All *kinds* of observable differences: The world of Ruth Gordon

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It’s that wonderful time of the year when we all get to celebrate those unsung actors with loads of character, thanks to Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, Paula’s Cinema & Club & Outspoken and Freckled who are hosting the Fifth Annual WHAT A CHARACTER! BLOGATHON 2016… This will be my fourth time contributing to this fantastic event, having covered Jeanette Nolan, Burgess Meredith and last year’s Agnes Moorehead. As many of you know, it’s often the actors on the periphery of some of our most favorite films that fill out the landscape with their extraordinary presence, a presence that becomes not only essential to the story, but at times become as memorable perhaps even larger than life when compared with the central stars themselves. I’m thrilled to be joining in the fun once again and am sure that it’s going to be just as memorable this year as ever before!

Actress Ruth Gordon (Photo by © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actress Ruth Gordon (Photo by © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

The ASTONISHING… RUTH GORDON!

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“The earth is my body; my head is in the stars.”-Ruth Gordon as Maude

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Maude:A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They’re just backing away from life. *Reach* out. Take a *chance*. Get *hurt* even. But play as well as you can.”

I’ve been waiting to write about my love of Ruth Gordon for quite some time, and felt that this would be the best way to get off the pot and just start singing those praises for this remarkable lady of theatre, film and television. Ruth Gordon in so many ways channeled her true personality through the character of Maude, in life –she too always projected a spirit that played as well as she could…

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“Choose a color, you’re on your own, don’t be helpless.” –Ruth Gordon -An Open Book

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There’s a vast dimension and range to Ruth Gordon’s work both her screenwriting and her acting, the effects leave a glowing trail like a shooting star. With her quirky wisdom and sassy vivacity that plucks at your hearth, Ruth Gordon stands out in a meadow of daisies she is emblazoned as bright and bold as the only sunflower in the field. No one, just no one has ever been nor will ever be like this incredible personality.

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For a woman who is impish in stature she emanates a tremendous presence, a smile like the Mona Lisa, sporting a unique and stylish way she expresses herself with a poetic & fable-like language. Ruth Gordon is a character who dances to a different rhythm — how she sees herself and how she performs *life* is uniquely mesmerizing as it is burgeoning with all the colors of the universe.

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Ruth Gordon is a dramaturgical pixie, with a curious hitch in her git along… an impish dame who rouses and fortifies each role she inhabits with a playful, mischievous and almost esoteric brand of articulation.

In a field of different daisies Ruth Gordon is that sunflower that Maude soliloquies poetically to Harold —

Maude-“I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?”

Harold-“I don’t know. One of these, maybe.”

Maude-“Why do you say that?”

Harold-“Because they’re all alike.”

Maude-“Ooooh, but they’re *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow come from people who are *this”, (pointing to a daisy) yet allow themselves to be treated as *that*.” (she gestures to a field of daisies)

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From the Arlene Francis 1983 interview with Ruth Gordon– actress, screenwriter and playwright…

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Ruth Gordon 1975 photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Ruth Gordon never wanted to be told how to write nor be instructed on how to act… from her autobiography An Open Book- “I don’t like to be told how to act either. When I’m left alone thoughts come… ‘Don’t try to think’ said our New England philosopher, Emerson, leave yourself open to thought. If you find out stuff for yourself, you get to know what you believe; what you like, how to live, how to have a good time. It’s important to have a good time.”

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from Hugh Downs Interview

“ I did grow up to have character. And I’m always doing some damn thing that uh I don’t wanna do but I know it’s right to do. And I finally thought of something in my next book and I’m gonna have it in there and it’s a very important thing to remember. Just because a thing is hard to do doesn’t make it any good. You tackle something and you work at it and slave at it and say now I’m gonna do this I’m gonna do it and when you’ve done it better think it over and see if it was worth it… some easy things like falling off a log and stuff  those easy things probably just as good but a New Englander has to do it the hard way. “

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Arlene Francis “You once said ‘never face facts’ how can you avoid it?”
Ruth Gordon-“Oh my god look, we’re not facing facts now surely cause I might dry up and not have a thing to say in the world and then where would you be, you know… […] it would be stupid there are enough hazards in the world, I’m 85 now and I’m at my very best peak of my looks which might be an interesting thing to anybody because you figure, 18 why wouldn’t I be better looking than now?… “Don’t lets anyone tell their symptoms, it would be the most boring thing, even though everybody has so many… so the ‘don’t face your facts’ is if you face what’s the matter with you, you know we’d open a window and say goodbye everybody like tinker bell and take off and hope you could fly (she laughs) Don’t face the facts you know, I was 18 years old I was going on the stage didn’t know anybody in New York and I didn’t know anybody on the stage, and I wasn’t beautiful and I wasn’t tall which everybody was in those days, and uh I didn’t have any money and how was I gonna do this, so if I didn’t ‘not face those facts’ I’d say too bad she wanted to be an actress…”

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Ruth Gordon, who always dreamed of becoming a ‘film’ star, beside an astonishing stage presence talks about winning awards for her work–“ The main award that I really value is the award I give myself and people say Oh you don’t know when you’re good you know, the audience knows, people know but you don’t know Well that’s stupid I know when I’m good for myself You might not like it, they might not like it, the public might not like it, but I know that wonderful performance that doesn’t happen too often, when anticipation and realization come together because that night when it’s all perfect and is great and you know … that you’ve just taken off… that’s my award…” 

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Ruth Gordon is bold and vibrant and an actress who never shied away from taking the quirkiest and eccentric roles. From irreverent Ma in Every Which Way But Loose (1978)  the poignant Becky Rosen in Boardwalk (1979) to the perspicacious Maude in Harold and Maude (1971) George Segal’s tushy biting batty mother-Mrs. Hocheiser in Where’s Poppa? (1970) and of course the queen of campy kitschy New York City’s enigmatic coven hostess with the mostest– Minnie Castavet in Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Once Ruth Gordon personified the unforgettable Minnie Castavet in “Rosemary’s Baby” in 1968 she manifesting a lasting and unfading, enigmatic character that only Ruth Gordon could infuse with that unforgettable energy.

Minnie is perhaps one of the most vividly colorful film characters with her sly and farcical mispronunciations and a wardrobe that is distinctly tacky. Part cosmopolitan part menacing, no one could have performed Minnie Castavet quite like Ruth Gordon, that next door meddling neighbor who befriends an American housewife, who is secretly waiting to become the godmother to the devil’s unborn son.

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Gordon appears as if she was cut from a mold that makes her seem like a rebel to the inner workings of Hollywood. And as extremely unconventional as she can be, there is always a depth and authenticity to the wackiest of characters she’s portraying. From the lyrically loving and life devouring Maude in Hal Ashby’s different style of love story.

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“ Well it’s a very good movie, I was absolutely wonderful Collin Higgins wrote a great movie Bud Cort was sensational, Hal Ashby became one of the top directors so how do you account for that, well it just happened. But, you see, some guy in Cambridge Mass. he wrote from the YMCA he wrote me a letter and he said, ‘I’ve seen Harold and Maude’ I don’t know how many times he’d seen it, and he said I’m at a loss to know why it means so much to me and I think about it , I think about it a lot and I finally came to the conclusion that it’s because to get through life you have to have somebody to tell it to’ that’s a very profound remark. I’ve had lovers I’ve have friends I’ve had family and I didn’t exactly tell it to them but Garson Kanin I tell it to him whether it’s bad whether I’m a failure whether I’m going grey. Somebody to tell it to. And it’s a very very necessary part of life. And in Harold & Maude Harold who was a kind of helpless geek with looks riches money everything he had … except knowing how to live. And Maude who didn’t have anything except she knew how to live. And Harold could tell it to her. he could tell it to her. She didn’t always have the answer. But he could pour it out. And so it was wonderful really, just pour it out, I said once even if I’m wrong agree with me because you know to Gar, have somebody you know would stand up for you.”

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Ruth and husband Garson Kanin… super writing team!

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Bud Cort remained very close friends with Ruth Gordon. Here he is talking about her tremendous influence on This is Your Life television show honoring the extraordinary actress/writer.

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Ruth Gordon and Hal Ashby on the set of Harold and Maude 1971

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from the Dick Cavett interview from September 19, 1969 expressing how if you had never seen Ruth Gordon on the stage “You would lament that facta lady who is one of the incomparable ladies of American Theatre. There have been cults about Ruth Gordon for years and years and years. When great performances on Broadway are discussed, Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie or Mildred Dunnock in Death of a Salesman, or Vivien Leigh or any of the classics are referred to Olivier in Oedipus, Ruth Gordon in *The Matchmaker* is always brought up as one of the masterpieces of all time. And she has been a wondrous presence in the theatre for over 50 years. Splendid comedian and a splendid comic writer.”

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Ruth Gordon Jones was born October 30, 1896 in Quincy, Massachusetts. “growing up with the brown taste of poverty in her mouth.” As a child she wrote fan letters to her favorite film stars and received a personal reply from Hazel Dawn. So struck with stage actress Hazel Dawn after seeing her  perform in “The Pink Lady” in Boston, Ruth Gordon decided to go into acting. After high school she went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and was an extra in silent films made in Fort Lee, New Jersey making $5 in 1915. She made her Broadway debut in 1915 as one of the Lost Boys later that year in Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up as Nibs. She garnered a favorable review by Alexander Woolcott, who at the time was an extremely influential theater critic eventually the two became close friends and he her mentor. Gordon was typecast in “beautiful but dumb” roles in the early 20s.

Ruth Gordon began to hone her craft and push the range of her acting ability which she revealed in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, the restoration comedy The Country Wife in which she appeared at the influential theater–London’s Old Vic. She eventually found her way to Broadway, and landed a role in Henrik Ibsen’s A Dolls House during the 1930s.

Severely bow-legged, in 1920 she spent time in a hospital in Chicago where she had her legs broken and straightened.

