Thriller

All posts tagged Thriller

Hopelessly Devoted to: Linda Watkins

Published April 18, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Linda Watkins 2

A ‘30s movie cutie, Linda Watkins may be best known to ‘70s television fans for playing Susan Saint James’ sweetly inscrutable mother on the first season of McMillan and Wife. Whether offering up a badly cooked brunch or joining James’ Sally McMillan in an undercover adventure or two, her presence was always enjoyably light.

A series of appearances on the cult ‘60s anthology Thriller, described by Stephen King as the best horror series ever put on TV, found her exploring saltier territory, though. There, with throaty persistence, she played cheating wives and aggressive tabloid reporters, career women and opportunists who left no stone unturned on the paths to getting what they wanted.

Her episodes proved to be some of the most interesting of the series, as well. Eyeglasses that caused the wearer to murder (The Cheaters), a pair of disembodied hands that terrorized and created beauty often in the same scene (The Terror in Teakwood) and a hairpiece that imbued its owner with a ravenously destructive beauty (A Wig for Miss Devore) all figured into the shows that she appeared on.

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Nicely working a similar theme, she played strong willed, defiant journalists in the latter shows, giving off a hard boiled feministic edge. The hats she wears as the brilliantly named Arabella Foote in Wig also provide her with some scene stealing capabilities, as well.

Watkins who went on to appear on episodes of such cult shows as The Munsters and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. also provided support as part of the cast of Bad Ronald, a psycho in the wall thriller that has gained a healthy following since its first airing in 1974, as well.

Interestingly, while she cataloged over 70 celluloid credits by the time of her death at the age of 68 in 1976, Watkins actually spent the majority of her career on the stage after being disappointed by the quality of her earliest roles in film. Thus, this makes her a maverick ripe for rediscovery. A nice portion of her work available online and on physical media.

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Linda Watkins

Unsung Heroines of Horror: Pamela Searle

Published April 11, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Pamela Searle

A beauty queen, most notable for her placement as the third runner up in the 1959 Miss Universe contest, the beguiling Pamela Searle made a dozen film and television appearances throughout her short lived career.

Her movie credits, which included Bells Are Ringing (with Judy Holiday and Dean Martin) and If A Man Answers (with Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin), often capitalized on her looks and gave her little to do besides provide an attractive background ascetic.

TV was a bit kinder, giving her characters with names like Roxy Dozy to play on shows like Route 66 and Bachelor Father. Her most significant part for lovers of spook, though, is definitely that of Meg Payton on the A Wig for Miss Devore episode of Thriller. As an enchantress being hung for her crimes against humanity in the story’s enjoyable opening sequence, Searle beguiles with both touching modesty and a wickedly sharp edge. As Meg flatters her executioners with precision, Searle brings out of all the nuances of the role, proving that as a performer she is a truly an unsung (anti)heroine of horror.

In fact, one definitely feels shades of Barbara Steele’s Princess Asa Vadja from Black Sunday and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sarah Sanderson from Hocus Pocus in Searle’s work, two very distinctive personalities that give credence to the excellence of this underappreciated actress’s work.

Pamela Searle Model

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A Wig for Miss Devore

Published April 10, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

A Wig Main

Coming off like Sunset Boulevard sewn into a glittering blonde tapestry with Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, A Wig for Miss Devore is definitely one of the gayest hours of horror ever.

The queer fan’s gateway into this second season episode of the classic Boris Karloff hosted Thriller is most definitely John Fiedler’s meek yet fervently devoted Herbert Bleake. Passionately protective of the faded diva that is Miss Devore, he is very similar to those of us who defend our own muted celebrity icons to the death. Of course, to the relief of terror lovers everywhere, death does rear its head here.A Wig Gay

Long forgotten by the studio that she helped put on the map, Patricia Barry’s saccharine voiced Sheila Devore sweetly believes that she will be welcomed back by them with open arms. After years away recuperating from a nervous breakdown, her chosen project is a script based on the execution of a centuries old witch. Interestingly, one of her primary requests is to use the wig that this true life enchantress wore as an accessory in the film. After Bleake blackmails the studio head, the faded Devore gets all her wishes. Unsurprisingly, once she puts the wig on her head, she becomes the picture of seductive youth and all her former naysayers fall at her feet, proposing marriage and setting her up as the studio’s queen. This fountain of fantasy has a price, though, and soon the innocent starlet is swept into vindictive rages that culminate in a series of murders to retain her vitality and ever ascending position in this imaginary filmdom’s ranks.

