It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 3

‘This is Part 3 in a series. See also Part 1 and Part 2.

💥SPOILERS!

*The Star Juror Betty Field s1e24 aired March 15, 1963

Betty Field bio:

Betty Field and John Wayne in Shepard of the Hills 1941.

Betty’s fascination with the theatre was ignited in her early teenage years and led her to enroll at the American Academy of Dramatic Art by 1932. She marked her professional debut in 1933, performing in a summer stock production of “The First Mrs. Fraser,” and went on to secure stage roles in various locations. Her passion for theatre took her all the way to London, where she landed a job in a theatre production of “She Loves Me” at the beginning of 1934.

Her Broadway premiere, in November 1934, was as an understudy for the comedy “Page Miss Glory,” directed by George Abbott, in which she also played a minor role. Despite her rather unassuming appearance and distinct, monotone voice, Betty began to regularly perform in comedic plays, often under Abbott’s direction. She received high acclaim for her roles in plays such as “Three Men on a Horse” (1935), “Boy Meets Girl” (1936), “Room Service” (1937), and “The Primrose Path” (1939).

Paramount executives were impressed with Betty’s portrayal of Barbara, Henry Aldrich’s girlfriend, in the stage production of “What a Life” (1938), and they subsequently signed her to a seven-year contract after the play was adapted into a film in 1939. Throughout the 1940s, Betty played a variety of leading ingénue and supporting roles. One of her early career highlights was her performance as Mae, a farm girl, in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men” (1939), which starred Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney. However, despite her talent, Betty didn’t quite achieve stardom, partly due to her reserved demeanor and tendency to avoid the Hollywood scene.

Betty had the privilege of acting alongside some of Hollywood’s most esteemed leading men, such as Fredric March in “Victory” (1940) and “Tomorrow, the World!” (1944), John Wayne in “The Shepherd of the Hills” (1941), Robert Cummings in “Flesh and Fantasy” (1943), and Joel McCrea in “The Great Moment” (1944).However, her most remarkable performance was in the heart-wrenching role of the tormented daughter mistreated by her father, played by Claude Rains, in the classic drama “Kings Row” (1942).

Flesh and Fantasy was an eerie and whimsical part for her, she stars in one of the vignettes as Henrietta a dowdy woman who comes upon a mysterious mask during Mardis Gras and then goes to a party festooned with regalia, turbulence, and a romantic game of cat-and-mouse with the handsome Michael (Robert Cummings) A beautifully tragic tale of loneliness and the essence of what beauty is. The use of masks creates a nightmarish landscape of human disconnection.

From The Vault: Flesh & Fantasy (1943)

After delivering a powerful performance as Nona Tucker in the extraordinary depiction of Americana hardship lensed by impressionist director Jean Renoir (one of my favorite auteurs) – “The Southerner” (1945), Betty made the decision not to renew her contract with Paramount.

 

Zachary Scott and Betty Field in The Southerner 1945.

Instead, she took a hiatus from appearing in pictures and returned to her first love – the stage and Broadway. There, she appeared in distinguished plays like “The Voice of the Turtle” and “Dream Girl,” which was directed by her husband John Abbott, and won the New York Drama Critics Circle award in 1946. Her portrayal of Hedvig in Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck” also received critical acclaim.

Betty came back to work at Paramount cast as Daisy Buchanan in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby co-starring Alan Ladd. It wound up being a misadventure for the actress when the picture flopped with some critics claiming she was miscast and not glamorous enough and Ladd too was accused of being lackluster. However, Betty remained beloved on Broadway, showing off her versatility in plays such as Twelfth Night, The Rat Race, Ladies of the Corridor, and The Fourposter playing opposite Burgess Meredith, both taking over for Jessica Tandy and husband Hume Cronyn.

Betty’s expressive features had become tougher, more weathered, and bleak by the time she greeted Hollywood hello again in the mid-1950s. Still, she thrived as a character actress, portraying a number of mundane, wearisome, and unstylish roles yet with the same Betty Field authenticity. She brought credibility to a range of flawed provincial mothers and wives in films such as the highly-regarded Picnic (1955) with Kim Novak, Bus Stop starring Marilyn Monroe, and Lana Turner in the melodrama soaper Peyton Place 1957.

Even her stage roles reflected the changing face of her acting parts with productions of The Seagull, Waltz of the Toreadors, Touch of the Poet, and Separate Tables. And in the 1950s and 1960s, she began to work steadily in television.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Betty also worked steadily on television, taking on a variety of prominent roles. She continued to act at a consistent pace, although she preferred to avoid the limelight.

Betty’s final film appearance was a small but notable role as a streetwalker in Clint Eastwood’s Coogan’s Bluff (1968). Continuing to work on stage she was fearless as the imperishable Amanda in Eugene O’Neil’s The Glass Menagerie and the fragile Aunt Birdie in The Little Foxes, and in 1971 she turned in her last performance on stage as the mother Beatrice in The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds, a part that in 1972, Joanne Woodward tackled in Alvin Sargent’s film adaption.

Betty passed away at age 57 from a fatal cerebral hemorrhage in 1973, just before filming was set to begin for The Day of the Locust (1975), in which she had been cast as the flamboyant evangelist ‘Big Sister.’ The role was later taken over by Geraldine Page. Betty Field is an often criminally overlooked Hollywood actress who truly contributed some of the finest performances on stage, film, and television.

DIALOGUE

“You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”- George
“A couple of shock treatments wouldn’t do you no harm.”– Betty Field

Slamming the fridge door and shuffling her feet. Jenny confronts George’s peculiar behavior on the jury.

Jenny – “Would the star juror care to give me some justification for his behavior George- “What behavior? What behavior! The behavior that has brought down ridicule and scandal over our heads!”

George-“What you talkin’ bout Jenny?”

Jenny- “Have you gone deaf and blind?… Unplug your ears… open your eyes! George Davies the most respected highly thought-of citizen in this town protecting this infidel, this murderer… No wonder you get indigestion.”

SYNOPSIS:

In this darkly humorous episode, Dean Jagger stars as George a mild-mannered Pharmacist who is overcome with murderous lust one afternoon after putting the moves on Lola the town squeeze. When she spurns his advances he chokes her to death to keep her quiet.

Betty Field is shrill and unnerving, playing his fish wife, who annoys all of us with her whining, shrewish voice, her needling and berating George in a way that gets under the skin. Though I can see the tendency to want to needle and berate George.

Lola’s hot-tempered boyfriend J.J. is later arrested for the crime and put on trial. Knowing the boy is innocent, and not able to prove it without his confessing his own guilt, George sees a way out of his dilemma when he is appointed to the jury.

Through his efforts, J.J. is found innocent after he poses so many doubts to the rest of the jurors that he goes free.

The townsfolk boycott George’s store for helping the kid go free. And they treat him like an outcast. His wife treats him like he’s disgraced the family, saying that he’s embarrassing her and that her mother was right all along, there was insanity in his family.

But the townsfolk still believe he did it and persecute him and his mother. This irritates the vengeful townspeople so much that they force him to want to commit suicide and he gets shot by George when he struggles to get the gun away from him. He can’t do anything right.

George can’t deal with his guilty conscience and being hounded by the town and finally cracks up trying to convince them he murdered Lola and shot J.J.

But they just dismiss him as a meek, passionless man not capable of murder and just in need of rest. Having suffered a nervous breakdown from the pressures of the trial…

It begins… the story takes place somewhere in the South. It opens with the mild-mannered storekeeper George Davies and his wife Jenny dozing off on their picnic blanket near the rest of the townsfolk who are spending a lazy day.

George wanders off leaving Jenny sleeping under newspapers used as a blanket. He stumbles onto the town’s young stunner Lola Penderwaller,(Cathy Merchant plays Lola and had a brief screen career from 1961 to 1965 that included roles in four episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and a part in Roger Corman’s The Haunted Palace 1963) who is a spirited flirt boasting her beautiful body in a scant swimsuit. Director Herschel Daugherty subtly emphasizes the contrast between Lola and his dowdy wife Jenny who is back on the blanket, snoring like a truck exhaust and oblivious. Lola teases George, leading him on only to a certain, harmless point, offering him a beer. When George gets sexually aroused, he tries to grab a kiss, and Lola rebuffs his advances. The normally gutless George violently slaps her and proceeds to choke the life out of her.

In a tense moment, Will Hutchins who plays Lola’s boyfriend, the uncultivated and untamed J.J. Fenton floats by in his rowboat, the cowardly George camouflages himself behind a bush then sneaks back to the picnic blanket, taking his place next to the clueless Jenny.

“George here’s that nice fat neck you were eyeing before church… you want it now?”

Regular television character actor Crahan Denton seen on several of Boris Karloff’s anthology series  Thriller plays Sheriff Walter Watson who comes to the picnic with his sons to fish at the lake. He greets George and Jenny who offers them her fried chicken and ironically wisecracks that George loves the necks. It’s an inside joke that George finds secretly comical, but it shows on his face.

Jenny asks the same question every time she sees Sheriff Watson. Are there any criminals in jail this month? He remarks ”the only criminal in our town is time.” “Well, he’s a criminal everywhere I wish you could lock Old Man Time up.” Sheriff -” That would be alright. If we could just send Old Man Time to the electric chair.”

That reference hits George a little too close.

Lola’s lifeless body is found in the woods by the Sheriff’s son and George goes back home. There is one instance of black humor when George references ‘necks’ telling Jenny that the sheriff is “up to his neck in trouble.” George decides to go to his local bar to grab a beer, and on walking through the door the crowd accuses him of being the murderer. They all begin to laugh and tell him that they’ve been saying that to everyone who comes into the bar.

Jenny’s beau J. J. ( a role that I could easily have seen James Best take on, being adept at playing young handsome unruly types). J.J. breaks into a frenzy inside his jail cell, violently tearing apart his mattress. The sheriff sends George to his pharmacy to bring back a sedative. He keeps insisting, “You know I didn’t kill her.” Of course, George knows the truth.

George makes an anonymous phone call to the sheriff, disguising his voice, he confesses to the murder but hangs up before revealing his identity. J.J. is released on bail by his mother and begins dating Alice. Back at home with his mother and Alice, his mother is working as a laundrywoman to make ends meet. J.J. is certain he’s going to fry. Alice stands out from J.J.’s humble mother (Katherine Squire) in the downbeat atmosphere of their broken-down house, with the racy way she carries herself.

George calls J.J. to give him an anonymous warning. He also sends the judge a letter and winds up serving on the jury.

The trial begins and George consumed with guilt over J.J. being wrongly accused, insinuates himself and disrupts the courtroom proceedings. He becomes ‘the star juror’, asking a slew of questions that point to reasonable doubt.

That night, he finds a doll in a chair and a sign that says ‘electric chair’s tacked onto his back door. The jury comes back with a not-guilty verdict and J.J. is set free. When George leaves the courthouse, everyone in town now spurns him. Some of the older boys in town go to J.J.’s house and throw mud on his mother’s clean wash that drifts on the clothesline. The townsfolk even boycott George’s pharmacy, bewildered he cries to Jenny, “Well, what have I done, Jenny? Have I committed a crime? You act like you’d like to see me electrocuted.”

J.J. and his new girlfriend Alice (Jennifer West) show up at the pharmacy, looking like a true bad boy, with a black leather jacket, cowboy hat, and black boots, after all, he is the town’s murderous outcast and exile. He already started out from the wrong side of daylight, poor white trash, his mother taking in wash. Like Lola, he chooses to pal around with girls who don’t have any class. Lola was known as the town slut, who lived in a motel and Alice was a girl from up in the hills.

“He’s already got himself a new one, Alice from up in the mountains.”

Jenny gets hysterical, “George Davies if you had wanted to kill me, you couldn’t have done a better job if you had used a knife, you couldn’t have caused more pain. You not only had to smear my name and the name of your child with scandal and ridicule, you had to dishonor us too. By going MAD!!!!

‘Ridicule and scandal over our heads!”

”You’re not getting out of this house George!”

It doesn’t matter that George had managed to persuade the jury that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict J.J. and he is found not guilty. The town goes crazy.

After he loses his job, J.J. is offered the job of strangling chickens, the suggestion once again of George’s mode of killing Lola.

George tries to confess to the Sheriff. “I panicked and choked her and ran. Taking with me the weapons of the act. My and.”

J.J. gets angry with George and doesn’t think he did him any favors helping out.”’You couldn’t hurt a fly. I don’t want your lies to save me. I don’t want your burnt offering.”

George goes to the crime scene and hears haunting voices in his head accusing him of being a “killer.” Desperate for absolution, he confesses to the sheriff, but his admission falls on deaf ears. Meanwhile, a group of young men vandalize J.J.’s home and brutally beat him until Alice intervenes with a gun. George rushes to J.J.’s side and prevents him from taking his own life, but in the struggle, the gun goes off and J.J. is fatally shot.

The episode draws to a close with the sheriff telling George to go home to rest. George bursts into laughter as he realizes by the end of the ordeal, he’ll never be taken seriously. The irony and fatalistic tone of the episode has been flipped on its head, Lola’s murder will never find closure and we are left with a touch of macabre humor from the situation.

CREDITS:

The episode is directed by Herschel Daugherty who directed 16 episodes, some of the best of Boris Karloff Thriller including The Grim Reaper starring William Shatner, Henry Daniels, Elizabeth Allen, and Natalie Schafer as mystery writer Beatrice Graves, and also Prisoner in the Mirror. He was responsible for 3 of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and episodes of Suspicion 1958, Lux Playhouse 1959.

In the 1960s he appeared in tv shows including, 5 episodes of Checkmate 1960-61, 2 episodes of 87th Precinct 1961-62, Alcoa Theatre 1962-63, Kraft Mystery Theatre 1963, a few of The Twilight Zone, 2 episodes of East Side/West Side 1963-64, Mr. Novak, For the People, The Doctors and The Nurses, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Dr. Kildare, Felony Squad, Mission: Impossible, The Time Tunnel, The Rat Patrol, Hawaii Five-O, It Takes a Thief, Star Trek, an episode ‘Elegy for a Vampire of Circle of Fear and Police Woman in 1975.

The Grim Reaper [Essay on Thriller with Boris Karloff] “To me death is no more than a business partner”

He also directed several made-for-TV movies, Winchester 73 (1967), The Victim 1972, and She Cried Murder 1973.)

The Star Juror is James Bridges’s second script for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour which aired on CBS on Friday, March 15, 1963, It was based on a 1958 French crime novel called The Seventh Juror by Francis Didelot.

The Star Juror stars Dean Jagger started out in vaudeville and on the radio before starting his movie career in 1929 and his TV career in 1948. He won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in Twelve O’Clock High in 1949. He also co-starred in master director Fritz Lang’s Western Union (1941). He was also a regular on the TV series Mr. Novak from 1963 to 1965 as the high school principal. He also appeared in The Twilight Zone episode Static. He also appeared in 1972 he appeared in an episode of Columbo -The Most Crucial Game, featuring Robert Culp a regular murderer on the show.

Playing the sheriff is familiar character actor Crahan Denton who appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Presents in Coming Home and Incident in a Small Jail. He appeared in perhaps one of the top five episodes of Boris Karloff’s anthology series Pigeons From Hell.

Pigeons From Hell [Essay on Boris Karloff’s Thriller] “Is anybody home?”

J.J.’s mother is played by Katherine Squire (1903-1995), who was on screen from 1949 to 1989 and who gave similarly odd performances in two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Pen Pal, and Man From the South starring Steve McQueen. Squire plays Peter Lorre’s wife.

She was also in two other episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Thriller’s Portrait Without a Face. Her husband, George Mitchell plays the judge and was also a busy character actor from 1935 to 1973. He appeared in four episodes of the Hitchcock series, including Forty Detectives Later and The Black Curtain. Like Squire, he could be seen on The Twilight Zone and Thriller; he also appeared in the classic western, 3:10 to Yuma in 1957.

Norman Lloyd’s daughter Josie plays George’s daughter… you can see Josie in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode Body in the Barn starring this feature’s star Lillian Gish. Josie also can be seen as Mayor Pike’s daughter Josephine who sings Flow Gently Sweet Afton in sour tones and the neurotic wallflower Lydia Crosswaithe on The Andy Griffith Show.

*THREE WIVES TOO MANY – s2e12 -Teresa Wright- aired Jan.4, 1964

TERESA WRIGHT BIO:

“I only ever wanted to be an actress, not a star.”

Teresa Wright – lamblike at first glance, but don’t let the soft smile lead you to believe that there isn’t something gutsy within that charming glow. She is one of the most engaging actors who showed a resolute luster, and independence to take on Hollywood with the same veracity she pursued wicked Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt.

Teresa Wright was not only endearing but there was a lack of ceremony and authenticity to her acting and her personal life She was discovered by Samuel Goldwyn and gained early recognition for her exceptional performances in her first three films, becoming the only actor to receive Oscar nominations for each of them. Wright earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress and one for Mrs. Miniver.

It stands to reason that Times drama editor Edwin Schallert described Wright’s burgeoning career as “one of the most remarkably brilliant for a young player in Hollywood.”
Despite being a Hollywood star, she remained true to herself and rejected the pretentiousness that came along with being a star. She achieved Hollywood stardom on her own terms, without selling out for the sake of glamour.

Teresa Wright was resolute in her refusal to pose for photographs while wearing bathing suits, as well as to subject herself to superficial interviews in gossipy fan magazines. And at first, Goldwyn told her he was not of “the bathing suit school of Hollywood producers.”

Born Muriel Teresa Wright in Harlem, New York City. While attending the exclusive Rosehaven School in Tenafly, New Jersey she discovered a passion for acting after watching Helen Hayes in “Victoria Regina.”

While attending high school in Maplewood, N.J., Wright participated in theatrical productions. Although one teacher advised her to pursue typing instead, a public-speaking teacher mentored her and provided her with plays to read. He also arranged for her to spend two summers at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown.

In the two summers preceding her graduation, after receiving a scholarship, she began apprenticing at the Wharf Theatre in Massachusetts appearing in such plays as The Vinegar Tree and Susan and God.