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Ruth Gordon as Edward G. Robinson’s wife in director William Dieterle’s Dr. Erhlich’s Magic Bullet 1940
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Ruth Gordon with the great Greta Garbo in director George Cukor’s Two-Faced Woman 1941.
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She was married to actor Gregory Kelly from 1921-1927 when he died of heart disease. In 1929, she had a child (Jones Harris) with Broadway producer Jed Harris. She stared in plays in New York City and London, not doing another film until she played Mary Todd in director John Cromwell’s Abe Lincoln in Illinois 1940, co-starred with Edward G. Robinson in director William Dieterle’s Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet 1940 and appeared as Miss Ellis in director George Cukor’s film starring  Greta Garbo film Two-Faced Woman 1941 and co-starred with Humphrey Bogart in Action in the North Atlantic 1942.
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Ruth Gordon plays Ann Sheridan’s mother in director Lewis Milestone’s story of a small fishing village in Norway and the resistance to the Nazi occupation, Gordon plays Anna Stensgard the unassuming wife and neurotic mother who lives too much in the past in Edge of Darkness 1943.
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In 1942, active on Broadway again, she married writer Garson Kanin and started writing plays. Together with her husband she wrote screenplays for Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy like A Double Life 1947, Adam’s Rib 1949, and Pat and Mike 1952. She also wrote an autobiographical play “Years Ago”, that then became a film directed by the great George Cukor starring Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy and Teresa Wright in The Actress 1953 about her life growing up and getting into the theatre.
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Ruth Gordon and her husband were included in a round up of theatre actors questioned by the House on Un-American Activities in 1947 and flown to Washington for questioning. Nothing came of the investigation.
In the 1960s she returned to Hollywood with roles in films and television adaptations–
The television movie version of Noel Coward’s 1941 play Blithe SpiritRuth Gordon manifests the spiritual medium Madame Arcati in the 1966 tv version.
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Ruth Gordon as Stella Barnard co-starring with Roddy McDowall and Tuesday Weld in Lord Love a Duck 1966.
Playing Mrs. Stella Barnard in Lord Love a Duck 1966 The film stars Tuesday Weld as the innocent attention seeking teenager from a broken home who aspires to become loved by everyone, wears 12 colorful cashmere sweaters given to her by friend and mastermind Roddy McDowall (who was 36 at the time playing a teen!) Director George Axelrod’s biting satire that pokes fun at teen beach movies of the 1960s, elitism and the adults that satellite around their machinations …

Stella Bernard: (Ruth Gordon) “You lied to me, Miss Greene. You permitted me to believe your father was dead.”

Barbara Ann: (Tuesday Weld) “Well, they’re divorced.”

Stella Bernard: (Ruth Gordon) “In our family we don’t divorce our men; we *bury* ’em!”

Where’s Poppa? 1970 In director Carl Reiner’s black comedy- Ruth Gordon lets it rip as the irreverent Mama Hocheiser who’s senile antics are driving New York attorney Gordon Hocheiser (George Segal) to the brink. When he finally meets the loving and naive nurse Louise Callan (Trish Van Devere) , worried his mother’s idiosyncrasies will ruin his budding romance, he grasps at any means to finally get rid of her! Ron Leibman is hilarious as brother Sidney!
 
Inside Daisy Clover 1965, for which Ruth Gordon returning to the screen after almost 20 years -was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe as Supporting Actress… One of my favorite directors Robert Mulligan creates a portrait of a tomboy (Natalie Wood) who dreams of being a singer, lives in a trailer and runs a beach side concession stand where she forges the autographs of Hollywood stars — suddenly discovered Daisy rises to stardom herself, falls in love with Robert Redford, only to turn her back on the viciousness of the business.
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Ruth Gordon plays her quirky card playing mother whom she calls ‘Old Chap’ who lives in her own world. Daisy loves her dearly, but the studio heads force her to hide Old Chap/Mrs. Clover in an old age home and tell the public she’s dead in order to project her star image without an eccentric & batty mother in her life. Ruth Gordon once again plays batty to the poignant level of art form.
Inside Daisy Clover co-stars Christopher Plummer, Robert Redford and Roddy McDowall, with a wonderful soundtrack “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” by André Previn and Dory Previn.
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Police (Harold Gould)-“You waited seven years to report your husband missing?” Mrs. Clover-‘The Dealer’ “I just started missin’ him this morning.”
Natalie Wood grew so fond of Ruth Gordon after working on the film Inside Daisy Clover that she made her the godmother to her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner
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Gordon plays Alice Dimmock involved in a dangerous battle of wits with the menacing Clare Marrable who buries her victims in her lovely rose garden–Geraldine Page hires companions who have a nice savings built up and no relatives to come around looking for them in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice 1969.
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WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE? 1969 directed by Lee H. Katrin Produced by Robert Aldrich Music by Gerald Fried.
In this taut Grande Dame Guignol horror thriller Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice 1969 Ruth Gordon portrays Alice Dimmock who sets out to uncover the truth behind her companion’s (Mildred Dunnock) disappearance after she takes a job with the austere and cunning Clare Marrable, a prolific serial killer who sows the seeds of her rose garden with her victims.
Director Lee H. Katzin and Bernard Girard’s psychological thriller that positions two powerful actresses in a taut game of cat and mouse…
Geraldine Pages plays the ghastly & audacious serial killer Claire Marrable, whose husband left her penniless. In order to keep living a life of luxury and comfort she begins offing her paid companions who have stashed doe and no family to come looking for them. When Edna Tinsley played by Mildred Dunnock goes missing and becomes part of Mrs Marrable’s wondrous garden of roses, Ruth Gordon pretends to be Page’s companion in order to get to the truth about her missing friend.
Ruth Gordon was amazed at the showing of What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? She figured that by playing the part of a woman in peril at the mercy of the ruthless and calculating psychopath, performed perfectly by Geraldine Page, at the final moment of confrontation her split decision to for self preservation and become a murderer herself or be true to her inherent goodness allowing herself to be a victim. Ruth Gordon believed that it was this defining moment the goodness that ruled Alice’s heart and head would be the most powerful moments in the film. Yet, when the audience responded at this critical scene, to her surprise they screamed out “Kill her, kill her!” The audience had wanted Ruth’s character to live so badly…

from director Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude (1971)

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A 79 old woman and a twenty year old lost soul meet at a funeral, and find love and life together in a darkly light comedy. Bud Cort creates an iconic figure of a young privileged young man disillusioned by life, who gets a kick out of antagonizes his priggish mother Mrs. Chasen (Vivian Pickles) with creative faked suicides. Once Harold is exposed to the wisdom and insight that Maude imparts, she manages to open up his heart and teaches him how to reach out and embrace the substance of life’s beauty.

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“You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing… oh my, how the world still *dearly* loves a *cage.* “-the inimitable Maude
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Harold: “Maude” Maude: “Hmm?” Harold: “Do you pray?” Maude: “Pray? No. I communicate.” Harold: “With God?Maude: “With *life*”

Every Which Way But Loose 1978

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Ruth Gordon plays the impertinently, uninhibited Ma to Clint Eastwood as trucker Philo Beddoe & Orville (Geoffrey Lewis) who travel around the West Coast looking for street style prize- fights. Along for the ride are Beverly D’Angelo as Echo, and evasive love interest Sondra Locke as country singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor. There’s a hilarious assorted misfit motorcycle gang members and Philo’s pet Orangutan Clyde who’s always stealling’s Ma’s Oreo cookies!

Ruth Gordon reprised her role as the cantankerous Ma in Any Which Way You Can 1980.
Ma after Clyde has eaten her bag of Oreos-“Ohh! Stop that, ya goddamn baboon. No respect! No privacy! No nothing!”
 
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co-staring with Lee Strasberg in Boardwalk 1979

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Lee Strasberg plays David Rosen and Ruth Gordon portrays wife Becky who own a wonderful little diner, a loving older couple who have lived in their Coney Island jewish neighborhood for 50 years, until a gang moves in and changes the communities quality of life by threatening the local store owners with violence if they don’t pay ‘protection’ money. When David defies them, they burn down the diner and desecrate the synagogue. Janet Leigh also co-stars as Florence Cohen.

Ruth Gordon manifests a marvelously warm and poignant chemistry with master actor/teacher Lee Strasberg.

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She personified the unforgettable role as Minnie Castavet in “Rosemary’s Baby” in 1969. Manifesting an unfading, enigmatic character that only Ruth Gordon could perform.
Ruth Gordon started to get more regular film and television roles. Reprising the role of Minnie Castavet in the made for tv fright-flick Look Whats Happened to Rosemary’s Baby (1976) and played the devouring Jewish mother Cecilia Weiss in the television movie The Great Houdini 1976. And the television movie The Prince of Central Park 1977.
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Ruth Gordon was cast in the feature film The Big Bus (1976) among a terrific ensemble of actors. She appeared as Arvilla Droll in Scavenger Hunt 1979 and the very touching film about growing up and friendship- My Bodyguard 1980 in -Maxie (1985) Ruth Gordon plays Chris Makepeace’s kindly but rascally grandmother, while he finds a way to school bully Matt Dillon from beating him to a pulp, he finds an outcast that everyone is afraid of to be his bodyguard in Adam Baldwin. The film also co-stars John Houseman.
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Ruth Gordon co-stars with Chris Makepeace in 1980’s My Bodyguard
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Ruth Gordon co-stars with Glenn Close in Maxie 1985
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As the eccentric Marge Savage in the ABC tv Movie of the Week directed by John Badham starring Alan Alda- Isn’t It Shocking (1973) Gordon possessed the seamless ability to oscillate between a delightfully aerated conviviality and acerbic snapdragon capable of delivering the most colorful tongue lashing!
Alda plays a small town sheriff with his quirky secretary/sidekick Blanche (Louise Lasser) who is daunted by a string of mysterious deaths that are plaguing the elderly town folk. Edmund O’Brien plays Justin Oates an odd serial killer who is holding a lifetime grudge against his old friends who humiliated him in high school. Marge was his great love who might have done him wrong! Co-stars Lloyd Nolan, and Will Geer and the county coroner who uncovers the weird details that connect the murders.
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Lynn Redgrave stars with Ruth Gordon in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.
Ruth Gordon was nominated for Broadway’s 1956 Tony Award as Best Dramatic Actress for playing Dolly Levy in Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker.” Ruth Gordon says that Wilder had been a tremendous help and influence to her, having ‘picked him up in front of The Booth Theater’ way back when. She won a Golden Globe award as Best Supporting Actress as Natalie Wood’s mother she calls Old Chap in Inside Daisy Clover, and a much deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Rosemary’s Baby.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Maude in Harold and Maude in 1971.
In the 1970s and 1980s she played parts in well-known television shows like Kojak as psychic Miss Eudora Temple in Season 2 “I Want to Report a Dream”, Rhoda, and Taxi (which she won an Emmy for.)
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and in the superb episode of Columbo as mystery writer Abigail Mitchell one of the most sympathetic murderess’ of the series as she avenges the death of her beloved niece with unrelenting Lt. Columbo dauntlessly nipping at her heels. And though Abigail finds Columbo to be a very kind man,  he tells her not to count on that. He must stay true to his calling as a homicide detective though we wish he would just Abigail get away with murder– in “Try and Catch Me.”
Ruth Gordon as mystery writer Abigail Mitchell: I accept all superlatives.

