Boris Karloff

All posts tagged Boris Karloff

Thriller Nights: Ramon Novarro

Published March 10, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

ramon stud shot

Heralded as one of the big screen’s most exotic lovers, Ramon Novarro’s filmic legacy has often been overshadowed by the notorious circumstances of his death. As a gay man, known to hire hustlers in his declining years, this former matinee idol met his end, violently, by a pair of brothers in 1968. His demise has since been highlighted in short stories, books and songs.

ramon mataBut, significantly, Novarro’s early beauty easily matched that of his co-star Greta Garbo, sultry pose for sultry pose, in the fun 1931 spy drama Mata Hari. Later in his performing life, he gave eagle eyed horror buffs a boost with a featured role in the beloved Boris Karloff hosted anthology show Thriller.

In the 1962 second season episode La Strega, Novarro appeared opposite the stunning Ursula Andress as Maestro Giuliano, the mentor to a besotted painter, played by the swarthy Alejandro Rey (Satan’s Triangle, The Swarm, Terror Vision). Working with authority and concern, Novarro supplies the proceedings with a compassionate figure here who believes that Rey’s involvement with Andress could end in tragedy, as her aunt is a powerful witch.Ramon 2

This doesn’t mean Giuliano isn’t up to a little adventure. He accompanies the entwined duo to a black mass which, kudos to the art direction of Howard E. Johnson and the cinematography of Benjamin H. Kline, contains some of the episode’s most fiery and striking visuals. Unfortunately, Guliano finds himself on the receiving end of the sorceress’ revenge here, making Novarro’s appearance an important yet all too brief one. Although, proving the adage that a woman scorned is a dangerous thing, everything does not go well for the characters portrayed by Andress and Rey either.

Ramon 1

Nicely, besides highlighting Novarro’s subtle talents as a performer, this tale is directed with gothic sweep by Ida Lupino. One of the few working female directors in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Lupino is known for guiding taut noir pictures like The Hitch-Hiker and, perhaps less elegantly, for her acting work in such gonzo genre projects as Devil’s Rain and Food of the Gods.

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

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Jo Ann Sayers

Published February 23, 2017 by biggayhorrorfan


Granted, the elegant Jo Ann Sayers shared a strong professional association with one of the grand dames of cinema, Rosalind Russell. Sayers not only co-starred with Russell in the bright 1939 mystery Fast and Loose, but she also originated the title role in My Sister Eileen, a popular comedy that would bring Russell continued success in later years. Sayers, perhaps, showed her greatest sense of fortitude, though, in her final major screen role. As the determined Judith Blair, a skilled nurse and the favored companion of the investigative Dr. Mason, Sayers brings a sense of true spunk to the 1940 Boris Karloff thriller The Man With Nine Lives and proves that the women of those early horror programmers were often just as vital and adventurous as their male counterparts. jo-ann-sawyers-2

Following the determined Mason (Roger Pryor) to a deserted island, Sayers’ Blair is a magnificent trooper. Even after falling through loose flooring, she helps her curious companion pick away at a wall of ice and assists him in reviving the slumbering Leon Kravaal (Karloff), whose work has kept him (and several other unfortunates) secreted away in a coma for 10 years. Mason is thrilled when Kravaal awakens because, separately, the two have been trying to regulate the use of elongated deep freeze to cure patients of terminal disease. Soon Kravaal realizes that he has accidentally perfected his formula, but the antagonism of the three companions who have been trapped along with him proves to be disastrous. After a one of the men is shot, the unhinged Kravaal kidnaps everyone, determined to perfect his work on them.

Soon Blair is serving as cook, conscience and companion to all. As their numbers dwindle due to Kravaal’s psychosis, she even allows herself to be the mad doctor’s final guinea pig in order to spare Mason. With dignity and poise, Sayers enacts mother, heroine and dignified pin-up here – while the men are often regulated to simple emotions such as fear and anger. Sayers also foreshadows the popular final girl characters of the early 80s when Blair survives Kravaal’s tinkering and lives to work another day with

Naturally, Karloff, sporting a dusty beard, is magnetic here, portraying a handsome and soft spoken genius eternally teetering eternally on the brink of madness. Visually, cinematographer Benjamin Kline also captures the icy set design with a taut arctic sweep, offering up a nice alternative to the moors and shadowy corners of the day’s popular Frankenstein and Wolf Man pieces. But the most impressive piece of cinema elegance here may be Sayers’ lovely cheekbones and expressive eyes, making her take on Blair a force of celluloid nature in every sense of the word.

