Dick Tufeld, R.I.P.

Tuefeld_robotDick Tufeld (Richard Norton Tufeld) best known as the voice of the Robot on LOST IN SPACE, passed away Janauary 22nd. He was 85.
Starting out in radio, Tufeld’s ability to put great enthusiasm and drama into his readings led to the job of announcing and narrating the ABC radio version of the 1950’s science fiction TV series SPACE PATROL. He would also announce many of the live television program’s episodes.
He was the announcer for DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR, and the ZORRO TV series — which starred Guy Williams, later to star in LOST IN SPACE.
He served as narrator of Irwin Allen’s VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA series, and also did the voice of a disembodied alien brain.
He was the narrator (and voice of Mission Control) on LOST IN SPACE, which would also result in his best known acting work, the Robot (sometimes known as the B-9 Environmental Control Robot). He almost didn’t get the part, as Irwin Allen didn’t care for his line readings when Tufeld attempted to conform with what the producer suggested. Deciding to ignore Allen’s instructions, he went with his own instincts — and that landed him the job.
LIS_robot_SmithOriginally the Robot’s voice was  deep and flatly menacing, as the Robot and Dr. Smith (Jonathan Harris)  were at first intended as short-term antagonists. Tufeld lightened his tone slightly and added a great deal more expression to his delivery as the Robot became more humanized.
Sarcastic interplay between the equally  pompous Smith and his metallic adversary became a highlight of the increasingly tongue-in-cheek show.
(Interestingly, the actor inside the Robot, Bob May, provided the Robot’s derisive laughter, as  DickTuefeld didn’t think he did it justice.)
Tuefeled mentioned that the sound mixers never seemed to write down the exact settings used to filter the Robot’s voice, and they would sometimes have to fiddle around for a while to produce the same sound.  
Dick Tuefeld also narrated THE TIME TUNNEL for Irwin Allen.
Continuing as a staff announcer for ABC TV, Tufeld would continue to be a producers’ choice for genre productions, doing announcer/narrator work on cartoons such as THE FANTASTIC FOUR (1978), SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS, and THUNDAR THE BARBARIAN.
In 1998, Dick Tufeld provided the voice of the Robot in the LOST IN SPACE movie reboot, sounding amazingly like he did on the old series, despite the passing of years and vocal cord surgery.

Richard Gordon, R.I.P.

 Richard Gordon, producer of a number of lower-budget sci-fi and horror favorites passed away November 1st. He was 85.
Richard Gordon and his older brother Alex were British-born film fans who made their dreams of becoming filmmakers come true. 

Richard Gordon & Bela Lugosi - Set of VAMPIRE OVER LONDON
Richard Gordon & Bela Lugosi - Set of VAMPIRE OVER LONDON

