James Karen – Rest in Peace

James Karen - RIPI’ve been going to conventions for over twenty years and have met more than a few celebrities over those two decades. Some are very cordial, while others a little standoffish. But there are few that compare to the pure joy that I felt from meeting James Karen in an elevator at Chiller convention back in the mid ’90s. As we were talking the elevator down to the show, Mr. Karen walked in and could immediately tell from the black horror t-shirts we were wearing that we were there for the show. He immediately said hello and started talking to us as the doors closed. He wasn’t embarrassed by his work in the horror genre, or that some young fans were geeking over the fact that we were in the same elevator as Frank from Return of the Living Dead! He just seemed so happy to be there and loved the fact that we were fans and knew who he was. While the ride only lasted a minute or two, it is one of the best memories from my convention memories. I met him again a few years ago and he still gave off that same vibe to his fans. So it was very sad hearing of his passing.

The funny thing is that if you look at his immense filmography, with over 200 screen appearances, he only appeared in a few horror titles. But in those, he created very memorable characters, such as the real estate developer in Poltergeist (1982) or the bumbling but loveable Frank in Return of the Living Dead (1985). His very first film appearance was in the wonderfully titled Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965), as well as appearing in so many television series and even more commercials, starting back in 1948, in a production of A Christmas Carol. But before that, he started acting on the stage. He made his Broadway debut in 1947 in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire, being Karl Malden’s understudy.

Horror fans have lost a friend, as well as an extremely talented actor, who could make you love his character as easily as hate him. He was that good. He will be deeply missed. At least we still have his films to keep his memory alive. I know that each time I pop in my copy of Return of the Living Dead, no matter that I’ve seen the film countless times, James Karen will still make me smile and laugh. So he will never be forgotten.

Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.

Celeste Yarnell & Venantino Venantini – Rest in Peace

 

I was just commenting the other day that either I have missed them or the number of our genre stars that we’ve been losing has been much lower than previous years. And then we lose Stelvio Cipriani last week, and now there are two more.

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Stelvio Cipriani – Rest in Peace

Stelvio Cipriani - RIPIf you are a fan of Italian cinema, whether it be westerns, giallo, or horror, then you’ve most likely heard the work of Stelvio Cipriani, who passed away on Monday, October 1st, at the age of 81. With a career that spanned over 50 years, composing scores for over 200 films, he has help make those movies even better with his music.

He started studying music at the age of 14 and composed his first score when he was 29, which was The Ugly Ones (1966). He would contribute scores for such films as A Bay of Blood (1971), The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire (1971), Death Walks on High Heels (1971), Baron Blood (1972), Tragic Ceremony (1972), Rabid Dogs (1974), Tentacles (1977), The Great Alligator (1979), Nightmare City (1980), and so many more.

Thankfully for us film score fans, a lot of his work has been released on CDs, which allows not only us, but newer fans to discover and continue to enjoy years to come. So that his work with always be with us, which means he will always be remembered. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Jacqueline Pearce – Rest in Peace

Jacquline Pearce RIPOne of my favorites from Hammer Studios is one of their 1966 “Cornish Horrors”, Plague of the Zombies, made back to back with The Reptile. From the incredible look of the zombies, to the bad-ass villain played by John Carson, to the straight-laced hero played by André Morell, it always delivers the goods, each and every time I watch it. Another one of the reasons is the rest of the stellar cast, including Jacqueline Peace, who plays the doomed Alice. Pearce’s performance gives the viewer such a feeling of dread because we all know what is going to happen to her and we can’t stop it. And then in The Reptile, she gives another performance to draw the audience in with her pathos.

In both of these films, not only did she have to create these characters and grab hold of the audience, she also had to endure quite some time in Roy Ashton’s makeup chair. But she not only played a couple of iconic Hammer characters, she caught the attention of many fans. So we are very sadden to hear of her recent passing.

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Peter Wyngarde & Bradford Dillman – Rest in Peace

Peter Wyngarde - RIP

It was only a matter of time since the new year started that we would lose some familiar faces from the movies and TV shows that we love. I almost hate reporting on stuff like this, but I still think it is important to remember these great talents and for the hours of entertainment that gave us, that continues to live on with each viewing.

Peter Wyngarde had a very interesting life, appearing as a fashionable spy in Department S, then in a spin-off series called Jason King. It was this character that helped inspire Mike Myers’ Austin Powers. He appeared in many stage plays, TV appearances and even his share of movies. But due to some run ins with the law, including an arrest and conviction of a “act of gross indecency” in 1975, that didn’t help much with his career.

But for horror fans, he might have only appeared in two films in the genre, but they are incredible. In Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961), he didn’t even have a speaking role as the ghostly Peter Quint, but made quite an impact. Then the following year, he had the lead role in Burn, Witch, Burn (1962), as a college professor whos wife just happens to be a witch! Originally called Night of the Eagle in England, this based on a story by Fritz Leiber, Jr. and really is a must see.

Wyngarde passed away on January 15th, at the reported age of 90 years old.

Bradford Dillman - RIP

Bradford Dillman was a very familiar face to someone growing up watching TV in the ’60s & ’70s. In fact, my first memory of him, even though I was too young to remember, was in an episode of Night Gallery, based on a H.P. Lovecraft story, Pickman’s Model. I always remember thinking how cool it would be to have that painting! Dillman would also appear in quite a few other genre TV shows, like The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Moon of the Wolf (1972), Demon, Demon (1975), and Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978).

But he also made his mark on quite a few feature films like The Mephisto Waltz (1971), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Chosen Survivors (1974), Bug (1975), The Swarm (1978), Piranha (1978). It was his starring roles in Bug and Piranha when I started to remember his face and name, discovering all the other great things that he appeared in over the years.

Dillman passed away on January 16th, due to complications from pneumonia.

Our thoughts go out to these talented actors and their friends and family. They will be missed, but never forgotten.

2017 Year in Review Part 2: In Remembrance

As horror fans, we lost some huge icons this last year. Some were older and some went way too soon. But because of their work in cinema, they will never entirely be gone from us. We can always pop in a DVD or Blu-ray and they will be just as alive as we remembered, giving us even more entertainment than before.

Being a fan of cinema for any length of time, you would think one could get used to losing some of their movie heroes and idols, but it still hurts when you ponder “what if they were to make just one more film?” Being a fan of cinema also helps keep their memory of what they did make alive and well. And by continuing to sing their praises, we can introduce them to the next generation of cinema lovers, so they can experience the same joy that we did, and still do, each and every time we bust out one of their movies.

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Suzanna Leigh – Rest in Peace

Suzanna Leigh - RIPHammer fans have lost another name from the studio we love so much. Suzanna Leigh, who appeared in The Lost Continent (1968) and Lust for a Vampire (1971), passed away yesterday at the age of 72.

The Lost Continent is a favorite of mine since it is just so damn crazy, but so much fun. We had the wonderful opportunity to meet her at a couple of conventions over the years and she was always such a sweet person to talk to. She had plenty of great stories to tell as well. Other genre titles she appeared in are The Deadly Bees (1966) and the cult film Son of Dracula (1974) with Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson. But probably even scarier than any of those films was probably working with Klaus Kinski in the 1965 film The Pleasure Girls.

Oh yeah…and she worked with some guy named Elvis.

That is one of the real shames of being a fan of a studio that (realistically) stopped making films almost 30 years ago, that the stars that we loved to watch and follow are sadly slowly leaving us. But as I always say, we will always have their movies to remind us of their talent, and their work will continue to give audiences both old and new, entertainment for years to come.  Gone, but never forgotten.

Our thoughts go out to her friends and family during this difficult time.