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


Book Review: The Quality of Mercy

Published June 3, 2016 by biggayhorrorfan


Who knew the voice of Satan could be so sweet? Indeed, Academy Award winning actress Mercedes McCambridge, best known to terror stalwarts for providing the ghoulish vocal pyrotechnics of the demon in The Exorcist, writes with enormous beauty and supreme self awareness in her 1981 memoir The Quality of Mercy: An Autobiography.

Nicely, McCambridge, a versatile veteran of live radio, spends an entire chapter describing how she came up with the various signature sound pieces that made William Friedkin’s seminal shocker so potently creepy. (If you thought Regan’s onscreen vomiting was hard to take, the image of McCambridge spitting up raw eggs into a cup for the sound effect is liable to make your stomach a mite queasy, as well.) McCambridge also relates her heartache upon realizing she hadn’t, initially, received screen credit for her work and describes the efforts taken to make sure she received it. (Note: In Friedkin’s 2013 memoir he relates a different story, that McCambridge, at first, had insisted on no screen credit to help supply a sense of atmosphere to the film.)

As an unexpected bonus, the husky voiced actress also relates her joy upon working with Boris Karloff in a vampire piece for the radio. She, gleefully, recounts how, behind the scenes, life savers were chomped on to create the illusion that her character’s neck was being snapped.mercedes 99

Perhaps, not unsurprisingly, McCambridge’s tome, occasionally, deals with the often devastating effects of religion on women. Taught to fear an all powerful being, she strains to find her own voice and live a liberated and creative life. She is haunted by her two divorces and recounts, in frightening detail, how she assisted a childhood friend in procuring an illegal abortion.

She also, honestly, recounts her struggles with alcoholism and, with the sweeping curtness of a master storyteller, recalls her activism and her personal relationships, that she hints might have contained flickers of romance, with such powerful figures as politician Adlai Stevenson and master showman Billy Rose.

Euro-buffs, meanwhile, will get a kick out of her non-mention of exploitation maestro Jess Franco. Franco’s 99 Women, the WIP flick that features a boisterously accented performance from McCambridge, is brushed off as an unnamed, nonessential entry in her filmography here.

Thankfully, McCambridge, whose career seemingly suffered due to her visible efforts to link a popular face to the rigors of addiction, comes off as completely singular and absolutely worthy of the cinema fan’s eternal (and loving) recall.

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



Music to Make Horror Movies By: Beverly Washburn

Published March 22, 2015 by biggayhorrorfan

Jill Banner and Washburn, Spider Baby

Jill Banner and Washburn, Spider Baby

Fear of the arachnid shouldn’t stop anyone from listening to Spider Baby star Beverly Washburn’s sweet ode to loneliness Everybody Loves Saturday Night. Written by folk legend Pete Seeger, this saccharine slab of awesomeness was delivered to the public in 1963 yet still retains a slick charm.

While her beguiling maliciousness in the above mentioned Jack Hill classic has, rightfully, gained her the most love from terror specialists, Washburn has, also, logged potent appearances in such genre projects as (the Boris Karloff hosted) Thriller and Ted V. Mikel’s recent Demon Haunt.

Keep up with this eclectic wonder at

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

Frankenstein REC

Published September 26, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan
Do the bolts in your forehead need greasing? Well, Greek filmmaker-author Costas Zapas may have the perfect way to make those legendary, slightly moldy parts feel new again.

Zapas is the author of the recently released Frankenstein REC, an interesting take on the classic mad scientist and the monster he created. With good customer reviews and a proposed film adaptation, this seems to be a book that every admirer of James Whale and Boris Karloff needs to check out!

Importantly, Zapas seems to be playing homage to The Creature’s true creator Mary Shelley, by placing this dreamlike story around an investigative female reporter. That fact, alone, makes this tome a must read in my book!

Be sure to check out Zapas’ lightening struck experiment at the link, above!

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

Unsung Femmes: The Corpse Vanish’s Elizabeth Russell

Published February 20, 2014 by biggayhorrorfan

My hypnotic stare has always read as catatonic. Just ask the neighbors who consistently try to call emergency services on me.

Thankfully, graceful beauty Elizabeth Russell (1916-2012) was much better at magnetism than me. Enacting a series of emotionally troubled, occasionally murderous dames in low budget genre films in the 40s, Russell often brought haughty imperviousness to mystical heights. Historically, her work at RKO, Universal and Monogram brought her into performance-contact with the monstrously popular Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., as well.