She performed in school plays and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey graduating in 1938, then made the decision to pursue acting professionally and then moved to New York.

Wright had to drop her first name when she found out that another actress named Muriel Wright was already registered with Actors Equity.

In 1938, in her first play, she landed an understudy role in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” on Broadway and then toured in the play.

It was a minor role, but also served as a chance to understudy the lead ingénue character of Emily, actress Dorothy Maguire however when Maguire failed to return, Teresa continued in the same role under Martha Scott. Wright would eventually replace Martha Scott when the actress adapted the role of Emily in the film version.

Following her successful stage performances, Wright made her remarkable Broadway debut as Mary in Life With Father in 1939. This caught the attention of playwright Lillian Hellman, who recommended her to Goldwyn for the screen version of Hellman’s The Little Foxes.

It was during her one-year run performance in Life with Father when a talent scout from Goldwyn saw her and Teresa Wright landed her breakout role as Alexandra in The Little Foxes in 1941.

Herbert Marshall Teresa Wright and Bette Davis in The Little Foxes 1941.

She gained recognition for her work alongside Bette Davis (who played the cold calculating mother Regina) and Patricia Collinge who reprised her unparalleled Broadway role as the mercurial Aunt Birdie) in the film.

At that time she had signed a contract with MGM but refused to do publicity stunts or cheese-cake shots that would turn her into a centerfold:

“The aforementioned Teresa Wright shall not be required to pose for photographs in a bathing suit unless she is in the water. Neither may she be photographed running on the beach with her hair flying in the wind. Nor may she pose in any of the following situations: In shorts, playing with a cocker spaniel; digging in a garden; whipping up a meal; attired in firecrackers and holding skyrockets for the Fourth of July; looking insinuatingly at a turkey for Thanksgiving; wearing a bunny cap with long ears for Easter; twinkling on prop snow in a skiing outfit while a fan blows her scarf; assuming an athletic stance while pretending to hit something with a bow and arrow.”

Though she became the unwilling pin-up girl, Teresa Wright became Goldwyn’s biggest overall star during the 1940s.

Teresa received Oscar nominations for her roles in “Mrs. Miniver” (1942) the only movie she made for her studio MGM and “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942), winning the Best Supporting Actress trophy for Mrs. Miniver.

In both roles, Teresa Wright gave heartwarming performances as the granddaughter in the sentimental war-era Mrs. Miniver and as baseball icon Lou Gehrig’s kindhearted wife in Pride of the Yankees starring opposite Gary Cooper. Wright now one of the most appealing newcomers in Hollywood had garnered two Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress nods in the same year.

She holds the record for receiving back-to-back Academy Award nominations in her first three film roles, which still stands today.

Teresa Wright received top billing for Shadow of a Doubt a film that was her personal favorite and which earned every bit of that limelight in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller placing Wright at the center of the story as serial killer Joseph Cotten’s unsuspecting niece Charlie.

Unsuspecting at first…

When Young Charlie (Wright) is over the moon about her favorite Uncle Charlie coming to her sleeping California town for a visit, the whole family celebrates his arrival. Her mother Emma, Charlie’s older sister (Patricia Collinge who appeared with Wright in The Little Foxes and Casanova Brown) can’t wait to dote on her baby brother. But soon, it comes to light that Charlie might have left strangled wealthy women in his wake, and in fact, may be The Merry Widow killer the police have been furiously chasing down up and down the coast. Now young Charlie who once dreamt of leaving her boring existence behind has stumbled onto a terrifying secret that threatens her life.

Teresa Wright manages to give a nuanced performance as Charlie Newton who daringly holds her own in a game of cat and mouse with Joseph Cotten, all tangled up in danger as she carefully draws out his murderous impulses.

Wright never falters or is self-conscious in the role and her chemistry with Cotten is electric. She brings a complex emotional depth to young Charlie that elevates the film beyond its thriller trappings. Overall, Wright’s performance in Shadow of a Doubt is a testament to her skill as an actress and her ability to imbue even the most seemingly ordinary moments with profound emotional gravity.

Young Charlie is in alignment with killer Charlie’s acumen for subterfuge. In the house, all cracks on as simple as one of Emmie’s cakes if you don’t crack the eggs. But in the shadows beyond the edges, the family is unaware of, the two characters diverge – one set on self-preservation with a malignant disgust for fat lazy wives who live off their husbands and the other who seeks out the truth and bends toward humanity. Their same names are where it begins and ends. And Wright is a glowing jewel in the blackness of Hitchcock’s nightmare.

Uncle Charlie: The cities are full of women, middle-aged widows, husbands dead, husbands who’ve spent their lives making fortunes, working and working. And then they die and leave their money to their wives, their silly wives. And what do the wives do, these useless women? You see them in the hotels, the best hotels, every day by the thousands, drinking their money, eating their money, losing the money at the bridge, playing all day and all night, smelling of money, proud of their jewelry but of nothing else, horrible, faded, fat, greedy women.”

Young Charlie: ”But they’re alive. They’re human beings.”

Uncle Charlie: ”Are they? Are they, Charlie? Are they human or are they fat, wheezing animals, hmm? And what happens to animals when they get too fat and too old?”

After marrying screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, and appearing in the disappointing Casanova Brown 1944, Teresa Wright returned to form as Peggy Stephenson in William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives, featuring the ensemble cast of the Academy Award-winning film in 1946. Wright played the caring daughter of Fredric March and Myrna Loy who develops a romantic connection with the troubled veteran played by Dana Andrews.

Teresa Wright told friends that in William Wyler’s post-war drama, she was relieved to play an aspiring home wrecker.

“I’m going to break that marriage up! I can’t stand it seeing Fred tied to a woman he doesn’t love and who doesn’t love him. Oh, it’s horrible for him. It’s humiliating and it’s killing his spirit. Somebody’s got to help him. “

At last, she could finally shed her wholesome persona trying to save the man she loved from a no-good tramp (Virginia Mayo as Marie) who barely knew Fred (Dana Andrews), but director Wyler couldn’t even give her credit- calling her “the best cryer in the business.” And Goldwyn continued to cast her as the unworldly, vulnerable lasses.

1946 with Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives.

In 1946 she would star in Lewis Allen’s romantic drama The Imperfect Lady with leading man Ray Milland.

Next, Wright played Thor Callum in her husband’s screenplay for Raoul Walsh’s Pursued 1947 – a western starring Robert Mitchum and Judith Anderson about a young boy plagued by nightmares of his family’s brutal murder who is taken in by a neighboring family. He falls for his kind-hearted adoptive sister, but he faces trouble from his hateful adoptive brother and enigmatic uncle who want him dead.

So In 1948 she was once again cast as an innocent waif Lark Ingoldsby in the romantic drama Enchantment.

And while she was unhappy with the picture, the critics sang its praises-Newsweek said she “glows as the Cinderella who captivated three men,” and The New York Times said of her performance that she “plays with that breathless, bright-eyed rapture which she so remarkably commands.”

But Wright had enough of playing Cinderellas and after refusing to go on a long publicity tour promoting the film, Goldwyn canceled her $ 5,000-a-week contract and publicly criticize her as “uncooperative.”

“I will gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain the common decency without which the most acclaimed job becomes intolerable,” she told The Times during the wildly public brouhaha more than half a century ago.

Teresa Wright would wind up starring in three films for studios other than Samuel Goldwyn Productions, and in the end, Enchantment opposite David Niven and Farley Granger would turn out to be her last picture with Goldwyn after she refused to star in the studio’s next film.

In December 1948, after rebelling against the studio system that brought her fame, Teresa Wright had a public falling out with Samuel Goldwyn, which resulted in the cancellation of Wright’s contract with his studio. In a statement published in The New York Times, Goldwyn cited as reasons her refusal to publicize the film Enchantment, and her being “uncooperative” and refusing to “follow reasonable instructions”.

In her written response, Wright denied Goldwyn’s charges and expressed no regret over losing her $5,000 per week contract.

“I would like to say that I never refused to perform the services required of me; I was unable to perform them because of ill health. I accept Mr. Goldwyn’s termination of my contract without protest—in fact, with relief. The types of contracts standardized in the motion picture industry between players and producers are archaic in form and absurd in concept. I am determined never to set my name to another one … I have worked for Mr. Goldwyn for seven years because I consider him a great producer, and he has paid me well, but in the future, I shall gladly work for less if by doing so I can retain my hold upon the common decencies without which the most glorified job becomes intolerable.” –Teresa Wright

Even though her removal resulted in Wright losing a salary of $125,000, it did not diminish her capability to secure distinguished parts. Despite working on her subsequent film for a significantly lower budget of $20,000, it turned out to be another timeless classic – a post-war era drama that was released in 1950. Teresa gave a marvelous performance in Fred Zimmerman’s The Men starring newcomer Marlon Brando.

Working freelance with other studios she appeared in several inconsequential pictures that were never critical successes, though she did star in screenwriter husband’s western thriller Pursued in 1947 starring alongside Robert Mitchum, and another of his, The Capture in 1950 another crime western starring with Lew Ayers.

She starred in Something to Live For in 1952 directed by George Stevens, starring Ray Milland and Joan Fontaine.

She appeared in California Conquest in 1952, Count the Hours! 1953 a film noir directed by Don Siegel and starring Shadow of a Doubt co-star Macdonald Carey. And after that, she appeared in Track of the Cat in 1954 and Escapade in Japan in 1957.
In 1952 Teresa Wright made her foray into television with an episode of Robert Montgomery Presents. The show was called And Never Come Back and 2 episodes of Betty Crocker Star Matinee.

Also in 1952, she starred with Joseph Cotton in Andrew L. Stone’s The Steel Trap an obscure film noir about a Los Angeles bank manager (Cotten) who comes up with a plan to steal money from the bank’s vault and flee to Brazil with unsuspecting wife Laurie. (Wright) Andrew L. Stone made quite a few off-the-beaten-path noirs like A Blueprint for Murder in 1953, The Night Holds Terror in 1955, and Cry Terror! In 1958.

In 1953 she was cast in The Actress, although she was only in her early 30s, Teresa Wright began taking on character roles, even playing Jean Simmons’ mother.

The Actress directed by George Cukor and written by Ruth Gordon it is an account of the actress/playwright Ruth Gordon’s life. Teresa Wright plays Annie Jones, with Jean Simmons as Ruth Gordon Jones. The film also stars Spencer Tracy, Ian Wolfe, Anthony Perkins, Kay Williams, and Mary Wickes.

During a period in which Teresa Wright struggled to find dramatic roles, though immersed in her distinguished career in the theater she started to do considerable work for television starting with live dramatic anthology series.

The Golden Age of TV provided another lifeline to active work. She remained the strong actor that she was in productions including a TV adaptation of the beloved holiday classic, The Miracle on 34th Street (1955), in which she played the role Maureen O’Hara brought to life.
Wright was keeping very busy on television. She would appear as Mary Todd Lincoln in Love is Eternal installment of General Electric Theater and that same year in 1955 she appear on The Elgin Hour, Your Play Time, The Loretta Young Show, 3 episodes o Lux Video Theatre, The Alcoa Hour and a TV movie called The Devil’s Disciple. In 1956 she appeared on Screen Directors Playhouse and 2 episodes of Four Star Playhouse, 3 episodes of Climax!, Star Stage, The Star and the Story, Celebrity Playhouse, Studio 57, and 2 episodes of The 20th Century-Fox Hour.

Between 1952 and 1957 she appeared on several episodes of Schlitz Playhouse and The Ford Television Theatre, also in 1957 with an episode of The Web and Playhouse 90. Between 1954-1962 she made 5 appearances on The United States Steel Hour.

She also began shifting her focus to the stage, where she found the dependability her acting craved. She appeared in productions of Salt of the Earth in 1952, Bell, Book and Candle, and The Country Girl in 1953. In 1954 she starred in Henry James’ The Heiress and in The Rainmaker in 1955. In 1957 she co-starred with Pat Hingle in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs returning to Broadway.

Throughout her television career, she received three Emmy nominations. The first nomination was for her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in the 1957 CBS adaptation of “The Miracle Worker.” Her second nomination was for her role as the renowned photographer in “The Margaret Bourke-White Story” on NBC in 1960. Lastly, she was nominated for a guest appearance on the short-lived CBS series “Dolphin Cove” in 1989.

She starred as Ruth Simmons in the captivating, low-budget The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956) which tells the story of an American housewife who believed she lived before. And in 1958 she appeared in the film noir crime drama The Restless Years with John Saxon and Sandra Dee.

And In 1959, she married playwright Robert Anderson, continuing to focus on the stage and working in television. She appeared in Anderson’s emotional drama I Never Sang for My Father in 1968 in the role of Alice.

The film would be adapted to the screen in 1970 and starred Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, with Estelle Parson in the role of the adult daughter Alice.

In 1969, Teresa Wright would be cast as Jean Simmon’s mother giving the strongest performance in Richard Brook’s bleak drama The Happy Ending starring Jean Simmons as a disillusioned wife who runs away from her stifling married life in a depressed fugue binging on Casablanca, popping pills and drinking.

Wright Was just 11 years older than star Jean Simmons who played her daughter in The Actress in 1953 and The Happy Ending in 1969.

During the 1960s, Teresa Wright returned to the New York stage, starring in three plays: Mary, Mary (1962) at the Helen Hayes Theatre as Mary McKellaway, I Never Sang for My Father (1968) at the Longacre Theatre as Alice, and Who’s Happy Now? (1969) at the Village South Theatre as Mary Hallen. She also toured across the United States in stage productions of Mary, Mary (1962), Tchin-Tchin (1963) as Pamela Pew-Picket, and The Locksmith (1965) as Katherine Butler Hathaway.

Teresa made numerous television appearances throughout the decade, including on CBS’s The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (1964), NBC’s Bonanza (1964), CBS’s The Defenders (1964, 1965), and CBS Playhouse (1969). She would also appear in numerous made-for-TV movies.

In 1975, Teresa Wright appeared as Linda Loman opposite George C. Scott in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. In addition to her previous roles, she depicted the rigid Aunt Lily in a 1975 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! on Broadway, as well as in “Mornings at Seven” during its Broadway run and subsequent tour.

And in 1980, she won a Drama Desk Award as a member of the Outstanding Ensemble Performance for her appearance in the revival of Mornings at Seven.

During her appearance in Los Angeles for a performance in Mornings at Seven at the Ahmanson Theater, she shared a bit of her wisdom with aspiring actors in a USC class in 1982. “I wouldn’t pursue film, and I didn’t back then. I’d use every angle to try to get into a repertory company.”

In 1989, she earned her third Emmy Award nomination for her performance in the CBS drama series Dolphin Cove. Teresa also appeared in Murder, She Wrote in the episode “Mr. Penroy’s Vacation”. Her final television role was in an episode of the CBS drama series Picket Fences in 1996.

Teresa Wright’s later film appearances included a major role as Laura Roberts in Somewhere in Time (1980), playing the grandmother in The Good Mother (1988) alongside Diane Keaton, and her last role as Matt Damon’s eccentric landlady Miss Birdie in John Grisham’s The Rainmaker (1997), which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

“I’m just not the glamour type. Glamour girls are born, not made. And the real ones can be glamorous even if they don’t wear magnificent clothes. I’ll bet Lana Turner would look glamorous in anything.”

Teresa Wright was a masterful actor, luminous, unflinchingly genuine, and too – she is unforgettably resilient, and undeniably beautiful.

TRIVIA:

According to A. Scott Berg’s book, “Goldwyn: A Biography”, it is stated that Samuel Goldwyn “offered her a contract that night” (pg. 358). However, in a 1959 interview with Reel Classics, Teresa expressed her interest in playing the part of Alexandra in “The Little Foxes” but was hesitant about committing to a long-term studio contract. Despite this, after the film wrapped and her attempts to return to the stage were unsuccessful, she ultimately signed with Goldwyn and remained in Hollywood. (The interview is archived in the Columbia University Oral History Research Office.)

Her nickname was “Mooch”.

Married two famous Playwrights: Niven Busch and Robert Anderson, both also native New Yorkers.

Was the first female star signed under contract to Samuel Goldwyn Productions.

Was supposed to star in The Bishop’s Wife opposite David Niven and Cary Grant, which is a vehicle that Goldwyn had bought especially for her.

In honor of her heartfelt performance in The Pride of the Yankees (1942), when Teresa Wright died in 2005, when the roll call of former Yankees who had passed on was announced, her name was read out among all the ballplayers.

Along with Fay Bainter, Barry Fitzgerald, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Emma Thompson, Julianne Moore, Jamie Foxx, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson, she is one of only twelve actors to receive Academy Award nominations in two acting categories in the same year. She was nominated for Best Actress for The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and Best Supporting Actress for Mrs. Miniver (1942) at the 15th Academy Awards in 1943, winning the latter award.

Her husband, Niven Busch, originally penned Duel in the Sun (1946) for her to play the lead, as a departure from her girl-next-door roles. But pregnancy forced her to drop out, and Jennifer Jones got the lead.

She was originally set to star in producer David O. Selznick’s Duel in the Sun (1946), which was written by her then-husband, Niven Busch. However, shortly before filming was to begin she got pregnant, and Busch had to go to Selznick’s office to inform him that she would have to bow out of the film. Selznick, known for his single-mindedness, tried to talk Busch into letting her play the part, which called for a lot of physical action, and Busch absolutely refused. As he turned to leave the office, Selznick blurted out, “Dammit, Busch, she isn’t the only one you screwed!”

She was nominated for the 2015 New Jersey Hall of Fame for his services in the Performance Arts.

Teresa Wright’s cheeky stroke of genius in this episode is filled with macabre and black humor delivering a diabolically composed and humorous resolve as she works her way through each of Dan Duryea’s other wives, as casually as a housewife doing chores. A serial murderer housewife that is.

It is perhaps one of my favorite performances of Wright because of the comical dark side she invokes, quite the departure as Wright greatly envisioned from the ‘best little cryer’ that had been hitched to her in the 1940s and 50s.

