Television

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Shark Bait Retro Village: The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver

Published December 15, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Squarely belonging in the quirky, femme drenched filmic universe highlighted by cinematic historian Kier-La Janisse, The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver hits its magnitude of magnificence due to the wonderful complexities of Karen Black’s lead performance.

Without a doubt, Black will always be one of celluloid’s most unique performers. Universally brimming with intensity and a lush sensuality, she was at the height of her powers in 1977 when this television film was made. Relishing her many close-ups here, she, indulgently yet effectively, brings all of the title character’s confusion and discovery to life. Whether you are intrigued (as I am) or dismayed by her often-eccentric technique, there will never be another like her.

As scripted by I Am Legend’s prolific Richard Matheson, this 78-minute piece of Gothicism begins as the timid Mrs. Oliver tries, unsuccessfully, to break out from beneath her husband’s (George Hamilton) severe, limited expectations of her. Bristling beneath the demand that she revoke all her freedoms for motherhood, the mousy woman ultimately starts to transform into a liberated swinger after a shopping trip to a local mall. Encouraged by a sexy dress shop employee (Gloria LeRoy) to suggestively dress and enjoy the fantasy of masquerading in a blonde wig, she soon begins dreaming of fiery landscapes and a violent past. Catching the eye of a mysterious stranger (Robert F. Lyons) during one of her nocturnal romps, this transformative adventuress is soon facing death in the face. Thus begins a quick race against time to discover the truth about herself before that ghoulish threat catches up with her completely.

Directed with a languid smokiness by AIP horror emperor Gordon Hessler (Scream and Scream Again, Cry of the Banshee), this project belies the limitations of its running time by offering up a solid mystery and the excitement of watching its main performer work her singular magic.

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

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Dawn Rollo & the Winter of My Discontent

Published December 2, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Soap operas saved my life this past winter. I lived and worked in a solitary tundra, often alone almost 24/7, as friends and co-workers fell prey to COVID and flu bugs or just kept their distance for safety’s sake. I was still in high school when the AIDS crisis began and was somewhat shielded from the devastating losses that era of gay men (and women) reeled from. Still, I felt a keening commonality with those spiritual brothers & sisters as I faced the disease devastated landscape of this past January & February. Thankfully, the people I knew were vaccinated and thus not lost to the world, but the impact felt somewhat similar.

Consistently facing the quiet at work, I would throw on YouTube to keep me company throughout the day. Gladly, I discovered numerous fans had downloaded months of episodes from various long cancelled daytime dramas to their channels. I soon got swept into the over-the-top circumstances their favored shows had presented and, as so often happens, the fictional people in those often-ridiculous circumstances soon became like old friends to me.

Ultimately, the plot line that I connected with the most was the more realistic late ‘80s saga of Another World’s Dawn Rollo (Barbara Tyson). Her plight rang in with a keening similarity as it seemed to have a significant parallel to the world I was then inhabiting. A quietly intense musical student, Rollo was the first long term soap character to be diagnosed with HIV and as her disease became full blown, the show dealt with her day-to-day struggles and sensitively chronicled her romance with Scott (Hank Cheyne), one of the show’s charming heroes. Most impact-fully, she also successfully sued her school for discrimination, an arc that tied in many of the shows heavy hitters, including (soap legend) Denise Alexander’s long suffering Mary, who was Scott’s mother. 

A bit more fantastically, Dawn’s brother, played by future soap hopper Richard Burgi, also ultimately of Days of our Lives, General Hospital & The Young and the Restless, had to be one of the youngest, handsomest ex-pimps ever. His arrival on the scene was precipitated by his desire to reconnect with M.J. McKinnon (Sally Spencer), a respected police officer who had once been an important part of his stable of workers. With that kind of background, it was unsurprising when it was revealed that the duo’s mother was a prostitute who had infected Dawn through a blood transfusion. (As if only criminals, gays & their innocent bystanders got the disease back then!) Still, the writers got the heart of the story down correctly and I shed many a work shift tear as Dawn eventually lost her battle with the illness. 

Months later, I still feel a heart filled connection with Tyson, who has gone onto appear as a guest on such horror themed shows as Poltergeist: The Legacy & Fear Itself, Cheyne, the macho gym-jack ass in Death Spa & Burgi, known as well for such projects as Hostel 2, Harper’s Island & Friday the 13th (2009). Of all our worldly cures, art is still the one, I find, that illuminates & heals the most.

