Attending Wizard Con last week prompted me to dig through my old comic collection where I stumbled upon a little known title called “ROM Spaceknight.” When people mention Marvel Comics they will, no doubt, immediately be reminded of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Uncanny X-Men,” or “The Mighty Avengers” – to name but a few. All of these classic titles have (or soon will see) big screen adaptations and have generated lots of merchandise. Sadly, one of their best characters never will. ROM has the distinction of starting out as a Parker Brothers toy before making his way into the Marvel universe.
When I was twelve years old, I broke my arm and spent a couple days in the hospital. My grandmother bought me two issues of ROM from the gift shop and I became an instant fan. Blending elements of classic science fiction films such as THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, this comic was the ultimate homage to the films I loved.
Although ROM (in appearance) is obviously inspired by Gort from THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, he isn’t a robot at all. Rather, he is a man from another galaxy who has been fused into an impenetrable metal body for the sake of duty. Hailing from a Utopian planet called Galador, his galaxy’s peace and tranquility is threatened by fiends from a neighboring solar system called Dire Wraiths. The only way to stop these shape-shifting monsters is for Galador’s finest men and women to willingly give up their humanity to become cyborg, war machines. Although carrying a heavy price, they are successful at routing the creatures into the far reaches of space. Realizing that the wraiths will, no doubt, wreak havoc on whatever planet they find, a few of the space knights decide to seek them out – thus finishing what they started.
This eventually brings ROM to Earth. He no sooner arrives when he rescues a woman named Brandy Clark from the wreckage of her car. Brandy finds her salvation at the hands of the silver stranger even more confusing when he proceeds to disintegrate members of her community (Clairton, West Virginia) whom she’s known her entire life.
In truth, ROM saw what the others could not; that these “people” were actually dire wraiths in disguise. While everyone is up in arms regarding what they perceive to be a menace from space, ROM reveals his true intentions to Brandy who becomes the Patricia Neal character to his Klaatu/Gort. As the comic progresses, the wraiths step up their attacks and ROM eventually becomes the town hero. Not everyone, however, is thrilled with ROM’s presence. Brandy’s fiance, Steve Jackson, alarmingly discovers that his bride-to-be is developing strong feelings for her literal “knight in shining armor.” This culminates in Brandy becoming a spaceknight herself (thanks to the self serving powers of the dire wraiths) in an effort to join her love as he attempts to “cleanse” other parts of Earth.
“ROM: Spaceknight” also pays to homage to I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE, only taking its premise of alien men procreating with Earth women to the next level. Unlike the movie aliens who saw no success in this endeavor, one wraith (who legitimately falls in love with an Earth woman) does. The result is an ultra-powerful and supremely evil creature referred to simply as “Hybrid.” Hybrid decides that mating with Earth women is a great idea only why waste your time on mere humans when you can get it on with mutant ladies (thus bringing ROM in contact with the X-Men)? Although looking a bit like a deranged Tweety-Bird, Hybrid was a great recurring villain.
While the first 46 issues issues were a definite nod to science fiction, the comic then took a major turn into horror. Previously, readers had only seen the male wraiths who can mimic their foes in appearance without killing them. By issue 47 we are introduced to the female members of their society who not only look more gruesome but are far more ruthless. Tired at watching their wraith brothers fail time and again, the gals decide to take matters into their own hands. Reliant upon sorcery as opposed to the male’s science they decide the first order of business is to wipe out the boys all together.
Like the male members of their race, the females can also become shape-shifters. This, however, can only be accomplished via a sharp feature located at the end of their long, slimy tongues. This device slams into the forehead of their intended victims before drilling its way into their brains. The gruesome process is only complete after they have successfully sucked the life out of their victims, while assuming their bodies and memories.
Whether desperate for readership or just plain daring, the series took an even more sinister turn as the newly empowered female wraiths head over to Clairton and proceed to slaughter every single supporting cast member in the comic. This breaks all the rules of super hero comics that rarely permanently eliminate their characters or, if they do, annoyingly figure out a way to bring them back. “ROM: Spaceknight” was a clever mix of 50′s nostalgia fitted with brass balls. Many of the story lines brought up the best of 50′s science fiction and horror for one last jaunt in the 1980′s – and I loved every minute of it.
Unfortunately, this never caught on with the masses and “ROM: Spaceknight” ended at issue #75. The last year serving, in my opinion, to quickly wrap up a series that deserved much better. Marvel has since lost the rights to ROM which is now held, once again, by Parker Brothers. While some of the side characters and villains made appearances in other titles, ROM can no longer legally be mentioned. It’s a shame that with today’s special effects, he will never make it to the big screen. But, then again, maybe it’s just as well he remains obscure. Anyone interested can visit ebay and surely obtain the series at minimal expense. If you’re a vintage horror/sci-fi fan, you won’t be disappointed.
I remember, months back, seeing the trailer for this movie and rolling my eyes in disgust. To me it represented the marriage between two highly annoying Hollywood trends; 1) remaking older movies and 2) presenting them in 3D whether the added effects were warranted or not. After picking up the latest issue of Rue Morgue, however, I changed my mind. They did a retrospective piece on the original PIRANHA as well as an article featuring the new one. Needless to say, I was hooked (no pun intended).
I decided that if I was going to see this film at all, I should do it under the best possible circumstances. I drove up north a bit to watch it on a digital “Ultra” screen. The theater boasted a screen that was 3o feet tall and 70 feet wide along with sound loud enough to rival any rock concert.
While I waited for the film to start, some jack-ass behind me was having a loud conversation with his girlfriend. He was trying to impress her with his knowledge of horror by explaining that there are no decent horror conventions in the Midwest, only in Canada. This was in between him explaining to her that she didn’t understand the difference between regular and fine cuisine and how lucky she was to have him around to discuss these things. I wanted to turn around and say, “Yeah Jerk, and nothing says Class more than taking your girlfriend to see PIRANHA 3D,” but resisted the urge. I bring this up because the minute the previews started, he became so offended by the elevated sound levels, he left early in disgust. This, in itself, made my choice of spending the extra cash worthwhile!
The movie was a total riot. It was not really a remake, having little to do with the original. Instead of naughty government engineers creating aggressive killing machines, these were prehistoric piranhas released from an underground fissure after an earthquake. The 3D was a definite bonus as this movie had tons of “in your face” gore, gratuitous nudity, and non stop action. Definitely for ADULTS ONLY, I was shocked to see a couple bring along their grade school age children, proving some parents don’t give a hoot what there kids watch. I, on the other hand, thought it was great fun imagining all those MTV Spring Break people getting slaughtered by killer fish.
The cast boasts such notable names as Jerry O’Connell, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher LLoyd, along with cameos by Richard Dreyfuss and Eli Roth. None of the actors, with the exception of Shue, take their performances seriously and overact with gusto. By playing it straight, Shue single-handedly raises this movie above Scy-Fy Channel status, kicking it up a notch. The over the top performances, in this case, don’t hurt either because the material was never meant to be taken too seriously.
All in all, the film was 88 minutes of hilarious entertainment and will, no doubt, be worthy of multiple viewings in the future. The 3D was not only an effective visual ploy but could just as easily have stood for 3Drink minimum. Indeed the only added effect I can think of to enhance this movie is an “open bar.” Don’t let the cheesy title and subject matter fool you, this movie is a roller-coaster ride worth taking!
Dave A. here. Since I also loved this movie I thought I would chime in. When I originally saw the trailer for this film I immediately got excited. I have always been a huge fan of the 1978 Roger Corman film and welcomed this “remake”, even though I am not a fan of remakes or films that use CGI effects (I am old school…I want to see monsters made out of latex). I did have a fear that the CGI would cheapen the film but it really did work in this film.
This film has the makings of a great monster film…the three B’s so to speak. Boobs, blood and beasts…and there is plenty of all three! There is a good reason this movie is rated R…there is plenty of nudity to titillate any red-blooded American male. According to articles, 80,000 gallons of fake blood were used so there is plenty of blood, enough to please any gore hound. The kills in this movie are not only original, but they are really well done. Lastly the beasts…the piranha are a force to be reckoned with and their design is really great. It makes sense that they were done with CGI and in many scenes, you cannot even tell.
Overall this is just a fun movie, plain and simple. If you go in thinking it is going to be a serious film then you will be disappointed. In my opinion this movie has classic monster movie written all over, much like the original. Not only does it have plenty of boobs, blood and beasts but it has a great sense of humor with amazing gore effects and fantastic 3-D. I am getting burned out on the whole 3-D thing…every movie is coming out in 3-D now and ticket prices are just ridiculous. It is nice to see a movie where the 3-D actually adds to the fun of the film! Go in with an open mind and an open sense of humor and you will not be disappointed!