Her chemistry with Duryea is fabulous as they play off each other and slowly the revelation comes to his character that she’s been shadowing him on each of his routine rendezvous’ with the other Mrs. Browns at his 3 other homes. It’s a brilliant setup. As he realizes she’s a killer and he’s out three wives.

And now… THREE WIVES TOO MANY!

Dialogue:

Marion Brown tells her husband (Duryea)- “You have been a bigamist 4 times. Now you can stay alive with me or be dead away from me!”

SYNOPSIS:

Dan Duryea is a gambler and a proud bigamist name Raymond Brown. Ray has a passion for fine cuisine and is a professional gambler who uses his wealthy wive’s money to finance his bets.
Each of his wives believes he is a salesman, so he uses his trips away from home to visit his bookie when spending a few days with each wife in three different cities.

He truly loves his wife… I mean all four of them. But something is going quite wrong. One by one his wealthy meal tickets are all turning up dead.

Though Marion is Ray’s third and they’ve been married for three years. She is the most central wife and has been the long-time dutiful wife who discovers that Ray is a bigamist. Marion has been patiently waiting to finally have her philandering husband all to herself.

Could she be the one who is bumping off all of Ray’s wives? Wright takes a much different approach from the gentle farm wife Stella in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour’s Lonely Place and shows herself off to be quite resourceful when holding onto her cheating husband.

Marion who is the wealthiest and oldest of the bunch is driven to murder by jealousy and the survival instinct to keep Ray all to herself. She visits each of the other wives and quietly dispenses with them by lacing their cocktails with poison.

Each town Ray arrives at home to see one of his wives, the police are there while she is being carried out on a stretcher. At first, the police just chalk up each death to suicide and he convinces the cops that he has an alibi. Raymond starts to suspect that Marion is behind the deaths, but he doesn’t have any proof.

Because each murder has happened in 3 different cities, the police never connect the women’s deaths. Marion is able to move easily from murder to murder because she is a refined, beautiful, and charming woman who can easily seduce unsuspecting women into dropping their guard.
And she has learned to be a fantastic bartender who brings her own strychnine.

Ray has managed to stick to an unchallenging subterfuge with his four wives, in order to prevent them from knowing about each other.

Directed by Joseph M. Newman, who directed 10 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Three Wives Too Many is a powerfully satirical parody with sharpened edges pulled off masterfully by Teresa Wright who is the strong protagonist Marion Brown, in a predominantly woman-centered thriller. Leaving Duryea on the periphery looking in on the wake of his misadventures and marital anarchy. The episode explores greedy love, betrayal, and delicious revenge.

As Brown comes to the realization that all of his wives are now dead, the television adaptation abandons suspense, instead going for the cynical observations about post-war American gender roles of husbands and wive in the 1960s.

The episode is a masterful bit of dark humor as the two paths converge, the take-offs and landings of Ray and Marion both traveling on the same path but for different reasons, and only Marion is aware of both.

The show begins in Newark, N.J. where a taxi pulls up to an apartment complex. A woman, elegantly attired and with a little grey in her hair, steps out of the cab. There’s a close-up of her finger pressing the doorbell of an apartment. The card on top of the button bears the inscription “Mr. & Mrs. R. Brown.”

Now inside the apartment, a younger woman in pants gets up from an upscale modern sofa (a contrast to the traditional interior design and furnishings of her home in Baltimore) to answer the door. Marion, tells Bernice that she flew in from Baltimore just to see her. After dancing around with niceties, she lays it out that she’s a relative by marriage…

Bernice –“Forgive this place I’m a terrible housekeeper when my husband isn’t around -well even when he is.”
Marion “It’s difficult to care when your husband’s gone so much.”
Bernice “Oh well won’t you sit down I didn’t even ask your name.”
Marion “Mrs. Brown.”
Bernice “Mrs. Brown?”
Marion “Mrs. Raymond Brown we’re kind of related.”
Bernice “Well that’s kind of reassuring, knowing I belong to such a large family.”
Marion “Haha tremendous. I’m just astonished at how many relatives keep showing up in Baltimore.”
Bernice “Are you here on a pleasure trip Mrs. Brown- Oh that sounds like I’m talking to myself.”
Marion “My name is Marion. Sort of on business for all of us but your husband said that for any big investment, both of you have to agree.”
Bernice “Oh no not always.”
Marion “I mean since the money is really yours.”
Bernice “He told you that?”
Marion “Well it’s true isn’t it?”
Bernice “Well in a way. When we were first married he needed some extra money and I had some. But then husbands and wives share don’t they?”
Marion “Oh yes always, everything.”
Bernice “You say that so pointedly.”
Marion “My dear the Browns are famous for getting to the point.”
Bernice “You’re not related are you There’s something in back of this Mrs. Brown what is it? You’re not remotely related to my husband.”
Marion “That’s right.”

She maintains that sardonic southern charm that stings like a snake bite.

Marion “It’s more than remotely.” her eyes flicker as she looks at Bernice
Bernice “I don’t understand.”
Marion “I’m related directly to your husband.”
Bernice “How?”
Marion “By a previous marriage.”
Bernice “You’re his ex-wife?”
Marion “His present wife. He’s my husband too.”
Bernice “How could he! how could he!”
Marion “By being selfish.”
Bernice “He was kind.”
Marion “He married both of us. there may be others.”
Bernice “He loved me.”
Marion “I know it hurts but you must realize what he is.”
Bernice “How can you be so unemotional about it?”
Marion “I’ve had my tears…”

As the scene unfolds, Marion reveals Ray’s bigamy to Bernice (Jean Hale) and to us. Shaken, Bernice is consoled by Marion, who suggests they should both retaliate against their husband.

Marion tells her, “’ You are a beautiful woman, Bernice, you’ll have no trouble at all finding a new husband. But a woman my age, now I would have a problem.'”

However, Marion’s own sinister plan comes to light as she prepares cocktails for the two of them, but secretly laces Bernice’s drink with poison.

Having premeditated the murder, Marion takes great care to wipe her fingerprints from the bottle and glass. Bernice unwittingly ingests the lethal drink and promptly collapses onto the floor and Marion goes home to Baltimore.

Brown is seen trimming a flower outside his house before he heads inside to give it to Marion. On the surface, it seems the perfect image of a happy couple. However, their easy banter carries an ominous undertone, evident to both Marion and us who have already seen Bernice lifeless on the floor after a lethal dose of Marion’s payback to Ray.

Ray thinks he’s been successful at hiding his secret life, but what Ray doesn’t realize is that Marion is onto him. Now both he and Marion share a blueprint of duplicitous and now sinister transgressions.

She’s happy he’s finally home. He tells her that he plans on taking her to Europe, where women in their 40s come into their own.

At some point, the scene turns ominous as Ray and Marion go down to the cellar to inspect the hole and the oil tank that will eventually be installed there. We’re aware that Ray feels something lurking as he slips and falls into the hole like a grave. He gazes up at the tank that is suspended over his head held only by a chain.

Marion reaches for a crank handle that could potentially trigger the tank to release abruptly. Brown cautions her to handle it carefully, oblivious to the fact that she is privy to his marital treachery.

She tells him ”It just wants you here all the time.” and when she goes to hug him, he falls into the hole. He yells at her to take her hand off the handle. But she lingers a bit… one slip and the tank could fall and crush him.

As the camera follows Marion up the stairs it pauses and something in her eyes says that she knew exactly what she was doing when her hand lingered on the handle.

Once Ray goes back upstairs Marion strokes the handle following his footsteps flirting with the idea of killing him. She seems to be holding it like an old friend. Or maybe a new one?

Teresa Wright is an absolute natural beauty. She’s glowing and totally empowered.

Another plane lands, prompting Brown to drive to a nearby public park where he rendezvouses with Bleeker, who outwardly appears like a businessman but is, in reality, a bookie. Brown places a significant bet and Bleeker who is already on his third marriage and confesses that he’s constantly arguing with his wife. Brown offers some discreet and telling advice, that you can choose to marry “for love AND money…

“I’m a creature of habit.”

Ray gets home to see Bernice and finds the police swarming all over the apartment, investigating what they say is an apparent suicide. The scene is played as an absurd comedy as he seems utterly flustered by the commotion, all the while hiding the fact that this is only one of his many wives. He insists that she wouldn’t kill herself. She just bought a new cookbook, because she knew he liked fine cooking. Everything she did was to please him. She was happy. “She was beautiful and strong. I loved her.”

”I envy you…”

Following the funeral, Brown is confronted by Bernice’s sister and brother-in-law at the empty apartment he lived with Bernice. Her catty sister confronts Ray about Bernice having cried every day from loneliness, and his being on the road all the time. This paints a very different picture of their seemingly ideal marriage. She blames him for her death However, as they leave, the sister’s timid husband tells Ray that “I envy you”, a hint that he wishes his overbearing wife would meet a similar fate.

Ray is now in Hartford he goes to call his other wife Lucille. But by now she has answered the door and once again Marion is waiting for her and doesn’t waste any time putting her cards on the table.

“Why did you do it? Why did you marry my husband?”

She asks, “‘Why did you marry my husband?'” As she points a small pistol at Lucille. This other beautiful wife tells Marion that they’ve been married for five years, which means she’s been married the longest to Ray.

Marion toys with Lucille and tells her that she has not yet decided whether to kill her or not.

The two women begin to talk about him and Marion shares her insight with Lucille, ‘A man is what he does, not what he says.’

Quote shockingly, Lucille defends Ray ‘I admire any man who can get along with so many women.”

As part of Marion’s method of choice, she goes into the kitchen to prepare the drinks and slips the poison into the bottle. One more to go…

Lucille (Linda Lawson) played the role of the enigmatic mermaid in Curtis Harrington’s surreal NIGHT TIDE.

THE BEACH PARTY BLOGATHON- CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) & Night Tide (1961) : Gills-A LOVE STORY!!!

“He seemed happy.”
“Well, he pretended so much how could you tell? A man is what he does not what he says. Why should we spare his feelings we’re not his only wives.”

”Mix it with something.” Marion laughs, “what did you say?” I said mix it with something.” “Delighted!” She pours the poisonous cocktail.

Once again Ray arrives as Lucille’s lifeless body is being taken out of their apartment. And once again he is greeted by another policeman who says she must have killed herself. Ray is absolutely aghast at this point, “She loved life too much!'” And in this odd twist on the husband always being suspected, he is not suspected of foul play.

Ray phones Marion that he’s leaving for Boston and for the first time she asks to go with him and he says yes. In their hotel room, she is beaming after having had a ‘wonderful day.’
He tells her that he has a late-night business appointment, but she informs him that she’s going home that night. Revealing in a cryptic comment –

 ‘I know I’m becoming more important in your life every day,’ she says, and he responds, “‘More than you realize …'” Wright is so comically effective with all her dialogue using a cheeky sardonic purr that tickles you with each delivery. This particular line highlights its best example.

Ray suspects Marion but still isn’t quite sure, those his facial expression conveys it with mocking distress, as she pulls the strings. He meets Bleeker one more time and tells him that he’ll need more financial backers before he can proceed with any more wagers. Though he loves each one of his wives, essentially they have been business ventures after all.

The last wife is carried out by the police.

He enters his house in Baltimore and finds Marion lying on the couch, and he fears the worst.

When she wakes up and seems perfectly fine, Brown feels relieved. Marion suggests they have a cocktail informing him that she’s become very good at mixing drinks.

And as they talk, he notices a pamphlet titled The Widow’s Guide on the coffee table and grows visibly worried.

He runs downstairs to check the basement and discovers that the hole is still there and will remain as a reminder that it can always turn into a grave. But the tank suspended above it is now gone.

“Marion!!!!!”

“Why did you yell at me like that?” “You were so still. So motionless.”

Marion insists on mixing Ray a cocktail. “Where’s the harm? A drink here and there never harmed anybody. At least not me… I turned over a whole new leaf”
“It sounds like you turned over a whole new tree.” “You are delicious!”


“She tells him to stop acting like a fugitive from justice .”Why’d you say that?”
“As if the police had you linked with some terrible crime.”
“Out with it! Say it and get it over with.”
Marion uses his traveling sales job as a metaphor.
That the company has asked too much of him. That he should concentrate on this area. ‘Our Area.”  Meaning their marriage.
“What if I don’t like it?”
“You don’t have to like it. You just have to accept it.”
“Then it’s true You did it… all of them.”
She drinks from both glasses. “See a marital bond.”

When he goes to call the police, she warns him, “I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”

Whatever the police find out they’ll only discover that you had a motive. ”The police accepted my explanations.”Explanation singular. One explanation yes, two…maybe… three.” (she shakes her head)

“I will see you executed for murder if you leave me.”

Now you can be happy with me or be dead away from me.”

“I was a happy man.” “A very unhappy man.” “Ecstatically happy.”

She gives him the choice. If not the police… there’s always the hole in the cellar.

CREDITS:

Three Wives Too Many was adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and broadcast on CBS on Friday, January 3, 1964. It was written by Kenneth Fearing who wrote seven novels, including The Big Clock in 1946, which the 1948 film that kept the title was released. It was later adapted as No Way Out in 1987. From the mid-1950s to 1960 he had several of his stories were published in crime and mystery digest.

Arthur A. Ross wrote the teleplays for eight episodes in the last two seasons of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, airing in 1964 and 1965. Beginning his career as a scriptwriter for films in 1942, he diversified to radio in 1951 and television in 1952.

Ross was responsible for the screenplays of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and The Creature Walks among Us (1956), although he endured a period of blacklisting in the 1950s. He won an Edgar Award for collaborating on the script of the Kraft Mystery Theatre episode “The Problem in Cell Block 13” (1962) and continued to write for both television and film until 1980.

Joseph Newman embarked on his Hollywood career in the 1930s, initially as an assistant director, before progressing to directing shorts. Eventually, in 1942, he earned the distinction of a feature director. One notable film he directed during the span of 1942 to 1961 was “This Island Earth” (1955). Newman transitioned to television directing from 1960 to 1965, helming notable episodes of “The Twilight Zone” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” including the acclaimed episode “An Unlocked Window.”

Dan Duryea (1907-1968), cast as Richard Brown started out on Broadway in the 1930s before venturing into film in 1941. Duryea made frequent appearances in Westerns, and at times entered the world of villainy during the dark, sordid, and guilt-ridden days of film noir including Fritz Lang’s “The Woman in the Window” (1944) and “Scarlet Street” (1945). He also had roles in The Great Flamarion, Criss Cross, Too Late for Tears and Johnny Stool Pigeon, Black Angel, Terror Street, and The Burglar -He also made an appearance on “The Twilight Zone.” episode Mr. Denton on Doomsday.

Robert Cornthwaite portrayed Bleeker, Brown’s bookie. His on-screen presence extended from 1950 to 2005, encompassing numerous television appearances in shows like “Thriller,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “The Night Stalker,” and two episodes of “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” You might remember his performance as the altruistic scientist who insists on making friends with the volatile super-carrot-like alien in Howard Hawk’s The Thing from Another World” (1951).

David Fresco who portrayed Bernice’s sister-in-law’s husband who envies Duryea being free of his wife can be seen in numerous television roles in shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Batman,” “Night Gallery,” and “The Odd Couple.” Impressively, he was featured in a total of 12 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including “The Gloating Place.”

 

Continue reading “It’s the pictures that got small! – “Good Evening” Leading Ladies of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Part 3″

BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror

 BARBARA STEELE   – BLOODY WELL BELOVED

The role Barbara Steele plays in the legacy of Italian Gothic cinema of the 1960s achieving cult status, is arguably her most recognizable contribution to the sub-genre of the horror film. She’s been christened The High Priestess of Horror, Queen of Horror, and The Dark Goddess, the latter, the implication being her prowess is proof there’s a link between beauty (a woman’s power) and evil. Steele’s persona is suitable as a femme fatale, and the sum of her work is extremely feminist.

According to journalist Maitland McDonagh, she is The Face that Launched a Thousand Screams. She is the sadomasochistic Madonna of the “cinefantastique”; the queen of the wild, the beautiful, and the damned.”

“Of all the stars of horror cinema, Barbara Steele may have come the closest to pure myth {…} she suggests a kinky and irresistible sexual allure” – (David J Hogan)

“With goldfish-bowl eyes radiating depraved elfin beauty, and what she calls herold, suspicious Celtic soul burning blackly within, Steele played the princess in a dark fairytale.” ‘They sense something in me’ she once said of her fans, but surely it was true of her directors also. Steele followed with ‘Maybe some kind of psychic pain. The diva Dolorosa of the 1910s, reincarnated as a voluptuous revenant.’ – (from David Cairns and Daniel Riccuito for Sight and Sound)

“Angel Carter (1982) named the three surrealist love goddesses as Louise Brooks first and foremost followed by Dietrich and third Barbara Steele. With regards to Steele however, not all the following descriptions emanate from surrealists caught in the grip of amour fou” (obsessive passion).- (The Other Face of Death: Barbara Steele and La Maschera Del Demonio by Carol Jenks from NECRONOMICON edited by Andy Black)

“The very symbol of Woman as vengeful, alien and ‘other’.” (Nicholls 1984)

“Steele perfectly embodies both the dread and the desire necessary to imply alluring and transgressive sexuality.” (Lampley-Women in the Horror films of Vincent Price)

“It’s not me they’re seeing. They’re casting some projection of themselves, some aspect that I somehow symbolizes. It can’t possibly be me.” Barbara Steele quoted-(Warren 1991)

“You can’t live off being a cult.” Barbara Steele

“When did I ever deserve this dark mirror?”

