Jonathan Frid, TV’s Barnabas Collins, Bites The Big One

As long as I can remember vampires have been popular.   Some may think it’s just a fad, but ever since “Dracula” was published in 1897, vampires have captured a place in our collective imagination. Currently there are several books and book series on the market in which vampires feature prominently.  Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire novels and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series are just two of my favorites.  Don’t forget Anne Rice’s classic “Interview with the Vampire” and the hugely successful Twilight series. Many of these tales have been translated into film, and there are hundreds of movies with vampire characters.  From the sympathetic Blade in the series of that name to the wide-eyed adolescents of The Lost Boys to real baddies like those in Fright Night – good guy or villain – we run to queue up at theatres to get our fix of romance/horror.

In the 60’s and 70’s there was one vampire that I would literally run to see every weekday.  He was on TV every afternoon at 3:00. The problem was that my bus did not bring me home until about 3:10 or 3:15. This gothic soap opera was a half hour program and I barely got to see the last 10 to 15 minutes of it. The program was called “Dark Shadows” and the vampire who made himself at home among the unsuspecting citizens of Collinwood was named Barnabas Collins. This particular blood sucker was played by a Shakespearean actor named Jonathan Frid. Frid has taken his final taxi at the age of 87.

The character Barnabas Collins was a 200-year-old vampire who roamed in search of fresh blood and his lost love, Josette. He was brought into the ghost-infested soap in hopes of boosting its low ratings. Originally this was to be a brief role for Frid. He was booked for only 13 weeks, but the unheard of introduction of a vampire into a daytime series caused ratings to rise from the crypt and soar like a winged bat fluttering outside a heavily curtained castle window.  Frid/Barnabas became the star of the show.

Frid did not expect Barnabas to be the one character that would define his acting career. He had only taken the role to pay for a move to the West Coast but scrapped other projects once the ‘short role’ became a major one. He played Barnabas untill “Dark Shadows” ended in 1971, after a five year run. He also played the vampire in the 1970 movie “House of Dark Shadows.” Frid had a few other TV and movie roles, but type casting bogged him down.  He eventually returned to his first love, theater, in 1978.

Frid had a love/ hate relationship with Barnabas but eventually embraced the character, showing up at Dark Shadows conventions and even reprising the role in the new soon-to-be-released Tim Burton movie by the same title.  Frid will play the older Barnabas Collins catching a glimpse of his younger self, as played by Johnny Depp.

To show you the popularity of the role Jonathan Frid developed, one of my favorite memories is of being in second grade and getting permission from my Mom to buy a book through the “Weekly Reader” book sale.   I dashed in that autumn afternoon, clutching my copy of a little vampire joke book called “Barnabas Collins In A Funny Vein” just in time to tune in to Dark Shadows.

 

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Sexy star of “Faster Pussy Cat Kill Kill” Tura Satana

I recently watched “Grindhouse”, a film by Quentin Tarrantino and Robert Rodriguez, with a friend of mine who bought it on blu-ray. The film is a salute to the low-budget B-movies of the 60’s and 70’s. It has all the grainy video, bad edits, video lines running through, and poor dialogue that made these cheaply made films worth watching. There is a comic faction built into them for those of us with a twisted sense humor. One wonders why we were watching it on blu-ray and not VHS tape.

One of the actress in the film, Rose McGowan, becomes this strong female character, who does not like to be pushed around. She is the tough chick (a real bad ass). This is a character we have seen played before. One of my favorite no-nonsense female characters is in the Russ Meyer’s 1965 film “Faster Pusscat, Kill, Kill.” The film features gratuitous violence, sexuality, provocative gender roles, and campy dialogue. It is not a film for everyone, but is worth watching for the acting of actress, Tura Satana, who plays the leader of a gang of thrill-seeking go-go dancers.

The Japanese born Tura Satana took her Final Taxi this week at the age of 72 in Reno Nevada.

In “Faster Pusscat, Kill, Kill” Tura played “Varla” a very aggressive and sexual female character, like something out of a comic book. In the film she did all of her own stunts and fight scenes. She asked the director to do this because of all the martial art training she had taken as a child. She learned aikido and karate, after being sexually attacked. In an interview in with Psychotronic Video Magazine, she said that she later tracked and exacted vengeance on each of her attackers.

After being “discovered” by silent screen comic Harold Lloyd, she first worked in the movies with Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine in 1963’s “Irma La Douce”. In the musical she played one of the Parisian prostitutes friend of the main character. That same year she played a dancer in “Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed?” with Dean Martin and Elizabeth Montgomery. Other films include the James Bond parody “Our Man Flint” (1966) with James Coburn, “The Astro-Zombies” (1968), “The Doll Squad” (1974) and “Mark of the Astro-Zombies” (2002).