It’s very rare these days to have a horror host present a giant monster movie. How ironic considering that many of us were introduced to the these films via weekend Creature Features and late night hosts. For the past ten years, however, the opportunity to see these films on commercial television has become few and far between. TOHO (the Japanese studio that owns Godzilla) has made the films less accessible – their legal team hungry and eager to feed. To me this is a terrible error on the studio’s part. By making them harder to acquire, they are blocking many potential new fans from the genre.
Needless to say, I was happily surprised when Chicago’s Svengoolie obtained the rights to air the 1961 TOHO classic, MOTHRA. Not only had he managed to procure a movie featuring one of TOHO’s greatest monsters, but also one of the rarer titles in their vast library. At the time Svengoolie first aired MOTHRA , it had not seen official DVD release while long since “out of print” in it’s VHS form (and this was even before the medium became obsolete).
Boasting a larger scale Mothra costume than subsequent entries (40 feet long), this movie contains one of the most detailed miniature sets ever used by the studio. Many folks assume that all Japanese monsters contained men in suits. Tonight’s Svengoolie, however, features the only Mothra that actually had a man inside (or, in this case, several men). For great details on Mothra and her many designs over the years, check out issue #82 of G-FAN Magazine.
Although MOTHRA is now available on DVD, I urge any Chicago fan to tune in tonight and watch. There’s lots of great Svengoolie touches which include this hilarious parody of the Three Dog Night hit, “Mama told me not to come’…..
During it’s first airing, Svengoolie even showed a picture of my kids meeting Harou Nakajima (man who played in the Godzilla suit from 1954-1972) at the 2007 G-Fest. Since my boys are big kaiju fans, it was an amazing thrill for them to share television time with Mothra herself.
Although we’ve watched it together before, we plan on doing it again tonight. Hopefully I’ll be joined by my fellow Chicago fans as well. Anyone outside the viewing area that wants a copy can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I do NOT charge for copies or even the blank disc – just ask that you either handle the shipping or trade for something else.
On the final day of the convention, we packed our belongings and loaded the car before making a final sweep of the main hall. The Vampira Tribute began mid day and I stood in line to enter the event. In the distance, I could see all the hosts talking and joking around with each other. After spending the previous days moving about the convention, attending to all their individual commitments, this was the moment that would bring all the participating hosts together.
Before the event began, eerie music played while images of deceased horror hosts filled a large screen featured on the center stage. Included in this montage were such memorable hosts as Bob Wilkins, Dr. Paul Bearer, and Dr. Shock to name but a few. In between these images, glimpses of footage depicting Vampira’s famous walk down a smoke filled corridor would appear. This presentation concluded with Vampira reaching the foreground, screaming in terror, before quickly reverting to a wry smile.
As the screen went dark the hosts marched in, single file, carrying a single lit candle. After reaching the stage they dropped there candles into a hanging cauldron before taking their seats. The ceremony opened with an introduction delivered by Dr. Shocker a.k.a. professional actor Daniel Roebuck, who has appeared in the recent Rob Zombie HALLOWEEN remakes. “I am overjoyed to be here with all of you…,” he proclaimed, “as we pay tribute to the mother of all horror hosts alive and dead today….the great Vampira.” His introduction was as moving as it was humorous, generating lots of laughs particularly when sharing his observations of the characters before him.
The first hosts designated to share their thoughts on Vampira were Ms. Monster and Doktor Goulfinger. The former credited Vampira with bringing “sexy, sultry, and sassy, to a whole new genre.” The blue-hued beauty, a featured contestant on the 2007 reality show “The Search for the next Elvira,” has certainly done her part in taking these attributes into the new age. As if to prove this point, she generated great applause by freeing the microphone from its stand and intimately sharing her appreciation for the many unsung contributions of Vampira.
She then handed the mike to the man she referred to as “a walking encyclopedia of horror hosts” (a title I have since learned is far from an exaggeration). His warm feelings towards Maila Nurmi evident, Doktor Goulfinger gave an incredibly moving tribute made even more powerful by his soft-spoken, methodical delivery. Goulfinger urged listeners to ponder the fact that for generations only a select group of Los Angeles viewers had ever actually heard the voice of Vampira. Most people (myself included) had only witnessed her mute performance in the infamous PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE or seen her photo in horror themed magazines. Goulfinger pointed to this as evidence of how powerful an artist Maila Nurmi was, having generated such influence via “the sheer, seductive power of an image.” He also asked that everyone take a moment to really think about Vampira and the importance of her work.
The next speakers who took to the stage were former TNT host, Joe Bob Briggs and (from my home state of Illinois) The Bone Jangler. Joe Bob reminded us of Maila’s Finnish heritage, characterized by a bitterly cold and harsh climate. This has, no doubt, contributed to one of the most important attributes for any horror host to embrace; the ability to be “tough.” He also credited her for breathing new life into films that Hollywood had long since labeled as “unwatchable and unplayable,” a unique role that horror hosts still carry out to this day.
The Bone Jangler opened his speech by stating how “indebted” he felt towards Maila Nurmi for “setting the template” as well as the “tone” by her appearance and style. He referred to his fellow hosts and hostesses as his “brothers and sisters,” while reminding them that they, like Vampira, are all “artists.”
The final duo to share there thoughts on Vampira were Penny Dreadful and Count Gore de Vol. Penny, accompanied by her companion Garou, reminded listeners that Maila Nurmi , aside from a horror host, was also “an independent woman…fearless in her convictions and in her thinking.” She went on to say that, “While Vampira is surely the black cloth from which we’ve all been cut, the memory of Maila Nurmi the artist and woman should embolden us to shed the shackles of main stream society’s constraints..” Creating loud applause she urged everyone to “drink a Vampira cocktail” in her honor. I must say that of all the hosts I’ve had the privilege of experiencing, Penny Dreadful reminds me the most of Vampira…even over The Mistress of the Dark who had initially been modeled after her.
Count Gore de Vol opened his speech with an invitation to his followers to “think about” the impact of Vampira who had appeared on a single station during a span that reached a paltry “14 months.” Despite this fact, Count Gore reminded the hosts, she is responsible for creating the ” legacy for which we all dibble our lives and careers.” This paved the way for himself, and fellow hosts, to go on and create their “own legacies.” Something that the Count knows first hand having created his own hosting dynasty.
As this was a horror-themed tribute, there could be no better way to conclude the show without actually raising the dead. Horror magician Ron Fitzgerald took to the stage and called on the lifeless body of Vampira (portrayed by horror hostess Evelle LeChant) to “rise.” Slowly she lifted herself up from her black altar, walked towards the crowd, and mimicked the famous scream for which the tribute began.
As light illuminated the chamber, the hosts gathered together for a group photo. While waiting for everyone to snap this priceless image depicting the largest massing of their kind, a few broke into song – belting the ending of The Beatles hit, “Hey Jude.” I almost dropped my own camera from laughing, though the scene was much more reminiscent of the cover of “Sgt Pepper.”
As I embarked on the journey back to Chicago I couldn’t help but reflect on the past few days. I had arrived at Horrorhound ignorant of Vampira, aside from the image of her walking as a zombie in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE and the subsequent portrayal of her by Lisa Marie in the film ED WOOD. I can honestly say that I left with a much greater understanding of Vampira, as well as the mysterious woman behind her.
I knew that I had just experienced the most amazing convention of my life. There could be little doubt that it was the congregation of hosts (the ultimate horror fans) that had raised it to these heights. I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of gratitude towards, not only them, but the woman who had made it all possible.
Several moments passed as I pondered Maila Nurmi and how wonderful my childhood had been enjoying one of the benefactors of her work, Svengoolie. Without Vampira there would have been no Svengoolie parodies, raucous laughter from Zomboo, or my daughters new appreciation for older films via Wolfman Mac. I can no longer discount the importance of Vampira as I, and my children, continue to enjoy these things. Doktor Goulfinger would be pleased.
This past weekend, Chicago celebrated it’s annual Wizard Con at the Donald E. Stephen’s Convention Center in Rosemont. This is the Midwestern version of the famous San Diego Comic Con – largest of all fan events.
It’s been a long time since I collected comic books and about 12 years since my last Wizard Con (or whatever they called it back then as it has changed ownership periodically over the years). Upon discovering that THE EXORCIST star, Linda Blair, along with a few alumni from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” would be in attendance, I decided to give it another shot.
Last July I had attended G-Fest at the same location. Unlike the Godzilla Festival, which boasts about 1300-1500 attendees, Wizard Con utilized the full main floor of the convention center to accomodate it’s 500 celebrity guests (actors, artists, etc) and legions of fans.
In regards to fan conventions, I can safely say that bigger is not always better. Despite it’s immense size and impressive guest list, Wizard Con offers little to its fans aside from sore legs, hurt feelings, and empty pocket books.
We went on Friday, specifically avoiding the Saturday crowds, arriving a couple hours after the show opened to avoid waiting in line. Since I had prepaid online, we were able to enter the main hall with relative ease.
