Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Never met the guy, myself — although I have been cordially acquainted with the genuine Wes Craven and affiliated actors since the first Nightmare on Elm Street appeared during the 1980s. I halfway expected a bogus Craven to show up late in the 1990s when the Fort Worth Film Festival included Elm Street as part of a showcase for star player John Saxon. But no doubt the poseur steered clear of events whose producers would have known the real Craven.
And why Wes Craven? And why
The interest is compounded with the arrival of a perceptive biography called Wes Craven: The Man and His Nightmare (Wiley; $16.95), by John Wooley. The book deals in primary sources and interpretive insights to such an extent as to become an essential document of the perils and pleasures of the filmmaking process. (Full disclosure: Wooley, an Oklahoma-based novelist and cultural historian, has deep connections to
Typecast since the 1970s as a horror-movie director, Craven comes across in Wooley’s view as a versatile and ambitious artist, philosophically accepting his genre-fied niche while retaining a sense of humor and a willingness to plant big social-political ideas and literary sense in films that most customers associate with rudimentary scares and sensationalized shock value. As Craven has described his situation elsewhere: “I was teaching mythology, as a professor, and when it dawned on me that [horror films are] the American mythology of the present day, I told myself, ‘Okay, let’s make the best films that you can in the genre.’”
Craven’s conversations with Wooley are particularly revealing, covering a scholarly background and a strict upbringing that seem naturally to have led to the rebelliousness implicit in the films. Craven’s generosity as a storyteller proves to extend to a trusting nature that has placed much of his moneymaking work under unsympathetic corporate control. Along the way, the book digresses rewardingly to cover such points as the real-world events that inspired Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, the practical background of the Scream franchise and the childhood anxieties that have figured in Craven’s life as a productive businessman-artist.
Craven has told on occasion of the factual inspiration for his celebrated bogeyman, the Elm Street pictures’ Freddy Krueger, as originally played by Robert Englund. Wooley’s biographical survey elaborates so rewardingly upon that story that it should not be repeated here — better to let the book treat that matter as a fresh revelation.
And here, all along, you’d believed that A Nightmare on Elm Street had been inspired by a rush-hour traffic jam in downtown
Michael H. Price’s new book-in-progress, The Movie Beat, is a collection of his newspaper movie reviews spanning 2002–2007.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
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Monday, June 6, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
John Wooley and Jan Alan Henderson and I have just added The Hounds of Zaroff to the agenda -- a deep-focus study of The Most Dangerous Game (1932) and its (probably) innumerable remakes, takeoffs, spinoffs, ripoffs, and knockoffs. Stay tuned, already.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Come On, Cowboy! • Mantan Moreland bunks up at a haunted (yeah, right) ranch.
She’s Too Mean for Me • Mantan Moreland’s horrors of matrimony.
Souls of Sin • A raw jewel of a noir from the legendary Tyler, Texas, Black Film Collection
Siren of Atlantis • Last of Maria Montez’ exotic Hollywood costume fantasies.
The Judge • Ida Lupino turns producer with one of the crueler films noirs.
Highway 13 • Phantom wrecker on a haunted highway.
State Department File 649 • Foreign intrigues take a terrifying turn toward the Red Scare.
Daughter of the Jungle • Republic’s Third World unit scores again
Bomba, the Jungle Boy Et Seq. • Johnny Sheffield takes a sustained star turn.
Daughter of the West • And you thought A Man Called Horse had the market cornered on tribal tortures…
Amazon Quest • Steve Sekely (Revenge of the Zombies) tackles an unauthorized sequel to a Nazi-banned German picture.
Rimfire • In which Reed Hadley regales his lynch mob with a promise of ghostly vengeance: Western noir.
Harbor of Missing Men • George Zucco, working off-genre.
The Crooked Way • Low-rent noir from Robert Florey — a foreshadowing of Cronenberg’s A History of Violence.
Arson, Inc. • Firebug thriller, in emulation of Dark Eyes of London.
“C”–Man • John Carradine as a mob doctor.
The Devil’s Sleep (Hopped Up) • Dope-racketeers at large from exploitation ace George Weiss.
