Film

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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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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.)

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Hanna Schygulla

Published October 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Hanna Schygulla is so bad-ass. As one of the ultra-femme inspirations of German filmmaker (and all-around wunderkind) Rainer Werner Fassbinder and as one of the co-stars of Cannon Film’s batshit-loco action opus Delta Force, her pedigree cannot be denied!

Although, her penultimate moment onscreen may be as Karen, her lusciously manipulative lesbian, in Fassbinder’s Sirk-like The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. Nicely, she also lent great mystery, years later, to Kenneth Branagh’s gothic reincarnation thriller Dead Again.

But…perhaps, her moments as a chanteuse in the last decade or so, have provided the world with her ultimate performances.

Whatever your personal preference may be, without a doubt, her singular majesty will, rightfully, live on forever!

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Majorie Gateson

Published October 15, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

One of the most elegant supporting players in the early talkies, Majorie Gateson added a superiorly venomous flair to 1932’s Street of Women. Forcing the film’s romantic lead, played by Alan Dinehart, to remain in their loveless marriage for the benefit of her social standing and the maintenance of her lifestyle, she is rich presence onscreen – often stealing the focus with an oily disdain.

Nicely, Gateson’s co-stars here include Warners Brothers’ original diva Kay Francis, who would go onto play a role similar to Gateson’s in 1939’s In Name Only, and Gloria Stuart. Stuart, gained mega latter-day fame for her Academy nominated work in James Cameron’s Titanic, but spent her early career highlighting such classic horror fare as The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man. Gateson, herself, received some sunset significance by playing the revered matriarch for fourteen years on the long running soap opera The Secret Storm.

Horror Hall of Fame: Gateson added her elegant essence to such early fright offerings as Fog and Thirteen Women. She also notably appeared as an endangered widow in the Wisteria Cottage episode of the anthology series Suspense.

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

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(Photos: Above, top: Street of Women cover art with Gateson reacting imperviously in the lower right. Above, bottom: Gateson bringing a somber dignity to Conrad Janis” threats on Suspense.)

Music to Make Horror Movies By: Eartha Kitt

Published October 11, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Gaia – for who else but a goddess could have claimed her?!? – named her properly. Eartha Kitt is everything – the sun, the moon…an eternal star! Whether seductively commanding Adam West on Batman or terrifying the title character in Earnest Scared Stupid as the vengefully eccentric Old Lady Hackmore, she completely controlled the screen. Similarly, as a vocalist she was at home with the beautiful standbys of the Great American Songbook, sexy novelty tunes…and even sexier novelty rock ‘n roll!

Unsurprisingly, Kitt, who left this mortal coil at the age of 81 in 2008, lives on as a beautiful planetary presence in our celluloid dreams and at https://earthakitt.com/.

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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Elaine Stritch

Published October 9, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

She put the BROAD in Broadway, carving out an extraordinary career for herself on the stage. But those blinded by the sheen of her Tony and Emmy wins (and her association with such theatrical legends as Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim) may not be aware that the magnificent Elaine Stritch has a couple grizzly genre credits to her name.

Significantly, in a time when the world was still afraid of lesbians, Stritch bravely enacted the role of Sapphic minded club owner Marian Freeman in the 1965 psycho-stalker thriller Who Killed Teddy Bear? Interestingly, the presence of the openly gay Sal Mineo as the disturbed busboy that the story focuses upon adds another lavender component to this gritty look at obsession and murder. Granted, Marian’s advances on Juliet Prowse’s Norah, the film’s heroine, are unwanted, affording her preferences the stereotypical ring of the perverse. But Stritch fills the character with as much dignity as she is able to while simultaneously applying her noted and uniquely salty perspective to the mix.

10 years later, Stritch sarcastically zapped her way through the second theatrical remake of The Spiral Staircase, as well. While a mysterious killer hunts down Jacqueline Bissett’s plucky mute adventuress, Stritch’s world weary nurse tends to the needs of Mildred Dunnock’s uncooperative matriarch character. Gravitating to the movie’s theatrical set-up of a winding mansion on a dark and stormy night, she ultimately provides the necessary diva antics while still remaining true to the take no bullshit essence of her character.  

With two appearances in the British genre anthology series Tales of the Unexpected, an arc on the murder-mystery based soap Edge of Night and the effective voicing of the grandmother in the animated favorite ParaNorman among her further credits, the truly singular Elaine Stritch definitely earned her place among the notoriously unsung heroines of horror before her passing at the age of 89 in 2014.

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

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Lesbians in Horror: Human Experiments

Published October 8, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Human Experiments

Long before Angela Bettis’ quirky May, Buffy’s beloved Willow and even The Hunger’s sensuous Miriam Blaylock, there were lesbian characters in horror. As an example, acclaimed indie actress Wesley Marie Tackett tackled the role of Jimmy in the odd 1979 WIP-mad scientist terror offering Human Experiments. Despite the biases of the time, Tackett fully embraces all of Jimmy’s rough and often predatory edges.

But as much as one has to acknowledge Tackett’s courage and skill in bringing forth all of the antagonist nature of this perennial inmate, it is also important to make a historical note of how damaging characters like Jimmy were/are to societal understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQIA community as a whole. A woman who tries to terrorize another woman into acts of sex only highlights the perceived perversion of our culture. Thankfully, roles that demonize the gay community are further and farther between…but we still have such a long (and hopefully creatively bountiful) way to go.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Nichelle Nichols

Published October 4, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The physical materialization of an iconic figure, Nichelle Nichols will forever reign over all spatial frequencies with a Vogue cover coolness and a steely strength of purpose. Sacrificing her musical theater ambitions to continue giving the Black community a powerful presence on ’60s network television via her work on the original Star Trek television series, she eventually made it to the recording studios, giving some standards (and an original or two) a sassy makeover.

Thankfully for horror fans, she also brought a commanding energy to the ‘80s offering The Supernaturals, as well. As Sgt. Leona Hawkins, Nichols mixes toughness with compassion – traits that are especially useful when a group of undead confederate soldiers begin to pick off her charges. Why don’t you do right, indeed!!!

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Shonen Knife

Published September 20, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

I would hazard to say that few bands are as influential and/or as seminal as the explosive trio known as Shonen Knife. Forming in Osaka in 1981, these powerful women are not only revered by fellow musicians, but have had their music featured in such interesting, creature-tastic films as Blade and Blood: The Last Vampire.

Of course, Twist Barbie, one of their most recognizable numbers, not only celebrates the virtues of the princess of the American toy, but also puts one in the mind of how multiple incarnations of this iconic creature have been treated by her impressionable owners. Twist Barbie (and/or hack off her hair with scissors and/or zombie-ize her features with crayons), indeed!

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

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