Sept. & Oct. at The Movie Morlocks

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It’s that time again. Time to collect & share links to the writing I’ve published on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog in the past few months. In September I spent a lot of time obsessing over TCM Star of the Month Susan Hayward. I reference her in at least three of the pieces I wrote that month and I refer to her again in my first October post about the neglected Gothic thriller, THE LOST MOMENT (1947). As usual, I spent the rest of “Shocktober” focusing on darker fare including horror films and morbid mysteries. Follow the links to read more.

September:
Susan Hayward in Her Own Words
“I didn’t know much about TCM’s current Star of the Month so I decided to delve into her past recently and was somewhat surprised by the way Susan Hayward had been portrayed (and ignored) by the media since her death in 1975. Nicknamed the “Divine Bitch” following the release of a similarly titled biography, the four-time Academy Award nominated actress didn’t make a lot of friends in Hollywood and is rarely described in flattering terms by studio executives and costars so the general picture we have of her seems somewhat skewed. I’m a firm believer that there are usually two-sides to every story so I decided to explore newspaper and movie magazine archives in an effort to learn more about the redheaded screen siren in her own words without the opinions of her biographers and colleagues getting in the way. In the process I discovered a complex woman whose turbulent real life was often more sensational than the fictional lives of the characters she portrayed.”

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Alberto Vargas in Hollywood
“If you love vintage pin-up art as much as I do you’ll probably recognize Alberto Vargas’s name. Between 1920 and 1975 the Peruvian artist created some of the most celebrated and recognizable pin-up art in America while working for the Ziegfeld Follies as well as Esquire magazine and Playboy . . . What classic movie fans might not know is that Alberto Vargas also had a brief but lucrative career in Hollywood painting celebrity portraits, working for film industry magazines and creating movie posters. I enjoy playing detective so I decided to dig through various archives and books in search of Vargas’s film related work and what I found surprised me. The Latin artist made a much bigger impact on Hollywood than I’d previously been led to believe.”

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Every Dog Must Have His Day
“The film is weighted with biting social commentary as well as religious and political allegory but at its heart, WHITE GOD is a rather simple and profoundly sad story about a helpless dog that learns he must rely on himself and rebel against authority if he wants to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. It also doubles as a sensitive coming-of-age story about the young dog owner who learns a similar lesson although the perils and circumstances she faces are much more privileged and forgiving . . . While watching WHITE GOD I was reminded of a few other films I admire that center around dogs like Hagen who were forced to take similar journeys while suffering the consequences of man’s inhumanity to man and animal alike”

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The Power of the Pantsuit
“The entire scene, between the time Hayward enters the bathroom and leaves it, only lasts about 2 minutes but she and her paisley pantsuit completely own it. It’s a spectacular exit and although plenty of people like to point out the campy elements in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, Hayward’s sincerity is undeniable in that moment. She was living in Helen Lawson’s skin and it’s evident that she deeply related to the character’s desperation and disappointments as well as her success. And that dazzling suit she wears represents her achievements.”

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October:
Nameless Fear: The Lost Moment (1947)
“The film is wrapped in a shimmery fog and lit mostly by candles that dance off dusty walls. And the house at the center of all the drama, with its spectacular canal-side setting, long twisting hallways, dark balconies, spiraling stairs and decomposing garden, evokes plenty of ghosts. It may not be a typical horror film but this Gothic romance about conflicted characters, doomed romance and ever-shifting identities will haunt you . . . It’s a terrible shame that The Lost Moment was neglected for so long. If critics had been kinder and audiences more receptive, there’s a high probability that director Martin Gabel would have continued making movies and he might have been remembered alongside some of the more interesting filmmakers who were working at Universal in the late forties and fifties. But when he died at age 73 in 1986 after suffering a massive heart attack the New York Times didn’t bother to mention his singular directing credit in their obituary.”

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Fatal Charm: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)
“The picture opens with a striking scene shot inside a funhouse ride at a carnival. Dirk Bogarde’s character is sharing his seat with his wife and future murder victim (Mona Washbourne) when the camera focuses in on his face hidden by shadows while his pupils appear to light-up. It’s a startling effect that makes Bogarde look like a hungry demon with hellfire in his eyes. In this clever title sequence, director Lewis Gilbert and cinematographer Jack Asher signal to film audiences that their male protagonist is a monster before he ever opens his mouth.”

