Va-Va-Villainess: Rhonda Fleming

Published January 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Rhonda Inferno

She played feisty yet loyal lovers in a series of ‘50s action and adventure pieces like Yankee Pasha and Gunfight at O.K. Corral. Bob Hope also called upon her extravagant sense of humor in such projects as The Great Lover and Alias Jesse James. Her lush looks and rare beauty worked for her in other ways as well, giving the glorious Rhonda Fleming a delightfully tangible way to embody perfect visions of calculating evil.

InfernoLobbyEschewing her initial naivete – she and her mother had to look up what a nymphomaniac was when she was cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound – Fleming brought vivid life to a number of noir vixens. 1953’s Inferno capitalized on the 3D phase while also giving her the excuse to bring what was possibly her most evil character to the celluloid universe. As Geraldine Carson, this red headed goddess viciously plots to murder her husband, played with gruff humanity by eternally sympathetic tough guy Robert Ryan. Thus, her dry and dusty downfall here was relished by movie lovers everywhere.

rhonda-fleming-the-crowded-skyThe suave Efrem Zimbalist Jr. also was dealt a calculating blow when dealing with Fleming’s adulterous Cheryl Heath in The Crowded Sky. As a pilot facing a deadly incident, as this film is a precursor to the all star disaster films of the ‘70s, Zimbalist’s character also must deal with the emotional fallout of Cheryl’s heartless manipulations. Viewers, therefore, are not surprised when the film’s fadeout reveals his intents to leave her behind, no matter Fleming’s seemingly irresistible devious lusciousness.

Rhonda Gunfight


Horror Hall of Fame:


Besides her compelling work with Hitchcock in Spellbound, Fleming brought a steady heart and calm demeanor to her portrayal of the loyal yet doomed Blanche in 1946’s gothic horror The Spiral Staircase.

www.rhondafleming.com

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Shark Bait Retro Village: Crawlspace

Published February 28, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

“You took him to your bosom in some crazy menopausal fantasy!” – Arthur Kennedy (Albert Graves), Crawlspace

Years after dealing with the suave menace of Joseph Cotton’s worldly Uncle Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock’s acclaimed thriller Shadow of a Doubt, the underrated Teresa Wright encountered another malevolent presence in the 1972 Movie-of-the-Week Crawlspace

Here, the evil finds its walking form in Tom Happer’s destructively childlike Richard Atlee. Discovered hiding in the titular crawlspace of the home of Wright’s Alice Graves, Atlee soon provides the childless woman with a much wanted maternal outlet. The youth is similarly embraced by her husband, played by the compassionate Arthur Kennedy, and before long the trio starts to tentatively form a loving, if slightly awkward, family unit. 

But Atlee’s infantile anger issues ultimately reach an uncontrollable level when some bullying locals don’t take kindly to his odd demeanor and try to run him out of town. As things unravel, Wright’s expressive face and eyes tell a full story – one of sorrow and lost dreams…and one full of anger and fear once things beginning to cataclysmically unravel.

Although, it is often noted on database lists as one of the top early ‘70s television terror efforts, Crawlspace is ultimately more of a dramatic study of intolerance – with the uncompromising townsfolk here most probably drawing comparisons to the unrelenting MAGA rioters for contemporary viewers. 

Golden age movie fans may also want to look for this occasionally twisted exploration of loneliness, currently available on a number of free streaming services, for Wright’s truly sympathetic portrayal, as well. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Linda Purl

Published February 22, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

One perk of being a freelance entertainment writer is being able to spend a moment or two with performers who have meant something to you over the years. Illustrating this concept, I grew up watching actress Linda Purl on various movies of the week and television shows. As with many of the artists that I followed in my small-town youth, she personified hope. She was living proof that creative worlds existed far outside the seemingly narrow confines of my very sheltered, seemingly unworldly circumstances. Nicely, during my stint as the Midwest online theater editor for Sheridan Road Magazine, I was able to briefly interview Purl.

Of course, one of the negatives of journalism is that, over the years, certain online pieces are archived or erased completely from existence. This was the case with my mini-chat with Purl. But with another birthday approaching and the isolation of COVID still maintaining a strangle hold on most socialization efforts, my nostalgia has, unsurprisingly, been in full bloom. Thus, I have decided to revive that long ago conversation here.