Moving to New York in 1947, he and his brother met Bela Lugosi, and would later be somewhat involved in his career.
While Alex headed off  to Hollywood, Richard Gordon stayed in New York and former Gordon Films, which imported British and other European films for distribution in the American market.
He helped arranged a UK stage tour of DRACULA for Bela Lugosi. When this did not lead to success, Gordon used some connections he had in the British film industry, and came up the story idea for using Lugosi in one of the “Old Mother Riley” comedy films  VAMPIRE OVER LONDON (1952, aka MY SON, THE VAMPIRE) .
While successful at distributing others’ films, Richard Gordon still felt the urge to make some of his own, as Alex was doing at AIP. Starting out with the World War II thriller THE DEVIL’S GENERAL (1953) and continuing with UK-lensed crime thrillers, Gordon eventually turned his attention to the genre productions for which he’s best remembered.
Often working without screen credit, he began with THE ELECTRONIC MONSTER (1958, aka ESCAPEMENT), a sci-fi thriller involving mind-control, directed by Mongomery Tully, and starring American actor Rod Cameron and Mary Murphy.
His  next project, GRIP OF THE STRANGLER (1958) starred Boris Karloff, as did CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958).
FIEND_FACE_AttackFIEND WITHOUT A FACE (1958) was a wild ride, with intially invisible “thought monsters” materializing as stop-motion animated brains, with strangling, snake-like spinal columns,  A vivid and unforgettable sight, the creatures have entered sci-fi movie iconography. 
Marshall Thompson starred in that film, as well as  FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959), another sci-fi/horror original.
ISLAND OF TERROR (1966) was directed by Hammer regular Terrence Fisher, and starred Peter Cushing and Edward Judd. The human-devouring “silicates” made memorable monsters in this clastrophobic entry.
Projected Man_LTHE PROJECTED MAN (1966), starred Bryant Haliday (who would appear in several of Gordon’s films) as the ill-fated scientist Dr. Paul Steiner, victim of a matter transporter gone wrong.
Other genre offerings include DEVIL DOLL (1964),  CURSE OF THE VOODOO (1965), NAKED EVIL (1966), BIZZARE (1970), TOWER OF EVIL (1972, aka HORROR OF SNAPE ISLAND), and  HORROR HOSPITAL (1973, aka COMPUTER KILLERS).
In 1978 he produced the remake of  THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978), which starred Honor Blackman,  Edward Fox, Wilfred Hyde-White, Olivia Hussey, Carol  Lynley, and Michael Callan.
horror-planetHORROR  PLANET (1981 aka INSEMINOID ) was directed by Norman J. Warren and starred Judy Geeson,  Robin Clarke, and Stephanie Beacham. It was  a particularly gruesome (for the time) low-budget take on ALIEN, filmed in actual caves in England, which add to the oppressive atmosphere. Not actually a good film, but still with some effective  moments. The premise itself, of forced alien reproduction, is taken to an unsettling level, as suggested on the poster (right).
In recent years Richard Gordon stayed active, writing good-natured letters correcting genre magazine articles, and sharing his recollections of films, filmmakers and actors. He appeared at a number of Horror Movie conventions, recorded commentaries for DVDs, and became something of a fan favorite among those with fond memories of 1950’s-80’s cine fantastique.

Cliff Robertson, R.I.P.

Cliff_Robertson_SpiderManCliff Robertson (Clifford Parker Robertson III) , known to most modern fans as Uncle Ben in the SPIDER-MAN films, passed away Saturday, September 10th. He was 88.
Also known for playing John F. Kennedy in P.T. 109, Robertson had some significant genre roles in his career.
In 1954,  he hit the early television airwaves as the lead in ROD BROWN OF THE ROCKET RANGERS, on CBS.
 Co-starring Jack Weston and Arthur Batanides (later in STAR TREK and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), it featured the adventures of the young crew of the rocket Beta. _C_ROBINSON_Rod_brown
 Sadly this series is considered lost, as the makers of its predecessor on the network, TOM CORBETT, SPACE CADET  won their legal case that branded ROD BROWN a direct steal of their show. Apparently all kinescopes of the live series’ 58 episodes were destroyed.
Robertson appeared on two episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE ( ‘The Dummy’ and ‘One Hundred Yards Over the Rim’) and starred in the pilot to THE OUTER LIMITS, ‘The Galaxy Being’.
In 1961, Cliff Robertson starred onTHE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR in ‘The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon’  based on the the classic science fiction tale, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (Hugo Award, Best Short Story 1960), later extended into the (Nebula Award-winning ) 1966 novel of the same name.  
cliff-robertson-charlyTaken by the  ulitmately tragic tale of a mentally retarded man given enhanced intelligence,   he bought the film rights. In 1969 he starred in the feature film version CHARLY, and won the Academy Award for Best Actor.  
Robertson guest-starred on four episodes of BATMAN in the 60’s as the crooked cowboy Shame. The show was produced by William Dozier, who had also produced ROD BROWN.
In the TV movie RETURN TO EARTH (1976), he played astronaut ‘Buzz” Aldrin. 
As a character actor, he appeared in Doug Trumbull’s BRAINSTORM (1986), John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM LA (1993), and on the revived OUTER LIMITS (‘Joyride’, 1999).
In 2002 he starred in SPIDER-MAN, and also starred in the “Jersey Devil” film THE 13TH CHILD. He reprised the role of Ben Parker for flash/dream sequences as Ben Parker in SPIDER-MAN 2 and 3.

