Similarly, golden age sex goddess, Marilyn Monroe, was not known as a doyenne of fright. But, one of her first starring roles was that of an extremely demented babysitter in the 1952 psychological thriller Don’t Bother to Knock. Of extreme interest to terror titans everywhere, though, is the fact that this little potboiler (which some feel could have been a first class thriller under the more stylized gaze of Alfred Hitchcock) was directed by then Hollywood newbie Roy Ward Baker. Baker would go on to helm such nerve shaking masterpieces as The Vampire Lovers, Scars of Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and Asylum for Amicus and Hammer in swinging 70’s England. Here, though, he was able to squeeze out a competent B-Movie despite the numerous insecurities of his leading lady.
According to Mike Evan’s Marilyn the ultimate book and Baker’s own memoir A Director’s Cut, even in her early years, Monroe was a mass of neuroses, causing delays in filming due to late set arrivals and panic stricken line readings. (Much as Laurence Olivier would bristle at Paula Strasberg’s involvement in Monroe’s performance on The Prince and the Showgirl set, Baker had interference problems with Monroe’s then coach, Natasha Lytess, and, with the studio’s help, would eventually ban her from the premises.) Still, as many others would attest to in her later years, Baker soon realized that Monroe could do no wrong in front of the camera and that, with patience and extreme support, she was able to accomplish a glowing, committed performance.
One of Baker’s most enjoyable 70’s horror romps, meanwhile, features busty Stephanie Beacham (Schizo, Dracula 1972 A.D., Horror Planet) as a young bride arriving at her new home in the ‘handy’ And Now the Screaming Starts. With severed appendages popping out of family portraits and a bloodied stump following unsuspecting victims down hallways and eventually strangling some innocent folks, And Now is vibrantly filmed and features distinguished performances from Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom and Ian Oglivy (The Witchfinder General). With a family curse looming over the proceedings, the film’s twist ending is a twisted delight and truly brings a new meaning to the notion of traumatic child birth.
Meanwhile, Judy Garland, another classic movie star with tremendous gay sensibilities, is another performer whom, not living to a fright hag age, is not known for any true spook offerings. (Although, she may be considered one of filmdom’s first final girls as her Dorothy fought down witches, flying monkeys and drugged poppy flowers in 1939’s The Wizard of the Oz.) But as a young actress, she did stretch her dramatic range as a terrified car hop waitress in a radio episode of Suspense. Suspense gave many a Hollywood golden oldie to a way to act against type and Garland’s full episode is available to listen to @:
Be sure to check back every other Monday for a look at the sweet ladies of terror.
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Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE – Big Gay Horror Fan!