Wednesday, June 30

THE WESTMORE MONSTERS OF HOLLYWOOD

 I have a guest blogger this week - the one and only Scott Essman. Scott has rallied tirelessly in support of classic monsters and their creators, and his latest venture is a DVD dedicated to the family of makeup artists, The Westmores. This DVD is a 30 minute docu drama featuring rare photos. This was put together to make a case for the Westmores getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

http://www.amazon.com/Tribute-Westmores-Mark-Arnott/dp/B003U6ZYJS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1277938714&sr=1-1

Featured in the video are detailed descriptions of the greatest Westmore monster makeups, including the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Fredric March, the Hunchback of Notre Dame with Charles Laughton, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein with Béla Lugosi, Glenn Strange, and Lon Chaney Jr., Man of a Thousand Faces with James Cagney, Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro, and Blade Runner with Harrison Ford.

Below is an article Scott wrote about the amazing Westmore family. Enjoy!




THE WESTMORE MONSTERS OF HOLLYWOOD
By Scott Essman

In the history of the modern American cinema, there are but few legacies of makeup artists. While the legendary Burman and Dawn names each include three generations of makeup artists, there is but one lasting family that features four working generations: the Westmores of Hollywood. With ties to virtually every studio in the annals cinema, the Westmores have created classic makeups in top contemporary film and TV shows back to the earliest years of silent film.

George Westmore, the patriarch of the Westmore clan at the turn of the century, worked as a wigmaker in his native England — where he was born in 1879 — and gave birth to sons Mont (born in 1902), twins Perc and Ern (born in 1904), Wally (born in 1906), and a daughter, Dorothy (born in 1907). The young family traveled to the U.S. to seek better opportunities and maintained a wig-making and beauty salon business which floated amongst various cities, settling in Cleveland in 1914. George taught his elder sons the art of wig-making and hairdressing, leading to their move to California three years later. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 1917, George worked at the swank Maison Cesare, a hairdressing salon that catered to the general public, making wigs and hairpieces. Sensing that his future rested in the nascent motion picture business, George started the first makeup department in movie history when he talked his way into a $25 per week job at the Selig Studio that same year. George eventually became Billie Burke’s personal makeup artist, created Mary Pickford’s legendary hair curls, then began making up her friend Douglas Fairbanks, all the while maintaining his chores at Mason Cesare.

Without a doubt, the Westmore family fortunes turned in 1920 when Perc, who was helping his father at the salon with janitorial duties, was startled by a customer who burst through the door, demanding to see George. It seemed the man, an actor, had shaved off half of his moustache accidentally and was due on the set of a big movie. Perc convinced the man that he could fix the problem, telling him the celebrity that he was a wigmaker as skilled as his father. Ninety minutes later, an astonished Adolphe Menjou couldn’t determine which side was Perc’s ventilated moustache piece and which was his real hair. Menjou left the salon for the set of The Three Musketeers, and another Westmore vaulted into the motion-picture business.

On the heels of his “discovery,” Perc Westmore established the second Westmore-run makeup department with his brother Ern at First National Pictures (later absorbed by Warner Bros.) in 1923. Supervising the makeup concepts for countless stars of the era, Perc remained the studio’s makeup department head until he left in 1950 to manage the House of Westmore beauty salon which he opened with his brothers in 1935. Among his many significant contributions to the field was the invention of the hairlace wig. Eventually, all of the Westmore brothers were significant figures in movie makeup. Mont was Rudolph Valentino’s makeup artist and worked for David O. Selznick on films such as Gone with the Wind before his untimely death in 1940 before his 38th birthday. Youngest brother Frank worked for Cecil B. DeMille and Ern was a staple of RKO pictures. What happened was that after Ern and Perc had jointly opened the first makeup department at First National which became Warner Bros, Perc remained at the latter while Ern left to open a makeup department at RKO. Then, Ern was one of the first special effects makeup artists and in 1931 won the Academy Cup for best makeup for his work on Cimarron starring Richard Dix and Irene Dunne. It was the first Academy recognition of a makeup artist and took 33 years before it officially happened again with Bill Tuttle and The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. In addition to these accomplishments, the other brothers would create some of the screen’s most memorable movie monsters of all time.

In the early years, movies had curious monsters. We had amazing European contributions such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, starring Conrad Veidt and Der Golem starring Paul Wegener with stateside triumphs including John Barrymore as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. From Europe also came Nosferatu with Max Schreck as a vampire and MGM had numerous monsters with actors such as Lon Chaney and makeup genius from silent films’ Cecil Holland at the studio. He created many memorable characters such as Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff before handing the studio reins of makeup over to Jack Dawn. Of course, at Universal Studios, Jack Pierce created the most timeless of monsters in such 1930s and 1940s films as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man.