Ruth Gordon also had the distinguished honor of hosting Saturday Night Live in 1977.

Ruth Gordon died of a stroke at 88 in Massachusetts with her husband Garson at her side.
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“She had a great gift for living the moment and it kept her ageless.” 

— Glenn Close

Ruth Gordon had quite a unique way of expressing herself on stage, screen and in person and as Dick Cavett had said about the great actresses’ ability to always project her incomparable persona, what we get!  —  “It’s a lesson in something that only Ruth Gordon can teach.” And as she would say, she had “a lot of zip in her doo dah.” 

I’ll end by saying this about this astonishingly iconic character whose sagacity and spark will never dim, when asked that particularly interesting question, ‘if you had 3 people you could meet in Heaven who would you choose?’ Ruth Gordon, you would be one of them!- With all my love, MonsterGirl

The Changeling (1980) “How did you die, Joseph…? Did you die in this house…? Why do you remain…?”

The Changeling 1980 wheelchairs are scary

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Here’s a blogathon that will enlighten you about many truly wonderful artists, actors, & filmmakers who proudly hail from the Great White North country of Canada! Kristina of Speakeasy  and Ruth of Silver Screenings are paying tribute to Canada… So this New Yorker is doing her part to join in with a classic ghost story that will give you the ‘pip and the whim whams!’ After all even Martin Scorsese thinks this film is one of the 11 scariest films he’s ever known!

I’m always grateful when I’m asked to join in on one of these marvelous celebrations, and my gratitude continues, so without further ado…

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O Canada & The Changeling — IMDb trivia tid bits- The house seen in the movie in real life doesn’t and never actually did exist. The film-makers could not find a suitable mansion to use for the film so at a cost of around $200,000, the production had a Victorian gothic mansion facade attached to the front of a much more modern dwelling in a Vancouver street. This construction was used for the filming of all the exteriors of the movie’s Carmichael Mansion. The interiors of the haunted house were an elaborate group of interconnecting sets built inside a film studio in Vancouver.

The name of the history group was the Seattle Historical Preservation Society. The name of the campus where Dr. John Russell ( George C. Scott ) taught music was the University of Seattle though interiors set there were filmed at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada.

Though predominantly filmed in Canada, the picture was set in Seattle, USA where establishing shots were filmed. These included the Rainier Tower, the SeaTac Airport, the University of Washington’s Red Square, and the Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge. Some location filming was shot in New York. Most of the movie was filmed in Vancouver and its environs in British Columbia with Victoria in the same Canadian province also used. Interiors set at the university were shot in Toronto in Canada’s province of Ontario.

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THE CHANGELING (1980)

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Minnie Huxley: “That house is not fit to live in. No one’s been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people.”

The Changeling was produced by Lew Grade who tried to start up his own production company that never quite made it, however during this time he was responsible releasing Boys From Brazil 1978 and On Golden Pond 1981 and our featured ghost story The Changeling. The story is by Russell Hunter and the screenplay was written by William Gray and Diana Maddox. Directed by Peter Medak (The Ruling Class 1972, The Krays 1990, Romeo is Bleeding 1993)

Director of Photography John Coquillon (The Impersonator 1961 The Conqueror Worm 1968 Cry of the Banshee 1970, Straw Dogs 1971, Cross of Iron 1977, Absolution 1978, The Osterman Weekend 1983) Coquillon has a magical touch of creating environments that seemed closed in whilst surrounded by the a vast natural world. Because the players are about to implode from too much twisted pathology & secret sin eating, his camera work translates a tense universe on screen so well, that it elevates the narrative to a more uncomfortable level.

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Rick Wilkins is credited for the film’s stunningly haunting score, but that effectively poignant yet eerie music box theme was composed by Howard Blake as part of a work called Lifecycle which is a collection of 24 piano pieces using only 24 keys.

The film stars George C. Scott as John Russell as a tragic figure of loss, Trish Van Devere as Claire Norman, Melvyn Douglas as Senator Carmichael, Jean Marsh as Joanna Russell, Barry Morse as the Parapsychologist, John Colicos as Captain DeWitt, Madeleine Sherwood as Claire’s mother, and Ruth Springford as the Historical Society’s creepy secretive Minnie Huxley.

The Changeling (1980) is one of those rare masterpieces that fall into the cerebral tale of otherworldly & supernatural torments that are defined as ‘intimate drawing room’ ghost stories. Much like The Uninvited (1944), Dead of Night (1945), The Innocents (1961), The Haunting (1963), Ghost Story (1981), Lady in White (1988),  and The Others (2001) 

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The Changeling is a SUPERIOR ghost story permeated with a moody angst, atmosphere and some of the most chilling moments in classical haunting/ horror cinema. It is said that the movie is based on actual events that took place at a mansion called the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion not in Canada but in Denver Colorado. Writer Russell Hunter claims he witnessed these events while living in the house during the 1960s. IMDb trivia tells us that ‘The Chessman Park neighborhood in the movie is a reference to Cheesman Park in Denver, where the original haunting transpired.’

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I saw The Changeling upon it’s theatrical release in 1980 and believe me when I say that those ‘frightening’ jarring moments are as effective as they were 36 years ago, they can still cause that jump out of your seat reflex!. The house used in The Changeling is as imposing and chills inspiring on it’s own. “The house was totally created by set designers and you won’t forget its eerie corridors, stairway, and dark rooms.” -John Stanley from Creature Features Movie Guide. As Stanley figures, this memorable ghost story operates on 3 though I count 4 different levels.

1) as a pure ghost story 2) as the journey of John Russell’s struggle with loss 3) as a morality tale about good vs evil. And 4) a tale of murder, power and greed.

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George C Scott plays John Russell a concert pianist/ music professor is haunted by the vision of witnessing both his wife (Jean Marsh in a tiny flashback role before she is killed) an daughter die in a freak car accident. The film opens with this tragic event, in order to set the pace for Russell’s unbounded grief and inconsolable trauma. Russell decides to pack up the Manhattan apartment, including little Kathy’s red rubber ball and moves to Seattle (Canada) where he has taken a new teaching job. The atmosphere is grim and rainy, cold and alienated as we understand how heartbroken John Russell is. Waking in the middle of the night sobbing, he cannot fathom, living in this world without his beautiful wife and daughter. John needs a large house that is removed from everything so that he may compose without being bothered by neighbors. The realtor Clair Norman (Trish Van Devere- Scott’s wife at the time. This would be their 8th film together) who is an agent for the Historical Preservation Society shows him the old Chessman Park House which has been unoccupied for twelve years.

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Trish Van Devere appeared in her own ghost story, the more toned down surreal The Hearse (1980)
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Van Devere in outre creepy The Hearse 1980

John is curious about the reasons behind the house being empty for so long, but Claire being fairly new to the society can’t give him an answer, except that the society hasn’t tried to find a new tenant for the house. Curiouser and curiouser. She also explains that there had once been plans to renovate the house and turn it into a museum. She thinks the house would be a perfect place for John to compose because of it’s sizable music room. So John moves in and begins teaching at the university, his classes become a big hit, with students accepting the SRO conditions.

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John Russell: “It’s my understanding… that there are, uh… twenty-three students registered… for this series of lectures on advanced musical form. Now, we all know it’s not raining outside, and unless there’s a fire in some other part of the building that we don’t know about, there’s an awful lot of people here with nothing better to do.”

As John gets settled in, he is invited to a cocktail party/fund raiser for the Historical Society where he sees Claire again, also meeting Mrs. Norman her mother played by Madeleine Sherwood. Senator Joseph Carmichael (Melvyn Douglas) who is on the board and one of the Historical Society’s biggest donors is making a speech…

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At six a.am. Russell is aroused from bed by a loud pounding noise echoing through the house, reminiscent of the sonic assault that Clair Bloom and Julie Harris experienced in The Haunting 1963. It is one of the first moments that clue us in that something is wrong with the house. John assumes it’s the old pipes and so forgets about the incident.

John has a quartet of students over to work on a chamber piece. After they leave, he hears what sounds like dripping water, or someone taking a bath. The kitchen sink tap is running, so he shuts it off, but he can still hear running water from somewhere in the house. He follows the noise up to the 3rd floor. In a truly frightening moment. In the bathroom he sees a tub filled with water and the faucet still running. As he shuts off the water, he sees for a brief second the face of a little boy peering up at him from under the water… It is still one of THE most frightening scenes that I can recall.

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John sits at the piano working on a beautifully simple melody that he is recording on his reel to reel tape recorder. One of the keys is sticking, and with John not being able to find the rest of his new melody yet, stops playing.

The handyman Mr. Tuttle (C.M. Gamble) comes in to tell John that he’s got a replacement water heater for the one that’s been banging on the walls with cannon balls, John leaves the piano and sees to the job. the lone key that would not depress while John was playing intones as if an unseen finger has pressed it. This eerie moment is the second cue that John is not alone in the house

Claire comments while John is listening back to his composition that it sounds like a lullaby. She also finds the little rubber ball that was Kathy’s. A token of her John chooses to keep as a reminder of his little girl. Claire realizes that this has hit him hard, and so invites him to come horseback riding with her since it’s a lovely day.

John has flashback nightmares of the day his wife and daughter were killed. He wakes up sobbing. But what is peculiar that it is once again at 6am and the eerie pounding is reverberating through the house once more. Mr. Tuttle is once again called in to look the boiler over again, it’s most likely trapped air in the pipes. Tuttle tells John, “A furnace is like anything else. It’s got habits.It’s an old house. It makes noises.”

John is now drawn into the mystery of the house, the noises and the vision of the little boy. He visits the Historical Society in order to find out if there have been accounts of ghostly sightings with previous owners. Clair chalks up John’s anxiety to the trauma he’s been through losing his family believing it to be all in his head. But Miss Huxley (Ruth Springford) one of the eldest Society members pulls John to the side and lays it on the line. He should never have been allowed to rent that house, and that Claire had business circumventing the Society’s rules. “That house is not fit to live in. No one has been able to live in it. It doesn’t want people. “ Huxley just confirms John’s suspicions that there has been something tragic connected to the house and it is indeed haunted.