This feels especially appropriate as Purl has given strong performances in two of my favored terror efforts. The clipped strength she provides as Nurse Sheila Monroe in the 1982 slasher effort Visiting Hours nicely balances out the misogynistically violent actions of Michael Ironside’s villain with a powerful feministic glow. Interestingly, she, herself, provided a sense of delicious glee, ten years later, in a role that completely reversed the more honorable characteristics of Monroe. As Norma in Body Language, she archly presents that character’s over-the-top psychotic energy, seducing and bludgeoning her victims with succinct forthrightness.

As a lover of the arts, I probably admire this fine performer’s dedication to traditional thespianism the most, though. Therefore, I am glad to present this exploration of her show business roots from the fall of 2012, here, in its (short but sweet) entirety.

From Sheridan Road Magazine – 10/2012.

“Meanwhile, the news of the Goodman Theatre’s (www.goodmantheatre.org) upcoming production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Diane Lane, is proving to be one of Chicago’s hottest tickets of the fall theatre season. Williams, best known for uncovering the emotional ravages of the heart, dealt with class issues in his prime works, as well. Sheridan Road was lucky enough to catch up with deservedly popular actress Linda Purl at the Hollywood Show (www.hollywoodshow.com) in Rosemont, this past weekend. The amazingly eclectic Purl, currently enjoying success with her versatile roles on The Office and True Blood, revealed she is a theater artist, at heart, in our brief conversation. The generous singer-actress also, mentions a very personal connection with Williams, one of history’s greatest playwrights.

Sheridan Road: It’s very apparent from your detailed, layered work on camera that the theater is very close to your heart.

Linda Purl: True. I grew up in Japan and my parents and I attended a lot of theatre. We would perform summer stock in the living room together – that was our family glue.

SR: That’s an amazing memory. Is there a particular play that you’ve done that stands out as a favorite?

LP: I have two. (Thinking a moment. Then, happily -) No. Three! There’s a beautiful play called the Baby Dance. We performed it in LA at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. We, eventually, got it to Off-Broadway.  Then there’s The Road to Mecca – with Julie Harris! – Which speaks for itself. Then – playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire.

SR: Tennessee Williams’ master work!

LP: I knew him. Tennessee Williams had lived with us, briefly, when I was a child. – It’s a perfect play, as close to doing opera as you can get with a drama.

SR: Were the emotional places that Blanche descends into challenging for you as an actress?

LP: The play supports you fully on your journey. But, it’s daunting – you have to dig down deep.

SR: How long did you perform the role?

LP: Three months…I wasn’t ready for it to close.

SR: That’s understandable. Anyone who was lucky enough to witness your perfect, tender take on the ballad “This Time Tomorrow” from Tom Sawyer on Broadway knows you are a cabaret artist of note. I understand that you have a new show opening this fall.

LP: Yes, Midnight Caravans…Travels Through the Great New York Nightclubs will open at Feinstein’s in New York City on September 30th. We have Tedd Firth, a brilliant young musical director, and Desi Arnaz, Jr, is flying into do percussion. He is just so talented, so gifted and I am so grateful that he willing to be a part of this project with me. The first night, a portion of the proceeds will go the Actors Fund, a charity that is very close to my heart, as well.

SR: A perfect example of how art can entertain and benefit society, as well. You have such a vast body of work – from mini-series to comedies to drama – and every person probably has their personal favorite. Is there a television or film project that is close your heart?

LP; I loved doing Like Normal People.

SR: The television film with Shaun Cassidy! You’re amazing in that. It’s, also, a project about the social injustice of the handicapped that everyone should check it out, if they haven’t!”

Fortunately, while it is too late to attend that version of Midnight Caravans, Purl does offer up a recorded tribute to that show at Linda Purl – An American Actress & Singer. You can sign up there to receive notifications of all her future projects, as well.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Carol Douglas

Published February 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

With her take on Doctor’s Orders, the well-rounded Carol Douglas found herself swimming through the upper echelons of disco ballrooms, worldwide. The popularity of that song earned her a special mention in the background of Saturday Night Fever, but her preceding stints on television shows like The Patty Duke Show and several appearances in off-Broadway productions already proved she was a talent to be reckoned with.

Nicely, one of her more interesting assignments during her ‘70s heyday was providing the dance tune for the truly eclectic soundtrack of Haunted, a dusty look at the revenge that a ghost of a Civil War witch takes on the ancestors of those who murdered her.

