Television

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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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Great Performances in Horror: Helen Hayes

Published April 12, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Helen Hayes’ wounded eyes resonate with such sadness on the Alter-Ego episode of Ghost Story, an early ‘70s horror anthology series, that she proves, without a doubt, that anyone at any age can experience the damaging effects of bullying.

Here, as the kindly Miss Gilden, a respected grade schoolteacher on the eve of her retirement, Hayes finds herself a victim of the demented antics of the evil doppelganger of one of her favorite students. As the child systematically destroys her reputation and turns all her beloved charges against her, Hayes vibrates with a haunted sorrow that provides the program’s emotionally connective glue. Nicely, a penultimate twist provides her character with a little affirmative revenge, producing a satisfying and contented sigh from all viewers.

That Hayes, an Academy Award winner and one of the most respected theater artists of her generation, applied such heart and depth to a one-off genre television appearance proves what a complete and dedicated performer that she was. Others can surely learn from her humility and grace.

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

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The Edgy Delusions of Mark Hamilton

Published April 4, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

As The Edge of Night hurdled towards its cancellation in late December of 1984, the powers-that-be organized one last darkly grotesque adventure for Raven (Sharon Gabet), its standout diva and favorite anti-heroine. Nine months pregnant, Raven found herself secreted away by a mysterious captor. Sequestered in a room, filled with beautiful lounging gowns, diamonds and an overwhelming Venetian theme, Raven soon discovered her keeper was the rich and handsome Mark Hamilton (Christopher Holder). Hamilton, who had tragically lost his own wife, was convinced Raven was his former bride and was, happily, awaiting the birth of their child…via some very deluded jailor techniques. The reality of Raven going into labor, though, seemingly, brought Hamilton back to his senses and, after helping her deliver a healthy child, he stepped aside so that she and Skye (Larkin Malloy), her true love, could live happily ever after…or at least until the final broadcast.

Interestingly, Holder, who applied a silken kindness to Hamilton’s madness, was then best known for playing the incredibly gullible Kevin Bancroft on The Young and the Restless. Bancroft spent months believing that he was the father of (popular vixen) Nikki Reed’s child and left town, heartbroken, upon learning the truth. Thus, Hamilton must have seemed like a nice change of pace for the actor.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

Holder went even deeper into character driven psychosis in the low budget 1985 slasher The Deadly Intruder. The film’s interesting cast included Hollywood heavyweight Stuart Whitman, The Partridge Family’s trouble making Danny Bonaduce and Elvira hunk (& Italian exploitation movie regular) Daniel Greene.

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

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The Gothic Plots of Reginald Love

Published March 27, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Windswept manors…candelabra style lighting…a delusional villain…Another World activated all these gothic melodrama stereotypes in the winter of 1988 as the powerful Reginald Love (John Considine) ended his reign of terror. Targeting his impulsive, pregnant daughter Donna (Philece Sampler), Love was determined to steal her away from her lover Michael (Kale Browne) and raise his soon-to-be born grandchild in his own domineering image. 

Fighting back, Donna and her wicked pater familias wound up free falling out of the windows of a towering mansion. Ever resilient, this pair survived that tumble. Thinking that twice might prove the charm, Reginald soon confronted Donna again in the same setting. The plunge that this damaged heroine took this time, in the middle of her sister Nicole’s highly dramatic fashion show nonetheless, caused her to lose her baby – a misdeed that even the most cherished baddie can’t return from. Thus, Reginald soon took another tumble (off of a high rise building) himself, perishing for good this time.

The legacy of madness he left behind would eventually claim his other offspring Nicole (Anne Howard), though. On the eve of her marriage to the show’s favorite anti-hero Cass (Stephen Schnetzer), this Love sibling, in a moment of passion, did away with Jason Frame (Chris Robinson), a longstanding thorn in her family’s side. Losing herself in self-protective delusion, Nicole then allowed Felicia Gallant (Linda Dano), the program’s eccentric diva, to take the rap for the crime. When all was revealed, Nicole descended the final step into pure illusionary dementia, ultimately being carted off to an asylum to recover.

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Howard, an accomplished performer, is beloved by genre enthusiasts for her portrayal of Susan Cabot, the radiology student who begins the satanic reign of terror in John Carpenter’s celebrated Prince of Darkness. Sampler’s previous soap gig on Days of our Lives, meanwhile, put her Renee DuMonde in direct contact with Stephano DiMera, perhaps the most baroque, moustache twirling daytime television villain of all time.

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

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The Criminal Unraveling of Nola Madison

Published March 20, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Fueled by a creative mélange of Sunset Boulevard, ghostly curses and possible incest, the Nola Madison plot line, featuring an intensely motivated turn by Academy Award winning actress Kim Hunter, on The Edge of Night featured a cornucopia of delights for lovers of the horror genre. In 1979, faded movie queen Madison (Hunter) arrived in Monticello, the crime ridden city where this long running daytime drama (1956 – 1984) was situated. Tormented by her husband’s sudden infatuation with Deborah Saxson (Frances Fisher), a comely red haired police officer, Madison became obsessed with reviving her career via an old school terror potboiler named Mansion of the Damned. Nothing like a little star luster to ignite the passion, no? Of course, once in production, the film faced numerous gothic disasters – the withdrawal of Trent Archer (Farley Granger), its superstitious leading man, the mysterious deaths of both the production’s director and its publicity agent, various spooky apparitions and, eventually, murder.

Definitely inspired by Norma Desmond, in a fit of contrasts, the writers for the show made the alcoholic Madison more criminally motivated than Gloria Swanson’s famed delusional diva. Whether sending Saxon a box of poisoned candy, drugging the kindly town doctor (Joel Crothers), burning down the studio as a publicity stunt or impulsively killing a rival (Ann Williams) in a fit of hysterical rage, this deadly daytime dame was calculating and manipulative. Unsurprisingly, she was also superbly played by Hunter, who filled the role with subtle intensity and nicely motivated histrionics.

Adding a glimmer of scandal, Madison was also hiding the fact that her comely stepdaughter (Margaret Colin) and her son, Brian (Stephen McNaughton), weren’t biologically related as they both assumed. This tormented pair often found themselves in what they (and the audience) assumed were illicit clinches until the truth was finally revealed.

Hunter, best known for notable work as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, was perfect casting here. Her first film role was in Val Lewton’s dark scare masterpiece The Seventh Victim and she continued, throughout her almost 60-year career, to rack up credits in such genre projects as The Kindred, Two Evil Eyes, Bad Ronald and episodes of such frequently grotesque television shows as Night Gallery and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Granger also had quite the pedigree – from the sophisticated terrors of Hitchcock (Rope, Strangers on a Train) to creepy Euro terror offerings to a well-regarded slasher (The Prowler). Bringing all that history to the vain and increasingly nervous Archer provided viewers with a special treat – especially in his scenes with Hunter, wherein the two pros met each other, mightily, arched eye brow to arched eye brow.

Nicely, for the compulsory and the curious, the entirety of the plotline has been captured on the impressive YouTube channel, Mr. Edge 80s: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqc3_5bPbySszkWoSrO27zA

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

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