I walked past the “Buffy” section featuring James Marsters (Spike), Clare Kramer (Glory), and Nicholas Brendan (Xander). It was great seeing them “live” and I was about to enter their autograph lines when I noticed a sign hanging above them which read, “No Pose Photography.”
This was a common feature of Wizard Con along with their convention staff/volunteers acting more as gestapo (preventing anyone from getting close to their idols) as opposed to providing assistance to the conventioneers. Most of the celebrities, with a few exceptions, sat like automatons providing minimal interaction with thier fans.
Needless to say, I decided to remove myself from the line. I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and will always consider it to be one of my favorite television programs of all time. If I was meeting Sarah Michelle Gellar, that would have been one thing. However, we’re talking about supporting cast members who haven’t engaged in a whole lot of noteworthy projects since the show’s demise.
While celebrity signatures make great collectibles, I prefer to have a photograph taken with them instead. An old friend of mine once had a room in his apartment covered with framed photos of himself along with members of the rock band KISS, Judas Priest, etc. To me, this was the ultimate trophy room and I could have stared at those walls for hours. At the very least, a genuine moment of me expressing admiration for their work along with a glimmer of appreciation from them (considering the lengths I took to tell them so) would suffice.
With my dreams of getting a photograph with the “Buffy” stars up in a proverbial cloud of “vampire dust,” it was now time to meet Linda Blair. There was no line to meet her and she was readily available. Handling her business transactions was “her neighbor” who was very friendly. Blair had a wide assortment of photos to choose from which could be divided into two main categories; EXORCIST shots and those depicting Blair cuddling with fuzzy puppies (hows that for contrast?).
An avid member of PETA, the 51 year old actress has dedicated her life to dog rescue and adoption. She does this via her own “Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation.” All the money she charges for her autographs ($25) and/or photo with her ($15) was exclusively donated to her charity. Her dedication to man’s best friend is admirable. In terms of celebrity meetings, however, I’d have to rate Ms Blair a paultry “four” out of ten.
She was not interested in talking about THE EXORCIST, only her foundation. Her appearance at Wizard Con was clearly all business, with little regard for the role that made her famous let alone her devoted fans. I could almost imagine the conversation that took place between Blair and her business manager while going over her foundation’s finances. Manager: “Gee, it looks like we may be going over budget.” Blair: “Oh crap, I guess I’ll have to do a few of those damn fan conventions! Don’t worry, Fido (while stroking a canine’s head) for you I’ll gladly enter the gates of Hell!”
As soon as you got in front of her, she handed you one of her fliers. When she saw me hand it off to my son so it wouldn’t show up in the photo I was taking with her, she looked annoyed and tossed another one at me. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals. But this was a fan event and not a dog show. Furthermore, if I want to support dog rescues, I have a local Humane Society that doesn’t have the benefit of Blair’s celebrity status to bring in much needed funds.
It would be in the best interest of the “WorldHeart Foundation” if Ms Blair took a tip from FRIDAY THE 13TH actress, Adrienne King. By embracing her horror heritage as opposed to shying away from it, Ms King discovered that cozying up to her fan base can be downright lucrative (see earlier post). Here’s an idea Linda, how about selling your own brand of pea soup with a shot of you possessed on the label? You’d please your fans by offering a hilarious collectible while, at the same time, make plenty of cash for your four-legged pals.
The one thing I will give Blair is that she was willing to personalize my autograph exactly as I specified. The photo I had taken with her ended up a bit too bright but this lovely collectible prevented the entire experience from literally going to the dogs!
I’m sure some people had better experiences than I had meeting with their respective celebrities. I’m not a Trekkie nor a Batman fan so I have no idea how they were treated. I saw that Illinois public access host, Count Sam Gregula, had a bit more luck thanks to his persistence and press pass. I’m hoping he’ll share his experience with this blog so perhaps readers can get a more rounded view. I did notice that TERMINATOR star, Linda Hamilton, was very ingratiating towards her fans and seemed genuinely pleased to meet them. During the numerous times I walked past her booth, I observed her joking around and happily posing for pictures. It’s nice to know that a few celebrities remembered the reason they were asked to attend this event in the first place. Ultimately, however, I hold Wizard Con responsible for allowing them free reign.
I noticed the following day that former Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, made an unscheduled appearance. It is my understanding that, for a price, he would pose for photos and sign autographs. The press treated it as a groundbreaking story though I exhibited no surprise. As far as I was concerned, the disgraced “pay to play” Governor had certainly come to the right place.
Growing up in the 70′s was an awesome time to be a kid. The toys were cool, Saturday morning cartoons were alot of fun and we had a regular dose of monster movies every week on the Creature Double Feature. I was a huge monster movie fan and every Saturday afternoon I could be found glued to the television watching such movies as WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, RODAN and all of the GAMERA movies (as well as all of the classics we have grown to love). For us, the Creature Double Feature was not a hosted program (though a scary voice was used each week to introduce the movies). Then something happened in the early 80′s…all of a sudden the CDF was being hosted by some guy named the Son of Svengoolie. This started my love of horror hosts.
Over the years I have seen many of these hosts…some good, some not so good. A rare few stand on a pedestal for me though…they are above the good category. Zomboo is one of these guys. I was introduced to Zomboo and his amazing cast quite by accident. I had never heard of him and had never seen any articles done on him in any magazines. One day, while on eBay, I found an assortment of DVD’s for sale of his show and I thought I would take a chance. I can not express enough at how glad I am that I did! It didn’t take long to become hooked on this show and today, Zomboo is my all time favorite horror host! The character of Zomboo is a cross between Lon Chaney’s vampire character from the 1927 film LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, the Zombo character played by Louis Nye on THE MUNSTERS television show (originally broadcast on February 17, 1966) and Krusty the Clown, from THE SIMPSONS.
My first viewing of Zomboo was showing the movie DEMENTIA 13 from 1963. This movie is actually a fun little horror movie by Francis Ford Coppola (his directorial debut actually, working for Roger Corman) and though I had seen it a few times before, this viewing experience was something new altogether. It didn’t take long before I was laughing out loud hysterically at Zomboo and his cast (including Miss Transylvania, Bianca the Rack Girl and Werewolfie). The jokes came quick and some were so over the top I couldn’t believe that this show could actually air them! I was in awe of how Zomboo would insert himself into the actual movies or add perfectly timed sound effects, making a scene all the more enjoyable. It was also nice to watch a show that had the look and feel of locally produced television, a rarity these days. Thankfully the DVD promoted his website and I immediately went there and it wasn’t long before I was buying more DVD’s…I can’t think of a better addiction to have! I also wrote Zomboo and he was quick to respond and we have been in touch ever since.
A recent highlight for me was when Zomboo called me on the phone, after writing an article about him and his show for SCARY MONSTERS magazine. He told me he thought it was the best article he had read on the show and that was the best compliment I could have received. If you live in the Nevada area he can be seen on KOLO Channel 8 out of Reno (though Zomboo tells me he is working on being on other stations as well as a possibly being on a web channel). The new season starts on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 11:30 PM. For those of you not in his area I highly recommend going to his website (http://www.zomboo.com) and checking out what he has to offer – you will not be disappointed!
The cast of Zomboo’s House Of Horror Movies
Jeff Carlson is a name that many Svengoolie fans, like myself, are familiar with. Not only had the 42 year old Chicago artist been a regular contributor to the former Svengoolie Web, but also the current Svengoolie YAHOO group page. You can often see Jeff’s work shown by Svengoolie himself during mail segments thanks to his regular submissions.
Mr. Carlson has worked as a commercial illustrator for the past 24 years. Born and raised in Peoria, Jeff moved to Chicago ten years ago where he continued to ply his trade. Aside from delighting Svengoolie fans with his work, he has also developed his own web-store – “Mani-Yak Monsters” (link featured to the right) that sells classic monster T-Shirts and novelty items!
A true fan of the genre, Jeff’s creativity is matched only by his versatility. In addition to being an illustrator, he is also a talented make-up effects artist. Many Chicagoans get to experience his work first hand while visiting local “haunted” attractions during the Halloween season. Jeff’s incredible eye for detail has also assisted him in working with fine jewelry. This has placed him in an effective position of not only creating his own works of art, but detailed Hollywood props and replicas as well.
Although I have known of Jeff for quite awhile, there was clearly much to learn about him. I was delighted when he agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule to do an interview for us.
DAVE: Jeff, after seeing your work on the Svengoolie Web for the past several years, I am happy to finally have this opportunity to chat. Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started turning your love of vintage monsters into a business.
JEFF: Well, the short version is that I had a Grandmother who loved old movies and she let me stay up late and watch “Creature Features” when sleeping over at her house. I’ve always drawn and played with clay . . . the two worlds were bound to collide. I also grew up a couple blocks from a drive-in theater, that probably didn’t hurt creatively either.