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10 Trailblazing Horror Films Directed by Women
“All month long TCM has been airing films made by women on Tuesday and Thursday night as part of their groundbreaking Trailblazing Women series hosted by Illeana Douglas. According to Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for TCM, the goal of Trailblazing Women is to “Highlight the impact of female filmmakers throughout history and encourage future female filmmakers.” The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it’s heartening to see TCM’s resources used to educate, inform and inspire viewers . . . I’ve been enjoying a lot of the Trailblazing Women programming myself but since we’re in the middle of Schocktober, I thought I’d set aside some time to highlight some of my favorite horror films and thrillers directed by women who have left their macabre mark on a genre that many mistakenly assume is not very female friendly.”

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Double Your Pleasure with a Dracula Double Feature
“Tod Browning’s DRACULA is rightly hailed as a horror classic while the Spanish version directed by George Melford was assumed lost and went largely unseen by modern audiences following its initial release until it was restored and distributed on home video in 1992. Both films were shot at the same time using the same sets but with different casts, which was a typical practice by studios in the early 1930s. Their goal was to appeal to international audiences eager to see new-fangled sound films in their own language. The idea quickly went out of favor due to the high cost of producing multiple movies but the Spanish language version of DRACULA is one of best examples we have of this popular practice.”

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Wine & Wolves: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
“This unique Gothic horror from Hammer is part love story, part social allegory and part monster movie. John Elder aka Anthony Hinds’s script was loosely based on a book by Guy Endor (The Werewolf of Paris) and it takes a grim but very modern view of life by stressing that the werewolf is a product of his environment and circumstance instead of just a supernatural beast. The impressive sets, which were borrowed from previous Hammer productions, still look fresh and are accentuated by Terrence Fisher’s direction. This is somewhat of a staid film for Fisher and lacks the abundant style that the director brought to The Brides of Dracula (1961) made the same year. Instead, the film becomes a creative showcase for Oliver Reed’s performance and he’s spectacular as well as deeply moving as the cursed werewolf. The film also provides a nice backdrop for some of the studio’s best make-up effects designed by Roy Ashton. Reed’s transformation from a handsome young man (he was just 21-years-old at the time) into a ferocious wolf is particularly startling but it’s matched by the makeup used to age and disfigure the beggar and the Marquis. The two men are not typical monsters but as their souls seemingly wither and die; their decaying faces illustrate the ravages of time and the darkness that has suffocated their hearts.”

Jan. & Feb. 2015 at TCM’s Movie Morlocks

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Links to my writing at TCM’s official Movie Morlocks blog in January & February.

15 FAVORITE FILMS FROM 2014
Excerpt: “I know what you’re thinking. Another list?! Forgive me my trespass but as a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists I’m asked to compile a list of my favorite films each year and I wanted to share some of my viewing highlights with you. These are the films that have been occupying my thoughts in recent weeks and many of them haven’t gotten the critical attention that I think they deserve.”

NIPPON NOIR: I AM WAITING (1957)
Excerpt: “Viewers will easily spot the influence of early American as well as French Film Noir on I AM WAITING. From its jazz infused score by the brilliant Japanese composer Masaru Sato to the dark and shadow lined cinematography of Kurataro Takamura and the surprisingly gritty script by Shintaro Ishihara, almost all traces of old Japan are missing from the film.”

