Horror History: Sheila Keith

Sheila KeithSheila Keith
Born June 9th, 1920 – Died Oct. 14th, 2004

If you’ve seen more than a couple Pete Walker films, then you probably know who Sheila Keith is, or at least have seen her. And you’ve seen her work in his films, then you are definitely going to remember her! Keith was this wonderful older lady who seemed to excel in playing twisted and demented characters, even if she looked like your friendly old grandmother. While she did work a lot in other smaller roles and in a few TV series, it is her work with Walker that us deviant horror fans remember and love her for.

In Walker’s Frightmare aka Cover Up (1974), which happens to be my favorite role of hers, where she plays a cannibalistic matriarch, with such zest and conviction, that she is one of the scariest women you’d ever want to come across. She also appeared in Walker’s House of Whipcord (1974), The Confessional aka House of Mortal Sin (1976), The Comeback (1978), and House of Long Shadows (1983), where she worked alongside the likes of Carradine, Cushing, Lee, and Price!

Keith’s performances were always so strong and powerful that it amazes me that she did not get a ton of work in other movies. Maybe it was because Walker’s films didn’t receive a lot of critical acclaim.

Horror History: Bill Rebane

rebaneBill Rebane
Born Feb. 8th, 1937

If you’ve heard of Bill Rebane, it is probably due to his movie 1975 epic The Giant Spider Invasion. But that is a good start if you haven’t heard of him. Rebane made quite a few lower budgeted films, all made in Wisconsin, usually at his Shooting Ranch Studio, a full fledge film production studio that not only made several feature films, but tons of commercials, industrial films, and much more.

Rebane arrived in the US in 1952 at the age of 15, coming from Estonia. While he speaks 5 languages, he learned to master the English language by watching American movies, which helped fuel his love for the cinema. He started his media career at WGN-TV in Chicago, working his way up from the mailroom to eventually executive producer.

In the late ’60s, he started his film ranch in Wisconsin which would be the first full-time feature film studio in the Midwest, which ran for over 30 years. During those years, he made such films as Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975), The Alpha Incident (1978), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), and The Demons of Ludlow (1983), and even a few more.

While his films might not be the best made films, they are usually entertaining, even if in a MST3K sort of way. And he made the most entertaining giant spider movie ever made! So for that fact alone, everyone should know and remember who Bill Rebane is.

Horror History: Les Tremayne

tremayneLes Tremayne
Born Apr. 16th, 1913 – Died Dec. 19th, 2003

Here is an actor that was more famous for his voice than his face. In fact, along with Bing Crosby and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was one of the most distinctive voices on American radio. Born in England but moving to the states when he was only 4, it didn’t take long for him to develop his voice. By the age of 17, he was already working in radio. During the ’30s and ’40s, you could hear Tremayne’s voice on as many as 45 shows a week. He also appeared in countless TV shows over his career, from soap operas to westerns to thrillers and everything in between, including the role as the Mentor in the TV show Shazam!

But cult movie fans will recognize him for his roles in films like War of the Worlds (1956), The Monolith Monsters (1957), The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959), and The Angry Red Planet (1959). For real fans of the cheesy classics, he also appeared in The Slime People (1963) and in Larry Buchanan’s Creature of Destruction (1967), and the killer snake movie Holy Wednesday aka Snakes (1974).

With a very distinct voice, Tremayne will always be remembered to cult film fans like us, always giving it all, never winking at the camera, and always entertaining the audience.

Horror History: Bruno Punzalan

punzalanBruno Punzalan

Trying to find any information on this actor from the Philippines is damn difficult. But since his face was a staple of movies in the ’60s and ’70s that were filmed there, I thought a little attention needed to put in his direction. If you’ve seen any of the famous Blood Island Trilogy, Brides of Blood (1968), Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968), and Beast of Blood (1971), then you’ve seen Punzalan. He is usually cast as a bad guy, usually a thug of whoever is in charge. He had a very distinct face that always made him easy to pic out in the casts. He worked many times with director Eddie Romero, as well as with actors Sid Haig and Vic Diaz (another staple of Pilipino movies).

