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Maid for Horror: Leila Bennett

Published December 8, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

Leila Terror 1

With elastic eyes and a rubbery physique, Leila Bennett enlivened multiple Golden Age comedies, almost always playing domestics. On a controversial level, she even played a maid named Hattie, in black face, in both the stage and screen versions of a piece called The First Year. While this is a decision she probably would have neLeila Dr X 2ver made in a more enlightened time period, thankfully, she did make some correct assessments, career wise. For example, classic fright fans will forever benefit from her choice to appear in a number of fun, highly regarded gothic horrors.

In 1932’s Doctor X, Bennett’s often timid Mamie is forced to reenact the death throes of a serial killer’s victim through the investigative experiments of Lionel Atwill’s determined titular character. Nicely, when Mamie isn’t being terrified by Atwill, she is tending to Joanne, his supportive daughter who is played by the legendary Fay Wray. Coming to Joanne’s defense when Lee Tracy’s manipulative reporter tries to con her, Bennett is able to also display some feistiness here, giving her screen time a fine sense of fun and inventive balance. Leila Terror 2

In 1933’s lesser known Terror Aboard, Bennett displays an aggressiveness not seen in Doctor X. Here, as a maid named Lena, she pursues famed comedian Charles Ruggles’ frazzled steward, Blackie, with an ardent surety. Harassment as humor turns to horror, though, when Lena discovers that John Halliday’s smooth Maximilian, the owner of the ship on which this misadventure occurs, is the man responsible for all of the mayhem and bloodshed that the guests are experiencing. Bennett, nicely, applies a little coy navigation to her concern here, but her efforts to outwit Halliday end in failure. Thrown overboard by the villain, Bennett’s Lena joins the other victims in this Pre-Code slasher pre-curser. Mostly ignored upon its release, this piece’s interesting kills, including death by freezing and assisted suicide, have begun to give it a bit of recognition among gothic connoisseurs, as of late. This will, hopefully, help to put an end Bennett’s semi-obscurity, as well.

Leila Mark 11935’s Mark of the Vampire, dominated by Bela Lugosi’s haunting presence as Count Mora, is probably the most famous of this moldable pro’s terror offerings. But, Maria, her character, is, perhaps, the most pedestrian of the trio represented here. Put in charge of watching over Irina, the film’s heroine played by the regal Elizabeth Allan, Bennett is required to do little more than react in ever growing fright. Her presence, as in the other roles, is substantial and committed to with boundless energy, though. In fact, Bennett has more screen time than the mystical Carroll Borland, whose exotic nature and haunting composure have long made her one of this project’s most memorable features.

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Seemingly retiring from acting in 1936, Bennett died in New York City at the age of 72. But, forever young in celluloid, this engaging, unique performer is truly ripe for deserved rediscovery now.

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

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Mary Wickes

Published December 1, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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Mary Wickes was well known for adding a bit of dour (and occasionally judgmental) hilarity to many television shows and classic films. Her appearance as a frustrated, world renowned choreographer on The Ballet, a first season episode of I Love Lucy, for example, helped make that show one of the legendary series’ most hilarious offerings. Mary W4

Best known to many modern audiences as Sister Mary Lazarus in the Sister Act movies, cinema sleuths drawn to the darker side may be fonder of her quirky appearances on such shows as Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, though.

The Baby Sitter, a first season AHP episode, actually found Wickes in familiar comic territory. As Blanche Armstaedter, the best friend of Thelma Ritter’s love lost Lottie Slocum, Wickes adds plenty of humorous appeal. In fact, as she offers up tempting ice cream treats to Lottie, Wickes often comes off as a monument to devilish frivolity. Her delight in the fact that her fondest companion may be a cold blooded murderess makes Wickes’ Blanche the story’s standout, with this one of a kind performer  stealing scenes from her co-star, the well seasoned, virtuosic Ritter. Mary W6

Toby, on the anthology show’s second season, provided a more somber character for Wickes to attach her skills to. Working with a bit of a Tennessee Williams’ vibe, this production concentrates on the arrival of a fragile old maid type to a rambling boarding house. As Edwina Freel, the land lady of the establishment, Wickes provides plenty of heart and weathered kindness here. She seems to know that the romance between this crumbling flower and a long term resident is doomed to failure and her scenes resonate with both wearied hardness and a bit of tender concern.