ROBERT REDFORD & SYDNEY POLLACK: A CREATIVE PARTNERSHIP
Excerpt: “In the years that followed Redford would continue to develop this persona as a sort of amorous outsider who finds himself in difficult relationships that usually end badly or abruptly. As handsome as he was, Redford rarely got to keep the girl who was often hard won. This kind of romantic cynicism became typical in the decade that followed as the country’s growing mistrust in everything, from government bureaucracy to the family structure, begin to take its toll on the American dream. And few actors seemed to represent that sea change better than Robert Redford. As the 60s gave way to the 70s, the beloved blond, blue-eyed movie star was surreptitiously becoming the face of American dissatisfaction”

END OF AN ERA: THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD (1974)
Excerpt: “Unfortunately for classic film fans THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD (1974) isn’t 100% invention. In fact, many aspects of the telefilm’s plot are taken right from news headlines at the time. The fictional Worldwide Films studios are actually a stand-in for the world renowned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, which began systematically selling off its backlots in the early 1970s while auctioning off costumes and props from the beloved films they once produced. Director Gene Levitt and writer George Schenck managed to capture the appalling demolition of MGM and turn it into a melancholy made-for-TV movie that borrows generously from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera.”

LAUGH RIOT: I’LL GIVE A MILLION (1938)
Excerpt: “This lighthearted comedy of errors should appeal to fans of similar depression-era comedies such as HAPPINESS AHEAD (1934), THE GAY DECEPTION (1935) MY MAN GODFREY (1936), IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934), MERRILY WE LIVE (1938) WISE GIRL (1937) and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (1941) that thoughtfully used humor to illustrate the disparity between the wealthy and the less fortune at the time. It’s also just a real treat for fans of Lorre and Carradine who should enjoy watching these two young and charismatic performers playing a couple of hapless hobos who get into trouble with the law. They make a very funny and endlessly entertaining duo as they bumble their way through a series of silly situations.”

OLIVER REED AT 77: A CONVERSATION
Excerpt: “Feb. 13th marks what would have been Oliver Reed’s 77th birthday if he was still with us. Reed died in 1999 but he has long been one of my favorite actors so to honor his memory I decided to contact filmmaker Kent Adamson who worked with Oliver Reed in the 1980s and is friendly with the actor’s son (Mark). What follows is a lengthy Q&A where Kent generously shares his own recollections and thoughts about the actor’s life and career.”

BEWARE! LOUIS JOURDAN IS HERE
Excerpt: “The characters he played were often hard to read and I found myself constantly questioning their motives. This is undoubtedly due to his exceptional performances in films such as LETTER FROM AN UKNOWN WOMAN (1948) where he plays a self-absorbed pianist who breaks Joan Fontaine’s heart and THE BEST OF EVERYTHING (1959) where he drives the gorgeous Suzy Parker mad with jealousy or JULIE (1956) where he stalks and terrorizes poor Doris Day. In retrospect Jourdan was incredibly apt at portraying men with questionable motives and he had a viper-like way of honing in on naive young women who became easy prey. It doesn’t surprise me that he eventually ended up playing a comic-book villain in SWAMPTHING (1982) and a James Bond baddie in OCTOPUSSY (1983). But if I had to select his most fearsome role I’d single out Jourdan’s outstanding turn as the infamous bloodsucking Count in COUNT DRACULA (1977).”

REGRETTABLE VIEWING EXPERIENCES? I’VE HAD A FEW!
Excerpt: “I sat through most of the film with my mouth agape being astonished by its badness but after the first unbelievable hour passed my shock turned to disappointment and disgust. I couldn’t stomach anymore so with only 20 or so minutes remaining until the credits rolled I abandoned my seat and my viewing companions and headed to the lobby where I blew off some steam playing video games. I’ve never regretted my decision. It rates as my worst movie theater experience, bar none.”

June & July at the Movie Morlocks

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I haven’t been online much the last few months for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve been having some medical problems with my left eye and spending lots of time on my computer reading, watching vids and writing can often be problematic. My eyes get easily irritated and I’m prone to headaches, etc. The other reason is simple net fatigue, particularly on social media sites such as Facebook & Twitter where petty bickering, herd-like behavior and one-upmanship among film fans, critics and journalists can become unbearably tiresome. With that out of the way, I want to apologize to anyone you visits Cinebeats often hoping for new updates (excuses I know… but I seem to be suffering from an extreme case of weltschmerz this year) but you can still find me regularly posting on TCM’s Movie Morlocks blog and I occasionally write articles for TCM’s website. Here are some links to things I’ve written in the last few months:

They Wore It Well: Actors & Mustaches: “Mustaches of all shapes, sizes, widths and weights have long been part our movie history so it’s easy to take them for granted. But a good mustache can have power and presence in the movies and many actors have made great use of their facial hair to seduce costars, entice laughter and menace their enemies.”