RIP Jimmy Sangster, Writer/Director

Jimmy-Sangster_BBCJimmy Sangster (James Henry Kimmel Sangster), one of the major creative shapers of Hammer Studios’ horror output and the 1950’s-60’s British horror boom,  passed away August 19th. He was 83
Starting as a teenager in WWII England the Welsh-born Sangster worked on the production end of the film business before becoming a screenwriter.
 At Hammer Studios he moved from Producer’s Assistant to Assistant Director before taking up screenwriting. Challenged to create a “Quatermass-style” sci-fi horror script after Nigel Kneale declined,  James Sangster came up with X: THE UNKNOWN, which proved quite effective.
He was also given the screenwriting assignment on a script by Milton Subotsky (later to co-found Hammer competitor Amicus Productions) for a new version of Frankenstein. Jettisoning much of the rough screenplay, Sangster delivered a sly and decadent take on the old story, which director Terrence Fisher turned into a full-color tour-de-force, starring television star Peter Cushing and a little-known actor named Christopher Lee.
CURSE_FRANKTHE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958) changed the little studio into a major player in the field of home-grown UK productions, and helped kick off a second life for horror films as main features world-wide.
Soon to follow for Hammer and other independents were HORROR OF DRACULA  (1958), THE CRAWLING EYE (1958) ,adapted from the television serial THE TROLLENBERG TERROR,  JACK THE RIPPER, THE MUMMY (1959), BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), DRACULA:  PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), and the Bulldog Drummond spy mystery DEADLIER THAN THE MALE (1967).
Jimmy Sangster also took a few turns in the directors’ chair, helming THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), a misguided attempt to re-make CURSE as a sexy horror-comedy (with future Darth Vader David Prowse as a bald, semi-traditional flat-headed version of the monster).  Sangster fared better as a director with   LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971) and the thriller FEAR IN THE NIGHT.  
Jimmy Sangster  also directed a few American  television shows, after leaving for a stint in Hollywood.  Night Stalker_Heights
The episode of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER that he penned, Horror In The Heights, is perhaps the best episode of that short-lived but beloved series.
Sangster wrote the TV movie  GOOD AGAINST EVIL (1977),  feature film THE LEGACY (1978), and the story for the  Bill Cosby and Elliot Gould starring Disney comedy,  THE DEVIL AND MAX DEVLIN (1981).  
Jimmy Sangster essentially retired from the movie/TV industry in the 1980’s. His autobiography “Do You Want It Good or Tuesday?” was published in 1997.

Dana Wynter, R.I.P.

Wynter_Dana_2According to The Hollywood Reporter, Dana Wynter (Dagmar Winter), star of 1956’s SF classic INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. She was 79.
Playing  Becky Driscoll,  the old flame and tentative love interest of Kevin McCarthy’s haunted Dr. Miles Bennell in the horror-tinged science fiction parable of paranoia, gave the actress a special place in the hearts of genre fans.
The Don Siegel film of  Jack Finney’s 1954 novel The Body Snatchers became a favorite, open to viewers interpetation. One could claim it as a a cautionary tale about those insidoust Communist infiltators or a waring against McCarthyism. Many simply see it as a symblol of a changing America, of increasing alienation from ones’ friends and neighbors, the bleak underside of 1950’s conformity.
Anyone who seemed to mindlessly echo the dictates of others, or who showed a dramatic change in attitudes  might be labled as a “Pod Person”, a souless alien substitute for someone you once knew.
(There is a sad real-life version of this called the Capgras delusion; a psychiatric disorder in which sufferers believe that family members or friends have been replaced by indetical duplicates.)
The German-born, South African-raised Dana Wynter was entirely believable as the American-as-apple pie Becky, and equally convincing playing  European aristocrars, as she often would in film and television roles.
D_Wynt_IBS_TOther genre and bordline roles include KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, TV’s SUSPENSE,  COL. MARCH OF SCOTLAND YARD (1956, with Boris Karloff), costarred with Robert Lansing (THE 4-D MAN) in THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS TV series, THE WILD WILD WEST, FANTASY ISLAND, and  THE QUESTOR TAPES.

