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Va-Va-Villainess: Leslie Brooks

Published November 21, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

“It’s called tonight…or never!” –  Miss Medwick (Leslie Brooks), Romance on the High Seas.

Crisp and cool, the glorious Leslie Brooks always shot from the hip, especially in 1948, the year that marked her most notorious cinematic undertaking. As the gleefully immoral Claire Cummings Hanneman in Blonde Ice, she calmly manipulates her way through a trio of beaus…including one who winds up dead and another who she frames for his murder. Coming on like a lethal version of Barbara Stanwyck’s fabulously Pre-Code Baby Face, Brooks is unforgettably malevolent here, creating an iconic B-Movie noir monster.

That same year in Romance on the High Seas, a much frothier, big budget Warner Brothers musical, she is less destructive. Still, as Miss Medwick, she makes an obvious play for her married boss, using a seductive tone and an arched eyebrow (or two) to try to sway him into her arms. Capitulating to his devotion to his wife, she eventually becomes a model employee. Thus, in her final scenes, Brooks radiates with a strong efficiency and warmth.

Despite those qualities, seemingly due to a disastrous divorce and vicious custody battle for her daughter that same year, Brooks soon disappeared from the screen. But her work as a worthy femme fatale will never be forgotten.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Elisabeth Welch

Published November 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The stunning Elisabeth Welch is a major part of the success of the classic 1945 anthology Dead of Night. As the fun and vibrant Beulah in the film’s most popular segment, The Ventriloquist’s Dummy, she is one of the first characters to react to the fact that something is off with Michael Redgrave’s Maxwell and his devious puppet partner Hugo.

Welch was much more than a sympathetic terror conspirator, though. One of the most sophisticated stars of the British theater and Broadway, she often introduced songs that went on to be classics.

Cementing her status as a cult icon, Welch also fabulously worked with auteur Derek Jarman in the late ‘70s.

More can, but need not be said!

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Googie Withers

Published November 13, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The height of English elegance, the distinguished Googie Withers made appearances in everything from Alfred Hitchcock adventures (The Lady Vanishes) to multiple, stagey dramas with Michael Powell (the director of the controversial Peeping Tom).

If they search their memories, classic horror lovers would find they remember her fondly, as well. As Joan Cortland in the acclaimed 1945 anthology Dead of Night, Withers proved herself to be a cunning adversary for a maniacal spirit that dwells within a mirror in one of the film’s most haunting tales. As Cortland’s husband Peter (Ralph Michael) suffers greatly due to the visions he sees within the spectral looking glass’ reflection, Joan wisely uses her investigative skills to determine its history, learning simultaneously how to defeat it. Working with subtle economy and grace, Withers proves herself to be truly modern, gracefully victorious heroine of horror here.

Nicely, Withers showed the extent of her range by playing the connivingly determined Helen Nosseross in the moody 1950 film noir Night and the City, as well. Teaming up with Richard Widmark’s wild eyed con man, Wither’s spits out Helen’s dialogue with spite and vitriolic vinegar, her disdain for her corpulent businessman husband (Francis L. Sullivan) visible in every frame of film that she imbues with her commanding presence.

Indeed, with dozens of theater projects and distinguished cinematic adventures to her credit, Withers, who died in 2011 at the age of 94, is definitely worthy of significant rediscovery by today’s always hungry celluloid masses.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Reta Shaw

Published November 9, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The grand Reta Shaw has rooted herself in the minds of many burgeoning filmgoers from her classic turns in such Disney projects as Mary Poppins and Escape to Witch Mountain.

Nicely, with roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (as a nosy neighborhood woman), Thriller (as a childish middle-aged bride turned unrelenting domestic shrew) and Bewitched (as two different senior relatives of prime witch Samantha), she also gave golden genre television lovers something to talk about over the water coolers, as well.

In the honey-in-our-ears category, as a Broadway veteran, Shaw reprised her comic, singing role of Mabel in The Pajama Game to grand effect in the film version of the popular musical – truly making all those who haven’t witnessed her comic brilliance here jealous of those who have.

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

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(Photos – Top, Bewitched. Middle, Thriller. Bottom, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.)

Lynda Carter’s Circle of Terror

Published November 3, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

From 1980 to 1982, our amazing Wonder Woman (and frequent concert songstress) Lynda Carter committed herself to three television films with some horrifying plotlines. In honor of her socially concentrated efforts to Get Out The Vote in this incredibly important (and often truly scary) 2020 Presidential Election, I thought it would be the perfect time to place a ballot of greatness – or great campiness, as the case sometimes allows – for her efforts in these celluloid idiot box offerings.

1980. In The Last Song, Carter is a singer whose sound engineer husband captures a conversation about a terrible environmental plot when he is out recording sound samples one night. Soon, a group of volatile men break into Carter’s home and brutally beat (especially for Movie of the Week standards) her unknowing husband to death. While this scene has its uncommonly intense moments, it is the sequence where Carter is visited by a concerned ‘priest’ after her husband’s funeral that a truly giggly-gruesome quality enters the proceedings. Almost immediately, Nicholas Pryor (Damien: Omen 2) allows his character to go from glazed benevolence to wide-eyed craziness. In a truly sadistically frightening performance, Pryor forces (the equally acute) Carter to suck frantically from a gas mask in an effort to kill her. Carter’s terror filled eyes and Pryor’s sweaty leering are reminiscent of Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. The scene is truly a sickly-sweet wonder.