While not much is known about this actor, we feel that because of his contributions to the horror genre, we think that people should at least know who he is. So when they see that same face again, they can say “Hey…that’s Bruno Punzalan!”, impressing everyone around them. Not to mention, keeping this actor’s memory alive.

He also appeared with Ingrid Pitt in The Omegans (1968), as well as Blood Thirst (1971), Black Mama, White Mama (1973), and Savage Sisters (1973).

Horror History: Julia Saly

salyJulia Saly

Saly apparently is one mysterious character since it is pretty tough to find out much info about here. What we do know is that her first film she appeared in was the 1972 film La Guerrilla, and that she continued to work in films until 1985.

It was in 1975 when she made her first horror films, both with Amando de Ossorio. The first one was The Possessed, also known as Devil Witch Child, and then the last Blind Dead entry, Night of the Seagulls. It was also in that same year where she started to work with Paul Naschy. In fact, the rest of the films she appeared in where Naschy films, and the last six of them, she was even producer on them. Rumor has it that she was a flamenco dancer before getting into the film business, but not much information is available, or what happened to her once she left the business.

But no matter what, the films she did appear in, it was always a treat to watch her on screen. Her performance as the Countess Bathory in Naschy’s Night of the Werewolf is just enchanting. It must be something with those amazing eyes! So if you’re watching a Naschy flick that was made between 1975 and 1985, there’s a good chance Saly is in there somewhere.

Horror History: Bill Thurman

billthurmanBill Thurman
Born Nov. 4th, 1920 – Died Apr. 13th, 1995

While Thurman had appearances in notable films like Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) or Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971), as well as Hollywood films like Places in the Heart (1984) and Silverado (1985), he really is more known to cult fans that love films that are more off the beaten path. Thurman appeared in films like Creature from Black Lake (1976), The Evictors (1979) and the cult title Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986). But digging even deeper into the cult history, Thurman also appeared in over a dozen films of Texas filmmaker Larry Buchanan, most notably in titles as The Eye Creatures (1965), Curse of the Swamp Creature (1965), Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966), Mars Needs Women (1967), and It’s Alive (1969).

Now the thing about Thurman that is memorable were his performances. Was he Oscar winning caliber? Not even close. But more importantly, he was always enjoyable to watch on screen. When I see his name in the title, I know that he is going to try his best and presenting a interesting character on screen, and usually does. Thurman is one of these actors that truly deserves to be remembered since most people are not even familiar with the movies that he’s in, let alone the actor himself. So the next time you’re watching a low budget film that might have been made in Texas, keep an eye out for this large man, most likely with southern drawl to his speech. Most likely, that will be Bill Thurman.

Horror History: Paul Blaisdell

Paul BlaisdellPaul Blaisdell
Born July 21st, 1927, Died July 10th, 1983

Any fans of the monster movies of the ’50s have probably seen the work of Paul Blaisdell. He was the man responsible for creating the monsters and creatures for a lot of those early AIP films, usually done with very little time and even less money. But he always came up with some unique and very memorable designs. He started his career after graduating from the New England School of Art and Design, and started to work for Douglas Aircraft as a technical illustrator. He would also send in his drawings to sci-fi fantasy publications like Spaceways and Otherwords. His work was noticed by a very important figure in the horror / sci-fi genre fandom, that of Forrest J. Ackerman. He became Blaisdell’s agent and introduced him into the world of movie making.

Blaisdell would go on to create some of the most memorable monsters from that era, in films like The Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), The She-Creature (1956), It Conquered the World (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and many more. In the early ’60s, he even started his own magazine called Fantastic Monsters of the Film, with Bob Burns.  Unfortunately, the magazine was short lived.

With all of his creations being still remembered today by dedicated fans, it’s a shame that Blaisdell still does not receive the recognition that he should. So let’s change that. If you’re not familiar with him or his work, look some of his films up and take a look at the fun stuff he was coming up with, just with a few dollars and a lot of creative talent. I think you’ll enjoy what you see.