“Peter Cushing: A Life In Film”

Today would have been Peter Cushing’s 100th birthday, so the time is right to review a newly released biography about him (released April 16th from Titan books).


From his beginnings in repertory theatre, to his starring roles on television (he was a very popular television star in the 1950’s, and Hammer had a big job luring him away from that), to his days at Hammer, and the dark times beyond that (after his beloved wife Helen died in 1971), this book encompasses it all.  If you’ve read his autobiographies from the ’80s, this is still a good read and adds a lot of detail and information to what you already know.  It also has a wealth of photos (well over 200- there’s at least one on almost every page), mostly black and white but with two sections of color photos as well.

Peter Cushing’s multitude of ups and downs are all represented here, and it features a lot of interviews (both reprinted and newly conducted for this book) with friends and co-stars (and the man himself).  The writing is a little academic and undynamic, but the source material shines through and engages without really needing a charismatic host to bring it to you.

Most actors, if they are lucky, get to play a famous character or meaty role that they become beloved for or associated with.  Cushing played many- Winston Smith, King Richard II, Dr. Frankenstein, Professor Van Helsing, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Who, Captain Clegg, Grand Moff Tarken.  The joy he’s brought to people over the years with his thoughtful portrayals of these characters and many more is unquantifiable.  One thing you always hear when people describe his performances, is how he didn’t always choose the best material and movies to be in, but he always gave his all to every role and brought a humanity to even the most absurd or cardboard characters and storylines.  My favorite thing about PETER CUSHING- A LIFE IN FILM is that it tells a lot of the changes and improvements Cushing made to scenes, scripts, and characters- he was always suggesting little changes and enhancements, most of which the directors saw value in and used.

From Peter Cushing- A Life In Film, a page about the production of Amicus' Tales From The Crypt (1972) and how Cushing molded the role to make it his own.

From PETER CUSHING- A LIFE IN FILM, a page about the production of Amicus’ Tales From The Crypt (1972) and how Cushing molded the role to make it his own.

Peter Cushing, like Vincent Price, was incredibly beloved by all of his co-stars and fans, and I’ve never heard a bad word or derogatory tale about him.  By all accounts was a very friendly, gracious, and honorable man, and a fantastic and charismatic actor; he is still missed.


Exploitation Retrospect #51 (a NEW issue!)



You might recall me reviewing an old issue of the horror/ sleaze/ trash/ action/ grindhouse/ etc. ‘zine Exploitation Retrospect on here awhile back.  Well, editor Dan Taylor got in touch, and it seems that the ‘zine is still going!  After a hiatus of 13 or so years, they came out with a new print issue last year, and plan to put another out this year.  I’ll let Dan tell you about it and give a little history himself (from the editorial in the new issue):



I guess the main question people have would be, is it the same as the old ones?  A LOT of things have changed since the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the ‘zine hasn’t changed all that much.  It’s a lot thicker, and is back to concentrating mostly on movies (they branched out into music and politics and basically commentary on whatever suited their fancy at the time in the later issues of the old ‘zines).  Dan himself doesn’t seem to write as much (and his amusing commentary was a highlight of the old issues), but it’s still a great read.

It mostly consists of movie reviews, but based on themes and done from different perspectives.  For example, there is an article on Australian exploitation movies, with capsule reviews focusing on several you might have missed that the author finds relevant.  There’s an article on Barbara Steele (who I met in 2009 at a convention, and who is quite timid- I actually rode on an elevator with her and she looked quite terrified of her adoring fans, haha) with some very in-depth reviews of a bunch of her films (some I’ve never seen) with a load of interesting tidbits of info to go along with each one.  There’s also a long article on the ties between professional wrestling and pornography that I never knew existed- it was very informative, and focused on a few key players in both camps.  There are also quite a few stand-alone movie reviews (I will post a page of them so you can see how they’re written, but since this is a new magazine that you can purchase now, I’m not going to post a bunch of it on here like I do the old, out of print ‘zines), and some current other ‘zine reviews (I never knew there were still so many, but I’m delighted to discover their existence).  Take a look at the ‘table of contents’ (scanned above) to see how much other awesome stuff is crammed into this issue.

You can go to http://.ERonline.blogspot.com  to find out how to get your own copy of this issue (and other info) as well as news and reviews. They also have a Twitter and Facebook.   I’m glad ‘zines are making a comeback.