Nicely, her tart edge is in full effect again with They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be offering on The Night Stalker. As Dr. Bess Winestock, a zoologist that Darren McGavin’s always curious Kolshak interacts with, Wickes delivers her lines with a tangy twist, often providing laugh out loud results. This particular venture is more science fiction in nature than some of this iconic show’s more horrific offerings. But Wickes does get to reveal the truly chilling fact that the bone marrow of the animals in her character’s care has been devoured then rejected by the hungry aliens that dominate this output’s proceedings here.

Mary W1Exposed as an often rigid and uncompromising force in Steve Taravella’s well researched biography I Know I’ve Seen That Face Before, these three varied appearances (among so many others) prove that Wickes will forever be one of the world’s premium actresses of any (and every) variety.

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

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Horror, She Wrote: Alice Krige

Published November 17, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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Horror, She Wrote explores the episodes of the ever-popular detective series Murder, She Wrote, featuring Angela Lansbury’s unstoppable Jessica Fletcher, that were highlighted by performances from genre film actors.

Show business is full of complications…professional jealousies, Napoleon complexes, cold blooded killers. The sweet Nina Cochran (Alice Krige) definitely discovers this to be true on Murder in the Afternoon, a second season episode of Murder, She Wrote.

Alice K2The niece of the series’ stalwart Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer who continuously finds herself solving real crimes, Cochran is accused of offing Joyce Holleran (Jessica Walter, Play Misty For Me), the evil head writer of the soap on which she appears. Of course, Cochran isn’t the only suspect for doing away with this callous doom bringer. Holleran has threatened the jobs of many of the show’s beloved cast, including the indulgent, adulterous Bibi Hartman (Tricia O’Neil, Piranha II: The Spawning).

Capped by a double red herring, this episode, nicely, allows Krige to display a full range of emotions. Fear and anger, naturally, figure prominently here. But true movie buffs may delight most to Krige’s sweet scenes with Lansbury and golden age character actress Lurene Tuttle (Psycho, Niagara, Don’t Bother to Knock), who plays Krige’s devoted grandmother with a daft charm.

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Krige, who gave sophisticated and passionate performances in such horror offerings as Ghost Story, Sleepwalkers, Silent Hill and Stay Alive, also works well amongst the vindictive environs of  Walter and O’Neill. She, wisely, plays off their characters’ inherent selfishness with a firm and determined resolve of her very own. …and while that surely doesn’t provide much love in the afternoon, as those daytime ads in the flashy ‘80s always proclaimed, it most certainly allows for plenty of delicious, lightweight fun!

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

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Curse of the Hag

Published November 17, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

Curse of the Hag

My buddy Jared insists that witches should be the next big trend in horror films. Now, if he’s talking kick-ass, feminist spellcasters – and I’m sure he is – then he just might be right on track.

For…massively awesome director Carolyn Baker has just unleashed the trailer for her latest Wisconsin based DIY effort Curse of the Hag…and it looks spooky, atmospheric and full of tough, complicated women.

The film, which is currently being submitted for festival circuit, can be followed at https://www.facebook.com/CurseoftheHag.

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

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Brooke Bundy Fan Page

Published November 4, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

Brooke Charlies

She played Elaine Parker, the mother that you love to hate, in the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, but true celluloid buffs know that the versatile Brooke Bundy played a wide variety of roles throughout her career. Like her doomed Diana on General Hospital, whose murder has long been considered one of the greatest crime mystery plotlines of the golden age of the soap operas, many of these credits took place on a variety of popular television shows.

