARATE KILLERS, and numerous teleseries. He was also quite active in the Mexican dubbing industry, having lent his distinctive voice to a number of imported American blockbusters, including Pixar films and pictures in the STAR WARS, TERMINATOR and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN franchises. In 2007, he was a guest at Monster Bash in Pennsylvania, where he was inducted into the Rondo Awards Hall of Fame for his lifetime achievement. He was 86.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

HELLEVATOR: It's Only A Game, It's Only A Game

I finally freed myself from the bonds of cable television some months ago, but thanks to Hulu and my trusty Apple TV, I've been able to keep tabs on the latest adventure of the Soska Sisters, HELLEVATOR. It airs on GSN: the Game Show Network, Wednesday nights at 8:00pm eastern. The third episode of eight airs tonight.

When I first heard about this program, I was excited that someone had recognized Jen and Sylvia Soska as personalities and had understood how well their darkly giddy, sweet-and-salty personalities could lend themselves well to a scary game show project. The premise is fairly irresistible in itself: the Soskas imperiously preside over a control room that operates an elevator that delivers three terrified contestants to three different levels, where they must individually conquer that level's unique challenges for a $5,000 cash prize. Thus, they stand to gain up to $15,000 before the final challenges posed by the final level, called The Labyrinth, where they must find as much additional money as they can retrieve from a series of gooey death traps, which - if they conquer them - brings them up to $20,000 and whatever additional monies they have plucked from the rusty jaws of an ancient embalming room or delousing pit.

Two episodes - "The Mortuary" and "The Asylum" - have aired thus far, and I've found them to be fairly entertaining, but there remains room for improvement. The most entertaining facet, surprisingly, has been the contestants. They are so hilarious, so completely over-the-top in their apparent complete belief in the Soskas' proposed scenarios of deranged coroners and madhouse nurses, that the viewer can't help but wonder if these people are real, off-the-street contestants or actors hired to sell the spooky vignettes. (Either way, it's entertainment, right?) Christian, the self-styled group leader of the second episode, immediately reveals himself as a whimpering ninny who "can't do hospitals" - prompting Jen's deadpan line, "Christian, this whole place is a hospital." His quivering, shivering, nearly pants-peeing performance is particularly funny, and lends itself unexpectedly to a feminist high-five finale.

The beauty of the show is how well it captures the purity of those trusting souls who are completely sucked into scary tales told around a campfire in the dark. At the beginning of each show, as the Soskas trade lines, spelling out the instant myth of some vintage sicko who briefly ruled over their own private world of gruesome anatomical and sickly psychological transgressions, we are treated to the most unlikely, wide-eyed expressions blossoming on supposedly adult (well, young adult) faces... and, speaking as a storyteller myself, it's irresistably charming. It also brings something back to the horror genre that has been lost in recent years - the vicarious pleasure of watching a trio absolute fools attempting to survive a night in a haunted house. In terms of the scares it serves up, HELLEVATOR is closer to the SAW films than, say, THE GHOST AND MR CHICKEN, but it forges a genuine connection between the two that simply did not exist before.

However, I think the producers of the show are selling their hostesses short. While HELLEVATOR shows a very real (or at least seemingly real) connection between the contestants and their chain-rattling challenges - which, on last week's show, included a young lady with her head locked inside an acrylic box that was being slowly filled with live (and very tame) rats as she had to navigate a ceiling grid to the key that would free her - there is absolutely no sense of contact or connection between the contestants and the two baleful ladies controlling their fates. Whether it's true or not, it consistently looks like the Soskas and the contestants were never on-set at the same time. Do the contestants even know who their hosts are? Also, Jen and Sylvia (whose names are never mentioned, whose screen credits are buried in the end titles under the names of the producers) don't seem to be playing themselves, but rather something closer to the svelte, black-dressed daughters of HELLRAISER's Pinhead. As you can see in the above photo, they have been made up in such a way as to look dour and slightly unnatural, accentuating an unconvincing contrast between them, rather than the natural symmetry that makes the Twisted Twins so appealing. While they do occasionally come up with a laugh-out-loud line (like "We don't have all day" in the premiere episode), they seem under directorial duress to speak and react with only the coldest pleasure. Stoic sarcasm is the best we get from them, which is a far cry from the infectious sense of fun which has always been the most compelling thing about them. I can't help feeling that HELLEVATOR would be so much better if they were allowed to be themselves, but there is a sense that the controlling minds behind this show were convinced that Horror is a dish best served grim.

