Saturday, July 05, 2008

VIDEO WATCHDOG #141 On the Way

VIDEO WATCHDOG #141 is now back from the printer and beginning to wend its wicked way toward subscribers and retailers. You can read a comprehensive list of its contents here, where you can also click on the cover for previews of two articles.

The cover story is Justin Humphreys' touching and informative memoir of AIP screenwriter (and New World director) Charles B. Griffith, illustrated with many rare and original photos, which provides a wonderful complement to our Roger Corman round table of a few issues ago. The issue also includes several reviews that are feature-length in themselves: Bill Cooke on the FOX HORROR CLASSICS box set (the Laird Cregar/John Brahm set, as we know it around here), Kim Newman's coverage of CHARLIE CHAN VOLUME 4, and my own detailed assessment of the entire SPIDER-MAN trilogy (actually a quartet, as SPIDER-MAN 2.1 is also included) on Blu-Ray. Also featured: Frank Darabont's THE MIST, THE INVASION, and a generous helping of British horror, including BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE and three Amicus titles.

This issue is a particularly happy occasion for us on a behind-the-scenes count: it marks our return to our original printer, Crest Graphics, for the first time since VW #109. While the print quality of VW #112 through 140, done by another local company, was never less than crisp and sparkling, I was personally never very happy with the paper quality, the heavy gloss on the covers, or the way their web press caused the pages to audibly crackle when turned. This new issue is much more like the way I prefer to envision VW: lighter but still readable cover gloss, sturdier paper, pages that turn without sound effects. In fact, owing to a miscalculation on our part, this new issue was printed on heavier stock than it should have been -- 70 lb. instead of 60 lb. -- so there will be a slight reduction in weight with the next. This one is going to cost us a little more than usual to mail, but boy, does it feel like a magazine! And so will the next one, I'm sure. We've always loved and missed our friends at Crest Graphics, and we're delighted to be back with them. I think when our seasoned subscribers slip this latest issue from its envelope, they'll feel back in the presence of an old friend, too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Would You Believe... MORE Vacation Pictures?

Friday, June 27 -- It's the KALEIDOSCOPE Kids!

Lunch with Joe Dante, his partner Elizabeth Stanley and charmin' Charlie Largent at Musso & Frank's Grill on Hollywood Boulevard -- just a stone's throw away from the Monkees' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (We have photos of Donna's visit to that sacred shrine, too, if you're interested.) They make a terrific corned beef sandwich there, an open-faced job so big I couldn't finish it. I remember Joe taking home half a club sandwich, come to think of it.

I wish Joe was prepping Charlie's and my Roger Corman biopic script, THE MAN WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES, but the budget still isn't in place. He's currently in pre-production on two new horror movies, BAT OUT OF HELL and THE HOLE (which I told him will be called ONIBABA in Japan). Joe and Elizabeth aren't giving up on our project, though; they say they have never heard any complaints about the script, but the general (incorrect) feeling is that the story is too Hollywood-inside to be a commercial success. As we all know, it's only insiderly because it happened to famous people like Roger and Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper and Nancy Sinatra (quite a cast of characters, wouldn't you say?); the movie's message is as benign as it is universal. At the very least, it's a future cult comedy waiting to happen, the kind you'll watch again and again as you surf it up on one of your cable movie channels. A major Oscar-winning actor-director has expressed interest in playing Corman, too. If you're looking to invest in a terrific film project, let one or all of us know.

Next on that day's schedule was a long-planned pilgrimage to the Ennis-Brown House on Los Feliz. This fabled location, best-known as the unforgettable exterior of William Castle's original HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959), has been suffering some signs of age and erosion in recent years, but we found it everything we ever hoped it would be. One side of the structure, the side overlooking the city, has been shored up along its lower hillside -- but what haunted house doesn't have its signs of decrepitude?

The guests will soon be arriving...

Here's one now. Isn't she pretty?

Donna couldn't resist ringing the doorbell to see if Frederick or perhaps Annabelle might actually answer. She also once touched a Van Gogh self-portrait at the Chicago Art Institute, knowing full well that it might set off every alarm in the place. She's so amusing...
We felt stangely at home here at the gates of the House on Haunted Hill. After all, we've been haunting it for many years.

You can't get this close to the house's "front" door, but a camera with a nice zoom lens, pushed through one of the gaps in the ironwork gate, affords a better view than can be obtained in person.