Africa Screams • Abbott & Costello, Shemp Howard and Joe Besser and (briefly) a gigantic ape
Omoo Omoo the Shark God • Tribal superstitions in a takeoff on Herman Melville
Reign of Terror (The Black Book) • Robert Cummings vs. the guillotine — a bridge between Tower of London and the Corman Poe entries.
Rim of the Canyon • Gothic Western (star player Gene Autry) involving a purported haunting.
Too Late for Tears (Killer Bait) • One of the finer lethal-lady noirs.
Sky Liner • Another entry in the subgenre of Murder by Unconventional Gizmo.
Down Memory Lane • Surreal tomfoolery, with a present-day Steve Allen interacting with a bunch of Old Hollywood comedy footage.
Black Magic • Orson Wells as Cagliostro.
Zamba • Ray Corrigan wears the gorilla suit.
Angels in Disguise • An unusually violent crime yarn in the Bowery Boys series.
Project X • Presumably lost crime/S-F entry, anticipating Ivan Tors’ slightly later in the scientist-as-hero image.
Master Minds • Bowery Boys vs. Atlas the Monster.
I Married a Savage (Naked and the Savage) • Third World striptease hokum, with madness and murder and a consecrated snake-dance ritual.
Oriental Evil (Unmei) • Asian noir from George Breakston.
The Flying Saucer • Mikel Conrad claimed to have photographed actual UFOs — and built this Red Scare picture around the idea.
Guilty Bystander • Zachary Scott in one of the more cynical noirs to be found.
Bells of Coronado • Roy Rogers vs. Mad Doctor. A musical Western, and more.
Gun Crazy (Deadly Is the Female) • Joseph H. Lewis’ classic noir — pure human-monster terrors.
Got, Mentsch, un Tajbl (God, Man, and the Devil) • A modern-dress Yiddish Faust.
Forbidden Jungle • Not as forbidding as the title might suggest, but a respectable tense entry.
The Baron of Arizona • Vincent Price, off-genre, in a con-man role that reflects Dragonwyck and anticipates his Corman/Poe pictures.
Julius Caesar • Ghostly Shakespeare, with a pre-stardom Charlton Heston.
The Great Plane Robbery • Strangler-at-large tensions aboard an airliner.
Killer Shark • Roddy McDowall’s seafaring thriller, directed by tough-guy filmmaker Budd Boetticher.
The Great Rupert (A Christmas Wish) • George Pal’s first animated feature. Wholesome fun for the entire family.
House by the River • Novelist Louis Hayward cannot write unless he has committed murder. Fritz Lang directs.
Kill or Be Killed • Lawrence Tierney at large in a Third World hell-hole.
Jiggs and Maggie Out West • Ghostly shenanigans from a long-running comedy series.
Johnny One–Eye • One of Damon Runyon’s meaner underworld yarns.
Congolaise (Savage Africa) • Primitive customs and a ritualistic hunt for gorillas.
Rocketship X–M (Expedition Moon) • Calculated to beat Destination Moon to the box office, Kurt Neumann’s down-and-dirty little ambush turned out rather well.
Sideshow • A seedy carnival setting — all that’s missing is Tod Browning.
Destination Moon • George Pal’s pocket-epic production, in detailed perspective
It’s a Small World • William Castle breaks out as a maverick artist with the tale of a dwarf’s quest for acceptance.
Motor Patrol • Vehicular homicide as serial murder.
Once a Thief • An off-genre effort from Lon Chaney, Jr.
Jungle Stampede • Third World filmmaker George Breakston brings his documentarylike style to Republic Pictures.
Holiday Rhythm • An offbeat musical with science-fictional interludes.
Prehistoric Women (The Virgin Goddess) • A pageant of mock-militant feminism, undermined by a manly captive’s discovery of fire.
Two Lost Worlds • James Arness fights pirates and dinosaurs.
Ghost Chasers • The Bowery Boys crack a fortunetelling racket.
Skipalong Rosenbloom (The Square Shooter) • Maxie Rosenbloom spoofs the Western genre, with plenty of rubber-reality surrealism.