William Campbell, R.I.P

William Campbell as Trelane, STAR TREK

Actor William Campbell, perhaps best known for his roles on the original STAR TREK, passed away April 28th, 2011. He was 87.
Essentially a character actor, Campbell did play leads from time to time. One of his most notable parts was the starring role in the 1955 Columbia film CELL 2455 DEATH ROW. In it, Campbell won praise for his performance as death row prisoner Whit Whittier. a character based on the real-life Caryl Wittier Chessman, the  alleged “Red Light Bandit” who became an author and cause celebre’ by insistently proclaiming his innocence and repeatedly appealing his case, as his own legal representative. Eventually, he was executed by the state of California.
W_CAMPBELL_DEATH ROWInstead of being boosted to stardom, the film seemed to subject William Campbell to a kind of typecasting that limited him to supporting roles. often as a street-smart tough guy.
He was featured in LOVE ME TENDER as one of the train-robbing post Civil War Reno brothers, singing onscreen with first-timer Elvis Presley.
Playing a race car driver in Roger Corman’s THE YOUNG RACERS (1963) led to a role in   Francis Ford Coppola’s DEMENTIA 13. 
(Interestingly, THE YOUNG RACERS was written by Robert Campbell, William Campbell’s brother and CELL 2455 co-star.)
Also filmed in `63 was an art heist film named OPERATION TITIAN (aka Operacija Ticijan), shot in Yugoslavia, the beginning of a strange filmic saga.  Unreleased in its original form, it made it to television in heavily re-edited form as PORTRAIT OF TERROR.
But this was not the end of it, as Roger Corman had new sequences filmed over the  next three years in Venice, California by director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY) and Stephanie Rothman (THE VELVET VAMPIRE). This became TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE (aka BLOOD BATH, 1966), in which Campbell’s tormented artist character transforms by night into another actor for his vampiric escapades.
 What most genre fans remember William Campbell for are his roles on STAR TREK, In the first season (1966) he portrayed the juvenile but powerful Trelane in STAR TREK’s The Squire of Gothos. It took some persuading to cast the “tough guy” actor as the alien who has chosen the role of a foppish 18th Century gentleman, but Campbell proved more than equal to the task. 
In the second season “comic” episode The Trouble with Tribbles, he played the clever and supercilious Klingon Captain Koloth. The producers, including creator Gene Roddenberry. enjoyed his performance, and reportedly the character might have recurred in the third season, if Roddenberry had remained the active producer.
The character of Koloth appeared on the animated `70’s STAR TREK series, but Campbell did not perform the voice. The Mego “Klingon” action figure was based on the cartoon’s Koloth, so in a way William Campbell became the standard public imaga of a Klingon, until the advent of STAR TREK: THE MONTION PICTURE, and subsequent films and series.
W_CAMPELL_DS9In 1994, Campbell finally reprised the role of Koloth in the DEEP SPACE NINE episode Blood Oath, which allowed the aged Klingon  warrior to go out in one final battle.  
Other genre roles include THE WILD, WILD WEST (1966), SHAZAM! (1976), THE NEXT STEP BEYOND (1978), THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN (1987) and KUNG FU: The Legend Continues (1996)

Jackie Cooper, R.I.P.