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While John pushes all his weight against the door, it will not budge. Once he steps back, the door opens with ease as if by unseen hands

There is a scene afterwards where John is leaving the Chessman Park house and a tiny stain glass window blows out from the inside leaving the shards on the ground in front of him. Something is definitely trying to get his attention and hold it. So he goes back inside back up to the third floor and opens a door that at first seems to be merely a linen closet.
But he discovers that the shelves are covering up a hidden bedroom. The ungodly pounding begins once again while John hammers at the lock until it breaks, Pushing his weight against the door, he cannot open it. Once John gives up, the door creaks open on it’s own leading into a darkness that exudes a fowl shadowy heaviness.
He walks up a decrepit cobwebbed staircase that leads to a time-forgotten dust covered attic room. There he see an old fashioned wooden wheelchair small enough to be a child’s. The wheelchair seems to embody a kind of foreboding terror. Why?

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John finds a dusty old music box. Also the red glass that burst outward onto the grounds in front is subtly shown missing from the stain glass panel from this attic’s window

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Aside from the fact that everything in this child’s attic room seems petrified, the wheelchair acts as a symbol of a child who might have suffered in that house. For whatever primal spark the chair ignites in us fear chills. John finds a child’s desk with a notebook dated January 1909, which have the initials C.S.B. There is also a music box, that when open mysteriously plays the exact melody John has been wrestling with at the piano. Like an old tune he’s heard before but can’t remember the rest of the notes. He has been directed to this room, by the pounding, the window pane shattering, the vision of the little boy in the bathtub, and from the beginning the melody that underscores Johns consciousness. All trying to lead him to a dark secret that needs to get out and be exposed to the light of day.

John plays the music box lullaby for Claire swearing he had never heard the melody before in his life then he proceeds to show her his reel to reel recording of the song he thought he was composing. The two are identical… it is a poignantly creepy moment, as it somehow binds John to the house in a way that feels precious and imminent- showing how the house is influencing him in much the way certain events controlled Eleanor (Julie Harris) in The Haunting.

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Claire tells John “I agree it’s a startling coincidence” John swears he’s never heard that melody before

While the co-incidence isn’t necessarily frightening…  All the while it gives me the ‘pip and the whim whams’ ( heard David McCallum use that line in an episode of Marcus Welby. Been waiting to find a place to use it…)

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John meets with a Parapsychologist at the University played by the wonderful Barry Morse

Claire has researched the house back to 1920 but can find no record of anything significant happening that would make sense of the experiences John is having. He begins to realize that the house isn’t trying to drive people out, more importantly something or someone it is trying to reach out for help.

John shows Claire the attic room. Then the two go to the Historical Society to look up any records of the immense yet lonely house. They find out that the last people who occupied the house left there after only two years. back in 1967. That’s when the Society took control of the old Chessman Park House with a grant bestowed by the Carmichael Foundation representing Senator Carmichael ( Melvyn Douglas) Oddly, there are no files for the house prior to 1920, they are missing! So John and Claire ask Miss Huxley about the records of who lived there around 1909. She tells them that a man named Bernard lived there with his son and daughter but sold the house a year later after a terrible tragedy.

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Clara's grave

Once John and Claire go through library newspaper records they find a story about  a Dr. Walter Bernard, whose seven year old daughter Cora died from injuries sustained by being hit by a coal cart. Could the initials C.S.B. stand for Cora Bernard? John and Claire then go to the family cemetery to visit the graves of Cora, her brother and parents. John wonders if Cora is reaching out to him, because he lost his own daughter and she sees him as a kindred spirit. Claire encourages John to leave the house no matter what the reason. That his suffering is linked to the house now.

John reminisces about his lost wife and daughter by looking at old photographs. Suddenly the pounding begins again. When he goes to investigate, he see’s Kathy’s little red rubber ball, bouncing down the long staircase, thump thump thump thump. This moment is yet again, one of THE most frighteningly memorable scenes in classical horror history. On the outward level because it is inexplicable, yet it is also heart breaking because it tears at the wound John is already bleeding from about losing his little girl. Terrifying and sad is a potent combination and makes for a superior ghost story.

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John takes the little ball and drives to a near by bridge and throws the tiny object into the water below. But… when he returns home, the little red ball which is now wet from the river, bouncing down the long staircase yet again!!! The scene just amplifies the shock from the prior scene and does so in a way that isn’t cliché

The wonderful character actor Barry Morse plays a parapsychologist form the university who sets up a séance with mediums Leah and Albert Harmon (Helen Burns & Eric Christmas) Once at the house they already sense a presence there, which leads Leah who is psychic up toward the creepy attic room.

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CapturFiles_57 “You’ve suffered a cruel loss John Russell. you’ve lost a wife and child. The presence in this house is reaching out to you through that loss"
“You’ve suffered a cruel loss John Russell. you’ve lost a wife and child. The presence in this house is reaching out to you through that loss.”

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They begin to hold the séance John, Claire and her mother and the Harmons. Leah Harmon begins to ask questions of the spirits. She begins doing automatic writing by scribbling on a piece of paper, hoping that messages will appear through the written scrawlings. “The spirit is that of a child not at peace.”
But it is not Clara who had been killed by the coal cart. It is that of a young boy named Joseph. who died in that house and is begging John to help him. Leah keeps repeating the question, “Did you die in this house? Did you die in this house, how did you die?

Leah is in a deep trance, asking the little boy how he died with no audible answer. The camera swings around the house leading from the third floor down the staircase following the invisible presence as it moves toward the gathering. It’s an effective use of camerawork as what is unseen to us is made quite palpable. A glass and a few other trigger objects such as the tin tube that are on the table, fly into the air across the room and shatters to pieces.

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Once everyone leaves, John listens back to his reel to reel tape recording of the séance and begins to hear the faintest voice of a child answering Leah’s questions. Words are imprinted on tape like -‘ranch’ ’Sacred heart”  ‘well’ ‘Can’t walk’ and “medal.” John psychically connects with past events, he sees the vision of the boy and how he came to an end in the house. A little boy is being drowned in his bathtub by his father in that attic room. The music box is playing the song until he succumbs and the box is turned over. The source of the pounding is now represented by the boy’s little fists pounding against the tub as he struggles against drowning. The last words John hears on the tape recording is “My name is Joseph Carmichael.”

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Claire listens to the tape and cries. She recognizes Sacred Heart as an Orphanage that used to operate in the area. Claire is frozen in terror, as she looks upstairs. When John goes to look, we see the child’s wheelchair at the top of the stairs. Yet another chilling moment well paced and placed.

The secretive and nefarious Miss Huxley fills Senator Carmichael in on John and Claire’s nosing around the house’s past. He’s afraid they will find out that he was born in the old Chessman Park house in 1900, his mother dying during child birth.

There is a great mystery, tragedy and evil deeds surrounding the Senator, the little ghost child Joseph. If I give away too much of it, it would spoil the story and ultimately the climax.

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LIttle Girl:Boy in the well

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Without giving away too much, another frightening sub-plot is when John and Claire track down the ranch house belonging to a Mrs Grey (Frances Hyland) whose daughter had frightening visions that same night as the séance.
She dreamt of an impish boy, almost wicked in his appearance as he tried to reach up through the floor boards and staring at her.

Mrs. Grey worried about her daughter Linda’s night terrors. She starts sleeping in her mother’s room, so she allows John and Claire to dig up the bedroom floor, which sits atop an old well. Until a few nights later, Linda in a somnambulist’s state wanders into her bedroom and sees the image of the little boy floating under the water staring at her. The Changeling continues to employ moments that are starkly frightening. John digs up the floor down to the bottom of the well, where he not only finds a little boy’s medal that comes up from the dirt like a flower shoot popping out of the mud. John also finds the bones of a child.

John and Claire call the police but only give them limited information of how they knew to look under the floorboards of Mrs. Grey’s house, and they have no suspicions as to the identity of the skeleton.

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John tries to talk to Senator Carmichael on his private jet, the police take him away thinking he is a crazy protester.
Senator Carmichael-Melvyn Douglas
Senator Carmichael-Melvyn Douglas is more than a bit worried
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Actor John Colicos plays police Captain DeWitt who is a personal friend to Senator Carmichael, and impresses upon John to leave the Senator alone… or else!

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John Colicos plays Captain DeWitt a friend of Senator Carmichael and who is dauntless in his investigation to get to the truth behind John and Claire’s meddling and what the connection between the skeleton in the well, an old medal and Senator Carmichael who thinks they are trying to blackmail him.

I’ll leave the rest of this phenomenal ghost story/murder mystery for those who haven’t seen it yet. But perhaps I’ll add just this last bit of shock treatment to entice those who aren’t faint of heart…

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HIDDEN HORROR-
written by Don Sumner for the section on The Changeling (1980) in Hidden Horror edited by Aaron Christensen and William Lustig.

“It is interesting that The Changeling should be a Hidden Horror rather than a recognized household classic. The film swept the Canadian Genie Awards, winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress and several technical awards, and returned fair U.S. box office receipts $12 million against it’s approximately $600K CAN production budget. Still, it under-performed when compared to other 1970s Canadian horror efforts and remains lesser known. than its brethren to this day… For example, that same year’s Prom Night had the benefit of rising scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis while David Cronenberg’s Scanners featured a game-changing head explosion. “

As far as I’m concerned The Changeling will forever remain one of the most captivating cinematic ghost stories that has retained it’s haunting quality after all these years.

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This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying ‘It’s been a ball’

 

MonsterGirl Asks Frank Henenlotter: ❤ A Valentine Homage To An Un-Conjoined Aberration, the Little Impish Wicker Man, ‘Belial’

MONSTERGIRL ASKS: FRANK HENENLOTTER

The Great Frank Henenlotter

The Writer/Director who brought us the body as ‘Other.’

Belial
Conjoined brother Duane Bradley’s other half, Belial, somewhat like the mythic Blemmyae portrayed in Medieval paintings and etchings. He’s cute, he’s cuddly and fits really well in a wicker picnic basket for those special occasions.
A Blemmyae and other mythic oddities
A Blemmyae and other mythic oddities- To the left a Headless creature, face in their chest yet fixed with arms and legs who inhabit the earth.
Book: Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo: With 25 Illustrations from a Fourteenth-century Manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (New York: The Orion Press, 1958)Written and illuminated in Paris, ca. 1410–12
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS fr. 2810, fols. 29v, 194v, 195v

Blemmyae

MONSTERGIRL’S QUESTION-

Frank, this is a simple question that I’ve been very curious about for a long time, what is truly at the root of your choosing the name Belial for your most iconic monstrous personification of body horror in your classic film Basket Case from 1982. What tripped the wires in your head to name Duane Bradley’s brother in a wicker basket – Belial ?