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

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John Schuck: Inside Herman’s Head

Published October 27, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

This past April, I was lucky enough to have a moment to sit down with versatile, journey man actor John Schuck. Schuck was, very happily, in town (at the Navy Pier) for Thank You For Being a Fan, the first (and hopefully not the last) Golden Girls convention. During our quick time together, he shared wonderful memories of his time working with Rock Hudson, ruminated about his fun relationship with Elizabeth Taylor and, forthrightly, detailed his troubled time portraying one of horror’s most iconic characters, Herman Munster, on the syndicated series The Munsters Today.

B: I’m feeling a bit like Julie Andrews this morning, John, so let’s start at the very beginning! How did your journey towards performing start?

JS: Well, I’ve told this story many times before, so forgive me if you’ve already heard it. When I was 5, I knew all the words and music to Oklahoma. We lived near NY, so for my 6th birthday, my parents took me to see it. That night I left wanting to be an actor. (laughing) Well, maybe a cowboy more than anything else then…but an actor, too.

Why limit yourself? Be both!

But from that time on, that’s what I really wanted to do. I had a couple little side steps, but anytime I applied myself, that is where fate and fortune seemed to lead me. So I assume I did the right thing.

I think audiences around the world can, happily, concur with you on that statement. One of your best-known roles, among the many that you’ve done, has been Sgt. Enright on McMillan & Wife. Can you talk a little about your experiences with Rock Hudson on that project?

He was fantastic. He was one of those people without an ego. We were peers from the first day. We spent 6 years laughing a lot – sometimes too much. He was so easy to work with. Like me, he was always looking for something to make him better. So, during that period of time, he went out and did a tour of John Brown’s Body. He did I Do, I Do with Carol Burnett and he came through Chicago with On the Twentieth Century. So, he was taking on major theatrical parts that not only required speaking but singing…and they weren’t always necessarily commercial pieces either. It turns out I had fly here (to Chicago) to do a Mike Douglas Show. Do you remember that?

Of course! I loved those kinds of shows as a star-struck kid!

For those who don’t know, Mike Douglas had a daily talk show – sometimes it was an hour, sometimes it was an hour and a half. They came to Chicago and produced a show, coincidentally enough, at the end of Navy Pier. They were featuring things like log rolling and crazy stuff like that. But that night, I went to see Roy do On the Twentieth Century here in Chicago and that was just a lovely day.

I would have loved to have seen him perform in that.

So, it was a great six years and we stayed very much in-touch for the next couple of years. I did notice the last time that I had lunch with him that he was a little peaked. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was about. Then I went off to England to do a play with Charlton Heston, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the West End. After 4 or 5 months, Heston was going to leave. The producer came to me and said, “Who do you know that might be good to replace him at the star level?’ I said, “Rock Hudson. He would be wonderful playing this giant man crumbling in front you. That would be fantastic!” The producer went to L.A. and came back the following week. I asked, “Did you see Rock?” He said, “No. He’s dying.” That’s how I found out that he had AIDS, Fortunately, he lived until I got home, so I could say goodbye and all that. He was just a wonderful guy. He did not deserve that ending at all.

I’ve been catching up on old TV shows and films, lately. It is just amazing the amount of talent that was lost to that disease. Behind the scenes, there were multitudes of casualties, as well. The similarities between that era and COViD have brought so many lingering memories amongst so many of us in the LGBTQIA community.

Of course. Except this time there is a commonality. There is no shunning now.

Yeah, it’s not just the other now – drug addicts and queers. Its everyone. Speaking of a great every man, as a way to transition the conversation forward, you played a version of a character that has been embraced, heartily, by the horror community. Can we talk about your Herman Munster in The Munsters Today? He’s such a sweet, kind character.

He was. Of course, I couldn’t do the job that Fred Gwynne did. And our show was not really The Munsters. It was shot in front of an audience. It was in color, and it was set in a different time. …and in many ways, it was the worst job I ever had.

Wow. Interesting.

I couldn’t get out of it! It kept getting renewed.

For three years, right?

I think it was 5!

I noticed there was 70 some episodes.

We did a lot! I also think there might have been 80 some filmed. And out of all those shows there might have been 4 or 5 that I was proud of. So, that was something. But the rest was torture. I loved the cast. I loved the people that I worked with.

Well, there was Lee Meriwether as Lily, of course, who is also such a sweet person.

Yes! But that aside, it was the writing. They wrote it like it was a sitcom, but a sitcom for other characters. So every week there were these battles and conflicts…and I’m an easy going guy. I’m not into that. But I was a warrior. They’ve just aged horribly, as well. So, I vowed I would never do a job again just for the money.