By the way, Charlie Largent took these photos of Donna and myself. Compositionally and in terms of our expressions, this is one of the best pictures ever taken of us. Seeing these pictures for the first time, Charlie told me, "You look like you know the secret to the House on Haunted Hill, and you ain't tellin' anybody" -- but I really can't comment.

This photo was taken on the side of the house that has begun to slip down Haunted Hill. It might be that very room, judging from the leading of the window, where the interiors of Eldon Tyrell's abode in BLADE RUNNER (1982) were shot. It didn't occur to me to take photos of the repair work underway; perhaps, unconsciously, I didn't want to reveal this grand old building's infirmities.

I was there.

I was never here, but we passed it several times in our rent-a-car and I finally grabbed this shot of it. This eye-catching sign of a Los Angeles tailor shop reads like a Zen koan in comparison to the witticisms found on some of the churches we drive by locally here in Ohio ("CHRCH -- What's Missing? U Are!").

Later in the day, David J. Schow took Donna and me to the famous Dark Delicacies bookshop in Burbank. Here I am in the clutches of the store's mascot, who stands guard outside the front door.

Here I'm making the acquaintence of the store's proprietor, Del Howison, whom I once noted in a review is the only actor to have played Renfield in more than one picture. Del told me that he's now played the role four times, in different movies directed by Don Glut. Anyway, as the author of THE BOOK OF RENFIELD: A GOSPEL OF DRACULA, shaking Del's hand was like shaking the hand of my own character. He's the only Renfield actor I've ever met. We were also charmed by Del's wife Sue, who also runs the store and is camera-shy. She agreed to pose for a picture with us only if I agreed not to post it on the Internet, so I must honor my word. If you want to see Sue Howison, you'll have to troop out to Burbank in your best black clothes.

Earlier in our visit, my friend Lucy Chase Williams (author of Citadel's THE COMPLETE FILMS OF VINCENT PRICE) and her husband Gibby Brand hosted a party for me at their charming house in Glendale -- the approach to which, a blankety mountain range beyond an aisle of skyscraping palms, was literally breathtaking. I left my copy of her book behind for personal inscribing and returned with Donna and David J. Schow on Saturday, June 28 (our last day in town), to retrieve it. It was also an opportunity for two local authors, Lucy and David, to finally meet. I had to smack myself when I got back home and found we had no picture of Gibby... or their excitable mastiff, Ranger. Lucy's a wonderful hostess and friend and it was good to put my arms around her twice this trip. (Although David's doing it here.)
Trivia note: See that uniform set of books just above Lucy's head? They're a set of Robert Browning's poems and they belonged to Vincent Price when he was still a student at Lucy's alma mater, Yale University. Each endpaper is signed "V.L. Price, Jr. '31."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

That Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Chair

WatchBlog reader Paul White was the first to respond to my request for frame grabs depicting the prop loveseat I photographed on the set of Larry Blamire's forthcoming DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, reputed to have originally appeared in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948).

As you can see, what Larry Blamire's universe has conjoined was asunder in the older film. The make of the chairs is certainly identical -- though, as Larry told me, the furniture has been reupholstered. However, as Paul's grabs show, the loveseat appears in the earlier film as two separate chairs.

Either they were commingled for an intermediary film by a skilled carpenter or, more likely, the chairs seen in the A&C classic are not exactly the same piece of furniture. That said, the loveseat is obviously part of the same matching set and may well have appeared elsewhere in the movie, in another area of Dracula's castle.

What I want to know is, if the D&SN loveseat was actually cobbled together from two once-separate chairs, and Lou Costello sat there first...

Who's on first?

Walk A Mile in Our Shoes

Also known as "More Vacation Pictures." Click, as they say, to embiggen.

On June 20, Donna and I visited Bob and Kathy Burns, whose peerless collection of fantastic film memorabilia provided a wonderful evening of nostalgic distraction. Here I am holding one of Glenn Strange's original Frankenstein boots -- and Glenn's own shoe is still inside it! The outer part feels like felt and the sole feels like wood!

Here Donna achieves her lifelong dream of playing Weena to Rod Taylor's Time Traveller in the actual Time Machine. ("How do they wear their hair in your time?") This Rod is a wax likeness, but his smoking jacket is the original and the rear wheel of the device "Manufactured by H. George Wells" still rotates.

