Thursday, December 29

NEW LON CHANEY SR. BOOK


  
I received some information from my pal Scott Essman recently about a new book coming out soon that looks promising. It's called "The Man of a Thousand Faces: The Art of Bill Nelson."
In 1970, internationally renowned artist Bill Nelson created "The Lon Chaney Portfolio," an exquisitely rendered series of black and white illustrations devoted to Hollywood’s beloved “Man of a Thousand Faces.” The collection showcased portraits from many of Chaney’s most memorable films, including The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, London After Midnight, The Penalty and Laugh, Clown, Laugh.

At the time, Nelson had made a name for himself providing standout cover art and interior illustrations for such genre magazines as Cinefantastique, The Monster Times, Gore Creatures, Midnight Marquee and Photon, though in years to come, his work would appear in Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, both the Los Angeles and New York Times, and even on a series of postage stamps dedicated to famous Big Band orchestra leaders for the United States Postal Service.



Now, 40 years later, Nelson showcases not only his original portfolio drawings, but also more than 50 brand new color and black & white illustrations, accompanied by Nelson’s insightful personal commentary.

The book also includes introductions from 7-time Academy Award winning make-up artist Rick Baker and Ron Chaney, Lon Sr.’s great grandson and owner of Chaney Enterprises.


This lavish tribute is being offered in two hardcover editions, both 160-pages and measuring 10-1/2 x 14”.  The regular version is limited to 1,000 copies and comes with a special bookplate, hand-signed and numbered, for $49.95. The second offers the same, plus an original Lon Chaney sketch by Nelson for $100 and is strictly limited to 100 copies.  Both are available exclusively through www.creaturefeatures.com.

Thursday, December 22

Horror Host Podcast from 6ft Plus



My buddy Strange Jason over at gravediggerslocal.com has a new episode of the excellent podcast 6FT+ dedicated entirely to horror hosts and music by and for them. Highly recommended - check it out!
http://6ftplus.gravediggerslocal.com/2011/12/09/episode-18-hail-the-horror-host/

Wednesday, December 21

Amazing Universal Monster Paintings

 

I stumbled across the work of Spanish artist Enrique Jiménez Corominas today and was blown away - these paintings are spectacular! Beautifully rendered with a real energetic style and vibrant colors, these are some of my favorite renditions of the Universal Monsters. You can visit the artist's site at: http://corominasart.blogspot.com/



Monday, December 19

Frankenstein at the Fordham Theater 1931

This photo is from the premiere of FRANKENSTEIN at the Fordham theater in NY, late 1931 or early 1932. Note the name on the marquee and the old cars parked out front. And all the men in hats. Kind of wish men still wore hats nowadays.

Sunday, December 18

Perhaps Dr. Frankenstein should have used THIS brain

From the January, 1956 edition of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine - an ad for the Geniac ''electric brain" -


Build your own brain for $19.95 - pretty pricey for 1956! "Build any one of 34 exciting brain machines in just a few hours - nice! Even better than the ad for this issue was the cover - check out this timely Christmas themed sci-fi Santa


FOUR ARMS! Now I know how Mr. Claus got so much work done! Awesome cover - this pulp had a lot of great covers - and several cool Christmas themed ones, many featuring this four armed Santa. I'll post more over the week leading up to the big day next Sat.

Saturday, December 17

Monsters from the Basement interviews Cameron McCasland


Check out this in-depth interview with my director, Cameron McCasland, on the Monsters from the Basement podcast. Host James Downing visited the McCasland castle and talked with Cameron about his film (The Lashman), his horror roots, Dr. Gangrene Presents and more. Great interview and look around at his site, there are close to 100 interviews there available for download and listen. Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 13

Monday, December 12

Here's a sneak preview of the upcoming Scary Monsters Magazine, issue #81 featuring another braintastic Scary Terry Beatty cover!! It's alive in early January, so keep your eyes open at a finer book & comic dealers near you! My column for this issue features an interview with my good friend Robert Taylor, Vincent Price collector and aficionado, talking all things Price as my final wrap up to the Vincentennial Price 100th celebration!

