Horror

All posts in the Horror category

The Night Jeff Stryker Saw Me!

Published August 2, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Suyuan (to June Woo): You have a style no one else can teach…I see you. – The Joy Luck Club

Its 21 years later and I still haven’t forgiven Jeff Stryker. Just to be clear, he didn’t break my heart or leave me hanging with the check after a 5-Star dinner. He didn’t take photos and expose my toothpaste scarred, stubble strewn bathroom sink to a mixed bag of friends and family. But as a lifelong horror fan, what he did may have even been worse. He never let me know that in 1989, under his birth name of Chuck Peyton, he starred in Zombie 4: After Death, a Euro terror epic directed by none other than Troll 2‘s insanely energetic Claudio Fragasso.

But, perhaps, all should finally be washed under that wispy bridge of time and firmly forgotten. He did give me my The Joy Luck Club moment, after all. 

To backtrack, in the spring of 2001 some mutual acquaintances contacted me about helping him place his play Jeff Stryker Does Hard Time in Chicago. After some minor false starts, a venue was secured, and I was hired to production manage-direct the project. It seemed like kismet. What could be cooler for an exploitation flick junkie than doing a male version of a Women in Prison flick featuring the very person whose picture will be placed next to the sticky pronouncement of Gay Porn God once the sands of oblivion have finally blown their last streak against the fading skies?!? Granted, there were some missteps along the way. Attuned to simpler camera techniques, he vetoed 90% of the blocking I came up with — and when he left the final dress rehearsal, mid-run, to attend to some minor business, I saw my 10 hard won years of theatrical career climbing blown to smithereens, and I had a loudly frantic meltdown in front of him and the entire cast and crew. (My own apology is firmly placed here, fellas. Read it and please don’t weep!)

But, overall, it was a fun adventure and, as most creative projects, seemingly over and done within the blink of an eye. Still reeling a bit from my miserably unreturned crush on the cute, wavy-haired actor who played the production’s bad boy protagonist, I met up with Stryker a few days after we struck set to say our goodbyes. There, next to the dryer in the laundry room area of the B and B that he was staying in, he turned to me, mid-conversation, looked me straight in the eyes and earnestly proclaimed, “You are just so sweet!” After taking a step back, I casually thanked him. Or, at least, I hoped that was how I appeared. For beneath that calm response, lurked a valley of stunned surprise. For just like that mother and daughter scene in the above-mentioned chick flick, I had always longed for someone to see me for who I really was – to recognize the lovely soul that beat beneath all the swirling insecurity and falsely projected bravado that propelled me, haphazardly yet hopefully, through my days. And here, mystically rising from the sheets of budget fabric softener, it was. This man who starred, with torso thrusting glory, in projects such as Powertool, Strykin’ It Deep and Bigger Than Life actually got me. He saw that beneath the yearning struggle and the occasional flare-ups of spite and frustration, lurked a good soul. He somehow saw what made me special…and while, decades later, I still haven’t quite distilled just what that might be, I know it is there thanks to him.

So, maybe I can actually let go of the disappointment of not having had a conversation about his undead adventures filming with a gonzo Italian maverick in the steamy Philippines. After all, the gift he gave me was actually so much greater. 

Note: Severin Films has released a deluxe version of Zombie 4 with a CD soundtrack and fun interview with Jeff.

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

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Raquel Welch

Published July 26, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Whether she was fully intriguing the demented Richard Burton in the silly Euro horror Bluebeard or hunting down a homicidal twin as a prize-winning writer in the USA Network’s scientifically gonzo Tainted Blood, the glorious Raquel Welch has always proven herself to be something of a primetime thriller. 

Known for warbling a tune or two on Broadway (Woman of the Year) and television specials (including her own self-titled one), Welch also made a grab for pop stardom in 1987 with the gloriously fun single This Girl is Back in Town

Seemingly only appreciated in the sticky back rooms of gay bars, this track ultimately didn’t do well enough to produce a full album. Thankfully, though, it’s glorious Paul Jabara assisted rhythms live on online and in dusty used record bins everywhere! 

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village: Who is the Black Dahlia?

Published July 13, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

According to online speculation, the legendary Lucille Ball did not want her daughter Lucie Arnaz to take the title role in the 1975 television film Who is the Black Dahlia? Based on the notorious 1947 murder case in which a young woman named Elizabeth Short was brutally bisected and left in an abandoned field, this film took a highly fictionalized look at the proceedings – which Ball, a Hollywood stalwart, had obviously been aware of in real time. Arnaz, smartly, was not about to turn down the title role in a compelling project, though, and her sensitive performance definitely highlights the film’s emotional truths. Unfortunately, those intimated facts haven’t changed much in the decades since this film was made – discrimination and real dangers still, overwhelmingly, lurk for young women in the world on a daily basis.