Maniac remake


I won’t start off with the usual lamenting about the remake plague, because we pretty much all feel the same about them being unnecessary at best and crapass for the most part (barring a very few exceptions); suffice it to say that I would not have bothered seeing this if it weren’t free, but I’m glad I did. It was pretty damn good. A friend asked me “Was it as gory, sleazy, and misogynistic as the original?”. The answer is yes, no, and yes. It’s just as gory and misogynistic (possibly even more so) than the original, but not near as sleazy. I think they knew they could not out sleaze Bill Lustig, and went for arty instead. For those of you groaning when they read that last line- I would have too if I hadn’t seen it, but somehow it works (and it’s not overly arty, to a goofy degree. just enough to make it a little offbeat). There’s no way Frodo could be as creepy, imposing, or dangerous seeming as Joe Spinell (RIP). Let’s get that out there right now. They knew that, and went with a different angle. It works. For one thing, the whole film (other than the last few minutes) is from a first person point of view- you see everything Frank (the killer) sees, and the only time you see him is when he sees himself in a reflective surface. This was a really cool way to experience his insanity (and he is quite insane- you get into his head a lot more than in the original). I’ve seen other movies do this for small parts of them, but never for the whole thing.

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The plot follows the basic plot of the original- a very disturbed loner was abused by his prostitute Mommy (played by America Olivio of the “Friday the 13th” remake), and is compelled to murder young ladies, scalp them, and bring the scalps home and attach them to mannequins, which he talks to and interacts with as if they are the real people. He is befriended by a photographer (who likes to photograph mannequins in this one) and developes an attachment to her- can he overcome his need to kill for her, and live a normal life?

There are not many nudge nudge wink wink nods to the original (which is fine by me- tho there is one to Silence of the Lambs that made everyone in the screening room giggle), and the overall feel is less sleazy and gritty- it actually feels much more like American Psycho in tone than the original Maniac (including some small moments of black comedy). The actress who plays Anna, the photographer/ love interest is adequate, but not near as charismatic as Caroline Munroe in the original. The director previously made P2, which I saw but don’t really remember much, so it must not have been extra good or horribly bad. It was produced by Alexandre Aja, who has also never really impressed me that much with any of his movies (not even the much beloved High Tension), but I enjoyed this. It can exist alongside the original as an alternate dimension version of the same story and doesn’t piss on it’s legacy or embarrass anyone involved.
One last thing I’d like to comment on about it is how much I liked the score- it’s a totally retro synth score that recalls the original and sets the mood perfectly. It was done by someone simply named ‘Rob’.
After the screening I saw RUE MORGUE magazine editor-in-chief Dave Alexander leaving the screening room and asked him what he thought, and he said he really enjoyed it as well, and that RUE MORGUE would be doing a big piece on it in a future issue, so we can probably look forward to more coverage than the original got.


Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013

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Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013 went off without a hitch (after a kind of rocky start at their new location last year), and fun was had by all.  I’ve been to a lot of conventions, but this one has to be the best and best run one I’ve experienced.  This year featured the usual batch of awesome guests (including Jeffrey Combs, Marilyn Burns, Gary Busey, Veronica Cartwright, Meg Foster, Bruce Davidson, Bill Moseley, Caroline Munroe, Stuart Gordon, Bernie Wrightson, Patricia Quinn, Steve Railsbeck, David Naughton, Steve Niles, tons more) and panels on Alien, Pet Sematary, Stuart Gordon, Lords of Salem, horror comics, and more.
There were horror movies shown all 3 days (including The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, which I already reviewed below, the Maniac remake (review coming soon), and Neil Jordan’s Byzantine (which I missed)) and a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Patricia Quinn and a shadow cast.

This was just Saturday's schedule- so much to do!

This was just Saturday’s schedule- so much to do!

My favorite thing about conventions is just exploring the dealer room (this convention had 2 two of them!), geeking out with fellow geeks, and people watching (the costumes are always awesome).

Dealer room 1 open for business... Horror business!

Dealer room 1 open for business… Horror business!


Jason menacing Ted White (who played Jason in Friday the 13th Part IV), as Freddy and Leatherface assist.

Jason menacing Ted White (who played Jason in Friday the 13th Part IV), as Freddy and Leatherface assist.

