Monday, May 4, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The Spring 2009 issue of VideoScope includes my feature story on the making of American Scary, a documentary about TV horror movie hosts that has been playing the festival circuit for a few years and finally arrived on DVD back in February.
While researching regional horror films, I frequently encounter flicks that feature appearances by local movie hosts -- which only makes sense, since both phenomena originate from the same fount of plucky DIY regionalism that is, unfortunately, rapidly becoming extinct as our media continue to homogenize.
So in honor of American Scary, here is a list of regional horror films that feature appearances by local TV horror hosts. Did I miss any?
Tom Leahy (a.k.a. The Host), Kansas -- Leahy served as "The Host" half of The Host and Rodney on Wichita television for decades, and appeared in two very obscure horror and sci-fi films: Beast From the Beginning of Time (1965), which was never released theatrically, and King Kung Fu (1976), a comedy in which Leahy portrays a very John Wayne-like sheriff hot on the trail of a kung fu fighting gorilla.
George Ellis (a.k.a. Bestoink Dooley), Georgia -- Ellis not only hosted films on TV, but also programmed movies for a local arthouse cinema. You can see a nice pic of him by clicking on his name, and learn more about him at Mike Durrett's blog. He appeared as Bestoink in Legend of Blood Mountain (Legend of McCullough's Mountain/Blood Beast of Monster Mountain, 1965), a film with a production history that's nearly as convoluted as its myriad titles.
Charless Kissinger (a.k.a. The Fearmonger), Kentucky -- William Girdler's favorite actor was also a Louisville area horror host. You can see a picture of him as The Fearmonger here. He appeared in three of Girdler's Louisville horror productions, Abby (1974), Asylum of Satan (1972), and Three on a Meathook (1972), as well as The Zebra Killer (1974), Sheba Baby (1975), Grizzly (1976) and The Manitou (1978). He died in 1991.
Sid Noel (a.k.a. Dr. Morgus), Louisiana -- Noel is one of the few hosts to have a movie made about his onscreen character, The Wacky World of Dr. Morgus (1962).
Richard Dyszel (a.k.a. Count Gore de Vol), Maryland -- The Count was one of the first hosts to take his act to the Internet, where you can still see him in action at http://www.countgore.com/. He appeared in three Don Dohler projects in the 1980s, The Alien Factor (1978), Nightbeast (1982), and The Galaxy Invader (1985), as well as more recent films like Chainsaw Sally (2004).
J.G. "Pat" Patterson (a.k.a. The Mad Daddy), North Carolina -- Not to be confused with late Cleveland DJ and horror host Pete "Mad Daddy" Myers, Patterson was a magician and Spook Show host who also served as a special effects artist and/or producer on a number of H.G. Lewis, William Girdler and Frederick Friedel films. He starred in and directed The Body Shop (Doctor Gore, 1972).
Joe Alston (a.k.a. The Host), Texas -- Alston was also a kiddie show host, and you can see pictures of him here. He appeared as a demonic apparition in Pat Boyette's Dungeon of Harrow (Dungeons of Horror, 1962).
John Zacherle (a.k.a. Zacherley/Roland), New York -- One of the most famous hosts of all time, and still active today at http://www.zacherley.com/. Although Zach has been in a number of films, his only New York appearances between the late 1950s and 1990 were in Nick Zedd's Geek Maggot Bingo (1983) and Frank Hennenlotter's Brain Damage (1988) and Frankenhooker (1990)
Friday, April 17, 2009
So says the official Web site of Santo Gold, a.k.a. Santo Victor Rigatuso, a.k.a. Bob Harris, former infomercial huckster and Blood Circus mastermind. Rigatuso has announced that the "masters and 35mm negatives" have been located and that "Limited License Rights are now available for Executive Producers to come forward and contact us!"
Code Red, Synapse and Dark Sky -- let the bidding war begin!
Actually, Santo announced his "discovery" last year, but I'm always looking for an excuse to talk about Blood Circus. In the meantime, you can visit Santo's Web site and participate in his talent search, or order the Making of Blood Circus documentary DVD.
You can also listen to some of Santo Gold's music, a portion of which I have helpfully posted below:
For those of you unfamiliar with Santo, he was a Maryland-based personality who sold gold-plated jewelry in a series of outlandish infomercials during the 1980s. Blood Circus, which was filmed in Baltimore by Joseph Ryan Zwick and John Corso, was about invading aliens who challenge professional wrestlers from the U.S. and the Soviet Union to a series of fights. Or something like that. Attendees at the world premiere of the film received a "Scream Bag" that included a coupon for a diamond ring. You can read more about the whole sordid tale at the Santo Gold Museum, which also has links to court documents related to Santo's eventual fall from grace -- allegations of mail fraud.
I'll hopefully have more to share on this amazing story in the weeks to come. In the meantime, Santo encourages everyone to learn from his mistakes:
1. Never hire manufacturers to attempt to make a 24K gold process that would not tarnish when they simply couldn't!
2. Never hire employees to open up your mail-in orders, pocket the cash and throw the orders in the trash cans!
And here are a few other memories of Santo and his movie from the Santo Gold Fan Club on Myspace.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
RetroMedia bought exclusive rights to both Giant Spider Invasion and Rebane's Blood Harvest several years ago. The Giant Spider DVD was released in 2002, and included an introduction by Akron horror host The Son of Ghoul, and a reproduction of the comic book originally published to promote the film. Rebane then re-sold the rights again to BCI/Brentwood (in violation of his agreement with RetroMedia), which unleashed Spider in a four-film packaged called "Invasion of Terror," alongside The Black Room (1984), Craze (1973) and Rebane's Invasion from Inner Earth (1974). Ray filed suit against Rebane, and in 2007 courts in California and Wisconsin ruled in RetroMedia's favor.
You can read Rebane's version of events here, and Ray's thoughts on the matter (and supporting legal references) here.
Rebane has been offering a special edition of the film through various channels (including Amazon.com) on a DVD-R for some time, and this material was apparently going to be used on the MVD release.
If you REALLY need a Rebane fix, you can always check out some of his other films. Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975) is on an old DVD from Troma under the title Croaked: Frog Monster from Hell. His final feature, Twister's Revenge! (1987) is on the "Drive-In Movie Classics" 50 film pack from Mill Creek, while that same company's "Chilling Classics" collection boasts no less than three Rebane epics: The Alpha Incident (1978), The Demons of Ludlow (1983) and The Cold (a.k.a. The Game, 1984). Mill Creek's "Apocalypse" 20 movie set includes Invasion from Inner Earth under the title They.
RetroMedia issued a special edition disc of the Tiny Tim tour de force Blood Harvest (1987), and Something Weird offers the Rebane-meets-H.G. Lewis classic Monster a Go-Go (1965) on a double feature disc with Psyched by the 4D Witch (1972). RetroMedia also released my favorite Rebane film, The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), on the"Bigfoot Terror" four-movie set, where it makes a nice double feature with the New York lensed Shriek of the Mutilated (1974).
You can view some clips of the bonus material from Rebane's release of the film on YouTube, including a weird segment where a guy reads portions of Stephen King's description of the film from the book Danse Macabre. Click here and here.