1981. Born to be Sold. Here Carter, playing social worker Kate Carlin, actually delivers Donna Wilke’s (Angel, Blood Song, Schizoid, Grotesque) baby in her bedroom in a satisfying moment of hair flopping, over the top exhaustion. Later, Carter is leered at in a bathroom mirror by a greasy, incredibly sleazy Dean Stockwell. It’s not quite as intense as the freak out that Pryor gives our favored damsel in The Last Song, but the addition of genre favorite Sharon Farrell in the cast here evens out the odds a little.

1982. Hotline is the best of the three in many ways – an adult slasher film that also predates Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof with its focus on a (mild spoiler alert!) broken down psychotic former stunt man.

Carter’s Brianne (pronounced ‘Brian’) is a bartender, artist and hotline call center volunteer. Soon after starting her civic minded duties, she begins to get mysterious phone calls providing her with clues to a series of violent murders – all implicating a movie star acquaintance of hers. Of course, nothing is as it seems and in the final moments of this TV-movie-gone-chopping, Carter finds herself hacked (the killer loves to give jaggedly possessed haircuts) and attacked. There are few genuinely chilling moments in this penultimate altercation – including the shady reveal of the killer decorated in mafia clown make-up (think Dennis Christopher in Fade to Black) as he works his way to Carter.

Hotline also affords meaty roles to some former Hollywood character actors including Steve Forrest (the supernaturally tinged The Hanged Man), Monte Markham and Granville Van Dusen. Nods to authenticity are also provided by featuring stuntman/actors such as Frank Stallone in a party sequence with Forrest and Markham making this a bit more than just a fond remembrance for those who caught it as freshmen in high school on CBS’ Saturday Night Movie. 

…and if the divine Ms. Carter hasn’t proven herself to be a rock ‘n roll survivor to all of you in the above reminisces…

Until the next time…get out and vote…and SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Vanessa Williams

Published November 1, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Initially gaining fame as a model and television actress, the uber talented Vanessa Williams eventually branched out into the worlds of pop music…and Broadway stardom! Grimm’s Brothers aficionados were probably awestruck by her witch in the revival of Into the Woods, while the rest of the world may have still been reeling from her sexy attack on the pop laced numbers from her debut album.

Nicely, this number even made it into a Perry Mason television film. (Talk about a flashy take on recycling!)

Most recently, this modern day diva brought her years of performing experience to a gloriously demented fruition in Bad Hair, a delightfully twisted original Hulu horror extravaganza.

https://www.vanessawilliams.com/

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

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Halloween Chills: Nicholas Pryor Remembering Damien

Published October 31, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

For those growing up in the era of pre-technological ease, the most exciting thing in the world was being able to catch a horror flick on the Movie of the Week – say something like Damien: Omen II. While The Omen (at least the original) is regarded as a classic by many, Damien: Omen II was a fast paced gore fest (that even the often unreliable IMDB reviewers proclaim as “An excellent sequel to The Omen!”) that titillated many a thrill deprived youngster. Those at an impressionable age upon viewing will never forget the sight of Elizabeth Shepard being pecked to death by a pack of venomous crows, Meshach Taylor, a long way from Designing Women, enact a blood strewn death by plummeting elevator or the slow path of a one teen’s drowning beneath a pool of hard ice (perhaps one of the most hauntingly tense deaths captured on film). Neither will they forget the cold, stomach crunching demise of Dr. Charles Warren, director of the Thorn Museum, portrayed by celebrated actor Nicholas Pryor. The friendly and responsive Pryor, whose other genre-type credits include Brain Dead with Bill Paxton, the thriller Pacific Heights and comedy spoof Airplane!, upon hearing of my love for Damien, years ago, generously gave me a detailed account of his filming experience. Pryor’s kind, nostalgic gift to me is now mine to present to all film trivia buffs seeking an extra Halloween chill or two! Enjoy.

“Filming in Chicago – we did a good deal of Damien there! I think I will never forget the sequence in the train yards when Bill Holden and I were poking around in the boxcars before one of them grabbed me and squished me. When we shot, it was early in December of a usual Chicago winter – which put the temperatures in the train yards at about -20. I was running around in a light polo shirt and jacket because I wanted to be able to shake with fear, but I didn’t want to think about it or do it, and I figured if I was cold enough it would take care of itself. Well. It worked, but the catch was we were there for three days. The first day it was kind of cloudy and overcast, but that night it snowed. The next day was snow on the ground and bright blue sky, so what we shot the first day couldn’t match and we did the first day’s work over. Then finally finished the next day, our third, and by that time I had become aware of a little woman from the wardrobe department who was wrapped in so many layers of clothing she literally had no face, just kind of a slit in all her head scarves. She kept wondering up to me and peering at me, and finally I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “Just looking to see if you have frostbite yet.”

