I love documentaries on the horror / sci-fi genres, especially when you get to hear from the people that were directly involved with them. There are ALWAYS great stories that we usually never get to hear unless you catch one of them at a convention, or maybe an extra on DVD or Blu-ray. So when I first heard of this new 3-disc documentary called Monster! Martians! Mad Scientists! Horror in the Atomic Age!, it had my interests. When I discovered the price was only $15, I did have some doubts because it was so cheap, especially for 3 discs, but I figured at that price, it was worth taking the chance.
I’m glad I did!
The 3 discs are divided into time frame categories. The first one, entitled The Atomic Age, starts in the early ’50s and gives us a look back at that time and the films that were coming out. While this is about the movies, we get to hear and understand what was going on at that time period, with the constant threat of atomic destruction hovering over their heads, and how that effected the movies. The second disc, entitled A World Gone Mad, covers the second half of the ’50s with the big-bug movies, alien invasions, 3-D movies, and more. The last disc, called Fade to Red, covers the early ’60s and how times were changing, due to the Vietnam War, the Civil unrest, and how the films were reflecting that with more realistic gore and terror. Continue reading
This time of year, we always see those list of names that we’ve lost over the last year, that were responsible for some of the great entertainment that we’ve enjoyed over our own lifetime. It is no different here at the Krypt.
Seeing these lists are always such a double-edge sword. On one hand, we feel the loss of this great talent. But on the flipside, we’re reminded that we have bits and pieces of their genius forever on film, that we can revisit time and time again. They make us cry, laugh, think, shrink back in terror, or just sit back and be in awe of this talent that has been captured on screen. The beauty of this is that these people listed below may have gone on to whatever the next journey is, but because of their work in movies, we can still enjoy them, over and over again. Because we are all true movie lovers, we’ll get that warm and fuzzy feeling whether we’re watching Scott Wilson’s smooth talking killer in Richard Brooks’ In Cold Blood (1967), Celeste Yarnell trying to escape the crazy Dr. Lorca in Beast of Blood (1970), or even laughing out loud when we see the quiet and patient Donald Moffat trying to get untied from a couch in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).
I’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.