Have you held true to that?

Yes!

Good for you!

Out of your epic career – and let me interrupt myself to say congratulations on that, because show business is such a tough road.

It is! It is tough.

Well, I hope you’re proud of yourself that you stayed true and preserved.

Thank you. You know what instills that?

What?

Its shows like this. The Star Trek conventions, The Hollywood Autograph shows… I’ve had people come all the way from France to meet me and tell me how much I meant to them growing up. It really validates you, extraordinarily. And it’s not like I’m some egocentric running around, thinking that I’m incredibly famous. It just makes you feel worthwhile.

Well, those shows you appeared on really mean something. Even a sore point like The Munsters Today must have affected some sick child, helped get them through their day. That is so valuable to society as a whole. Entertainment does save lives!

Right! In fact, I can’t wait to see this audience. (The Golden Girls) is an all-ages phenomenon! My wife and I sat and watched 3 episodes the other night. We were having a ball. It was a lot better than anything else that was on.

Truly! Of your other projects, is there a role that you feel deserves to be explored more by the public?

No. I always felt that I was given proper attention. (Thinking for a moment.)  I was not prepared when Brewster McCloud, the Robert Altman movie, came out. Brewster was the movie that came directly after his version of MASH, which was huge. I remember the day it came out. I went to a theater in Westwood and sat down. There were maybe 15 people there. That was a bit of a disappointment. It’s now become a cult film, so it’s sort of reversed itself. It’s on television all the time now.

Give it a little time and it’ll come back around.

I also did another movie called Hammersmith is Out. It starred Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Beau Bridges, George Raft, Leon Askin, me… I had this love scene on a bed with Elizabeth. (Shaking his head in disbelief.) There I was, right?!? Peter Ustinov directed it. Although, when I say he directed it…He was behind the camera. (Laughing.) But you’d get ready to do a scene and he was doing an imitation of a 1952 Chevy having a nervous breakdown.

Oh, no!

But, anyhow, he was great. And I thought just on sheer star power alone, people were going to go see it. It didn’t happen!

You’ve got to hand it to Elizabeth Taylor, too.  She did some really strange stuff in the ‘70’s – Boom, The Driver’s Seat

Boom! Oh, I forgot about that!

Just some strange, strange stuff.

Yes! Yes! Well, I got a friendship out of Hammersmith with her. So, that was great! I was at a dinner at their house. I arrived. Richard served me a cocktail. Then Elizabeth made an appearance. She said, “Would you like to come into the dining room? Dinner is ready!” We go into this rather large room with this very long table there. The three of us sat at one end. There was a line of chairs along the length of the table, up against the wall. That’s where the kids and the servants sat. They all sat independently, in order to be seen and not heard. My back was to them. On the walls, there were 7 or 8 paintings by Manet and Monet. By this time, Richard was in his cups…he was high and he began to get hostile with Elizabeth. He, first of all, started bitching about the quality of the paintings. These are not the good paintings! Then he started complaining about his birthday present. It had been a rather expensive golf cart which she had bought to be used on their yacht. He was upset because he had asked for a real car. Finally, she turned to me and said, “Is this not the silliest thing that you’ve ever heard? It’s ridiculous to have a yacht…and then to have a car on the yacht!?!” She just kind of fluffed it off. Oh, ha, ha, ha! She was like that. & when Roy got sick, man, she was there in a nanosecond! She repeated the same thing that she had done with Montgomery Clift. A fascinating woman. I loved her. She was great. The last years of her life were not the best either. It was sad. She and Martha Raye, so many others. I don’t know what happens.

You just never know, right? You’ve got to embrace every moment.

True.

Just like I am embracing this one! I know you’ve got to get going soon, so I just want thank you so much for your time. It’s been such a pleasure.

(Humbly.) Well, thank you for letting me babble on.

It was such a pleasure.

It was a pleasure. And I’m here all weekend, so if you need anything else from me – any clarifications or what have you, please let me know.

Will do! Enjoy yourself!

I will!

Be sure to keep on eye out for Schuck’s future work – he, frequently, travels across the country in stage projects…and check out the Thank You for Being a Fan website for information on future events: https://thankyouforbeingafan.com/.

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

http://www.facebook.com/biggayhorrorfan

Va-Va-Villainess: Ann Williams

Published October 20, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

Often operating with a silken haughtiness, the late, lamented Ann Williams imbued The Edge of Night’s conniving Margo Huntington with a convincing maternal instinct, as well. This quality definitely humanized the character as she, impulsively, tried to broker a baby for her temporarily barren daughter or manipulated an old acquaintance into hindering her son-in-law’s chances at receiving a job located far away from her watchful grasp.

