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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Va-Va-Villainess: Claire Trevor

Published July 6, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

My mom has never wished me a Happy Pride Month or asked if I am dating anyone. Her husband believes Black people would avoid getting shot if they just did what law enforcement figures asked them to do & they both vote via the Pro-Life agenda. Not surprisingly, our phone conversations are laced by all that goes unsaid, the overpowering dearth that comes from avoiding topics that would surely destroy the hesitant calm that it has taken us years to achieve. But my mom loves shopping for me for Christmas and my birthday. It’s a superficial connection for sure, but you take what you can in a world that is ever-spinning in a chill glow of uncertainty. We even have a sweet tradition established now – I pick an old school film diva and ask for books & films on them. She will, happily, read up on each of my choices and then spend quality time deciding what items I would like best from the lists I provide her. It’s exactly what any proud momma would do for her very gay, cinema obsessed son & it provides a light in the midst of all that is murkily unexpressed. I can’t produce a left wing glow from my maternal entity, but I can squeeze out a bit of appreciation for Claire Trevor.

Of course, Trevor, my latest choice, is well known for her heartbreaking Academy Award winning work as a drunken, aging gangster’s moll in the classic noir Key Largo. I also love her effortlessly comic antics in a movie called Borderline with Fred MacMurray. There, as a policewoman trying to infiltrate a criminal’s lair by posing as a dance hall girl, she is a bundle of perfectly timed awkwardness. 

But her gritty, no-nonsense demeanor also lent itself well to acts of ruthlessness. 1938’s The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse found her playing a more lighthearted figure of crime – the leader of a gang of thieves whose affection for Edward G. Robinson’s academically awkward title character leads to her downfall.  But the 1951 sports-noir Hard, Fast and Beautiful! definitely utilized her knack for portraying women with sophisticated, underhanded charms. As Millie Farley, the mother of a female tennis prodigy, Trevor radiates with a seductive sense of calculation. She obviously knows how to subtly bring out all of Farley’s ambitious qualities. In fact, she positively brims with truth as she enacts Farley’s seduction of prestigious figures and calculated justifications for compromising her talented offspring’s future for a bit of cash and extra press attention. 

Not surprisingly, Trevor is directed here by Ida Lupino, the actress-writer, who definitely played her own share of bad ladies in gothic melodramas and crime flicks, as well. According to Derek Sculthorpe, Trevor’s biographer, the two strong willed creatives occasionally had artistic differences on set, but they respected each other – and happily worked together again on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. With those successful collaborations behind them, it’s unfortunate that the two never made another film together. Millie is one of Trevor’s most popular creations and it would have been nice to see her play more characters with this level of determined wickedness. 

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

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Great Performances in Horror: Tina Louise

Published July 5, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Now look…it’s not our lifestyle you want to ask about, is it?!  – Hilda (Tina Louise)

Inspired by the tragic murder of Kitty Genovese, 1975’s Death Scream found Joe Dante regular Belinda Balaski (above left, below) enacting an almost 10-minute death throes as the doomed Jenny Storm. Utilizing the real-life circumstances of Genovese’s lesbianism, screenwriter Sterling Silliphant soon introduces Storm’s former paramour Hilda Murray to the proceedings. Interestingly, Murray is played Tina Louise (above left, top…), who makes good on her promise to leave Gilligan’s Island’s Ginger behind here. She plays Murray as if on the edge of a taut wire, perfectly enunciating the character’s frustration over the bigotry she receives over living her life as a proud gay woman during that period of time. It’s a performance filled with both rage and weariness and Louise steals the screen every moment that she appears – even when paired against such notable co-stars as Raul Julia.

Despite her fine work here, Louise’s other genre credits have definitely received more attention in the media, as this project, hitting the airwaves a bit too soon after the Genovese tragedy, seemed to leave a sour trace in the viewers’ imaginations. The feminist terror piece The Stepford Wives was definitely brightened by her presence – while she also gave her all with pay day jobs in Z-Grade enterprises like Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby and Evils in the Night (below). Still, as with most glamour queens, her talent has often been given secondary importance to her cheekbones, an error that is definitely highlighted when one considers her passionate and committed performance of Hilda all those years ago.

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

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Dagger Cast: Pride Month

Published July 1, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Waving our rainbow flags proudly, the team at Dagger Cast celebrated Pride 2022 with two amazing guests – LGBTQIA historian Owen Keehnen and maverick storyteller Sarah Yeazel. Below are brief descriptions of each episode and links for viewing.

