I’m back on the Dread Media Podcast this week with a buffet of random thoughts about a variety of films I’ve seen in recent months, many courtesy of Joe Bob Briggs and The Last Drive-In on Shudder!
In episode 726, I’ll talk a little bit about each of the following films:
The Amusement Park (1973)
Fried Barry (2020)
Ginger Snaps (2000)
Maniac Cop (1988)
Maniac Cop 2 (1990)
Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)
Black Widow (2021)
So, grab yourself a drink and a snack, because this one is a little longer than usual. That’s what happens when you stay away for so long. Thank you Desmond Reddick for putting together a solid show each and every week. And, as always, tell ‘em Monster Movie Kid sent ya!
On episode 59 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I travel through time and space once again to visit the drive-in. This time, it’s the Moonlite Drive-In in Smithfield, Pennsylvania, on Labor Day weekend 1974. We have a bloody good time discussing Doctor Blood’s Coffin (1961), Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971), and Theatre of Blood (1973).
This month, we’re joined by another very special guest, Bill Mize of the Bill Watches Movie Podcast. Bill joins us to talk about Theatre of Blood because everyone loves Vincent Price!
Which one is your favorite? Ours may surprise you. We invite you to join the conversation and let us know what you thought about it afterward. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to visit Snack Canyon for some delicious treats!
We highly recommend you also check out the video companion on our YouTube channel. It contains content (movie clips, bonus features, and outtakes) from the audio podcast that you don’t want to miss!
Cast: Paul Birch as Allan Kelley Lorna Thayer as Carol Kelley Dona Cole as Sandra Kelley Leonard Tarver as Carl
Written by Tom Filler Directed by David Kramarsky, Lou Place & Roger Corman
Plot: A dysfunctional family living in the California desert finds their fragile existence torn apart courtesy of an unseen alien.
Richard’s Review: If there was ever a movie that needed a little more money, it’s The Beast with a Million Eyes. The trailer makes it sounds awesome but the plot never really gets started. Everything is essentially unseen, thanks to a non-existent budget. The cast doesn’t really have the acting chops to make the weak story interesting and we don’t even get a good monster to make it all worth the journey. I can only imagine how everyone at the drive-in would have fallen asleep during this one. This is my third viewing and I don’t foresee a forth anytime soon. And no, I really can’t recommend it.
Karla’s Thoughts: I didn’t care for this one at all. The plot is ridiculous and the ending makes no sense at all. Did they think the beast to death? Love it to death? And just how did Carl die? It was all so muddled and the bad dialogue didn’t make sense either. The mom is just horrible at the beginning, so her redemption is hard to take towards the end. This is my second time watching it and I will not give it a third try.
The film is probably more remembered for its producers than the stars. The legendary Samuel Z. Arkoff, James B. Nicholson and Roger Corman were uncredited as producers for the film. The Beast with a Million Eyes was officially produced by David Kramarksy, who was also the director until Corman took over after being unsatisfied with how it was progressing. Unfortunately, with a budget of less than $30,000, there wasn’t much left for special effects or music.
Paul Blaisdell was paid $200 for the small spaceship but, with no money left for a beast, we were left with an image from the poster seen briefly on screen.
Writer Tom Filer only wrote one other film, The Space Children in 1958. He was more prolific as a novelist.
While Paul Birch is best remembered for being a character actor on television, he did star in several genre –related films, including The War of the Worlds (1953), Day the World Ended (1955), Not of This Earth (1957) and Queen of Outer Space (1958). He died in 1969 at the young age of 57 lymphosarcorma.
Lorna Thayer’s only other genre appearances came in The Andromeda Strain in 1971 as “Woman (uncredited)” and as a waitress in The Aliens are Coming (1980).
Dona Cole made her film debut in 1955 in The Long Gray Line before starring in The Beast with a Million Eyes. She only had one more appearance, in the TV series The Bob Cummings Show, before quietly retiring from Hollywood.
This was the only film appearance for Leonard Tarver.
Dick Sargeant, better known as the second Darrin Stephens on Bewitched, appears as Deputy Larry Brewster.
Chester Conklin’s film career dated back to the silent era of 1913 and included appearances alongside Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields and The Three Stooges. He only starred in four more films, following his appearance here as Ben Webber, before retiring in 1966.
London the dog, who played Duke, also starred in The Littlest Hobo film in 1958 and subsequent television series that started in 1963 and ran for 48 episodes.
Bruce Whitmore provided the voice of The Beast, his one and only film credit.
Availability: Available on DVD as part of the MGM Midnite Movies series with The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues (1955) and on Blu-ray from Ronin Flix.
