Thursday, February 26, 2009

IN REMEMBRANCE Robert Quarry (1925-2009) Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) Madhouse (1974) Return of Count Yorga, The (1971) Sugar Hill (1974) Wendy Richard (1943-2009) "Are You Being Served?" (1972-1985) "EastEnders"(1,405 episodes, 1985-2006)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"IF NOTHING ELSE, THERE'S APPLAUSE . . . LIKE WAVES OF LOVE POURING OVER THE FOOTLIGHTS!" Oh dear, I'm so unworthy but it seems I've won an award! The Premio Dardo Award! Given to me by my surrogate Daddy Pax over at horror blog "BILLY LOVES STU", the award is, well, in his own words: " The Premio Dardo Award is a nifty sort of meme thingy, in that the recipient of the award must then bestow the same upon five other bloggers". Ah, my readers! The great unblushed! You all make it worthwhile! After all, I hate this house! I hate these walls! I hate that sofa! The only part of this dump that doesn't make me puke is my loyal readers! And I promise you I'll never desert you again because after 'THE LAND OF CERPTS AND HONEY' we'll make another blog and another blog. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the blogosphere, and those wonderful people out there in the dark! All right, Mr. DeMille . . . I'm ready for my required 5 blog awards (and to be fair, I won't award Daddy Pax's blogs since he's already won and this could go around and around):
  • CHEEKS' THE DHARMA (AND GREG) PROJECT -- for copiously analyzing, explaining, extemporizing and theorizing each and every episode of LOST for us. There is always something you didn't know or something you didn't notice to be found here.
  • FLEAPIT OF THE MIND -- You can't beat the extensive knowledge and exquisite taste in all things cinema on Weaverman's phenomenol blog! Whether it's a Bergman classic or a trashy crime movie, the Fleapit is the place to be! We can only wish that, some fine day, his late lamented other blogs The Fleapit Annex and Ghosts in the Library will be resurrected.
  • PALEO-CINEMA -- Terry Frost spends his time, between herding his capuchin monkeys out of his estate's fountains, creating the greatest movie blog out there. Combining encyclopedic knowledge with personal reminiscences, Terry Frost's Paleo-Cinema debuts about every three weeks with another audio excursion into the world of film pre-1980.
  • SCRAPS -- My dear Star has been keeping journals of odd everyday events, quotable quotes and cosmic coincidences even BEFORE we got married! She has finally put it all into a blog which entertainingly shines the spotlight on us everyday humans and shows we are nothing as dull as mere "everyday"!
  • WE ARE THE MOVIES -- Aaron White provides a movie blog which displays all the love and energy of a true cinephile focusing on the movies and directors who make the most of their art!

THE BOWERY BOYS. BELA LUGOSI. AVA GARDNER. What do these seemingly disparate people have in common? The movie GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE, of course. Now, while The Bowery Boys (or the Dead End Kids or the East Side Kids or whatever you wanna call 'em) were no strangers to Bela Lugosi -- having co-starred with the master of menace in 1941's SPOOKS RUN WILD, the presence of Ava Gardner is indeed something of a shock. The young tobacco farmgirl was still a few years away from stardom when she appeared with the perennial New York delinquents and the Hungarian Horror Champ at low-rent Monogram Studios. GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE was Gardner's first real movie role (having appeared in a string of mostly uncredited bit parts beforehand) but Ava manages to show us quite a bit of screen presence in her very first scene in GHOSTS in which she's preparing for her wedding. This is a nice feat since Gardner's character of Betty is giving precious little to do in the screenplay. Basically, all she's required to do is get married to rather unremarkable actor Rick Vallin (whose would go from this picture into another "forgotten horror" called "ISLE OF FORBIDDEN SINS" aka "MONSOON" as well as an appearance in the 1949 serial "BATMAN AND ROBIN").