In TV Tura appeared in “Burke’s Law”, “The Greatest Show On Earth”, “Hawaiian Eye”, and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”.

In her personal life Tura Satana at one time dated “the King of Rock and Roll'” Elvis Presley, but turned down his marriage proposal but she kept the ring. She also had a relationship with Frank Sinatra.

Tura Satana’s exotic looks, buxom frame and no-nonsense attitude paved the way for other actresses and can be seen in pop-cultural artifacts ranging from “Xena, Warrior Princess” to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”

The Puppet Master – Van Snowden

Last night my daughter wanted to watch an older horror movie. Lucky we have streaming video from Netflix and they recently added several in that genre. We ended up watching “Child’s Play”, the movie where the spirit of a murderer takes over a kid’s toy doll and goes on a killing spree. The movie worked because the little doll, Chucky, looked real and alive. This was all done by puppetry of Van Snowden.

One of Hollywood’s most sought after puppeteers, Van Snowden has taken his Final Taxi at age 71.

If you grew up watching any of the Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning TV shows then you have seen his work. Staring out as a puppeteer on H.R. Pufnstuf, Snowden played the mayoral dragon for several year.Later he also worked in “Sigmund & the Sea Monsters,” “Lidsville,””The Bugaloos,”” The Krofft Supershow,” and my favorite “Land of the Lost.”

Snowden was asked by Paul Rueben ( aka Pee Wee Herman) to be lead puppeteer on his show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”

He worked a great deal in horror movies in places where you would not know puppets were used. Many times it was rats, lizards, bats or squid tentacles. In fact Snowden was the one responsible for the movements of the Crypt Keeper in the TV horror anthology “Tales From the Crypt.”

Some of Snowden’s film work includes “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991), “BeetleJuice” (1988), “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” (1992), “Alien:Resurrection” (1997), “Starship Troopers” (1997) and “The XFiles” (1998).

PODCAST: Sci-Fi Movie and TV Composer Irving Gertz

Irving Gertz, composer for dozens of sci-fi movies and TV has taken his Final Taxi at 93.

Gertz contributed music to more than 200 films including “It Came From Outer Space,” “The Monolith
Monsters,” “The Alligator People,” “The Creature Walks Among Us” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”

He also penned music for TV, including scores for “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” “The Invaders,” & “Land of the Giants.”

Listen to podcast: http://memberdata.wildvoice.com/RonNasty/media/Final_Taxi_Day18_Irving_Gertz.mp3

Sex Sells – The Last of the Hammer Film Scream Queens

Many readers have heard me talk about watching movies on TV in the afternoons while I was growing up. They combined it with a game show to make sure you watched. Many of the movies the TV station played were low horror films made by Hammer Film Productions. This is a film production company in the United Kingdom that was founded in 1934. It is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films produced from the late 1950s until the 1970s. Hammer films were cheap to produce but nonetheless appeared lavish, making use of quality British actors and cleverly designed sets. During its most successful years, Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and considerable financial success.

Many of the movies starred recurring actors as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ralph Bates, Oliver Reed and many more. There were also beginning roles in the Hammer films for actors like Peter Graves, David Carradine , Dirk Benedict ,Dean Stockwell and 007’s Pierce Brosnan.
Besides the men there was also some very sexy women who played in those movies. In the last week we have lost two of the Hammer film top scream queens. Hazel Court and Julie Ege have taken their Final Taxi.

Julie Ege

— Julie Ege was a Norwegian actress and model in the 60’s and early 70’s. Born in the south-west coast of Norway in 1943 Ede was brought to the public’s eye when appeared on the Miss Universe pageant in Florida in 1962 and then did some modeling in Penthouse magazine.

In 1967, she made her acting debut playing a German masseuse in “The Sky and the Ocean”, a low-budget Norwegian film. In 1969, Ege’s stunning looks caught the eye of the film producer Albert Broccoli, who cast her in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the only James Bond film to feature George Lazenby as the lead. In that role she played “The Scandinavian Girl” one of the 10 women of different nationalities being brainwashed by Blofeld, the villain portrayed by Telly Savalas.

In 1970, Ede played opposite Marty Feldman in the comedy Every Home Should Have One. ( A film that I wish would come out on DVD.) It was her first role with more than a little dialogue.
She made a fatal career choice next by turning down a role with Peter Sellers in the saucy comedy “There’s a Girl in My Soup.” The role went to Goldie Hawn and that part helped launch Hawn’s career.