Jackie Cooper (John Cooper, Jr.), well known Hollywood actor, passed away May 3rd. He was 88.
As Perry White in SUPERMAN
As Perry White in SUPERMAN
Best known to genre fans for his role as the curmudgeonly Perry White in the four SUPERMAN films with Christopher Reeve, Jackie Cooper started out as a child actor in the OUR GANG COMEDIES (1929-31, known in the TV era as THE LITTLE RASCALS).

Standing out among his co-stars in the short subjects, he was cast in the title role of the comic strip adaptation SKIPPY, which netted a 1931 Oscar for Normna Taurog (his uncle) as Best Director, and a nomination for Best Actor for the young Cooper. His co-star in THE CHAMP, Wallace Beery, took home that Award.
"Jackie" in the OUR GANG shorts.
"Jackie" in the OUR GANG shorts.

Many juvenile leads such as Jim Hawkins in TREASURE ISLAND (1934) followed for Jackie Cooper as he grew up. He served in WWII and afterwards in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve as a pilot, achieving the rank of Captain. This real-life experience would come in handy for his role of Lt. ‘Chick’ Hennesy, USN in his TV series HENNESEY (1959-61).
Jackie Cooper_hennesey_tvg
Other genre related roles included live TV dramas such as TALES OF TOMORROW (1952), several episodes of SUSPENSE (The Invisible Killer), plus THE TWILGHT ZONE (Caesar and Me), CIRCLE OF FEAR, TV movies SHADOW ON THE LAND (1968) and THE ASTRONAUT (1972), the apocalyptic suspense film CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974), and guested on THE INVISIBLE MAN TV series (1975) and BEASTS (1976).

Oddly enough, Cooper was not originally cast as the sometimes irascible Perry White in SUPERMAN (1978);  he became an eleventh hour substitute when character actor Keenan Wynn fell ill.
Jackie Cooper retired from acting in 1989, to care for his ailing wife Barbara until her passing in 2009.  

Yvette Vickers, R.I.P.

yvette-vickers-1959Yvette Vickers, remembered fondly as a “bad girl” of horror and sci-fi movies, was discovered by a neighbor in her home, deceased for some time.
She would have been 82.


The 5’3” actress and model made her film debut in SUNSET BLVD. (1950), in a small role, playing a giggling blond girl tying up the phone at a party.   In the years to come she would often play “party-girls” and gun molls, appearing both in films and on televsison in shows such as MIKE HAMMER (1958) and DRAGNET.


To genre fans she’s probably best known as Honey Parker in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958), wherein she makes the mistake of dating the husband of the title character.
In 1959, she appeared as the backwoods cheating wife Liz Walker in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES, investing the potentially unlikeable, sleazy character with a palpable loneliness and vulnerabilty suggested by Leo Gordon’s script.


These low-budget films exposed her to a certain amout of risk and discomfort, she related that she was nearly impaled by the nails imbedded in a prop beam that went right past her head in 50 Ft. WOMAN.


Other genere-related roles would include ONE STEP BEYOND, playing a WAC in the comic strip adaptation THE SAD SACK (starring Jerry Lewis), the role of the Dark Witch in the teleplay DARK OF THE MOON, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971), TV movie THE DEAD DON’T DIE (1972), and EVIL SPIRITS (1990).


Yvette Vickers was also Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in July, 1959.
 L.A police believe that Vickers, who had become somewhat reclusive in recent years, could have been dead for nearly a year before her neighbor acted on her suspicions and entered the home.

Michael Sarrazin, R.I.P.

michael-sarrazin_headThe CBC  reports that Michael Sarrazin (Jacques Michel Andre Sarrazin) passed away April 17th. He was 70.
Michael Sarrazin was a handsome actor, known for a number of genre roles. He played the initially “beautiful” creature in the stylish period monster mash-up FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973),  and the strangely doomed by fate lead in THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (1975), based on the novel by Max Erlich.