Friday, December 9

The Frankenstein That Might Have Been...


The 1931 film FRANKENSTEIN, released 80 years ago this month by Universal Studios, is rightfully regarded as one of the classics of horror cinema. Directed by James Whale and starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive, it is a tale of mad science run amok and the consequences of man’s attempt to play God. The story has stood the test of time and remains the greatest adaptation of the Shelley novel (despite it’s wide variance from the plot of the novel).
This film was very nearly a different movie, however, if Universal had followed through with its original plans for this adaptation. Director Robert Florey originally brought the Frankenstein story to Universal, and in fact wrote a screenplay for the film along with Garrett Fort. This was after the wild success of DRACULA months earlier, with Universal attempting to cash in on the horror bug while it was still biting. According to Gordon B. Shriver, in his book BORIS KARLOFF, THE MAN REMEMBERED, he interviewed Robert Florey in 1973 and asked him about his original film treatment. Here is what he said:
             “While writing the adaptation of Shelley’s story, my idea was to give the role of Dr. Frankenstein to Lugosi.”
Interesting. It was natural for Florey to have Lugosi in mind, as he was the biggest horror star of the day. Universal ordered Florey to shoot a test reel of Frankenstein. Perhaps curious or nervous about how it would look, they had Florey shoot the test footage on the castle set of Dracula, which was still standing. However, Universal didn’t buy Florey’s plan for Bela as Dr. Frankenstein and wanted him in the role of the Monster, undoubtedly thinking about the success of Lon Chaney Sr. years earlier and hoping to duplicate it with Lugosi.
Here’s Florey again:
            “I directed several sequences –about two reels—of the first Frankenstein script with Bela as the Monster. I told Dick Shayer (head of production at Universal) that any tall bit player could play the Monster, but apparently my suggestion was rejected.”
This is backed up by horror scholars Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, and John Brunas in their book UNIVERSAL HORRORS, THE STUDIO’S CLASSIC FILMS: Florey’s test reel of Frankenstein…photographed by Paul Ivano on the Dracula castle set (which lasted only 20 minutes after editing) starred Bela Lugosi in Jack Pierce’s early makeup design.         
This footage is long lost, sadly. No one knows what Lugosi looked like in those test reels or how it played out, and this bit of film is as highly sought after as LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. There have been reports Lugosi wore an early version of the Pierce design, as well as Lugosi appearing in makeup and wig (a-la the Edison Frankenstein version) But whatever the case, after Florey turned in the test reels the project was handed over to James Whale. Was it so laughingly bad that Universal felt the need to hand the reins to someone else? Or was it so successful that Whale, a rising force at Universal, inserted himself into the project and took it over?

It is interesting and fun to speculate on what might have been. Had Florey gotten his way, the film might have looked something like this:           



FRANKENSTEIN

Directed by Robert Florey
Seen here with Karloff on the set on the greatest THRILLER episode ever,
THE INCREDIBLE DR. MARKESON, directed by Florey.

 
Cinematography by Karl Freund
(who worked with Florey on his subsequent picture, Murders in the Rue Morgue)



Starring
 
Bela Lugosi

as Dr. Henry Frankenstein


The Monster ?
Insert tall actor – perhaps even Boris. 
According to Shriver Robert Florey had actually met Boris Karloff in the past, while working on a film called OMAR THE TENT MAKER. Shriver asked Florey if perhaps he suggested Karloff play the part of the Monster, but he said no, that wasn’t the case. But the fact he knew Karloff certainly makes the idea of Boris playing the Monster in this scenario still possible. Perhaps it would have been destiny...


 

Sidney Fox as Elizabeth

Florey's leading lady (and Bela's costar) in Murders in the Rue Morgue was the diminutive 4'11" Fox.The nearly 7 ft Monster would have looked HUGE next to her, and rumors abounded later that she was having an affair with studio head Carl Laemmle Jr., which certainly wouldn't have hurt her chances of getting the role...