Is it founded in the Hebrew proverb adam beli-yaal meaning ‘a worthless man’, because Belial was discarded by the doctors and his father as a non entity with no legitimatized form, also the name is based in Jewish and Christian texts referring to a demon?

Though Belial was more a product of physiological anomaly, rather than spawn from hell nor mutant. You can’t blame a guy for trying to get a little nookie…

He’s almost analogous to the mythic Blemmyae who’s heads were in their chests.

Or were you inspired by John Milton’s Paradise Lost…? Was he, yet a metaphor for the insatiable vice of desire?

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I
BELIAL came last, than whom a Spirit more lewd
Fell not from Heaven, or more gross to love
Vice for it self: To him no Temple stood
Or Altar smoak’d; yet who more oft then hee
In Temples and at Altars, when the Priest
Turns Atheist, as did ELY’S Sons, who fill’d
With lust and violence the house of God.
In Courts and Palaces he also Reigns
And in luxurious Cities, where the noyse
Of riot ascends above their loftiest Towers,
And injury and outrage: And when Night
Darkens the Streets, then wander forth the Sons
Of BELIAL, flown with insolence and wine.
Witness the Streets of SODOM, and that night
In GIBEAH, when hospitable Dores
Yielded their Matrons to prevent worse rape.

FRANK HENENLOTTER’S ANSWER-

That’s an easy one. The father, appalled by the creature and full of hatred after his wife died giving birth, named him after the devil. Or one of Satan’s demons. I’ve heard Belial used as a synonym for Satan, and also as one of the many fallen angels. Either or, doesn’t matter to me. And I didn’t want something too obvious. I mean, calling him Beelzebub would’ve just been silly. Also, way back when, I looked up Belial in some reference book and it said the name translated as “ungodly.” Which certainly fit the look of the creature. More than that, however, I like the SOUND of the name. If you didn’t know the Biblical reference, the name sounds rather friendly: “Hi, Mr. Bradley! Can Belial come out and play today?” And though grotesque, I’ve always thought Belial looked friendly. At least when his mouth is closed.

Frank wearing a Basket Case Tee

Writer/ Director/ Historian/ Film Preservationist Frank Henenlotter is a New Yorker like me. He spent his youth absorbing the low-budget exploitation gems that were offered for those of us who wanted something beyond the mainstream. He frequented the soiled seated grindhouse theaters on 42nd Street, now over run with the dis-associative glitz of Disney. 42nd Street used to showcase the wonderful underbelly of cinema, the cheap and psychotronic films that created a whole new landscape to wander around, while the artistic self is just beginning to emerge and the hormones are raging. So Frank Henenlotter grabbed some 8mm film and went off to find himself.

The good old days 42nd Street

In 1972 his 16mm B&W short called Slash of the Knife played at the same 42nd Street midnight show with John Water’s Pink Flamingos 1972.

Henenlotter had a brief sojourn in advertising as a graphic designer and commercial artist before he immersed himself in his fantastical film career, known for his outrageously unconventional, outré quirky,darkly humorous, seamy atmospheres, and literally bloody good fun with his off center story lines.

It’s what make his films so unique. I discovered him in 1982 when I went to my local video store looking for something different to watch and stumbled upon a peculiar and intriguing VHS cover called Basket Case. So I rented it and went home ready to invest myself in the emergence of the 80s horror genre. Of course I purchase my own copy and still have the original VHS treasure.

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VHS Basket Case Cover

Belial in his basket

I had been weened on Universal classic horrors, Creature Features, Fright Night on WOR Channel 9, campy sci-fi gems of the 50s with giant bugs and shrinking men, mad scientists, Boris and Bela, and then the 70s came and the cinematic sky darkened, the atmosphere closed inward with a collection of starkly creepy low budget films that left my imagination and my tender psyche altered.

But here it was the early 80s and I wanted to embrace the new horrors. So when I sat quietly in my room and witnessed something so creative, so brutally funny and honest in it’s inventiveness, that I fell in love. Call it sleazy, call it gory, splatter, scuzzy, violent, tasteless, grotesque, excessively tacky, twisted in it’s vision, genres are so inter- textually linked that labeling them at this point is futile. Ultimately Henenlotter’s work has a splendidly unsettling lacquer and spirit.

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Photo from Kindertrauma.com

What I experienced was a modern day fairytale about two outsiders. Conjoined Siamese Twin brothers Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) and Belial Bradley who take up residence in room number 7 at a seedy 42nd Street Hotel in NYC. Like the pathos evoked from Frankenstein’s monster and his ‘otherness’ The Siamese Twins, whose at times tumultuous brotherly bond set them off on a mission to punish the hack doctors who surgically annihilated their physical bond. The film made me laugh, shiver, empathize and adore that little guy in the wicker basket named Belial. Who wasn’t a demon or devil or mutant, just a little guy with authentic separation anxiety.

The film co-starred Terri Susan Smith as Sharon, Beverly Bonner as Casey, Robert Vogel as the Hotel Manager and Diane Browne, Lloyd Pace and Bill Freeman as Doctors-Judith Kutter, Harold Needleman and Julius Lifflander. Ruth Neuman plays the boys’ aunt. Richard Pierce plays their father, their mother having died in child birth.

Duane and Belial

The low key cinematography was done by Bruce Torbet, who also worked on Brain Damage. Frank Henenlotter was responsible for the film editing himself. Editing is key. And the very special Makeup department staff was John Caglione Jr, Kevin Haney, and Ugis Nigals as special makeup effects artists, Ken Clark did hair and make up.

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Brain Damage VHS cover. I still have this copy as well. image from
VHS WASTELAND

Quote from Basket Case (1982)

Aunt: [Reading to young Duane and Belial] “Art thou afraid? No monster, not I. Be not afraid, for the isle is full of sights, sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not. Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will humm about mine ears. And sometimes voices, that if I then had waked after long sleep would let me sleep again. And then in dreaming, the clouds we thought would open and show riches ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again…”

Aunt reading to Belial

It’s no wonder the film has attained such cult status. I wound up renting Brain Damage which was released in 1988. Again the premise was so unique and freaky that it made me a fan of Frank Henenlotter for life. Brain Damage I think is the more queasy, darker and provocatively satirical film with it’s skid row orientation, but I’ll always love best, the gory fable that is Basket Case.

Brain Damage, again working almost as a modern fairytale is an allegory about addiction. With it’s young protagonist who becomes the host to an arcane and shiftily phallic parasite that feeds on human brains.

Frank went on to release Frankenhooker in 1990 ‘A terrifying tale of sluts and bolts’, and a two sequels to Basket Case, the last being 1992’s Basket Case 3: The Progeny. This last film revolves around Belial’s romance with female freak Eve, and the Bradley boys taking a trip to Georgia in the company of other freaks and freaks rights activist Granny Ruth (jazz nightclub singer Annie Ross) to seek the help of kindly doctor Uncle Hal (Dan Biggers) who assists with Eve’s pregnancy.

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In addition to his writing and directing, Henenlotter’s been a fierce advocate and film preservationist, the force behind the rescuing and re-issuing of obscure vintage 60s and 70s horror, softcore and exploitation film relics from VHS and DVD through the fabulously valuable Something Weird Video. He also has added his witty commentary to several of the releases for the company. Henenlotter was featured in the documentary film Herschell Gordon Lewis – The Godfather of Gore and narrated the film on the 2010 FanTasia. In issue #304 of Fangoria Magazine Frank and comic artist Joshua Emerick started a Basket Case comic strip which offers a three panel piece in each issue.

Fangoria's BasketCase comic strip

Frank

Personal Quote:
[on being labeled a horror film director] –

“I never felt that I made “horror films.” I always felt that I made exploitation films. Exploitation films have an attitude more than anything else — an attitude that you don’t find with mainstream Hollywood productions. They’re a little ruder, a little raunchier, they deal with material people don’t usually touch on, whether it’s sex or drugs or rock and roll.” – Frank Henenlotter

“I think eccentrically and I’m a strange little person.”Frank Henenlotter

From VideoHounds Cult Flicks and Trash Picks -edited by Carol Schwartz on Page 234 The Hound Salutes Frank Henenlotter-

“Since then, Frank Henenlotter has come to be know mainly as a film historian and curator of sorts- but as you may expect, he’s done it in a rather odd fashion. Henenlotter was an expert on cult flicks and trash pick long before books were being written about them. He was rightfully chosen as the premiere interview presented in the landmark volume Incredibly Strange Films, despite the fact that he’d only made one official feature at the time, base solely on the depth of his knowledge. During the 1990s he began helping Mike Vraney of Something Weird Video unearth and release dozens of mind -bending exploitation films-many of them thought long lost-for a series that became known as “Frank Henenlotter’s Sexy Shockers from the Vault” Thanks to preservationists Frank and Mike generations to come will be able to enjoy vintage sleaze like Monster of Camp Sunshine, Bloody Pit of Horror, The Curious Dr. Hump and Olga’s House of Shame. In addition, Henenlotter has brought  some interesting new films by young directors to the label”. – Brian Thomas

Frank Henenlotter

Frank Henenlotter is beloved by his fans, gracious, accessible, funny, engaged, playful and thought provokingly outrageous. And thanks to his preservation of these lost cult films, I’ve gotten to see Aroused 1966, and Rent A Girl, Satan in High Heels (1962) and so much more!

I still wish he should commission Think Geek to make a Belial plushy. If they don’t I’m just going have to run myself over to Michael’s craft store and design my own friggin puppet already… I think Belial is cute as hell. So many people agree it would be a great iconic novelty.

In closing, special thanks to you Frank. You’re a lovely, eccentrically personable guy-It’s been so wonderful to hear your thoughts on Belial’s inception. I’m with you. I never thought he looked like a monster, even with his mouth open. That’s the point right… the way we ‘otherize’ those who are different. Grotesque is in the eye of the beholder. Look how pin heads are all the rage again since American Horror Story Asylum so successfully paid it’s endearing and intensely nuanced homage to Schlitze from Tod Browning’s Freaks (1932)

Schlitze from Browning's Freaks Pinhead

A Special Happy Valentine’s Day To Frank Henenlotter, to Belial, to brother & sisterhood and to all of you genre fans, freaks and all of us ‘others’- Love Joey (Your MonsterGirl)

Basket Case

A Moment From ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983) The Leg Lamp!

“It’s indescribably beautiful!”