 

Continue reading “BRIDES OF HORROR – Scream Queens of the 1960s! 🎃 Part 4: The Dark Goddess-This Dark Mirror”

Chapter 4 – Queers and Dykes in the Dark: Classic, Noir & Horror Cinema’s Coded Gay Characters:

CODED CLASSIC HORROR THEORY “The Uncanny & The Other”

“Scenes of excessive brutality and gruesomeness must be cut to an absolute minimum…”

“As a cultural index, the pre-Code horror film gave a freer rein to psychic turmoil and social disorientation because it possessed a unique freedom from censorship… the Hays Office admits that under the Code it is powerless to take a stand on the subject of ‘gruesomeness.‘(Thomas Doherty)

Horror films in particular have made for a fascinating case study in the evolving perceptions of queer presence; queer-horror filmmakers and actors were often forced to lean into the trope of the “predatory queer” or the “monstrous queer” to claim some sense of power through visibility and blatant expressions of sexuality.- Essential Queer Horror Films by Jordan Crucciola-2018

Though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, they were willing to pay for scripts that dealt with characters that were social outcasts and sexually non-normative. The horror genre is perhaps the most iconic coded queer playground, which seems to have an affinity with homosexuality because of its apparatus of ‘otherizing’ and the inherent representation of difference. The horror genre crosses over boundaries that include transgressions between heterosexuality and queerness. The villain, fiend, or monster plays around with a variety of elements that while usually separate, might merge male and female gender traits.

The horror film, in particular, found its place asserting a queer presence on screen. The narratives often embraced tropes of the ‘predatory queer’ or the ‘monstrous queer’ in order to declare themselves visible while cinematic queers were elbowed out of the way. Filmmakers had to maneuver their vision in imaginative ways to subvert the structure laid out for them by the Code.

As Harry M. Benshoff explains in his book Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality in the Horror Film, “Immediately before and during the years of World War II, Universal Studio’s horror films began to employ a more humanistic depiction of their monsters,” and the films of Val Lewton, like Cat People, reflected “a growing awareness of homosexuality, homosexual communities, and the dynamics of homosexual oppression as it was played out in society and the military.” So even though Hollywood execs refused to show explicit queerness, during the first true horror boom in American cinema, they were willing to pay for stories about social outcasts and sexually nonnormative figures. Horror fans thus found themselves awash in some of the genre’s most iconic queer-coded characters of all time.

On a Greek Island, Boris Karloff plays Gen. Nikolas Pherides in Val Lewton/Mark Robsin’s Isle of the Dead 1945. Driven insane by the belief that Thea (Ellen Drew) who suffers from catalepsy is the embodiment of an evil vampiric force, is a demon called a vorvolaka. Lewton drew on collective fears, and all his work had an undercurrent of queer panic and a decipherable sign of homophobia.

The Vorvolaka has beset the island with plague. Thea- “Laws can be wrong, and laws can be cruel, and the people who live only by the law are both wrong and cruel.”

The Pre-Code era was exploding with American horror films, that reflected the angst, social unrest, and emotional distress that audiences were feeling. Personified in films that used graphic metaphors to act as catharsis, the images were often filled with rage, as Thomas Doherty calls it ‘the quality of gruesomeness, cruelty and vengefulness’. Think of the angry mobs with their flaming torches who hunt down Frankenstein’s monster, eventually crucifying him like a sacrificial embodiment of their fury. James Whale’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 1931 was a smash hit for Universal. Other studios were trying to ride the wave of the awakening genre of the horror picture. Paramount released director Rouben Mamoulian’s adaption of the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, published in 1886. The film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931 stars Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins. During the period of Pre-Code, many horror films proposed grisly subject matter that would shock and mesmerize the audience. For example, actor/director Irving Pichel’s The Most Dangerous Game (1932) starring Joel McCrea, Leslie Banks, and Fay Wray.

In 1932 Michael Curtiz directed Doctor X starring Lionel Atwill who would become one of the leading mad scientists of the genre.

Michael Curtiz’s macabre horror/fantasy experiment of homosocial ‘men doing science’, crossing over into profane territories and embracing dreadful taboos!

All scenes below from Dr. X (1932)

Fay Wray is Atwill’s daughter who is the only woman surrounded by a group of scientific nonconformists.

The adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story of the Eastern European incubus was interpreted by Tod Browning in Dracula 1931, immortalized by Hungarian stage actor Bela Lugosi with his iconic cape and mesmerizing stare. While his nightly visitations were blood driven and cinematically sexual in nature, there is a very homoerotic element to his influence over Renfield (Dwight Frye) and his gaze of gorgeous David Manners as John Harker.

Bela Lugosi looks down upon David Manners in a scene from the film ‘Dracula’, 1931. (Photo by Universal/Getty Images)

Robert Florey directed the macabre Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe. And a film that has no connection to Poe’s story but in the name is one of the most transgressive, disturbing horror films rampant with vile taboos, such as necrophilia, incest, sadism, satanism, and flaying a man alive, is the unorthodox The Black Cat (1934). The film stars Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, one of four pictures they would do together. A pair of enemies who have a score to settle, ghosts of a past war, and stolen love all take place with the backdrop of a stylish Bauhaus set design and high-contrast lighting.

Paramount released Murders in the Zoo (1933) with Lionel Atwill a sadistic owner of a zoo, who uses wild animals to ravage and kill off any of his wife’s (Kathleen Burke) suitors. Kathleen Burke is well known as the panther girl in Erle C. Kenton’s horrifically disturbing Island of Lost Souls 1932, an adaptation of master fantasy writer H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. Incidentally, Welles, Laughton, and wife Elsa Lanchester had been good friends earlier on, before the filming of Lost Souls. The film stars Charles Laughton as the unorthodox, depraved scientist who meddles with genetics and nature. He creates gruesome human/animals, torturing them with vivisection in his ‘house of pain.’ The film also stars Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, and Bela Lugosi as The Sayer of the Law.

And in 1933 King Kong shows a giant ape grasping the half-naked object of his affection with unmentionable connotations of bestiality between the ape and Fay Wray. With scenes of Wray writhing in his gigantic paws, he lusts after her, until his desire kills him. It’s almost like fantasy noir, the object of your desire, will ultimately kill you!

The 1930s and 1940s — Fear the Queer Monsters

Re-assessing the Hitchcock Touch; by Wieland Schwanebeck -As Rhona Berenstein asserts, the horror genre “provides a primary arena for sexualities and practices that fall outside the purview of patriarchal culture, and the subgeneric tropes of the unseen, the host and the haunted house.”

By the same token, Kendra Bean concludes that Mrs. Danvers is portrayed as “a wraith; a sexual predator who is out to make Mrs. de Winter her next victim.”

Queer characters in horror films during the early period, reveal similarities between Mrs. Danvers and the staging of earlier sapphic characters, such as Gloria Holdens’s well-known portrayal of Countess Marya Zaleska in Dracula’s Daughter 1936. Yet, similar to the self-discipline of Mrs. Danvers, Dracula’s Daughter remains a figure of primacy and pity Ellis Hanson argues Dracula’s Daughter presents “the possibilities of a queer Gothic” early on in Hollywood history, “rich in all the paradox and sexual indeterminacy the word queer and the word Gothic imply.

There was a revival of the horror craze during the period of WWII. The Hollywood studios, both major and ‘Poverty Row” like Monogram and Republic realized that horror movies were a lucrative business. The studios began to revisit the genre looking for, not only fresh formulas, but they resurrected, the classic monsters, dropping them into new plots. They also envisioned uniting the gangster film with horror films, and this homogenizing led to a ‘queering’ of the two styles, that demonstrated phallocentric ( guns, scientific penetration) and homoerotic themes and images into a sub-genre.

Public awareness of homosexuality reached a new height during these years, primarily due to the new set of social conditions wrought by war. Slowly , the love that dare not speak its name was being spoken, albeit in ways almost always obscurantist, punitive and homophobic. The linkage of homosexuality with violence and disease remained strong. Monsters in the Closet -Harry Benshoff

Rhona Berenstein in her insightful book Attack of the Leading Ladies points out that films featuring the mad scientist trope operate with the homosocial principle which speaks of the homo eroticism of males working together in consort subverting science together, as a group of men who hide behind their objectification -the female object of their gaze, are in fact, figures of objectification themselves. They are simultaneously homosocial, homoerotic, and homophobic in aspect; … potentially possessing an extra-normative commitment between the two men.

Mad Doctor movies are homosocial in nature. The mad doctor movie is a subgenre that below the surface glorifies intimate male camaraderie and male homosexuality, and by the close of the picture, society, the prevailing culture must in turn annihilate, that which is repressed. But it is not exclusively a vehicle to express homosexuality through homosocial interactions. There is a component not only of male bonding, a world without women, the thrust is a synthesis of misogyny and patriarchal tyranny and oppression of women. Homosocial relationships between men in these science horrors show the man’s desire for connection to other men, even one created by his own hand.

According to (Twitchell) in his Dreadful Pleasures, and Attack of the Leading Ladies (Rona Berenstein) Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein in all three Universal pictures, was at least performing bisexuality. Whale’s 1933 Frankenstein might give way to the homosocial realm of the mad scientist trope, of ‘homoerotic indulgence’ as these men exclude women from the pursuit of their fulfillment. Twitchell views the scientist’s fluid sexuality in order to examine the concept of a man controlling women’s primacy of giving birth. This might explain Dr. Frankenstein’s venture into unnatural reproduction. A process he wants to divert to himself without women’s exclusive right to motherhood. In the scene where he is as close to giving birth to a full-grown man, he seems to display a sexual arousal, when his creation comes to life. Henry Frankenstein provokes nature and defies his heterosexuality. As Whale was an openly gay director in Hollywood, it can be pondered whether he knew exactly what he was suggesting. Thesiger’s sexually ambiguous, or okay, not so ambiguous Dr. Pretorius, the mad scientist who pressures Henry Frankenstein to revitalize his experiments and create a mate for the monster. Pretorius is the scientist who insists Henry continue his creative efforts in Bride of Frankenstein. Vitto Russo called Thesiger, a “man who played the effete sissy… with much verve and wit.”

George Zucco like Lionel Atwill often portrayed the unorthodox scientist who flirted with taboos. He plays mad scientist Dr. Alfred Morris in The Mad Ghoul (1943) As a university chemistry professor, he exploits medical student Ted Allison (David Bruce) with his experimental gas that transforms Ted into a malleable, yielding macabre ghoul, whom Morris directs to kill and remove the victim’s hearts using the serum to temporarily bring Ted back from his trance like death state. David Bruce’s character is represented as a ‘queer’ sort of young man. Not quite masculine and is unable to get his girlfriend Evelyn Ankers to fall in love with him. As the Mad Ghoul, he becomes a monstrous queer.

In 1932, director Tod Browning’s Dracula based on Bram Stoker’s story of a fiendish vampire who in a sexually implicit way, violates his victims by penetrating them with his fangs. The story pushed the boundaries of storytelling, and there was an inherent subtext of ‘queer’ ravishment when he sucks the blood of Dwight Frye to make him his loyal servant.

In Jonathan Harker’s Journal, the protagonist recounts his impressions of his interaction with the vampire, Dracula “As the Count leaned over me and his hands touched me I could not repress a shudder. It may have been that his breath was rank, but a horrible feeling of nausea came over me, which do what I would, I could not conceal.” For (Noël Carroll) the entry in his diary conveys revulsion by the Count’s closeness and offensive presence, which causes him to become sickened.

But it also could be read that Harker’s ‘shudder’ is not about his revulsion, but rather, an uncontrolled sexual response to the vampire’s looming over him which could be interpreted not just as hunger for his ‘blood’ but an expression of repressed sexual desire and the fear it causes.

Horror movies have always pushed the boundaries of normalcy, by virtue of the fact that these films are inhabited by ‘monsters’, something ‘queerly’ different. And it is natural to observe two diverging responses to the impact of the horror genre and often, its persecution of what is ‘different’ and the source of what causes our anxiety.

Dracula may appear as the image of a man, but the count is far from human. While monsters in classical horror films are based on systems of maleness, they are split from being actual men. Although there are physical interactions and suggestive contact with the heroine, there isn’t the foundation of heterosexuality, but something quite deviant, within their aggressively erotic encounters and/or assaults. The understanding of sexuality and the most narrow identifications that are assigned to varying orientations in a large sense is not translatable for the deeper layers of the monster and their relationship to their victims. In Hollywood, horror films can be seen as heterosexuality being invaded by an abhorrent outside force, inherent in the underlying message could be racism, classism, sexism, and gay panic. Though it can be interpreted as a landscape of heterosexuality that is in the full power of its universal presence, horror films are perfect platforms that can illustrate the collapse of heterosexuality and the subversion of sexuality.

The horror genre is a breeding ground for portrayals of the shattering of heterosexual power. This can be seen in Lambert Hillyer’s Dracula’s Daughter (1936) starring Gloria Holden as the sapphic vampire who lives in a New Village-type artist’s den, it signals her outsider status from domesticity and normalcy.

In White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi plays the eerily menacing Legendre. He turns men into lifeless workers who run the sugar mill. Legendre also begins to turn the plantation owner, Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer) into one of his zombies. His motivation for his control over people is ambiguous, though there seems to be sexual reasoning for both the beautiful Madeline (Madge Bellamy) and Beaumont. In the scene where Beaumont is nearly paralyzed, Legendre’s control over his male victim parallels the sexual entrapment of the movie’s heroine.

MAD LOVE (1935) I have conquered science! Why can’t I conquer love?

Karl Freund’s Grand Guignol Mad Love (1935) shifts from gazing at the female to gazing at the male. Here the focus is on Peter Lorre in his American screen debut as Dr. Gogol, who has an obsession with Frances Drake as Yvonne Orlac an actress who works at Grand Guignol Theatre. To Gogol, she is the typified defenseless heroine whom he tries to lure away from her husband Stephen (Colin Clive) using his knowledge of scientific alchemy.

Though Gogol tries to become Yvonne’s master, his Galatea, there are critics who read the struggle between the two men, as not just a rivalry for Yvonne’s love, but Gogol’s desire for Stephen as well. Gogol is responsible for grafting new hands onto Stephen’s mangled body after a train crash. Mad Love could fit the criteria for the subgenre of science/horror films where the male gaze is diverted from the female object toward other men, in this case, what connected the two was the preservation of Stephen’s hands. Why then is it not possible that the focus could shift from Gogol’s attraction to Yvonne to the homosocial dynamics between Gogol as a doctor and his subject Stephen?

Mad Love possesses some of the horror genre’s most tenacious performances of gender play. (Carol Clover) asks us to take a closer look at Freund’s film, it is less about the “suffering experienced by women, but at a deeper, more sustained level, it is dedicated to the unspeakable terrors endured by men.”

In a similar fashion to Waldo Lydecker’s (Laura) and Hardy Cathcart’s (The Dark Corner) pathology of objectifying Laura and Mari, Gogol worships Yvonne – his Galatea, with a measure of scopophilia that lies within his gaze upon the perfection of female beauty. To control and possess it. The pleasure is aroused by the mere indulgence of looking at her.

Gogol pays 75 francs to purchase the wax statue of Galatea. The seller remarks “There’s queer people on the streets of Montmartre tonight.”

Gogol’s maid Francoise talks to the statue, “Whatever made him bring you here. There’s never been any woman in this house except maybe me… “I prefer live ones to dead ones.”

A Time Magazine review of Mad Love in 1933 notes this queer appeal directly, even comparing Lorre’s acting skills to those of another homosexual coded actor: I find the comment about their faces rude and insulting to both Lorre and Laughton, both of whom I am a tremendous fan.

Mad Love’s insane doctor is feminized throughout the film… In fact, the same reporter who noted Gogol’s sadism argues for his feminine demeanor: “Lorre, perfectly cast, uses the technique popularized by Charles Laughton of suggesting the most unspeakable obsessions by the roll of a protuberant eyeball, an almost feminine mildness of tone, an occasional quiver of thick lips set flat in his cretinous ellipsoidal face. This reviewer came closer than any other to articulate the subtext of mad doctor movies. He seems on the verge of noting that Lorre, Like Laughton is an effeminate madman obsessed by unspeakable homosocial desire. Attack of the Leading Ladies: Gender Sexuality and Spectatorship in Classic Horror Cinema by Rhona Berenstein

Frances Drake’s heroine masquerades as a wife who deludes herself into believing that her husband is more masculine than he really is. Gogol has a curious empathy with Stephen, whom he touches frequently and prolonged. Although Gogol pursues the heroine, Yvonne, at the theater, forcing a kiss on her, his focus is primarily manipulating Stephen’s body, rejoining his hands and massaging them to stimulate life back into them. When he realizes that Stephen’s hands cannot be grafted back successfully to his wrists, he turns to another man, the hands of a knife thrower who was executed as a notorious murderer. Once Stephen recovers from the surgery, he can no longer continue as a concert pianist but does develop the desire to throw sharp knives.

On the surface the plot of Mad Love appears to be a heterosexual obsession, the most unspoken context is the connection between Gogol and Stephen. As is true of Frankenstein’s labor of love in Whale’s first film, Gogol sews men’s body parts together and the result is a monster of sorts. (Berenstein)

In the film’s climax, Yvonne hides in Gogol’s bedroom and pretends to be the wax statue of Galatea. When Gogol touches the statue, she lets out a scream. In a euphoric daze (as in the original story) he believes that he has the power to bring the statue of Galatea to life. Yvonne begs him to let her go as he tries to strangle her.

Stephen then rushes to his wife and holds her in his arms. With his eyes fixed on the offscreen space in which Gogol’s body lies, he croons: “My darling.” The homosocial desire is destroyed when Stephen murders Gogol who intones “Each man kills the thing he loves”— echoing on the soundtrack.

In the film’s closing moments, the secret desire is finally spoken out loud…Has Stephen killed the man he loves? Given that the phrase that Gogol mutters was written originally by Oscar Wilde, whose homosexuality scandalized the British social and legal system in 1895, reading the homosocial desire into Mad Love within the very last moments we are left to decipher the suspended cues. We are left with Stephen’s gazing at Gogol’s face and his knifed body as he lay dying, he speaks the words, ‘My darling” while the camera frames the two men sharing that moment in the closing scene.