The Man from Planet X • Pioneering space-invasion entry from low-budget noir master Edgar Ulmer.
Five • Arch Oboler’s thoughtful and influential end-of-civilization drama, a foreshadowing of On the Beach.
Tokyo File 212 • Red Peril weirdness and intrigue, from George Breakston.
The Lost Continent • Do the dinosaurs on view here represent the surviving evidence of an abandoned 1930s project called The Lost Atlantis?
Bride of the Gorilla • In which Curt Siodmak refers to his work on both The Wolf Man and I Walked with a Zombie.
Unknown World • All aboard for the Earth’s Core.
Chained for Life • The Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins, take a pitiable last stab at movie stardom.
Flight to Mars • Monogram Pictures takes a timid shot at the rocket-movie craze. He who hesitates is lost in space.
Superman and the Mole Men • First big-screen spinoff of the TV franchise, by striking comparison with its two-chapter small-screen version.
Wild Women (Bowanga Bowanga) • FX pioneer Norman J. Dawn tackles a genre beneath him.
Aladdin and His Lamp • Monogram takes on the Arabian Nights, with a particularly ominous Genie.
Geisha Girl • George Breakston attempts a Red Menace comedy, with S-F overtones.
Red Planet Mars • Peter Graves intercepts purportedly spiritual messages from space.
Rocky Jones, Space Ranger • Most FX-oriented of the TV spaceman programs, with a history of its TV-movie spinoffs.
The Jungle (Kaadu) • Documentarylike expeditionary fiction, with Cesar Romero as a heroic Sikh.
Untamed Women • Return of the One Million BC stock footage.
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla • Notoriously unfunny comedy, pitting a self-caricatured Lugosi against a Martin & Lewis knockoff team.
Captive Women • Post-apocalyptic anxieties; not to be confused with Arch Oboler’s Five.
Bwana Devil • And speaking of Arch Oboler… his 3-D breakthrough film.
… to be continued…
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
In the meantime, I've got some momentum built on the next book, Forgotten Horrors to the Nth Degree -- a collection of the columns that John Wooley and I have produced since 2002 for Fangoria magazine (plus some solo efforts from out-of-print sources), expanded and amplified. The cover design (below) is Still Under Construction, but far enough along to do a First Look posting. More as things develop.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
This one will pick up where Forgotten Horrors 4 leaves off, covering 1949-1954 in terms of horror and science-fiction movies from the American independent studios. A fascinating period for horror and S-F films (plus selected crime dramas and some out-and-out oddities), especially in their reflections of the political and social turmoil of the 1950s. Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5 should make its splash at Amazon-dot-com within the month. A sixth volume is in preparation -- drawing from John Wooley's and my long-running monthly column in Fangoria magazine.
Many distractions, otherwise. Meanwhile, I've finished a true-crime anthology called Pasteboard Demons, compiled from the Bloody Visions trading-card sets that provoked such a ruckus upon their original publication 19 years ago. They're all here, reproduced from the original artwork, with quite a few outtakes and bonus tracks (including a batch of my crime-comics stories from such magazines as Heavy Metal and Taboo). All on view at www.amazon.com, a.k.a. http://www.amazon.com/Pasteboard-Demons-Ruckus-Bloody-Visions/dp/1453764798/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1295916527&sr=8-1
Or as Amazon's pitch tells it: "The crime-card controversy of the 1990s comes rampaging back to life in Michael H. Price's anthology of his notorious Bloody Visions trading-card folios -- all together in a single whopping volume, larger by far than the original pieces. Rare bonus-card images round out the set, with an additional selection of Price's true-crime comics stories ... Veteran journalist and courtroom sketch artist Michael H. Price combines these backgrounds in Pasteboard Demons -- an expanded survey of the author's popular and controversial Bloody Visions trading-card sets of 1992-1995. Reproduced from the original artwork, with curatorial notes and a new commentary on the petty ruckus that greeted the original set's arrival in 1992. Price is the author of the long-running Forgotten Horrors series of movie-history books, and the writer-artist responsible for the Rondo Award-nominated Carnival of Souls graphic novel."
And more presently about Forgotten Horrors Vol. 5 and some other new projects.