 
Edward Van Sloan as Dr. Waldman
One of two men to appear in both Frankenstein and Dracula, there is no reason to think he wouldn't have played the role had Florey directed.


 Dwight Frye as Fritz
The other of two men appearing in Frankenstein and Dracula,
he would fit the role perfectly.

Wednesday, December 7

Jeffrey Combs Nevermore coming to Nashville



The fine folks at the Nashville Public Library contacted me yesterday with details about an upcoming event that sounds really amazing - it's a one man play called Nevermore starring Jeffrey Combs and directed by Stuart Gordon. It takes place Thursday, January 19th at the library. Reception is at 6, performance begins at 7 - and best of all- It's FREE!! You don't wanna miss this!

Tuesday, December 6

Coffeebreak Frankenstein style

Colin Clive and Boris Karloff enjoying a coffee/smoke break on the set of FRANKENSTEIN 1931. Boris looks tired here, no doubt it was a long shoot, and hot under that makeup. Looks like someone'
sandwich is sitting on the table behind them, too.


Here Boris kicks up his heels with a smoke and a spot of tea as Jack Pierce and assistant touch up his makeup between scenes.


And another picture of Clive and Karloff relaxing together over tea. The two seem to enjoy one another's company quite a bit...

And finally a collection of shots of Boris relaxing between takes with tea. I think so many shots were taken of him taking breaks just because it is such an odd dichotomy seeing such a fantastic monster in such mundane everyday tasks. Pretty neat stuff.




Monday, December 5

Dracula 1931 Premiere

Check out this lobby display for Dracula as it premiered in the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, 1931! Now THAT'S how you do it! To find out more about this historic theater visit: http://www.kentuckytheater.com/about/the-history-of-the-kentucky-theater/

Wednesday, November 30

Dr. Gangrene Presents - Moon of the Wolf

I've gotten several requests to put episodes of my new show online, and I have finally done just that. Episode 9 featuring MOON OF THE WOLF, starring David Janssen. Also features an interview with horror author Jason McKinney. Enjoy!



And let me know if you'd like to see more of these by leaving me a comment.

Bela and Boris

Thought I'd post this great publicity shot of Bela and Boris, two great actors who's paths kept crossing through the years.


They appeared in 7 movies together:

The Black Cat 1934
The Raven 1935
The Invisible Ray 1936
Son of Frankenstein 1939
Black Friday 1940
You'll Find Out 1940
The Body Snatcher 1945

IMDB also lists them both as having appeared together in uncredited roles as Indians in 1920 in The Last of The Mohicans. I really am not too sure about that one, however. It also lists them both in cameo appearances in a 1940 musical called Gift of Gab, too. Again, one I'm not familiar with.

(from You'll Find Out, shown w Peter Lorre)

Tuesday, November 29

Lugosi's Original 1931 Dracula Cape for Sell!

Got a spare $2 million dollars? If so, you could own the original Dracula cape owned and worn by Bela Lugosi in the Universal classic!


 I first heard about this auction at the fine blog Vampire Over London (which if you're not reading you really should check out) and knew I had to share with you guys here. The auction is being held through Profiles in History. I was always under the impression Bela had been buried in his Dracula cape, and that is true - HOWEVER, it wasn't the cape worn in the movie. Rather he was buried in a lighter weight cape he used for personal appearances. Bela gave the official cape to his ex-wife Lillian, to pass along to his son Bela Jr. She did just that when she passed away in 1981. Bela Jr. kept it since then but is now putting it up for auction, along with a number of other items.



This is an amazing item I thought was buried forever, literally - and I personally think it'll go for more than 2 million. The auction takes place December 15 - 16, 2011, and you can place bids online. Can't wait to see what the final selling price is.

