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: As The World Turns (The Willows)

Published May 9, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

From satanic possessions and trouble making clones to distressed heroines being buried alive, daytime dramas have been utilizing elements from horror (and science fiction) novels and films for decades. During the ’60s and ’70s (and into the ’80s and ’90s), their daily format also bested all suspenseful movie of the week offerings by being able to truly concentrate on in depth plotlines that often took months to unfold. This, ultimately, allowed for layered character development and truly intense homages to other works. As a specific case in point, the classic Procter and Gamble soap As The World Turns, carried out an elaborate reconstruction of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca throughout the many months of 1979.

Here, though, it was Eileen Fulton’s worldly and often notorious villainess Lisa who was offered up as the stand-in for du Maurier’s innocent Mrs. de Winter. Known for her romantic manipulations, often involving the show’s steadfast Dr. Bob, this long running antagonist found herself on the receiving end of some dark and stormy conniving during this gothic adventure which, proudly and lovingly, carried the huge imprint of its source material. 

Finding romance with a seemingly kind, but often volatile author named Bennett (Doug Higgins), Lisa ventured away from Oakdale, the standard suburban setting of the melodrama, and settled into a remote country lodge known as The Willows with her new paramour. But Hester (Ann Stanchfield), Bennett’s demandingly loyal housekeeper, and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ruth, Bennett’s adulterous former wife, almost immediately started playing havoc with the new calm in this beloved anti-heroine’s life. Slashed family portraits, hidden hallways and candle drenched evenings soon became the norm for her – and as marriage bells started to knoll for this hopeful yet mismatched twosome, acquaintances, including one of Bennett’s publishing buddies, began to meet their bloody ends. 

With the serial’s writing staff smartly playing up the fact that either suspected party – Bennett, a man capable of blind rages and compulsive jealousies, and Hester, a woman radiating with a quiet and shrewd devotion to her handsome employer – could be the one responsible for trying to secretly dispatch with one of its most popular creations, Fulton was able to add softer layers to her often acerbic character. Radiating with curiosity, fear and sorrow, she encapsulated why audiences developed such a strong attachment to her nuanced dramatis personae, a situation that continued until the show’s sad ending in September of 2010. 

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jeri Southern

Published May 2, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Late fall and early spring often find me, in some sharp sense of contemplative bliss, immersed in the music of numerous husky voiced jazz dames. This year, as the March days in Chicago alternated between gray & windy and unseasonably warm, I took special comfort in the seemingly casual, throaty stylings of Peggy Lee, Chris Connor and Jeri Southern. Their smoky tempos seemed to perfectly echo the prospect of winter’s slow yet hopeful fade.

Southern, a favorite of Frank Sinatra who retired in her late 30s due to paralyzing stage fright, became my favored discovery. Her albums like Southern Comfort not only feature amusing titular word play, but tend to highlight obscure, inventive material. Her take on Cole Porter’s well-known Dancing on the Ceiling, meanwhile, is near perfection – an expert blending of smart tune and adept stylist. 

Of course, I was soon researching her life and happily discovered that her filmography included vocalizing on A Taste of Ivory, the theme song from the twisted 1978 psychological horror show Die Sister, Die. While that performance is difficult to track down, her simple, haunting version of Every Time We Say Goodbye is sure to delight both lovers of the finely romantic and the lushly gothic, as well.

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

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Great Performances in Horror: Dinah Shore

Published April 25, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Okay, okay…it’s not necessarily a great performance per se, but the affable Dinah Shore definitely adds a sunny and unique presence to the 1979 TV Terror Death Car on the Freeway. Nicely, her take on helpful tennis pro Lynn Bernheimer also ties in a bit with the lesbian community as it references the famed singer-actress’ athletic ties and her (in namesake) involvement with The Dinah, a queer woman’s golfing event and music celebration. 

With this particular outing, though, Shore’s Bernheimer is more concerned with a specific divinity in danger as opposed to a Sapphic sisterhood as a whole. Here, Shelley Hack, in the same year that she joined Charlie’s Angels as the ultra efficient Tiffany Welles, plays an ambitious news anchor named Jan who believes that her coverage of a vehicular based serial killer may be her ticket to the big time. Fighting disbelief from her peers and sexism from up on high, she revels in the support that Shore’s character, one of the titular marauder’s first intended victims, unilaterally gives her. Indeed, with warm southern twang fully intact, the former Frances Rose* pops up several times to add pertinent details to the puzzle that Hack is slowly solving. Shore’s natural, feministic glow invigorates Hack’s portrayal and when the younger woman  finally goes after the killer, fender to fender, it is not surprising due to the atmospheric tutelage that she has received. 

Directed by famed stunt coordinator Hal Needham, Death Car ultimately doesn’t have the stylistic tension of Duel, the famed Steven Spielberg piece about a maniacal trucker, but there are a number of shackle raising chases involving such familiar horror faces as Dallas’ Morgan Brittany (The Initiation of Sarah, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat), Tara Buckman (Silent Night, Deadly Night, Night Killer) and Nancy Stephens (Halloween, Halloween H20).