DAVE : Clearly, you are a big fan of classic monster and vintage science fiction films. Which ones would you say are your favorites?
JEFF: It’s funny, I don’t really consider myself a Sci-Fi fan but when I think about key movies that have affected and inspired me over the years, the Chuck Heston trifecta of PlANET OF THE APES/OMEGA MAN/SOYLENT GREEN are the first things that come to mind. Honestly, the classic Universal horror monsters have provided me with the largest creative outlet as I’ve done tons of drawing and sculpts of those creatures over the years.
DAVE: As a fellow Svengoolie fan, tell me your favorite memories of our local horror host and some of the work that you have done for him.
JEFF: Ah, Svengoolie. He holds a special place in my heart because his show takes me back to a very specific place and time. When my family got cable (1981!), Sven was doing his “Son of” schtick on WFLD Channel 32 . . . and the rest is history. When I moved to downtown Chicago about 10 years ago, I got actively involved with fan-based web sites and am now a regular contributor. You may occasionally see my work pop up on Svengoolie’s program as I submit stuff all the time.
DAVE: Tell me about some of the other mediums you’ve worked with and some of your favorite pieces.
JEFF: I’ve been a commercial illustrator by trade for almost 25 years, there’s virtually no 2-D medium that I have not used extensively. I’m also a trained fine jeweler . . . this is where I honed my sculpting and casting skills. I also really enjoy making latex masks and props for the collectors market. Several years ago I recreated a life size “pod” prop based on the classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS movie. Recently, I was commissioned to do comic-inspired Batman cowl/mask and utility belt . . . that was really fun. For fans of the old “Mani-Yack” monster transfers, I just finished a series of about 20+ new illustrations based on those classic designs and I’m offering them as t-shirts and buttons over at www.robotmonkeypirate.com
DAVE: Fantastic! I understand you’ve also recently created a rather unique collectible from the classic movie DRACULA. Costume shops often sell cheap versions of his iconic medallion, but none have come close to the original.
JEFF: Here’s a prop that even non-monster fans instantly recognize but scant historical info on it exists. The original medallion has very little screen time in the classic 1931 film and it’s current whereabouts are unknown. With the advent of modern digital technology, it’s been a little easier to get detailed screen-grabs and photographic enlargements. Due to the somewhat vague and obscured details on the original prop, I’ve taken some creative liberty in order to produce a piece I’m happy with . . . I’ve incorporated a dragon motif in the circular center area with the intent of acknowledging the historic Vlad “Dracul” Tepes who partially inspired Bram Stoker’s fictional Count Dracula. My current run of these medallions are in a poly-resin but a Sterling silver edition is in the works.
DAVE: There is only one other question I NEED to ask…..how can I get one!?
If someone wants to purchase a medallion or they have other requests or inquiries, they can reach me directly at email@example.com
Since I was a teenager in the 80′s, the name Roger Corman meant alot to me. Though I didn’t get to see any of his films at the local drive-ins where they usually played, I did get to see them on videocassette and some of my fondest movie memories are of his films. How can you go wrong with monster movies filled with blood and all of the female nudity you could ever want? Just recently Shout Factory, the company that is releasing the long overdue Gamera titles, re-released a bunch of Mr. Corman’s films under their “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” line. To be honest I already owned these titles in the previously released versions (New Concorde released this very same title in 2001 under their “Roger Corman Classics” series) but have been such a fan that I decided that buying them on Blu-Ray would be worth it. The first one I am going to talk about is probably one of the most controversial: HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP.
This film came out in 1980 and it wasn’t your typical monster-on-the-loose film. These monsters actually raped and impregnated women (which is where the controversy was). Thankfully these scenes were kept to a minimum and the resulting film is a very fun movie to watch. The “humanoids” themselves are actually pretty scary. Like the shark in JAWS these creatures would strike from below the surface of the water (though later on they revealed that they were also quite adept on land).
For a low-budget film (as was all of Roger Corman’s movies) it really set the standard on how good a movie can be with the right people working on it. The faces of the creatures are really cool looking (and being a monster mask collector, I am really disappointed that no one has made this creature into a monster mask!) and their attack scenes are really nicely done. They attack without remorse and of course have a preference for the ladies (which is good for us guys because one of the first things the monsters usually do is rip off the bathing suits of the girls being attacked). The pacing of the movie is really good and you never lose interest in what is going on. The special effects, though maybe not worthy of an Academy Award, are also really well done. In fact in one scene, where a male swimmer is attacked while making out with his girlfriend, the resulting wounds are, in my opinion, one of the most gruesome ever put on film!
The story is typical of many monster movies of the time. A local fishing village is dealing with the controversial decision as to whether or not a salmon cannery should be allowed to open and help the local economy. On the one side you have the town folk struggling to survive, hoping the cannery will give the town of Noyo the shot in the arm it needs. On the other side, you have the Indian folk who oppose the cannery. Not only does this create some racial tension but when the creature attacks start, it is very easy for opposing sides to blame each other for these attacks. Once it is revealed that there are in fact monsters the opposing townsfolk must then band together for a common cause. This film stars many staples from the 1980′s: Vic Morrow, Doug McClure, Ann Turkel and Anthony Pena. The music was done by James Horner, who went on to do the music for AVATAR, BRAVEHEART and TITANIC. The effects were created by none other than Rob Bottin (who went on to do the effects in THE HOWLING and JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING).
I highly recommend this disc, even if you do have the previous release. Though the disc says that it is the complete uncut International version, the running time of 82 minutes is the same on both releases. I did like the high definition transfer but keep in mind how old this film is…don’t expect a film of crystal clear clarity (but it is still beautiful to watch nonetheless). Also included in the special features are deleted scenes, trailers, tv and radio spots, an interview that Leonard Maltin did with Roger Corman on the making of the film and a documentary called The Making Of Humanoids From The Deep featuring new interviews with Roger Corman and others that worked on the film. These discs are well worth the price. If you have never seen these films Shout Factory has done an excellent job and it will be a great introduction to the films of Roger Corman. Next up…PIRANHA (1978).
Wolfman Mac has the honor of being the first local horror host I’d ever watched after Svengoolie. Last January I was thumbing through YouTube clips when I stumbled upon “Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in.” Although Mac is a fellow Midwesterner (Michigan), it was the other Dave in Rhode Island who had access to his show via a cable channel called RTV (Retro Television). I asked him to send me some copies and he was happy to oblige.
Mac has the distinction of being the favored host among my two daughters, Leia and Jade. In fact, they absolutely adore the guy. Every time a package arrives at the house they immediately ask, “Did you get more Wolfman Macs?” Last Saturday they watched THE BAT with Vincent Price from beginning to end. It’s probably a good bet that Jade is the only one in her 3rd grade class to have sat through an entire Vincent Price film, willingly. It’s an even surer bet that I’m one of few dad’s who gets filled with pride by saying this. Regardless, it has been great sitting back and watching vintage monster movies with the kids without having to bribe them.
Yes, I was definitely looking forward to meeting Wolfman Mac and was worried that, with all the activities going on at Horrorhound, I’d end up missing him. Prior to the convention, I did have some positive interaction with both Mac and his show’s producer, Vicki Vanderkolk. These were in the form of Facebook comments and a fan letter I sent him. When I arrived at The Chiller Drive-In booth, Mac was surrounded by a full television crew while busily interviewing people from a gathering crowd.
While Mac was busy on camera, I formally met Vicki and found her to be as genuine and pleasant in person as she was on Facebook. She introduced me to her husband, Raymond Dean Vanderkolk, who writes for the show. I was very happy to shake the hand of the person responsible for the show’s memorable skits. The next day I bumped into Mr. Vanderkolk again. This time he was clad in his own costume – that of a witchdoctor!
While talking to Vicki she said, “You’ve got to let Mac interview you for the show!” I waited my turn before finally meeting the man himself. He was a lot of fun and the same off screen as on. Definitely a “salt of the Earth” type…despite his affinity towards a full moon. I recounted the story of how a guy from Chicago became a fan of a host up in Michigan and then we howled together on camera which was lots of fun.
Mac signed a Chiller Drive-n Promo poster for both myself and the other Dave. After the convention I had it professionally framed and it is now prominently displayed over my desk at home.
After the convention I submitted a fan piece about “Wolfman Mac’s Chiller Drive-in” to “Scary Monster Magazine.” I really hope that it will see print. If my children are so taken by the show, it’s a good bet other kids out there will be as well. During G-Fest, I hand delivered some episodes of the show to Dennis Druktenis (publisher of “Scary Monsters Magazine”). He later wrote and thanked me for them. Not that I’m above bribery, but I really did want him to see the show for himself.
