Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spotlight on Boris Karloff!

1931: A Star is Born. The movie: Frankenstein.

Born William Henry Pratt, the renamed Boris Karloff
had been acting in small parts since the silent era.

Here's Boris taking in the sights in one of his sixteen (!) movies in 1931 alone, Five Star Final.

Boris ran with his Frankenstein stardom. Here he plays Fu Manchu for MGM in 1932.

This picture gives me the chills. Seriously. Boris as Imhotep in The Mummy (1932).

When Universal first paired Boris with Bela Lugosi, in 1934's The Black Cat,
Karloff was the villain and Lugosi the hero. Eventually they worked together
in eight movies! Because I think they're both amazing, here are their other
seven times together on screen:

Universal next put them in one of their rather strange all-star sketch
pictures, The Gift of Gab (1934). I've never seen it, dammit.

Plastic surgeon and all around nutter Bela gives Boris
a face only a mother could love in The Raven (1935).

Bela's back to being the hero and Boris the villain - a
crazed  radioactive killer in The Invisible Ray (1936).

Their next teaming was 1939's Son of Frankenstein.
Karloff is back playing the Monster for the last time
in a feature film,and Bela gets his finest post-Dracula
role as the sly and villainous Ygor.

Their next Universal picture was Black Friday (1940)
but Boris and Bela share no scenes in the picture, so
here's a publicity photo from the film instead.
It was their last Universal movie together.

Over at RKO they were joined by Peter Lorre for the musical comedy thriller
You'll Find Out (1940) with bandleader Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical
Knowledge. This is also Boris's only starring role with Ish Kabibble.

Their final teaming was for The Body Snatcher (1945).
Boris starred, Bela 's character was added to get him
into a movie with Karloff one last time.

Since in the 1940's Hollywood still hadn't figured
out that Asians might be best suited to play
Asian detectives, here's Boris as Mr. Wong

After three times in the Monster's boots, Boris returned to the Frankenstein series
for the sixth entry, House of Frankenstein (1944), but this time he took the easier
job - the mad scientist. Glenn Strange takes over as The Big Guy.

Boris got to appear on Broadway too, in Arsenic and Old Lace,
where his character murders everyone who says he looks like
Boris Karloff, and in Peter Pan, as Captain Hook, as seen here.

By the 1950's Boris was still hard at work, and as this shot
shows, more often as dapper villains than monsters.

He wasn't adverse to working on television either, serving as the host
of the great show Thriller (out on DVD), and the little seen series
The Veil, pictured here, (also on DVD, though a little harder to find.)

The Raven (1963) teamed Boris with Vincent Price and Peter Lorre. It also took the novel
approach of being a spoof, showing Poe's renowned humorous side.

Due to Roger Corman's speed as a filmmaker and Boris's professionalism,
they wrapped ahead of schedule on a couple of pictures. With Boris contracted
for another couple of days of work, the amazing Corman got some script pages
thrown together, then commandeered some sets about to be torn down, shot the
two days with Boris, and  months later had others finish shooting the rest of
the movie with the other actors. Surprisingly, it's not bad for being cobbled
together in this fashion. It's The Terror (1963), and here's Boris in it, with
a young Jack Nicholson!

As the 1960's wore on, despite increasingly fragile health, the tireless Karloff became the elder statesman
of horror films, as seen here in a very atmospheric shot from Die Monster Die! (1965)

Boris did more television too, appearing here with Vincent Price on Red Skelton's show.

Boris pops up in a couple of cameos in the American International "Beach" movies.
This one is Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).

In addition Boris won a Grammy award for his narration of the
classic television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas when it
was released as an album in 1966.

Boris made Targets with first time director Peter Bogdanovich in 1968. This was
another movie made because Karloff owed Roger Corman a couple of days'
shooting. Corman told Bogdanovich he could have Boris for two days and
had to use footage from The Terror - and from these edicts Bogdanovich
somehow made a gem of a movie, a thriller that would have been the
perfect valedictory for Boris' long, wonderful career.

However, Boris shot scenes for four Mexican horror movies in
California in 1968, just months before he passed away at the age
of 81. The films (The Fear Chamber, The Sinister Invasion, House
of Terror, and The Snake People) were completed in Mexico and
released posthumously, the last more than two years after his passing
in 1971. No, they're not very good, and they ended up with more
R rated material in them than I think he would have been
comfortable with, but they are Boris Karloff movies and
are worth watching, just to see him.

