Television

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance

Published March 8, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Alfred Hitchcock Music to be Murdered By

Just before my sophomore year of high school, I finally got my hair styled and my parents allowed me to get contact lenses. It felt like the whole world was opening up for me. Soon after that, I got the lead in the winter play, proof (I felt at the time) that change indeed was happening. As I was driven back and forth from rehearsals that late fall, Linda Ronstadt was continually, creamily crooning What’s New, the title track from her upcoming album of standards, on the car’s steadfast AM radio. I asked for the LP for Christmas that year.

MildredI lovingly remember playing that recording in my grandparents’ living room as the family sat around listening to it and chatting. In an often turbulent youth, filled with familial misunderstandings and the wisps of angst seemingly floating around the surface of many of my first tentative interactions, this is one of my favorite memories. Ronstadt’s version of I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance was song that probably stood out the most for me then and now. Besides the supernatural element of the title, I always had the sneaking suspicion that romance would be elusive to me, that connecting with someone would perhaps be an awkward, unrealized proposition. It was also one of the tracks included on Jeff Alexander’s creepily arranged Alfred Hitchcock Presents album, Music to Be Murdered By.

While I adore Ronstadt’s moody treatment of the number, one of my favorite versions is a jazzier, breezier take by the incomparable Mildred Bailey. One of Bing Crosby’s favored colleagues, Bailey was a Native American jazz singer who made a stunning impression on the music industry. I wish she was more publicly acknowledged.

Of course,  I’ve heard ignoring your first could prove to have disastrous consequences, so…

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

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Va-Va-Villainess: Margarita Cordova

Published March 1, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Margarita Main

Peter Gunn, the ultra cool private eye series created by Blake Edwards, definitely featured its share of shady ladies over its 3 often irresistible seasons (1958-1961). Of course, all of these women radiated spunk and beauty. But the most dynamic of those varied and capable performers has to be Margarita Cordova who, over the course of two episodes, skillfully danced, sang and played guitar along with the other expected prerequisites of her acting assignments. Margarita Dance

Granted, her last appearance in the show’s Cry Love, Cry Murder offering found her in more valiant territory, portraying a character that exposes the schemes of family member with a firm yet tear stained heart.

Her first runaround with Craig Stevens’ unflappable Gunn was a bit more insidious, though. As Elena, the mistress of a two timing scoundrel in the Mask of Murder offering, Cordova willing delivers the series’ titular hero to death’s door. Gunn, naturally, survives…as the alert Elena slinks off to presumably charm other suckers. Cordova fills this determined schemer with a strong survivor’s instinct mixed with a sly bit of seductive minx, providing for a most memorable villainess with plenty of (the above mentioned) va-va-voom to spare.

Margarita Mission ImpossibleDecades later, Cordova found her biggest fame as a regular on two NBC soap operas. As the matriarchal Rosa Andrade on Santa Barbara, she provided a noble sternness. She was given even more creative freedom, though, as Sunset Beach’s truly memorable Carmen Torres. Vengefully opposing the romantic union of her beloved (former priest) son with his brother’s ex-fiancée, Cordova took the mother in law from hell act to deliciously glorious heights.

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

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Margarita Mail

Sharkbait Retro Village: Night of Terror

Published February 23, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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When you a injure a limb, a reliable cast is sometimes necessary. But…when you watch an early 70s television film thriller, a really good cast is always a necessity.

Thankfully, 1972’s Night of Terror delivers with a creative team that glows as brightly as the greasy smile on costar Chuck Conners’ face. Though, I imagine there are a few out there who would rather break an arm then be forced to watch this almost 40 year old tribute to the virginal heroine in distress.

The plucky damsel here is played by television stalwart-nighttime soap opera icon Donna Mills. Before finding eternal fame as the manipulative Abby on Knots Landing, Mills was a prime time movie of the week regular. With credits including Haunts of the Very Rich and Play Misty for Me already under her belt, this blonde dynamo knew how to deliver up the surprise and anxiety that is the bread and butter of her role here. As a kindly art teacher accidentally caught in the crosshairs of Connors’ mob assassin, Mills’ Linda Daniel glows with dewy worry throughout the proceedings and the actress’s traditional Hollywood blondness is the perfect fit for this almost saintly character’s twisted trajectory. 