On Perc’s recommendation, Wally Westmore became head of the new makeup department at Paramount Pictures in 1926 — he was only 20 years old at the time. Through his career there, reputedly among the most stable of his brothers, Wally created makeups for Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, and many Cecil B. DeMille movies. One of his more celebrated early achievements was the Mr. Hyde makeup for Frederic March in 1932. Paramount’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde called for March to hideously transform into his evil incarnation, an effect achieved in-camera without time-lapse photography through the use of special red filters and re-colored makeup. Using his father’s ventilated wig technology, Wally fashioned a bushy wig for March and added special protuberant teeth from a wax mold. He built up March’s face in a Neanderthal style, using soft clay on his nose, cheeks, jaw and ears. The combination of makeup and performance garnered March the Academy Award for best actor, still to this day an unprecedented feat for a horror film.

In 1933, Wally worked on another landmark monster film with Island of Lost Souls, starring Charles Laughton who would make his mark six years later with another Westmore makeup. In Lost Souls, however, he played Dr. Moreau, creator of part-man part-beast things, which challenged Wally to develop another hybrid group of characters. Among those in the film was a notable Bela Lugosi, just two years removed from Dracula, wearing Wally’s complex hair work as a self-proclaimed “thing”. For certain, Lost Souls remains a haunting early sound horror film to this day.

At the end of the decade, one project would stand at the forefront of the Westmore legacy legacy. 1939 itself was undoubtedly a landmark year for makeup, with the ingenious characters that Jack Dawn developed for The Wizard of Oz and Jack Pierce’s striking creations in Son of Frankenstein. Not to be outdone, RKO was planning a lavish re-make of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, though decidedly without the makeup and acting talents of Lon Chaney. The film was to star Charles Laughton, with overall makeup supervision by the studio’s department head, Mel Berns.

According to his widow, Francine Berns, Mel Berns joined RKO Pictures in 1929 supervising over 30 hairdressers and makeup men on films like King Kong. He and Perc were buddies. They were both honored in the 1950s at the old Palladium in Hollywood at a dinner where they received plaques as being pioneers in makeup. To execute the Quasimodo makeup on Hunchback, Berns recommended Perc who was brought in to RKO at the unheard of sum of $10,000 to create Laughton’s makeup design. With the advent of George Bau’s new foam rubber formula, a lightweight facial makeup and hump were designed for Laughton after the actor rejected 12 of Perc’s early designs. The final concept, with a copper nose-bridge and eyelid to actuate Quasimodo’s fallen eye, was the crowning achievement of Perc’s career.

Bud Westmore, the second youngest of the makeup artist brothers to Frank, was born in 1918. After toiling in the makeup trenches for year s – often going uncredited in the 1930s, he finally broke through in some major 1940s films. Then, when Jack Pierce’s methods became considered passé, Bud, still in his 20s, was promoted to head of the makeup department at Universal Studios where he remained for 25 years. Bud presided over every Universal film of the period, working on some classic monster pictures.

The first of those was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. For that film, a sequel to the Universal classics of the early 1930s through mid-1940s, Bud had to recreate the famous characters of Count Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and The Wolf Man.

The big difference was where Jack Pierce created the characters with hand-laid materials, going on one step at a time, Bud used prefabricated foam rubber appliances. So, while Bela Lugosi as Dracula was created much the same with basic greasepaint, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein was created with rubber pieces. Glenn had played the role twice for Jack Pierce, in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, but when Bud was tasked with recreating the famous hulking character, he had his top foam latex makeup artist, Jack Kevan, do the job. Kevan made a rubber head piece for Strange and used other techniques that too modern for old guard artists like Pierce. Many could not tell the difference, but aficionados can see that the Abbott and Costello Strange monster is just different enough from the Pierce monster to discern between the two.

To create the famous Wolf Man makeup, again on Lon Chaney Jr. as it had been during Pierce’s films including The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, and House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, again Westmore needed to streamline the process. So, he enlisted Emile LaVigne, a veteran of Jack Dawn’s team at MGM from films including Wizard of Oz where he had co-created the Tin Man on Jack Haley. In lieu of Jack Pierce’s hand-laid yak hair to create the famous Wolf Man, LaVigne used rubber pieces like Kevan did with the Frankenstein Monster. This not only made the process more comfortable for Chaney, Jr, it drastically reduced the application time of the makeup. Again, Chaney’s appearance is altered from the Pierce version in the new visage that Bud had LaVigne create. Needless to say, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein became an all-time classic and put Bud firmly on the makeup map for the rest of his career.