As if watched over by the incisive, kick-ass celluloid trio of Adrienne Barbeau, Karen Black & Lynda Day George, writer-historian (and consummate horror lover) Owen Keehnen has been one of Chicago’s most colorful and important chroniclers of the LGBTQIA experience for decades now. From his work with the iconic powerhouses of ACT UP in the ‘80s to his current passionate pursuit of chronicling the history of both the Belmont Rocks and Man’s Country, Keehnen is the very essence of Pride in action. Thus, Dagger Cast is thrilled to have him as our guest this June. Please join us as Owen regales us with tales of such iconic Midwest drag personas as Miss Tillie & The Bearded Lady and explains why Barbara Hershey is the perfect scary movie goddess for his (and every) generation!

and if that wasn’t enough for your ears and eyes to take inDagger Cast is further honoring Pride Month by conducting a fun and informative chat with non-binary writer extraordinaire Sarah Yeazel. Yeazel is a great storyteller and their remembrances about coming out via Kathy Bates pin-ups & reflections on Shelley Winters’ bad lesbianism in What’s The Matter with Helen? are not to be missed!

Thanks for watching…and until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Perks of the Trade – Phaedra

Published June 28, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Perks of the Trade looks at the varied filmography of Anthony Perkins, the queer performer forever associated with Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest onscreen killer, Norman Bates.

I was 19 years old and Marty was way too old for me, his manly body already going soft around the ages. He also never finished college and worked at a grocery store during a time when I thought being a conservatory trained soap opera actor was the only occupation to aim for. Still, I wanted him much more than I wanted the handsome, curly haired carpenter who ran his own construction business and the muscular, blonde pre-med student who adored me and followed me around the dance floor of Christopher Street, the then Mecca of Chicago gay bars, with an unmitigated devotion. Attraction is mysteriously undefinable, a strange beast.

These unpredictable notions of romance often ran through my head when viewing 1962’s Phaedra, the lushly histrionic soap opera that finds Melina Mercouri’s maturely exotic title character rejecting Raf Vallone’s viral and passionate shipping magnet for his strait-laced son, played by a skinny, nervously intense Anthony Perkins. At the time of its release, the majority of critics rejected this grand operation outright – claiming that Mercouri’s amply charmed lass couldn’t seriously have found a moment’s fascination with Perkin’s anxious playboy. But the actor’s fresh-faced desirability does show through here on occasion, pointedly proving why his lighter contrasts might have appealed to Mercouri’s magnificently aging creature.

Thus, one wonders if director Jules Dassin had directed the seduction scenes with less tragic melodrama and more angular kink that the whole enterprise might have played differently. Perkins’ powers reside in his eccentricity and despite finding the quiet strength within himself to go toe-to-toe with Vallone during some climatic sequences, he truly comes alive here during the hysterical sequence when he drives himself to a madly howling death in a European sports car. Delightfully, this entire sequence is included as a track on the movie’s soundtrack album, with Perkin’s strangulated yowls making for one of the most unusual audio experiences ever committed to vinyl – a blazingly creative achievement in and of itself.

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

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Music To Make Horror Movies By (Pride Edition): Ethel Waters

Published June 26, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

One of my favorite Broadway tales was provided by an actress who appeared with the legendary Ethel Waters in a play. Waters was apparently known, industrywide, for her Sapphic interests and her co-star was a bit nervous when the two decided to rehearse alone. But before they even had a chance to begin their line readings, Waters sensed the apprehension in the air and chuckled, telling her scene partner to relax as she must certainly didn’t waste her time trying to hook any timid, very uninterested fish. 

This cute tale belies the complexity of Waters’ life, though. Conceived from a rape, Waters had a chaotic childhood, surrounded by prostitution and crime. Despite disadvantage and rampant prejudice, she worked her way from the stages of Black vaudeville to Broadway productions and onto film and television. Married three times throughout her lifetime, she also proudly wrote about her loving relationships with women. Interestingly and seemingly at cross purposes with her past, this powerhouse wound up her life campaigning and performing for televangelist Billy Graham, sure proof that she was a singular entity who listened to only one pertinent drummer – her own.

Much loved for her unmistakable renditions of such standards as Irving Berlin’s Suppertime, a heartbreaking song about lynching, and Am I Blue?, which was included on the soundtrack to genre series Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, Waters died in 1977 at the age of 80. Then and always, she reigns as a beacon of pure talent and uncalibrated willpower – a true icon for the LGBTQIA community. 