A CHRISTMAS STORY 1983

film poster A Christmas Story

opening the crate

A major award

the leg lamp

Wishing you and yours an indescribably beautiful holiday!!!!!- MonsterGirl

Is That a Woman Doing Science??????

You know, men aren’t the only ones that know how to use a syringe…turn some dials, flip some switches,  crank the whatsit, and raise up the thingamabob…extend the oscillator and tweak the Mezzershmitzchen levels!

Women play with Ape Men, they build men, they like maggots, make deadly nerve gas and even perform reconstructive surgery on their own faces!

LADY FRANKENSTEIN 1971

Rosalba Neri as Tania Frankenstein

FRAULEIN DOKTOR 1969

Capucine as Dr. Saforet

DR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE 1971

Martine Beswick as Sister Hyde

STRANGE BEHAVIOR 1981 aka Dead Kids

Fiona Lewis as Dr. Gwen Parkinson

TROG 1970

Joan Crawford as Dr. Brockton

DAUGHTER OF DR JEKYLL 1957

Gloria Talbott as Janet Smith Jekyll’s descendent

BLOOD OF DRACULA 1957

Louise Lewis as Miss Branding-science teacher!

Miss Branding, school chemistry teacher transforms this troubled young teen into a horribly violent blood thirsty devil!

The Devil Doll 1936

Radaela Ottiano as Malita

THE SPIDER WOMAN STRIKES BACK 1946

Gale Sondergaard as Miss Zenobia Dollard

SON OF INGAGI 1940

Laura Bowman as Dr. Helen Jackson

La furia del Hombre Lobo 1972 Fury of The Wolfman

Perla Cristal as Dr. Ilona Alman / Eva Wolfstein

FLESH FEAST 1970

Veronica Lake as Dr.Elaine Frederick

The Diabolical Dr. Z 1966

Mabel Karr As Irma Zimmer

Mad Scientist Irma doing plastic surgery on herself!!!!!

EYES WITHOUT A FACE 1960

Special Assistant Award to Alida Valli as Louise.

The devoted Louise

Honorary Mention to Jan in The Pan for donating her head to science!

The Brain That Would Not Die! 1962

The Devil’s in The Details: 36 film flavors of a devilsh nature!

Häxan (1926)

1-Eye of The Devil (1966)

David Niven is the marquis Philippe de Montfaucon who is called back to his castle Bellenac because the dry season is destroying his vineyards. He reluctantly lets his wife (Deborah Kerr) and children join him. de Montfaucon has a superstitious secret, as the people surrounding him hold pagan rituals, for his legacy is connected to a great sacrifice…also stars Sharon Tate, Donald Pleasance and David Hemmings. Directed by J.Lee Thompson

2-The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

A 19th Century New Hampshire farmer who makes a compact with the Devil for economic success enlists Daniel Webster to extract him from his contract. Stars Edward Arnold, Walter Houston as you know who and Jane Darwell. Directed by William Dieterle

3-The Devil’s Partner (1961)

An old man sells his soul to the devil, and turns into a young man. He then uses witchcraft and black magic to win a woman from his rival. Stars Ed Nelson, Edgar Buchanan, Jean Allison and Richard Crane.

4-The Devil’s Hand (1962)

A man is haunted by visions of a beautiful woman. When he finally meets her, he winds up involved in a satanic cult. Stars Robert Alda and Linda Christian.

5-The Devil’s Hand aka Carnival of Sinners (1943)

Roland Brissot bought for a nickel a talisman that gives him love, fame and wealth. The talisman is a cut left hand..directed by Maurice Tourneur

6-The Devil’s Daughter (1939)

Sylvia Walton returns from Harlem to take over a Jamaican plantation from her vindictive half-sister, amid the growing sound of drums. Stars Nina Mae McKinney, Jack Carter and Ida James.

7-The Devil’s Daughter (1973)

A young girl whose mother had sold her soul to Satan when she was born is told by Satan that she must marry a fellow demon. Directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starring Shelley Winters and Belinda Montgomery. 70s made for tv movie!

8-Race With The Devil (1975)

Two couples vacationing together in an R.V. from Texas to Colorado are terrorized after they witness a murder during a Satanic ritual. Starring Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker and R.G.Armstrong.

9-The Devil’s Rain (1975)

A bunch of Satanists in the American rural landscape have terrible powers which enable them to melt their victims. However one of the children of an earlier victim vows to destroy them. Stars Ernest Borgnine, Ida Lupino, William Shatner and Eddie Albert. Directed by Robert Fuest.

10-The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973)

Lady Dracula uses Dracula’s ring to lure beautiful girls to her castle, where she murders them so she can bathe in their blood. Starring Mark Damon and Rosalba Neri.

11-The Devil Rides Out (1968)

Christopher Lee is Nicholas the Duc de Richleau who travels to England to visit a friend and discovers a satanic cult! Also stars Charles Gray and directed by Terence Fisher.

12-To The Devil, A Daughter (1976)

An American occult novelist battles to save the soul of a young girl from a group of Satanists, led by an excommunicated priest, who plan on using her as the representative of the Devil on Earth. Stars Christopher Lee, Richard Widmark, Honor Blackman, Denholm Elliot and Nastassja Kinski.

13-The Devil and Miss Sarah (1971)

A notorious outlaw being escorted to prison by a homesteader and his wife turns out to have satanic powers. He uses them on the man’s wife to try to possess her and help him escape. ABC movie of the week starring Janice Rule and Gene Barry.

14-The Doctor and The Devils (1985)

Grave robbers supply a doctor with bodies. Based on Burke and Hare. Directed by Freddie Francis and starring Timothy Dalton ,Jonathan Pryce, Julian Sands and Twiggy.

15-The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy’s orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover. Guillermo del Toro’s hauntingly beautiful film.

16-Dust Devil (1992)

A woman on the run from her abusive husband encounters a mysterious hitch-hiker. Stars Robert John Burke, Chelsea Field and Zakes Mokae.

17-The Devil Doll (1936)

An escaped Devil’s Island convict uses miniaturized humans to wreak vengeance on those that framed him. Story by Tod Browning and uncredited for his directing it stars Lionel Barrymore as Paul Lavond/Madame Mandilip, Maureen O’Sullivan as the daughter he is cheated of.

18-Sinthia: The Devil’s Doll (1970)

Cynthia Kyle murders her parents while having sex. Eights years later she is plagued with nightmares! Directed by Ray Dennis Steckler

19-Devil Doll (1964)

An evil hypnotist/ventriloquist plots to gain an heiress’ millions. 

20-Devil Dog- The Hound of Hell (1978)

A dog that is a minion of Satan terrorizes a suburban family. Oh well, not one of Curtis Harrington’s shining moments. Stars Richard Crenna Yvette Mimieux and Kim Richards. Another ABC Movie of the Week from the 70s!

21-The Devil’s Own 1966 aka The Witches

Following a horrifying experience with the occult in Africa, a schoolteacher moves to a small English village, only to discover that black magic resides there as well. Stars Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh and Alec McCowen.

22-The Devil and Max Devlin (1981)

When Max dies in an accident, he winds up in hell. But the devil Barney makes him an offer: if he can get three innocent youths to sell him their souls, Max can go back to earth. Stars Bill Cosby as Barney Satin and Elliot Gould as Max Devlin.

23-She Devil (1957)

A GORGEOUS DEMON! They created an inhuman being who destroyed everything she touched! The woman they couldn’t kill! Directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Mari Blanchard and Albert Dekker.

24-Blood of The Man Devil (1965) aka House of the Black Death

Two brothers, both of whom are warlocks, use their powers and covens of witches to battle over the family fortune. Stars Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine and Andrea King.

25-Devils of Darkness (1965)

A secret vampire cult, which has its headquarters beneath the town cemetery, searches for victims for its human sacrifice rituals. Stars William Sylvester and Carole Gray. Directed by Lance Comfort.

26-Night of The Devils 1972

The patriarch of a wealthy family fears that he will show up one day in vampire form. Should this happen, he warns his family not to let him back in his house, no matter how much he begs them. Stars Giani Garko and Agostina Belli.

27-Devil’s Possessed (1974)

An evil ruler uses witchcraft and evil spirits to keep his subjects in line, but the his reign of terror prompts the people to revolt. Stars Paul Naschy and Norma Sebre

28-She Devil’s on Wheels 1968

An all-female motorcycle gang, called ‘The Maneaters’ hold motorcycle races, as well as terrorize the residents of a small Florida town, and clash off against an all-male rival gang of hot-riders. Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis.

29-The Devils (1971)

In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun. Ken Russells vigorous take on the true story of The Devils of Loudun. Starring Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Reed.

30-The Devil Has Seven Faces 1971

Euro-Exploitation thriller starring Carroll Baker, George Hilton and Stephen Boyd. It’s got Carroll Baker nuf said!

31-Devil In Miss Jones 1973

Adult/Fantasy about Miss Justine Jones who is tired of her life and commits suicide. Will she end up in Heaven or Hell? Starring Georgina Spelvin as Justine Jones. Directed by Gerard Damiano.

32-The House of The Devil (2009)

Ti West directs this contemporary horror flick that looks like it was truly made In the 1980s. College student Samantha Hughes (Jocelyn Donahue)takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov plan to use her in a satanic ritual.

33-The Devil’s Messenger (1961)

In this feature version of the Swedish TV series “13 Demon Street,” a 50,000-year-old woman is found frozen in an ice field, and a man’s death is foretold in dreams. Narrated by Lon Chaney Jr.

34-The Devil’s Widow aka Tam Lin (1970)

Based on an ancient Scottish folk song, an older woman uses witchcraft to keep her young jet-set friends. Directed by Roddy McDowall starring the amazing Ava Gardner,Ian McShane, Stephanie Beacham and Cyril Cusack.

35-Diablolique (1955)

The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress conspire to kill him, but after the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women. Henri-Georges Cluzot’s macabre masterpiece starring Simone Signoret, Vera Cluzot and Paul Meurisse.

36-LISA AND THE DEVIL (1974)

Elke Sommer is Lisa a tourist in an ancient city, who stumbles onto an old mansion and soon becomes the victim of a diabolical evil. Also starring Telly Savalas as Leandro a devil! and Alida Vali as the countess. Directed by the master of Gothic horror-Mario Bava.

The Devil made me do this post!-MonsterGirl !

MonsterGirl’s 13 Days of Halloween: Obscure Films Better Than Candy Corn! is back!