In the 1950s, Bud Westmore’s department expanded and he was given some big projects. In 1953, he created Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with old pro Boris Karloff as the titular characters. By this time, Karloff was in his 60s, so cutting down on the makeup process was a must. Again, Bud brought in Kevan to do the makeup. Now with his own style coming through many of his makeups, Kevan’s familiar look permeated his Mr. Hyde. As in earlier Hyde projects such as that of his older brother Wally, this Hyde required a transformation which Kevan created step-by-step with dissolves. In most of the Hyde scenes, however, Karloff is wearing mask-like pieces. At this time, Bud also was able to goof on the Universal mummies with Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.

But it was a project that came to the studio in 1953 that presented Bud with his biggest challenge. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was a huge project which required a full head-to-toe Gill –Man suit and mask that would be worn by two actors – Ben Chapman for the land scenes at Universal in Los Angeles, and Ricou Browning for the water scenes to be shot in Florida. For this daunting task, Westmore had Kevan by his side to break down and organize the suit but brought in key others to do the job. Artist Milicent Patrick designed the creature while Chris Mueller sculpted his key features. Kevan had a busy sizeable lab running at Universal with artists like Tom Case and Bob Dawn – Jack’s son – presiding over the molds and fabrication. In fact, it was Bob himself who suited up Ben Chapman on a daily basis. Though Bud’s name is the only one to appear in the credits, his astute assemblage of these key artists made the Gill-Man one of Universal’s most unforgettable monster characters of all time!

If the 1950s weren’t already busy enough with various science fiction and monster projects, many of which Kevan ran for Bud, a 1957 project was perhaps their most challenging yet. Man of a Thousand Faces was a Lon Chaney biopic which required the recreation of some of Chaney’s most famous screen characters. Bud knew that to provide accurate likenesses of the famous Chaney makeups – many of which Chaney created himself with secretive techniques – would be an impossibility. Thus, he enlisted Kevan to “reinvent” the makeups and capture their spirit in lieu of a literal translation of them. Adding to their problem was the casting of James Cagney, who while a fine actor, had a small round face unlike Chaney’s original features. Thus, though Kevan created a clown, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Phantom of the Opera, these makeups failed to approximate those of Chaney’s originals, though providing a touching homage to the grandfather of movie monster artists.

Bud worked through the 1960s on Universal’s films and increasingly popular TV projects, but he was let go after 25 years at the studio and passed away in just a year later in 1973. He was just 55 years old. His final film as an artist was doing makeup on the cult sci-fi classic Soylent Green.

Marvin G. Westmore is a six-time Emmy-nominated makeup artist with a history of over 45 years in consumer makeup and in the motion picture and television industry. Marvin, Mont Westmore’s middle son whose older brother Mont, Jr. was a longtime makeup artist and whose younger brother Michael won numerous Emmys and an Oscar, eventually got into the business on his own terms. “I didn’t get into the business through nepotism,” he said of his early years of struggle. “Eventually, my older brother Mont – who was also a full-fledged makeup artist – put a makeup case in my hand and sent me to Universal.”

Marvin ended up working over six years at CBS and moved to 20th Century Fox, where among many projects, he did makeup on the 1960s children’s classic, Doctor Doolittle. Stints at Paramount and Universal followed before Marvin ultimately went freelance. “That’s when I felt that I was able to grow the most,” Marv stated.

Among his numerous freelance makeup challenges was working as the department head of the 1982 science-fiction classic, Blade Runner. As the producers and director Ridley Scott were looking for unprecedented makeup concepts, Marvin was an ideal department head. “Every makeup I do is something that hadn’t been done before,” he said of his methodology. “Blade Runner had everything from beauty to blood and guts gore, character, old age, and a snake woman. I had a crew of up to forty, but the size didn’t make any difference since I had a really good quality of people. I picked a couple of key makeup and hair people on those big sets to be assistant department heads, and I did all of the principal characters.”

For his efforts on Blade Runner, which included only two weeks of prep in Marvin’s Beverly Hills salon followed by over three months on sets, Marvin received a British Academy of Film and Television nomination for best makeup of 1982. Among the many innovations on Blade Runner was the variety of makeup approaches used, such as Marvin’s decision to airbrush Daryl Hannah’s eye makeup onscreen for her climactic scenes.