Like the film itself, which mixed such Hollywood notables as Virginia Mayo co-starring with such newcomers as Playboy model Ann Michelle, the music here features dramatic story songs like Billy Vera’s Indian Woman, Freya Cayne’s gooey love ballad A Distant Time and Douglas’ exuberant vocalizing on the club ready You Make Me Feel the Music.

Thankfully, for all fans of that Summers’ Era of Boogying, Douglas is still making those bright lights shine positively at Carol Douglas | Facebook.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Larry Kert

Published February 6, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

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The irreplaceably talented Larry Kert definitely knew the glaring disparities involved with a career in show business. Exploding into the pubic consciousness as Tony in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, he ultimately found that role would be the one that he was best known for despite decades of fine portrayals and other significant career highs.

Truly eclectic, he counterbalanced the glaring romanticism of his most famous work as the heavy drinking, casually seductive acrobat George in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an enjoyable 1962 horror outing from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Written by terror wunderkind Robert Bloch and featuring a notorious shock ending, this outing has a lot in common with such carnival themed shockers as Circus of Horrors and Berserk.

Paired with the voluptuous Diana Dors, who also played a similar role in the previously mentioned Berserk, Kert radiates with a subtle cockiness and bravado here. But as he discovers that Dors’ schemes contain an inherently murderous malice, this musically toned pro shows his character’s true humanity and concern, creating a complex portrait of a tortured soul.

While winning further acclaim for his work in such theater projects as Cabaret and Company, replacing both male leads in their initial runs to great renown, Kert was also spoken about highly by colleagues who admired his courage in being openly gay in a period of time when that was considered unacceptable. Although, it has been noted that he was called out by some closeted gay creatives for being too carefree and obvious about his orientation, a double-edged sword that he seemingly rode with great finesse and steely resolve.

Sadly, this strong willed and courageous performer lost his life to AIDS at the age of 60 in 1991. His memory, though, lives on through all the proud gay horror fans who appreciate his small contribution to the art of fear and the even bigger ones he made to our visibility in the fields of creativity and beyond.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Thelma Carpenter

Published January 29, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Broadway. Hollywood. The Apollo. Radio. From the recording studio to smoky night clubs, the diminutive, nearly indestructible Thelma Carpenter made her mark with sophisticated ease. Of special note, her 1963 album Thinking of You Tonight not only appealed to discerning jazz and sophisticated pop aficionados, but to directors like Bob Fosse and Sidney Lumet. These mavericks cast her in shows like Pippin and films like The Wiz, where her appearance as Miss One earned her a true-blue regent of fans.

Euro dynamo Jeannot Szwarz (Jaws 2, Supergirl, Night Gallery) also recognized her uniqueness by utilizing her talents as one of the mysterious Poole Sisters in 1973’s Rosemary’s Baby inspired The Devil’s Daughter. Paired with the equally interesting Lucille Benson (Private Parts, Halloween 2), Carpenter brings a unique and calming menace to her role as a friendly spinster who seems just a little too interested in the origins of Diane Show, an innocent career woman played by Belinda J. Montgomery.

Acting much like the clan of witches that terrorized Mia Farrow’s Rosemary Woodhouse in the Polanski classic, Carpenter and Benson are joined here by such show biz notables as Shelley Winters, Joseph Cotten, Dark Shadows‘ eternal Jonathan Frid and Abe Vigoda in making sure that Montgomery submits to her reluctant character’s predetermined satanic fate. Nicely acting off each other’s unique energy, this duo also invests their interactions with a quirky sense of humor, as well.

Indeed, Carpenter’s quiet weirdness ultimately causes Show/Montgomery to claim, as she herself so authoritatively did in the golden age of television, that You’re Driving Me Crazy!

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Va-Villainess: Toni Naples

Published January 23, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

If our 1990s’ video goddesses all have 1940s’ counterparts, then the take charge Toni Naples would definitely be the Ida Lupino of her era. Lupino, who began her career playing an Olympian centerfold in the “shocking” Pre-Code programmer Search for Beauty, was known for playing powerful women in film noir and WIP efforts. Similarly, Naples played a series of creamy bathing beauties and wisecracking police officers in such cult efforts as Chopping Mall, Hard to Die and Sorority House Massacre II. More importantly, though, Naples made a strong impression as a couple of sneering, manipulatively corrupt figures that endeared her to many Up All Night devotees and VHS box set collectors, as well.

