A SCI-FI SWARM AND HORROR HORDE: Interviews with 62 Filmmakers, Tom Weaver, 2010, McFarland & Co, 404pp, index, photos
Filmmakers who turned out science fiction and horror movies during the period 1930-1970 are once again the focus of author and film historian Tom Weaver who brings together a raft of interviews with Hollywood people from all walks, focusing on their genre work.
Weaver forsakes the Q&A approach with particularly loquacious interviewees whose discussion allows him to drop the “Q” and pull the answers together into a nearly seamless “as told to” article. Because of Weaver’s tight focus, sometimes on an individual film as when Fess Parker discusses his brief, comedic role in Them (1954), often the stories are rather short. Ths is not to be confused with criticsm.
Actors, actresses, makeup artists, stuntmen, producers, writers, and others discuss individual movies and TV shows, and some of the stars they worked with like Elvis, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Bela Lugoi.
You’ll read actress Lisa Davis’ take on Zsa Zsa Gabor’s imperial turn as the pampered star of the space schlock Queen of Outer Space (1958). In fact, Davis’ imitation of Zsa Zsa, not at all intended as a compliment, got her in the door at Disney where she was interviewed by Walt Disney himself to voice Cruelle de Vil although she wound up voicing Anita. Davis also describes the sexual harrassment actresses had to put up with in Hollywood, made difficult because as the breadwinner for her family, she couldn’t afford to alienate the would-be letharios.
Sid (The Danny Thomas Show) Melton tells how he interviewed for a movie job for Billy Crystal and the moment he walked in the door, Crystal shouted at him about how his death scene in The Lost Continent (1951) in which comic relief Melton was drilled by a triceratops caused young Crystal four nights of childhood nightmares.
Diana Gemora tells how, as a 12-year-old, she and her dad, makeup artist Charles Gemora, pulled an all-nighter, successfully altering the three-eyed, tentacled Martian costume needed for an 8am filming on the set of the classic War of the Worlds. It was a great special effect in a movie that was people by then-unknown actors so that the effects could be played up.
Roger Corman tells how he had to qualm the objections of American International Pictures co-producer Sam Arkoff about putting up the money for the House of Usher that there was no monster, by saying “the house is the monster.” Corman then confused star Vincent Price by putting in a line about the “house breathing”, but Price agreed he could play it when he understood Corman’s motive in allaying the fears of Arkoff.
Actor Tony Randall discusses the make-up process involved in portraying six characters in the 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)…the seventh being a stuntman playing the Abominable Snowman.
Ross Martin, who played Artemis Gordon, in The Wild Wild West, was 75% of the successful CBS television show, says stuntman Whitey Hughes. Although a friend of Robert Conrad and respectful of Conrad’s skills, especially in doing a lot of the stunts, Hughes insists Martin’s contribution is underrealized. Ross Martin, of course, entertainingly donned a wild disguise in each episode. As Hughes points out, it didn’t matter — Gordon, after all, was a government agent, a stranger who could easily pass himself off any way he wished. But that was the gimmick so Martin donned disguises.
And towering Richard (”Jaws”) Kiel talks about how he tried to upstage 3′10″ Michael (”Dr. Miguelito Lovelace”) Dunn in one of his three appearances on The Wild, Wild West as Dunn’s gargantuan sidekick (Dunn did 10 episodes as Lovelace, the show’s Professor Moriarty to agent Jim West). During an odd musical duet with his girlfriend – but nevertheless effective — Kiel stood by and tapped his foot and ate some candy. Robert Conrad spotted what he was doing and laughed,
Cover of Seven Faces of Dr. Lao
Cover of Queen of Outer Space
then had the cameras focus a moment on Kiel tapping his foot to splice it into the sequence. Anything to make it more interesting, claimed Kiel.
Waht can I say? I love this stuff.