The "Reversing" Creature - FRANKENSTIEN: The True Story

He also starred in the borderline supernatural thriller EYE OF THE CAT (1969), and played “the alien” in the sci-fi tinged spy thriller THE GROUNDSTAR CONSPIRACY (1972).
Sarrazin appeared in the Rod Serling-scripted THE DOOMSDAY FLIGHT (1966), and starred in THE FLIM-FLAM MAN, with George C. Scott (1967), and THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? with Jane Fonda (1969).

Elisabeth Sladen, R.I.P.


From the BBC DOCTOR WHO site:

“It is with much sadness that we can announce Elisabeth Sladen, the much-loved actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and CBBC’s The Sarah Jane Adventures, passed away this morning. She was 63.
Lis first appeared as Sarah Jane in Doctor Who in 1973 alongside the Third Doctor Jon Pertwee and stayed for three and half seasons working alongside Jon and the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. She returned to the role on numerous occasions over the years and, in 2007, was given her own spin-off series on CBBC – The Sarah Jane Adventures – where she would appear alongside new Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith.
The Sarah Jane Adventures brought Lis a whole new generation of fans who grew up to love her alien-busting adventures. The series was hugely popular with fans young and old and won this year’s RTS Award for best children’s drama.
Controller of CBBC Damian Kavanagh said tonight: “I’m deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Lis’ untimely death. Lis brought joy, excitement and a sense of wonder to her many fans in her role as Sarah Jane Smith. She was adored by our young audience and I know all of them will miss her as much as I will.”
The creator of The Sarah Jane Adventures Russell T Davies said: “I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane Smith; the world was lucky to have Lis.”
Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s Lead Writer and Executive Producer said: “‘Never meet your heroes’ wise people say. They weren’t thinking of Lis Sladen.
“Sarah Jane Smith was everybody’s hero when I was younger, and as brave and funny and brilliant as people only ever are in stories. But many years later, when I met the real Sarah Jane – Lis Sladen herself – she was exactly as any child ever have wanted her to be. Kind and gentle and clever; and a ferociously talented actress, of course, but in that perfectly English unassuming way.
sarah8“There are a blessed few who can carry a whole television show on their talent and charisma – but I can’t think of one other who’s done it quite so politely. I once showed my son Joshua an old episode of Doctor Who, in which Lis appeared. “But that’s Sarah Jane,” he said, confused “In old Doctor Who. From years ago. How come she always look exactly the same?” It’s not a comfort today, of course, but children will still be saying that fifty years from now.”
Keith Jones, Director, BBC Cymru Wales, said: “The Sarah Jane Adventures has been one of the most successful children’s programmes on television in recent years – and without Elisabeth Sladen it would not have happened. A brilliant presence on screen and on set, she brought the excitement and energy of the Doctor Who family of programmes, of which we are very proud at BBC Wales, to a whole new generation. She will be missed by all at BBC Wales who worked with her.”
Roger Carey, who represented Lis for many years, said. “She was not just a client, but a dear friend. She was so positive about life and her natural energy was intoxicating. She couldn’t believe her luck when her career was resurrected in her own series.”
Lis had been suffering from cancer. She leaves behind a husband, actor Brian Miller, and her daughter, Sadie.”

Lis_Sladen_Tom BakerThis news came as a bit of shock to me, I wasn’t aware of any news or rumors of her ill health.  I was in high school when I first saw imports of DOCTOR WHO here in the States, beginning with Tom Baker’s first episode, Robot.
Elisabeth Sladen  made an immediate impression on me; making her character plucky, capable, and determined—as well as wholesomely pretty. She wasn’t my first fanboy crush, but she was likely my last.
Soon real world women would crowd out any pining for the fantasy ones I saw onscreen. Nevertheless,  Sarah Jane Smith always remained my favorite DOCTOR WHO companion, and I guess I kept a soft spot in my heart for the talented actress who brought her to life.
I’ll miss them both.