Classic Horrors Club Podcast – Taste of Dark Shadows

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This month on episode 20 of the Classic Horrors Club Podcast, Jeff and I are joined by our good friend Steven Turek to talk about Dark Shadows. We’ll discuss Steven’s journey through the original series, as well as the two theatrical films, House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971). Plus, we’ll also talk about Monster Bash 2018 and hear from another good friend, Jonathan Angarola.

Disclaimer: We experienced some technical difficulties during the first 8 minutes or so of our conversation with Steve.  Please be patient; they are soon resolved.

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Participate in our meetings!  Simply leave us a message at:

(616) 649-2582
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Like what you hear?  Even if you don’t, please consider leaving us an honest review on iTunes.

Next month on episode 21, we celebrate the films of Bela Lugosi.

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Sci-Fi Horrorfest – Heavy Metal (1981)

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2018 Sci-Fi Horrorfest: Heavy Metal (1981)
Cast:      The voices of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and Harold Ramis

Based on the works of Bernie Wrightson, Dan O’Bannon, Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Jean Giraud, Daniel Goldberg & Len Blum

Screenplay by Daniel Goldberg & Len Blum
Directed by Gerald Potterton, John Bruno, John Halas, Julian Harris, Jimmy T. Murakami, Barrie Nelson, Paul Sabella, Jack Stokes, Pino Van Lamsweerde & Harold Whittaker

Plot: An astronaut brings home a strange green glowing orb as a gift for his daughter. Upon his death, the orb reveals itself to be the embodiment of all evil and proceeds to share stories with the girl about all the worlds it has traveled to.

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Richard’s Review: I have fond memories of this one from the 1980s when it seemed to be on constant rotation on HBO. The rock music soundtrack and the bizarre science-fiction and fantasy stories captured my imagination. With horrific creatures at every turn, the erotic and sexy female characters didn’t hurt any either. While the overall presentation seems a little dated today, the extras remind you just how much time and effort went into the production of the film. This type of animated adult storytelling really doesn’t exist today except in anime, which is a different style altogether. Well worth revisiting if you’re in the mood for a nostalgic trip.

Karla’s Thoughts: While I really loved the overall premise for the stories and the great music. I could’ve done without all of the nudity. It seems to have been made by a bunch of horny teenage guys. You could have told the stories without the sex. As a result, it comes across as very dated and a product of the day. However, the stories are good, especially with how they are all interconnected.

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Trivia:

  • Based on stories in the popular Heavy Metal magazine.
  • The soundtrack for the movie was incredibly popular, featuring Sammy Hagar, Don Felder, Blue Oyster Cult, Steve Nicks, Journey, Nazareth and Devo.
  • Music licensing issues prevented the VHS home release of the movie for many years.
  • The movie consists of eight different segments, with the second segment, Grimaldi, being the framing device for the anthology.
  • Robby the Robot sells the character of Harry Cannon a hot dog in the third segment.
  • The USS Enterprise from Star Trek is seen briefly in a ship graveyard.
  • One of the extras on the Blu-ray features preliminary artwork for the Neverwhere Land segment. Despite have superior artwork, it was thought to drag down the film and was but prior to release.

Availability: Heavy Metal is available on Blu-ray for less than $10. While the audio could use an upgrade, it’s a great bargain for the price.

Sci-Fi Horrorfest – The Wasp Woman (1959)

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2018 Sci-Fi Horrorfest: The Wasp Woman (1959)
Cast:        Susan Cabot as Janice Starlin
Anthony Eisley as Bill Lane
Barboura Morris as Mary Dennison
William Roerick as Arthur Cooper
Michael Mark as Eric Zinthrop

Screenplay by Leo Gordon
Story by Kinta Zertuche
Directed by Roger Corman (with uncredited sequences by Jack Hill & Monte Hellman)

Plot: Scientist Eric Zinthrop has found the fountain of youth in jelly taken from queen wasps. Enter cosmetics powerhouse Janice Starlin who needs to look younger so she can continue to be the face of her company before sales continue to drop. When she overdoses on the drug, the youth drug becomes the sting of death as she transforms in a wasp creature.