Hammer Noir: Terence Fisher’s STOLEN FACE (1952): “While a few of the Fisher’s earlier films, such as SO LONG AT THE FAIR (1950), hinted at his penchant for gothic fantasy and costume drama, STOLEN FACE gave the director the opportunity to begin exploring (and exploiting) his apparent fascination with science, philosophy, psychology and medicine that would later permeate his full-color horror films made for Hammer. Amid the noir elements and abundant melodrama that can be found in STOLEN FACE, Fisher spends a noticeable amount of time lingering on strange medical devices while focusing on the doctor’s interactions with patents and colleagues. The doctor also makes a noteworthy trip to a pub where he mingles with some inquisitive locals. This seemingly innocuous event became a staple in Fisher’s horror films…”

Summer Reading Suggestions: “Like many people, I tend to do a lot of reading when the weather warms up and with summer officially about to start on June 21st I thought it would be a good time to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying with my fellow film buffs. My own tastes tend to be somewhat eclectic but I hope readers of all types and stripes will find something that piques their interest when pursuing my list of Summer Reading Suggestions.”

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“I wonder if my brother remembers his brother?” – Remembering Eli Wallach 1915-2014: “Leone famously liked to shoot his actors in extreme close-up or in sweeping wide shots where they were barely visible. But Wallach instinctively knew how to make the most of his screen time and easily navigates between these two very different modes of filmmaking. His eyes speak volumes when Leone’s camera zooms in for a signature close-up but when the director’s camera is out of sight Wallach skillfully used his body language to define his character from a distance. Many actors would get lost in the vast deserts, dilapidated cemeteries and shabby old towns that make up Leone’s film but Wallach seamlessly becomes part of the landscape. We know he’s there even when we can’t see him.”

When Fact Mirrors Fiction: AGATHA (1979): “Redgrave and Hoffman make an unlikely pair and some critics apparently found their height difference distracting but I think the two actors have an incredible chemistry on screen. Redgrave seems to be channeling Garbo while Hoffman displays the kind of arrogant charm that made William Powell so likable. Both performers have rarely been as vulnerable, sympathetic, affable and flat out sexy as they are here, which is partially due to the way they interact and seem to identify with one another’s characters. Their unconventional but utterly convincing on-screen romance is one of the many reasons why I find AGATHA so compelling.”

The Malaise of the Ghetto: LA HAINE (1995): “The broad appeal of Kassovitz’s film can also be traced to another film that mesmerized young audiences in 1955, Nicholas Ray’s timeless classic REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Both films focus on a troubled threesome who form a makeshift family during the span of 24 hours. The neighborhood fighting might be on a much smaller scale and the suburban hood of 1955 Los Angeles appears much more inviting than the suburban slums of 1995 Paris, but both movies use the threat of gun violence to their credit. Neither Plato (Sal Mineo) nor Vinz (Vincent Cassel) can fully comprehend the lethal power of the weapons they’re carrying and their shared desire for some kind of notoriety or control in the face of an indifferent world is something many young people can unfortunately sympathize with . Does LA HAINE have the staying power of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE? That remains to be seen.”

A Century of Scares: Happy Birthday Bava!: “This week marks the 100th birthday of Mario Bava who was born on July 30th (according to leading Bava researcher Tim Lucas and author of the essential Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark) or 31st (if you want to believe IMDB.com and Wikipedia). The brilliant Italian director, cinematographer, special effects artist and screenwriter died in 1980 but today he’s fondly remembered by horror film enthusiasts as the Maestro of the Macabre. Bava has long been one of my favorite filmmakers so I couldn’t let this important anniversary pass without acknowledging his artistry.”

Do You Want to See Something Really Scary?

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I managed to catch a cold this week so I’ve been feeling under the weather but hopefully I’ll be back on my feet soon. In the meantime I wanted to direct you to my latest post at the Movie Morlocks.