Vallin's character Jack is marrying Betty and planning to honeymoon in their newly-purchased home in the "soup herbs" (a Brooklynese malapropism meaning "suburbs"). Unfortunately for the happy couple, the house purchased is next door to a huge and apparently haunted house in which strange activities, screams and comings and goings have been observed. The cause of all this hoodoo is the fact that Nazi spies have taken up residence in the "haunted" house led by bossman Emil (Bela Lugosi). A henchman offers Jack double the money he paid for it to buy back the house next door (in order to avoid any possible snooping undermining the Nazi cell) and Jack reluctantly accepts. Add into the mix Jack's dopey brother Glimpy (Huntz Hall) and his friends the "East Side Kids" including the English-language mangling Mugs (Leo Gorcey) and standout comic presence Scruno (former "Little Rascal" Sammy Morrison) and what we have is a rather above-average "old dark house mystery comedy" from Monogram.
While the honeymoon couple are away, the East Side Kids decide to head on over to the new house and check things out. Naturally, as happens in these movies, the boys mistake the spooky old mansion as the house bought by Jack. Inside they discover the place dust-covered and dilapidated and the boys can't understand why Jack would buy THIS spider-trap instead of the homier house next door. Being delinquents, they decide a nice thing to do would be to go next to to the smaller house (which still has the "for sale" sign out front declaring it to be fully furnished) and steal all the furniture for the honeymooners. They traipse all the furniture from the couple's ACTUAL house over to the spooky "haunted" house -- all the while Lugosi and his Nazi henchmen observe from behind the cut-out eyes of paintings and inside secret passages. This provides one of the films best comic scenes as Scruno is dusting the living room, Lugosi decides to stand behind a framed hole in the wall and pretend to be a painting. The copious dust thrown about by Scruno naturally causes Lugosi to sneeze; it is in this scene that Lugosi startlingly manages to get his "Oh Shit!"-sounding sneeze past the sleeping censors! While Scruno is alternately confused and scared by the painting switching from Lugosi and back, Glimpy is also having painting troubles -- a portrait of Napoleon alternately takes off his coat, puts it back on and then appears in long underwear. Hey, who said Nazis didn't have a sense of humour?!? The boys also discover a printing press for Nazi propaganda; this printing press makes several trips back and forth between houses. Again thinking the haunted house belongs to Jack, the East Side Kids carry the printing press over to the smaller house so Jack won't get into trouble. Naturally, the honeymoon couple returns to find the police at their REAL house ready to cart Jack away for espionage.
Naturally, GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE isn't supposed to be believeable or realistic. It's simply what it is: a light mystery comedy with appropriate World War II patriotism. As such, it actually plays quite well and holds the interest throughout; never becoming tedious during it's brief hour running time. Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and Sammy Morrison are all genuinely funny during the film while the rest of the East Side Kids are merely there for the ride. One gem of a line occurs when Gorcey and Hall are trying to convince the local police to show up for the wedding -- in order to bring some "class". Gorcey lies to the police chief and tells him that he heard a mob from a neighboring town is rumoured to be showing up during the wedding so the police should be there to ensure order. When the police chief asks what mob, Gorcey says he isn't sure. Huntz Hall chimes in with "I think it's the Katzman mob". Sam Katzman, of course, is the prolific poverty row producer who just happens to be co-producing this very film! Gorcey's Brooklynese malapropisms actually don't grate on the nerves while Huntz Hall and Sammy Morrison make a surprisingly light and funny physical comedy team. At one point in the film, both Hall and Morrison together literally run up a wall; resulting in Hall sitting crossed-legged on top of a wall-mounted moose's antlers! Ava Gardner looks stunning as always and does her damnedest to make herself memorable in an underwritten part. The great Lugosi, of course, looks to be having the time of his life; but he also is given surprisingly little to do. There is also a small appearance by character actress Minerva Urecal (THE CORPSE VANISHES and MURDER BY INVITATION) as Nazi Emil's sinister housekeeper. Director William Beaudine (who helmed everything from Charlie Chan movies to VOODOO MAN to the Mantan Moreland "all-black cast" film LUCKY GHOST) keeps things chugging along nicely. And no . . . there are absolutely no ghosts -- loose or tied up -- in the entire film. All in all, GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE is a much better way to spend your time than sitting through KUNG FU PANDA!