The only other cast member I saw from The Chiller Drive-in was the “Son of Froggy,” though we never formally met. I am hoping that I can someday meet the whole gang, perhaps at a Michigan based convention. It’s a trip I won’t be making alone…
After I had all my pictures from Horrorhound developed, my kids weren’t in the least bit impressed with my photos of Elvira, Romero, nor Savini. When the shot of Wolfman Mac and I popped up, however, they jumped up and down screaming, “I can’t believe you met Wolfman Mac!!!!” while telling me how unfair it was that I should be so lucky. They were right; meeting Wolfman Mac was one of my favorite memories from Horrorhound.
NOTE: Wolfman Mac’s third season premieres on September 4th and promises to the best ever! If you don’t receive RTV with your cable package, contact your provider and see what can be done about it!
(Horrorhound memories will continue in our 7th and final chapter…The Vampira Tribute!)
I received some great photos today from Wisconsin horror host, Dr. Destruction. This past weekend, Destruction’s home town of Kenosha, Wisconsin celebrated the “Summer of Lovecraft.” This unique festival combines Gothic art and activities tailor made for those seeking the darker aspects of artistic expression.
The festival also featured a TWILIGHT look alike contest which was perfect for keeping the kiddies busy while serious folks could enjoy watching Dr. Destruction perform with his old band, “The Dead Leathers.”
This was a special occasion for the band who are celebrating their 30th anniversary tour. The show took place in front of the Orpheum Theatre in Downtown Kenosha.
Dr. Destruction’s performance garnered lots of attention, including from the Mayor of Kenosha himself, Mayor Keith Bosman.
Hats off to Dr. Destruction! There are few horror hosts that can boast this strong a connection to their local communities. Whether on stage or off…the man rocks!
Happy Friday the 13th! This is the day that horror fans, like myself, don’t bother worrying ourselves over black cats and broken mirrors. Instead we fret over which of the numerous FRIDAY THE 13th slasher movies we’ll be watching that night. For more committed fans, you can even turn it into a marathon event. On one of last year’s Friday the 13th’s, I celebrated the occasion with an old friend….appropriately named Jason.
This year, however, there is even more cause to celebrate. 2010 marks the 30th Anniversary of the original, and without question, finest of the FRIDAY THE 13th movies. Throughout the 80′s it was often imitated (and recently remade) but has never been in any danger of losing its status as one of the best films from that golden age of slashers.
Not surprisingly, it has been deemed worthy of closer examination and analysis, most recently in the latest issue of Horrorhound Magazine, as well as last year’s 2009 documentary – HIS NAME WAS JASON. Since there is little I can add to that discussion, I’m going to focus solely on one of the film’s key players instead. Adrienne King played the character “Alice” in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH installment, and briefly in Part II as well.
Celebrity guest Q&A sessions can be a mixed blessing. Some guests give great insights and behind the scene stories, while others stare at the audience like a deer in highlights. These are the celebrities that usually respond to questions with, “Gee, it was a long time ago and I really don’t remember” or worse still, “It was just a job.” If you are a celebrity reading this post, take heed; Genre fans don’t want to hear that it’s “just a job” (even if that probably was the truth) especially when they’re prepared to stand in line and drop $20+ to meet you. And don’t think your celebrity status will protect you from us “fan boys,” either. As anyone who has ever participated on a fan “forum” can tell you, they can be some of the meanest places on-line!
I am happy to say that Adrienne King scores a perfect “10″ on the celebrity guest rating scale (which I just came up with). Not only did she actually remember her role in the film, she shared great stories and was receptive to her fans. She’s even developed her own wine label called “Camp Crystal Lake Wines.” This comforts her fan base even further as it proves she has embraced, rather than hid, from her role in the film (Kevin Bacon, anyone?). After the Q&A, I went to meet her in the convention hall. I noticed right away that she took a lot of time to talk with her fans while showing genuine appreciation for the attention she was given. When I came up to her she immediately said, “Hi! I remember seeing you during my talk.” I was very flattered that she noticed me, especially since I was joined in the audience by such colorful characters as a man holding a severed head and a full-figured gal wearing a “Wonder Woman” costume.
She also gets credited for selling some great stuff at her table. Aside from being able to order her special wines – in which she promises to personally call you on the phone and “thank you,” she was also selling her hand-painted “Crystal Lake” art pieces. If that wasn’t enough of a personal touch, she also had some GREAT pictures to sign that I can safely say, wasn’t ordered from a “Hollywood” stills catalog. I was drawn to a photo that was created from a shot she, herself, took with her Polaroid during the filming of FRIDAY THE 13TH. The shot was taken in Tom Savini’s studio and shows her and the gore master holding his prop of Mrs. Vorhee’s head! This was one of her newest pictures and she admitted while signing, “I’m still not sure where to write on this one!”
If you should discover that Adrienne King is attending a convention near you, I strongly urge you to meet her. Whether it’s Friday the 13th or not, it’s guaranteed to be your lucky day!
Saturday promised to be the busiest day of the Horrorhound convention. Wanting to get an early start, I immediately went down to the main hall after breakfast. Due to the large number of hosts attending the Vampira Tribute, I had no illusions about meeting them all. In an effort to stay focused, I created a short list of the ones I really wanted to meet.
As I approached the area designated for the hosts, I was happy to see that one of my “high priority” selections was present. Michael Monahan, a.k.a. Doktor Goulfinger, has the distinction of not only being a horror host, but a fervent fan of the art itself. His work on the documentary AMERICAN SCARY earned him a recent Rondo Award in the category of “Best Independent Film of 2009.” As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is a “must see” for anyone interested in learning about the history of horror hosts, as well as a look at some of the colorful characters from its golden age.
Michael has since chosen to place his Doktor Goulfinger character on hiatus in an effort to focus on other projects. This includes extensive research on classic horror hosts for an upcoming book. Despite his relatively short tenure, I was able to track down a copy of his work as Doktor Goulfinger prior to Horrorhound. True to form, he not only used his show to perform his own hosting shtick, but also as a means of spotlighting classic hosts. During his presentation of THE DEVIL BAT, Goulfinger proudly shows off a mock candy wrapper used by the late Dr. Paul Bearer. This is just one of many artifacts Monahan has acquired during his years of collecting.
There was no doubt that if I wanted to gain a better understanding of classic horror hosts, I would be wise to seek Doktor Goulfinger’s counsel. Prior attempts at contacting him proved futile as he had shut down the website featured on his program. I couldn’t locate him on Facebook and knew that if I walked away from this convention without obtaining his email address, I’d be making a grievous error.
As I approached him, I noticed he was wearing his signature 3D glasses while holding his character’s cigarette holder. Although he had since shaved off his beard, there was no doubt that it was him. As I did not want to offend my fellow conventioneers, I opted to forgo my sweaty “It Came from Berwyn” T-shirt in favor of “Zomboo’s House of Horror.” This elicited an immediate positive response from Goulfinger who, like myself, is also a big fan of Zomboo. I introduced myself and he gave a warm handshake.
We talked for about 2o minutes but I could have easily stretched that into hours. Most of our conversation revolved around the subject of the Tribute, Maila Nurmi. Doktor Ghoulfinger was one of the few hosts present who had not only met the great Vampira, but also acquired extensive interviews with her during his work on AMERICAN SCARY. I could tell by his eloquence that he truly cared for her as an artist and his insights helped me gain a much greater appreciation for her work. The next day he would provide a moving tribute to her at the event itself (to be covered in a future post).
I am happy to say that I was successful in my goal of obtaining Michael’s contact information and we have kept in touch since the convention. Despite my numerous questions and requests (like allowing me access to the wonderful photos attached to this blog), he is always willing to share his insights and help in any way that he can. Although I had once held on to the hope that he would, once again, stand in front of a camera and host movies of his own, I have since come to realize that his role as historian and preserver of this nation’s classic hosts is far more valuable. His contributions can not be overstated, and I am very happy that I had the honor of meeting him.
As I walked away from Doktor Goulfinger, I noticed a flurry of activity at the table featuring Count Gore de Vol. This classic host is not only a legend in Washington DC, where he hosted movies in the 1970′s and 80′s, but in the world of horror hosting itself. Regardless of his status as a “classic” host, Count Gore (Dick Dyszel) has proven himself downright innovative in our modern world. No longer interested in performing on commercial television, he is now available to the entire world courtesy of the World Wide Web. As Doktor Goulfinger states, “Count Gore actually led the way on the ‘net. He came from years of television, was always attentive and media savvy and saw the changes coming. He’s a real leader.”
To the vast majority of hosts working today, he is a great deal more than that. By using his status to reach out and bring hosts from all over the country together, he has become the ultimate elder Statesman. Dissolving the older practice of horror hosts being solitary performers – protective of their own territories, he now makes frequent appearances on other host’s programs while also encouraging them to support each other. He is the latest recipient of the Rondo Award for “Best Active Horror Host” and was also recently featured in the latest issue of “Rue Morgue.”
