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: 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: 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: Jack Arnold

JackArnoldJack Arnold
Born Oct. 14th, 1916 – Died March 17th, 1992

Arnold is another unsung hero in the horror and sci-fi film genre. He started his movie career as a documentary filmmaker, even being nominated for an Oscar for his work. After a couple of feature films, he directed the one that would start his rise as a great sci-fi / horror film director, It Came From Outer Space  (1953). While very creepy, this alien invasion was much different than the other films at the time since this wasn’t really an “invasion” film at all. His next film would make him an even bigger name, creating another classic Universal Classic Monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). He would later go one to direct its sequel Revnge of the Creature (1955), Tarantula (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and a couple other minor titles.

With his films, Arnold tried to show audiences that maybe these aliens, creatures, and strange people were not as threatening as we’d like to think. And that message can still be seen and felt even today, all those years later. That shows just how good of a filmmaker Arnold was.

Horror History: Javier Botet

JavierBotetJavier Botet
Born July 30th, 1977

Botet is the Spanish version of Doug Jones. When we see him in a movie, we might not recognize him since he is underneath makeup that is hiding his true face. Being very tall and extremely thin, and being able to contort his body in unusual ways, it makes him perfect for creature roles, such as the old skinny lady in Jaume Balagueró’s [REC] films. The reason for Botet’s physical condition is Marfan syndrome which causes the person to be very tall and then, and seemingly long extending arms and fingers.

His first screen appearance was that of a humanoid in Brian Yuzna’s Beneath Still Waters (2005). Not only appearing in the [REC] films, but he also has been in two of Álex de la Iglesia’s recent films, Last Circus and Witching and Bitching. But not just appearing in Spanish films, he appeared as the title character in the 2013 film Mama. Unfortunately, most of his work was covered with CGI. There is some test footage that was used of him playing the character without any CGI and it is a hell of a lot more creepier than the final product. Once again proving that a real actor in makeup can be more effective than a cartoon. Especially when they are being preformed by a talented artist like Botet. You can check out that footage HERE.

More recently, he has appeared in films like Crimson Peak (2015), The Other Side of the Door, and as the Crooked Man in The Conjuring 2 (both 2016), and is rumored to be playing the Mummy in Universal’s latest remake.

Horror History – Geoffrey Bayldon

bayldonGeoffrey Bayldon
Born Jan. 7th, 1924

While he might be known for his extensive work on television and in the theater, for us horror fans, Bayldon was known for the little roles that he appeared in a handful of horror films, most notably in the 1972 films Asylum for Amicus Films, which he is pictured here.  He was trained to become an actor in the Old Vic Theatre School from 1947 to 1949, making his first stage appearance in 1949.  According to Bayldon, he was also offered the role of Doctor Who in the first incarnation of him, as well as the second.  But for some reason, he turned them down.

For horror fans, you will see Bayldon pop up in films like Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Tales from the Crypt (1972), The House That Dripped Blood (1972), and even The Horror of Dracula (1958).  Like his role in ASYLUM, his performance in The House That Dripped Blood, as the person who sells John Pertwee a Dracula cloak, is so fun and so memorible.  Bayldon is another one of those many character actors that filled out the British film industry, making the films so much more entertaining.

Horror History: Paul Birch

birch3Paul Birch
Born Jan. 13th, 1912 – Died May 24th, 1969

This square-jawed, barrel-chested actor appeared in quite a few of Roger Corman’s early pictures, such as Beast with a Million Eyes (1955), Day the World Ended (1955), and the classic Not of this Earth (1957), not to mention several other of Corman’s movies. But it was on the latter that he had a run in with Corman, even a physical one according to some reports, and walked off the set and never came back. But none the less, he is one character actor that you can always remember. He is always entertaining to watch in these early cheesy classic films.

He appeared in countless TV series during his career, with bit parts in even bigger pictures. He was one of the first humans to discover what the newly landed visitor’s from Mars wanted in War of the Worlds (1953). He was even the very first Marlboro Man in the TV commercials.

But no matter what he is in, he is always memorable and gives a fun performance. It also probably helped that the dialog on those early pictures were so cheesy, that it just made them even more fun to watch today then there were back then.

Horror History – Lone Fleming

flemingLone Fleming
Born 1949

Fleming was one of those faces that might not have made a lot of horror films, but she was one that was always recognizable. Of course, since she appeared in one of my favorite films, Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971), she will always be remembered for her performance in there. She also appeared in de Ossorio’s follow up, Return of the Evil Dead, though as a different character. She also appearred in Eugenio Martin’s 19773 film It Happened at Nightmare Inn (aka A Candle for the Devil). I’m sure the fact that she was married to the director had nothing to do with her casting. Even if it was she still gives a great performance here. She also appeared in another de Ossorio film, THE POSSESSED, as well as working with Paul Naschy vigilante film, El Ultimo Kamikaze (1984). And while it was a small part, she worked with Juan Piquer Simón’s take on the Jules Vern epic The Fabulous Journey to the Center of the Earth (aka Where Time Began). She recently had a cameo in Victor Matellano’s film Wax, which starred another favorite Spanish actor of ours, Jack Taylor.

No matter what she was in, it is always a treat to see her names in the credit.

Horror History – Edwige Fenech

edwigefenech.jpgEdwige Fenech
Born Dec. 24th, 1948

If you have watched more than a handful of Italian giallos, then chances are you’ve seen Edwige Fenech in action. And she is one that is hard to forget. Born in France, she started her career in beauty contests, eventually moving into modeling. In 1967, she made her film debut in the comedy All Mad About Him. She continued to work making films, mostly comedies, in France, Germany, and Italy. Her first real thriller was Top Sensation (1969), that co-starred another Italian sex symbol Rosalba Neri. She appeared in Mario Bava’s 5 Dolls for an August Moon (1970), then the following year starred in her first film with director Sergio Martino, the 1971 film The Strange Vice of Mr.s Wardh (aka Blade of the Ripper). She would go on to star in quite a few giallos in the next few years, many of them for Martino, titles such as All the Colors of the Dark (1972), The Case of the Bloody Iris (1972), Your Vice is Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), and even with director Ruggero Deodato in Phantom of Death (1988).

In the ’80s, she became a television personality, hosting a talk show for a while. After a while, she moved into movie producing, which she  has been doing since. She even co-produced the 2004 version of The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino.

Seeing Fenech’s name in any movie was always an extra bonus. Such a great talent and just beautiful to watch, she is one of the reasons that Italian giallos are still as popular these days as they were back then. Of course, it might have also helped since she was usually in some form of undress during the movie….a lot.

Horror History – Jack Asher

asherJack Asher
Born Mar. 29th, 1916 – Died Apr. 1991

One of thing that Hammer films are most known for are the way they look, especially their early Gothic horror titles that really catapulted them into popularity.  While the talents on the screen of Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, and the rest of the stellar actors used, and even the talented directors and writers, one of the reasons these pictures looked like they did was because of the cameraman, Jack Asher.

He started in the film business as something as simple as the guy who was to open and close the door while filming was being done.  Eventually, he was asked to join the camera crew by Roy Kallino, at the bottom, learning the basics like loading the film into the magazines and working his way up, to eventually becoming a camera operator himself.  He worked on some of Hammer’s early color films and is definitely party of the reasons those films look like they did.  He worked on CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, HORROR OF Dracula, Revenge of Frankenstein, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, Brides of Dracula, The Mummy, as well as a few of their non-horror titles.

He worked for Hammer for less than 10 years before basically being let go because Hammer deemed him too slow for their fast-paced shooting schedules.  Damn shame if you ask me.