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Nicely, she is joined on her journey by many familiar faces, making this exercise in fraught dynamics a truly enjoyable one for lovers of the old school celeb estetic. Bewitched regulars Mary Grace Canfield and Agnes Moorehead show up as a friendly cleaning lady and the physical therapist who treats Daniel’s temporary emotional and physical paralysis, a plot point that shares similarities to such fare as The Spiral Staircase, Wait Until Dark and many other gothic shockers.

John Karlen, then best known for his work with Dan Curtis, meanwhile gives up a frantic appearance as Connors’ first victim. Other notables include esteemed character actor Martin Balsam, soap opera hunk William Gray Espy (AKA the first Snapper on The Young and the Restless) and what even appears to be Julie Kavner in a dialogue free exchange as a nurse attending to the distraught Mills.

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Perhaps most interestingly, the quirky and irreplaceable Catharine Burns shows up in the first act as Mills/Daniels’ doomed friend. Always a significantly enjoyable presence, Burns was best known for her devastating, Academy Award nominated work in Last Summer. Her success there, though, did not assure her a major career and she wound up doing smaller television work before fading away from the industry completely. Thus, her sudden death in 2019 was not discovered by the media for almost a year. Nicely, a quick YouTube search finds her here living forever young with all her special talents intact and ready for every agreeable viewer’s consumption.

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

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Book Review: Always, Lana

Published February 16, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Always-Lana

Its the 16th of February. Candy hearts are half off at the Dollar Tree and the hint of consumerist love still drenches the air. Thus Always, Lana may be the perfect late weekend read. Written by Taylor Pero, a bisexual back-up singer who catered to both Lana Turner’s business and boudoir needs for 10 years, this slim tome details the latter day diva glazed romantic and professional antics of one of MGM’s comeliest stars.

Lana PersecutionHistorically, I was first introduced to this book as a soap opera obsessed 14 year old. At the time, Lana was appearing on Falcon Crest and her character’s onscreen combativeness with Jane Wyman’s matriarchal lead fueled my love for show business. Thus, I asked for a bio on Turner for Christmas that year. With unknowing prescience, this was the volume that my parents picked out for me. (Of course, it very well may have been the only option available at the tiny Zayres book department in Jamestown, NY.) While I found myself both intrigued and repelled by Pero’s sexual exploits, its tales of Turner’s adventures on the summer stock circuit and infrequent film projects have remained as wispy, silver smoked memories in my consciousness over the decades since.

Revisiting the memoir this Valentine’s week, Pero’s economic exploitiveness here actually reads with a sense of sympathy and understanding for the star that he devoted himself to. Her eternal tardiness, precise self focus and obsession with her appearance are explained as being a product of a studio system that prized beauty and self deception over emotional and spiritual growth. The author also nicely details Turner’s humor and her ability to deal with the multiple disappointments that life brought down upon her shoulders. Lana Turner Persecution aka Terror of Sheba

Nicely, one disenchantment that is given prime focus here is Persecution (AKA The Terror of Sheba), the one true Gothic Horror (in the Baby Jane tradition) that Turner appeared in. This project is usually given little import in other treatments of her filmography, but with Always, Lana it gets almost a full chapter. The author chronicles everything from the year long inception of the project to the shimmering star’s on set battles to the aborted reactions to this much troubled film upon its official release.

As with similar writings, this is a quick read and may be worth exploring for genre fans for this particular aspect alone.


Horror Hall of Fame:

Turner was a glimmering presence in the 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (and she always spoke fondly of co-stars Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman for instilling her with a sense of professional confidence). She also gave breakdowns a groovy, psychedelic glow in the 1969 cult classic The Big Cube.