All month long I’ve been writing about horror films but this week I decided to share some of the scariest moments from a few of my favorite fright filled movies. If you’re a regular Cinebeats’ reader you’ll recognize many of the films I mention in my latest post such as longtime favorites like The Innocents (Jack Clayton; 1961) , The Tenant (Roman Polanski; 1976), Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard; 1970), Night Tide (Curtis Harrington; 1961) and Dracula Prince of Darkness (Terence Fisher; 1966) but a few others might be a surprise such as The Beast with Five Fingers, (Robert Florey; 1946), which was the first Peter Lorre film I saw on television when I just 9 or 10 years old. A couple of the films I mention will be shown on TCM during Halloween on Oct. 31st so you’ll have a chance to experience them for yourself if you have cable TV.

If you’re looking for a few atypical Halloween viewing suggestions or just want to know what kind of films chill me to the bone and get my heart racing then please make your way over to the Movie Morlocks.
“Do You Want to See Something REALLY Scary?” @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Comic Book of the Week: Curse of the Werewolf

Hammer House of Horror #10

The House of Hammer (also known as Hammer’s Halls of Horror) was a British film and comic magazine published between 1976 and 1978. The following pages are from issue #10, which featured a wonderful cover painted by artist Brian Lewis depicting Oliver Reed in Terence Fisher’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961). The following sample pages are from Part I. & II. of the Curse of the Werewolf comic illustrated by one of my favorite comic book artists, the talented John Bolton and written by Steve Moore. The back cover of the magazine featured a Belgian movie poster for Curse of the Werewolf, which I’ve also included along with a promo shot featuring a very handsome Oliver Reed without his monster makeup. I recommend you read these pages accompanied by the light of the full moon!

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

Hammer House of Horror #10

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They said WHAT?!

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Dirk Bograde & Monica Vittii in Modesty Blaise (1966)

From my latest piece at the the Movie Morlocks:

“In June actor Harrison Ford made news after publicly calling, Shia LaBeouf, his young costar from INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Steven Spielberg; 2008) “…a f–king idiot.” Since then I’ve been thinking about insults that actors have hurled at other actors over the years and a recent piece at Flavorwire titled “The 30 Harshest Filmmaker-on-Filmmaker Insults In History” compelled me to compile a list of 30 of the worst actor-on actor insults I’ve come across. Some of them are surprisingly crude so I thought I should worn potential readers before they plunge ahead. Let the war of words begin…”

A few choice examples:

Bette Davis on Joan Crawford: “I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.”

Dirk Bogarde on Monica Vitti: “I’ve fallen deeply in love with every woman I’ve ever worked with except Monica Vitti. She was a beast.”

Oliver Reed on Jack Nicolson: “Nicholson? As far as I’m concerned, he’s a balding midget. He stands five-foot-seven, you know. He tries to play heavies and doesn’t quite make it.”

Richard Harris on Michael Caine: “An over-fat, flatulent, 62-year-old windbag. A master of inconsequence masquerading as a guru, passing off his vast limitations as pious virtues.”

Want to read more actor-on actor insults? Make your way over to the Movie Morlocks!
They said WHAT?! Classic Insults from Classic Actors @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Favorite 2010 DVDs

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Oliver Reed and friends in Joseph Losey’s These Are the Damned (1963)
Part of Hammer’s Icons of Suspense DVD collection

Last year I didn’t have time to compile a lengthy list of my favorite DVDs but this year I decided to post a small selection of favorites over at the Movie Morlocks. Most of the films on my list were originally made in the ’60s or ’70s because they’re my favorite film decades but this year I branched out a bit and included some older films as well. The list is much smaller than my usual list but I hope my regular readers will find it interesting. Many of the films I mentioned haven’t been available on DVD before and some were never even released in the US. Creating a list like this gives me the opportunity to shine a light on these movies and hopefully encourage a few people to seek them out.
Some Favorite DVD Releases of 2010 @ TCM’s Classic Movie Blog

