Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game - Halloween Edition

Screenshot #1

It's Halloween and in honor of this bewitching day of the year we have a special edition of The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie Game. There is not one, but FIVE screenshots that you can have the fun of identifying! Each one of these screenshots comes from an American or British made production from the 1920s-1970s. Name the film and you win a prize! Some are easier than usual and others may be a bit tricky, but to reward you for your keen eye we have some treats.....a few special Halloween themed posters and photos. First, try your hand at identifying these images: 

Screenshot #2

Screenshot #3

Screenshot #4
Screenshot #5


Prizes are awarded on a first guess basis. The first person to identify any of the screenshots above gets their choice of one of these five prizes.

1. The Mummy ( 1932 ) - 12x18" reproduction poster
2. The Bride of Frankenstein ( 1935 ) - 8x10" Glossy Photo
3. The Munsters decal/sticker
4. House on Haunted Hill ( 1959 ) - 11x17" reproduction poster
5. Vincent Price and Kermit the Frog - 5x7" Glossy Photo

Happy Guessing and Happy Halloween! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Basil Gogos and the Monster Art of Universal Horror Films

Basil Gogos was a fabulous illustrator who is best known for his movie monster portraits which graced the covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines during the 1960s and 1970s. He combined his passion for art with his love of movie monsters to create these colorful and highly detailed oil portraits of such iconic creatures as Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. 

Gogos was a Greek who came to America at the age of 16 to study art. He worked with the noted illustrator Frank J. Reilly and began his professional career of painting book and magazine covers when he received his first assignment to paint the cover to the western novel "Pursuit" in 1959. 

Throughout the 1960s, Gogos kept busy working as a commercial illustrator. The majority of his paintings were created for men's pulp adventure magazines and the monster magazines being issued by Warren Publishing ( Eerie, Creepy, Famous Monsters of Filmland ). During the 1970s, he took time off as a commercial illustrator to pursue his own personal fine art but still worked part-time at United Artists as a photo retouch artist in the ad department. His monster art found a new audience in the 1990s and Gogos returned to that genre to create more paintings that paid tribute to the great monsters of filmdom. 

Today, his paintings can be found in museums across the world and in two fantastic coffee table books, Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos by Kerry Gammill and The Monster Art of Basil Gogos by Linda Touby.

Since Halloween is just around the corner, we thought we would share some images of Gogos' best works. Let's begin with Dr. Frankenstein's monster....








In the 1990s, Basil Gogos had submitted these designs to the USPS for a Universal Monster series of stamps, but unfortunately, they were not chosen. They would have made fantastic stamps! 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Ghost Story aka Circle of Fear ( 1972-1973 )

In 1972, William Castle, the director of films such as The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and Straight-Jacket, tried his hand at producing a horror-themed anthology series entitled Ghost Story.

Sebastion Cabot was the host of this hour-long series, which lasted only 23 episodes. He went by the name of Winston Essex and introduced each episode from "Mansfield House" ( Hotel Del Coronado ) the hotel that he owned. In each episode, Mr. Essex would reveal an unusual tale about one of his guests, usually involving supernatural elements, vampires and witches. 

The premise of the series was excellent and the show featured some top-notch guest performers including Carolyn Jones, James Franciscus, Gena Rowlands, Jodie Foster, Helen Hayes, Melvyn Douglas, Craig Stevens, Patricia Neal, and Susan Oliver. Ghost Story also boasted an impressive line-up of writers such as Richard Matheson, Robert Specht, Anthony Lawrence, Seeleg Lester, D.C. Fontana and Robert Bloch. The scripts to the series had to be approved of by the show's script-advisor Jimmy Sangster, a British screenwriter who is well-known among Hammer Film fans for writing X: The Unknown, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula: Prince of Darkness and many other films ( including The Nanny ).

The 1970s were the heyday of horror TV movies and anthology series and Ghost Story ranks among the top with Brian Clements' Thriller and Rod Serling's Night Gallery. William Castle, whose idol was the Master of Horror, Alfred Hitchcock, had hoped to create his own version of the Hitchcock series for modern audiences and he succeeded in doing this.
Ghost Story was given an ideal timeslot ( the show aired on NBC on Friday nights at 9pm ) but it failed to garner high ratings and, midway through the season, Sebastian Cabot was dropped as the host and the show was renamed Circle of Fear in the hopes that it might get a rating boost. It did not, and the series was canceled after its single-season premiere. Nevertheless, we have 23 delightfully eerie episodes to entertain us, all of which have been released on DVD in a beautifully remastered format. 

Below are some of our choice picks from this supernatural series. 


The New House ( March 17, 1972 )

This story, the pilot episode, was based on a tale by horror writer Elizabeth Walter entitled "She Cries". It featured a young couple who move into a home that is haunted by a girl who had been hanged there many years ago and vowed never to be evicted from the house. Barbara Parkins and David Birney play the twosome who are in for a fright; Sam Jaffe also has a great part as the local historian De Witt. 

Alter Ego ( October 27, 1972 )

Bobby ( Michael James-Wixted ) is a very bright student with a fondness for chess. A sickness keeps him at home for several months, during which time he meets his "doppelganger". At first, he is pleased to have a playmate but then he begins to fear him....especially when his villianous double decides to venture to Bobby's school to terrorize his favorite teacher Miss Gilden ( Helen Hayes ). 
House of Evil ( November 10, 1972 )

When Grandpa ( Melvyn Douglas ) arrives for a visit, he brings a couple of unique gifts for his deaf/mute granddaughter, Judy ( Jodie Foster ): the ability for her to hear his thoughts and a special miniature dollhouse. The "kindly" Grandpa wants to use Judy to cast voodoo spells upon the members of her household. After watching this episode you'll never look at a cookie the same way again. 