Perhaps most notably, the first season of Charlie’s Angels found Bundy interacting with Farrah and crew as an ex-street walker turned Las Vegas chorus girl wanna-be. Her character, filled with both a sense of street smarts and sweetness by this layered performer, was even romanced here by David Doyle’s goofily lovable Bosley. Brooke Chips

Of course, Parker was not the only troubled mother in Bundy’s arsenal. Not as famously, perhaps, she played another matriarch on the final season of CHiPS. Here, as the emotionally unstable parent of a young girl played by Halloween’s Kyle Richards, she nicely shows a lot of subtlety and depth even though she is only featured in a couple of scenes. The quiet seriousness she adds also brings a bit of believability to this jump the shark episode that focuses on a space alien that is trying to bring Richards back to its home planet.

Brooke Circle of Fear

Bundy also appeared on a variety of interesting yet more obscure television shows, as well.  A 1973 episode of Circle of Fear, an unusual and short lived horror anthology series, found her playing a member of an artists’ colony who is suddenly sucked into an ancient bottle by a vengeful group of pagan gods and goddesses. That same year, her sensible character was unable to save her man from the sensual lure of Lesley Ann Warren’s vampiric succubus on the Death on a Barge entry of Night Gallery, a vignette that was directed by none other than Star Trek’s most legendary Vulcan, Leonard Nimoy.

Nicely, now you can celebrate all of these interesting credits and so many more at Bundy’s recently created fan page: https://www.facebook.com/brookebundyfanpage/. Her activities, such as con appearances, will be noted there, as well.

So, as the shout of “Kristen!” whistles through your brain…until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Great Performances: Linnea Quigley in Night of the Demons

Published October 6, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

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All horror fans bemoan the lack of respect that their favorite performers receive in the world at large. For every Frederic March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Kathy Bates (Misery) and Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs), there are hundreds of wonderful performances overlooked.

What is even more amazing is when one of these incisive portrayals comes from an unexpected place. One may expect a lot of fun and vibrant energy emanating from the young actors in Kevin S. Tenney’s beloved original Night of the Demons, but for the sharp eyed, the legendary Linnea Quigley actually gives a masterful, dual toned performance as the flirty Suzanne here.

Quigley, in her mid-twenties at the time of her casting, has admitted to feeling uncomfortable with playing another teenager – especially as she was surrounded by cast mates that were barely out of high school themselves. But in this tale of a group of friends encountering demonic mayhem at a Halloween party, Quigley delivers with confidence and a surprising duality. In fact, her reluctance in playing another stereotypical sexpot actually gives her work here an almost Meta quality.

She hits all the right comic notes, for sure. Her flirtatious dialogue is delivered with aplomb. But her heightened real life awareness also brings a sense of commentary to her work. She does everything the role requires while giving it a wink. She seems to know that her lines are ridiculously sexual and that, while her character is the ultimate, over-the-top male fantasy, she is not buying into herself. Thus, she almost delivers a dialogue on the predictability of the role while staying true to it, as well. It’s a remarkable feat and one she, seemingly, accomplished unknowingly. She simply followed the mark of her true instinct and natural artistry.

Nicely, those in Chicago will be able to experience this phenomenon on the big screen on Friday, October 6th. Quigley, herself, will be present for a showing of the film at the Davis Theatre in Lincoln Square at midnight. More information on the free event is available at https://www.facebook.com/events/1418103908296624.

Naturally, I hope to see you there…and until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE,

Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Barbara McNair

Published September 24, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan

Photo of Barbara McNAIR

Cult aficionados know the exquisite Barbara McNair from her association with writer-director Jess Franco. Forever tempting in Venus in Furs, one of Franco’s most fully realized fever dreams, she also sang the theme song to 99 Women, one of his more popular (and sleazy) women in prison epics.

barbara venusBut McNair was a maverick on many levels. She was the first black woman to host her own syndicated variety show. She also co-starred on Broadway and recorded for Motown Records, scoring a minor hit or two with them. Appearing on many of the hottest shows of the ‘60s and ‘70s, she always added elegance and flair, as well.

Here, she gives the dapper, joking Dean Martin a run for his money with their take on the standard, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, an appropriate title for a horror blog if there ever was one.

McNair, who passed away from throat cancer in 2007, lives on in memory at http://www.barbaramcnair.com.

barbara mcnair

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

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