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Richard’s Review: This is definitely not one of Roger Corman’s better films. It suffers from cheap interior sets and a very lackluster script. With other films like these, flaws can be overlooked by the fun of the monster or a good cast. However, the cast doesn’t shine and the creature is rarely seen. When it does appear, the poor lighting makes it barely visible. With extra footage to flesh out an already poor script, there isn’t too much to say on this one. It’s not horrible, just forgettable, which is really a bigger kiss of death for any film.

Karla’s Thoughts: I didn’t care for this one at all. It was poorly made with bad special effects and a ridiculous script with a silly concept. The ending was also way too abrupt. I wouldn’t watch this one again.

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Trivia:

  • Susan Cabot had a well-publicized affair with King Hussein of Jordan in 1959. Despite the affair ending and King Hussein marrying another woman in 1961, Susan Cabot had a son in 1964, Timothy, who is believed to be the king’s son. Timothy suffered from dwarfism and was put on a controversial medicine to help him grow. Susan left acting in films after The Wasp Woman to concentrate on stage work and musicals. She suffered from hereditary mental illness in later years, which rapidly declined in the final months of her life. Timothy remained at home on the medicine for his dwarfism and pituitary gland problems despite a growing hostility between mother and son. Susan was also taking his drugs, which enhanced her mental imbalance. On December 10, 1986, after his mother went into a psychotic rage and allegedly attacked him, Timothy would bludgeon her to death with a weightlifting bar. He would claim the medication he was on affected his mental stability, in addition to years of mental and physical abuse at the hands of his mother. At the resulting trial, the judge gave him a suspended sentence and probation. He died in 2003 at the age of 38.
  • The movie was originally 63 minutes long, which was considered too short for syndication on television. So Roger Corman hired Monte Hellman to shoot additional footage to stretch out the length to 73 minutes.
  • One of the extra sequences filmed for television occurs when two men search the streets for the missing Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark).
  • Character actor Michael Mark is better known for his roles in several Universal Horror classics, including Son of Frankenstein (1939).

Availability: The Wasp Woman is in the public domain and can be found for free everywhere. However, it is on Blu-ray paired with Beast from the Haunted Cave if you want to add it to your collection.

Sci-Fi Horrorfest – Them! (1954)

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2018 Sci-Fi Horrorfest: Them! (1954)
Cast:        James Whitmore as Sgt. Ben Peterson
Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Harold Medford
Joan Weldon as Dr. Patricia Medford
James Arness as Robert Graham

Story by George Worthing Yates
Adapted by Russell S. Hughes
Screenplay by Ted Sherdeman
Directed by Gordon Douglas

Plot: Atomic bomb tests in New Mexico have created a mutation among common ants, resulting in giant monsters threatening to wipe out mankind unless a scientist and the military can find their nest before the next batch of eggs hatch.

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Richard’s Review: Them! is by far the best of the giant bug films of the 1950s. Warner Brothers put forth a lot of effort into making this movie feel on par with other non-horror or sci-fi films. You have a solid script which gives us a slow build to the reveal of the creatures against the mysterious desert backdrop. The ants are seen just enough to make them believable but never too much to reveal their technical flaws, which admittedly are few. Sure, there may be a plot hole or two along with a moment where belief has to be suspended but they are rare and really don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.

Edmund Gwenn’s presence always throws me a little because I see him as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) every year. That said, he gives a mix of wise old scientist and grandfather to his portrayal of Dr. Harold Medford that enhances every scene he is in. I also appreciated how the now clichéd romantic plot point is avoided between Graham and Patricia Medford. We get a few random lines along with a glance or two but nothing more.

I highly recommend Them! as the premiere of all 50s atomic bug flicks. It’s a solid fun-filled ride from start to finish.

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Karla’s Thoughts: I loved Them! as I thought the story was great and the ants were realistic, at least as much as giants could be. Thought was put into explaining their existence and habits, as well as how atomic bombs were to blame for their creation. I wish the ending of the film wasn’t so rushed as I wanted to see the kids reunited with their mother. I also could see how there could have been a sequel based on the vague ending. I will definitely watch this one again.