Time of Terror ( December 22, 1972 )

If you want to truly feel some tingles down your spine, check out this thrilling episode. Time for Terror stars Patricia Neal as Ellen Alexander, a woman who wakes up alone in a hotel room to discover that her husband Harry is missing. The front office simply tells her that he has "checked out"....but as she soon finds out, it is she who has "checked out" of life and not he!
Earth, Air, Fire and Water ( January 19, 1973 )

This episode proves that the subject matter of a horror story need not be horrific in itself if what it implies is frightening....and this one certainly is! The horrible objects, in this case, are merely a collection of six colorful jars. A group of artists discovers these containers in a trunk that was left behind in the dilapidated shop that they recently rented. The "evil air" within these jars permeates the atmosphere of their studio until, one by one, these artists find themselves creating more and more sinister art. 

If you want to read more in-depth reviews of these episodes, we highly recommend checking out the blog John Kenneth Muir's Reflections on Cult Movies, which is where most of these screenshots were obtained. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Seventh Cross ( 1944 )

In Germany, in the year 1936, seven prisoners escape from a concentration camp. One by one they are caught and their bodies are placed on crucifixes at the camp as a warning to others who may attempt escape. Only one man from these seven, George Heisler ( Spencer Tracy ), remains uncaptured and it is his escape from the Nazi's Gestapo that becomes the dramatic premise of MGM's The Seventh Cross ( 1944 ). 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios made a number of excellent espionage films right in the midst of the war. "The Seventh Cross" was a novel written by Anna Seghers that the studio had purchased to adapt as a film. The novel had all the makings of a blockbuster hit and indeed, the film itself raked in a tidy profit, but in comparison to other espionage pictures of the era, The Seventh Cross, lacks a few qualities that could have elevated the film to becoming a real classic. 

While Spencer Tracy gave a wonderful performance as our lead character George Heisler, Robert Taylor would have been more suited to the role. Tracy just wasn't convincing enough to be a bitter hard-hearted escapee from a concentration camp. His character has little dialogue throughout much of the film and Tracy's eyes were not expressive enough to convey what he was feeling in these scenes.....hence, the audience is given off-screen narration by Ray Collins to help us better understand his plight. 

At one point in the story, George hides at an inn where a pretty maid ( Signe Hasso ) aids him in hiding from the Gestapo. Within a few hours we are to believe that she falls in love with him, but this, too, would have seemed more plausible with Robert Taylor in the lead instead of Tracy. 

George Heisler's past could have been established better, too. Helen Deutsch's script smoothly avoided the topic of why George was put in a concentration camp in the first place ( the novel explained that he was a Communist ). For a brief moment, we are shown a flashback of George's sweetheart Leni ( Kaaren Verne ) vowing that she will love him always. He flees to Leni's apartment as soon as he escapes the camp only to discover that she refuses to aid him - and is now married to a German officer! This, of course, is a major shock to George but it fails to elicit much emotion from the viewer because Leni's character was given less than 3-minutes of screentime in the flashback scene, which is hardly enough time to flesh out a character. 

Nevertheless, The Seventh Cross has many redeeming highlights, most notably a fantastic performance from Hume Cronyn which earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination. Hume portrays Paul, an old friend of George's who is willing to shelter him from the Nazi's and help him find underground connections who can arrange his escape out of Germany. Cronyn's wife Jessica Tandy is also given a wonderful part as his character's wife Liesel. It is worth watching the film for the performance this dynamic duo alone gives. 
Fred Zinnemann ( High Noon, From Here to Eternity, The Nun's Story ) helmed the production for the film and, even at this early stage in his career, it was evident what a skillful director he was. 

The Seventh Cross also boasts an amazing cast of supporting players including Herbert Rudley, Agnes Moorehead, dear Felix Bressart, Stephen Geray, George Macready, George Zucco and Eily Malyon.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

British Pathé - Plastic Skeletons ( 1965 )

Ever wondered how your body is structured? If you were curious enough, you've probably examined a model of the human skeletal system. Medical students need to look at skeleton models in detail to understand how the body moves the way it does.....and that is where plastic skeletons come in handy. 

This 2-minute British Pathé newsreel from 1965 shows how these boney figures are made. At 36 pounds per skeleton, they were quite costly but you can see that they were assembled one bone at a time....quite a laborious task! 

Prior to the development of plastic, real human skeletons were used....which, of course, were even more costly to obtain. Surprisingly, the narrator mentions that most of the human skeletons that students use to view came from the Middle East but ever since countries made restrictions about shipping out human bones, the sales of these plastic skeletons have increased. 

Today, most skeletons are made in China from PVC plastic but they are receiving competition from India, where they can be obtained for $250-$500 and are much more accurate. Want to pick a bone about that? This interesting article claims that many medical students are not even satisfied with these models and are once again obtaining real human bones from gravediggers.

Click here to view Plastic Skeletons ( 1965 ) 

Similarly-themed British Pathé newsreels: 

Skeletons ( 1953 ) - 1:04 minutes

Skeleton Staff ( 1963 ) - 2:34 minutes