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village (Pride Edition): Rock Hudson

Published June 21, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Immortalized as a romantic leading man, suavely surfacing in everything from frothy Doris Day gems to such lush, dramatic adventures as Giant, Rock Hudson, as many matinee types before him, grew a bit bolder as he aged. The lure of homogenized Hollywood behind him, he accepted darker roles in such projects as the 1971 comic slasher Pretty Maids All in a Row and 1976’s mad scientist inspired Embryo.

It was not these movies that deemed him worthy of immortalization as the subject of a television-film of the week, though. That distinction was due to the late-in-his-life revelation of his homosexuality and his subsequent death from AIDS shortly thereafter. This tragedy fully engaged the shocked public. This was perhaps the first widespread evidence of how blatantly the corporate dream machine could cover up the truth with fantasies and lies. It was also prime evidence of the diversity of the LGBTQIA community – yes, we were choreographers and costume designers, but we were also war heroes and construction workers…and masculine matinee idols. 

In consideration of that last occupation, the producers of 1990’s Rock Hudson definitely got their lead casting right. The handsome 6’ 5” Thomas Ian Griffith, who would go on to be a beloved part of the John Carpenter universe due to his powerfully villainous turn in Vampires, was cast as Hudson for the project. Genre fans are also sure to be thrilled with the presence of Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser, Child’s Play 3) as infamous agent Henry Willson and the ever-friendly Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th: Jason Lives) as Tim Murphy, an amalgamation of Hudson’s early career paramours. Of the three, Mathews, in particular, shines with an honest sensitivity and forthrightness.

The truest pleasures in this production may end there, though. The project itself follows the typical biopic beats – Rock overcoming an indifferent parent (a quirkily curt Diane Ladd), finding outrageous success and then experiencing a disheartening down curve in popularity. Even more blatantly irritating, though, are the scenes involving Phyllis Gates (Daphne Ashbrook), the woman the star married in 1955 to cover up his true orientation. Pretty much universally confirmed as nothing more than a tense business arrangement, the producers here spend many gauzy lensed moments detailing the relationship as a passionate romance. Griffith and Ashbrook flirt and cutely cavort, eventually making love in a tenderly glowing sequence. The actor’s same sex relationships definitely don’t get the same treatment here. Granted, the audience at the time may not have been able to accept the sight of a sweaty man-on-Mathews lip lock, but by playing it safe, this production suffers not only from a sense of falsehood but from a certain blandness, intimately familiar territory to we lovers of tele-films, as well.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted To: Corinne Calvet

Published June 14, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

One of Hollywood’s most exotic, scandal plagued 1950’s imports, the glamorous Corinne Calvet spent the prime days of her career burning her way through 3 husbands. She was well known for either initiating or fighting off multiple lawsuits throughout her early days as well, resulting in her newspaper coverage often being more colorful than her cinematic adventures. 

Almost proving this point, one of her latter-day genre style credits was 1960’s low budget black and white lensed Bluebeard’s 10 Honeymoons. Starring the eternally suave George Sanders, Calvet brings a spritely energy to the role of a gold digger who inspires homicidal actions in her beau in this quickly made variation on the damsel murdering Bluebeard theme. 

In 1974, Calvet also joined a number of her former golden age cronies in the nostalgic terror opus The Phantom of Hollywood. This television film, co-starring such former MGM actors as Peter Lawford, Broderick Crawford and Jackie Coogan, served up fright-tinged homages to both The Phantom of the Opera and the rapidly fading studio systems of yore. As Mrs. Wickes, Calvet offers up mostly a glamourous, costume fueled cameo, but it is nice to see her presence among the glittering ruins.

Eventually leaving Hollywood to concentrate on a therapy practice, this former headline grabber died quietly at the age of 76 in 2001. Of course, her colorful memory lives on, though, thanks to devoted film buffs and Euro cinephiles, worldwide.

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Andrea Evans & Kim Johnston-Ulrich

Published June 7, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Crawford & Davis, Loni Anderson & Lynda Carter, Tyne Daly & Sharon Gless, Janine Reynaud & Rossana Yani…there have been many amazing female duos in entertainment history, but the two best baddies-in-arms might just be the gloriously glamorous Kim Johnston Ulrich and vivaciously voluptuous Andrea Evans. Playing Passions’ cunning comrades in arms, Ivy (Johnston) and Rebecca (Evans), this pair was among daytime drama dynamo James Reilly’s finest creations. 