When I was very young, a television broadcast of Wm. Cameron Menzies' INVADERS FROM MARS sent shivers through me, especially the scenes involving the bubble-encased Martian leader. Here I am, in what I call my "Dr. Strange" shirt (which Donna made for me), holding the original prop bubble that the Martian drones carted about from place to place.

Another lifelong dream realized as Bob and Kathy took us to the original Bob's Big Boy in Burbank -- on a Friday, too, when the parking lot turns into a weekly classic car showcase. (Kathy surprised us by proving herself an expert car aficianado who can date '57 Chevy by sight.) The West Coast Big Boy formula differs from the one we have here in the Midwest -- mayonaisse and some kind of red relish instead of our tartar sauce -- but as much as I like the local recipe, I think I may actually prefer the original, which tasted to me like a more substantial, satisfying Big Mac. By the way, I don't make the claim that I resemble the mascot of this fine restaurant, but as I stood outside waiting for our table, children began to climb on me.

Me and Donna with Kathy and Bob. We love them, and we love this picture.

On the set of Larry Blamire's new "old dark house" spoof A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, I bump into actor Andrew Parks -- beloved by millions as Kro-Bar from THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, but especially beloved by me as Truphen Newben of TALES FROM THE PUB.

Here's Larry Blamire himself. Larry is usually on his feet, calling the shots, while onset, but I pleaded with him to rest for a moment on this prop chair which -- according to set gossip -- previously appeared in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Perhaps one of our eagle-eyed readers can find it and send us a frame grab?

In the lunchroom, we had a nice talk with Rondo-winning artist Frank Dietz and James Karen about Mr. Karen's fine performance in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Donna charms John Saxon at the 34th Annual Saturn Awards.

Here's Donna and me sharing a moment of triumph with our old friend, producer Alfredo Leone, who won the Saturn for his involvement in Anchor Bay's THE MARIO BAVA COLLECTION, VOLUMES 1 and 2. Alfredo kept trying to get my award, and my wife, away from me, but be that as it may... The flash on our camera began to fail us here, and I've done what I can to brighten it. The same goes for the next and last shot of the day...

On the evening of June 26, Donna and I attended a public interview of actor/author/raconteur Orson Bean at Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. Orson's lovely wife Alley Mills -- an actress you may remember from THE WONDER YEARS, now working on the soap THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL -- was there too and we coralled her into this commemorative photo, taken in the building's lobby. Unfortunately, she was feeling the onset of a sore throat and didn't join us for dinner, but we drove Orson to one of his favorite French joints, Lilly's, and talked about a project we're cooking up.
Though he put on a brave and friendly face that evening, Orson looked visibly shaken by the loss of his friend George Carlin just three days earlier. He told me that their friendship went back 45 years, but they became especially close friends only 8 or 9 years ago. He reminisced about how George had been married for a long time to a woman he loved very much, was destroyed when she suddenly passed away and withdrew into seclusion. Then he happened to meet a friend of the Beans named Sally, and they had their first date when the Beans invited them both to dinner. They stayed together from then on. On the night George died, Sally called Orson and his wife Alley and they went over to hold her hand for a couple of hours. Sally was upset, of course, but like anyone who had spent any length of time living with a comedian, mined humor from her pain; she told them how she imagined George at the Pearly Gates, trying to convince St. Peter that all the bad things he said about God were all in good fun.
Orson told us that the true measure of George Carlin can be seen in the fact that he befriended a Christian like himself and, despite his coarse public image, respected whatever life choices made people happy. He even provided an enthusiastic blurb for the cover of Orson's forthcoming book, MAIL TO MIKEY, which is a book about finding God but written in harsh, rather un-Christian language. In a sense, Carlin's last public act will be endorsing a book whose aim, underlying its profanity, is to teach suspicious souls the value of getting on one's knees once a day and thanking Someone or Something for the gift of life.

T & D in This Month's CINCINNATI Magazine

The Tim & Donna publicity blitz continues in the current (July 2008) issue of CINCINNATI magazine, where Jack Heffron's West Side Story section profiles the Lucai of VW fame in an article featuring this fabulous classic-one-sheet-styled art by Owen Richardson. (This is the second time I've been caricatured by a magazine artist in the past year and it feels weird.) Jack's article is called "It Came from Price Hill" (referring to the section of town in which we live) and it features our comments on VIDEO WATCHDOG, the Bava book, and our history as a couple. If your local newsstand doesn't carry CINCINNATI, check their website at www.cincinnatimagazine.com (access code RED MEAT) for more details.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Team Watchdog at the Saturn Awards

Here are some shots that were taken by David J. Schow at the 34th Annual Saturn Awards last Tuesday, June 24. Here's Donna and me, posing with our Special Achievement Award.