Instead she signed up with Hammer to do Creatures the World Forgot. While other caveman movies like “One Million B.C.” and “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” did well while giving us sexy girls and stop-motion animation dinosaurs, “Creatures the Earth Forgot” gave us only the sexy girls and a poor plot. The film did help Julie Ege to become a pin-up queen following the film’s release with her in tight and erotic cavegirl costume.

She also starred in ’70s B movies, including The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The Final Programme, and The Mutations, and the British comedies Up Pompeii, The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins and Not Now, Darling.

In the Seventies, Ege lived for several years with the Beatles associate Tony Bramwell and recorded a version of “Love”, a John Lennon composition originally featured on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album in 1970. She subsequently went back to Norway and took up photography before training as a nurse in the Eighties.

In 2005, she featured in the BBC documentary Crumpet! A Very British Sex Symbol. She died at the age of 64 from breast cancer.

Hazel Court

— Hammer Film actress Hazel Court took her Final Taxi at age 82. The British star became a scream queen of the first magnitude in the 1957 Hammer horror film “The Curse of Frankenstein.” Ms. Court played Elizabeth opposite Peter Cushing’s Baron Frankenstein. She was menaced by the Creature played by Christopher Lee. This was the first and among the best of the gothic horror films made by Hammer. In 1959 Ms. Court reteamed with actor Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher for Hammer’s “The Man Who Could Cheat Death.” In 1961 Ms. Court starred opposite Kieron Moore in “Dr. Blood’s Coffin.”

All of these films have become cult film fan favorites.

Born in Birmingham England in 1926 Court set her sights on an acting career at an early age by appearing with thee with the Birmingham repertory company. Her sister sent her photograph to the film director Anthony Asquith and she was given a small role in Champagne Charlie (1944), a salute to Edwardian musical halls starring Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway.

Following that was Dreaming (1944), followed by another period musical, Gaiety George (1946). Her popularity grew when she played Sally Gray’s crippled sister in Carnival (1946) and Phyllis Calvert’s sister in The Root of All Evil (1947).

She was given her first starring role teamed with the American actor William Eythe in Meet Me at Dawn (1947). And in 1949 she gave a spirited portrayal of a fairground ice-cream vendor who falls in love with a married man (Douglas Montgomery) in Forbidden.

She starred in two “B” thrillers, Ghost Ship (1952) and Counterspy (1953), then in 1954 she played in the first of her “cult” movies, the low-budget sci-fi tale Devil Girl from Mars, in which a leather-clad Martian (Patricia Laffan) comes to Earth to take men back to her female-dominated domain.

Court’s red hair and green eyes were seen in color for the first time when she was cast in the role which would redefine her persona, Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), which not only changed the course of her career, but launched the Hammer horror cycle, stretched existing boundaries of gore, and teamed Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee for the first time.

Court’s next Hammer movie was Fisher’s The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) and then Dr Blood’s Coffin (1960). In 1962 she made the first of three films in which she was directed by Roger Corman, The Premature Burial (1962), The Raven (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death ( 1964).

Court described Corman’s The Raven (1963) as her favorite film because everybody laughed and joked and it was fun to work with three such talented giants of horror films, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Court also worked alongside a new upcoming actor named Jack Nickolson. This is a film worth renting just for the cast.

Her many TV credits include “Playhouse 90,” “Thriller,” The Twilight Zone,” “Bonanza,” “Rawhide,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Mission Impossible,” “Mannix” and “McMillan & Wife.” Hazel. Court made her final screen appearance in a cameo in “Damien 3: The Final Conflict.” The “Omen” sequel was directed by her second husband Don Taylor.

Roy Scheider – “You’re gonna need a bigger boat….”

In one of my jobs I work for a company the plays movies in parks and other outdoor settings. For BackYardMovieParties.com we get to show films at a lot of birthday parties and last year we were playing in a rather unusual place. We were on Lake Tuscaloosa showing this movie to all of these boats that were on the lake parked and watching the film. It was like a drive-in for boats. The cool thing was that the movie was perfect for this event. It was Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws.

I was not luck to see Jaws when it first came out in 1975 but did see it many years later on a re-release. The film scared the hell out of me  enough that we skipped the beach that year.