But if you can't afford 2 million, never fear - in the very same auction is the much more affordable Al "Grandpa" Lewis' Munsters cape!!


Monday, November 28

Frankenstein/Dracula Mexican Lobby card


This is a Mexican Lobby card advertising the rerelease of Frankenstein and Dracula from sometime in the 1960s. Appropriate to the posts from the past couple of days here is the fact Dwight Frye appears in the Frankenstein card (as Fritz) from the memorable censored scene "Now I know what it feels like to be God," and Edward Van Sloan appears in both the Dracula card as Van Helsing (as the casket is cracked open revealing the count inside) and the Frankenstein card as Dr. Waldman (trying to calm an overexcited Dr. Frankenstein).

Good stuff - click to enlarge image.

Sunday, November 27

Edward Van Sloan - Is there a Doctor in the House?


Another actor who appeared in both FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA is Edward Van Sloan. Van Sloan played Professor Van Helsing in Dracula and Dr. Waldman in Frankenstein, and also delivered the unforgettable opening dialogue before Frankenstein.



 The Universal version of Dracula wasn't the first time Van Sloan and Lugosi had worked together, however; the two had appeared together in the American stage version of Dracula years earlier, working together night after night.


I like to think the two were, while perhaps not close friends, at least friendly with one another. They were cast in two other productions together - THE DEATH KISS in 1932 and the serial THE PHANTOM CREEPS in 1939.

Like Dwight Frye, Van Sloan was somewhat typecast after Dracula, with the majority of his film roles being doctors, professors and wise men of some sort much like Van Helsing. Fortunately for him that provided many more opportunities than poor Dwight Frye was offered, and Van Sloan appeared in over 80 films, the last in 1950. Van Sloan also appeared in the Universal classics THE MUMMY, 1932, (as Dr. Muller) and DRACULA'S DAUGHTER, 1936, (as Professor Von Helsing). He passed away in 1964 at age 81. I consider Van Sloan one of the classic Universal horror actors, and a huge part of Dracula and Frankenstein, the two films we're celebrating this month. Here's to ya, Edward.

Saturday, November 26

Dwight Frye, henchman unparalleled!


Continuing the tribute to the 1931 Universal classics FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, (each 80 years old this year), I would be remiss not to take a moment to honor a man who appeared in both films - Dwight Frye.


Dwight had the distinction of playing henchmen in both films, and being an integral part of the plot in each as well. He played Renfield in Dracula and the hunchback assistant Fritz in Frankenstein. In addition to both of these landmark films he also appeared in a number of Universal's finest horror productions: The Invisible Man (reporter), The Bride of Frankenstein (Karl, Frankenstein's assistant), Son of Frankenstein (villager), Ghost of Frankenstein (villager), Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (villager), as well as a number of non-universal films, 60 in all. He did such a fine job as Renfield, and later as Fritz, that it became both a blessing and a curse. He was typecast in the lunatic role and mainly offered support parts, despite a proven ability from years of theater to pull off leading roles.


 Frye died at the too young age of 44 of a heart attack while riding on a bus in Hollywood, in 1943. I have no doubt in my mind that had he not passed away he would have been cast in House of Frankenstein the following year (1944), if even in another bit part as a villager.

Here's to you, Dwight, the man who set the mold for crazy assistants forever!

Thursday, November 24

Happy Thanksgiving!


In honor of today's holiday here's the trailer for Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING, from the movie Grindhouse. Here's hoping he does indeed make this movie and it's as awesome as this fake trailer! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Wednesday, November 23

Happy Birthday Boris Karloff

Today is the birthdate of Boris Karloff, born William Henry Pratt on Nov. 23rd, 1887.
click to enlarge pics...



Tuesday, November 22

Dracula/Frankenstein 1951


Terrific poster for the 1951 rerelease of Dracula and Frankenstein. Love this art and design of this poster. I definitely wouldn't be able to resist advertising like that!