Of course, like many a glamorous shrew before her, Huntington also was the paramour of a handsome, yet deceitful younger man named Elliot. Suavely played by Lee Godart, Elliot was also, unsurprisingly, the ticket to her downfall – if in a roundabout way. After their disastrous union ended in a hostile separation, Dorn took up with a possessive movie goddess named Nola Madison (Kim Hunter). Eventually, Madison, in a fit of jealous pique, bludgeoned Margo to death, unleashing one of the show’s most popular mysteries of the late ‘70s. (Margo’s angry son-in-law, played by the popular Tony Craig, would be convicted of the misdeed, at least initially.) 

Interestingly, this was not the first time that Williams, who had decades of experience in daytime, met her end onscreen. Eunice, the popular character that she played for 10 years on the legendary Search for Tomorrow, was eliminated in the mid-70s by Morgan Fairchild’s increasingly unbalanced Jennifer. (This move allowed Fairchild some career latitude and supposedly gave the show’s matriarch, Mary Stuart, a sense of relief, as well. Williams’ popularity was rivaling her own.)

Sadly, Williams, whose Broadway credits included a supporting stint opposite Lauren Bacall in the musical Applause, lost her real-life battle with cancer in 1985 at the incredibly young age of 50. Her 4 children have written a beautiful account of that time entitled The Kids Are Alright, a memoir that highlights the distinguished actress’ sense of humor and resilience in the face of uncertainty. Their memories about her soap stints, which also included runs on The Doctors and Loving, also leave readers with the correct impression that Williams was a prime example of the sophisticated thespians that populated New York City’s casting halls & premium television studios in that almost hallowed period of time. 

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Horror Hall of Fame:

According to IMDB, Williams starred in an episode of 1961’s Great Ghost Stories, a television show. The entry, entitled A Phantom of Detail, is described, plot line-wise, as being about the adventures that ensue when the protagonist discovers that his friend’s fiancé is a ghost. An all-too-common occurrence, right?!?

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

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Sapphic Angels

Published September 28, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

The Angels in Chains episode of the eternally fresh Charlie’s Angels gave mid-70s television viewers a mild taste of lesbian subculture.  There the energy was all jail-yard female power plays & aggressive correction officers, one even emphatically played by cult goddess Mary Woronov, the cinema’s supreme manipulator of androgynous tension! Two years later, the production team upped the femme-on-femme ante even more. Drenched in pink, Angels in Springtime, which takes place at the beginning of this glamorous detective outing’s third season, is perhaps the most Sapphic entry in that original Angels oeuvre. 

Taking place at an exclusive health spa for well-to-do women and guest starring the magnificent Mercedes McCambridge during her coarsest prison matron years, this episode finds the plucky trio menaced not only by McCambridge’s ego-soaked Norma, an ex-actress, but by a needle wielding psychiatrist (Joan Hotchkis) & a sumo wrestling masseuse (Nancy Parsons), as well. That the psychiatrist’s interest in the romantic adventures of Jaclyn Smith’s Kelly seems more profound than just the plot line’s blackmail purposes Is due, almost exclusively, to the silkily seductive way that Hotchkis operates as an actress. The way she expresses the character’s interest in Smith, posing as a well-to-do mistress here, definitely seems more than just casually criminal. Meanwhile, Parsons’ Zora might try to kill Cheryl Ladd’s perkily masquerading Chris through wet towel mummification…but this is seemingly only because she didn’t have a sweaty dildo and a gag ball nearby to help her perform that duty instead.

Of course, McCambridge, the diabolical heart of the episode, is definitely frightening the horses here, as well. Despite her character’s humorous mention of many ex-husbands, you know what two options she would choose in the kill-fuck-marry categories when dealing with any of Charlie’s finest, frilliest best. 

Indeed, from a casting standpoint alone, it could easily be surmised that one of the show’s producers was a closeted, gay movie buff. Joining McCambridge & Parsons, best known for her dementedly villainous actions in (cult classic) Motel Hell, are film noir diva Marie Windsor and future horror queen Bobbie Bresee (Mausoleum, Evil Spawn). That Windsor, regally hoisting a cigarette holder as a prop, plays Eve La Deux, a board treading rival of McCambridge’s, is almost worth the price of admission alone for the show’s many queer fans. Her dramatic performance in the opening scene is, indeed, the starting point of an evening filled with both subtle and emphatic alternative delights.

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

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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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