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Trivia:

  • Fess Parker appears as pilot Alan Crotty months before appearing in the first Davy Crockett special for Disney. It was his role in Them! that led Walt Disney to hiring him for the part as he felt Parker outshined actor James Arness, who was up for the lead role in Davy Crockett.
  • Leonard Nimoy has a small and uncredited cameo as an Army sergeant. This was two years after his role in Zombies of the Stratopshere.
  • Character actor William Schallert (Man from Planet X, Star Trek)  has a small and uncredited cameo as the ambulance attendant.
  • Character actor Richard Deacon (Leave It to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show) has a small and uncredited role as a reporter.
  • Only three giant ants were made for the film.
  • Them! was originally to be made in color but the budget was slashed at the last minute. However, the opening title is still visible in red letters.
  • The sound the ants make is actually that of numerous tree frogs.
  • Director Gordon Douglas got his start in Hollywood directing Our Gangshort subjects. However, he never directed another sci-fi or horror film, other than Zombies on Broadway (1945) with Bela Lugosi.

Availability: Them! is available and reasonably priced on Blu-ray. It’s a definite must for your collection.

Sci-Fi Horrorfest – First Men in the Moon (1964)

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2018 Sci-Fi Horrorfest: First Men in the Moon (1964)
Cast:        Edward Judd as Arnold Bedford
Martha Hyer as Kate Callender
Lionel Jeffries as Professor Cavor

Screenplay by Nigel Kneale & Jan Read
Based on the original story by H.G. Wells
Directed by Nathan Juran

Plot: When astronauts land on the moon in 1964, they discover an old British flag and a letter claiming the moon for Queen Victoria in 1899. The shocking news that man had been to the moon some 65 years earlier is confirmed when an investigative team locate the elderly Arnold Bedford, who proceeds to tell the tale of how, his girlfriend and Professor Cavor visited the moon and encountered an insect race known as the Selenites.

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Richard’s Review: First Men in the Moon features special effects from the legendary Ray Harryhausen. However, it rarely gets mentioned and is always overshadowed by many of his other works. There are multiple reasons for this as the movie had several key issues that prevented it from being as good as it could have been. First, the film is too long at an hour and 45 minutes. It takes nearly 45 minutes for our space travelers to actually lift off. There is way too much build-up to the launch, resulting in a very slow pace to the film. 20 minutes or so could have been edited out to speed up the opening. As well, nearly an hour spent on the moon means the action tends to drag on in many places. Again, I think 15 minutes could be shaved off this segment, resulting in a much quicker and more appropriate running time of 70 minutes.

In addition to some editing and a tighter script, it’s difficult to determine who is the true hero of the story. Arnold Bedford comes across as deceitful and less than pleasant towards the Selenites on the moon when he is actually invading their world. Professor Cavor is eccentric but seems self-centered towards the end, which ultimately plays a part in the rushed final scene. The film wraps the story up too quickly and could have used another five minutes to expand on the conclusion.

Finally, Ray Harryhausen didn’t have as much to create for this film. The Selenites are at times Harryhausen creations while actors in suits in other scenes. The “moon bull” was fun and the highlight of the film. Unfortunately, the magic present in many of Harryhausen’s other films is lacking here. I enjoyed it more for what it could have been than for what it was. I would watch the movie again but it’s not the best of Harryhausen.

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Karla’s Thoughts: The movie was way too long and would have been better by cutting out a lot of the opening scenes as well as on the moon. It was hard to like Bedford as he was a scam artist, treated his girlfriend badly and was mean to the Selenites from the very beginning. I enjoyed the premise and loved Ray Harryhausen’s work but I wish the science was a little more fact and less fantasy.

Trivia:

  • H.G. Wells published the original story in The Strand magazine from December 1900 to August 1901.
  • C.S. Lewis once stated that First Men in the Moon was one of the best science fiction stories he ever read.
  • The adventures on the moon in A Trip to the Moon (1902) were inspired by this novel.
  • Composer Bernard Herrmann was originally set to score this film but asked for too much money, resulting in producers Harryhausen and Charles Schneer to hire Laurie Johnson instead.

Availability: The film is available from Twilight Time on Blu-ray but is out-of-print, so expect to pay $60 or more. It’s still available on DVD but is currently going for $30. So the higher price may turn some of you off. Place it towards the bottom of your Harryhausen wish list.