Marvin is also the founder and CEO of the Westmore Academy of Cosmetic Arts right here in Burbank California across from NBC Television. With his Westmore Academy, Marvin Westmore and all of his students have a rich family legacy on which to draw. Due to Marvin’s experiences, every conceivable aspect of makeup is instilled in all students who attend the Academy.

In addition to his lengthy career in TV and film, starting as John Chambers’ apprentice in the early 1960s, Michael Westmore served as makeup department head of Star Trek for the franchise’s films and TV shows from 1987 to 2005. He was nominated for a Best Makeup Academy Award for Star Trek: First Contact in 1996 as well as for The Clan of the Cave Bear in 1986 and 2010 in 1984. He won the Best Makeup Oscar in 1985 for Mask.

But it was a 1980 film that possibly produced his greatest work, even though it came before the time when makeup was regularly awarded by the Academy. Raging Bull was director Martin Scorsese’s epic boxing biopic of real-life middleweight Jake LaMotta. A bruiser from the Bronx, LaMotta was known to be as tough outside the ring as he was in it, where he became middleweight champion in the 1950s after a decade’s struggle. Brought in to create the makeups and effects was Michael Westmore, coming off nearly two decades in the business at that point, including a sleeper boxing film of the late 1970s called Rocky.

For the new film, Westmore created various likenesses for LaMotta, played by Robert DeNiro in an Oscar-winning performance. In the story, the character goes from the 20-something Jake in his fighting prime, to the 40-something retired Jake 60 who is pounds overweight. DeNiro wore different foam rubber noses that Westmore fabricated for the various life stages. For the boxing sequences, Westmore also made eyelids for the extreme cuts and bruises that LaMotta endured.

For closeups of LaMotta’s nose breaking, Westmore made a nose rigged with a teeter-totter sitting over the bridge of DeNiro’s nose. Westmore said, “It had a wax nostril on one side. So, when you actually put the glove into the nose, it crushed the wax nostril which hit the teeter-totter which went across the bridge of the nose and pushed it down. It was made to actually look like it broke on camera.” Westmore rigged other effects such as eyebags hooked up to hypodermic needles with tubes under the skin to simulate blood coming out of LaMotta’s face when he’s received a punch to the head. On camera, with Scorsese’s slow-motion preferences and Michael Chapman’s black-and-white cinematography, these makeups and effects were of the highest caliber of realism.

Of his time on Raging Bull, Michael Westmore said, “When I finished Raging Bull, I literally said to myself, ‘I probably will never do another movie like this the rest of my life.’ I'm really glad and happy I've had my one shot on a film like this.” According to many film critics’ circles, Raging Bull was considered the best film of the 1980s.

The Westmore name, now with over 90 years in the business, is surely one of the proudest and most successful in the world of movie makeup and monsters. Clearly, with new Westmores always entering the business, now representing the fourth and soon fifth generations of the family name to do so, The Westmores of Hollywood will be well-known for a many years to come. Only one accolade remained for the family - a Star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame. It finally came to pass on October 3, 2008 with Marvin and Michael present, representing their entire family, including that legendary patriarch George, and his amazing sons and grandchildren. The star simply notes: “THE WESTMORES.”

Tuesday, June 29

Horror Rock Pioneers – The Sonics

Continuing our study into the Pioneers of horror rock, next up we take a trip back in time to Tacoma Washington, 1960. There one of the most influential garage bands of all time formed – and this band definitely dabbled in the dark side. I’m talking about The Sonics.

The original band formed in 1960 and went through several lineup changes until lead singer Gerry Roslie joined the band in 1964. They recorded their first single, “The Witch,” in November of that year. It went on to be a huge hit locally, climbing all the way to number 2 on the local charts.

The great thing about the Sonics was their originality. They were definitely bucking the trend – remember, the late 60s was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Yuch. Psychedelica ruled, and hippies abounded. The Beatles and Beach Boys were cranking out hits. But here was this group of rockers pounding out anything but hippy jams – they were punk rock, baby, before punk rock even existed. They played loud, rude, wild tunes that talked about the devil, psychos, witches and drinking strychnine.

The Sonics influenced everyone from The Cramps to The White Stripes and tons of bands in-between, including almost every punk band ever formed. Many of these bands covered Sonics songs.

The Sonics were true pioneers of garage rock, punk, and horror rock.
Here’s to the Sonics…

Some folks like water

Some folks like wine
But I like the taste

of straight Strychnine



Danzig - Deth Red Sabaoth


Finally got ahold of the new Danzig CD and let me say, this thing rocks! Gone are Danzig's flirtations with industrial music, instead we have 11 tracks of metal mayhem. This CD seems to groove more than some of Danzig's later releases - the songs are a bit more up tempo and overall it seems to have a brighter tone.