The Corpse Vanishes

The Corpse Vanishes

One of Russell’s biggest roles was in 1942’s The Corpse Vanishes. Portraying Lugosi’s evilly aging wife, Russell radiates with poisonous intentions. When she isn’t busy slapping heroine Luana Walters in the face, she spends her time encouraging Lugosi to drain young brides of their blood for their rejuvenating effects.
Curse of the Cat People

Curse of the Cat People

Weird Woman and Curse of the Cat People (both 1944) showed her off to vengeful effect, as well. But in each of these roles, Russell provides moments of true heart, bringing out these characters’ inherent emotional agony.

The 7th Victim

The 7th Victim

1943’s The 7th Victim, meanwhile, allowed her to show off a broad variety of her skills. As Mimi, a victim of agoraphobia, she withers with cautious fear. But as another character chooses to end her life, Mimi emerges from her shell. With quiet optimism, Russell grandly provides this spooky tale with its haunting denouement.


Nicely, as Karloff’s gin loving niece, Mistress Sims, in 1946’s Bedlam, Russell was able to prove her comic worth, too. With arch sauciness, she provides a number of comic interludes, easing the gravity of the film’s asylum based horror and proving, beyond a doubt, that she is one of classic horror’s unsung femmes.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

The Refined Madness of Phyllis Thaxter!

Published March 5, 2013 by biggayhorrorfan

Goodness and light! Darkness and spite! Chant that over a blackened pot, throw in some raw hamburger and you have witch’s stew! – Or the career of eclectic actress Phyllis Thaxter!

Steadfast Thaxter lit up such golden age projects as Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and was a frequent guest star on such classic television anthologies as Climax!, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Suspicion. But her roles in a couple of 50’s era noir films and an appearance on the Boris Karloff hosted Thriller proved just how versatile she could get.

no man of her own4As pregnant Patrice Harkness in No Man of Her Own (1950), Thaxter is all winning sunshine. Taking Barbara Stanwyck’s disheveled, equally pregnant Helen under her wing, Thaxter/Harkness soon meets a violent fate in a train crash. The majority of the film focuses on Stanwyck’s Helen as she reluctantly assumes Harkness’ place and becomes embroiled in murder and blackmail. An almost perfect combination of hardboiled thriller and women’s picture, No Man of Her Own is Stanwyck’s show, but Thaxter provides the film’s heart. Her beaming energy makes Stanwyck’s later guilt and confusion truly believable.

womens prison 2Five years later, Thaxter herself was the emotionally wracked one as the mousy Helene Jensen in Women’s Prison. Convicted for accidentally killing a child in car crash, Thaxter’s Helene works herself into a nervous frenzy over every aspect of prison life. Believably distraught, she even goes into a coma after being placed in a straitjacket. Of course, Thaxter’s character is the typical innocent type that would be the main light of many a juicy ‘women in prison’ flick to follow. But, here the focus switches back and forth between other residents and locked down employees, as well. Other main characters include a sassy pregnant prisoner (noir regular Audrey Totter) and the vicious female warden (the influential actress-director Ida Lupino) who eventually gets her comeuppance. Significantly, despite its excessive exploitation angles, this film points out how even the most prosperous women are often at the mercy of the patriarchy – a chilling denouement.

It was in the 1961 ‘The Last of the Sommervilles’ episode of Thriller that Thaxter proved how potent she could be, though. The story opens up on Thaxter’s Ursula Sommerville casually getting rid of a dead body in the backyard. Things pick up in intensity from there. Ursula has been caring for her ailing and emotionally abusive aunt, Celia, with the obvious intent of collecting the old lady’s fortune upon her death. Even the arrival of Ursula’s cunning cousin, Rutherford, does nothing to dissuade her. One moment Thaxter reacts with calculated sweetness as Ursula and then the next with eye pinching fury. It is truly a multi-layered performance and one of Thaxter’s finest moments as a performer. In a nice twist, this episode was directed by her Women’s Prison co-star Lupino and even features host Karloff, in a one of his acting appearances on the series, as Aunt Celia’s eccentric friend, Dr. Albert Farnham. phyllis thaxter 2

Be sure to check back often as Big Gay Horror Fan frequently exposes the golden women of the macabre!

Big Gay Horror Fan, meanwhile, is always available for fortune hunting relatives at as well!

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