Film

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Va-Va-Va-Villainess: Toni Naples

Published January 23, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

If our 1990s’ video goddesses all have 1940s’ counterparts, then the take charge Toni Naples would definitely be the Ida Lupino of her era. Lupino, who began her career playing an Olympian centerfold in the “shocking” Pre-Code programmer Search for Beauty, was known for playing powerful women in film noir and WIP efforts. Similarly, Naples played a series of creamy bathing beauties and wisecracking police officers in such cult efforts as Chopping Mall, Hard to Die and Sorority House Massacre II. More importantly, though, Naples made a strong impression as a couple of sneering, manipulatively corrupt figures that endeared her to many Up All Night devotees and VHS box set collectors, as well.

First off, as Queen Morganna (above, middle) in the flesh strewn Jurassic Park inspired Dinosaur Island, Naples issues a series of challenging commands designed to present doom for a group of men that have landed on the Amazonian-like isle of women that she leads. As her character openly hopes for their deaths, the actress fills her portrayal with off handed cheer and a true sense of jesting evil. Of course, love ultimately changes the hue of her deep black heart, but Naples obviously has the most fun when Morganna is acting out her vengeance filled schemes with abandon.

Meanwhile, as Warden Helga in Fugitive Rage, this multi-credited exploitation diva brings a decisive abruptness to her interactions with the film’s heroine played by the athletic Wendy Schumacher. Nicely underplaying the sadism inherent in these roles, you could almost accuse Naple’s Helga of being a woman who simply plays by the rules given her – if it weren’t for the sadistic joy in which she partakes in the body cavity search that welcomes Schumacher’s defiant Tara McCormick to the beginning of her incarceration.

Strong, beautiful, demandingly independent and a little twisted – it’s no wonder that during her late-night heyday, Naples inspired straight and queer men alike to take up her wickedly joyful mantle – and happily bow to it.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Sue Raney

Published January 17, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Produced by (then husband) Mel Ferrer to allow her to show a maturity in her characterizations, Wait Until Dark gained Audrey Hepburn an Academy Award nomination and eternally imbued her with a classy final girl sheen. As a determined blind woman who fights off a trio of off-kilter assailants, Hepburn definitively glows with strength and determination here.

Nicely, the film’s theme song by Henry Mancini, who composed Moon River, the tune made famous by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, is also sensitively and powerfully rendered by acclaimed jazz and pop artist Sue Raney.

Raney, one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite vocalists, made a number of acclaimed albums prior to working on the film, and his retained a placement as one of the most respected singers of professional musicians and sharp eared music fans alike, as well. She was obviously beloved by the rest of Sinatra’s Rat Pack, too, as witnessed by this fun featured segment on Dean Martin’s variety show.

http://www.sueraneysro.com/

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Dionne Warwick

Published January 3, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Proving herself to be the progressive Twitter queen of 2020, the beyond brand Dionne Warwick was formerly best known for her iconic run of silky ‘60s Burt Bacharach-Hal David hits. Several of those unforgettable songs have wound up in such horror and science fiction projects as The Birdbox and Black Mirror. Interestingly, Warwick also sang the (almost ironically romantic) theme song for the Morgan Fairchild slasher-cult classic The Seduction.

Warwick’s prime sense of fun also found its place in her quick appearance in the original Men in Black and with her funky take on songs like (the Luther Vandross produced) Got A Date.

2021 is sure to provide even more wonder from this 80-year-old dynamo. To stay on track, be sure to check her out at Music | Dionne Warwick (officialdionnewarwick.com) and Dionne Warwick (@dionnewarwick) / Twitter.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Kim Carnes

Published December 27, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Its always great when your beloved musicians get a little recognition – especially in your favorite film genre. Nicely, that is exactly what happened for me when 2015’s The Final Girls used Kim Carnes’ iconic version of Bette Davis Eyes as a pivotal plot device.

As a deep school fan of Carnes, though, I actually prefer the title track from what just may be her hardest edged album, Voyeur, to the more familiar strains of that Jackie DeShannon master work.

This year also marked the 35th anniversary of Barking At Airplanes, Carnes’ synth-pop masterpiece, the first recording that she had total control over as an artist. I have always cherished the spooky energy of that album’s Crazy in the Night, a memorable sonic moment of my youth (and beyond)!

But, with a (lucky) thirteen albums to her name, and tunes that range from deep country to masterful AOR balladry, this music biz dynamo surely has a sonic flavor to fit every hungry music fan’s colorful palate.

While it seemingly hasn’t been updated for awhile, you can definitely get a taste of that musical breadth at her website – Kim Carnes – Official Web Site.

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Janis Paige

Published December 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Whether it’s a glossy MGM musical like Silk Stockings or a detective show where she plays a bedraggled housing project alcoholic, the divine Janis Paige always gives her all. This eclectic nature has brought her to Broadway, where she was in the original cast of the beloved Pajama Game, variety shows, where she excelled in dozens of intricately choreographed production numbers, and eventually to the ecstatic criminal bounties of Charlie’s Angels.

Here as part of the ensemble of the third season Angels Ahoy episode, Paige vibrantly enacts Joan Sayers, a personable widow who catches the eye of David Doyle. Doyle, as series’ regular Bosley, is busy helping his beautiful cohorts investigate a shipboard murder, but he gladly takes a little time out for romance with this beautiful stranger.