One thing about Danzig albums, they bring out the haters. Just take a look around the net and it won't take you long to find folks slamming Glenn. Granted, his solo stuff is a sharp departure from the great Misfits material, and even the Samhain stuff, too. But I think Glenn is being true to himself as an artist, and I can't fault the guy for that.

Listen - this ain't the Misfits. If you're looking for that then Deth Red Sabaoth isn't for you. If, instead, you're open to hearing the best Danzig album in years, then give Deth Red a listen. I think you'll be quite pleasantly surprised.

Tracks:
  1. "Hammer of the Gods" - 5:20
  2. "The Revengeful" - 4:10
  3. "Rebel Spirits" - 3:58
  4. "Black Candy" - 4:08
  5. "On a Wicked Night" - 4:02
  6. "Deth Red Moon" - 3:58
  7. "Ju Ju Bone" - 4:45
  8. "Night Star Hel" - 6:42
  9. "Pyre of Souls: Incanticle" - 3:18
  10. "Pyre of Souls: Seasons of Pain" - 7:17
  11. "Left Hand Rise Above" - 4:22

Sunday, June 27

Happy Birthday Mel Brooks

Big birthday greetings to Mel Brooks, who celebrates his 84th birthday today, June 28th. Thanks for giving us some of the funniest movies ever made, and one of the best Frankenstein sequels. That's right - I said sequel. It is a parody, true, but so darn true to the spirit of the original I feel it could be a sequel. So, in my mind, it is. Here's to ya, Mel!


Dr. Gangrene's Horror Hootenanny 7

Horror Hootenanny 7 - Make plans now!!
Bands TBA...
 

Friday, June 25

Back in town with a big announcement!

Hey guys - I've been on vacation for the past week and didn't have computer access, therefore no new posts here. I am back in town now and getting settled in a bit. Got some new news to share - my show, dr. Gangrene's Creature Feature, will be back on the ariwaves regularly starting the second sat in July!

You'll be able to find it on the CW58 in the Nashville area every sat afternoon from 1-3pm. So if you're in the area, check it out! The first film is Deep Shock, from 2003. A really bad movie that was made for sci-fi. should make perfect sat afternoon monster movie fare!

Sunday, June 20

Kick ass Comic Cover of the week

i love old pre-code horror comics. They had the best stories and art. This is Adventures into the Unknown - Sept 1951.


Friday, June 18

Jonah Hex starts Tonight -and review

Wanna say thanks to DC for making this one PG13. That way I can take my youngest to see this movie. Looking forward to it, despite negative reviews.


Ah hell, whadda those guys know anyway?
See ya soon, Jonah...

UPDATE...

I just got back from the theaters where my son Luke and I saw Jonah Hex tonight - thought I'd amend this post and add my thoughts (and I also changed the flub above - don't know why I mistakenly mentioned Marvel above, when I clearly know Jonah's a DC character, but my mistake is rectified now).

 This movie was a ton of fun! It was a slightly spooky western big screen comic book - exactly what you'd expect from a Jonah Hex movie. Guess I can now say I have seen a Megan Fox movie I didn't fall asleep in - (haven't ever been able to make it through either Transformers despite repeated attempts).

I heard a lot of negative comments about this movie - don't know what people expected... I mean c'mon, it's no sillier than James Bond. Lighten up and let yourselves enjoy something, for cryin out loudLife's too short. Go see Jonah, folks. It was a good western with horror overtones and a lot of comic book logic.

Blazing Combat #1

More Frazetta goodness - October 1965. What an awesome cover.

Wednesday, June 16

Dr. Phibes on the Brain

After yesterday's post it seems I have the bad Doctor Phibes on the brain... here are a couple of gorgeous posters for the Phibes films. These are Australian daybills.




























And here's my Phibes entry in my Top Ten Vincent Price films countdown...

Tuesday, June 15

The Abdominal Dr. Phibes

Now we know how the doc scores such hot assistants - he's ripped!


The inspiration for this one came from the shirt Cameron was wearing the day we shot the PSAs...


Joking around, I called it the abdominal Dr. Phibes. Cameron said, "You should draw that, Larry." So I did! Funny where ideas come from...

Monday, June 14

Spookhand - Live Flood Benefit Show

I've been meaning to post some pics from the flood benefit show we did a few weeks band. Ironically, it was held at a place called The Pond. Big thanks to all the folks that came out - although it doesn't really look like it in these pics the place was packed. Special thanks to Kitten for taking and sharing these pics, and to the crew of crazy folks at the table up front who rocked out and made us feel right at home! Also to Radio Death Wave and The Creeping Cruds for performing that night too, and the Pond for being cool enough to host a cool horror benefit show for flood victims. Was afun night.