A Wig HugMuch like Boulevard, this story details the price that women pay for growing older in Hollywood. Separating itself a bit from that project, as opposed to a mysteriously regal beauty like Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, Devore is illustrated as the ‘40s version of a Jayne Mansfield type, a silly blonde who did inconsequential yet truly successful projects. Nicely, Barry skillfully takes this central temptress from innocent denial to furious retribution. She perfectly echoes the ache of despair that often characterizes the accesses of show business and its even more rampant denials, giving this project its special heart and a place of importance in the history of anthology horror.

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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

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: K.T. Stevens

Published September 27, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

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Sometimes heroines of horror are unsung simply because they don’t have any true horror projects to their credit. Take the unforgettable K. T. Stevens for example. While she doesn’t have a Frankenstein or Dracula on her resume, she did play Vanessa Prentiss on The Young and the Restless for years. Her face hidden behind magnificent veils due to traumatic scarring, this character was one of the more gothic villainesses of the classic early ‘80s of soapdom. The perfect amalgamation of one dark stormy night theatrics, Vanessa made life a living nightmare for Laurie, the soap’s most prominent anti-heroine. In fact, upon learning that she was terminally ill, Prentiss staged a fight with her rival and then threw herself off the balcony of her apartment building. This assured that Laurie would be charged with her murder, a final revenge as surely psychotic as anything that Peter Lorre cooked up in Mad Love. KT 3

Starting out as a juvenile lead opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Great Man’s Lady, Stevens enjoyed a fairly distinguished career including noir adventures (Port of New York) and guest shots on classic television shows (I Love Lucy, The Big Valley). She even took a shot gun blast to the chest as a supporting player in the T & A thriller They’re Playing with Fire.

Graced with a layered yet formidable presence, she was also a favorite of the producers of Thriller; the Boris Karloff hosted anthology series that always dealt with matters of the macabre. Stevens’ episodes were more criminal minds in nature than exercises in terror, but she got to show some range. She was the Capri pants wearing, con minded other woman in a first season episode entitled The Merriweather File. The second season’s Kill My Love found her calmly enacting calculated patrician control as the wealthy Olive Guthrie. Even though Guthrie is ultimately the victim here, her chilling use of subtle silence lingers long after the episode ends.

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The eclectic professionalism of Stevens, who passed away at the age of 74 in 1994, should come as no surprise, though. Her father was director Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, King’s Row) and she made her debut at the age of two in one of his silent features with (child prodigy) Jackie Coogan, later Uncle Fester in the original The Addams Family.

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: The Honey Bees

Published April 7, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Honey Bees

The Honey Bees, comprised of Tina Louise, Natalie Schafer and Dawn Wells, may be the greatest fictional girl group of all time. Gilligan’s Island fanatics surely rejoice in this episode of the popular show which finds the cast’s beloved Ginger (Louise), Mrs. Howell (Schafer) and Mary Ann (Wells) forming a musical version of The Honeys in hopes of finally getting off the island that they have permanently been sequestered on.

But the fact that this versatile trio of actresses has been involved in many individual genre projects makes this joyous collaboration of special notice to terror tikes, as well. Schafer, a veteran performer of film and stage, hit the gothic mother lode first with appearances in The Secret Behind the Door… and a beloved episode of the Boris Karloff hosted anthology series Thriller. Louise made the ‘70s and ‘80s particularly enjoyable with roles in the feminist classic The Stepford Wives and the atrociously lovable oddity Evils of the Night. Wells, meanwhile, found herself battling for her life against a water beastie and a violent serial killer in Return to Boggy Creek and the greatly admired The Town That Dreaded Sundown. (Interestingly, it is rumored that Well’s voice was dubbed here by Jackie DeShannon, the writer of the coolly mysterious Bette Davis Eyes.)

On a side note, Schafer, who died in 1991, also appeared in a popular touring production of the lesbian classic The Killing of Sister George with Claire Trevor. Louise, who has quietly tried to move past her seminal work as Ginger, keeps admirers informed of her activities at https://www.facebook.com/pg/thetinalouise. Wells, meanwhile, has long kept the torch of that imaginary island burning. She, happily, keeps up with fans of GI (and her other work) at https://www.facebook.com/therealmaryann/ and http://dawnwells.com/.

Trio

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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.

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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.

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