Recommended Links:
Favorite 2008 DVDs
Favorite 2007 DVDs
Favorite 2006 DVDs

Musings On Mad Men

madmen The talented cast of Mad Men (2010) If you’re a fan of the AMC series Mad Men you’re probably missing the show as much as I am. Season four left me wanting more and I’m eager for season five to start. I know I’m not alone because I often get asked to recommend films that have a “Mad Men feel” or “Mad Men qualities.” A lot of people seem especially eager and willing to watch older movies that they may have overlooked in the past or had no interest in seeing. Mad Men has become an unexpected gift to this film buff. illnever In the past when I’d recommend a movie like Michael Winner’s I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname (1967) I’d have to try and explain that it’s a “sixties film” and that the male lead (the wonderful Oliver Reed!) is a womanizer who is unhappy with his job as well as his wife and mistresses. Naturally people would just look at me confused and express no interest in seeing it. What did the sixties mean to them? Hippies? The Beatles? Protests? Drugs? Political Assassinations? Hard to say. I just know that I’ve had a hard time convincing people that the ’60s was much more than that. Now? All I have to say is Oliver Reed plays a “Don Draper type” and people seem to know exactly what I’m talking about and they actually express interest – you read that right – they express interest in seeing I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname. And you know what’s even more exciting? Once they actually watch the movie some of them can appreciate aspects of it that would have been completely misunderstood if Mad Men hadn’t paved the way for a better understanding of history and popular culture. Do I sound crazy? A bit far reaching? Maybe I am, but I honestly think Mad Men is helping some people better understand what life was like for my parents and grandparents in the ’60s and I value the series for that reason as well as many others. It’s quite simply one of the best written shows that’s ever been on television and I think it’s changing the way people view the past and experience the future. A lot of old films suddenly don’t seem so old anymore and people are watching them with new eyes. I’d love to write in-depth about my deep appreciation of Mad Men some day but in the meantime I decided to compile a brief list of films that might appeal to Mad Men fans who are looking for something else to watch on Sunday nights. You can find my list over at the Movie Morlocks Blog: Missing Mad Men?

Save Bray Studios

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As a longtime Hammer horror fan I was dismayed to learn that the renowned Bray Studios in the UK is under threat. Bray Studios is one of the only working studios that has survived from the era of classic British cinema. From 1951-1966 Hammer produced all of their films there and in the ’70s the studio was rented out and used by television shows such as The Errol Flynn Theatre, Space 1999, Doctor Who and Inspector Morse. Musical artists such as The Who and Eric Clapton recorded at Bray Studios and important British films continued to be made there including the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and parts of Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). Most recently Terry Gilliam shot parts of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009) at Bray Studios.

Bray Studios should be gearing up to celebrate its 60th Anniversary next year but the new owners have announced that they want to destroy the current building and build housing in its place. It would be a terrible shame to lose the “House that Hammer Built” which gave birth to so many wonderful films and helped launch the careers of beloved actors such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed and Raquel Welch. For years fans have gathered at Bray for the Hammer at Bray events where people can meet and greet Hammer stars as well as tour the grounds. I’d like to attend one of these events myself someday but if Bray Studios disappears that opportunity will be lost for myself as well as others.

Thankfully Robert Simpson has taken up the cause to Save Bray Studios from destruction. If you would like to learn more about his efforts please visit the Save Bray Studios blog he has created to share news and information with others. He also created a Facebook Group to gain support for his cause and you can keep up with the latest news at Save Bray Studios on Twitter.

Please consider joining Robert Simpson’s effort to Save Bray Studios! You can lend your support by joining the Save Bray Studios Facebook Group and Robert is also accepting written contributions to his Save Bray Studios blog. Have some ideas about how Bray Studios can be saved? Have you visited or worked at Bray Studios and want to share your story with someone? Or maybe you just want to express your love for the films that were made at Bray Studios? Whatever the case may be please consider contacting Robert Simpson and letting him know that you support his cause.
Peter Cushing & Anthony Nelson Keys at Bray Studios
Peter Cushing with Hammer film producer & writer Anthony Nelson Keys at Bray Studios

More Recommended Links:
Bray Studios – The Dictionary of Hammer Horror
Hammer at Bray II – Holger Haase details his experience at Bray Studios
Hammer at Bray – Holger Haase visits Bray again

Monster Baby Tales

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There are few things in life that I love more than old books and I’ve tried to hang onto just about every book that I’ve ever bought or been given as a gift. Since I’m currently in the process of moving and trying to sort out a lifetime’s worth of stuff that I’ve managed to amass over the years, I’ve been unearthing some of my old childhood books. Some of these books are old horror film books such as the aptly named Monster Movie Game book.