The mad doctor narrative is particularly predisposed to homosocial impulses. “intense male homosocial desire as at once the most compulsory and the most prohibited of social bonds” – Epistemology of the Closet (Sedgwick)

Sedgwick investigated early fantasy/horror novels, Shelley’s Frankenstein 1818, Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde 1886, and Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau 1895. At the beginning of the 1930s, these stories centered around mad doctors who delved into unorthodox, profane explorations and were all adapted to the screen. All of these nefarious or scientific, inquisitive men, cultivated secret experiments, challenging the laws of nature. What Sedgwick found was that the Gothic literary representations of men performing homosocial collaborations were ‘not socially sanctioned and shunned.’

It was considered a necessary narrative element as well as a monstrous possibility that threatened to subvert the status quo. The combination of these two attitudes is expressed in homosocial narratives- male bonding is both horrifying and guaranteed, entailing the simultaneous introjection and expulsion of femininity. (Sedgwick)

“My darling”…

James Whale was a gay auteur who often imbued his work intentionally or with the ‘intentional fallacy’ of a ‘queer’ sense of dark humor. This comical, campy absurdity, was always on the edge of his vision of horror and subtle profanity. His picture The Invisible Man (1933) adapted from H.G. Wells’s story and starring Claude Rains, was classified as a horror film by the Code.

Dr. Jack Griffin (Rains) the antihero, is a frenzied scientist, addicted to his formula as he seeks the ability to make himself invisible. His sanity begins to ‘vanish’ as his hunger for power, delusions of grandeur, and bursts of megalomania grow out of control. He plans on assassinating government officials, and he becomes more belligerent the longer he turns invisible. The idea that he displays radical ideas and runs around in the nude didn’t seem to arouse the censors, In 1933, a letter from James Wingate to Hays states, “highly fantastic and exotic [sic] vein, and presents no particular censorship difficulties.”

What’s interesting about the presentation of the story, is that the coded gay leitmotifs were paraded out, right under the Code’s noses, and didn’t stir any indignation for its ‘queer’ humor.

Gloria Stuart and Claude Rains in James Whale’s The Invisible Man 1933

The Invisible Man perpetrates campy assaults on all the ‘normal’ people in his way. With intervals of sardonic cackles and golden wit, and at the same time, a menacing reflection of light and shadow. Claude Rains is a concealed jester who makes folly of his victims.

“An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and wreck, and kill.” –Dr. Jack Griffin (The Invisible Man)

Claude Rains plays Dr. Jack Griffin an outsider (a favorite of James Whale’s characters) who discovers the secret of invisibility which changes him from a mild yet arrogant scientist into a maniacal killer. The film bares much of Whale’s campy sense of humor, with Griffin’s comic shenanigans abound until things turn dark and he becomes uncontrollably violent. “We’ll begin with a reign of terror, a few murders here and there, Murders of great men, Murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction. I might even wreck a train or two… just these fingers around a signalman’s throat, that’s all.”

According to Gary Morris (Bright Lights Film Journal), ‘The film demands crypto-faggot reading in poignant scenes such as the one where he reassures his ex-girlfriend, who begs him to hide from the authorities: “the whole worlds my hiding place. I can stand out there amongst them in the day or night and laugh at them.”

Though Griffin’s (Claude Rains) character is unseen at times, there are potent moments, when he is animated as he skips to the tune, “Here we go gathering nuts in May” flitting around like a fairy. It is suggested that The Invisible Man is a metaphor for the way homosexuals are seen/not seen by society – as “effeminate, dangerous when naked, seeking a male partner in “crime”, tending to idolize his fiance rather than love her, and becoming ‘visible’ only when shot by the police…monitored by doctors, and heard regretting his sin against God (i.e., made into a statistic by the three primary forces oppressing queers: the law, the medical establishment, and religious orthodoxy” (Sedgwick)

The Invisble Man [undressing] “They’ve asked for it, the country bumpkins. This will give them a bit of a shock, something to write home about. A nice bedtime story for the kids, too, if they want it”

Continue reading “Chapter 4 – Queers and Dykes in the Dark: Classic, Noir & Horror Cinema’s Coded Gay Characters:”

Postcards from Shadowland Halloween 2019

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! Ape Women & The Boogie Woogie Boogie Man

JUNGLE CAPTIVE (1945)

Another Universal horror film starring Vicky Lane who resurrects Paula Dupree – the Ape Woman who is brought back to life, by a mad scientist Otto Krueger as Mr. Stendahl who then dispatches Moloch the Brute (Rondo Hatton) to kidnap his female lab assistant Ann Forrester (Amelita Ward) in order to use her blood for the Ape Woman. Co-stars Jerome Detective W.L. Harrigan.

Murder in the Blue Room (1944)

This is a remake of Secret of the Blue. Room (1933) The blue room is the key to the whole mystery! It’s got music by The Three Jazzybelles and mayhem at a party thrown at a haunted mansion, with an unsolved murder twenty years prior. People go missing and are murdered, as Larry Dearden (Regis Toomey) who spends the night in the locked “blue room” first disappears and is then found shot to death.

With a ghost who walks the property asking for a light and directions to the cemetery!

Directed by Leslie Goodwins with a screenplay by I.A.L Diamond and Stanley Davis. Stars Anne Gwynne as the lovely Nan, Donald Cook as Steve, John Litel as Frank Baldrich, Grace McDonald as Peggy Betty Kean as Betty “I don’t like dead people they’re not my type!” and June Preiser as Jerry. Regis Toomey plays Larry Deardan, Nella Walker as Linda Baldrich, Andrew Tombes as Dr. Carroll and the ubiquitous Ian Wolfe as Edwards the butler. Milton Parsons is the creepy chauffeur!

The lively music and laughs are jammed packed with great lines and a few good chills…

This is your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl Joey sayin’ boogey woogie on over to The Last Drive In again and grab yourself some chills!

A Trailer a Day Keeps the Boogeyman Away! The Uninvited (1944)

THE UNINVITED 1944

Directed by Lewis Allen (The Unseen 1945, So Evil My Love 1948, Chicago Deadline 1949) with a screenplay by Dodie Smith and Frank Patros based on the novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardle.

The Uninvited is an extraordinarily superior ghost story (four years earlier Paramount released The Ghost Breakers  comedy with Bob Hope) about a composer Ray Milland as Rick Fitzgerald and his sister Pamela (Ruth Hussey) who wander from their London flat and stumble onto a quaint estate on a cliff purported to be haunted. An estate that has lay unoccupied for twenty years. Their little dog Bobby chases a squirrel into the house and when they follow after him, they fall immediately in love with the place. Rick and Pamela are care free siblings who take life as it comes, Rick more cynical and Pamela who believes that “Life is not that cruel!”

They discover that the reason they are able to buy this Gothic Cornish seacoast mansion for such a reasonable price of 1200 pounds is that it’s owner Commander Beech (the wonderful Oscar winning character actor Donald Crisp)wants to rid himself of the tragic past attached to the place, and protect his granddaughter Stella Meredith(Gail Russell)from it’s evil legacy. Cornelia Otis Skinner plays a sinister character, Miss Holloway who is obviously obsessed with the late Mary Meredith (Stella’s mother) a la Mrs. Danvers, whose sanitarium is scarier than the haunted house which is inhabited by two ghosts, one benevolent and the other evil.

The Commander is all too eager to rid himself of the house that holds too many dark family secrets. He worries that his granddaughter “suffers with a general delicacy; she is not strong enough to make new friends. Stella is not going back inside that home.” Rick replies “Great Scott, you really believe the place is haunted!” 

One of the most haunting qualities about the film is the premier performance by the broodingly beautiful Gail Russell, portraying the sadly reflective Stella who is inevitably and eternally drawn to the house she spent her first three years in. The house represents all connections and memories of her mother who fell off the cliffs outside Windcliff. “She lived there for three years, my years… I love that house. It’s not right to hate it because somebody died there.”

Rick falls for the beautiful Stella, composing the exquisite melody Stella By Starlight written by Victor Young.

THE UNINVITED, Gail Russell, Ray Milland, 1944.

There are some wonderful scenes, with eerie mechanisms that work well to create a chilling and atmospheric moodiness. A flower that wilts by the touch of a cold unseen presence, the inextricable smell of mimosa, shadows and candle lit rooms, the family dog that runs away and the cat who refuses to go upstairs, and the nocturnal crying, uncanny mists, and a spooky séance. Paramount insisted on using shots of ectoplasmic manifestations of disembodied spirits, swirling luminous clouds that hint at the feminine form — in order to market the film as more of a commercial ghost story, informing the audience that these were real ghosts and not implied imaginary shivers. With the exception of The Haunting, Curse of the Cat People, The Innocents based on Henry James The Turn of the Screw and Dead of Night, the Hollywood true ghost story is quite rare and specialized, where the actual ghosts may be nightmarish, malevolent and sinister. And while The Uninvited is not as menacing as the other films, there is a sweetly romantic quality that earns it’s place among them.

Lewis Allen’s The Uninvited is a story of relationships, some healthy and others quite twisted. The mood is set by the voice-over-narrative beginning the movie juxtaposed to the visual display of wildly frolicking waves crashing over the rocky Cornwall shore reinforcing this haunting narrative: we are told of “haunted shores… mists gather, sea fog, eerie stories” Once we listen to the pound and stir of waves, all senses are sharpened” which will prepare us for the “peculiar cold, which is the first warning.” a cold which is “a draining of warmth from the vital centers of living.” – Gary J. Svehla Cinematic Hauntings.

This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying you’re always invited to The Last Drive In!

Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 9 Terrifying Halloween Treats!

*THE CEMETERY -PILOT TV movie AIR DATE NOV.8, 1969
*THE DEAD MAN-AIR DATE DEC. 16, 1970
*CERTAIN SHADOWS ON THE WALL-DEC.30, 1970
*THE DOLL-AIR DATE JAN.13, 1971
*A FEAR OF SPIDERS -AIR DATE OCT. 6, 1971
*COOL AIR-AIR DATE DEC.8, 1971
*GREEN FINGERS-AIR DATE JAN.8, 1972
*GIRL WITH THE HUNGRY EYES AIR DATE OCT.1, 1972
*SOMETHING IN THE WOODWORK AIR DATE JAN.14, 1973

Next time up, The Tune in Dan’s Cafe, Lindenmann’s Catch, A Question of Fear, The Sins of the Father, Fright Night and There Aren’t Any More McBanes.

Available on dvd: with Season 2 Audio Commentary from Guillermo Del Toro and from historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson and Season 3 aslo with Audio Commentary from historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson

There will be no need for spoilers, I will not give away the endings …

The way the studio wants to do it, a character won’t be able to walk by a graveyard, he’ll have to be chased. They’re trying to turn it into a Mannix in a shroud.—Creator Rod Serling

“Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collectors’ item in its own way – not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.”-Rod Serling Host

With the major success of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), after it was cancelled in 1964, Rod Serling continued to work on various projects. He wrote the screenplays for the movie versions of Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes and The Man based on the novel by Irving Wallace. In 1970 he created a new series, Night Gallery which were tales of the macabre based on various mystery/horror/fantasy writers, H.P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and even Serling himself. The show was produced by Jack Laird and Rod Serling. The show that ran six episodes each, part of four dramatic series under the umbrella title Four-In-One. In 1971, it appeared with it’s own vignettes on NBC opposite Mannix. In 1971 the Pilot for the show had three of the most powerful of the series. The Cemetery starring Ossie Davis, Roddy McDowall, and George Macready. Eyes stars Hollywood legend Joan Crawford who plays an unpleasant tyrant who is blind and is willing to rob the sight of another man in order to see for a short period of time. The segment was directed by Steven Spielberg. The last playlet starred Norma Crane and Richard Kiley as a Nazi who is hiding out in a South American country who dreams of losing himself in a little boat on a quiet lake depicted in a painting at the local art museum.

Then Night Gallery showcased an initial six segments and the hour long series consisted of several different mini teleplays. In its last season from 1972-1973 the show was reduced to only a half hour.
Night Gallery differed from The Twilight Zone which were comprised of science fiction and fantasy narratives as it delved more into the supernatural and occult themes. The show has a unique flavor in the same way Boris Karloff introduced each one of Thriller’s divergent stories, Rod Serling would introduce each episode surrounded by his gallery of macabre and morbid paintings by artist Gallery Painter: Tom Wright Serling would open his show with a little soliloquy about life, irony and the upcoming tale of ghoulish delights.

Rod Serling was not a fan of Night Gallery and did not have the revelatory passion and inducement to plug the show the way he did for The Twilight Zone, in fact the series was panned by the critics. Two of the shows Serling wrote were nominated for Emmy’s, “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” starring William Windom and Diane Baker and The Messiah of Mott Street “ starring Edward G. Robinson.

From Gary Gerani-Fantastic Television: A Pictorial History of Sci-Fi, the Unusual and The Fantastic
“No stranger to the interference of sponsors, networks and censors, Serling once again found himself locked by contact into an untenable situation..{…}… He owned Night Gallery, created it and it was sold to network and audience on his reputation . The competitor on CBS was Mannix, a formula private-eye shoot-and rough-‘em up. Serling felt that NBC and Universal were doing their best to imitate Mannix, with an emphasis on monsters, chases and fights. They turned down many of his scripts as “too thoughtful” Serling lamented. “They don’t want to compete against Mannix in terms of contrast, but similarity.” Not only was Serling unable to sell them scripts he was also barred from casting sessions, and couldn’t make decisions about his show—he had signed away creative control. As a result he tried to have his name removed from the title, but NBC had him contract-bound to play host and cordially to introduce the parasite to the TV audience.”

 

Continue reading “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery 9 Terrifying Halloween Treats!”

MonsterGirl Asks: Kathryn Leigh Scott

A Happy Valentine’s to Kathryn Leigh Scott and the legacy of the romantic, tragic figure of Maggie Evans & Josette Dupree 🧡

Kathryn Leigh Scott, 1967. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“I know that you are dead, but still you are alive. I’m not afraid of you, only of living without you.” -Josette to Barnabas

One of the more recent primal rituals we find ourselves indulging in these days is the act of ‘binge watching’ a series in order to escape what ever it is any of us might feel the need to break free from. Though, I grew up in the 1960s and can remember sitting close to our large Magnavox television console when Dark Shadows would come into view on the tv screen, I’d be instantly drawn to composer Robert Colbert‘s evocative score and that symbolic opening with the tumultuous waves crashing beneath the titles. I was lucky enough to watch the show unfold on air in reel time in 1966. It originally aired weekdays on the ABC television network, from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971 before the series went into syndication.

It is significant to note that Dark Shadows is one of the few classic television soap operas to have all of its episodes survive intact except one.

In 1966 on June 27th, the prolific master of the macabre Dan Curtis debuted his Gothic soap opera series Dark Shadows – the show still has it’s faithful cult following and had started a mania and love affair with it’s viewers. Dark Shadows was saluted as the first daytime drama styled in the Gothic novel tradition. A spooky, cultivated, suspenseful weekly half hour chamber pieces, that reverberated with Gothic fable like overtones becoming a pop culture phenomenon. The premise centered around the wealthy and tormented inhabitants of the mysterious Collinwood that had a pall that hung over the great estate besieged by curses and dark forces and supernatural narratives. The powerful and self indulgent Collins family, whose ancestors founded Collinsport Maine a small fishing village are seemingly haunted and always on the brink of destruction by scandal and supernatural scourge. Throughout the centuries, generations of the Collins family have their very own built in vengeful spirits and malefic curses. In 1967, when the series faced cancellation, Jonathan Frid joins the cast as the sympathetic vampire Barnabas Collins and revives the show. With it’s 1897 storyline featuring David Selby, as Quentin Collins draws a viewership of 20 million fans. In 1970 MGM released a feature motion picture Night of Dark Shadows. The show became syndicated in 1975 and in 1982 reruns began airing for the first time on PBS. In 1992 reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel ran until 2001, airing the entire run of 1,225 episodes.

Kathryn Leigh Scott and Dan Curtis on the set of House of Dark Shadows (1970)

On the set of the major motion picture spinoff of Dark Shadows-House of Dark Shadows (1970) Kathryn Leigh Scott, Roger Davis and Grayson Hall.

Down the road, I intend on covering in depth all the mythos and classical literary allusions to the groundbreaking show itself here at The Last Drive In. The marvelous cast and crew, the prolific elements of mystery, the supernatural and fantasy, that threaded the show with frightening motifs, melodramatic dread and tragic narratives, tributes to legendary nightmarish tales of the occult, Gothic romantic novels and the paranormal, even Bill Baird’s little bat puppet that made up the shadowy world of Dark Shadows!

For now, like Barnabas Collins I long to show some love for the beautiful woman who captured his heart and ours, Kathryn Leigh Scott as Maggie Evans & Josette DuPrés.

Continue reading “MonsterGirl Asks: Kathryn Leigh Scott”

Playground of Dark Dreams: The Nightmare World of Dante Tomaselli

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

― Edgar Allan Poe

“Among contemporary filmmakers, Dante Tomaselli stands out as Roger Corman’s most direct heir, as his cheaply made cinematic tales of terror rely on stylized set pieces to produce creepy atmosphere.” 

