Monday, March 16, 2009
The men of weird movies (and a couple of couples)
Here's the follow-up to the Women of Weird Cinema. These photos were obtained at the Hollywood Collectors' Show, the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, the Video Software Dealers of American conference and a short-lived show called Monsters At Play (I think it only happened once...in L.A., at least, but it was a memorably fun time over the 4th of July weekend at a hotel near LAX.
STEVE REEVES. The icon. And although this isn't inscribed, I assure you he signed it for me in person at the Beverly Garland. And it was only about a year before he passed. He didn't talk much, but it was still an unforgettable moment. Besides, what could I say? "I love the way the Mystery Science Theatre guys slaughter your movies?"
GUNNAR HANSEN. Leatherface himself. Another of those people who've marketed his legend and actually made a name for himself in horror films since then. According to IMDB, his latest is "Escape from the Living Dead." Nice guy, and dig the way he signed my photo!
RUSS STREINER. Another big one. "Johnny" was extremely friendly and conversant. When I told him that I'd seen NOLD at a drive-in when I was eight years old, he apologized for scarring me for life. I assured him that nothing could be further from the truth! NOLD messed me up in all the right ways..
DANA WYNTER AND KEVIN McCARTHY. A classy couple. Last I saw Mr. McCarthy he was getting some exercise in my Sherman Oaks neighborhood. I was having a run and he was on a walker. I thought, "How sad," but obviously it was only a temporary setback as he's listed in the credits of two 2009 films. At age 95! Ms. Wynter hasn't done anything onscreen since the 90s but divides her time between California and Ireland.
DELORES TAYLOR AND TOM LAUGHLIN. A couple of sweethearts. They were at the VSDA conference in 1999 promoting all the "Billy Jack" films on video and couldn't have been nicer. "Billy Jack" was a key "outsider" film for this preteen kid in 1971, having seen it at the Rialto Theatre in Walkerton, Indiana, and it was great to be greeted by them in such a manner.
RICHARD KIEL. I have to be honest. Frankly, I have fonder memories of the 7'2" Mr. Kiel as Dr. Kolos in "Human Duplicators" (the name with which he inscribed the photo to me) and the title character in "Eeegah" than his appearances in the 007 films. What I remember most is this huge man walking back to his room at the Beverly Garland Hotel, hanging onto the walls for support. He's beaten the odds...he's 70 and giants don't usually live that long (see Ted Cassidy). He even has a 2008 film credit!
JOHN AGAR. Okay, let's get the "husband of Shirley Temple" part over with. He emerged from the military to enter a more treacherous career...acting in motion pictures! He was in many of the Universal sci-fi classics of the 50s, including "Creature from the Black Lagoon, "Tarantula" and "The Mole People." This autograph was obtained at the Beverly Garland about two years before he died. We talked about how painful the contact lenses he wore for "Brain from Planet Arous" were. I mean, look at 'em! Huge, huge pupils and foil for the "sparkle" effect? No CGI there!
BRUCE CAMPBELL. If you haven't ready his books you've missed out on a treat. He's funny, self-effacing and ironic. Forever known as Ash to some and Brisco County to others, Campbell is one of the ultimate cult heroes. And he continues to deliver on his reputation with films like "They Call Me Bruce."
KEN FOREE. Another cult legend and very friendly. I told him about how the shoulder-biting scene in "Dawn of the Dead" blew my mind, and he said he was on a panel with the actor who did the biting years later and he still gave him the creeps!
HARRY NOVAK. If you didn't see adult films at the drive-in theater in the 70s (how's that for specific?) you may not know who this is, but Novak is an old-time exploiteer with a library of titles like "The Pigkeeper's Daughter," "Axe" and "The Sinful Dwarf." I wanted a video copy of "Dwarf" so he invited me to his distribution offices in Hollywood to pick it up. What stories he could tell!
FORREST J. ACKERMAN. I saw him at conferences several times over the years, but never made it to the Ackermansion to see his memorabilia, which makes me kick myself. Last time I saw him was at ComicCon in San Diego last July. He was in a wheelchair, was very frail and looked like he didn't know where he was. I explained to my friend who this "Famous Monsters" legend and punster was and predicted that this would probably be his last conference appearance. It was.