Dedicated to Boris Karloff.

You should watch some Boris Karloff this Halloween season - he'd be happy to know he gave you some entertainment and scares!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Video Vault of Mora Tau 10/22/14!

Here's a quick look at several horror hosts who were on the air in the 80's...I travelled a bit back then and actually saw a few of these hosts' shows - I always loved that...

Thankfully there are still horror hosts working today - though most are now found on the internet - in fact, let's have some more horror host fun with my old buddy Daniel Roebuck and his character Dr. Shocker...

And a clip featuring a few other horror hosts featured at HorrorHostGraveyard.com....

I love horror hosts - have even contemplated perhaps coming up with my own character one day...hmmm...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Images of Halloween!

Here's a little gallery of some of my pictures from Halloweens long past...

My buddy Richard as Dead Oscar Wilde at one of my Halloween parties.

Stephanie as a bloody ghost and Richard out of his Oscar Wilde gear.

Meeting our local Southern Illinois horror hostess Misty Brew.
Misty Brew is back! She has a YouTube channel and is gearing up
new episodes of her show! Amazing! Watch for a post about that!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Halloween Picture, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #186!

Night of the Blood Beast  (American International Pictures, 1958)
I am sure I've seen this - it must have played one of my "Chiller Theater" shows when I was a kid - but I remember nothing about it and would like to see it again. I mean look - you've got Roger and Gene Corman producing a story Gene wrote, and directed by Bernard Kowalski - who helmed the pilot for Mission: Impossible - a man I actually got to briefly meet a few years ago.

The Bonesetter  (Tempe Video, 2004)

I know nothing about this 2003 medical horror flick - the poster is cool, but where are the credits? I do know they managed a sequel in 2005 - so somebody must have liked the first one...

The Skull  (Amicus Productions, 1965)

You can't go wrong with an Amicus movie starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee - especially when it's directed by Freddie Francis - who got the blog spotlight shone on him a few days ago!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sandy Claws!

Blood Beach  (Compass International Pictures, 1980)

Before the Camera:

David Huffman  (Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby)
Marianna Hill (High Plains Drifter)
Burt Young  (Rocky)
Otis Young  (The Last Detail)
Lena Pousette  (Xanadu)
Stefan Gierasch  (High Plains Drifter)
John Saxon  (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Captain Pearson

Behind the Camera:

Directed by Jeffrey Bloom

Produced by Sidney Beckerman, Neil Canton, Steven Nalevansky, and Run Run Shaw

Written by Jeffrey Bloom

Story by Jeffrey Bloom and Steven Nalevansky

Southern California, 1982. The beautiful Santa Monica beach. But something has come to the beach. Specifically, it's under the beach. And anyone on the sand above it is in danger. Whatever is under the beach is dragging people down to their deaths. Police officer Harry Caulder (Huffman) lives on the beach - and he's noticed people are missing. None of his fellow officers - Royko (Burt Young) or Piantadosi (Otis Young) - seem all that concerned - and that goes double for Captain Pearson (Saxon). Caulder starts his own investigation - along with his new girlfriend Catherine (Hill) - daughter of the first victim. Their detective work takes them all over the beach, and eventually - even under it. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water - you can't get there!

It was a weird thing - a horror boom was kicked off by John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978 - although horror is a diehard genre that never completely goes dormant - and the boom continued into the early 80's, dominated by slasher films. By 1980, however, filmmakers were finally getting creature features greenlit - this, The Boogens, The Strangeness. But here's what is strange about this - these films were for some reason much harder to see than ones made the previous two years. So even a dyed-in-the-wool horror fan like me didn't get to see these movies as a kid or teen. I'm finally catching up with them now.

Blood Beach played at my old hangout Toler Cinema back in 1980 - but I didn't get to go see it - and it  is still hard to find - it's not been fully released on DVD - and the VHS was hard to find back in the day. (It is on Amazon Streaming- touted as a "Retro VHS Presentation" meaning a full frame VHS rip - and they were also dubbing that same presentation on DVD-R's - but those are out of print and the used copies go for $100 or more (!)) I finally got a gray market DVD-R - and after more than thirty years finally got to check the movie out.

