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In Memoriam: Robyn Griggs & Anne Heche

Published September 16, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Dying, tragically, within days of each other, former Another World actresses Anne Heche (May 25, 1969 – August 11, 2022) & Robyn Griggs (April 30, 1973 – August 13, 2022) both had strong connections to the world of horror, as well. 

10 years after her popular reign as Maggie Corey on the lauded soap ended, Griggs began appearing in a bevy of zero budget, indie terror epics with titles like Severe Injuries, Slashers Gone Wild!, Demon Divas and the Lanes Of Damnation and Hellweek. Often cast as a villainess, her enthusiasm and love for the genre definitely bled thorough in her performances. Of special note, she gives a delightfully spastic turn as a member of a murderous tribe of ne’er do wells in Hellweek. But Severe Injuries, a feministic take on traditional slasher tropes by Amy Lynn Best and Mike Watt of Happy Cloud Pictures, may just be the best of her many scare-based offerings. She also was the force behind her own homegrown horror convention, further proof that her death at 49 from an aggressive form of cancer was a huge loss to the world of genre cinema. 

The projects of Heche, who passed away after a tragic car crash, definitely had a higher mainstream pedigree. But her major terror credit, an almost frame for frame remake of the classic Psycho (1999), was a controversial offering that was, overwhelmingly, ripped apart by critics, who found its existence unnecessary. Still, the film’s queer influence can be highly felt. Gay director Gus Van Sant definitely invests understanding in the film’s outsider themes while giving us the ass shot that John Gavin never would have allowed by recasting his role with the gamely beautiful Viggo Mortensen. His encouraging Julianne Moore (in the Vera Miles role) to dive into her role with a no bullshit Sapphic energy also stands proud while Heche’s wispy beauty here makes one feel the intense attraction that Ellen DeGeneres, who she was involved with at the time, must have felt for her. Counting 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer & 2013’s Nothing Left to Fear among her other genre credits, Heche left behind not only a legacy of great acting work but an advocacy for the LGBTQIA community that has too long been under appreciated. Proclaiming the truth about her three-year love affair with DeGeneres definitely hurt her career and the stony backs that greeted her upon the dissolution of that romance were truly unnecessary- especially for a woman who helped narrow the scope of the public’s prejudices and broaden their overwhelming personal limitations. 

Indeed, both Griggs and Heche have left this coil far too soon. May their AW peers, including such profound talents as Constance Ford, David Oliver, Philece Sampler & Charles Keating, rise among them to assist them to their new planes of existence.

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

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Shark Bait Retro Village: Tainted Blood

Published August 31, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

After facing down mighty dinos (One Million Years B.C.), a dementedly determined Richard Benjamin (The Last of Sheila) and a Sapphic leaning go-go dancer (Flare Up), the beautiful Raquel Welch had definitely proved her resilience. These encounters also enabled her to be more than ready to figure out which young woman suffered from Tainted Blood, in the 1993 USA Network television film of the same name.

Naturally, as investigative reporter Elizabeth Hayes, Welch strikes all the right inquisitive poses as she races against time to figure out whether it is the awkward Lissa (Natasha Gregson Wagner) or the confident, mildly rebellious Tori (Kerri Green) who is the carrier of homicidal hemoglobin and a danger not only to her family but the world at large.

Nicely, Welch is not the only mature diva on display here, circumstances that perfectly level out the exuberant, girlish focus of Green and Wagner. Nighttime soap opera heroine Joan Van Ark blissfully launches into her role of Lissa’s flirtatiously drunk adopted mother, soddenly chewing scenery and very obviously having the time of her life. Alley Mills, best known of late as the quirkily vengeful Pam on The Bold and the Beautiful, meanwhile provides the opposite energy as the caring and attentive Mrs. Patterson, Tori’s chosen guardian. 

Screenwriter Kathleen Rowell also adds a little depth to this ludicrous yet still somehow predictable programmer. She ultimately does a great job of casting suspicion on both of the suspects and, even after things are happily resolved, allows concern to still reside in the viewer’s mind that the survivors of this femme powered onslaught might still be in danger. 

Penny pinchers well also be happy to note that this vehicle is available to watch for free on YouTube and (perhaps) other streaming services, as well.

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

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The Horrific Mummification of Nancy Karr

Published July 19, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Being on a soap opera isn’t always glamorous- just ask Ann Flood! Perhaps one of the most elegant and refined daytime performers from the golden era of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Flood played The Edge of Night’s industrious, very lady like reporter Nancy Karr for twenty-two years. One of Flood’s more unusual plot lines, though, found her practically mummified for the majority of its runtime.

While investigating a tip about the true paternity of the offspring of a potential home wrecker, Karr was kidnapped and held hostage at a mysterious spa. The lair of a doctor who performed plastic surgery on high profile criminals, she was soon terrorized and wrapped in bandages to hide her identity by the surgeon’s very villainous thugs. 

Flood, naturally, enacted Karr’s hysteria over these horrific circumstances with justified aplomb. Further fueling the Mansion of the Damned, Poe-like circumstances of the plot, actor (and famed As The World Turns producer) Chris Goutman, who ably portrayed the heroic lead of Joseph Zito’s acclaimed slasher The Prowler, also brought a gleeful villainy to his characterization of Matt Sharkey, one of the goons torturing Karr. His joyously dark enthusiasm imbued the proceedings with a definitive macabre essence, resulting in a gothic adventure that fans of the show never forgot.

