Film

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Va-Va-Villainess: Dolores Gray

Published June 13, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

The sultry Dolores Gray (1922-2002) had a unique career. She will probably go down in history as the only actress to win a Tony Award for a show that lasted only 6 performances (1954’s Carnival in Flanders). She also lit up the MGM Studios in the mid-fifties with her personal brand of glossy sophistication, but, ultimately, only had major roles in four films.

Thankfully, those celluloid adventures offered her the chance to often play game seductresses and extremely glamourous, catty rivals to her (generally more innocent and trustworthy) female co-stars.

She, perhaps, made her most significant performing mark as the vindictive, backstabbing Sylvia Fowler in 1956’S The Opposite Sex, a remake of Clare Booth Luce’s zing worthy The Women. This project found her going arched eyebrow to arched eyebrow (with some exuberant fisticuffs thrown in for good measure) with such cinematic notables as June Allyson, Ann Sheridan and Ann Miller.

Her most popular public offering, though, was perhaps 1957’s Designing Woman, directed by the diva loving Vincente Minnelli. Here, as theater starlet Lori Shannon, Gray provided competition for Lauren Bacall’s sensitive fashionista Marilla. While her character is more of a victim of circumstance here than in the previous effort, Gray still puts in a good show as a majorly distracting influence upon the whirlwind romance and marriage of Bacall’s fashion queen and Gregory Peck’s beleaguered sports writer, Mike Hagen.

While Gray was quoted, by certain sources, as wishing that she had a more extensive filmography, one cannot deny the quality of the cool charm that she provided in the credits that she did have.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Jan Howard

Published May 31, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Move over, Patty McCormack! Your Rhoda Penmark may have been the littlest devil around in that classic 1956 genre flick, but famed country singer Jan Howard understood something about being a Bad Seed, as well. Of course, while Penmark often caused grievous bodily harm to her cinematic targets, Howard was more concerned about matters of the heart in her well-loved country song.

Interestingly, a quick background check on Howard, a long standing member of the Grand Ole Opry, reveals that she knew, intimately, the heartaches she sang about as a popular singer and songwriter — and, thusly, she lives on in the memories of devoted music lovers, dementedly childlike and otherwise, forevermore.

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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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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