Of course, warning signals go off for audience members when it is casually revealed that Sayers has buried four husbands. Indeed, a late-night costume party ultimately reveals that this friendly cruise goer is the most accomplished of black widow murderers. Ever the pro though, Paige believably connects with Doyle’s congenial creation here and the sorrow she feels upon the revelation of her dirty (and very dangerous) secret allows a bit of sympathy to register on her behalf.

Nicely, decades after this episode first aired, Paige is still allowing her charms to be appreciated by the world. At 98, she performs occasionally at cabarets across the country and has recently released her very highly praised memoir, Reading Between the Lines.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Little Nell

Published December 6, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

I didn’t really get The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I saw it at 17. I took a quirky musician friend named Molly to the Homecoming Dance and, afterwards, we hit the midnight show at the local theater. Under-impressed, we went back to her house and listened to some of the stranger numbers of The Manhattan Transfer on her father’s cassette player in the family kitchen. We both seemed to have much more fun with their fairly suggestive Well, Well, Well than with Tim Curry’s admittedly brilliant Sweet Transvestite.

Naturally, my opinion of that iconic, transgressive piece has improved greatly over the years. But I really didn’t go bonkers for Little Nell, best known as the creepily peppy Columbia in RHPS, until I saw her mostly unrecognizable turn as the energetically blonde Sandra in the British musical dramedy Rock Follies ’77 recently. With a squeaky chirp and demented energy, she nearly steals the show as a music biz secretary who gives all her heart and soul to her job.

Naturally, I immediately fell down an appreciative internet rabbit hole and discovered, much like her co-star Curry, Little Nell had a very fun, unfortunately very minor pop career in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

…and while Campbell doesn’t currently have a website devoted to her performing arts career, she does have a song written for her by Bat for Lashes, a perhaps even cooler proposition after all.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Allison Hayes

Published December 4, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Despite her absolutely stunning looks, there always seemed to be a flinty edge to the iconic Allison Hayes. Even as the vulnerable Nancy Fowler Archer in Attack of the 50 Ft Woman, her best-known role, she instinctively was able to play both the light innocence and the vengeful evil within the confines of one character. This duality was in evidence in even one of her earliest roles, Lidice in Sign of the Pagan, an assignment that saw her stab Jack Palance’s powerful Attila the Hun to death. Likewise, in one of her multiple appearances on the original black and white run of Perry Mason, she effectively plays a sympathetic hatcheck girl, who much to her eventual regret, sets up a friend for a murder rap in order to save her own skin.

Of course, Hayes was most magnificent when she played women who were completely and totally immoral. As the wicked Tonda Metz in 1957’s The Disembodied, she seduces every man in sight while plotting out her murderous plans with steely glee. Three years later, she would sport a less fabulous moniker – Tonda Metz is almost impossible to beat, no? –  in the popular cheese-fest The Hypnotic Eye. Here, her Justine finds Hayes emoting with a vicious persistence. As she endeavors to acidly corrupt all the beauty around her, she herself resonates with gorgeous power, certainly offering up her most strikingly physical moments ever committed to celluloid.

Suffering from various medical difficulties brought on by accidental lead poisoning, Hayes worked consistently (if difficultly) throughout the 1960s. Often buoyed up by the friendships she had made throughout her career, those closest to her must have felt an exhalation of sorrow and defeat when she left this world at the tender age of 46 in 1977.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Connie Francis

Published November 29, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

In Great Pretenders – My Strange Love Affair with ‘50s Pop Music, her emotionally engaging memoir about her surprise life resurrection via the oft criticized radio hits of simpler times, critic and poet Karen Schoemer talks of the romantic, operatic essence of many Connie Francis love ballads, particularly Where The Boys Are.

But Schoemer also smartly makes note of the wild range of Francis’ material. Indeed, Francis knew how to add a little stomp and growl to a recording, making her a true, often unheralded rock ‘n roll momma.

This eclectic singer was even honored in one of the most memorable scenes in 1996’s The Craft. There, Helen Shaver’s recently economically liberated Grace buys a jukebox that plays nothing but Connie Francis singles!

But considering Francis’ otherworldly talent (and Asimov-ian choices in romantic partners), that celluloid sequence really comes as no surprise…

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

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Thankful For: Rula Lenska

Published November 26, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

(Thanksgiving 2020 Performer Appreciation Post.)

While divas and acting icons such as Faye Dunaway, Cicely Tyson, Elke Sommar and Jane Alexander have shown up in smaller roles in recent horror projects, they rarely command focus for more than a scene or two. Thus, 2018’s Aura (AKA The Exorcism of Karen Walker) provides a truly nice exception to this trend by placing Rula Lenska, a British television and theatre mainstay, squarely in the middle of the film’s spook-laden trajectory.

With a simple and direct focus, Lenska, who gained a tabloid presence in the ‘70s when it was revealed that she was a member of Polish royalty, fills her character Ada with a brooding sense of purpose. A psychic, approached by a former colleague’s nephew for assistance, Ada soon finds herself more connected to the circumstances at hand than she imagined. As she fights to save a young woman from a years-long possession by a malevolent genie, Lenska resonates with both determination and fatigue here, giving the strange set-up a sense of realism here.

Lenska, who first gained fame as a female pop star in Rock Follies (and its follow-up Rock Follies ’77), also has a number of other genre credits to her name, including Queen Kong, a feministic take on the King Kong legend, and The Deadly Females, a sexy assassin epic. All these credits are proudly on display at http://www.rulalenska.co.uk/.

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

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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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