Monster Movie Game was written by Bay Area horror film host John Stanley along with Mal Whyte. It was originally published in 1974 and I’m not exactly sure how I ended up with a copy of it, but I think it might have been sold to kids at my school a year or two after it’s initial release (’75 or ’76) through the Scholastic Book Club. Whatever the case may be, I’ve managed to keep my copy of the Monster Movie Game book for many years and it’s undoubtedly one of the first film related books that I owned. Monster Movie Game is a very slim paperback with only 64 pages, but it’s jam-packed with lots of questions and answers about various monster movies and illustrated with great black and white photos.

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The She Creature (1956) and Curse of the Werewolf (1961)
from the Monster Movie Game book

The cover of the Monster Movie Game book terrified me when I was a kid. It features a large photo from King Kong (1933) of the giant ape holding a frightened Fay Wray while he fights off a large pterodactyl dinosaur. Some of my earliest nightmares involved giant monsters like King Kong as well as ferocious dinosaurs so I suspect that the book’s cover is to blame for many of my bad dreams. Thankfully I didn’t let my fear of King Kong on the book’s cover deter me from savoring every one of its 64 pages. I spent countless hours staring at the photos it contained and ruminating over the questions it asked of its readers. The book introduced me to many movie monsters that I was unfamiliar with at the time such as the frightening She Creature from the 1956 film of the same name and it also featured many of favorite monsters like the Wolfman as portrayed by Oliver Reed in Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf (1961).

After coming across my old copy of the Monster Movie Game book recently I thought it would be fun to share a few pages from it complete with my wrong answers and misspelled words. Occasionally I did manage to correctly identify a photo or film title, but for the most part my answers were always wrong. But you can’t blame an eight nine year old kid for trying! My spelling hasn’t improved much, but I definitely know more about monster movies now and I’m sure I have the Monster Movie Game book to partly thank for that.

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Wrong answers! I was obviously trying to spell out Transylvania here but gave up early and just went with Tran. but Lugosi’s native country is actually Hungary. I have no idea why I thought “Call me the Count” was the first thing Dracula said to Renfield, but it does have a nice ring to it. The correct answer was of course “I am… Dracula. I bid you welcome.”

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Semi right answer, but bad spelling. As I mentioned previously, my spelling hasn’t improved all that much since I was a kid, but I think my answer deserves an A for Effort. “Modusa” should have been spelled “Medusa” and the photo is actually a picture from the 1964 Hammer film The Gorgon. Gorgons were mythical Greek monsters and the most well-known Gorgon was called Medusa so my answer wasn’t too off-base.

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Best response! This has to be my most creative answer. According to the Monster Movie Game book the correct answer was “He uncontrollably grew at the rate of ten feet a day. Mentally broken, he went on a rampage of murder and destruction before finally being destroyed.” There was no way I could have answered that question correctly when I was a kid, but I think my own answer of “He grew and was ugly” is just as effective. Maybe even more so since it cuts right to the truth. The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) did grow and his appearance and behavior definitely turned ugly!

While I was hunting around online for information about the Monster Movie Game book I was surprised to come across this great clip of the book’s author John Stanley along with fellow horror host Bob Wilkins, film critic George Tashman (I love you, Clark Gable: Male sex symbols of the silver screen), Cinema Shop owner and future writer Daniel Faris (Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of “Adults Only” Cinema) and public relations man Alvin Gunthertz on a special episode of Creature Features called “The Bob Wilkins Super Horror Show” from 1974. Longtime Cinebeats’ readers know that I have very fond memories of watching Bob Wilkins on Creature Features when I was a kid as well as John Stanley so I was thrilled to discover this short clip on Youtube. I wish this clip was a little longer, but it looks like Dan Faris was going to easily win the Monster Movie Game quiz.