As a postscript to the file “Its Not All Tinsel and Make Believe”, while we were shooting my getting squished, I noticed the sound guys listening to their tapes and shaking their heads. I asked what was happening and they said the snow on the ground was soaking up all the noise of my screaming and I would probably have to loop it later. I did.

Four months later, I spent all afternoon in the basement of a recording facility at 20th Century Fox screaming my lungs out for a director who kept saying, “Let’s do another and see if you can make this one more helpless!”

(In his correspondence with me, Pryor signed one shot with his Port Charles’ character name as he thought the photo was more representative of the role than himself. Pretty remarkable difference, right?)

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

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Hamish Downie’s Silence

Published October 31, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

He’s an Australian living in Japan, but that isn’t the most interesting thing about Hamish Downie. As talented filmmaker, he’s combined high art and horror for years now.

The press release for one of his most poignant creations has just been released…

“TAIPEI (October 2020), Gagaoolala announced today that it acquired the global rights to Hamish Downie’s SILENCE. Written and Directed by Downie (upcoming feature film “Matcha & Vanilla”), inspired by the Director’s real life, the short film has screened around the world at festivals such as Filmfest homochrom (Germany) and the Queersicht Film Festival (Switzerland), and received honorable mentions at Just Before Midnight Film Festival, and Let’s All Be Free Film Festival. It received encore screenings at Lake Champlain International Film Festival, and is set to be re-screened this year as part of online events put on by Tag! Queer Shorts Film Festival (formally Corvallis Queer Film Festival).

Hamish Downie’s Lynchesque/Homage to Film Noir and Atmospheric Horror short film follows the story of a woman (Tomoko Hayakawa) who must survive the night with her abusive girlfriend (Qyoko Kudo), after being discovered trying to escape.”

…and the teaser trailer has recently been given a lot of attention, as well.

Please follow https://www.facebook.com/hamishdowniewriter for more information and…

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

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In Remembrance: Christopher Bernau

Published October 30, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Christopher Bernau made me gay.

Well, he actually didn’t strap me down on some slick gurney and take me into some underground laboratory with lightening crackling overhead and test tubes exploding all around us… But I did come home one day from school — and there he was on Guiding Light, all shirtless and delivering his lines with a sadistic sneer as he ordered the distinctive and talented Sofia Landon Geier, the actress playing his employee-lover, around and…. Well – I got that special little tingle.

Years later, I discovered that some other handsome performer actually probably gave Bernau that exact same sensation when he was growing up. Living his life as openly gay as was possible in an era when that was frowned upon, he seemed like a hero to me. This isn’t surprising, though. He was definitely someone who made an impression on many folks – first as Phillip Todd on the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows and then, most famously, as the manipulative and occasionally cruel Alan Spaulding on the afore mentioned Guiding Light. There, the story of his illicit lover affair with the sweet Hope Bauer (the always honey-lit and eternally warm Elvera Roussel) raised many of the temperatures of the local ladies in my tiny neighborhood like few others did, before and after.

Nicely, in addition to his Dark Shadows experience, he also played a wildly seductive Count in the 1977 Off-Broadway production of The Passion of Dracula.

Unfortunately, Bernau, as with many of that era’s extraordinarily special creative types, was also stricken with AIDS. He ultimately died of the disease at the age of 49 on June 14th, 1989, leaving behind a legacy of amazing performances…and loads of stardust sprinkled inspiration for many a young small-town homosexual who dreamed of bigger and better (and, unfortunately, occasionally unfair) worlds.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Mae Clarke

Published October 23, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Best known to old school terror cult members from her work as Elizabeth in the original Frankenstein, the sassy Mae Clarke was an eclectic leading lady during the ‘30s. Often playing mischievous, hardened dames, she was equally at home playing respectable, upstanding citizens. Forever, to her eternal regret, pegged as the woman whom James Cagney brutalized with a grapefruit in the classic gangster romp Public Enemy, she was eventually regulated to smaller roles in big budget MGM spectacles in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Finally finding a home on television, she was a regular on General Hospital during its early years before retiring from the screen to teach acting in the early ‘70s.

Truly giving a respectable showing by the time the final credits rolled for in 1992, her ebullient work as con woman Myra Gale in 1933’s Lady Killer shows that she actually deserves a much more prominent place of importance in the history of early celluloid. Here, draped in fashions inspired by the Art Deco movement, she coolly and calmly manipulates James Cagney’s hot-headed Dan Quigley into a life of crime. Clarke’s every action here is quietly calculating. She moves like a Nile bound Queen and accepts Cagney’s hovering devotion as her unsurprising due.

Of course, in the tenor of the times, she is subjected to her male co-star’s wraith when he discovers her duplicity. Booted out of rooms and retaliated upon with other indignities, Clarke always keeps her character’s cool demeanor at the forefront and even allows a bit of heart and conscience to shine through as this fast-paced flick reaches its speedy ending.

Fans of her work as one of Universal Horror’s most sweetly suffering heroines are urged to explore the many vibrant colors that she unleashes upon the world here. You’ll be sure to fall in love all over again.

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

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(Photos, above: Clarke revisiting old co-stars (top) and with longtime General Hospital actor John Bernadino on the set of that show.)