The Black Scorpion (October 11, 1957) Cast: Richard Denning as Hank Scott Mara Corday as Teresa Alvarez Carlos Rivas as Artur Ramos Mario Navarro as Juanito
Story by Paul Yawitz Screenplay by David Duncan & Robert Blees Directed by Edward Ludwig
Plot: After a volcano erupts in Mexico, giant scorpions are freed from underground caverns plague the poor villagers.
Richard’s Review: There are elements of The Black Scorpion that I really love. The giant scorpions are amazing and I love the setting around the volcanos and earthquakes. However, the plot meanders way too much and character development seems to be all over the place. The character of Juanito was way too annoying at times. While I was glad to see him disappear, it’s almost as if the writers forgot about him in the final act, especially considering how important he seemed to be earlier in the film. Overall, it’s a fun film that’s saved by the scorpions but could have been better with a shorter running time and a better script.
Karla’s Thoughts: While I enjoyed The Black Scorpion, it really was too long and spent too much time setting up the story. Many of the early characters and plot points, like the priest and the found baby, just disappear without much explanation. Whatever happened to Juanito? He’s totally forgotten once they get to Mexico City. Other characters were involved but their roles were never fleshed out. I loved the giant scorpions but the story was disappointing.
The legendary Willis O’Brien of King Kong (1933) fame worked on the amazing special effects. The giant worm with the octopus-like arms was actually a prop from the infamous spider pit sequence in King Kong. O’Brien also worked on The Lost World (1925), Mighty Joe Young (1949) and The Giant Behemoth (1959). He was worked on the effects and directed The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918).
Richard Denning is best remembered for his role of Mark Williams in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). He also starred in several television series, such as Mr. and Mrs. North, The Flying Doctor and Michael Shayne. He also appeared in genre films Target Earth (1954), Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) and Twice-Told Tales (1963).
Mara Corday also starred in Tarantula (1955) and The Giant Claw (1957). After leaving acting in the early 60s, she returned to appear in four Clint Eastwood films, The Gauntlet (1977), Sudden Impact (1983), Pink Cadillac (1989) and The Rookie (1990).
Carolos Rivas starred in such classic films as The King and I (1956) and True Grit (1969). However, genre fans will recognize him from The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) and The Madman of Mandoras (1963) aka They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968). He also starred in Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) and two episodes of the Tarzan television series.
Young Mario Navarro only has 12 acting credits to his name, the most memorable being this film and The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956). He did have a small role in The Magnificent Seven (1960) before eventually leaving acting in 1965 when he turned 16.
If the narrator’s voice at the beginning of the film sounds familiar, it’s because it belonged to Bob Johnson. He provided the narration from all of the Quinn Martin television productions in the 60s and 70s.
Director Edward Ludwig had a prolific career in the silent era under the name Ed I. Luddy before switching to Ludwig. The Black Scorpion was his only genre film.
This was the only genre film for writer Paul Yawitz and his last film credit.
David Duncan also wrote the English version of Rodan (1957), as well as The Monster That Challenged the World (1957) and adaptations of The Time Machine (1960) and Fantastic Voyage (1966).
Robert Blees also wrote From the Earth to the Moon (1958), Frogs (1972) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972).
It’s that time of year and your backyard isn’t the only place where the creepy crawlies come out at night. On a hot summer night in 1958, the South 29 Drive-In in Charlotte, NC, was invaded by giant spiders, preying mantises, and crabs.
Through the magic of modern technology, Jeff and I travel not only halfway across the country, but also 64 years into the past, to attend the drive-in and watch big monsters on the big screen: Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957). And a very special thank you to our special guest, Steve Turek of the DieCast Movie Podcast, who joins us as we talk about The Deadly Mantis!
The Mad Ghoul (November 12, 1943) Cast: George Zucco as Dr. Alfred Morris David Bruce as Ted Allison Evelyn Ankers as Isabel Lewis Robert Armstrong as Ken McClure Turhan Bey as Eric Iverson Milburn Stone as Macklin
Story by Hans Kraly Screenplay by Brenda Weisberg & Paul Gangelin Directed by James Hogan
Plot: Mad scientist Dr. Morris uses an ancient Mayan gas to turn a medical student into a murderous ghoul.
Richard’s Review: The Mad Ghoul often gets overlooked and even looked down upon as it’s unfairly compared to other superior Universal horror classics. However, I personally enjoy The Mad Ghoul for what it is. Clocking in at 65 minutes, it’s a breezy afternoon matinee flick that has Zucco playing a typical mad scientist who falls in love with Isabel, the fiancée of medical student Ted. So, in a weird way to get to Isabel, he decides to use Ted as his test subject of an ancient Mayan gas that turns Ted, and eventually himself, into a ghoul. It’s not great but a well-made film with a good cast. Its harmless fun and worth checking out. Going in some lower expectations and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Evelyn Ankers also starred in other Universal horror classics such as The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), Son of Dracula (1943) and The Frozen Ghost (1945). She retired from acting in 1950 and died of ovarian cancer in 1985 at the age of 67.