Count Gore was a pleasure to meet and, despite the noise of the convention, enjoyed talking about his show. The previous weekend, Count Gore had presented the film BEAST FROM YUCCA FLATS. During this Web-cast, he contended that this film was easily “the worst film ever made,” contradicting conventional wisdom that this honor belongs to the Ed Wood disaster-piece, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. After watching his show, I found myself in agreement with the Count though, in truth, there are many movies I find less enjoyable than PLAN 9. After sharing a laugh about that, the Count advised me to “be sure and catch next week’s show the night that it airs because there’s a good chance its going to be pulled.”
I was hoping that Count Gore would have had some advanced copies of his documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN to purchase but he said that attempts to get some in time for the convention had failed. “They told me they could get some to me on Monday, but that defeats the whole purpose,” he sighed. He did, however, sign a poster of the film for me as well as a photo of himself to pass on to Svengoolie. That autograph, along with Penny Dreadful’s, was shown on a recent Svengoolie mail segment.
After my conversation with Count Gore de Vol, I saw a professional television crew set up on my left. The night before, I noticed an elaborate booth being set up for “The Chiller Drive-in.” Now, with the addition of its host Wolfman Mac, it was fully operational and the perfect time for a visit….
(to be continued)
Meeting Elvira: the Mistress of the Dark had been one of my top goals for Horrorhound! I had been unable to attend the 2008 Flashback Weekend here in Chicago; an event in which she shared a stage with Svengoolie. Missing that historic moment was something I never forgave myself for and I was determined to finally meet her.
Elvira is, without question, the most recognizable horror host in the country. Whether she was selling products such as Coors Beer, making numerous media appearances, or even starring in her own feature film, she remains an indelible figure of 1980′s popular culture. Women admired her brassy, valley girl attitude while men liked her for entirely different reasons. Her low cut dress and celebrated cleavage were the source of many a man’s fantasies as well as providing her character with infinite laughs. Although I haven’t actually counted, I would venture to guess that her self-titled first film contained more “boob” jokes than any others to date.
After our local Son of Svengoolie was canceled, Elvira became our only option. Although nothing like Svengoolie, I found her highly entertaining. As a teenager, I purchased all of her “Elvira Midnight Madness” videos and still enjoy them today – easily watching SHE DEMONS and FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER about 50 times. I also loved her Halloween CD’s – “Elvira’s Monster Hits” and “Revenge of the Monster Hits.” Those tunes, particularly my favorite – “Monster Rap,” still receive regular play in my household throughout the month of October.
A friend of mine had shared a story of his meeting Elvira at a convention some years back. Apparently the line to greet her was so long she would sign autographs only and take no photos. Negotiation was futile as her female assistant had enough muscle tone to bench press ME. I had a lot of anxiety that history would repeat itself at Horrorhound, especially since it had attracted such a large number of visitors. I was relieved when I saw that the line was relatively short and that she was allowing photographs. Now was definitely my chance!
She was very friendly and took a couple photos with both my friend and I. Although I had missed her performing with Svengoolie LIVE, I did get to see the event courtesy of Rich airing it on his own show along with a photo taken of the two together. Since he was unable to attend Horrorhound, I asked Elvira if she would sign something I could send to him. It was at that moment when she looked up and noticed I was wearing my Sven shirt. She beamed a big smile and said, “I really enjoyed working with him.” I asked her if she was familiar with his work prior to Flashback Weekend and she responded, “Oh, definitely!” During his HD presentation of THE BIRDS, Svengoolie showed the autograph and mentioned the meeting (though he was off on the correct year).
Before leaving her booth, she delighted us by doing a video introduction for our home movie, introducing the “Dave and Jason Horrorhound video” as if it were her own. She ended with her famous exit phrase, “Unpleasant dreams….” while waving goodbye. You could not have asked for a better way to cap our first night at the convention!
On Sunday, right after the Vampira Tribute (an event I’ll be covering soon), we passed by her booth a second time. No longer in character, she was signing as her alter ego, Cassandra Peterson. We decided that the opportunity to get a photo both with and without make-up was too good to pass up. The line was short and we went back for another meeting.
After Horrorhound, I remember reading some complaints on the magazine’s fan forum regarding Elvira’s choice not to participate in the actual Tribute. Those aware of the history between these two women surely understood. Maila Nurmi (who had retained the rights to her Vampira character) had worked with producers in creating a “new” Vampira for the 1980′s. She shared the design of her black costume, details of her former set, along with her famous walk down a dark corridor to a Victorian couch. A short time later, the producers kicked her out of the project and created “Elvira.” This, naturally, caused great stress to Ms Nurmi who unsuccessfully tried to sue Cassandra.
Regardless of what your thoughts are on this matter, there are two things I believe; 1) those television producers definitely screwed over Maila Nurmi and 2) while Elvira was obviously modeled after Vampira, it was ultimately Cassandra’s personality that made the role so successful – particularly for an 80′s audience. I bumped into a fan of Vampira’s at Horrorhound and asked him, “What do you think Maila Nurmi would say if she knew Elvira was participating in her tribute.”
“Oh…,” the man said while removing his glasses to wipe a lens, “I imagine she’d be in her grave doing a complete 180 degree spin!” He then placed the spectacles back on, giving a faint smile. While some chided Elvira for being “disrespectful” for not attending the tribute with the rest of the hosts, I believe in lieu of the circumstances she was being more respectful by bowing out.
For my part, meeting Elvira remains one of my Horrorhound highlights. I am also thrilled at the news that Elvira will be returning to hosting movies with all new episodes of her “Movies Macabre” later this year. We can also look forward to new “monster” music courtesy of “Elvira’s Gravest Hits,” and see her appearance in a film called ALL ABOUT EVIL. Regardless of her roots, Cassandra Peterson is a force to be reckoned with, and the success of Elvira must be credited to her.
The main hall of the convention was immense. Locating the horror hosts required careful navigation through crowds of people to reach the opposite side. Once there, you’d find an entire section dedicated to them, along with a schedule roster listing their availability. As many of them were also filming excerpts for their own shows or even entire web casts, catching them all would require frequent visits.
The first host I had the honor of meeting was Doctor Destruction from Wisconsin. My friend and I saw him earlier that evening while dining at the hotel’s restaurant. It was actually a comical moment; in walked the good doctor wearing full make-up, along with his assistant, Eyegore (photo below). I should mention that Horrorhound was not the only convention taking place at our hotel. A smaller group of Veterans had also convened that weekend, creating a bizarre mix of gore hounds and conservative, senior citizens. When Doctor Destruction entered the restaurant, you could of heard a pin drop as all the elderly patrons suddenly stopped conversing and began staring, awestruck. To ease the tension, I called across the room, “Hi Dr. Destruction!” He nodded in return, though I have no doubt he’d grown used to being stared at.
Prior to formally meeting him in the main hall, I had watched some of his “Crimson Theater” shows and enjoyed them. I approached his booth and introduced myself. He was very personable and I was thrilled that, along with his autograph, he was selling copies of his work. He asked which of his episodes I had seen and I responded, VARAN THE UNBELIEVABLE. “Oh God, that’s so old!” he said. He pointed to a stack of DVD’s assuring me that, “These are much more current.” I went through them, buying just about every single title. After Horrorhound, I popped in one of these shows and was shocked at how much his program had evolved since VARAN. The sound quality had noticeably improved and he had expanded his empire from local public access in Kenosha, into Milwaukee, Racine, and Muskego via a local, commercial station.
Dr. Destruction has grown quite popular up in Wisconsin with a growing number of fans referred to as “Ghoulies.” He certainly warrants a closer look and will be featured in an upcoming Horror Host Spotlight.
The next host I had the privilege to meet was none other than Penny Dreadful herself! This New England hostess was the winner of the 2007 Rondo Award for “Favorite Active Horror Host(ess).” She was also one of six hosts featured in the latest issue of “Rue Morgue.” This is one witch whose ascension can not be credited to a mere broomstick! Smart and savvy, she has used more than an ample bosom to distinguish herself among her horror host peers (though tongue-wagging, male fans won’t be disappointed in that regard either). She will be covered in much greater detail in my next Horror Host Spotlight.
Penny was joined by her partner (both on and off the screen) the werewolf, Garou. They were both a lot of fun and delighted me by signing her season 5 box set of “Shilling Shockers.” Garou was a bundle of energy and actually very funny. After I left Penny, I was so enamored with meeting her that I left my autographed photo (duh)! True to his character, Garou tracked me down to bring it to me, which was very nice of him.
Prior to Horrorhound, I had watched Penny’s latest, 7th season. My kids and I decided to present her with a gift basket worthy of a witch; rubber creepy crawlies and potions courtesy of the local trick shop. I also included some Svengoolie clips I had burned onto a DVD and the WCIU promo card Svengoolie had signed for her the night before. She graciously reciprocated and that autograph (along with Count Gore de Vol’s) was aired on a recent episode of Svengoolie.