For those of you who use Twitter, the Twins are known to tweet live along with the first broadcast of each episode, which is bound to add something vital to the experience.

I imagine that the first season of eight episodes will continue to adhere to this somewhat imperfect pattern, but even so, HELLEVATOR is worth a look - as a modern-day SPOOKS RUN WILD, if you like - not to mention an idea worth nurturing and developing further.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mario Bava and Orson Welles - Collaborators!

The big news of the day comes from Wellesnet: The Orson Welles Web Resource, who thank Massimiliano Studer for the information: Mario Bava and Orson Welles worked together! This frame enlargement is taken from an unedited reel of film shot for Welles' 1958 documentary PORTRAIT OF GINA, a now-difficult-to-see appreciation of actress Gina Lollobrigida, and clearly shows the clapper board identifying Mario Bava as the cameraman. This footage was recently discovered in Pordonone by historian Luca Giuliani.

While it is startling to learn that Bava had worked professionally with Welles (and somehow never mentioned it), it should come as no surprise to find him lighting La Lollo. Mario Bava had been the cameraman on all of her most important films - the one in which she was discovered (ELISIR D'AMORE, 1941), those in which she made her breakthrough performances (PAGLIACCI, MISS ITALIA), and also her most breathtaking color film of the 1950s (Robert Z. Leonard's BEAUTIFUL BUT DANGEROUS) - and could be said to be the principal cultivator of her screen image. The half-hour short, produced as part of a proposed "Orson Welles At Large" series, was likely shot around the same time as Bava's first horror film - Riccardo Freda's I VAMPIRI (1957). 

The film curiously contains no screen credits, but was evidently the work of more than one cinematographer and was likely assembled piecemeal as Welles' side-projects usually were. Lollobrigida - who is visited and interviewed at her home by Welles, and who looks beautiful, indicating that she specifically requested Bava as a cameraman whom she could trust to make her look her best - was reportedly unhappy with the film and filed an injunction to prevent it from being shown in the US. It is known to have been screened only a few times, first at the Venice Film Festival in 1958, and subsequently on French and German television.

The future of this footage is presently unknown, but an augmented revival of the film would certainly be welcome.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

RIP Charles Herbert (1948-2015)

Before Billy Mumy came along, Charles Herbert (Saperstein) was the go-to child actor for just about any movie or TV series that might have interested me during the first 10 years of my life. He was prominently featured in THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD, THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, MEN INTO SPACE, THE FLY, THE BOY AND THE PIRATES, 13 GHOSTS, SCIENCE FICTION THEATER, ONE STEP BEYOND (two episodes), ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE TWILIGHT ZONE ("I Sing the Body Electric"), THE OUTER LIMITS ("The Inheritors")... he was even cast as Patty's brother Ross in the pilot of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (later replaced by Paul O'Keefe). Imagine doing all of that before you were 15! His filmography stops in 1968, when he was 20 - and after that, as happens with so many child actors whose futures are not properly cared for by their parents, it's said that he lived a very unhappy life until some friends pulled him out of his tailspin; in his 50s, he made some new friends and began meeting with fans on the movie convention circuit. I was saddened to hear that he died on Halloween night of a heart attack at the age of only 66.

Thank you, Charlie, for helping my generation to feel like a part of all those great stories.

Monday, November 02, 2015

First Look: VIDEO WATCHDOG 180

We're here to fight those post-partum post-Halloween blues with your long-awaited First Look at VIDEO WATCHDOG 180! Here's the front cover... and for those of you who would like a generous preview peek inside, just follow this handy link!