While David Bruce had 78 film credits, his only other horror genre appearances were in Calling Dr. Death (1943) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944). He died in 1976 at the age of 60 of a heart attack.
Robert Armstrong is best remembered for his more prominent role of Carl Denham in King Kong (1933) and Son of Kong (1933).
Turhan Bey is well-known for other genre films The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), The Climax (1944) and The Amazing Dr. X (1948).
Milburn Stone was a native of Burrton, Kansas and starred in numerous other Universal horror films, including Invisible Agent (1942), Captive Wild Woman (1943), Strange Confession (1944), Jungle Woman (1944) and The Frozen Ghost (1945). However, he’s best known for his role of Doc Adams in 605 episodes of Gunsmoke between 1955 and 1975.
Writer Paul Gangelin also gave the world the 1957 classic, The Giant Claw.
Brenda Weisberg also wrote Weird Woman (1944), The Scarlet Claw (1944) and The Mummy’s Ghost (1944).
This was the last film for director James Hogan. He died eight days before the film’s release of a heart attack at the age of 53.
By 2005, kaiju fans already had eleven films in the Gamera series. The first eight are part of what is known as the Showa era (1965-1980). It was through these original films that fans were introduced to “the friend of all children” as Gamera soon took his place alongside Godzilla as one of the greatest defenders of Earth of all time. Sure, Gamera was never quite the “king of the monsters” that Godzilla was but he was never intended to be.
Gamera was originally a lot more aggressive, as depicted in Gamera, the Giant Monster (1965). But the fire-breathing and flying giant turtle soon became a lot more loveable. By the 1970s, Gamera films became a regular feature on Saturday afternoon matinees, despite low-budgets and film plots that were often much more simplistic than the more adult Godzilla series. However, the films had a fantastic charm that endeared Gamera to a generation of classic sci-fi and giant monster movie fans around the world.
In 1995, Gamera returned after a fifteen-year absence with a bigger budget and a much more serious tone in a trilogy of films that many believe to be the best of the Gamera series. After it wrapped up in 1999, another six years would pass before Gamera returned once again. However, Gamera the Brave was a very different film and that was a bit jarring for long-time fans who loved the more adult nature of the previous trilogy.
In Gamera the Brave, we’re given what is essentially a reboot. The film starts out in 1973 as we witness an older Gamera sacrifice himself to save the people of a nearby city from three Gyaos monsters. His death is seen by a young boy, Kousuke. We then flash forward 33 years to 2006 as Kousuke (Kanji Tsuda) is now a father to his son Toru (Ryo Tomioka) and a widower. Kousuke is doing his best to move forward while Toru has visions of his mother calling him “Toto” while working in the family diner. Toru soon discovers a red egg where the original Gamera died and a baby turtle soon hatches from it. His names it Toto and, along with his friends Katsuya and Ishimaru, is amazed at how quickly he grows and the powers he begins to display, such as flying and breathing fire. Yes, little Toto is soon to become the new Gamera and will face a seemingly impossible task of defending the people from a new, larger and more powerful creature called Zedus.
The film succeeds on many levels but the first step for any viewer to enjoy Gamera the Brave is to accept that it is a family film. It channels the simpler days when Gamera films targeted a younger audience. The battles between Gamera and Zedus are not the best kaiju confrontations you’ll ever see. In fact, it’s almost a little tough to see how outmatched Gamera is through much of the film. But, the story is really about the children’s relationships with each other and, specifically, Toru’s love for Gamera. After such a devastating loss, he has healed enough to open his heart once again and he’ll stop at nothing to help his new friend. As we watch the story unfold, the film is beautifully shot and it’s easy to become attached to the main characters.
The film does suffer in a few ways, such as the supporting character of Mai (Kaho). She clearly cares for Toru and his father but I feel like her character is never really fleshed out enough and it seems as if her character disappears in the final scenes. It also gets a little cheesy when all of the children gather in the final act to save Gamera as the city is being evacuated. Just where were their parents? The score by Yoko Ueno is also a bit of a roller coaster ride. Sometimes it works but other times it seems like it’s more suited for a dramatic made-for TV film. And yes, Gamera has a new and softened look that takes a little getting used to. He comes across as much cuter but remember, he is younger than the Gamera of old. However, these are all minor low points and not worth totally dismissing the film as many have.