Monday, February 16, 2009

THE ULTIMATE PARTY TAPE "HORRIBLE HORROR" WAS RELEASED BY GOODTIMES VIDEO IN 1986 STARRING THE COOL GHOUL ZACHERLEY HIMSELF. Now, I don't know what kind of party has this tape playing in the background but THAT'S a party I wanna attend! Unfortunately for all of us, the nearly 2 hour tape is not available on DVD and, more to the point, it wasn't even released in high quality SP (the fastest VHS speed) but was in the slower, lower quality LP or even (gasp) EP speed! But the gloriousness of pure gold glisters no matter how muddy. This was a tape I simply adored from the first moment I clapped eyes on it -- I believe, in a big bin of video tapes at K-Mart! Clutching it to my worm-infested bosom, I flew home on pterodactyl wings and popped it in the VCR.
Naturally, the reasons for the tape to exist are two-fold: firstly to provide a forum in which to sell a passle of trailers and public domain horror movie clips. But even better was the chance to see the great Zacherley -- granddaddy of all TV horror hosts -- once again in harness and in ghoulish action for more than a few minutes. This is a rare opportunity to see Zach do his classic stuff -- and in COLOUR yet -- something which hadn't been seen since his late 50's-early 60's heyday first on Philadelphia local TV (as Roland) and then (as Zacherley) after his move to New York City television. Zacherley is in top form on HORRIBLE HORROR as he revives and elaborates on his classic schtick: electrocuting wind-up monster toys, jousting with a stuffed vampire bat (uh, it's a girl...), dissecting his patented green jello amoeba or probing a cauliflower brain. Zach even revives his original concept of sneaking himself into the movies we're watching. . . as well as providing a nice cameo appearance by his wife "My Dear" in the box. Zacherley even provides a priceless television appearance from the 1950's in which, apparently on Pat Boone's TV programme, the Cool Ghoul serenades him outside a window in the rain. This is the kind of archival footage of Zacherley we didn't get to see until the release of THE ZACHERLEY ARCHIVES on VHS and, later, DVD.
SIDEBAR: When I met the great man himself several years ago, Zacherley kindly autographed my DVD of THE ZACHERLEY ARCHIVES in his own inimitable way: "From Zacherley and all the creeps in Transylvania". Take a gander below.
So, what is all this getting at??? Is HORRIBLE HORROR the best video in the entire world. Well, of course it is. How could something that combines the greatest horror host ever with piles of horror and science fiction clips be anything BUT?!?!?
And what about those aforementioned clips? Well, as I said, they are culled from scads of movie trailers and public domain monster movies. However, the conceit of the HORRIBLE HORROR video is that Zacherley, after about 500 years or so, has been evicted from his Transylvanian castle so he has to gather together all his treasures and move out. Many of these treasures, of course, are film reels which the Cool Ghoul thankfully plays for us (with the help of his unseen, groaning assistant Ygor). Ygor and Zacherley has thankfully compiled the clips into loose categories such as "Creatures I Have Known And Loved", "Dracula's Home Movies" and "Special Effects...or Is It Special DEFECTS?!".
Just listen to this list of horror and science fiction fun on display in HORRIBLE HORROR: so-called Dr. Radford Bain of the Information Service warning us of the terrible threat of THE KILLER SHREWS -- even though those on display look about as dangerous as hamsters, THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE complete with facial bandaging which looks more like a urinal, Mexican monster BRAINIAC sucking the brains out of a pudgy-fingered ingenue, a slightly-booze-soaked Lon Chaney Jr. attempting menace as THE INDESTRUCTIBLE MAN, Jonathan Haze feeding a severed hand to his bloodthirsty plant in LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, intergalactic invader Ro-Man (with the gorilla suit and wacky diver's helmet) carrying off a damsel who seems more inclined to giggle than to scream, a young Peter Graves trying to take an alien with ping-ping ball eyes seriously in KILLERS FROM SPACE, Bela Lugosi pretending he's a wall painting and sneezing on one of the Dead End Kids -- of course, Bela made his sneeze sound distinctively like "Oh Shit!", Mantan Moreland stealing the entire movie KING OF THE ZOMBIES away from the rest of the cast by being "loquacious", evil overlord Vultura twisting the nipple-knob of a leftover PHANTOM EMPIRE robot in CAPTAIN VIDEO, MASTER OF THE STRATOSPHERE, Ray "Crash" Corrigan (with a fin on his head) strapped to the front of a vehicle of death (driven, in fact, by a young bit player named Lon Chaney Jr.!) in THE UNDERSEA KINGDOM, and Edward D. Wood Jr. making himself happy with "a pair of lace undies" in GLEN OR GLENDA.