Double Exposure 1983

A photographer for a men’s magazine is disturbed by a recurring dream he has that he is killing his models by various gruesome means…Directed by William Byron Hillman and stars Michael Callan and Joanna Pettet.

Death Scream made for Tv (1975)

A young woman is stabbed to death in an alley. The crime is heard and seen by some of the residents of a nearby apartment building, but not one of them tried to help and now they refuse to get involved with the police during the investigation.

Based on actual events. Directed by Richard T.Heffron with a stellar cast, including: Raul Julia, John P Ryan, Edward Asner, Luci Arnez, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, Kate Jackson, Cloris Leachman, Tina Louise, and Nancy Walker.

Neither The Sea Nor The Sand (1972) aka The Exorcism of Hugh

A troubled wife is having a mid life crisis. She meets a lighthouse-keeper and they become lovers. They run off to Scotland. While making love on a beach, the lighthouse keeper dies, and that’s where the true story begins. True love never dies, Hugh comes back from the dead, to Anna’s wanting arms, but he’s not quite the same, and he’s decomposing! Directed by Fred Burnley, and starring Susan Hampshire, Frank Finlay and Michael Petrovitch.

Anatomy of a psycho (1961)

The crazed brother of a condemned killer sent to the gas chamber swears vengeance on those he holds responsible for his brother’s execution. Directed by Boris Petroff, and starring Ronnie Burns, Pamela Lincoln and Darrell Howe.

36 Hours aka Terror Street (1953)

An American pilot AWOL from the states is framed for his wife’s murder and has just 36 hours to prove his innocence. Directed by Montgomery Tully, and starring Dan Duryea, Elsie Albin and Gudrun Ure.

Trauma 1962

Emmaline, who, as a teenager, discovered the drowned body of her aunt (Lynn Bari), returns to the family mansion as a married woman. Eventually, she falls for the caretaker’s nephew, and remembers who the real killer was. Directed by Robert M.Young, and starring Lynn Bari, John Conte, and Lorrie Richards.

The Exterminating Angel (1962)

The guests at an upper-class dinner party find themselves unable to leave. Everything starts to devolve as their pretenses fall away, and they start acting like desperate animals.

Directed by Luis Bunuel and starring Sylvia Pinal, Jacqueline Andere, Enrique Rambal, Claudio Brook,

Mirrors (1978)

A newlywed couple check into an old hotel, and soon the wife finds herself having hallucinations and wandering the halls aimlessly.. A voodoo priest has put a curse on Marianne and now wants to take her soul.

Directed by Noel Black and starring Kitty Winn and Peter Donat.

Madame Death 1969

A mad scientist teams with an evil, disfigured woman to kidnap and operate on young women to make her look beautiful again. Directed by Jaime Salvador starring John Carradine, Regine Torne and Elsa Cardenas. Great Mexican horror thriller!

Master of Horror 1965

A trilogy of the Edgar Allen Poe stories, “The Case Of Mr. Valdemar,” “The Cask Of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It starts with the house maid sitting down to read some stories on a stormy night. Directed by Enrique Carreras, with a screenplay by the great Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (The House That Screamed 1069)

Starring Narciso Ibanez Menta, Osvoldo Pacheco and Ines Moreno

THE BLOODSUCKER LEADS THE DANCE 1975

Directed by Alfredo Rizzo and starring the gorgeous Femi Benussi and Krista Nell, with Giacomo Rossi-Stuart

An obscure Gothic horror about a man who invites a theatrical troupe to his mansion, and of course the women start turning up dead.

QUINTET 1979

It is the future ice age, humanity is dying off.  So the survivors play a game called “Quintet” For one small group, this obsession is not enough; they play the game with living pieces … and only the winner survives. Robert Altman directed this sci-fi thriller, starring Paul Newman, Vittorio Gassman, Fernando Rey, Brigitte Fossey and Bibi Anderson.

Scream Baby Scream 1965

A psycho artist kidnaps models and slices up their faces to create his own grotesque form of art.

Directed by Joseph Adler, and starring Ross Harris, Eugenie Wingate, Chris Martell, Suzanne Stuart and Larry Swanson. Written by Larry Cohen!

The Third Secret 1964

A prominent London Psychologist seems to have taken his own life, causing stunned disbelief amongst his colleagues and patients. Directed by Charles Crichton and starring Stephen Boyd, Jack Hawkins, Richard Attenborough and Pamela Franklin.

The Strange One 1957

Ben Gazzara plays Jocko De Paris, a sociopathic cadet lead in a Southern military academy. He manipulates several of the people into various stages of duress, in particular a cadet that Jocko terrorizes into dating a girl from the town named Rosebud…hhm? Directed by Jack Garfein and also starring Pat Hingle, Peter Mark Richman, Paul Richards, and Julie Wilson as ‘Rosebud’

The Witch aka L Strega in Amore 1966

A historian goes to a castle library to translate some ancient erotic literature. While there he discovers what he believes to be supernatural forces at work. Directed by Damiano Damiani and starring Richard Johnson, Rosanna Schiaffino and Gian Maria Volonte.

The Snorkel 1958

Although the police have termed her mother’s death a suicide, a teenage girl believes her step-father murdered her. Directed by Guy Green and a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster. Starring Peter Van Eyck and Betta St. John.

viy 1967

This is a Russian horror/fantasy film about a young priest who is ordered to watch over the wake of witch in a small old wooden church of a remote village. He must spend three nights alone with the corpse with only his faith to protect him. Based on a story by Nikolai Gogol.

Bluebeard 1972

This is a 70s version of the infamous tale of Bluebeard. A World War I pilot Kurt Von Sepper (Richard Burton) whom everybody envies as a “ladykiller” actually is one – after he beds the women he’s after, he murders them. Directed by Edward Dmytryk, and starring Richard Burton, Raquel Welch, Verna Lisi, Natalie Delon, Agostina Belli, Sybil Danning and Joey Heatherton.

Criminally Insane 1975

An obese woman recently released from an insane asylum kills anyone who attempts to get her to stop eating. Director Nick Millard casts Priscilla Alden as Ethel Janowski who lives with her Grandmother, and doesn’t want anyone taking away her food!

HEX 1973 aka The Shrieking

The film takes place in rural Nebraska after WW1, six veterans head out together on their motorcycles and ride into the little town of Bingo. When one of them beats a local kid in a drag race, they are driven out of town.

They hide out at a farm house run by two sisters. One of them tries to rape one of the girls, who is part Native American, and now her sister wants revenge by casting a hex on them!

Directed by Leo Garen and starring Christina Raines, Hilary Thompson, Keith Carradine, Mike Combs, Scott Glenn, Gary Busey and Robert Walker Jr.

Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things 1971

Stanley and Paul are hiding out from the law, so they rent a house in the suburbs, and decide that Paul should dress in drag, pretending to be Stanley’s Aunt Martha. Stanley brings a girl home one night, and since Paul is crazy and violent, he murders her. Now, Aunt Martha is a dangerous woman to approach! Directed by Thomas Casey and starring Abe Zwick as Paul and Wayne Crawford as Stanley.

Necromancy 1972

Orson Welles plays Mr. Cato, the head of a witches’ coven in the town of Lilith, where he needs the powers of Pamela Franklin to raise his son from the dead. Directed by the fun Bert I. Gordon. Also starring Lee Purcell and Michael Ontkean

Old Dracula 1973

A faulty blood transfusion turns Dracula’s wife black. Directed by Clive Donner and starring David Niven, Teresa Graves, Peter Bayliss and Veronica Carlson.

Poor Pretty Eddie 1975

A wrong turn on a jazz singer’s road trip results in her car breaking down near an isolated lodge run by a faded starlet and a young, homicidal Elvis impersonator. Directed by Richard Robinson and David Worth, the film stars Leslie Uggams, Shelley Winters, Michael Christian, Ted Cassidy, Dub Taylor and Slim Pickens.

The Mafu Cage 1978

Two strange sisters played by Lee Grant and Carol Kane, live in a decaying mansion where they keep their father’s pet ape locked in a cage. One of the sisters is descending into violent madness.

Directed by Karen Arthur also starring Will Geer.

Scalpel aka False Face 1977

A psychopathic plastic surgeon transforms a young accident victim into the spitting image of his missing daughter. Directed by John Grissmer and starring Robert Lansing and Judith Chapman. An interesting thriller in the ‘surgical horror’ genre.

The Flower in His Mouth 1975

A female school teacher is implicated in a murder in a Sicilian town only hours after her arrival. The dead man insulted her on the bus on the way into town. Directed by Luigi Zampa and starring the beautiful Jennifer O’Neill, sexy Franco Nero, and James Mason.
“”””

The Terminal Man 1974

Hoping to cure his violent seizures, a man agrees to a series of experimental microcomputers inserted into his brain but inadvertently discovers that violence now triggers a pleasurable response his brain. Directed by Mike Hodges and starring George Segal, Joan Hackett and Richard Dysart.

The Woman Who Came Back 1940

After a bus accident, a woman comes to believe that she’s actually a 300-year-old witch. Stars John Loder, Nancy Kelly and Otto Kruger.

A Taste for Women 1964 Aimez-vous les femmes

Directed by Jean Leon, this French black comedy thriller Roman Polanski has written another dark kinky story about cannibalism. It stars Sophie Daumier and comes across as a piece of Film Noir.

Lorna -a film by Russ Meyer (1964)

Starring Lorna Maitland, who’s married to Jim (James Rucker)but isn’t satisfied sexually. While Jim’s at work in the salt mine, she is raped by an escaped convict.(Mark Bradley) Strangely she finds him fascinating, as he has brought out her lustful side. One of Meyer’s best films! The cinematography is so starkly beautiful.

Home Before Dark 1958

Director Mervyn LeRoy’s darkly psychological drama starring the incredible Jean Simmons as Charlotte a woman recovering from a nervous breakdown. Once she leaves the safe hospital environment, she must return home to face the same demons that were haunting her there from the beginning. Also stars Dan O’Herlihy, Rhonda Fleming, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.and Marjorie Bennett.

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

A suave but cynical man supports his family by marrying and murdering rich women for their money, but the job has some occupational hazards. Directed and starring Charlie Chaplin, Mady Correll, Allison Roddan, Robert Lewis, Audrey Betz, Martha Raye, Ada May and Marjorie Bennett.