Gamera the Brave is a great film for more seasoned giant monster fans to use to introduce younger kids to the wonderful world of kaiju. The story is simple enough for all ages to enjoy but it never gets too dark or scary. It certainly deserves a lot more love that it tends to get and I recommend it for any true Gamera or kaiju fan. It’s something a little different and that’s never a bad thing.
If you want to read more about the original Gamera film series, you’ll want to check Jeff Owens and his ongoing GaMAYra event over at his Classic Horrors Club site! And be sure to tell him Monster Movie Kid sent ya!
This month in episode 57 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I return to do another classic horror profile with a look at the career of George Zucco. We’ll discuss three of his films in greater detail, including Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942), Fog Island (1945), and Lured (1947), which also stars Boris Karloff and features a young Lucille Ball in a very impressive performance. Known as a “spellbinder” on stage and “one-take Zucco” on screen, George Zucco carried a magnificent presence, but was always a gentleman.
Although he was a neighbor of Lionel Atwill, they didn’t share the same social life. Nevertheless, the author of Hollywood Babylon II claimed Zucco’s final days were just as scandalous. What really happened? Jeff and I will set the story straight (with a little help from printed reference materials called, “books.”)
We also invite you to watch ourcompanion episode with highlights, bonus features, and outtakes on our YouTube channel. If you like what you hear, you’re going to love what you see! Check it out and give us some feedback… both on the podcast and the video.
So dim the lights and let the theatre of the mind take you to the darkest corners of the earth. And, as always, don’t forget to check out all of the playlists on my YouTube channel for more great old time radio!
Dead Men Walk (April 19, 1943) Cast: George Zucco as Dr. Lloyd Clayton/Dr. Elwyn Clayton Mary Carlisle as Gayle Clayton Nedrick Young as Dr. David Bentley Dwight Frye as Zolarr Fern Emmett as Kate
Written by Fred Myton Directed by Sam Newfield
Plot: It’s a tale of two brothers, one good and one evil, as one returns from the grave in a tale filled with murder and Satan worship.
Richard’s Review: This is a fun public domain entry in George Zucco’s mad scientist resume. Here, he plays a dual role, that of the evil Elwyn, presumed dead, and his good brother Lloyd. Local eccentric Kate has accused the late Dr. Elwyn of evil deeds and she is proven to be right as he was involved in black magic. Elwyn rises from the grave to seek revenge upon his brother by turning his niece into a vampire. This is a film desperately in need of a better print that we will likely never see. Despites it’s obvious flaws and cheap budget, there’s a really good and creepy tale hidden in the shadows and I highly recommend it, especially to watch Zucco pull off a great dual role. Frye is great here as well, once again playing a sidekick to an evil madman.
Fred Myton was an established writer with 171 credits from 1916 until 1954. He was prolific in the western genre, including the cult classic, Terror of Tiny Town. He also wrote The Mad Monster and The Black Raven.
Sam Newfield has 277 directing credits, including The Monster Maker (1944), The Black Raven (1943) and Nabonga (1944).
Dwight Frye was a native of Salina, Kansas and is best remembered for his roles of Renfield in Dracula (1931) and Fritz in Frankenstein (1931). However, he had a prolific career in horror films of the 30s and 40s, also starring in The Vampire Bat (1933), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), which was his last genre film. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 44 on November 7, 1943.
This was the last film, and her only entry in the horror genre, in the career of Mary Carlisle. After 65 films, she married and walked away from Hollywood. She died in 2018 at the age of 104.
This was only the second film in the relatively short career of Nedrick Young. His only other horror film was in an uncredited role of Leon Averill in House of Wax (1953) with Vincent Price. After 28 film and TV credits, he was blacklisted by Hollywood after refusing to speak during the infamous 1953 witch hunt on un-American activities. This was even more tragic as he fought for the U.S. during World War II. He was also a writer and went on to win the Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Defiant Ones (1958), under the pseudonym of Nathan E. Douglas. He also a co-writer of the screenplay for Inherit the Wind (1960). He died in 1968 at the age of 54 due to a heart attack.
Fern Emmett started acting in 1927 at the rather old age of 31, at least by Hollywood standards. Despite her late start, she amassed a total of 248 film credits by 1947, usually in small and uncredited roles. Unfortunately, she died in 1946 at the age of 50.
The estate of Dr. Clayton is the same as Zucco had in The Mad Monster (1942).
This was filmed in only six days in 1942 but not released until April 1943.
Availability: Dead Men Walk is in the public domain and available on wide variety of home media releases and streaming options.