Monday, November 21

Dr. Gangrene Scares Up Three Emmy Nominations


NASHVILLE, TN (11.20.2011) The Nashville/Midsouth Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences  announced their Midsouth Regional EMMY Award nominations on Friday, November 18, at a party hosted by Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) on Nashville’s legendary Music Row. Among the nominations were three for the creative minds behind television horror host, Dr. Gangrene.

Larry Underwood & Cameron McCasland picked up an EMMY nomination in the Entertainment category for the made for television movie “The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special” as well as two more nominations for Best PSA Campaign, and Best Short Form Writer for the “Go Green With Dr. Gangrene” series.

The good doctor said of the nomination, “This is a huge honor and it's great to see all our hard work appreciated. A big thanks to all the cast and crew who helped make these projects possible. We had a lot of fun with them and look forward to more horrific projects and collaborations in the future."
The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special pairs TV horror hosts Penny Dreadful & Dr. Gangrene together. The duo finds themselves readying for the upcoming Halloween season when suddenly all things go awry. It’s up to the physician of fright, Dr. Gangrene, and the eerie enchantress, Penny Dreadful, to set things right and save Halloween for everyone in this half hour special. Narrated by Washington DC’s legendary horror host Count Gore De Vol, this Halloween treat is packed with fright.

The “Go Green With Dr. Gangrene” series is a continuing collaboration between Underwood and McCasland and provides ways to make a safer, cleaner planet while using a horror theme as their backdrop. The 2011 installment featured Frankensteins monster, The Werewolf of Nashville, and The Creature from the Nashville Lagoon. The three newest shorts entitled, “Wolfbite”, “Creature Cooler”, and “Heating Up” provide tips on conserving the planet by cutting down on excessive waste, littering, and keeping tabs on pets. All three were filmed in and around Nashville landmarks, and are shot in glorious black & white as a loving nod to the classic monster films of yesteryear. McCasland was previously nominated for an EMMY in the Best Short Form Writer category for his work on “Go Green With Dr. Gangrene” in both 2008 and 2009.
Larry Underwood & Cameron McCasland
McCasland said of the nomination, “We’re just so happy that people like our show. Dreadful Hallowgreen was such a blast to make, and I'm not sure if we could ever pull something like that off again. Go Green has been a great joy for me to work on, and this past year even more so, as I got to bring in a lot of people who I had worked with in the past to play small parts. We’re just out there with rubber monster masks, and people seem to love it.”

The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special is distributed in the U.S. on home video and DVD by Alpha New Cinema. It premiered locally in Nashville on WNAB CW58 during Halloween weekend 2010, and was syndicated around the country. The made for television movie is a co-production of Shackle Island Studios and Peculiar Productions.

The 26th Annual Midsouth Emmy Awards will be announced during a live telecast in Nashville on March 17, 2012 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. For a full list of this year’s nominees please visit http://nashville.emmyonline.org/


Jennifer Lane of Decosimo Vaden. CPAs, who tabulated the ballots, announced that the 700 entries for the Midsouth Emmy Awards were judged by the Chicago/Midwest Chapter, the Mid-America Chapter based in St. Louis, the Mid-Atlantic Chapter based in Philadelphia, and the New York Chapter. She said Sixty-five television stations, production companies, and independent producers are named on the list of nominations.

Larry Underwood is an award winning writer and television producer. Outside of his role of Dr. Gangrene , he writes a regular column for Scary Monsters Magazine and daily musings in his Tales From The Lab Blog at drgangrene.com. Recently he was featured on the cover of Nashville Scene Magazine and in four color ink solving crimes alongside Dick Tracy in the classic comic strip.

Cameron McCasland is an Emmy nominated film maker from Edgewood Texas who has called Nashville home since 2001. His work has been seen on MTV, CMT, and film festivals around the globe. His upcoming feature film “The Lashman” is currently in post production.

Founded in 1957 The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is a non-profit, professional organization dedicated to fostering excellence in television. The academy has 19 chapters with 15,000 members nationwide.

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