While these two divas were often at each other’s throats, as both were determined to claim the fortune of the show’s ne’er do well multimillionaire Julian Crane, they often found the time to band together to take down a common enemy. The woman usually in their sights, as long-term viewers were aware, was the normally virtuous Theresa (Lindsay Hartley), the young woman who had the drunken misfortune to be impregnated by the wealthy, duplicitous Crane. Snake-ily conniving to deprive this trembling ingenue of any of her due fortune, these two were frequently found with their heavily hennaed heads together, plotting over tea and cookies…or occasional shakers of cocktails. Whether it was Rebecca accusing Theresa of murder or Ivy trying to convince her honorable lawyer son to help her crooked cause, these two scene stealers were always the most vibrantly amusing part of any given afternoon’s shenanigans. 

With years of experience behind them – Johnston had played the spoiled Diana McCall on As The World Turns while Evans was both the kittenish Tina on One Life to Live and the emotionally virginal Patty on The Young and the Restless – these two pros were obviously taking delight in all of the antics that were written for them, securing this team a place in the corridors of the soap opera greats.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

Both actresses appeared in gloriously cheesy, late ‘90s horror fare. Evans played a two-timing, small-town hottie who ran afoul of Clint Howard’s gloriously demented Ice Cream Man. Johnston, meanwhile, was the honorable heroine in the over-the-top fairy tale riff Rumpelstiltskin. 

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Until the next time, make sure your baby-daddy doesn’t have vengeful ex-wives and… SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jack Cassidy

Published June 1, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

One of show business’ most interesting figures, matinee idol handsome Jack Cassidy was an award-winning actor of stage and screen. Known, widely, to the public as the devoted husband of the Oscar winning Shirley Jones, in private, Cassidy was a sexual provocateur who also enjoyed multiple affairs with men. This is primarily worth noting as Cassidy seemed to genuinely embrace his fluidities (n a world which still often misunderstands such subtleties) and seemed to have the understanding and support of those around him, as well.

Most importantly, for old school horror devotees, Cassidy put in a stunningly sensitive dual role performance in the 1974 television film The Phantom of Hollywood. This low budget Phantom of the Opera take-off, highlighting the grim fade-out of the old studio system, is definitely made all the richer for his layered work as a John Barrymore style performer turned shadowy monster due to an unfortunate accident.

Unfortunately, Cassidy tragically died at the too young age of 49, leaving many in his world to feel the emotions that he so, lovingly and longingly, puts into this Lerner and Loewe ballad from Brigadoon:

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

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The Resonance of The Centerfold Girls

Published May 24, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Even the sleaziest exploitation fare can often resonate with audiences, powerfully exposing truths about the ominous travails of the world. A recent viewing of 1974’s The Centerfold Girls, a truly nasty, episodic look at the sadistic assaults upon a series of magazine models, revealed that how society felt about sexually liberated women & their personal freedoms in the ‘70s hasn’t really changed at all. 

Unfolding in three vignettes as the murderously (im)moral Clement Dunne (Andrew Prine) effectively does away with a group of women who have posed nude, this sticky, raw underbelly of a film highlights a patriarchy that wants to control every aspect of the feminine experience. Simultaneously, they reserve the right to punish any unbending femme for their independent thoughts, especially those pertaining to matters of an intimate nature. 

Often tough to watch, the film ultimately does, almost gloriously, expose this hypocrisy. In the opening story, a grizzled small town, blue collar worker played by old school Hollywood vet Aldo Ray sneers at the life choices of a cover girl-nurse, effectively played by future soap opera icon Jaime Lyn Bauer. Despite his wrongheaded disdain, he still aggressively pursues an intimate relationship with her character, echoing almost exactly the attitudes of contemporary Republicans and right to lifers who look at women as nothing more than sacks of lifeless meat. 

Thankfully, In the third tale a stewardess played by cult goddess Tiffany Bolling takes certain stage. Prefiguring the reign of the final girl by about 6 years, she ends Prine’s misogynistic agenda in a starkly poetic tableau. This outcome, hopefully, proves that the filmmakers, somewhere deep within their grindhouse hearts, actually believed in the beautiful resilience and strength of women and ascertained that, eventually, the evil of all rigidly controlling men would be, gloriously, undone. Ultimately, one can only aspire for this to be our fate in the real world, as well.

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

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