I don't think I'm going to surprise you when I say - after all that time - it was a letdown. The movie has a fun premise - but it is slowly paced, and the kills are few and far between. Add in only a little gore, and a creature that stays out of sight until the very end of the movie - and even then is not clearly seen - it doesn't add up to much. Huffman and Hill are okay as the leads - but the other character actor cops are kinda phoning it in, so even their scenes don't bring a lot to the movie - though it's always good to see Saxon.

It's also annoying that since the creature "just kind of showed up one day." That's not dialogue quoted from the movie but instead a line used by Roger Corman hosting a showing of Bert I. Gordon's The Spider on AMC Monstervision some years ago. Corman said that is the explanation for all good monsters. It's a funny line - and obviously stuck with me - but in the reality of watching a movie - it's usually better for me to get an explanation for what the thing is and where it came from. But just like The Boogens - another movie I saw decades later with no explanation for the monsters - this movie falls down in that regard as well. Because there is no human agent behind the creature's creation - and the creature isn't in a multiple form or swarm of monsters (allowing one or more to be killed and studied) the script tries to shoehorn in an explantion - the police scientist (Gierasch) is given the job in the form of crazy evolutionary theories about sea creatures adapting to land and learning to move about on - or under - the ground. This is a neat trick considering he's never seen such a creature - but since there are no other explanations possible the way this is structured - you have to accept that this guy is right - which is just kind of silly - especially as he continues to expound on his theory in ever greater detail as the movie goes on.

Because it is a movie made in that golden period of 1977-1981 - and does give the viewer a good look at Santa Monica at the time - this rates a minor recommendation for those so inclined or creature feature completists. Others can go right on not seeing this one.

Let's Get Out of Here ?

At around 46:40 John Saxon informs everyone the briefing is over.

Eye Candy ?

Marianna Hill is certainly cute - but she is not showcased well here, so no. Sorry Marianna.

Buddha Man Sez:
"Blood Beach sinks under the weight of too little monster."

Until next post - just 24 hours or so from now - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Night at the Movies 10/18/14!

Who cares what picture we see?

Jackwagon producer David Kappes most certainly would not - and what's he doing acting in this anyway? While I try to figure that out, here's tonight's pick...

I worked on this movie - and was delighted it turned out as good as it did. Based on a Stephen King short story - it did end up about the only adaptation of the author's work that he does not cameo in. (I believe he was on deadline writing The Green Mile serial novel at the time.)

There was a part for him in the movie - but I'll save that story for my behind the scenes post for this flick. Here's a preview of that post - fun times on set with Julie Entwisle (Katherine Blair) and Michael H. Moss (Dwight Renfield).

The movie is on DVD in the video vault - and we could be checking it out any time - even tonight - if you don't mind venturing out after dark...you know...when the vampires are out of their coffins...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Grefe Counselor!

The Jaws of Death (Cannon Film Distributors, 1976)

Before the Camera:

Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen)
Jennifer Bishop (Horror of the Blood Monsters)
Buffy Dee (Super Fuzz)
John Davis Chandler (Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead)
Ben Kronen (The Wizard of Speed and Time)
Paul Preston (Ordinary People)
Bob Gordon (The Champ '79)
Jerry Albert (Little Laura and Big John)
Richard O'Barry (Hardly Working)
Luke Halpin (TV's Flipper)
Dan Fitzgerald (Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach)
Bob Leslie (Nice Dreams)
Marcia Knight (Darker Than Amber)
Dete Parsons (Flesh Feast)
Dick Sterling (Barracuda)
Mal Jones (The Truman Show)
Jack Nagle (Sting of Death)
Don Sebastian (Super Fuzz)
Courtney Brown (Jaws: The Revenge)
Herb Goldstein (Miami Blues)
Milton 'Butterball' Smith (Stanley)
Harold 'Odd Job' Sakata (Goldfinger)

Behind the Camera:

Directed by William Grefe

Produced by Bob Bagley, William Grefe, Paul Joseph, Robert Plumb, and Doro Vlado Hreljanovic (<---wotta br="" moniker="">
Written by Robert W. Morgan, from a story by William Grefe