In an effort to support the “home team,” I wore my Svengoolie shirt that first night in the hall. This attracted the attention of another host, and fellow Illinoisan, The Bone Jangler. He was very warm and, despite being an imposing figure, immediately put us at ease. Clearly he loved his status as a horror host as well as being among his peers. I had recently watched his Web presentation of BLOOD FREAK and we talked about that as well as how disappointed I was at not being able to meet his co-host, Nocturna, who was appearing at another event.
Later, I saw The Bone Jangler conversing with the legendary, Son of Ghoul. He noticed me and used the opportunity to introduce me to his famous friend. I thought that was an incredibly nice gesture on his part and I was thrilled to meet the Ohio legend. Son of Ghoul is celebrating his 25th year on commercial television and has legions of Midwestern fans. I found him to be very down to earth and anxiously purchased a stack of his shows. I was alarmed when I heard that he recently suffered a heart attack , but am comforted at the news that he is recovering well. I know there are countless Ohio horror fans that feel the same way.
Others I met included Web hostesses Marlena Midnight and her co-host, Robyn Graves from “Midnight Mausoleum.” We also met Helena the Hussy. I had not viewed any of their works prior to meeting them but they eagerly sold me some episodes to rectify the matter.
As the night waned, I left the convention hall feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Little did I know, however, it was about to end on an even higher note. Exiting the hall, I noticed a VERY familiar face signing autographs to my right. My evening’s finale was about to be served up…..courtesy of The Mistress of the Dark!
(to be continued)
Hollywood, as well as fans of vintage science fiction film, suffered a loss yesterday as Patricia Neal, star of the 1951 classic THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, died of lung cancer at the age of 84. Although she starred in many films over the years including such titles as THE FOUNTAINHEAD, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S and IN HARMS WAY – genre fans will remember her most for her portrayal of “Helen” in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. Playing the sympathetic human to actor Michael Rennie’s Klaatu, an alien who arrives on Earth to warn humans against their propensity for violence, Helen becomes the unlikely heroine of the film. Few fans will forget her uttering the iconic phrase, “Klaatu barada nikto,” thus ending Armageddon at the hands of Gort, the killer robot . Another notable entry for horror fans was her supporting role as “Stella Hawthorne” in the 1981 movie GHOST STORY.
Though THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL was her only sci- fi film, this movie is viewed by most of us as being one of the all time best. Certainly not to be confused with the horrific remake starring Keanu Reeves.
Though she is no longer with us, that role alone has granted her certain immortality. Rest in peace. Ms Neal.
Dave A. & Dave F.
Slinking down a dark corridor, illuminated only by the glow of soft candles and dry ice, Maila Nurmi makes her grand entrance. In the unlikely event that her seductive gaze failed in seizing your immediate attention, there is no doubt that her skin tight black dress, accenting the quintessential “wasp” waist, certainly would.
Little did Los Angeles viewers of local channel, KABTV, know it at the time, they were not just witnessing the debut of Vampira but the birth of the American horror host. While the Finnish beauty stood alone in 1954, there were easily over 100 active horror hosts (including commercial television, cable, public access, and Web) at the time of her death in 2008.
Although her tenure was relatively short, her contribution to television can not be overstated. Whether you’re in Chicago (like myself) tuning in to Svengoolie every Saturday night, howling with Wolfman Mac in Michigan, or holding your sides from laughter while watching Zomboo in Reno, you are enjoying the fruits of Vampira. In March, 2010 a cavalcade of grateful, modern hosts descended upon the Indianapolis Horrorhound Convention to pay tribute to this remarkable woman.
For me, the timing could not have been better. It wasn’t long ago that I had been under the false impression that Svengoolie was the only horror host still active today. This past year I was able to experience the work of numerous others from across the country. They include men, women, vampires, witches, werewolves, and mad scientists. Horror hosting, it would appear, is the ultimate equal opportunity job. Some are creepy, some hilarious, and all are quite unique. Learning about them was not only fascinating but also highly entertaining.
The majority of horror hosts today are comprised of passionate individuals, taking their love of horror films to the “next level.” They return from their day jobs only to don make-up and adopt a clever alter ego. They are often joined by an attractive assistant, with their best friends acting as film crew. These dedicated folks air their shows via public access television. They can often be seen doing interviews at local conventions and eagerly selling the fruits of their labor. I always try to support them whenever I can which is probably why I now have over ten different versions of THE GIANT GILA MONSTER.
The rise of corporate television, and consequent near extinction of local channels, has all but killed the “classic” horror hosts that many of us were fortunate to grow up with. These are the ones that cause older fans, like myself, to develop lumps in their throats and become weepy with nostalgia at the mere mention of their names. Some have managed to survive the odds and are still standing today. They are the rarest and most influential in the horror host realm. They would include such titans as Svengoolie, Zomboo, and Son of Ghoul. Like their predecessors, these men are professional hosts working at local, commercial television stations. Their job security is based, like any network program, on ratings and viewership. This is no easy feat when one takes into account the movies that are available to them, and the fact that most people can readily access these same films from Netflix or the $1 DVD bin at Walmart.
Another emerging group of hosts are comprised of those who have taken their shows into the new age via weekly web casts. Classic host, Count Gore de Vol, has evolved into this medium. This year’s Rondo award winner for “Best Horror Host” has been presenting movies since the 1970′s. Consequently, he has developed a huge following of fans, one of which created an amazing documentary EVERY OTHER DAY IS HALLOWEEN. While watching that movie, I found it so fascinating that while I was enjoying the Son of Svengoolie in Chicago, kids my age in Washington DC were sharing the same devotion with Count Gore de Vol.
Representatives from all facets of hosting were represented at the Vampira Tribute. There was, however, one glaring exception. As I checked the Horrorhound website, I noticed that Svengoolie was not listed as one of the attendees. I started feeling like I was being disloyal celebrating horror hosts without my favorite one being present.
As fate should have it, Svengoolie was making an appearance at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo the day before Horrorhound. As a volunteer of the zoo, I had planned on attending the event anyway (raising money for “Vital Grounds” an organization dedicated to obtaining land for grizzlies) only to have my worlds collide with the announcement that Svengoolie was going to be our guest of honor.
I had met Rich Koz numerous times since 2003, but this visit was a bit different than the norm. This time I was seeking the blessing of my patron host, to fraternize with his peers (yes, folks, I was raised Catholic).
I researched some of the hosts attending Horrorhound and discovered that Penny Dreadful and Doktor Goulfinger were both fans of Svengoolie. When I met Rich at the zoo, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind signing one of his WCIU promo cards for these two hosts. I clenched my teeth, half expecting him to yell “TRAITOR!” while flicking the cards back at me. Instead, he was very happy to oblige. He instantly knew who both of these hosts were and I could tell by his facial expression that he liked them. He also told me he was sorry he was unable to attend the Tribute and wished me a great time. Phew!
My conscience clear, it was now time to meet some of the other hosts……
(To be continued…..)
Last March, I attended my first (but definitely not last) Horrorhound Convention. As mentioned in my previous post, Horrorhound Magazine definitely ranks as one of my favorites. Like FANGORIA, they sponsor their own conventions too - attracting some very impressive guests! For the past few years, Horrorhound has done two conventions annually; one in Indianapolis (March) and another in Cincinnati (November).
I had planned to attend the Ohio show last fall, intent on meeting Tom Savini and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. I ended up canceling these plans, telling myself that I would attend the March show, come hell or high water! I’m very happy that I did. This convention, without question, was one of the BEST.
Joining me on this trip was my old pal, Jason. Although neither of us were sure of what to expect, we did have very specific goals about what we hoped to accomplish. Jason (a musician) wanted to acquire some rare horror music – particularly the scores to some Italian, gore classics. I, on the other hand, was thrilled at the prospect of meeting a number of the horror hosts who would be attending (more on that next time).
Both of us wanted to add new reference books, along with some rare 1980′s slasher films, to our collections. We were also anxious to meet some of the featured celebrity guests. These would include George Romero, Tom Savini, David Hess, and Elvira – to name but a few. I am happy to report that we not only met, but surpassed, ALL of our objectives!
We belted KISS parody songs all the way to Indianapolis, making the trip seem MUCH quicker (though it’s a wonder I could still speak after growling like Gene Simmons for four hours). When we pulled into the parking lot of the Marriott hotel, we saw horror host, Karlos Borloff (obviously, another fan of Simmons) outside enjoying a cigarette. There was no doubt, we had come to the right place.
