Sure, while Tommy Kirk is best known for his roles in a plethora of Disney films, such as Old Yeller, The Shaggy Dog, The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, and many others, you might be wondering why I would be mentioning his passing here on the Krypt. Well, like a lot of stars that “fall from grace”, they sometimes end up in some low-low-low budgeted films, which is exactly what happened with Kirk.
Disney had primed him to be an even bigger star in his youth, but once they found out that Kirk was gay, that was all it took and gave him the boot. At that time, it was hard to recover from that. Having bouts with drug addiction, which was not helping his career. After Disney, he started to work with A.I.P. in films like Pajama Party (1964), as well as working with director Bert I. Gordon in Village of the Giants (1965).
Best known for appearing in George Romero’s genre-starting film Night of the Living Dead, Marilyn Eastman was doing so much more than just appearing in it. Not only is she the zombie seen eating the bug off the tree, but she also handled some of the makeup, props, and so much more, like most others that worked on that low budget classic. While she only appeared in 2 other features, she will always be remembered as poor Helen Cooper, who meets the deadly end of a gardening trowel from her own daughter.
For as long as their are zombie fans, this little picture made outside of Pittsburgh by a bunch of friends will keep these hardworking people alive and well, no matter how long they have left us. Our thoughts go out to her friends and family during this difficult time.
One of Hollywood’s biggest villain’s, William Smith, passed away last Monday at the age of 88. When I say biggest, I mean he was a big man and made even a bigger impression. He is one of these actors that could tower over you, smile at you, and still scare the crap out of you! I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him at the Cinema Wasteland show back in April of 2005, where we fans got to hear some great stories from him.
While I had seen him in previous movies and TV shows, like The Night Stalker episode called The Energy Eater (1974) or one of the many other appearances he made, it was the TV miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man that my parents would watch on a regular basis, where Smith played the character Falconetti, sealing his part as a heavy, one that he did so well. Years later, I would know him from earlier works like Crowhaven Farm (1970), The Thing with Two Heads (1972), or the wonderful underrated Grave of the Vampire (1972). Hell, he even played Frankenstein’s creature in an episode of Fantasy Island in 1981! A year later, he appeared as Conan’s father in Conan the Barbarian (1982).
But like most tough guys on the screen, Smith was a super nice guy and was such a pleasure to meet. You knew if you saw his name in the credits, it was going to be good. As I always like to point out, even though we’ve lost him to this world, we will always have his wonderful performances to remember him by. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.
While director Richard Donner is mainly known for his big blockbuster films like Lethal Weapon series (1987-98), Goonies (1985), one of the best versions of Dickens’ story Scrooged (1988), there are a few other titles that made a strong impact on my life that he was responsible for. In 1978, he gave us the first REAL super-hero film with Superman that actually worked. But two years before that, he showed us that evil was alive and living amongst us in The Omen (1976), which still remains a powerful film even today, almost 50 years later.
But even before all of that, it was an episode of the TV show Ghost Story called The Concrete Captain that aired in September of 1972, that starred Stuart Whitman and Gena Rowlands, that I can still vividly remember watching as a 7-year-old kid, laying on my living room floor just being entranced by this little cheesy spooky story. Granted, at the time, I had no idea who the director was or whatever a director did. But I remembered that episode. It was a little later when I was able to catch one of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone, catching a rerun of it. It was Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, starring William Shatner. That was enough to give anybody nightmares, especially if you were going to be on a plane at night! Both of those episodes were directed by Richard Donner.
Donner passed away yesterday at the age of 91. For someone that did work on the big Hollywood films, he still made some damn fine entertainment, no matter what genre he worked in. His talent will be dearly missed, but thankfully we still have all the incredible films that he has left us. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.
Thank you, Mr. Donner, for showing us that a man really could fly.
While this happened a couple of months ago, we just read about it on the Monster Bash Facebook page and wanted to mention it here as well. Claudia Barrett passed away back on April 30th, at the age of 91. Now most are not going to recognize that name, but seeing the photo below, you will immediate recognize the movie she had appeared in. Barrett was only 24 years old when she starred alongside a man in a gorilla suit wearing a space helmet, in the ultimate Turkey Day movie, Robot Monster (1953).
While she did make her (uncredited) screen debut in 1949 alongside James Cagney in White Heat, she worked quite a bit in different movies and TV shows, even after Robot Monster, until she retired from the business in the early ’60s. In 2016, she was a guest at the Monster Bash Conference, as well as her co-star Robot Monster co-star, Gregory Moffett, who played her little brother. They both had some fun stories about the making of his classic and were just so friendly to chat with.