HORRIBLE HORROR also contains some more rarities which I've not seen practically anywhere else. Besides the aforementioned Zacherley TV appearance on The Pat Boone Show there is also Barry Atwater (the vampire in the original telefilm THE NIGHT STALKER) in full Dracula gear leading us in the taking of "The Oath" to the Count Dracula Society: "I do hereby swear, aver and depose that I will hereinafter assist all the efforts of the Count Dracula Society . . . so long as they remain consistent with the loyalties of a good American . . . and in sign whereof I will receive all priviledges thereto, so help me Christopher Lee!" This rarity alone, which I've never seen ANYWHERE else, is worth the (small) price of admission. Also present are the classic bloopers on the set of ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, Rod Serling's "raspberry blooper" from THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Bela Lugosi's early 30's "Intimate Interview" as well as his classic assault on Betty Boop ( have booped your last boop!"), a rare 1950's Bela Lugosi TV appearance on YOU ASKED FOR IT! performing his "weird vampire bat illusion", as well as scenes from early TV programmes like CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, FLASH GORDON and the Universal/Hammer Films co-production TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN. From the sound of things, you might think the King of Horror Boris Karloff doesn't appear in this video; well, he certainly does (ranging from the classic chess "confrontation" against Bela with the skull on the mantlepiece between them to DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME. However, probably owing to Karloff's slightly better fortune in the movie business, he doesn't appear as much as Lugosi or even Chaney Jr. This despite the relative wealth of Karloff poverty row material from THE APE to the Mr. Wong pictures to FRANKENSTEIN 1970 to VOODOO ISLAND to THE DEVIL COMMANDS or any of the Columbia "mad doctor" movies. Ah well, that's show-biz!
HORRIBLE HORROR is so good (if you're a true horror and science fiction fan) that it leaves you wanting A LOT more! The producers could have made the video twice as long and we STILL would be asking for more. I've always dreamed of being given the chance of editing in EVEN MORE old clips. After all, there is SO MUCH still missing -- where are THE SLIME PEOPLE, for instance, or any of the Santo movies, THE PHANTOM FROM 10,000 LEAGUES, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, DEMENTIA 13, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, MR. WONG DETECTIVE or any of 100 I could mention which are not included herein. Someone should have commissioned a sequel -- HORRIBLE HORROR 2 -- long before now. With Zacherley himself still making the trek to every Chiller Theater convention in his early 90's, there is still a chance, of course, but methinks the powers that be have missed the boat. But at least we have the wonderful wackiness of HORRIBLE HORROR (as well as THE ZACHERLEY ARCHIVES dvd) to revisit again and again. And again!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BLOSSOM DEARIE (1926-2009). We've lost one of the last from the golden age of jazz vocalists; Blossom Dearie (and yes, believe it or don't but that is her REAL name and not a stage name) was known not only for her very distinctive and subtle voice but also for her exemplary piano playing. No less a vocalist than Tony Bennett described her appeal this way: "Why are Dearie's talent and voice timeless? It's because she happens to be a well-trained musician. Like Nat King Cole, she has the ability to play a pretty mean piano, and she never compromises her taste, giving her audiences nothing but top quality." Alexander Gelfand is quoted in the liner notes to Blossom Dearie's "Diva Series" cd this way: "Her soft, girlish voice veers deliciously between guileless and guileful, innocent and worldly, effortlessly combining charming naivete with a knowing wink." Blossom Dearie has always been a particular favourite here in The Land of Cerpts and Honey not only because she sang two songs for the 1970's SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK cartoons (Figure Eight and Unpack Your Adjectives) but also because Blossom Dearie simply recording the definitive version of the Rodgers and Hart classic "Manhattan". Join us over at our sister blog BATHED IN THE LIGHT FROM ANDROMEDA where you can hear an audio tribute to the late Blossom Dearie.

Monday, February 02, 2009










HAVING FUN WITH THE GANG FROM THE COMEDY OF TERRORS: Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price!