Tombstone Blues Page 17

Sunday, June 13

AIP/VISIONARY CINEMA ANNOUNCE THREE-PICTURE DEAL

AIP/VISIONARY CINEMA ANNOUNCE THREE-PICTURE DEAL

(June 9, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA)

Legendary low-budget film production company American-International Pictures, founded in 1953, and upstart Visionary Cinema have joined forces to produce three original feature films.

As with the original AIP, the films will have modest budgets and be geared to the independent theatrical and worldwide DVD market.

Best know for the Roger Corman exploitation pictures, AIP is now the proprietorship of Craig Scott Lamb, a passionate filmmaker and promoter who has custody of the shingle and notable others from cinema history.  Writer-director Scott Essman likewise founded Visionary Cinema in New York City in 1988.  The goal of both firms – leading to the natural collaboration - is to produce original content in both live-action and animation, focusing on the science-fiction, fantasy, and horror genres.

“I believe that all filmmakers should know about their industry’s past,” said Lamb.  “It comes in handy to know what they used to do, especially when you can’t afford to have the latest frills.”  Essman added, “I’m thrilled to be aligned with AIP.  They produced many memorable genre films at a time where the studios were rediscovering their métier.  AIP stepped in and filled a great void in genre and exploitation films.”

The first two AIP-Visionary Cinema projects, to be initiated simultaneously, are a live-action and an animated film, both in the aforementioned genre:

Vampire Bat is a public domain remake of a 1933 obscure horror film that starred eventual genre stalwarts Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye.  One of Lamb’s favorites, Bat – unlike other horror remakes – will retain all of the spirit and story of the original with key updates in designs and dialogue, but will remain a steadfast homage for fans of classic horror movies.

The Monster Makers is a mixed-media animation feature chronicling the history of cinema’s great character creators, from Willis O’Brien, Lon Chaney, Jack Pierce, to contemporary artists including Ray Harryhausen, Dick Smith, Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Dennis Muren.  “We want the type of animation used to reflect the spirit of the artists represented,” Essman said, noting those who worked in stop-motion animation, animatronics, special makeup effects, and computer graphics imagery.

The third collaboration between the two companies will be disclosed in the near future.

Friday, June 11

Real Life New England Undead

While doing some research online yesterday for the article I wrote on flesh eating I came across a pretty interesting article. It is an interview with an author and folklorist named Michael E. Bell, PhD. He has conducted a study of some practices in the New England area from the 1800’s that touch on both vampirism and flesh eating.

Seems that, according to Bell, there are documented cases in New England and surrounding areas of families that believed their dead loved ones were a sort of vampire. They weren’t the traditional Hollywood fanged boogeymen – in fact, these vampires never left the grave. Instead they were able to drain the lifeforce of other family members from within their tomb.

In reality what happened was these families were hit with a bout of tuberculosis. One family member died, and another would get sick. In a mad search for an explanation, the family began to suspect that the dead family member was actually possessed by an evil spirit that still resided within its body. They would dig up the remains and cut it open looking for any signs of fresh blood. Often times they would cut the heart from the body and burn it – and then inexplicably feed the ashes, in water or medicine, to another family member that were sick.

Pretty interesting stuff, and just another reminder that truth is stranger than fiction. You can read the entire interview here:

http://www.seacoastnh.com/Places_&_Events/The_Grave_Site/Real_Vampires_in_New_England?/

And here is Michael Bell's website with detailed reports of some of these famalies
http://www.foodforthedead.com/

Thursday, June 10

The dead eat the living – or is that the other way around?

If there is one thing I love it’s a good zombie movie. A little brain munching and gut chewing makes my afternoon. But thinking about flesh eating films and the ideas behind them, there are some interesting parallels to be drawn between zombie movies and religion. Many of the themes that run throughout these films actually have their basis in religious beliefs.

The fear of the undead is as old as recorded history. In ancient Sumerian religion, more than 1000 BC , the Goddess Ishtar threatens the gatekeeper of the netherworld that if he doesn’t let her in, “I will bring up the dead to eat the living. And the dead will outnumber the living.”

The dead will eat the living… Spooky stuff.

The eating of flesh and drinking of blood are staples of horror movies, yet when you think about it they’re also both major themes of Christian theology, as ghoulish as that sounds. Taking communion is a major ceremony of the Christian church. In the Protestant religion this is symbolic of accepting Christ by physical consumption of bread and wine, which is representative of the body and blood of Christ who died on the cross.