Tom Savini was the next celebrity we met. He was sitting at a table with an interesting statue of a zombie eating Cheerios out of George Romero’s head. I found Savini to be a bit of a cold fish during this first encounter. I’ve been a huge fan of Savini for over twenty years and was anxious to have an opportunity to meet and talk with him. I started by telling him how much I loved THE GRINDHOUSE films and how happy I was that they had made a feature film of one of its faux trailers, MACHETE. He didn’t give eye contact and responded with a deadpan, “yeah.” He was slightly more communicative when I asked him about the Blu-Ray release date for his version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990), stating that it should be at the end of this year after they add in some lost footage (cool!). Jason was gushing compliments left and right and he still barely cracked a smile. That initial meeting left me disappointed but, fortunately, the next meeting would be much better.
Our next celebrity encounter was with actor, David Hess. Hess starred in the original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT as well as the 1980 Italian alternative, THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK. He also starred in HITCH-HIKE, SWAMP THING, and the rare Italian slasher BODY COUNT.
Hess’ co-star in THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK was Italian actor, Giovanni Lombardo Radice. Despite not being a fan of horror (particularly gore) movies, Radice has the distinction of starring in some of the gruesomest films ever made. These include Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as Umberto Lenzi’s highly controversial, CANNIBAL FEROX. Hess was selling numerous photos at his table but the one that quickly caught my eye featured Radice and Hess together. It was more expensive than the other photos but was pre-signed by Radice himself. I was happy to add both autographs to my collection.
The 2010 Horrorhound Indianapolis Convention was a definite zombie paradise! On hand were plenty of representatives from Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD films. There was only one in attendance from his original, 1968 NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and that was Charles Craig. Mr. Craig played the radio announcer in the horror classic (as well as a zombie extra) and was happy to pose with us using an actual microphone as a prop. He was a very nice guy and seemed genuinely surprised at the attention he received. I just felt bad that he was stuck handling money transactions while his “assistant” snoozed away!
I thought it was great that the original DAWN OF THE DEAD’s, Mike Christopher, appeared at the convention wearing his Hare Krishna zombie costume. I couldn’t believe that after 30 years he looked exactly the same as he did in that movie! We grabbed a beer off of the table (belonging to his irked assistant) and handed it to him for the shot. I hope I can meet him again so he can sign this photo! Jason returned to his booth on Sunday and we snapped a shot of him without the make up too.
On Saturday, we stood in line for about four hours to meet George Romero. It was well worth the wait. Mr. Romero is every bit as warm and ingratiating to his fans as we had heard. He signed a DAWN OF THE DEAD poster for Jason and a DAY OF DEAD one for me (I prefer DAWN to DAY also but Jason was lucky to snag his last available poster). We asked Romero if he wouldn’t mind doing an intro for our home made video. He said he would but kept flubbing the lines. It was actually pretty comical. Each time he’d mess up, he’d insist on being given another chance to get it right. So we not only received a video plug from Romero, but also plenty of bloopers!
The convention was very crowded and I heard a lot of complaints from fellow participants. I’m not sure if it was our careful planning or just blind luck, but we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We drove home constantly uttering the phrase, “I can’t believe we did it!” It was just an amazing experience and one we’ll never forget. Believe it or not, you’ve only heard ”half” the story. This convention also featured a special tribute to the late Maila Nurmi - Vampira. It would see the largest gathering of horror hosts from across the country. Little did I know at the time, my Svengoolie-centric world was about to bust wide open!
It’s taken me a while to build up the strength to do it, but I have finally allowed my FANGORIA subscription to expire. I tend to be a loyal kind of a guy, often to a fault, and my relationship with this magazine was clearly becoming dysfunctional.
Back in the 1980′s it was edgy and one of the few periodicals unafraid to show a gore fan, like myself, the “good stuff.” Not merely content with graphic photographs, the magazine often had pull-out posters worthy of their own “NC-17″ ratings. When placed on your wall, they were guaranteed to not only startle any adults that wandered into your teen-aged sanctuary but also help secure your status as a bad-ass among your peers.
Aside from just the ascetics, there were also the wonderful articles spotlighting the kind of films I actually wanted to see. Films such as NIGHTBREED, TICKS, HALLOWEEN IV: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS, and CHILD’S PLAY were all films I remember being thrilled to first hear and read about in FANGORIA.
Unfortunately this success, along with its ascension into the mainstream, came with a price. The magazine once heralded by genre fans as being sharper than a slasher’s blade was quickly losing its edge. Gone were the days when it was “cool” to admit you read FANGORIA. In fact, in today’s world, it could be indicative that you are actually out of touch.
While the magazine can still boast plenty of gore and rotting flesh, it has become more pungent with the unmistakable odor of selling out. Most of its space is devoted to mainstream releases and made-for-cable films – whether they appeal to their fan base or not. It’s a clear sign of trouble when entire cover stories are dedicated to the TWILIGHT (“Beverly Hills 90210″ with fangs) movies, while a story regarding the legendary CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD gets bumped to page 36.
Fortunately, disenfranchised FANGORIA fans do have somewhere else to go. HORRORHOUND Magazine may not be chock full of blood, but delivers plenty of guts (that is, substance). This magazine not only pays homage to old VHS rentals and “out of print” titles many of us enjoyed in the 1980′s, it also spotlights potential classics of today. And for a fan of horror hosts, like myself, it’s nice to see another periodical (aside from good old Scary Monsters Magazine) actually acknowledge those personalities too.
The same can be said for Rue Morgue, another great FANGO-alternative. This magazine spotlights horror in all its mediums, be it movie, book, or art. Focusing on the the entire “culture” of horror and not just the film industry. The latest issue will feature an article on horror host, Count Gore De Vol and some commentary on 6 other hosts. I look forward to reading that article and seeing which hosts were chosen for this honor.
Maybe when FANGORIA loses enough loyalists, like myself, they will return to their bloody roots. I know, on occasion, I will peruse copies during future visits to the book store. I look forward to the day when I pop open the cover and find something that evokes the excitement it once could. In the mean time, I hope the growing popularity of Rue Morgue and Horrorhound won’t go to their heads, causing history to repeat itself. FANGORIA is one horror story that definitely does need a “remake.”
Back in the summer of 2007, a very successful viral campaign showing a teaser trailer for a film called CLOVERFIELD swept the Internet. It threw hard core Japanese monster fans into a frenzy anticipating the possibility that Godzilla, who was in cinematic retirement, might finally be making his illustrious return.
This was not to be the case, although the film’s creator, J.J. Abrams, was inspired by Godzilla during a visit to a Japanese toy store. While his son ogled the various Godzilla merchandise for sale, Abrams decided to set out and develop a giant monster Americans could call their own.
When the movie finally made its debut, most of the Godzilla crowd was less than impressed. This movie was nothing like a Godzilla film despite its influences and, although having the presence of a giant monster, displayed few elements of the Japanese Kaiju genre.
The movie is filmed with the same P.O.V. style used with great success in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and the Spanish horror film, REC (along with its less effective American clone, QUARANTINE). A camcorder, used to capture a “going away party” for a twenty-something year old moving from New York to Japan, ends up documenting the rampage of a mysterious creature and the chaos it creates. While the lead character searches for his missing love, he and his friends must dodge the monster, the military, and some hideous parasites that had hosted on the creature.
While I didn’t feel this movie was anything like a Godzilla film, it still struck a chord with me. It wasn’t until I attended a forum at the next G-Fest (Godzilla Festival) in Chicago that I understood why.
Before Godzilla became the campy “anti-hero” of the 1960′s and 70′s, he was a very different creature. Created out of Japan’s fear of the atomic age, GOJIRA made his debut in 1954 and was a huge success in its native land. Japan was the only nation that knew exactly what it meant to get hit with atomic power and there is tremendous emphasis on the destruction caused by this man-made “force of nature.” This was much more an element in GOJIRA than the typical giant monster movies playing in the US during this time. To the Japanese, this was far more than a mere drive-in, popcorn thriller. In many ways, it psychologically helped them work through what had actually happened to them as a nation.
With that in mind, I can not sit through a viewing of CLOVERFIELD without being reminded of the news and footage this country witnessed on September 11, 2001. I feel that the destruction, the confusion, and mass exodus from New York City depicted in this film, captures that event better than any movie made directly on the subject.
As stated by one of the G-Fest panelists, “Gone are the days when an American viewer can accept a giant monster toppling a building in three easy pieces, with little to no dust or debris. Americans now know exactly what a skyscraper looks like when it comes down and this film gives the viewer an idea of the chaos that erupted during that fateful day.”
Godzilla was in no danger of losing his title as “The King of Monsters” so far as that crowd was concerned and, in that regard, I am in total agreement with my G-FAN brothers and sisters. Godzilla has become so ingrained in our popular culture that he is as much ours as he is Japan’s. Even the suffix “zilla” has made its way into the American lexicon as something “great and terrible.” Shows like “Bridezillas” or the discovery of an overgrown, hybrid boar in Georgia, immediately named “Hogzilla” illustrate this.
No, my friends, CLOVERFIELD is definitely not our Godzilla. But he might, however, have been our GOJIRA.