In his never ending quest to accomplish what others, perhaps too fondly, call making a living, Big Gay Horror Fan has waited tables, conducted extensively annoying movie surveys in zoo atriums and walked leash straining Dobermans through streets full of dining homosexuals. I’ve assisted presidents (but unlike Lady Bird Johnson have never slept with one) and have helped the belligerent five star traveler with exclusive arrangements – so, naturally, I prefer a horror film goddess with a varied pedigree.
Thus, I am pickled as a pink cucumber to discover the venerable, always exciting Georgia Brown (1933-1992). Born Lillian Klot, she escaped the blitzes of London as a child and, discovering a love for jazz and blues at a young age, choose the protagonist of the popular romp “Sweet Georgia Brown” as her professional name.
In all probability best known for her stage roles, which included a stint succeeding Lotte Lenya in the New York production of Three Penny Opera and the originating the role of Nancy (performing with a pre-Monkee’s Davy Jones on the Ed Sullivan show) in the popular musical Oliver!, she was also the force behind the powerful, feministic BBC series Shoulder to Shoulder.
In the gossipy corridors of gore, though, Brown excelled as the growly voiced bar singer in 1965’s Sherlock Holmes/Jack the Ripper hybrid A Study in Terror, a frustrated society mother in 1972’s juicily ridiculous anthology film Tales That Witness Madness and as the Widow Chastity in 1987’s sublimely silly witch hunt comedy Love at Stake.
It is her Fay Patterson in the “Mr. Tiger” segment of Tales that, in all likelihood, would appeal most to terror nuts, though. With the sounds of his bickering parents as background music, young Paul Patterson becomes increasingly attached to his imaginary best friend – a tiger. Brown’s Fay, the frustrated wife of a wealthy businessman, grows increasingly agitated as her young son seemingly winds his way, deeper and deeper, into a world of animalistic fantasy.
As dinner bones are gnawed on, hunks of fresh meat disappear from the freezer and doors begin to show the telltale signs of cat scratches, Brown’s wildly unhappy antagonist soon discovers that some fake friends are all too real. In this segment’s gloriously climatic moment, Brown finds a gigantic (obviously fake) paw obliterating her surprised facial expression and her smoky screams echo throughout the piece’s fade-out.
As Madness features knife throwing portraits, jealously murderous trees and cannibalistic guru’s one could almost surmise that this entry was filmed at the tail end of the UK’s horror anthology craze, as opposed to the beginning. (Popular Brit anthology horrors such as the original Tales from the Crypt and Asylum were, also, produced in 1972.) Yet, there is a gleeful outrageous at play here and the sight of Joan Collins, looking quite gorgeous in a mini nightgown and a scene commanding hair bow, attacking a very feminine tree trunk with a curved blade, in the third segment entitled “Mel”, is worth the price of uncertain spouse-hood alone.
Accentuated by infrequent screen goddess Kim Novak (Vertigo, Bell Book and Candle) and such genre regulars as Suzy Kendall (Torso, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Spasmo) and Halloween’s Donald Pleasance, Madness, which will make the high tech transition to DVD and Blu-ray on June 26th, is definitely worth a bloody fling through your crumbling VCR.
Brown, who died at 58 from surgical complications, also earned geek points by portraying Worf’s stepmother in two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and as this video tribute proves – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFte9WvBFXs – deserves to be much better known than she is.
Until next time –
Sweet love and pink Grue, Big Gay Horror Fan