Significantly, Shore, whose music has been used in various episodes of American Horror Story, Fear the Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries, continued to appear in unusual and cult-centric projects for the rest of her career. Many youngsters learned of her through her participation in a holiday episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse and she, gladly, welcomed such alt-culture, heavy duty guests as Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Andy Kaufman and Tina Turner on her various talk shows over the years, as well.

*Frances Rose was the name that Shore was given at birth.

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Agnes Moorehead

Published April 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Noted for her acerbic antagonism as Endora on Bewitched, arguably her most famous role, the significant, always striking Agnes Moorehead resonated with a much more slithery, maliciously evil context in the noted 1947 film noir Dark Passage. Indeed, Madge Rapf, the character portrayed by Moorehead, undermines and manipulates the lives of Humphrey Bogart’s maligned Vincent and Lauren Bacall’s overly supportive Irene with such devious finesse that, even at the film’s semi-happy fade-out, their lives have been irreparably altered by her sadistic manipulations.

In fact, with the strategic aid of Bernard Newman’s glorious costumes, Moorehead’s Rapf may be one of celluloid’s most notoriously nasty characters. And while some casual fans may be surprised at the ferocious energy that she ultimately exhibits here, she is definitely this film’s most uninhibited pleasure.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

With credits like The Bat, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Night Gallery and Dear Dead Delilah, this one of a kind performer has irrevocably earned her stripes as a dignified goddess of terror, 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: Hadda Brooks

Published March 21, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


She was justifiably crowned “Queen of the Boogie” due to her rambunctious, athletic piano stylings and her hit song Swingin’ the Boogie, but the irreplaceable Hadda Brooks also knew how to work a ballad down to its silvery existential core. 

Long beloved by music connoisseurs, Brooks is probably best remembered by genre fans for her appearance in the cult science fiction thriller The Thirteenth Floor. But this beloved artist also made her mark in such TMC classics as The Bad and the Beautiful, In a Lonely Place and the above referenced screwball comedy Out of the Blue

With these various sonic displays as evidence, it would be wonderful if, much like in the mid-8os when wily jazz promoters brought her out of retirement, modern aural punks would prime themselves to rediscover this eclectic, genre bopping wonder —- and place her on the charts of cultural importance once again.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted To: James Mitchell

Published March 14, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan


Not only did the handsomely eclectic James Mitchell enact one of soap opera’s most hiss worthy villains for decades, but this lucky performer was also one of the cast of thousands, as that film’s tag line so boldly highlighted, to appear in the 1943 version of Phantom of the Opera


Granted, in Phantom, the always attention stealing Mitchell appears for mere moments as a reporter logging the details of the catastrophes that have haunted a local music hall. Thankfully, his turn as the diabolical Palmer Cortlandt on All My Children was a bit more substantial. There, his character continually made life hell for his often revolving spouses and judiciously tender offspring – all storyline subtext that Mitchell fully embraced, resulting in 7 Emmy nominations for the dedicated actor. 

Mitchell, who seemingly never hid his devotion to costume designer Albert Wolksy, his romantic partner for 39 years, also held dear his substantial pedigree as a theatrical artist. Humbly describing himself as an actor with strong movement skills, he actually was one of the Broadway stage’s most powerfully athletic dancers. Those who saw him perform never forgot it and his close collaborators included such mavericks as Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion.

With DeMille, he famously essayed Dream Curly in the ballet sequence of 1955’s Oklahoma, where one of his partners was the beefy, animated character actor Rod Steiger. 

Thankfully, just like in that particular scenario, Mitchell always seemed to come off as unique and individualistic. So, while his one Gothic credit might only encompass a couple of minutes of screen time, the breadth of his career definitely speaks to the multiple achievements that one of our queer brothers could make – justifiably earning him a place in every gay horror lover’s heart forever. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and PINK Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Betty Hutton

Published March 7, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

While definitely played for comic effect, the effervescent Betty Hutton gamely enacted out some prime soap opera villainy against herself in 1942’s Here Come the Waves.

Here, playing twin sisters, Rosemary and Susan, Hutton is given ample opportunity to perform her rubbery, vaudeville loving heart out. In the interest of celluloid intrigue, the two characters she portrays are, naturally, radically different. The (12 minutes) older Rosemary presents as a stern and uncompromising force of practicality. Meanwhile, the (slightly) younger Susan is the loudly scattered, romantically ambitious one.  While Susan’s outlandish crush on pop singer Johnny Cabot (Bing Crosby) drives the majority of the plot here, her manic overtures, ultimately, repel him. The initially uninterested Rosemary, though, quickly steals his heart.

Catching onto the duo’s attraction to each other, the devious Susan decides to take matters into her own hands. Dressing up exactly like her look-a-like sibling, Susan arranges for Bing’s shocked Cabot to catch her in another’s embrace – momentarily derailing his relationship with Rosemary.

But by the closing frames, order has been restored with the chastened Susan realizing that Cabot is actually perfect brother-in-law material and that her own yearnings have found their unsurprising outlet with Sonny Tufts’ Windy, Cabot’s rascally friend and her co-conspirator in crimes of the heart.

Meanwhile, more information about Hutton and her extraordinary life and career s available at https://www.bettyhuttonestate.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 begin 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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