The Unseen aka Fear 1945

Directed by Lewis Allen and starring Joel McCrea, Gail Russell , Herbert Marshall and Norman Lloyd. A mysterious figure is viciously killing people in a shadowy alley. Russell plays a Governess haunted by mysterious goings on. Scripted by Raymond Chandler and Hagar Wilde. Gail Russell also played Stella in the wonderful ghost story directed by Allen, The Uninvited…

The Cat Creeps 1946

A black cat is suspected of being possessed by the spirit of a dead girl. Directed by Erie C. Kenton, starring Noah Beery Jr., Lois Collier, Fred Brady, Paul Kelly, Douglass Dumbrille and Rose Hobart…

-MonsterGirl

Fiend of The Day! Private Detective Loren Visser: Blood Simple (1984)

BLOOD SIMPLE (1983)

In a small Texas town, M. Emmett Walsh plays the ruthless and unsavory cowboy hat wearing, cigarette flickin’ Loren Visser, the Private ‘Dick’ who surly club owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires to shadow his unfaithful wife Abby played by Francis McDormand.  Abby’s been stepping out with quiet, soft spoken bar tender Ray played by John Getz.

Jealousy, human cruelty, repressive machismo and a lack of morality send the players into a whirlwind of stunning events. Ethan and Joel Coen wrote, produced and directed this starkly gripping Neo Noirish thriller with a streak of mucky black humor and fine performances, that manage to paint an environment of  alienation and passionless rage. The film creates a disturbing atmosphere of an Americana hell.

A quiet little masterpiece of suspense and mayhem, from the prolific brothers Coen!

Walsh is masterful as the sweaty, pale and flabby lurking beast who manages to attract flies to his sweat beaded forehead, and has the self composure to not even swat them away. The impression is that he is human garbage which attracts flies, yet is comfortable understanding his place in this world. His cool and sardonic demeanor begin to unwind as the events spiral out of control, and the unrestrained beast within starts to emerge. Visser is truly a memorable fiend of film!

‘THE WORLD IS FULL OF COMPLAINERS!”-Loren Visser

Beware of men who attract flies! – MonsterGirl

Road Games (1981) – “Cast to the wind…thy ghastly sin” for the Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made) blogathon July 7-13

ROAD GAMES 1981

Versatile actor of film and stage Stacy Keach  plays the poetic everyman Pat Quid who is driving a semi across Australia carting a truck load of meat, pig carcasses specifically, due to the high demand as there is a meat strike going on. As in any good traveler mystery, he encounters a variety of odd characters who periodically pop up time and again, as if they are all trapped in some kind of desert purgatory.

Along the way there are also the occasional hitchhikers who are traveling on the same highway. Pat and his trusted companion Boswell, a dingo, likes to occupy his time playing word games to make the journey more stimulating.

He likes to imagine the identities of other people on the road, guessing what they do for a living.

Stopping over to sleep at a motel one night, he loses his room to a mysterious guy in a dark green van who has picked up a foxy young hitchhiker. A girl Quid had decided to pass up along the way, as it is not his practice to pick up hitchhikers because it is against regulations.

That night he sleeps in the back of his cab, but is aroused at 4am by the garbage trucks who have come to pick up the motel trash. Boswell is sniffing around the plastic rubbish bags, chewing at whatever smells tempting on the inside.

Strangely up too, is the guy from the dark green van, who is watching out the window to see that the collectors are picking up the garbage.

The night before, we witness him murdering the young girl passenger that he brings to the motel. Most likely he has disposed of her body in the bags set out on the curb.

After seeing Green Van Man on the road, burying another garbage bag, and once Quid sees a cooler or ‘lunch box’ on the guys front seat, which is big enough to hold a human head, Quid puts a few things together and decides that this guy is probably the serial killer that the news has been talking about.

Jamie Lee Curtis, plays Pamela ‘Hitch’ Rushworth a hitchhiker Quid finally picks up after the third time seeing her on the side of the same road.’Third time lucky!’

The two form an amateur detective team, playing cat and mouse with the elusive Green Van Man as they begin to try and track the serial killer on their own. The chemistry between the two does not have the hallmark romanticism of a typically immortal Hitchcock pairing, Keach and Curtis are more working class guts and grit and less polish and panache.

But in Quid’s pursuit of the Green Van Man it brings him to the attention of the police, who then suspect him of being the killer. Throughout the film, Quid plays the alienated nice guy, who is misunderstood, and under suspicion.

Directed by Richard Franklin (Patrick 1978, Psycho II 1983)Based on an original story by Richard Franklin and adapted for the screen by Everett De Roche. Also starring Marion Edward as Madeleine ‘Frita’ Day and Grant Page as Smith or Jones the Green Van killer.

Since I’ve chosen this film as my contribution to Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made) I’d like to briefly cover a few of the most salient points that stick out for me the most.

Not least of which are the few obvious touts to Hitch himself: The casting of Janet Leigh’s  (1960 Psycho’s Marion Crane) daughter with actor Tony Curtis, the wonderfully androgynous Jamie Lee Curtis.

Curtis’s character Pamela has a nickname in the film which is ‘Hitch’ and Franklin actually directed Psycho II in 1983 which starred Anthony Perkins revisiting his iconic role as Norman Bates. Franklin obviously had an appreciation for the story and Hitchcock’s contribution to the mystery/suspense genre.

At one point in the film, Pamela in the back of Quid’s cab picks up a vintage Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine from the 60s.

The more significant allusions that can be drawn from the film are Keach’s role as Patrick Anthony Quid, using a Hitchcockian formula, ‘The Wrong Man.’

The police not only suspect him of the murders, but Quid becomes alienated by the rest of the hostile players in the film, even going as far as being set up by the real killer, not unlike Hitchcock’s later and quite starkly disturbing Frenzy 1972.

Starring Barry Foster as the criminally insane misogynist Robert Rusk, the neck tie killer who rapes and strangles his female victims in what I feel Hitchcock lensed with an utter brutal realism that stays with you.

In Frenzy it is Jon Finch who plays Richard Ian Blaney the misunderstood working class man who is falsely blamed for a series of murdered women. Blaney also becomes set up as a patsy by the killer, like Quid for the murders.

Unlike Frenzy’s lustful sex maniac who we get to see up close and personal, remember the hideous line… ‘lovely.’

Green Van Man maintains an anonymity, a distance from us and the camera, so the intimacy of the plot is stifled and a line is drawn in the sand as far as understanding the killer’s identity any closer than his gloves, his guitar wire and the dark green van.Which might be the point. Although, Robert Rusk was a fertile character that repulsed yet fascinates.

Barry Foster plays the misogynist sex murderer, Robert Rusk… a neck tie strangler! in Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY 1972

Missing is the profoundly evocative score from Bernard Herrmann. Road Games doesn’t utilize music as much to underscore it’s narrative. Although it’s sound editing is very key in various spots of the film to accentuate the sense of alienation that is pervasive in the film. Where Herrmann’s  romantic scoring might guide the viewer along the way to either an empathetic moment or a suspenseful point in a film, the use of sound in Road Games is incorporated in a much more holistic way. And the film starts out quietly, bleak, allowing Keach’s Pat Quid to stretch his characterization of a solitary man on a journey.

Another interesting motif of the film that utilizes some of the traditional stylization of a Hitchcock film is the use of  The MacGuffin– The cooler or ‘lunch box’ that is frequently shown framed in one scene or another which is possession of the Green Van Man, might or might not hold something of interest or relevance or could just be a big red herring. We wonder as does Quid, whether it holds the severed head of the foxy hitch-hiker we see being murdered in the beginning of the film.

I found it interesting that our first awareness of the murders, takes place in a motel, not unlike 1960s Psycho.

Also of interesting note is the use of the ‘Open Road’, expansive at times indicative of alienation and desolation, lending to ‘the traveler’ theme. Like Tippi Hedren in The Birds 1963.

I’m also reminded of the cinematic open landscapes as seen in North by Northwest 1959, with it’s desert environment. While not a single engine plane as the nefarious mode of transportation in pursuit, Quid is often swallowed up by the vast Australian expanse, being taunted by a maniac in a dark green van that is playing cat and mouse with the protagonist!

Cary Grant is on the run and swallowed up whole by the vastly open landscape in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest 1959.

And again with the character of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) traveling from Arizona attempting to escape the mundane ticking of her working class existence. Running away after having stolen a large sum of money from one of the Bank’s clients. Hoping to be together with her lover Sam Loomis ( John Gavin.)Unfortunately stumbling onto a yet another desolate hostile environment that is hidden underneath quiet American family values and a nice mama’s boy named Norman Bates.

Janet Leigh is Marion Crane on the run in Hitchcock’s benchmark thriller Psycho 1960

Hitchcock often used actors who could be perceived as an ‘everyman’ Quid reiterates this line several times in the film , “Just because I drive truck doesn’t mean I”m a truck driver.” He’s fair and ethical and is just looking to do his job, but won’t be defined by anyone else’s standards.

The Lighting has the certain feel of a Hitchcock thriller, the Neo-Noirish ambient colors, highlighting only the ‘object’ the director wants us to see, with everything else framed within shadow. The obscuring of a purposefully arranged set with emphasis on the specific players being lit in close up. And colors used specifically to accentuate a mood. The use of color in Road Games help develop the feeling of a surreal type of desolation.

Right from the beginning of the film, Quid the protagonist, starts out in conflict with this mysterious stranger in the dark green van. The game of cat and mouse begin.

Oh… a neon Motel sign. Not quite the Bates Motel, but it will serve it’s purpose for Mr Smith or Jones, the Green Van Man.
The mysterious young female hitch-hiker, standing in our view.

The killer Mr Smith or Jones checking into the motel.

“First he steals my girl and then he steals my bed… ”

“I hope she steals his wallet. I bet she doesn’t even wait to take her socks off.

Continue reading “Road Games (1981) – “Cast to the wind…thy ghastly sin” for the Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made) blogathon July 7-13″

A Trailer A day keeps the Boogeyman away! Basket Case 1982

Basket Case 1982

A young man carrying a big basket that contains his deformed Siamese-twin brother seeks vengeance on the doctors who separated them against their will.

One of my all time favorite 80s horror for sure…

Frank Henenlotter’s wonderfully unique and campy horror excursion into the realm of surgical nightmares, brotherly love,  ‘separation anxiety’ and the self made man…Starring Kevin Van Hentenryck and Belial who brings a whole new level of shocks and shivers and a slight fear of play-doh! I really really wish that Henenlotter would commission Sideshow Toys, MacFarlane, Entertainment Earth or ThinkGeek to make a Belial plushy doll. I wouldn’t be able to resist!

“What’s in the basket?…What’s in the basket?…What’s in the basket?”

Happy Trailers! MonsterGirl