André Loiselle, Theatricality in the Horror Film (Anthem Press) 

“I’m on fire to transcribe my nightmares through cinema and music. After creating four films and four instrumental albums, I’m pregnant with The Doll, my next horror picture and it’s clawing at my insides. The upcoming horror shocker concerns a haunting at a family owned wax museum in Salem. Co-writer Michael Gingold and I recently completed the screenplay and had a couple of false start-ups, like all my films have had – but I’m very close now to securing the proper funding. As a cult filmmaker, I don’t go to Hollywood for my financing. I live in a world where independent films are funded through private investors. It’s an unstable realm for sure and I plan to get to the point where I can fund my own films as well as other independent filmmaker’s works. As with all my projects, I’m purchasing and acquiring some of the special fx and props before actual official pre-production. Right now I’m working with a sculptor, Jason Bakutis, on the the doll itself…An antique porcelain doll. Jason created the eerie ancient tribal mask that Jimmy, the lead character wore in my last film, Torture Chamber. My projects may take years to mount but I’ve learned that if my intentions are pure and I visualize the film and soundtrack enough the universe has no choice but to open the gate. It’s just a matter of alignment. Every one of my films has been a struggle to create and if I would have given up then there would be no DESECRATION, no HORROR, no SATAN’S PLAYGROUND or TORTURE CHAMBER. I see THE DOLL looming when my eyes are open…or shut. The film is always projected like slides in my inner eye. Not to mention, the sounds…I tend to plan my actual soundtracks before filming. I did it on every one of my films. The sound…first. Which I guess makes sense since I have sound-color synesthesia. When I was younger and the very loud school alarm would go off – I’d see little grey spirals, like mini tornadoes, every time. The sound induced the patterns, the visuals. One time I saw what looked like three giant dragonflies hovering over the side of my house. There was bombing going on in the neighborhood and the explosive sound produced these strange blobs of color. I thought they were real flying giant-sized insects and I remembering running in terror. The sound of rain…I don’t need to see rain, just hear it…and it’s involuntary…I see little fiber optic dots, floating specks of light.” —Dante Tomaselli

I first stumbled onto Dante Tomaselli’s work when I purchased a VHS copy of Desecration from one of the oldest video rental houses in Madison Wisconsin, known for their extensive collection in Indie, obscure and art house films. I was struck by the artwork on the cover and the story seemed fascinating to me since I’m a classic horror film nut who will always remain faithful to the sacred classical horror genre style from Mid 80’s all the way back to the Silent Era.

One of the many things that strikes me about Dante Tomaselli’s work– is the Nightmarish Beauty that feels vintage. The Hallucinatory, Religio/Horror style is how he manages to create a perfect sense of place in his film’s surroundings, that is not only otherworldly in ordinary spaces but also possess a throw back to earliest horror films without being derivative.

There is a reminiscent atmosphere of older films as if he’s found a conduit to the good old days and his own appreciation for the classical style of horror film-making in his own work and succeeds in adapting it with an original flare on screen. The effective and evocative sound design is also something that creates another layer to Tomaselli’s films. Even the sets are meticulous, Tomaselli has a grasp of how to set the scene that hints at another time period. This is also what makes Tomaselli’s films more frightening than most contemporary horrors. Satan’s Playground truly has the authentic feel of a late 70s early 80s classic horror film, I mean he used a wood paneled station-wagon in Satan’s Playground, it doesn’t get better than that! not to mention his eye for casting special actors that fit his characters perfectly. The same goes for all of his other three feature films, Desecration, Horror and Torture Chamber.

In particular I have come to adore Irma St. Paule who sadly passed away in 2007. Irma has presence. She added something special to Desecration 1999 as Grandma Matilda and as the wicked Mrs. Leeds she was superbly macabre in Satan’s Playground 2006.

Dante Tomaselli has tapped into his primal dark spot, his id and found a way to connect the dots to the outer world. Upon re-watching all four of his feature films, I became reacquainted with some of the elements that drew me to his work in the first place. Tomaselli within all four works has created one continuous nightmare realm. A Möbius Trip of time and space. A string of interconnected events, interchangeable, with their own symbology and iconography. One connected journey with thematic threads that weave a familiar tapestry– painting the entire picture as a unified message, and an alternate realm that is woven together with pieces from the same puzzle. Hallucinatory, non-linear, surrealist, nihilistic, visceral, east coast Americana Gothic, a 70s vibe with raw simplicity, transcendental & primal horrors. There is a definitive pattern, a cyclical nihilist fate where none of the characters manage to survive their journey, their ordeal. There are no real protagonists, just puppets in a modern Greek tragedy.

Sound in Dante Tomaselli’s masterful works are extremely key to the aura of his work. He painstakingly sculpts each soundscapes that breathe, lo-fi undertows, waves and tones that shade the atmosphere along with his dynamic color palate. The use of color and lighting is also reminiscent of great horror films of the 1970s & 80s, I might add.

Tomaselli also prolongs his character’s sense of ‘outsider-ship’ The Outsider theme is also continuous throughout his work, in particular the gangs of children, forgotten and disaffected children, angry, having suffered at the hands of abuse and torture, they band together with their collective angst, as in Horror and Torture Chamber. While society is trying to cure them, or figure them out, or repress their identities, or force salvation on them –they are caught up in their private hell again and again.

And there is a perfect sense of place that Dante Tomaselli establishes in all his films…

As in the old abandoned house filmed in the Pine Barrens featured in Satan’s Playground, the simple woods, a place of the natural world becomes an almost unreal hellish domain. A rustic limbo-land. And what I’ve come to realize, but I must give first credit to my partner Wendy who watched this chilling film with me together once again, this haunted Halloween month is that Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule) and her demented kinfolk don’t even really live in that broken down abandoned place.

She gets the sense that the house really is empty, it’s uninhabited for real. She figured that they only appear when someone comes knocking at the door. Then the hellish realm opens up and they materialize, like phantoms, like demons. And you know what! –I believe she’s right.

Because getting to know Dante Tomaselli’s work, means realizing that there are dimensions, levels of hell here on Earth. The creepy Leeds clan are just like the elusive Jersey Devil himself, swooping in and out of the picture to take people out of this life! Even as poor Sean Bruno falls into the hole in the ground (much like Bobby in Desecration-again revisiting common themes) it’s like he is being sucked out of life and down into the bowels of hell, or falling into ‘nowhere’. And one of the most striking observations for me was Tomaselli’s use of Trees… trees representing the ‘natural world’. which Dante and I will discuss further into this post. There are trees uses as figures, as the embodiment of an elemental force in each of his four films.

From Matthew Edwards essay The New Throwback: The FIlms of Dante Tomaselli “…watching Poltergeist, how many people would feel comfortable keeping a doll of a clown in their room? In both Desecration and Horror, Tomaselli likewise uses familiar objects, or childhood toys, as a means of driving conflicting emotions.”

There are many moments of recurring iconography throughout Dante Tomaselli’s four timorous mind-blowing works of art. ‘The Devouring Mother Archetype”-Christie Sanford who is fantastic continued her demon mother entity in Desecration’s respective sequel Torture Chamber. In all four films, Sanford’s incarnation displays this rabid motherhood, not only with the symbol of a little boy trapped in a cage and the religio-horror aspect but her character Judy’s maniacal abduction of Paula’s (Ellen Sandweiss) baby, Anthony in Satan’s Playground, and then her violent Folie à deux relationship with the vicious Reverend Salo Jr. (Vincent Lamberti) and their treatment of Grace in Horror.

There is the re-appearances of the goat (a symbol of arcane Gods & supernatural significance), boils (damnation from hell) boy size cages, used in Desecration as the badly abused Bobby is imprisoned in one in his dreams, as is Jimmy in Torture Chamber. The torture rack used in Horror is brought back in Torture Chamber once again, illustrative of the themes of agony and punishment. There is a dark swirling, gaping black vortex, a circular menacing field that not only appears in Satan’s Playground out in the dark sky in the night time woods and we see it once again in Torture Chamber inside the castle structure. There are invisible bogs, holes to nowhere that Danny Lopes continues to get sucked down into, in Desecration and then again in Satan’s Playground. And of course there is Atmo Royce’s incredible artwork that Tomaselli commissioned specifically for his films, that are significant to each story. Even the puzzle that Grandma Matilda (Irma St. Paule) works on at the dining room table in Desecration has a story to tell, it also contains the grassy oubliette that Danny Lopes falls into.

Dante makes the lower-budget work to his advantage. Films with vast amounts of surplus funds wind up having no soul, yet Dante Tomaselli manages to convey what’s in his head by staying close to the art of intuitive style and not by using big money shocks. He is not restricted at all, but stays true to his vision.

I see Dante Tomaselli’s work as uniquely his own imaginary / hallucinatory vision. Dante’s collective works are like little filmic exorcisms, for childhood fears. Where the danger surrounds anyone who is young, and the adults become the monsters. Where religion becomes the monster, and where fanaticism, repression and abuse, drives people toward possession, damnation, and inevitably to Hell, or a hellish nightmare world where there is no escape nor salvation.

Yet on a very Americana landscape, with a truly east coast American Gothic narrative due to the fixation on suburban Catholicism, with Medieval emblems, Italian east coast Catholicism and the ordinary American family, the fixture of the church as in Desecration , Catholic idols and statuettes of the virgin Mary, all surrounding childhood fears, perversion of religion, fanaticism and madness. This all seems to manifested into these surreal nightmarish paroxysms on screen.

I also see amidst the imagery…agony, fixation, rage, desire, craving, cruelty, revenge, frenzy, hysteria and desolation, and outsider-ship as the proponents of the narratives, in Desecration (1999) Horror (2003), Satan’s Playground (2006) and ultimately Torture Chamber (2013).

There’s an authentic American angst about ours sins swallowing us up and spitting us out into Hell. In Dante Tomaselli’s dream world, there exhibits a charismatic starkness, which exposes us down to a raw nerve and makes us feel closer to what might be a more straightforward Hell, than the depictions from classical paintings and literature.

it will continue to brand Tomaselli a hallucinatory auteur and broaden his landscape a bit more, but does not scale back on the schadenfreude emotional shivers and psychic acrobatics that his earlier works cause the viewer to go through, definitely me for sure.

Dante Tomaselli was born October 29, 1969, in Paterson, New Jersey- is an Italian-American horror screenwriter, director, and electronic score composer. He studied filmmaking at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and then transferred to the New York School of Visual Arts, receiving a B.F.A. degree in Advertising there. His first film was a 23 minute short, called Desecration which was screened at a variety of horror and mainstream film festivals.

Later on, Dante Tomaselli expanded his screenplay Desecration into a feature length film and in 1999, the film premiered to a SRO audience at the prestigious Fantafestival in Rome, Italy.

The release of Desecration (1999) on DVD by Image Entertainment was praised by reviewers for its unique vision for a independent horror production.

“I’m just this guy from New Jersey who has odd visions. I do have an obsession with replicating childhood nightmares, fears, anxieties. With my films, I’m trying to construct some kind of nightmare where we experience the protagonist’s damnation.”

It’s no wonder that he’s “just this guy from New Jersey with odd visions” and a life long supernatural / horror aficionado considering himself as a ‘supernaturalist, NOT a ‘satanist’, who also happens to be the cousin of film director Alfred Sole the director who brought us the edgy , cult Catholic themed horror favorite , Alice Sweet Alice (1976) which I loved the atmosphere of dread and that iconic clear mask of the killer, the yellow raincoat… The entire vibe is memorable.

Dante’s 2nd feature film, is Horror (2003) began it’s initial filming in January 2001 in Warwick upstate New York, which was Tomaselli’s first commercial success, and has maintained a wide release on DVD.  Tomaselli also has a keen eye for casting the right people for her work. In an interesting & quite nostalgic maneuver the film cast celebrity mentalist/magician, Kreskin who maintained notoriety as ‘Amazing’ in the 1970s! Dante Tomaselli’s Horror was released on DVD in the United States and Canada by Elite Entertainment.

Tomaselli then made Satan’s Playground (2005), It stars 70’s and early-80’s cult-horror icons Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead), and Edwin Neal (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). The film is set, and was filmed in, New Jersey’s infamous Pine Barrens Forest that truly has its own eerie mythology in real life.

In his fourth installment Dante Tomaselli released  Torture Chamber (2013) yet another of his nightmarish journeys exploring the imaginations of Hell and damnation. Torture Chamber had its World Premier at Sitges 2012 Festival in Spain.

Dante Tomaselli’s work is being featured in an excellent edited volume released by the outstanding publishing company McFarland — FILM OUT OF BOUNDS. There’s a chapter (pg. 112-125) titled: The New Throwback: The Films of Dante Tomaselli.

Twisted Visions: Interviews with Cult Horror Filmmakers by Matthew Edwards

From IMDb – About Dante Tomaselli’s musical compositions link below to his music company.

Dante’s Halloween Haunted Attraction

The director/composer’s first audio CD of electronic horror music, ”Scream in the Dark” (2014) was released by Elite Entertainment & MVD Audio January 14, 2014. Its follow-up, ”The Doll” (2014) described as “a ghoulish experiment in fear,” was released on CD and Digital download by Elite Entertainment & MVD Audio April 15, 2014. Tomaselli’s third dark ambient album, “Nightmare” was distributed by the same label January 13, 2015. TuneCore released his fourth and most successful dark electronic album, “Witches” March 24, 2017. Rue Morgue Magazine awarded Witches five skulls, “A meticulously crafted work…Tomaselli takes us on his most lurid sonic journey to date.” Rock! Shock! Pop! added, “Pulsing John Carpenter-esque keyboard work…Dante Tomaselli releases his fourth album of spooky soundtrack inspired instrumental music.” Videoscope Magazine’s music critic, Tim Ferrante stated, “All of Witches’ 13 tracks are praiseworthy…Each cut ignites theater-of-the-mind wonderment, fear and the spiritual world by deeply boring into the psyche…Tomaselli has produced a fiendish and furtive album for fans of ‘mood music’ of a different kind.” Dante Tomaselli’s Witches was nominated for Rue Morgue magazine 2017 album of the year.

Desecration (1999)

“You Will Burn in Hell!”

Written and directed by Dante Tomaselli. With cinematography by Brendan Flynt, film editing by Marcus Bonilla, Art direction by Michelle Lang, Production design by Michele La Rocca.

Stars Irma St. Paule ( 12 Monkeys 1995, Trees Lounge 1996, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her 2000) as Grandma Matilda, Christie Sanford (Horror 2003, Satan’s Playground 2006, Winter of Frozen Dreams 2009, Torture Chamber 2013) as Sister Madeline / Mary Rullo, Danny Lopes as Bobby Rullo, Salvatore Paul Piro (Joe’s Apartment 1996, Sleepers 1996, Night Falls on Manhattan 1996, The Sopranos (199), Find Me Guilty 2006, Satan’s Playground 2006) as Mr. Rullo, Vincent Lamberti as Brother Nicolas, Maureen Tomaselli as Sister Rosemary, Gene Burke as Father O’Leary, Ruth Ray as Reverend Mother, Helen Palladino as Mrs. Cannizzaro the psychic, Nora Maher as Sister Rita, Mary Fassino as Sister Veronica.

Desecration is an eerie psychological chiller about a young 16 year old boy named Bobby Rullo played by Danny Lopes. It also stars Tomaselli regular Christie Sandford as Sister Madeline/ Mary Rullo (Bobby’s mother) Sandford brings a certain ‘arresting presence’ to both characters.

The setting for Desecration is appropriately placed at St. Anthony’s Catholic Boarding School-St. Anthony is the Patron Saint of the Lost. And Desecration is the story of one lost boy’s journey through Hell! The film winds around a non-linear movement and flashbacks with soundscapes that are striking.

Bobby Rullo (Danny Lopes) is an outsider, a loner. He is emotionally scarred by his mother’s sudden death. Christie Sanford, simultaneously plays Sister Madeline and Bobby’s mother Mary. The two women it could be said are one in the same, both are Bobby’s tormentors.

16 year old Bobby Rullo suffers from a repressive and outright abusive Catholic childhood. He seems lost within the emotional turbulence since the unexpected death of his mother when he was five. 11 years later, at his Catholic boarding  school, while playing with a radio controlled plane, it collides with Sister Madeline causing blunt force trauma to her head and killing her instantly on the grounds of the school. It is deemed an accident, but Bobby is failing school and he is told to pack his bags and go home. Bobby quietly utters- “Some people are blessed and others are just cursed.”

It is only after he inadvertently causes the death of the nun, that it unleashes a series of brutal and supernatural chain of events. As a premonition, at the opening of Desecration, during mass, sister Madeline can not get her candle to light, she runs out of the room seemingly afraid and ashamed, as the other nuns stare at her. There is an expression of shock and of dread on her face as she is not meant to be blessed, but as Bobby says, some people ‘are just cursed.’

Bobby begins his journey through Hell, where he sees visions of the dead nun and his dead mother. Bobby’s descent summons demons, and evokes powerful childhood nightmares and primal fears.

Desecration acts as a set piece for our childhood fears, and the overpowering influence of abuse, fanaticism and repression, which wreak havoc on our innocence. Desecration is in effect a film you experience from the inside out. You’re not supposed to make sense of it. There is no sense to one’s madness or one’s descent into a nether regions of Hell while the gates open wider. The dead sister Madeline who becomes more grotesque with time as she is book-ended by demon clowns who stand at the ‘gates’. She taunts Bobby with visions of her lurking about the grounds.

Bobby is also mistreated by Brother Nicolas (Vincent Lamberti who is quite intimidatingly sinister in this role and as Reverend Salo Jr. in Horror 2003 with his well chiseled fiendish grin) who manhandles him and slips him a Valium to relax, a queer thing to do as an elder figure of the church. Bobby asks him, “Can priests take Valium?” With a menacing tone he tells Bobby, “priests can do many things…” 

Bobby becomes groggy, he begins to hallucinate, as he looks at the painting of a nun, it morphs into a blurry face like sister Madeline who appears to the Reverend Mother out on the grounds, faceless, then the painting of the nun becomes an unearthly skull. The use of Atmo Royce’s paintings is perfection, as a pinion to the surrealism of the film.

Bobby begins to hear the voice of a priest, “No description can be adequately revealed to the gravity of God’s vengeance against the wicked…” The sins of the mother, not the father  are exacted on the children. The transformation of the nun painting becomes a skull as its final transformation, turns itself into a clown’s face.

Bobby wanders the halls in a daze, he gazes through the window of the classroom door and sees brother Nicolas’ eyes burn demonic as he turns to look at Bobby. Finally as he makes his way back to his room, lights a candle and says his prayers, he falls asleep and vines and dirt begin to envelop the room. The earth and the natural world are trying to swallow him up. He dreams of sister Madeline in her most frightening incarnation standing at the entrance of a gate, in between a set of demon clowns. Sister Madeline is now trapped in Hell and Hell is coming for Bobby. He is marked for damnation by the evils of the world.

