Horror History: John Chambers

 john chambers 2John Chambers
Born: Sept. 12, 1923  Died: Aug. 25th, 2001

All horror fans know the names of Dick Smith, Tom Savini, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, and quite a few others that became famous in the 70’s and 80’s. But what about John Chambers?

Chambers is probably best known for his creation of the makeup effects used to turn Roddy McDowell and other actors into ape-creatures in The Planet of the Apes.  He also worked on horror films like SSSSSSS (1973), Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), and even Halloween II (1981). This is the man responsible for creating Spock’s ears for the original TV pilot! He was such a talented and creative artists that he won an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards in 1969. He was also the first makeup artist to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But if that wasn’t enough, he also did a few things that shows not only his talent, but his humanity. Even before getting into movies, he worked at the Veteran’s Hospital creating prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers. He also created other artificial parts, like noses, ears, and some entire faces, to help those soldiers who came back scared or deformed by the horrors of combat.

Plus, there was this little thing he did when he worked with the CIA as a contractor, first helping agents develop their own “disguise kits”, but then later in 1980, he was enlisted by the CIA to help with the rescue of six American embassy personnel who were hiding in the residence of the Canadian ambassador during the Iran hostage crisis. So they set up a fake movie production, with ads in Variety, big Hollywood parties, and everything, to make a science fiction film called Argo. Starting to sound familiar? The rescue was successful and in 2012, the story was made into a film, starring and directed by Ben Affleck. In the film, Chambers is played by John Goodman.

Just goes to show you that there is much more to some of these guys that were creating monsters and creatures for the movies.

Horror History: Robert L. Lippert

lippertRobert L. Lippert
Born Mar. 31st, 1909 – Died Nov. 16th, 1976

If you are a fan of cheap sci-fi/horror films of the ’50s and ’60s, then you’ll probably are familiar with the name of Robert L. Lippert. He is the man was named the “Quickie King” by Time Magazine due to his ability to crank out movies cheap and fast. Sure, they might not have been top-notch films, but they were usually entertaining. He was also the one that started to bring The Fly to the screen in 1958, before it was pretty much taken over by the studio and kicked him to the curb. But he still brought us fun titles like Rocketship X-M (1950) as well as Witchcraft (1964), The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Earth Dies Screaming (1964), and Curse of the Fly (1965).

Lippert had started in the film business working in a theater, starting his way at the bottom and moving his way up. He eventually owned a chain of theaters in California and Oregon. In the late ’40s, he figured out the easiest way to get movies to show in his theaters were to make them himself. He was also reported to be the man responsible for bringing popcorn machines into the theaters!

Horror History: Barbara Shelley

barbarashelley1Barbara Shelley
Born Aug. 15th, 1933

Barbara Shelley was a staple in the British horror cinema for about 10 years, starting in the late ’50s. The fact that she only made a handful of horror pictures during that time, and is so remembered shows the real talent that she was.

Starting with films like Cat Girl (1957) and Blood of the Vampire (1958), before appearing in one of the genre classics, Village of the Damned (1960). Then she would work with Hammer Films on her next four pictures, which shows some of her best work: The Gorgon (1964), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), and Quatermass and the Pit (1967). Her performance in Dracula: Prince of Darkness, as the uptight Helen, once transformed into a vampire is one of the highlights of that film. Her last role for the genre was the 1974 film Ghost Story (aka Madhouse Mansion), and moved to working more in television, even having a small stint in the Doctor Who series.

So the next time you’re in the mood for a British horror film, and maybe even a Hammer Film, think about choosing one of the ones that feature the lovely Shelley and see just what she gave to the genre.

Horror History: Michael Pataki

michaelpataki1.Michael Pataki
Born Jan. 16th, 1938 – Died April 16th, 2010

Pataki is one of those actors that you have seen a million times, in countless movies in just about every genre out there. He was everything from Drago’s coach in Rocky 4 to doing voices for cartoons like Mighty Mouse and Rin & Stimpy. He was in so many television shows it would take days to go over them. Working in the business for over 50 years, usually playing the villain, it was something he seemed to excel in.

But for us horror fans, he really was everywhere. He played the title bloodsucker in Grave of the Vampire (1974), or the mean sheriff in The Bat People (1974), or other titles like Dracula’s Dog (1978), Graduation Day (1981), Dead & Buried (1981), and the list goes on and on. He even tried his hand at directing a few times, with Mansion of the Damned (1976) being his directorial debut, starring a young Lance Henriksen.

So the next time you’re watching a low budget horror film from the ’70s, don’t be too surprised if you see Pataki’s name pop up on the credits, or you see his mug in there somewhere. No matter how big or small the movie or the role, he always gave a great and memorable performance.

Horror History: Bernard Robinson

Bernard RobinsonBernard Robinson
Born July 28th, 1912 – Died Mar. 2nd, 1970

If you are a fan of Hammer Films, then you are a fan of Robinson’s work, even if you don’t realize it. Robinson was the art director and later production designer that worked on good number of their films, from Quatermass 2 (1957) to Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969). The first actual film that he worked on was as an art director on The Case of the Frightened Lady (1938). Over those early years, he became good friends with Tony Keys, who would later invite Robinson to come work for Hammer.

Robinson could not only create unbelievable sets out of very little money, he also designed sets that could be used over and over again but moving things around and a little re-dressing. In fact, he was a master of his. Director Terence Fisher had stated that with one of Robinson’s sets, he could point the camera anywhere and he knew it would look fantastic.

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Horror History: Yvette Vickers

Yvette Vickers1Yvette Vickers
Born Aug. 26th, 1928 – Died 2010

As movie fans, especially when you are fans of the older black and white classics, we know that time catches up with the stars of these titles a lot sooner than we expect. A lot of the talent from those films in the ’50s and ’60s have long gone the way of becoming ghosts of Hollywood. But we know fans like us keep them alive in spirt, as well as in film. But there are some deaths that are so tragic, that it is just terrible. Yvette Vickers is one of them.

She started her career in the famous 1950’s film Sunset Boulevard, as “giggling girl on phone at party”. She would in little bit parts here and there, such as Reform School Girls (1957) and Short Cut to Hell (1957), which was James Cagney’s only film as a director. But her career never took off big, even after appearing in Playboy as a Playmate in 1959. Director Russ Meyer was actually the photographer for that layout. Her real claim to movie fame is for appearing in two horror classics, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959).

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Horror History: John L. Balderston

johnlbalderstonJohn L. Balderston
Born Oct. 22nd, 1889 – Died Mar. 8th, 1954

Ever wonder why the original ’30s film versions of Dracula and Frankenstein didn’t seem to follow the novels too much? Well, one of the men responsible for that was writer John L. Balderston. He started his career as a journalist, even before he finished school, working for different newspapers. He would even be a war correspondent during WWI. He eventually started in show business as a playwright, while continuing the journalism gigs as well.

In 1927, he was hired to re-write Hamilton Deane’s stage play of Dracula for American audiences, making more than a few changes. Because of its huge success, he was then hired to do the same for Peggy Webling’s play version of Frankenstein. He would later have his name attached to many of the early monster classics, even if his scripts were never used. But because of his work, a lot of the foundation of these early monster flicks were due to him.

In 1953, Balderston and the heirs of Webling won a lawsuit with Universal, getting paid not only $20,000 but also 1% of any of the films that resulted from their work, including any sequels!