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

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lana dr

 

Va-Va-Villainess: Jeanette Nolan

Published February 6, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Jeanette Nolan Big Heat

Very few performers have been able to achieve the cold, lascivious evil that Jeanette Nolan is able to generate in the classic 1953 noir The Big Heat. As Bertha Duncan, the conniving wife of a corrupt police official, this distinguished performer uses steely silence and manipulative tears to ensure her character’s chance at a life of wealth and opulence. An unmoving witness to suicide and murder, Duncan is ultimately one of the iciest dames ever to be featured in dark crime cinema, a testament to Nolan’s sophisticated skills. Jeanette Nolan Big Heat 2

Not surprisingly, Nolan’s first major onscreen role was Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ adaptation of the classic Shakespearean piece Macbeth. Her work in The Big Heat, though subtle, definitely carries shades of the poetically operatic, earning herself the distinction of being one of the finest actresses who has ever committed herself to the celluloid art form.



Horror Hall of Fame:

Nolan’s long lasting career included many genre credits. She brought a vibrant glow to 1966’s Chamber of Horrors and a similar spark along with a parade of outrageous hair pieces to 1965’s My Blood Runs Cold (pictured). She added a bit more serious contemplation to such television anthology series as The Twilight Zone, Thriller and Circle of Fear, as well.



Jeanette Nolan My Blood

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

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Sharkbait Retro Village: The Spiral Staircase

Published January 31, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

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If the thought of the steel toed Holland Taylor taking over for the unrivaled Ethel Barrymore in matriarchal duties fills your heart with glee – as it should – then the 2000 television film reimagining of The Spiral Staircase will be right up your alley.

This third full length adaptation of Ethel Lina White’s classic Some Must Watch emphasizes the horrific elements of this piece. Revolving around a killer obsessed with handicapped women, its participants are now decidedly stranded on a sheltered island during a powerful storm. Thus, Taylor has much atmosphere to work with as she fills Barrymore’s boots portraying the rich and secretive Mrs. Warren. Joined by gorgeous nighttime soap mainstay Nicolette Sheridan (as her mute nurse) and former glamour boys Judd Nelson and Alex McArthur (Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach video), Taylor simply and subtly steals the show here.SS2

Appreciatively, screenwriter Matt Dorff applies some new twists, allowing fans of the other versions to surprised by the revelation of the culprit (or culprits) here. Granted, the 1975 theatrical offering with Jacqueline Bissett may have been a bit more gruesome in its displays of violence, but this version does feature some nicely shadowy malevolence and makes crashing use of its titular inspiration in the final moments of this much adapted piece of gothic horror.

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

SS3

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Edie Adams

Published January 12, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Edie Adams

I often hit upon a performer I want to write about for this feature and then I have to scramble to find if they have any kind of horror connection. Sometimes I luck out and there is a direct link to the genre. Sometimes I only manage to pluck out a tenuous thread. Occasionally, there is no link at all and I have to move along with a slightly heavy heart. Thankfully, the delightful Edie Adams, my latest obsession, was featured in a 1961 television production of The Spiral Staircase, one of several adaptations of the classic Ethel Lina White story about a handicapped woman being pursued by a fetishistic killer. This particular production was also notable for featuring such performers as Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched) and Lillian Gish (Night of the Hunter). (Adams played Blanche, the role that Rhonda Fleming had originated in the original screen version.) Spiral Ethel

For those who know about her career, though, it isn’t surprising that Adams has this eclectic entry on her professional resume. Almost chameleon like in her approach to her art, she was known as a comedienne, singer, impressionist, spokesperson and actress. Here’s Edie, her variety show, in which she showed off all those skills in premium, is still considered one of the greats of that particular world of entertainment. Here, her take on More Than You Know provides a nice look at her unique way of handling a classic composition.

Nicely, www.edieadams.com and https://www.facebook.com/realedieadams/ keep all the many aspects of this valuable performer, who died at the age of 81 in 2008, thoroughly alive and kicking!

Edie Adams 2

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

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