First off, as Queen Morganna (above, middle) in the flesh strewn Jurassic Park inspired Dinosaur Island, Naples issues a series of challenging commands designed to present doom for a group of men that have landed on the Amazonian-like isle of women that she leads. As her character openly hopes for their deaths, the actress fills her portrayal with off handed cheer and a true sense of jesting evil. Of course, love ultimately changes the hue of her deep black heart, but Naples obviously has the most fun when Morganna is acting out her vengeance filled schemes with abandon.

Meanwhile, as Warden Helga in Fugitive Rage, this multi-credited exploitation diva brings a decisive abruptness to her interactions with the film’s heroine played by the athletic Wendy Schumacher. Nicely underplaying the sadism inherent in these roles, you could almost accuse Naple’s Helga of being a woman who simply plays by the rules given her – if it weren’t for the sadistic joy in which she partakes in the body cavity search that welcomes Schumacher’s defiant Tara McCormick to the beginning of her incarceration.

Strong, beautiful, demandingly independent and a little twisted – it’s no wonder that during her late-night heyday, Naples inspired straight and queer men alike to take up her wickedly joyful mantle – and happily bow to it.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sue Raney

Published January 17, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Produced by (then husband) Mel Ferrer to allow her to show a maturity in her characterizations, Wait Until Dark gained Audrey Hepburn an Academy Award nomination and eternally imbued her with a classy final girl sheen. As a determined blind woman who fights off a trio of off-kilter assailants, Hepburn definitively glows with strength and determination here.

Nicely, the film’s theme song by Henry Mancini, who composed Moon River, the tune made famous by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is also sensitively and powerfully rendered by acclaimed jazz and pop artist Sue Raney.

Raney, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite vocalists, made a number of acclaimed albums prior to working on the film, and his retained a placement as one of the most respected singers of professional musicians and sharp eared music fans alike, as well. She was obviously beloved by the rest of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, too, as witnessed by this fun featured segment on Dean Martin’s variety show.

http://www.sueraneysro.com/

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Dionne Warwick

Published January 3, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Proving herself to be the progressive Twitter queen of 2020, the beyond brand Dionne Warwick was formerly best known for her iconic run of silky ‘60s Burt Bacharach-Hal David hits. Several of those unforgettable songs have wound up in such horror and science fiction projects as The Birdbox and Black Mirror. Interestingly, Warwick also sang the (almost ironically romantic) theme song for the Morgan Fairchild slasher-cult classic The Seduction.

Warwick’s prime sense of fun also found its place in her quick appearance in the original Men in Black and with her funky take on songs like (the Luther Vandross produced) Got A Date.

2021 is sure to provide even more wonder from this 80-year-old dynamo. To stay on track, be sure to check her out at Music | Dionne Warwick (officialdionnewarwick.com) and Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) / Twitter.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Patti LaBelle

Published January 1, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

I have been binging the CW’s Supergirl lately. Now beginning Season Four, I think I am proficient enough in the world of otherworldly heroine-based antics to propose that if there truly were a magnificent extraterrestrial creature living among us in real time – it would most definitely be the divine Patti LaBelle.

From her electric ‘70s space age costuming to her otherworldly soprano accented vocalizing, she can even take such iconic performer identified songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow and make them totally her own.

It’s also been rumored that countless hardcore rock ‘n roll mommas have bowed down and backed ass first out of grungy nightclubs upon hearing Labelle’s raucous Love Symphony piped over the jukebox.

Indeed, I’d place my money on Patti being the only diva that could cancel out the shitstorm of 2020 with one energetic, elastic note, ringing in 2021 with resounding, enthusiastic might.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Kim Carnes

Published December 27, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Its always great when your beloved musicians get a little recognition – especially in your favorite film genre. Nicely, that is exactly what happened for me when 2015’s The Final Girls used Kim Carnes’ iconic version of Bette Davis Eyes as a pivotal plot device.

As a deep school fan of Carnes, though, I actually prefer the title track from what just may be her hardest edged album, Voyeur, to the more familiar strains of that Jackie DeShannon master work.

This year also marked the 35th anniversary of Barking At Airplanes, Carnes’ synth-pop masterpiece, the first recording that she had total control over as an artist. I have always cherished the spooky energy of that album’s Crazy in the Night, a memorable sonic moment of my youth (and beyond)!

But, with a (lucky) thirteen albums to her name, and tunes that range from deep country to masterful AOR balladry, this music biz dynamo surely has a sonic flavor to fit every hungry music fan’s colorful palate.

While it seemingly hasn’t been updated for awhile, you can definitely get a taste of that musical breadth at her website – Kim Carnes – Official Web Site.

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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