Another one lost from the Hammer Family. One that I had always hoped to meet at a convention, but no more. Shane Briant recently passed away at the age of 74, after battling a long illness. He was one of the actors that the studio hoped would take them into the next era of Hammer Horror, giving them new blood and new faces (along with Ralph Bates). He appeared in four pictures inside of three years, the first two being in 1972, Straight on Till Morning and Demons of the Mind. The following year, he had a small role in Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and in 1973, was the assistant to Cushing’s last appearance as Dr. Frankenstein, in Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. He also appeared in the title role for a TV movie adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, produced by Dan Curtis.
In 1983, he moved to Australia and worked in over a dozen films there and New Zealand, as well as starting to write, publishing eight novels.
Looking at his filmography, the last title that just has “announced” after it, even though it looks like there are plenty of photos, is a film called Sherlock Holmes vs. Frankenstein. The interesting part is that Briant’s character name is listed as Simon Helder, the same name as his character in the last Hammer Frankenstein film. Interesting …. hope that comes out at some point.
The older I get, I realize that the people that I admire from the famous studio that stopped production over forty years ago, are also getting older and the chances of being able to meet them are getting slimmer by the day. But as I always try to point out, the films that Briant appeared in, are still around for us to enjoy, being once again memorized by the performance, looking at this youthful face with the golden blonde hair. So like Dorian Gray, he will never age in our minds.
Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.
It’s always sad to hear of the passing of someone from the horror genre, especially when they are incredibly talented, but even sadder when they are so young. Makeup artists (and so much more) Robert Hall passed away on Monday at the age of 47. No details beyond that on his death, but he leaves a massive filmography of work from a ton of films, not just as a effects artists, but as a director as well. The somewhat biographical Lightning Bug (2004) to his pair of slasher flicks Laid to Rest and Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2, showed his range in the industry. But just looking at the number of films the he did special makeup effects on, from low budget pictures to big Hollywood ones, is just staggering. Which makes this news such a damn tragedy.
We got to meet Hall at the HorrorHound convention in March of 2011 and really enjoyed his Q&A, giving the audience a insight to what he does. Such a nice guy and such a lost. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.
Enzo Sciotti is a name you might not know, but if you’re a horror fan, you know his work. Sciotti is one of those unsung heroes in the art world that created such stunning poster art that his work is immediately recognizable.
Developing his artistic skills at an early age, and being encouraged by his mother, he actually started working in the film industry making posters when he was only 16 years old! He has created artwork for more than 3000 movie posters. Take a look below and I’m sure you’ll recognize every single one of his beautiful masterpieces, from posters to DVD and Blu-ray covers. Not only was his artwork incredibly accurate when it came to actors and actresses, but the layout of the designs were just as impressive.
We have lost one of the premiere makeup artist from the movie world. Being one of thousands in the industry, to have your work literally change the face of a specific horror sub-genre, is something pretty damn amazing. Italian makeup and special effects man Giannetto De Rossi was one of them. This talent that showed us what putrefying flesh of the living dead should look like, passed away on Sunday, at the age of 78 years old.
Coming from a family in the industry, with both his father and grandfather working as makeup artist, it didn’t take long for Giannetto to realize that he was pretty good at it as well. He started working on films in his early 20s and never looked back. In 1974, working with Spanish director Jorge Grau, he created some unforgettable zombies, as well as some over-the-top gore effects in Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, which remain still impressive almost 50 years later. A few years later, he would create the look for the Italian zombie in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie (1979). Not only were there some incredible gore effects, but De Rossi made the zombies look scary as hell. With dirt packed faces, worms crawling on them, and plenty of the gooey red stuff, he made these creatures a walking nightmare, even before they clenched their teeth into your flesh.
Norman J. Warren is a perfect example of a filmmaker that does not have a huge filmography but the few films he made are more than enough to be remembered. Warren grew up loving film and started working in the industry before he was 20, and directing his first short film, Fragments in 1965. Three years later, he directed two successful softcore exploitation films, Her Private Hell and Loving Feeling, both in 1968. But it is his horror films that he is best remembered for. In the late 70s, he directed Satan’s Slave (1976), Prey (1977), Terror (1978), and the early 80s, took advantage of the Alien phenomena and directed Inseminoid (1981), and then a nod to the nightmarish slasher sub-genre, gave us Bloody New Year in 1987.
My personal favorite of Warren’s work is Prey, which I can still remember seeing the big box VHS tape of this, under the title Alien Prey that had blood and nudity right on the front cover! But it was more than just the cheap red stuff, he showed that with very little money, but with a good story and a very small but talented cast, you could create a very memorable film.
So it was very sad to hear of his passing. But we know, as horror fans, his films and his memory will be kept alive for along as there are fans of these pictures. Our thoughts go out to his friends and family during this difficult time.