After the success of Jaws, sharks became big business. Books, TV shows, and movies all started going a little shark crazy. So, legendary Florida filmmaker William Grefe jumped in on the act with The Jaws of Death (aka Mako: The Jaws of Death). Although the title here is certainly meant to evoke fond memories of Spielberg’s classic – once you get past the title you find the movie is not really a Jaws ripoff at all – no community being threatened; no single shark making a local beach his own all you can eat buffet; no mayor crying about the loss of tourism; no hydrophobic authority figure forced to confront his fear to save the day. No, instead, Grefe brings the world a remake of his own 1972 movie Stanley, which was itself a ripoff of the popular rat movie Willard. So you go from Willard – loner boy befriends rats who he uses to kill his enemies; to Stanley – loner guy befriends snakes who he uses to kill his enemies; to this movie – with a loner guy who befriends – yes, you guessed it – sharks. And guess what he uses them for? Richard Jaeckal stars as Sonny, whose love for sharks is displayed in the opening scene, as he and a toothy pal take out a couple of shark hunters – the shark using his teeth; Sonny using a spear gun.

While we digest this, we follow Sonny home – so he can show off his built-over-the-water house with convenient interior trapdoor opening right into the ocean waters where he throws meat leftovers to his toothy friends and chats with them. We then travel around Florida with Sonny in his ramshackle truck so he can introduce us to the supporting cast. There’s the science geek at the local marine institute; he wants to “borrow” one of Sonny’s sharks for “observation” and scares Sonny with warnings that local authorities may institute a bounty on sharks if they aren’t better understood and soon – so Sonny “loans” him a shark. Local business owner Barney (Dee) has a bar where the main attraction is his own wife (Bishop) swimming around in a special tank with a big observation window behind the bar; he also wants to “borrow” a shark from Sonny to put in the tank with the Mrs with a secret clear plastic screen between them so that it appears she is swimming with the shark to his customers. This guy’s more canny, though: he gets Sonny to sign a release allowing him ownership over the shark. While all of this is going on, two thugs – including one time James Bond villain Sakata – are hunting the stuffing out of the local shark population – and they’re doing it as employees of none other than Barney. While Sonny works on getting the bite put on Charlie & Pete, he discovers the marine institute is vivisecting his pal; and Barney has put a radio transmitter in the tank at the bar – sending powerful hypersonic waves into the water to drive his pal into a frenzy but leaving the better half safe behind her screen. Sonny’s psyche can’t handle all this and the guy simply snaps. Now it’s open season on shark hurting humans, and those finding themselves having a Sonny day wish there was a brighter outlook for their future.

Sharks' eye view of Sonny's digs, with Mrs. Barney looking on.

Despite establishing Sonny’s credentials as a screen psycho with this opening scene, director Grefe works overtime trying to make the audience take Sonny to heart as a misunderstood hero. Every other character in the movie – EVERY OTHER CHARACTER – lies, cheats, steals, and gleefully chuckles about it. This scheme to make Sonny our hero doesn’t work, because no matter how nasty every other character is; no matter how slimy and underhanded and double dealing they are – Sonny is killing them dead. He’s a A-1 nutjob. But, the end result of this is, there are really no likable characters in the movie – not even ostensible Final Girl Jenifer Bishop, and that makes the movie a sleazy grindhouse kind of flick. As a result – I like this movie. It reeks with 70’s Florida ambience; Jaeckal is always a positive presence; the other actors are okay, and Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata is in it! And he’s credited in the film as Harold ‘Odd Job’ Sakata!

The poster up above and an opening credit both make much of the cast and crew going into the water with real sharks minus cages or other protective technology. Those ‘in the know’ icthyologically speaking indicate that the bulk of the shark action is handled with the use of nurse sharks, which are relatively docile and non threatening creatures. Whether that is true or not – it is still a production value (if a possibly unsafe and insane one) to have so many people hanging out with the critters without any protective gear. Past that – I can’t really say it’s a good movie per se, but if you like your movies kind of low rent and trashy, I can definitely recommend this one – if you can find it – beware the DVD releases – neither apparently are much of a presentation – both appear to be a VHS dub, with the added funk of one less generation of clarity allowing for maximum murk and soft focus. If you can find it though, check it out!

Let's Get Out of Here ?

Somewhere around 32:18, Jenifer Bishop has had a long night.

Eye Candy ?

Well, I think Jenifer Bishop might qualify under the right circumstances - but this movie is not the right circumstances. Sorry, Ms. Bishop.

Buddha Man's Capsule Review

Buddha Man says "The Jaws of Death is okay - but you won't
have to be pried away from your television by the Jaws of Life."

Thank you Mr. B to the M - until next post - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!