In the Catholic religion this belief is interpreted in a literal sense – Catholics believe in transubstantiation, which is the changing of bread and wine into the actual body of Christ while the other senses of those taking communion remain the same. In other words, the bread and wine aren’t merely symbolic of Christ’s body, as in the Protestant religion, but actually are HIS body, though they taste normal. When taking communion they are actually eating HIS body and drinking HIS blood.

It is very easy to imagine superstitions evolving from these ceremonies – eating flesh, drinking blood – cannibalism and ghoulish attacks. Perhaps subconsciously it is even more symbolic of the perversion of religion – an anti-religion. And what could be more horrific than that?


Folklore and legends of the Middle Ages are full of revenants wreaking havoc. Most of these, interestingly enough, were evil men or wrongdoers, or oftentimes unbelievers (in God). They returned from the dead to cause mischief, particularly to loved ones, and often times they were associated with spreading disease.

In early days of Christianity communion was given to the dead, with holy wafers placed in coffins and mouths of the deceased, before this practice was eventually frowned upon by the church. Superstitious beliefs held that this would provide food for the three day journey between this world and the next. This is also very similar to the coins placed in the mouths of the dead as payment for passage to the afterlife by the ferryman to cross the river Acheron, or Hades. Even more interesting is the fact the term viaticum is used for both of these practices.

In vampire myth holy wafers were used as a weapon against the undead, placed in the mouth of the dead to keep them from returning to life. Usually the head would be severed from the body, the mouth filled with holy wafers and the head reinterred. Thus the body of Christ itself was indigestible to the undead, and could destroy them. Interesting – humans eat the body of Christ and drink his blood to gain eternal life - the undead eatingHIS flesh are robbed of eternal life.

Tombstone Blues Page 16

Wednesday, June 9

Horror Rock Pioneers - Johnny Kidd and the Pirates


Next up on my Horror Rock Pioneers list is a band that wasn't really a horror band at all... BUT they would go on to influence one of THE major contributors to horror rock, Screaming Lord Sutch. The band I’m talking about was called JOHNNY KIDD AND THE PIRATES.


In early interviews Lord Sutch said the only band doing anything with costumes and stage show in the UK at the time he started was Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. The fact he would mention them at all makes me believe not only was he familiar with them but he was influenced by their act, too. So for these reasons I’m adding them to my list of horror pioneers… plus they were just darn cool.
BUT there are several curious horror crossties to this band. Johnny Kidd was actually named Frederick Albert Heath. He was born in Willesdon, London on November 23, 1935. November 23rd is memorable because it is also the birthdate of one William Henry Pratt, better known to the world as Boris Karloff!


Even more curious is the fact the band had another name first – BATS HEATH AND THE VAMPIRES. Now THAT is a name worthy of inclusion in a horror pioneer list. Bats Heath and the Vampires was actually a skiffle band that featured Frederick Heath on vocals and guitar. Over time there would be lineup changes and name changes before finally settling into what would become Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.



Johnny Kidd & the Pirates formed in 1959. An elaborate stage show and costumes began to develop as they played more gigs. They wore pirate costumes and played in front of a backdrop of a Spanish galleon. Johnny dropped the guitar and took the reins as the fulltime front man of the group. He wore an eye patch and carried a cutlass onstage that he swung around wildly, and according to reports left cuts and scrapes on many a stage floor. He was fond of kicking his leg energetically in time to the music.


Their song “Please Don’t Touch” became a hit in the UK reaching #25 on the charts. It has since been covered by many bands including Motorhead and Girlschool. Their signature song is “Shakin’ All Over” which reached #1 on the UK Charts! This song would later be covered by The Who on their 1970 Live at Leeds album.


On October 7, 1966 Johnny Kidd was returning from a cancelled gig when he was killed in a car accident. He was 31 years old. The pirates reformed in 1976 and played through the 80s. They still play occasionally today. However, it was the original band, formerly known as Bats Heath and the Vampires, that made my list of Horror Rock Pioneers. Here’s to ya’ Johnny Kidd - may you always sail the high seas and keep shakin' all over.

Tuesday, June 8

Dr. Gangrene's Wonderfest 2010 Pictures and Review

I have been meaning to post some pictures from this year's Wonderfest for a few weeks now. I gathered these pics from a few different folks who were there - I took my camera but it was not functioning properly. It was totally operator error, however - damn thing is working fine now. Above is a pic of Nurse Moan-eek, Cameron McCasland and myself on the set of my live show Sat. night - more on this in a bit...