Side note: This story also introduced actress Leah Ayres, one of the ‘80s most earnestly recognizable performers, to the series. Best known to horror fans as the lead female camp counselor in The Burning, Ayres’ character Valerie Bryson was the confused offspring of the industrious, face changing doc here. Interestingly, both The Prowler, Goutman’s flick, & The Burning featured top of the line gore effects from the legendary Tom Savini, another one of the many circles of familiarity that often occur among afternoon television actors. 

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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Shark Bait Retro Village (Pride Edition): Rock Hudson

Published June 21, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Immortalized as a romantic leading man, suavely surfacing in everything from frothy Doris Day gems to such lush, dramatic adventures as Giant, Rock Hudson, as many matinee types before him, grew a bit bolder as he aged. The lure of homogenized Hollywood behind him, he accepted darker roles in such projects as the 1971 comic slasher Pretty Maids All in a Row and 1976’s mad scientist inspired Embryo.

It was not these movies that deemed him worthy of immortalization as the subject of a television-film of the week, though. That distinction was due to the late-in-his-life revelation of his homosexuality and his subsequent death from AIDS shortly thereafter. This tragedy fully engaged the shocked public. This was perhaps the first widespread evidence of how blatantly the corporate dream machine could cover up the truth with fantasies and lies. It was also prime evidence of the diversity of the LGBTQIA community – yes, we were choreographers and costume designers, but we were also war heroes and construction workers…and masculine matinee idols. 

In consideration of that last occupation, the producers of 1990’s Rock Hudson definitely got their lead casting right. The handsome 6’ 5” Thomas Ian Griffith, who would go on to be a beloved part of the John Carpenter universe due to his powerfully villainous turn in Vampires, was cast as Hudson for the project. Genre fans are also sure to be thrilled with the presence of Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser, Child’s Play 3) as infamous agent Henry Willson and the ever-friendly Thom Mathews (Return of the Living Dead, Friday the 13th: Jason Lives) as Tim Murphy, an amalgamation of Hudson’s early career paramours. Of the three, Mathews, in particular, shines with an honest sensitivity and forthrightness.

The truest pleasures in this production may end there, though. The project itself follows the typical biopic beats – Rock overcoming an indifferent parent (a quirkily curt Diane Ladd), finding outrageous success and then experiencing a disheartening down curve in popularity. Even more blatantly irritating, though, are the scenes involving Phyllis Gates (Daphne Ashbrook), the woman the star married in 1955 to cover up his true orientation. Pretty much universally confirmed as nothing more than a tense business arrangement, the producers here spend many gauzy lensed moments detailing the relationship as a passionate romance. Griffith and Ashbrook flirt and cutely cavort, eventually making love in a tenderly glowing sequence. The actor’s same sex relationships definitely don’t get the same treatment here. Granted, the audience at the time may not have been able to accept the sight of a sweaty man-on-Mathews lip lock, but by playing it safe, this production suffers not only from a sense of falsehood but from a certain blandness, intimately familiar territory to we lovers of tele-films, as well.

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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Va-Va-Villainess: Andrea Evans & Kim Johnston-Ulrich

Published June 7, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Crawford & Davis, Loni Anderson & Lynda Carter, Tyne Daly & Sharon Gless, Janine Reynaud & Rossana Yani…there have been many amazing female duos in entertainment history, but the two best baddies-in-arms might just be the gloriously glamorous Kim Johnston Ulrich and vivaciously voluptuous Andrea Evans. Playing Passions’ cunning comrades in arms, Ivy (Johnston) and Rebecca (Evans), this pair was among daytime drama dynamo James Reilly’s finest creations. 

While these two divas were often at each other’s throats, as both were determined to claim the fortune of the show’s ne’er do well multimillionaire Julian Crane, they often found the time to band together to take down a common enemy. The woman usually in their sights, as long-term viewers were aware, was the normally virtuous Theresa (Lindsay Hartley), the young woman who had the drunken misfortune to be impregnated by the wealthy, duplicitous Crane. Snake-ily conniving to deprive this trembling ingenue of any of her due fortune, these two were frequently found with their heavily hennaed heads together, plotting over tea and cookies…or occasional shakers of cocktails. Whether it was Rebecca accusing Theresa of murder or Ivy trying to convince her honorable lawyer son to help her crooked cause, these two scene stealers were always the most vibrantly amusing part of any given afternoon’s shenanigans. 

With years of experience behind them – Johnston had played the spoiled Diana McCall on As The World Turns while Evans was both the kittenish Tina on One Life to Live and the emotionally virginal Patty on The Young and the Restless – these two pros were obviously taking delight in all of the antics that were written for them, securing this team a place in the corridors of the soap opera greats.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

Both actresses appeared in gloriously cheesy, late ‘90s horror fare. Evans played a two-timing, small-town hottie who ran afoul of Clint Howard’s gloriously demented Ice Cream Man. Johnston, meanwhile, was the honorable heroine in the over-the-top fairy tale riff Rumpelstiltskin. 

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Until the next time, make sure your baby-daddy doesn’t have vengeful ex-wives and… 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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