Jaws is regarded as the father of the summer blockbuster movie . In the movie the police chief of Amity Island, a Summer resort town, tries to protect beachgoers from a great white shark by closing the beach, only to be overruled by the town council, which wants the beach to remain open to draw a profit from tourists. After several attacks, the police chief enlists the help of a marine biologist and a professional shark hunter. Roy Scheider stars as police chief Martin Brody, Richard Dreyfuss as marine biologist Matt Hooper, the late Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint.

Roy Scheider, best known for that rolein Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark-attack smash hit has taken his Final taxi at age 75.

A stage actor when he began his career, Scheider was nominated twice for Academy Awards for his movie roles. The first was for best supporting actor as Gene Hackman’s police partner, Buddy Russo, in “The French Connection” (1971). He was later nominated for best actor for his depiction of a womanizing, drug- taking Broadway choreographer inspired by Bob Fosse in “All That Jazz” (1979).

The American Film Institute, on its list of the 100 greatest movies from 1907 to 2007, placed “Jaws” at 51 and “The French Connection” at 93.

Those two films and “All That Jazz” were among seven Scheider movies that are considered classics.’ The others are “Klute” (1971), “The Seven-Ups” (1973), “Marathon Man” (1976) and “Blue Thunder” (1983).

Roy Richard Scheider was born Nov. 10, 1932, in Orange, New Jersey, and battled rheumatic fever when he was 6 and again at 10 and 15. Restricted in his activities, he became a regular movie-goer.

“I dreamed, and the movies took me to the South Seas, to all the places I wanted to go,” he said

His health improved in his late teens, and when he was about 17 he began boxing at the local YMCA. Under the tutelage of a retired welterweight, Scheider entered the Golden Gloves competition in Elizabeth, N.J. He won one fight and lost the next. In the process, he got his nose broken, creating the slightly off-kilter profile that lent him authenticity in his later tough-guy roles.
He graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania with a degree in history, intending to become a lawyer. After serving three years in the U.S. Air Force, he pursued his acting career, debuting in “Romeo and Juliet.”

His film debut was in Del Tenney’s “Curse of the Living Corpse” (1964). He won attention for his role in “Klute” in 1971, followed months later by “The French Connection.” Among other notable films, he appeared in “Marathon Man” (1976), “Sorcerer” (1977), “Jaws 2” (1978), “Still of the Night” (1982), “2010” (1984) and “The Russia House” (1990).

In a career spanning four decades, Scheider appeared in more than 60 films, as well as in numerous roles on stage and television. But his most acclaimed roles came in a span of eight years in the 1970s, beginning with “The French Connection” in 1971.

He probably will be best remembered for his role as Martin Brody, the water-shy police chief in “Jaws” (1975) who uttered the immortal line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” after seeing the size of the shark. He once lamented that the role “will be on my tombstone.”

Among other notable films, he appeared in “Jaws 2” (1978), “Still of the Night” (1982), “2010” (1984) “The Russia House” (1990) Naked Lunch ( 1991) and The Punisher (2004).

In 1993, Scheider signed on to be the lead star in the Steven Spielberg-produced television series SeaQuest DSV. He played as Nathan Bridger, captain of the eponymous high-tech submarine seaQuest DSV 4600. He has also repeatedly guest-starred on the NBC television series Third Watch.

Plan Nine’s Investor and Actor- Rev. Lemon

This must be the week for people tied to the campy classic film “Plan 9 From Outer Space” to take their Final Taxi. First was Vampira / Maila Nurma now I hear about the minister in the movie.

Reverend Lynn Lemon, 90, was one of the Baptist investors convinced by fellow pastor J. Edward Reynolds to bankroll director Ed Wood’s most infamous work.

As the director’s minister, Lemon was also one of a group of preachers and other church-related people who bankrolled Wood’s story and screenplay for Grave Robbers from Outer Space, (which became Plan Nine) intending for its profits to fund a proposed biopic of the early 20th-century evangelist Billy Sunday. Other feature films with Christian themes were planned after that.
As Lemon noted in interviews, it didn’t quite work out that way, and the backers never recovered their investment.

The investors lost their money. Rev. Lemon appeared in the film as the minister officiating Inspector Clay’s (Tor Johnson) funeral.

Rev. Lemon was portrayed by actor G.D. Spradlin in Tim Burton’s film “Ed Wood.”

Rev. Lemon also appeared in the 1973 film “Invasion of the Bee Girls” where he also played a minister at a funeral. This role came about by accident as Rev. Wood was working for the cemetery company in which filmmaker Denis Sanders wanted to film.

Lemon preached regularly into his late 80s, and during his later years, he enjoyed his notoriety as one of the last of the Plan 9 From Outer Space cast along side Maila Nurma who died earlier this week.