Monster Mania: An hour-plus DVD ‘history of horror’ cinema hosted by Jack Palance (who, after all, did play Count Dracula in a well-made Dan Curtis ‘made-for-TV’ movie version of Dracula). It’s heavily weighted towards the Universal classic 1930’s – 1940’s era films, but also includes all kinds of rarities, from Thomas Edison’s 1910 Frankenstein, to inside looks at period special effects work, horror star interviews and more.
Bride Of Monster Mania, hosted by everyone’s favorite (well, she’s my favorite!) Mistress Of The Dark, Elvira. It’s an approx. hour-long overview of women in horror cinema from the silent era through the ‘golden age’ Universal films to contemporary films, and includes interviews with he much beloved (and missed) Ingrid Pitt, hammer horror femmes and more. Frankly, I liked this disk even better than the first Monster Mania.
Danse Macabre: Audrey Hewko by Peter Coulson, from Fashionising. “Possessing endless grace and infinite beauty while recreating the splendid motions of a statuesque ballerina, Audrey Hewko bared of all signs of heaviness makes for a divinely sexy sight.”
“The Actress Who Could Have Been…But Never Was.” That’s what the newspapers said about actress Carole Landis (1.1.19 – 7.5.48), one of the stars of the previous post’s I Wake Up Screaming (1941), whose tragic suicide at such a young age is another sad case of the Hollywood dream machine eating up yet one more talent. Her real name: Clara Stentek, raised in Wisconsin, and per her bio, in a rough environment shaped by poverty and sex abuse. But she made it to Hollywood on a hundred bucks she’d saved up, starting out as a nightclub hula dancer, then doing time in late 1930’s roles as a Twentieth Century Fox contract player, finally striking it big in 1940’s One Million B.C. Many know her best for being a tireless WWII USO show performer, logging over 100,000 miles in England, North Africa and the South Pacific, appearing in more shows than any other Hollywood actress and voted one of the top pinups among the boys in uniform. She wrote a best selling book, Four Jills And A Jeep about her experiences, later made into a movie starring some of very same actresses from the real life adventures.
But Landis was perennially unlucky in love, with multiple marriages and failed affairs, which included a two-time try with an older neighbor back in Wisconsin, then Busby Berkeley, producer H. Horace Schmidlapp, Darryl F. Zannuck and Jacqueline Susann, who supposedly based her ‘Jennifer North’ character in Valley Of The Dolls on the romp with the actress, and on Landis’ penchant for pills. Her final and most tumultuous love affair was with married actor Rex Harrison, which may or may not have been the last straw that lead to her suicide from a Seconal overdose.
Caught the 941 ‘proto-noir’ film I Wake Up Screaming on TCM last night. It was originally called Hot Spot, released in 1941 and re-released in a bigger way again in 1948. You’ll spot posters, stills and lobby cards online under both titles. The movie’s based on a novel by the same name by Steve Fisher (the cover pic above is from Pulp Covers), who got to co-write the screenplay with Dwight Taylor.
The story is pretty basic 1940’s era crime melodrama stuff: Agent/promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature, he of the always astoundingly glistening black hair) is accused of murdering Vicky Lynn (played by Carole Landis), an actress he discovered as a waitress, and Frankie ends up trying to prove his innocence with the unlikely help of the victim’s own sister, Jill Lynn, played by Betty Grable in one of her few dramatic roles. There are nice supporting roles by Laird Cregar (just read a novel I’ll be posting about with a character repeatedly referred to as ‘that guy who looks like Laird Cregar) and Elisha Cook Jr. For my money, Carole Landis is the heart of the film, though her on-screen time is largely seen in flashbacks. Cool title, nifty dark ‘n shadowy scenes, and always fun to watch the birth of a dark and jaded film-making style that would evolve into what we call Film Noir.
I have an original 1969 Warren publishing Vampirella #1, but that one’ll stay safely where it is alongside the old Creepy’s, Eerie’s, Vampirella’s, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, Skywald magazines and their companions. This is just the 2001 ‘Commemorative Edition’ from Harris Publications, and even it’s starting to show its age. So, laid it very gently onto the scanner for this pic, as you can guess.
Not too often that horror media’s bastion of blood ‘n guts, torture porn and EFX minutae devotes 5 full pages to a ballet/art film, but Fangoria managed to allocate some space to something other than chained-up women and oozing entrails in this January 2011 issue (#299) for Darren Aronofsky’s darkly beautiful Black Swan. Even gave the film its “Fango Seal Of Approval”, which apparently told its readers that it’d be okay to go see it, even if they were put off by the dance milieu promos they might have seen. I suppose that if push came to shove, they could’ve touted the Natalie Portman-Mlla Kunis sex scenes as a last resort.
I tease, but seriously, Fangoria may be the longest running horror magazine that remans in operation, but it does get a little frustrating toting an issue around with the inevitable gross-out or damsel-in-visciously-violent-distress covers. One can feel like either a creep or a perv (or both) paging through an issue at the coffeehouse, you know?
Actually, this issue is also worth holding onto for a two-page feature and interview with James Knelem Clarke about his musical score for the 1974 cult-fave Jose Larraz Euro-sleaze classic Vampyres, and even a two-page interview with former Joan Jett band-mate and ex-Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie regarding her role in the 80’s schlock-fest Parasite 3D (most of her part vanishing in the editing room anyway).