I bought a lot of awesome movies and memorabilia, and had to stop myself from spending too much money (self control is hard for me with great stuff for sale like this):
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The coolest “celebrity” I met was Bill Moseley, who is very friendly and amiable and told us stories about working with Buckethead and the members of Stolen Babies on his music projects (I bought one of his Spider Mountain cds) and about how he prepared to portray Drayton in that last (terrible) Chainsaw movie.  He also told us some cool stories about the original Drayton, Jim Siedow (who evidently had a vast array of dirty jokes for every occasion).
Despite spending too much money, I found a lot of great deals (like the soudtracks to both Cannibal Ferrox and Zombie on one cd for only 10 bucks), and talked to the guys at the RUE MORGUE magazine table for awhile (who were also very friendly)…
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The only complaint I’d have is that it all went by way too fast.  I can’t wait to go back next year…

Jeffrey Combs signing autographs

Jeffrey Combs signing autographs

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The line to meet Danny trejo is longer than his favorite machete

The line to meet Danny Trejo is longer than his favorite machete

a fan gets the drop on George "The Animal" Steel
a fan gets the drop on George “The Animal” Steel

Gary Busey dancing to creepy accordion music
Gary Busey dancing to creepy accordion music

the facebone's connected to the... red shirt?

the facebone’s connected to the… red shirt?

lots of great artists sell their work in the dealer rooms- here's an awesome portrait of Marilyn Burns from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

lots of great artists sell their work in the dealer rooms- here’s an awesome portrait of Marilyn Burns from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

and the real thing, signing autographs for her fansand the real thing, signing autographs for her fans

Patricia Quinn (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) loved posing with fans

Patricia Quinn (Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show) loved posing with fans

Until next year- stay creepy!Until next year- stay creepy!




R.I.P. Ray Harryhausen 1920 – 2013


I’m sure you’ll be reading a lot of tributes and testaments to this great artist and innovator’s work and personality over the next few days.  People like to say great things about those who passed on- it’s a tradition. But for this man it won’t be exaggeration- all the great things said about him will be absolutely accurate.

He brought a lot of joy to the world, probably more than anyone will ever realize.  He sparked countless imaginations, and inspired tons of people who in turn have done the same.  His contributions to art and entertainment can’t really be understated.  He’ll be missed.


Rest In Peace, June 29, 1920 – May 7, 2003



The Last Will And Testament Of Rosalind Leigh



I need to preface this review by mentioning that the circumstances under which I watched this film were not optimal.  It is a very thoughtful film, almost entirely comprised of mood and atmosphere, and I saw it in a screening room with a very large man in front of me where I had to lean to the side during the entire running time, and his ear still covered the left side of the screen.  It was a bit distracting, and I think it caused me to miss some things that you need to notice to fully comprehend the film.  This is a film that can only be enhanced by repeat viewings (which are probably necessary to get it all anyway), so I’ll probably watch it again when it comes out on dvd.

The film, as I said, is full of mood and atmosphere, and is about loneliness, regret, and death.  It doesn’t hand feed or spell anything out to the audience, and lets you draw your own conclusions.  Those who don’t appreciate thoughtful, slow moving mood pieces will definitely not like this very much.

It’s about an antiques dealer who’s estranged mother has passed away and left her estate to him.  He comes to stay the night in the house, and discovers that her level of religious fervor (which had contributed to his estrangement and caused some anxiety issues in his life) had reached fever pitch, and she had fallen in with a cultish group.  Most of the movie is him exploring the house and discovering things related to this group and his mother’s obsession with them, as well as her insistance on him accepting salvation.  Vanessa Redgrave voices his mother (in voiceover- she’s never really shown), and is the main voice we hear throughout the film.

As the night goes on, strange things begin happening- he starts seeing things, having bad dreams, and feels a presence.  He’s not sure of it’s in his head, or real.  He finds a secret room and angel statues everywhere.  He begins to think his mother might be reaching out to him from beyond the grave, trying to tell him something.  A neighbor stops by to warn him that there is ‘an animal’ that has started coming out of the woods at night that is hurt, and may be dangerous.  His anxiety attacks start getting worse, and he begins to feel paranoid and stalked by the creature the neighbor warned him about.

The film is beautifully shot, and evokes strong feelings of loneliness as well as creepiness.  Not a lot happens throughout most of it (with the exception of a stretch in the middle with the above mentioned ‘animal’), and no answers are definitively provided.  I’m not totally sure how much I liked it, and will need to watch it again.  It made me think of two other movies to some extent- the Woman In Black (2012), which I liked a lot, and Antichrist (2009), which I did not like much at all.  At any rate, the skill in the direction (by RUE MORGUE magazine founder Rodrigo Gudiño), acting, and cinematography cannot be denied, and the haunting atmosphere and sorrowful mood it evokes is very well done.  It’s not like most other horror movies (and is not for everyone) but if you’re into filmmakers like Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist) you’ll probably eat this up.