Bobby has only one person he can trust and that is his dauntlessly pious Grandma Matilda who is wonderful in the role. Matilda’s devotion to her Catholic faith drives her forward to try and protect Bobby from his mother, her own daughter Mary who is haunting and terrorizing him from the grave. Grandma Matilda is part of the supernatural events that were triggered by his killing sister Madeline. Madeline is grotesque in death, but Bobby’s mother was an abusive monster in life, and how he processes the abuse he endured as a little boy is dreaming of her having locked him in a cage. Bobby’s father mentions how he’d come home and find his hands and feet tied to the playpen.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is where Grandma Matilda is putting together a strange puzzle that is an odd painting of trees in the woods, almost a primitive style artwork. There’s is one piece left to fill in and suddenly it becomes Bobby’s face as he is about to sink into a hole, another premonition of things to come. Grandma Matilda also discovers her daughters spirit in the house, “She’s a here (with an Italian accent, though Irma St. Paule is from the Ukraine, she does a wonderful job as an old world Italian Catholic) She’s a here!!!”

There is also a great sequence where Matilda wants to consult the psychic she plays Bingo with to help try and find Bobby who is missing. Mrs. Cannizzaro tells Matilda “I see a very deep hole” Matilda-“the hole in the puzzle” “Yes it is a puzzle” Matilda also asks if his mother Mary has him, Mrs. Cannizzaro is fearful of the energy she is picking up on, the psychic is afraid to proceed. Mrs. Cannizzaro tells Matilda “Your daughter is using him to escape” “Escape from what?” “From Hell!”

Bobby is run through a maze of physical persecutions and emotions. During biology class he sees the dead nun, drive up in a hearse and beckon to him to get in. Bobby hates confinement, he complains that there are no locks on his bedroom door at the school. We see a flashback or dream/nightmare sequences that he was kept in a large cage in his bedroom as a little boy. The room is filled out with creepy toys, clowns and an even creepier giant Humpty Dumpty doll and balloons and a hovering mother who reeks of inherent sadism and evil, as she is holding balloons and a bottle of formula while he is trapped in the cage crying.

It is a disturbing image as we see Bobby at 16 years old, lying in the fetal position in the cage, his mother splashing the baby formula all over him and cackling. When Bobby tells his Grandma that he had the worst dream about his mother again, and wants to know why there aren’t any photographs of her around the house. It is Bobby’s father who doesn’t want any pictures of his wife in the house! We hear Bobby’s father (Salvatore Paul Piro, who is fantastic as Bobby’s ill-tempered father) talk about his wife having had a breakdown after he was born and that “She was sick!”

While running in the woods, surrounded by trees, (trees which I’ve come to learn are very significant as a trope in all of Tomaselli’s films) he meets up with his friend Sean who suddenly falls into a hole. Bobby can hear unholy growling coming from the abyss. Or is it Bobby himself who has fallen in the hole?

There are moments of the right amount of gore, when sister Rita is looking through sister Madeline’s art portfolio, she sees the dead eyed nun outside the window, then the statue of the Virgin Mary falls off the shelf. Suddenly, sister Rita is attacked by a pair of shears, and she is literally stabbed to death, by these ordinary scissors that are animated by an unseen force, her wrists and limbs slashed and her throat stabbed. Perhaps this horrifying moment is as evocative as a moment from Lucio Fulci, yet Dante Tomaselli never cannibalizes other directors work, the mood is quite original and very much his vision. An abject sequence of fright that is startling, with each frame of Desecration a photo-play in classical horror. There is such a raw absence of adornment with Brendan Flynt’s cinematography which is alternatively balanced with the surrealism of the nightmarish sequences.

Desecration is not only Bobby’s journey through Hell, it encompasses everyone in his orbit. His grandma Matilda told him, “you were an angel Bobby” but is this enough to save him from being damned?

Horror (2003)

Written and directed by Dante Tomaselli, with music by Dante Tomaselli. Cinematography by Timothy Naylor, film editing Marcus Bonilla, Art direction by Maze Georges, production design by Jill Alexander, costume design by Nives Spaleta. And some amazing special effects, make up and evil pumpkin head puppetry by Monsters, Madmen and Mayhem Make-up Creations.

Horror stars Kreskin as Reverend Salo, Lizzy Mahon as Grace Salo, Danny Lopes (Desecration 1999, Satan’s Playground 2006, Torture Chamber 2013) as Luck, Vincent Lamberti (Desecration 1999) as Reverend Salo Jr., Christie Sanford (Desecration 1999, Satan’s Playground 2006, Torture Chamber 2013) as Mrs. Salo, Jessica Pagan as Marisa, Raine Brown as Amanda, Kevin Kenny as Kevin, Chris Farabaugh as Fred, and Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp 1983) as the Art Therapist.

Horror (2003), utilizes some of the same imagery as Desecration, in fact Danny Lopes plays one of the characters, a troubled delinquent teenage drug user named Luck.

Horror, is a visually striking masterpiece of well–horror, about a group of runaway teens who escape from a drug rehab facility. Luck (Danny Lopes) shoots and kills the guard and takes his gun and a huge bag of candy and magic mushrooms which the van of teenagers proceed to partake in on their way to the Salo farm. In another nightmarish odyssey the teens encounter demonic forces at the rural family farmhouse owned by two sadists who imprison their daughter Grace, inject her with drugs to keep her compliant. Reverend Salo Jr is a phony preacher and faith healer and possibly the pair are murderers who run an odd religious cult.

Like so many of the scenes in Horror, there is another powerful sequence where Grace is looking out her bedroom window at her father holding one of his fire and brimstone sermons in the snow, during the cold white light of day, while people with crutches and boils are gathered round in a circle. Her father looks up and points at her, and that singular moment sends shivers up my spine. Lamberti is absolutely menacing as Revernd Salo Jr. And while the scene takes place in broad daylight, there is a feeling of claustrophobic terror and dread because Grace is truly trapped.

There is a hint that they might have even abducted Grace (she finds a strange scrapbook of pictures, one with a little girls legs sticking out of a bag, I think that’s the impression I got), who are these people, are they the Salo’s victims and are these photos trophies?)

And are they keeping Grace drugged so that she will not remember her past before she was abducted. The opening scene illustrates a form of abduction, as she is knocked out and brought back into the house. I also consider the fact that her Grandfather who was a mentalist and could hypnotize people, bending their will to his might have played a part in her captivity. Did Reverend Salo Sr. brainwash her into believing that they were family? Grace seems to have a psychic connection to her Grandfather, but is that because he has imposed his will on her consciousness.

There are flashback sequences of the Amazing Kreskin performing his mentalist act, the presence of this nostalgic celebrity adds another vintage sensation that we’re watching an authentic older horror film from the 1970s decade.

From the starling opening of Horror, Grace is stringing Christmas lights up on the front of the quaint little house, when she is accidentally shocked by a live wire and burns her hand, and as she comes down the ladder, she is struck by a dark figure who puts her in a body bag, throws her over his shoulder and dumps her on a bed like a rag doll, while her mother (Christie Sanford) laughs with a streak of cruelty. Her abductor we come to learn is the Reverend Salo Jr. her own father. The scene is chilling and brutal in it’s old fashioned simplicity. Again, Dante Tomaselli manages to bring me back to that eerie & uncanny sensation you get when watching a good 70s horror flick.

My first impression of this sadistic couple and Salo Sr (Kreskin) was the name that instantly made me think of the nightmarish fascist torture film Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) directed by Pasolini. I asked Dante if my association was correct and this is what Dante told me-I was looking for a name that conjured depravity and Salo matched the vibration of the characters” (Reverend Salo – (Kreskin) and Reverend Salo Jr. – Vincent Lamberti)

After the opening where the pale and melancholy Grace (Lizzy Mahon) is attacked by her father and back inside the house and injected with a hypodermic to keep her submissive because she is acting up again (meaning –being independent of their will only by leaving the house and decorating for Christmas), eventually the teenagers who have escaped cross paths with Grace and the terrifying circumstances at the farmhouse intersect.

There is the presence of a black goat who is fixated on Grace, coming into the house and gazing at her. There is also a goat headed hooded figure in the woods that attacks one of the teenagers, yet another chilling scene.

The two disturbing narratives begin to integrate into one converging nightmare. The teens had escaped with the promise that Reverend Salo Jr would lead them and its the beginning of a new life, while handing out magic mushrooms in their shopping bag of goodies and a pamphlet from the Reverend with words that say- the End is near, Famine and the Anti-Christ.

While the teens are tripping out on hallucinatory drugs, we are getting images of the abuse Grace has been subjected to, and the collection of cult followers who are ravaged by boils and become almost zombie like. In fact, the teens, Luck Amanda, Marissa, Fred and Chris succumb to their own nightmare out in the woods, surrounded by violent visions, drug induced or supernatural forces at work both are simultaneously true.

Once in the farmhouse the violence continues, and Grace has a vision of the painting of her Grandfather Reverend Salo Sr (the amazing Kreskin) morphing into a frightening visage, as she discovers a hidden room in the attic with church candles and an Iron Maiden! Is she hallucinating from the drugs or was this where she was subjected to a medieval style torture –we see her being stretched on a rack, screaming in pain until she passes out. The rack will be seen once again in Torture Chamber (2013). The duplicity of religious fanaticism and hidden sadism and child abuse is ever present in Horror.

Again Atmo’s artwork plays a stunning visual role in the film. The painting in Grace’s room morphs into a savage visage of Grandfather Salo The Reverend Sr. The use of paintings that metamorphose into horrible versions of their former image puts me in mind of the Pilot episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, in the first installment the wicked and murderously greedy Roddy McDowall kills his wealthy uncle (George Macready) and is then plagued by the painting that keeps changing to show his uncle climbing out of his grave and pounding at the front door of the estate, coming back in death to claim his revenge on his murderous bastard nephew. It’s one of my favorite episodes of the series.

Horror is an atmospheric & disorienting chiller, another hallucinatory journey that coils around you like a snake head devouring it’s own tail–where it begins and where it ends is like any nightmare, where reality melts into horror and is as visually frightening as nightmare one can have.

Satan’s Playground (2006)

Written and directed by Dante Tomaselli. Cinematography by Tim Naylor, Music by Dante Tomaselli, Bill Lacey and Kenneth Lampl. Film editing by Marcus Bonilla and Egon Kirincic, Art direction by Pete Zumba, Costume Design by Erika Goyzueta.

on the set of Satan’s Playground

Stars Felissa Rose as Donna Bruno, Salvatore Paul Piro as Frank Bruno, Danny Lopes as Sean Bruno, Ellen Sandweiss (The Evil Dead 1981) as Paula, Irma St. Paule as Mrs. Leeds, Edwin Neal (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974) as Leeds boy, Christie Sanford as Judy Leeds, Ron Milkie as Officer Peters, Robert T. Zappalorti as cop/camper, Chris Farabaugh as stoner, Raine Brown as prostitute, Garth Johnson as Red Hooded man, Jesse Hodges as Lost Teen, Maureen Tomaselli as reporter, Emily Spectre as nurse, Paul LeRoy as truck drive/worshiper, Michael Ryan as the whipping boy and a slew of worshipers.

“SATAN’S PLAYGROUND is a supernatural shocker chronicling a family’s spine-tingling odyssey in New Jersey’s legendary Pine Barrens region. En route to a wilderness camping retreat, their car inexplicably breaks down. As darkness falls, panic sets in. Then the marooned family stumbles upon an ancient and seemingly abandoned house. And it is here that they meet the bizarre Mrs. Leeds who lives there with her equally unhinged children. Offering no assistance, she warns of a violent, unseen force lurking in the forbidding countryside. Soon, the family will encounter a supernatural evil older than the woods themselves. SATAN’S PLAYGROUND…a place where deadly myth becomes gruesome reality.”– review by LDMediaCorp

Satan’s Playground has the true feel of the late 70s early 80s, exuding an Americana Gothic atmosphere with the backwoods, the netherworld of the Pine Barrens that cinematographer Tim Naylor creates with Dante Tomaselli at the helm. The sense of isolation and dread taps into all those primal fears of strange and unmerciful families that are outliers in society who kill people as part of their family routine, as ordinary as doing the chores.

This theme as always worked in films like Tobe Hooper’s dark adult fairy tale about a cannibalistic family in  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), John Hough’s repressed, isolated murderous religious fanatics portrayed to the hilt by Rod Steiger and Yvonne De Carlo in American Gothic (1987), or even a cult favorite of mine, about a psychotic family of outliers in Spider Baby (1967)

Satan’s Playground is as dark as a Grimm’s Fairy Tale… and perhaps my favorite of Dante Tomaselli’s films.

What is so frightening is that families like The Leeds seem to be able to circumvent the law and social morays for long periods of time, as primitive as rabid animals who kill with a blood lust and not merely for survival. Added to this is the mythology of the Jersey Devil who has haunted our nightmares from the Pine Barrens for decades. He lurks and preys on random characters in the film, who are unlucky enough to be out in the woods, swooping down and slashing them to death or carrying them off to some hidden lair. The flapping of it’s wings are present in Satan’s Playground, while the hooded Satanists who are seen whipping their human sacrifice seem to be the least of the dangers in the story.

The story, chronicles another nightmare journey of a dysfunctional family who are headed through the Pine Barrens to enjoy a family camping trip. En route to the wilderness of the wooded nether regions Donna Bruno (Felissa Rose) her husband Frank who keeps falling asleep at the wheel (Salvatore Paul Piro) their autistic son Sean (Danny Lopes) Paula (Ellen Sandweiss) and her new born baby Anthony, break down when their wood paneled station wagon gets stuck in the mud.

Paula hears the flapping of wings, but it’s Sean who seems to have the hyper awareness that something isn’t quite right, he has a keener senses about his surroundings, trying to point toward the danger, with no one paying attention to him, because the other members of the family are too busy airing their frustrations. As darkness falls, panic sets in and the need to seek help sends each one out into the night.

As each one goes looking for help, they stumble upon an abandoned house, boarded up and in obvious decrepitude yet each family member knocks on the door looking to use a phone. Satan’s Playground has the feel of a macabre fairy tale of hapless victims wandering into dangerous spaces, at the mercy of an evil in its most pure form.

Mrs. Leeds (Irma St. Paule not the kindly Grandma she once played but in the role as a most wicked witch) opens the door.

Right from the moment we enter the strange house, the layout tells us there is something off kilter. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, the set design works incredibly well. It is here that each Bruno family member, one by one meets the otherworldly crone and the bizarre Leeds family. Mrs. Leeds boasts of her 13 children some who have died young, the rest worthless or developmentally disabled. She lives with her two unhinged children, the twisted Judy (Christie Sanford) who is mute and her son (Edwin Neal) who is also a violent psychopath.

Mrs. Leeds does fortunes to make money, or so she says. She offers no assistance and stalls while each Bruno keeps asking to use her phone. Mrs. Leeds warns of the violent unseen forces lurking in the forbidding countryside, not to mention the Satan worshipers. As she offers tea that is laced with some kind of drug, each one is knocked off by Judy who uses a large mallet or meat tenderizer. to brain her victims. Judy steals little Anthony, another childhood fear –of fiends coming in the night to steal children from their safe place. In Satan’s Playground there is no safe place.

The Bruno family comes face to face with inherent evil perhaps older than the woods, where they each face their own gruesome end. Does Mrs. Leeds even really exist in this world and is her 13th child, the Jersey Devil?

Torture Chamber (2013)

Written and directed by Dante Tomaselli. Music by Dante Tomaselli, Kenneth Lampl and Allison Piccioni. Cinematography by Tim Naylor, Art design by Ian Salter, Costume design by Lisa Faibish

Torture Chamber stars Vincent Pastore (‘Big Pussy’ Bonpensiero in The Sopranos 1999-2007) as Dr. Fiore, Christie Sanford as Mrs. Morgan, Lynn Lowry (The Crazies 1973, They Came from Within 1975) as Lisa Moreno, Ron Millkie as Dr. Thompson, Carmen LoPorto as Jimmy Morgan, Richard D. Busser as Father Mark Morgan, Ellie Pettit as Heather, Raine Brown as Hope, and Danny Lopes as Ralph.

from Out of Bounds: “… a restrictive moral, a kind of reactionary “medieval’ Christian vision du monde sneaks in. And is truly frightening.”

In Torture Chamber the story is revealed through a series of dreams, flashbacks and hallucinations. Its about a metaphysical bond between a mother and her two sons.

There are Medieval emblems like Christian statues, the Iron Maiden in Horror and the Rack in both Horror and Torture Chamber.

From Horror Movies.ca Torture Chamber is about a 13-year-old boy possessed by unspeakable evil. It’s probably the first serious independent horror film in a long time that’s in the vein of The Exorcist. The demon is called Baalberith, which, if you believe in demonology, tempts its host to blasphemy and murder,” he told the site. “Jimmy Morgan is a pyromaniac, horribly disfigured from experimentation with drugs. This Catholic boy’s family is crawling with religious fanatics. His mother believes he was sent from the Devil to set the world on fire. His older brother is a priest who tries to exorcise him. When Jimmy murders his own father, he burns him to death. Because of this, the troubled boy is sent to an Institution for disturbed youths. While there, Jimmy has a Charles Manson-like hold on the other kids from the burn unit. Together, they escape and Jimmy finds an old abandoned castle for shelter. That’s where the burned kids find a secret passage way that leads to a medieval, cobwebbed torture chamber.

Jimmy is a young boy who is a burn victim, badly abused by his fanatical religion mother (Christie Sanford) who in order to drive out his evil, subjects him to exorcism by his older brother who is a priest. When Jimmy escapes from the institution with other children who are burn victims, he wreaks revenge on his persecutors who then become the persecuted. Jimmy and his companions are a band of outliers to are hell bent on torturing their victims. Lynn Lowry as Lisa Marino who experiences her nightmares in flashback is a treat to watch, I’ve been a fan of hers since I saw her performances in Romero’s The Crazies (1973), the outre bizarre Sugar Cookies (1973) co-starring cult favorite Mary Woronov and Cronenberg’s They Came From Within (1975).

Again, Dante Tomaselli’s film is non-linear, surrealist, nihilistic , hallucinatory, the soundscapes are footprints that lead you to the torture chamber. It’s a visceral and disturbing journey of a young boys retribution. A Gothic, transcendental horror as is Dante Tomaselli’s  Desecration. Dante Tomaselli collection of films create a frightening world as he purges his scorn for religious fanaticism and hypocrisy.