Dining at Table #24 with award presenter John Saxon, who I complimented on his surprising performance in Dario Argento's MASTERS OF HORROR episode, "Pelts."

Guillermo del Toro meets Charlie Largent -- VW cover artist and Donna's most important collaborator in the design of MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. Charlie and Guillermo had a great conversation about GDT's intentions for THE HOBBIT... and now both Charlie and I want to take another stab at reading it!

Donna meets PAN'S LABYRINTH's Faun and Pale Man, and the Silver Surfer, all rolled up in one: Doug Jones. A gifted mime, a very sweet and charming gentleman... and, as Charlie shrewdly noted, "If they ever get around to making a biopic on John Waters, there's your guy."
But all this is prologue to today's new entry on the Bava book blog. Click here for instant teleportation to more pictures and much more text.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Donna monkeys around with Kogar (Bob Burns) on the set of Larry Blamire's A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Photo by Frank Dietz.
Tonight, Donna and I returned home from an amazing ten-day trip to Los Angeles -- our first real vacation since we started VIDEO WATCHDOG in 1989 -- so if you're wondering why your e-mail hasn't been answered or your order confirmed, that's why. There's been nobody here except the dear friend who's been taking care of our cats.
What a trip! During our time in California, we picked up our Saturn Award for Special Achievement and shook the hand of Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films president Robert Holguin; Lucy Chase Williams and her husband Gibby Brand held a welcoming party for us in their Glendale home; we lunched with Joe Dante and his partner Elizabeth Stanley at the famous Musso and Frank's; we hung out with Bob & Kathy Burns at their "Bob's Basement" museum (then dined with them and our cover artist Charlie Largent at Bob's Big Boy on a "Classic Car" Friday); we attended a Q&A with Orson Bean at Beyond Baroque in Venice, where we met Orson and his wife Alley Mills, then had dinner with Orson all to ourselves at a fabulous French restaurant called Lilly's; we saw THE INCREDIBLE HULK (eh) at the Cinerama Dome theater; we walked around the Santa Monica Pier with Richard Harland Smith and his two toddlers and trudged through what felt like 20 miles of sand to get our feet wet in the Pacific; we got a private preview screening of Howard Berger's outstanding new music documentary A LIFE IN THE DEATH OF JOE MEEK, followed by an all-night conversation with Howard; we dropped in on Sue & Del Howison at Dark Delicacies, where we left a signed copy of MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK for sale, and -- neither last nor least -- we were guests on the set of Larry Blamire's forthcoming "old dark house" mystery A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, where we met Larry (a past VW contributor!), his wife Jennifer "Animala" Blaire, H.M. Wynant, James Karen, Brian Howe, Andrew "Truphen Newben" Parks and renewed old acquaintence with Sketchy Thingster Frank Dietz and our pal-since-the-early-Seventies, Mike Schlesinger, who's producing the picture (which looks like an inspired satire). I got to see some other friends again, meet a few people with whom I've been corresponding off and on for many years, and I even got hugged and kissed by Guillermo del Toro, who greeted me at the Saturn Awards like a long lost brother (and some have said there is a resemblance). Further sweetening the deal: Shintaro Sushi, fresh avocados, Prizzi's, fresh avocados, The House of Pies, fresh avocados, and a pleasingly firm bed at the Hollywood hills aerie of that Wild, Wild Westerner, David J. Schow, located high above the audible a.m. feeding frenzies of local coyotes.
As I'm posting this, I'm so sleepy that my eyes are literally crossing, but I wanted to explain my/our recent absence, during which time we could read e-mail but couldn't respond to it... which is not what we should have been doing on our first vacation in nearly 20 years anyway, and which we're therefore filing under "Fortunate Inconveniences." Watch for more fax and pix in the days ahead, as we begin to upload our own photos.
And a Big Thank You to Frank Dietz for capturing this once-in-a-lifetime moment on the official DARK AND STORMY NIGHT stills camera.