 Me and Joe Moe

Cameron and Joe Moe


Despite what the Deadpit guys said on their podcast Wonderfest was a terrific show. I went up on Saturday morning with my youngest son, Luke, and my director Cameron McCasland. We had a great road trip up - Weather was nice, traffic light - overall it was a pleasant drive. Lots of good conversation on the way up.

We got there around mid-day, took a quick look around, got our badges, and spent the rest of the day split between the model room and dealer's room. The Rondo Awards were held early Sat. evening but I was busy getting the set put up for my show, so I missed most of it. I did pop in for the last couple of winners, however. Afterward we headed to this great nearby Mexican restaurant -  the group was myself,  Cameron, Luke,  J. Sorrels, Jen Fox and her parents, Mom and Dad Zombie from the Classic Horror Film Boards. We had a great time, much more terrific conversation (boy does Dad Zombie have some amazing stories!) and some terrific Mexican food.

  Max Chaney, Rondo winner for Best Blog - that's David Colton, Rondo Award founder, beside him.

After that I stopped for coffee at Starbucks - because I'm a coffee fiend - and then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the show. Our live show was scheduled as the last event of the evening. Contrary to other reports, there was programming going on late into the evening. They screened a movie in the room ahead of us, and our show started right after that - sometime after 11pm. I am not really sure of the exact time as I was busy with last minute preparations.

Going over script with Donnie Waddell (off screen), J Sorrels (that's his arm), and my son Luke

The room was a completely packed house - almost every seat was full, if not every one. The movie we hosted was the Roger Corman classic "It Conquered the World." This is one of Corman's films that has never been released on DVD, surprisingly enough. This year was the first time since I've been doing these shows (the first was in 2004) that special guest Bob Burns was unable to attend the show. Due to health problems he just couldn't make it. HOWEVER - not one to be deterred, I surprised the audience by calling Bob on my cell and holding a mic up to it so they could hear him on speaker phone. We even sanf Happy Birthday to Bob, thanks to Terry Pace's suggestion (thanks Terry).

Nurse Moan-eek, Donnie Waddell and myself on set

We had some other fun surprises during the evening, including Wonderfest veteran organizer Donnie Waddell playing the voice of Beulah, the creature from the movie, who kept interrupting me during the breaks in the film. Nurse Moan-eek was on hand to help host the film, and we tossed out bags of freebies to the audience at the end of the show. BTW - my apologies to the guy who I cracked on the head with whatever that was I tossed out - sorry dude! Don't sue me - my Boo Cross Boo Shield coverage isn't paid up!





After that we headed up to the Old Dark Clubhouse to hang out for a while. I drank some beer, talked to lots of folks, and sweated my butt off cause that room was packed! Good times chatting with lots of folks I don't get to see but once a year. the room was decorated wall to wall with vintage monster pictures and ads - Gary Prange outdid himself this year decorating. The GIGANTIC Giant Colossal Man poster on the window was extra cool!

Cameron, Me and Donna Lucas at the ODCH

 Me and Luke chatting with artist Jeff Preston - that is Joe Busam's head in the foreground

ODCH in full swing - too many folks to name - but that's Linda Wylie and Carrie Galloway in the foreground, and I'm chatting with Joe Busam

 Me, Luke and Cameron chatting about something very important, I'm sure

Sunday was all about Luke. I spent the day cruising the dealer's room with him trying to decide how to spend some money. It is always fun to watch a kid decide what he HAS to have. I remember doing the same thing with my older kids when they were his age. It's tough to make a decision sometimes.

So once he had his treasures it was back to the clubhouse to say our goodbyes, then we headed back to Hendersonville.

 This was a really cool display at the Universal Monster Army toy display

A great show, all in all, and let me just say this to anyone who has doubts about this show. It is a model show. There are models there. Lots of them. Don't expect otherwise. But even if you're not into models, (like me), there are plenty of other great things going on all weekend. Like the Return of the Living Dead panel with Linnea Quigley, James Karen, frank Dietz and Bill Stout - or the Rondo Awards, or the late night movie hosted by whoever that goober was! And you will find some of the nicest folks you could ever hope to meet there, too. And that's the best part of this show. Seeing old friends who, as I said before, I won't see again for another year.

 Posing with Wonderfest's cutest kids, Forest and Alexandra Pace

Here's to next year's Wonderfest and many more! And by the way, Dave Conover is awesome. That is all.

Tombstone Blues Page 15

Our intrepid mad scientist delves deeper into things man was not meant to know...

related posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...