Atmo Royce’s brilliant paintings from Torture Chamber (2013)

My conversation with Dante Tomaselli!

Joey – “I’ve seen TREES in all your films. They are a fabric of each film throughout each piece, trees seem to be very significant to you. Do they represent “a natural force”? and ‘elemental’ forces that go with the supernatural overtones…”

Dante Tomaselli-  “Yes, I purposely place trees…woods in every single one of my films. I think trees are beautiful beings and I can stare at them endlessly. I do see these entities as sacred and elemental forces…rooted in the earth itself. Whenever I’m scouting woods locations for my films, I walk around in a trance and try to find the trees that seem to be calling out to me. The different personalities…textures…energies…Landscapes are real important to me…I like for the atmosphere to dominate. The Tree of Life twists…what gave life now takes it away. When I was growing up I would go deep into the woods and get myself lost. Where I lived in New Jersey there were endless woods in my backyard and I’d spend many hours out there alone with time just dissolving. I’d let my imagination run free and fantasize all kinds of sadistic and surreal landscapes and horror scenes. Sometimes on these excursions I feared I would disappear and never return.  The trees were my refuge and represented safety and protection but at times, mainly in the dark, the same exact trees could be supremely frightening…their faces, energy…It’s chilling…a forest transformed into a place of evil…It goes against nature. That’s why that scene of evil woods in Wizard of Oz is so effective. You know, when I saw the trees come alive in The Evil Dead in theaters in 1983 when I was 13, it really pushed a button.  And to have Ellen Sandweiss, who endured the ultimate scary trees… starring in one of my films – well…I’ve come full circle.  For sure, in my independent movies I try to portray the woods as teeming with supernatural menace. In HORROR the woods were harboring the living dead or hypnotized souls…There are Satanists lurking in the Pine Barrens of Satan’s Playground, not to mention an invisible flying demon and…deadly quicksand. Torture Chamber’s abandoned castle was surrounded by whispering woods and there’s a burning gift leading to a glowing red hole to hell in the woods of Desecration.”  

Joey- “Sound is one THE most significant enticements in your films. I’m wondering about the use of ARTWORK, not just Atmo’s incredible paintings but artwork as Symbolism. Desecration and Horror used his paintings. But there was also Irma’s puzzle in Desecration, in Torture Chamber there was the tribal MASK and even in Satan’s Playground there was the painting of the goat. I’m sure there are more hints of this, but these stand out. What is the greater gist of why these elements were so substantial in your work?”

Dante Tomaselli- “I like to paint with sound. I like glacial, pristine sounds mixed with low throbbing tones. The music is 50% of the film’s equation and even when I’m sculpting a song on an album like Scream in the Dark, where I was going for an amusement park Funhouse, dark ride vibe, I aways wanted the soundscapes to depict the vision that I experienced in my mind.  I have to see something in order to score it. If I’m dry then there’s nothing at all but if the images are flowing then I’m fanatical about facilitating or scoring the vision. You can hear me cackling like a witch, that’s my own voice with no effects…in the first section of Dark Night of the Soul. To me, that track conjures the image of a violent storm cloud looming.  It’s all about regret…guilt. Someone did something deeply wrong…and now there’s the fear of what’s coming next. 

The paintings by artist Atmo Royce were commissioned by me. The images were straight from my screenplay, my imagination. I wanted a stern nun, a blurred nun, a skull nun and a clown nun. I wanted the images to have a Tarot card-like feel. They were to represent the desecration of religion…the hypocrisy, the flip side of faith where evil is cloaked in religion. Atmo Royce, who now lives in Germany also painted the changing preacher portraits for Horror which had a similar idea. I had an entirely different artist illustrate the changing pope portraits for Torture Chamber where Vincent Pastore is hallucinating while staring at a portrait of the pope in a homeless shelter. The painting by Mark Jones, commissioned by me, actually it’s pastel…it morphs into a grinning blood soaked character while we detect profane words on the crumbling walls. In all these cases, it’s about the Devil poking through. Evil winning.”

Joey- “Did you realize before hand or was it a natural progression to interweave identical symbols throughout each film. There are threads that connect all 4 films. There are sequences that re-haunt the next installment like one continuous dream. I will mention those in my piece, but I was curious if it evolved as each film opened up to you, or if this was something that was very purposeful before you even sat down to sketch out the framework of the films after Desecration?”

Dante Tomaselli- “I consciously set out to create an encompassing world of doom that is interchangeable from film to film; I see it as all one tapestry. I draw swirling mazes and I’m trying to construct a nightmare in which we experience the protagonist’s damnation. My films are never a celebration of violence. They’re really more about the sensitivity to violence. The confusion of being alive.”

SELECT REVIEWS OF DANTE TOMASELLI’S WORK

BLOODY DISGUSTING REVIEW OF TORTURE CHAMBER: DANTE TOMASELLI’S ‘TORTURE CHAMBER’ TAPS INTO ANCIENT FEARS

BLOODY DISGUSTING:DANTE TOMASELLI’S TORTURE CHAMBER REACHES THE SHORE LINE by Evan Dickson

FANGORIA REVIEW OF TORTURE CHAMBER BY CHRIS ALEXANDER

HORRORFUEL REVIEW of DESECRATION-BLU-RAY

Review of Torture Chamber by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava

Review of Torture Chamber -Justin R. Lafleur, Icons of Fright and

Desecration by Dvdverdict.co, plus Chris Alexander of Fangoria

Review of Satan’s Playground -Variety Magazine & Horror by John

Fallon of JoBlo.com

Review of Horror by Scott Wienberg, eFilmCritic.com and

Review of Desecration by Sean Abley at Chiller

Reviews of Desecration by Steve Puchalski, Sci-Fi Magazine &

Chas Balun, Deep Red Magazine

Review of Horror by Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine &

Rob Galluzzo, Blumhouse.com

Review of Satan’s Playground by Jeremiah Kipp of Slant Mag

Review of Satan’s Playground by BeyondHollywood.com

from KINO LORBER REVIEW DESECRATION (SPECIAL EDITION ) RELEASE ON BLU-RAY

“A Code Red Release – One of the most original horror films in recent years, Desecration is an eerily dazzling and genuinely frightening psychological chiller about a beyond the grave relationship between a teenage boy and his long dead mother. Bobby, a 16-year-old loner, has been emotionally damaged by his mother’s early death and a repressive Catholic upbringing. The boy accidentally causes a nun’s death, triggering a chain of supernatural events and violent mayhem that leads Bobby into Hell to confront his mother. Powerful childhood demons are exorcised and unleashed as the gates of Hell open in this gripping, hallucinatory film. First-time feature film writer/director Dante Tomaselli has created an incredibly atmospheric and terrorizing film that he has described as “being in the psychedelic fun house.” With its mist-shrouded ambience, photography and trance-like soundtrack, the film, almost subliminally, creates an unsettling mood that crawls beneath the skin. A sensational young talent, Tomaselli has taken the horror genre in a new and exciting direction.”

IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT-DESECRATION

ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT FOR SATAN’S PLAYGROUND

The remake of cousin Alfred Sole’s beloved 70s horror masterpiece ALICE SWEET ALICE remains in development for now Dante is more focused on his upcoming feature  THE DOLL which is about a violent haunting at a family owned wax museum.

“I am planning an Alice, Sweet Alice re-imagining with my cousin (Alfred Sole). I am so completely focused on my next film, THE DOLL – which has a low budget ($500, 000)”

Hae Ree Choi is the illustrator on each of Dante Tomaselli’s albums!

SCREAM IN THE DARK (2014) Elite Entertainment

THE DOLL (2014) Elite Entertainment

NIGHTMARE (2015) Elite Entertainment

FANGORIA “NIGHTMARE SOUNDS” article by Tyler Doupé

WITCHES (2017) TuneCore

PERSONAL QUOTES

I am not a Satanist. I am a Supernaturalist!
I know my films reflect the fear of the end of the world or the end of my world.
I’d see multicolored streaks in the atmosphere. And I didn’t do drugs. Sometimes I could see sounds. They were different colors. I could taste color and touch sound.
I love performers from horror classics; I can’t help myself. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been given the opportunity to work with actors from landmark horror films. The trend needs to continue with me…and the possibilities are endless. Jamie Lee Curtis, can you hear me?
It’s ambient filmmaking…told through a series of dreams, flashbacks and hallucinations. I was going for something completely out-there…not censoring myself…allowing my imagination to run wild.
I think I pulled the images from the dark pit of my childhood, my nightmares. Growing up, I had so many nightmares and was always wondering if what was happening was actually true. Or was it a dream? I didn’t use drugs. I know…that’s a shock. If anything, I was repressed and probably needed drugs to open me up. Everything I kept bottled up in the day would explode out of me at night. All of the negative debris of the day…it would all come popping up, so strongly in my nightmares.
I guess it has something to do with how I grew up, my background being Italian American and having two very religious grandmothers. But, really…I just think organized religion is a very scary thing. It gives me a feeling of paranoia. One group against another, thinking the other one is wrong and they are better, holier. Religion causes wars. It has a dark force that can’t be denied. Also, as you know, my cousin, Alfred Sole, directed “Alice, Sweet Alice,” the infamous Catholic slasher. I saw it at a very early age and it is forever embedded in my psyche.
In 1975, I was 5. In 83, I was 13. So, I got to see all these great horror movies, the golden age of true horror, while I was a little kid growing up. It was an incredible time to be a horror fanatic. I was like the boy in Romero’s Creepshow. My mother actually took me to see these 70’s, early 80’s movies because she knew how much I loved them. She enjoyed horror films too, actually. I’d cut out Ads from the newspaper, for movies like…It Lives Again, Prophecy, Phantasm, Invasion of The Body Snatchers and just…stare at them. I was in love with all of this stuff from early on.
I starting writing it right around the end of 1999, when there was all that end-of-the-world talk going on. I wanted to harness that feeling…that we all could be predestined for a horrible, violent death. The idea that the threat of violence can strike at any moment.

FURTHER LINKS

Film Out of Bounds

http://www.fangoria.com/new/torture-chamber-movie-review/

http://www.beyondhollywood.com/torture-chamber-2013-movie-review/

http://www.mondo-digital.com/torturechamber.html

http://www.avmaniacs.com/blog/2014/new-reviews/troy-howarth/torture-chamber-dvd-review/

http://www.rockshockpop.com/forums/content.php?3583-Torture-Chamber

Torture Chamber (review): Available on Region 1 import

http://www.examiner.com/review/crawl-into-the-torture-chamber

http://aisleseat.com/torturechamber.htm

http://www.shocktillyoudrop.com/news/347435-movie-review-torture-chamber/

A link to Dante’s Music & Sound Design on Youtube

 

OGDENSBURG, NJ 06/04/2010 Dante Tomaselli on the set of “Torture Chamber,” a movie he is directing, at Sterling Hill Mining Museum. MICHAEL KARAS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Thank You for sharing your thoughts with me, Happy Birthday Dante Tomaselli, I anxiously await your next wave of hallucinatory chills & your brilliant machinations come to life in vivid color!-May we find peace and transcendence through art, Love Joey

 

Saturday Nite Sublime -Tourist Trap (1979) “You’re so pretty, it’s a shame you have to die!”

TOURIST TRAP (1979)

“You’re so pretty it’s a shame you have to die, it will be quick, but it won’t be easy. You’ll die of fright”

Tourist Trap (1979) A Charles Band Production. Written and directed by David Schmoeller, (Puppetmaster series) co-written by J. Larry Carroll, director of photography Nicholas von Sternberg, music by Pino Donaggio (Don’t Look Now 1973, Carrie 1976, Dressed to Kill 1980, The Howling 1981, Body Double 1984) Art direction by Robert A. Burns (who worked on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974, which like Tourist Trap also had minimal gore and no nudity), special effects by Richard O. Helmer and make-up by David Ayers, Robert A. Burns, Ken Horn, Ve Neill and and Karen Stern.

Stars Chuck Connors (The Rifleman, Soylent Green 1973, The Horror at 37, 000 ft. 1973, Nightmare in Badham County 1976 tv movie) as the creepy Mr. Slausen. Chuck Connors had actually sought out the part of Mr. Slausen stating that he wanted to be the Boris Karloff of the 1980s! It is a very good role for him indeed, as he is perfectly peculiarly menacing and off-beat.

Jocelyn Jones plays Molly-the virginal final girl who just happens to be the daughter of amazing character actor Henry Jones!

Jon Van Ness (The Hitcher 1986) as Jerry, Robins Sherwood (Death Wish II, Blow Out 1981) as Eileen, Tanya Roberts (Charlie’s Angels, Sheena:Queen of the Jungle 1984) as Becky, Dawn Jeffory as Tina, Keith McDermott as Woody, Shailar Coby as Davey and Albert Band and Linnea Quigley as Mannequins.

The reason I hold onto my VHS tapes (as sad and worn as they are), instead of buying the Blu-ray version with better quality and vivid colors, is unfortunately that the newer version is cut down making it a shorter version of the movie. I’ll wind up with the new release but I’ll never let go of my VHS unless it disintegrates into analogue dust and goo in the Rubbermaid container!

Tourist Trap with its sublime moments of terror will forever stay burned into my memory for its original brand of creepiness, partly due to the animated mannequins, the sense of isolation and dread and Pino Dinaggio’s enigmatic melodically robotic score incorporating ghost town saloon tinny piano sounds, and wind up toys, that drives the story perfectly! This to me is undoubtedly one of THE scariest films of the 1970s decade of horror. Not just the mannequins that play a factor in the level of freakiness, it’s the fact that the victims themselves get transformed somehow into mannequins themselves. Yes, they do, indeedy they do!

A group of young people driving in one of those jeeps called ‘the thing’ of the late 70s go for a trip out in the desert but of course as it is with all these pictures in order to set up the chilling story line, they must become stranded! Fortunately they break down by Slausen’s Lost Oasis, a tourist-trap museum run by the deranged Mr. Slausen, which is filled with a collection of remarkable automatons and life like-mannequins and some who are even gun slingers (you’ll find out)

These unusually menacing figures can not only move, they also possess the powers of telekinesis. Slausen (Connors who is effectively creepy in this macabre dark fairy tale about getting lost and winding up at the wrong house) might be the one who has the power to move objects at will, but either way, the film becomes a manic fun-house ride that is incredibly frightening as well as suffocating because they are trapped at the Lost Oasis. One by one, Slausen dispenses with the group except for Molly who has caught his eye, and animated his you know what, if you catch my drift. Actually, we get a little back story as Slausen tells Molly “you remind me of my wife.” whose likeness or life itself has been dedicated to wax in the museum.

The beauty of Tourist Trap is in it’s restraint to use violence or gore, it is intense, lurid, tacky and wonderfully 70s style horror.  It’s the moodiness of the surroundings and the idea that wax dummies are dangerous, not to mention the paraffin masks that Slausen & Davey wear that is wholly imaginative and injects something incredibly spine-tingling into the non-human atmosphere. With screaming mannequins, their grotesque mouths gaping open in a choir of falsetto!

Don’t expect to learn the deep dark secrets of the mannequins powers or whether Slausen and Davey are the same man as you’ll never see them together at the same time, and Shailar Cobey is credited as playing Davey. There just are no sign posts in this film, no clear explanation for any of the goings on, it is as ephemeral as a twisted dream. It is as I said, a Fun-house ride through creepy-ville. And Connors is spectacular as a hyper-sexual, lonely man-child who has too many toys to play with or I should say not enough living dolls. There are hints of House of Wax (1953) starring Vincent Price, though the narrative is different, the essence of what makes the story terrifying is the mania of the antagonist’s medium of sculpting wax over living bodies. Tourist Trap, is nightmarish, deliciously campy, disorienting, frightening and wickedly fun to watch as the mannequins invade the space, where there is no where else to run.

Eileen: “Mr. Slausen, can I use your phone?”

Mr. Slausen: “Oh sure, help yourself… but it doesn’t work. I got nobody to call.”

 

Davey: [deep, raspy voice] “We’re going to have a party!”

 

Davey: “My brother always makes me wear this stupid mask. Do you know why? Because I’m prettier than him.”

IMDb Trivia:

The script originally called for nudity, but Schmoeller said he was too bashful and embarrassed to bring it up with Tanya Roberts and the other actresses during casting. When they got to the lake scene, he finally asked them if they’d be willing. The collective answer was no.

Stephen King praised the film in his book Danse Macabre, especially its frightful opening scene.

Director David Schmoeller was startled when the film received a PG rating despite its disturbing subject matter. Schmoeller stated in an interview with TerrorTrap.com that he felt the film would have been more commercially successful had it received an R rating.

The mannequin who gives the female lead something to drink is actually Schmoeller’s then-wife. The mannequin originally had 2 lines, but Schmoeller had them edited out during post-production. She then never forgave him for that.

Tanya Roberts insisted on running through the woods barefoot in one scene. She thought it would help her better project a sense of pain and fear. The result was also that her feet were bloodied.

Pino Donaggio’s fee for composing the score was one sixth of the movie’s budget.

The plaster used in the death scene was actually dough.

Though the masked killer was called Davey, the production crew have since dubbed him “Plasterface”.

Tourist Trap was actually based on David Schmoeller’s senior film project at film school. (According to Schmoeller’s commentary on the 20th anniversary DVD)

Jon Van Ness did his own stunt when he jumps through the window.

Jocelyn Jones was a classically-trained actress, whereas Chuck Connors was self-taught. During filming, Connors would often ask Schmoeller why Jones would have to go through various routines before filming scenes (such as breathing exercises.) (According to Schmoeller’s commentary on the 20th anniversary DVD.) Shot in twenty-four days.

Irwin Yablans reportedly hated Pino Donaggio’s score for the film, as Yablans wanted another synthesized score in the same tradition as John Carpenter’s Halloween.

This is your EverLovin’ MonsterGirl saying If you happen to break down near a tourist trap anywhere USA, just wait for AAA!