Interestingly though, since so much of Short’s life was shadowed in after-the-fact hearsay, once this television film is over, viewers still don’t have a clear view of who the title character was on a personal level. Writer Robert W. Lenski often paints her as a good person abandoned by her father, consistently threatened by rowdy soldiers and gangster types who do not understand her. But, despite Arnaz’s multi-layered work, he never finds a consistent thread to her behavior. Her actions often make no sense – engaging with people and then mysteriously evading them…acting grateful to her benefactors and then resorting to thievery. Painting her as a full-blown master of manipulation might have been inaccurate but could have ultimately created a more comprehensive narrative here.

Still, this work radiates with both a bit of a smoky film noir vibe and the sincere charms of the classic movie of the week format. This is particularly interesting as Arnaz has recalled in interviews that the entire creative process was completed in a quick two weeks. Even more impressive are the variety of well-known performers who deliver layered characterizations as the events unfold. Mercedes McCambridge, who committed fully to her demon-centric vocalizing in The Exorcist, shows her versatility here by giving her role as Short’s grandmother a vibrantly wounded heart. Donna Mills, the queen of the tele-flick genre at the period of time, adds venomous charm as one of Short’s rivals and Gloria DeHaven, who often played petulant romantic rivals in classic musicals, radiates with kindness as a prison matron who encourages Elizabeth to stay on the right track. The appearance of horror movie veteran Sid Haig as a roadside tattooist might cause a shout of surprised joy to erupt from any genre enthusiast watching, as well.

 Nicely, Arnaz would continue this based on a real horror vibe with her next project, Death Scream, another movie-of-the-week outing inspired by an actual crime. Showing up in the film’s last quarter as the late arriving final girl, Arnaz manages to outsmart the killer this time and share a second or two of screen time with Raul Julia, that project’s leading man, to boot!

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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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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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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Va-Va-Villainess: Deanna Wright

Published April 26, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

“Talk about a makeover!” – Kay (post body morph) 

In marked contrast to Robyn Lively’s kindly Louise Miller, Deanna Wright’s Kay Bennett was definitely a very mean teen witch. Wright’s character on the quirky, supernaturally tinged soap opera Passions was so determined to capture the handsome Miguel (Jesse Metcalfe) and steer him away from his true love Charity (Molly Stanton) that she used several varieties of supernatural mayhem to achieve her goals. 

After zombifying her rival and even sending her to Hell (often with the help of the town’s revenge filled witch, Tabitha), Kay’s arc during Wright’s heyday reached its apex when the creepily resilient lass enacted a spell that turned her into her rival. Due to this effective disguise, Miguel misguidedly slept with her…and the resulting pregnancy (and birth of a child) nearly destroyed his relationship with Charity. 

As the soap entered into its latter years, Kay, as then played by Heidi Mueller, achieved a certain sense of maturity. But the character’s adventures with the occult – how can anyone forget when she accidentally turned herself into a panther during the program’s 2001 Halloween episodes?!?- were definitely the highlights of her run. 

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

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Dagger Cast: Chris Moore

Published April 19, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Actor-director-writer Chris Moore is one of the most inspiring gay artists that I know. In the past 6 or 7 years, he has produced 4 accomplished horror films. Nicely, Children of Sin, which begins streaming on Amazon on 4/22/22, is his queerest and bloodiest yet. We were thrilled to have him on the latest episode of Dagger Cast to talk about all the behind-the-scenes magic (& low budget craziness) at hand and know that only the most determined and antisocial Mary Esthers would not want to check out what this brilliant young artist has to say.

Be sure to keep up with all the future devilry of this project at https://www.facebook.com/childrenofsinmovie, 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: Gale Storm

Published April 19, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Much like Georgia Gibbs, the effervescent Gale Storm often recorded poppy versions of R & B numbers made famous by Black artists. A circumstance of record company politics as opposed to a personal choice, Storm did give bright pep (and a bit of authentic womanhood) to numbers like I Hear You Knocking & Why Do Fools Fall in Love? 

Perhaps best known for My Little Margie, a popular television show, Storm also had a very successful film career. Her most significant credit to horror fans, though, is her appearance as the heroine in 1942’s Revenge of the Zombies. This creepy caper found her going outstretched arm to outstretched arm against John Carradine’s (naturally) evil mad scientist. 

Intrigued now? Thankfully, the beautiful website, https://galestorm.tv/, gives a thoroughly detailed look at Storm’s decades of glamorously creative endeavors. 

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

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